King of the Mountains – Men’s Division


After some incessant nagging, Kelley Noonan and David Vito invited me to ride with them. I had been used to seeing them on The Bike Lane shop rides out of Reston on Saturdays but it has been a while since I have been there. The last time I saw Kelley was when she was wiped out on our group ride on May 2. I last rode with David on April 17. I looked forward to seeing them again.

Although I wanted to bike from home to meet them, I didn’t leave myself quite enough time to bike the entire distance so I drove to The Bike Lane in Burke and rode from there. I intercepted Kelley and David at Gallows Road on the Washington & Old Dominion bike trail and we rode from there to the Custis Trail to Crystal City then across the Key Bridge into Georgetown.

We met with a group of cyclists riding from Revolution Cycling. It was their shop ride. While they had two groups, and I would have preferred to ride with the faster group, Kelley and David were looking for an easy spin preparing for the Patriot Half Ironman in two weeks. Kelley had warned me that the pace would be slow as some riders were not comfortable in a group.

Kelley was right. On the route towards Great Falls (Md.) I dropped to the back to find Kelley, and she and a couple of riders were missing. I rode back to the front and told the ride leader, Katie, that we had dropped Kelley. So we waited and had the group reform.

Once we got rolling again, we weren’t far from “the hill.” David and Kelley had either warned me or told me that I would like the hill up to Great Falls. One mile long, it wasn’t overly steep, but enough to shed all the other riders. David had said I would win the King of the Mountains on this hill.

Just as we approached it, and it has a subtle rise, not a wall, announcing its presence, David pointed it out and we took off. David is less than half my age and I figured, even if he’s not a true climber, I still had no chance. There’s no way my legs could produce the power that young legs can. I did what a savvy veteran would. I let him pass and then I sat on his wheel up the entire climb.

I kept wondering when he was going to drop me, and at one point he did pull away by 10 – 15 feet (4 meters) or so but that was it. And then I got back on. I also figured I couldn’t hold him off if I tried to drop him too early. One big problem I had was that I didn’t know where the hill ended. I know, “at the top” but with each rise and each curve, how close were we to the top?

And then it happened. Sarah Brown, who probably weighs no more than 85 pounds, came flying by us. She is a new rider, maybe 23 years old, stands about five feet tall, and has the skinniest legs I have ever seen. She has no weight or body fat on her at all. Maybe worse, she couldn’t have been on our wheels when we left everyone behind and must have decided after we were gone 100-200 yards that she was going to catch and pass us.

Sarah Brown, Princeton

I told David to go, and I think he tried, but neither of us could catch her. I found out later that she ran cross country and track in college. I bet she flies.

Nearing the top of the climb, I was able to pass David and take second in the KOM – but first in the Men’s Division. Or first in the Over 100 Pounds Division. Or the Over 25 Division.

Maybe at one time, when I was 25 like David, it would bother me, but I am just happy to be alive and do what I can do. I’ll gladly lose to Sarah (weighs half of what I do) or David (is half my age) and still be in the top group climbing the hill.

On a day when the temperature hit 92º, I ended up riding 65 miles. I loved another great day in the saddle.

Note: Photograph from Princeton Athletics website,

LIVESTRONG Challenge 2010


With very tired legs and a body to match, I arrived at the hotel shortly after midnight and was asleep by 1:00 a.m. I got up at 5:00 a.m. and headed out of the hotel to Montgomery County Community College for check-in at 6:00 a.m. And no breakfast.

I went to get my ride packet and the volunteer handed me a top contributor’s jersey. That’s all. Thankfully another volunteer corrected her and told her that I get level C (jersey) and the gifts with levels A and B too. But I didn’t get the iPod and will dispute that with them afterward.

Last year I checked in and they rang cowbells and made an announcement that I raised $2900. It was actually more. It was a very welcome introduction.

This year I raised $5,000 and nothing. Sort of disappointing. Maybe more disappointing was that I had qualified for the recognition dinner last night but had to miss it as I was en route from Mt. Washington, New Hampshire to Philadelphia.

I returned to my car and started the assembly of my jersey. I wore the new LIVESTRONG jersey and added my race bib, my honor bib, my memory bib, and my survivor bib. Before I rode I posted a picture of my bibs on Facebook with this heading “Really wish we didn’t need these events.” Then I made my way to the start line.

Livestrong-Philly (2010) Jersey and Bibs
Lots of people honored one person. I honored a bunch!
More names were written on the back too.

At the start line, I could hear Lance Armstrong address the crowd but could only see the back of the stage and his legs. He addressed the 3,300 cyclists and said that he looked forward to a day when we could gather and just ride. He said, “I really wish we didn’t need these events.

After the comments from Lance, the ride went off 10 minutes late at 7:40 a.m. It was announced that he would ride 100 miles but I heard he cut it short at 45. It was dry at the start but around Mile 20 it would start to rain and it rained steadily and hard at times.

Some of the 3300 Cancer-Fighting friends at Livestrong-Philly

The start was slow, it took perhaps 4-5 minutes before I began moving even though the front of the 100-mile riders had already departed. The first 7-8 miles consisted of working my way farther and farther toward the front. I blew by the first two rest areas and reached the intersection of where the 70-mile group turned but the 100-mile group continued for 30 miles.

I was told that shortly after I went through the intersection LIVESTRONG closed the 100-mile route due to the weather that was moving in. There weren’t too many of us who got to ride 100 on the day. Call me lucky.

Raining at Landis Store. Love how the riders tried to crowd under the tent for protection even though they were soaked.

I was a little sore from yesterday’s climb up Mount Washington but not so much sore as simply without power. When I came to Landis Hill, the longest and steepest hill on the route I wanted to walk like I saw others doing, but knew I couldn’t. I had all the excuses — Mount Washington, four hours of sleep, a 12-hour drive, no breakfast — but knew I had to keep going. And I did.

Rest stop #9 (or #10?). This was at mile 90 and was marked SURVIVOR REST STOP. I stopped hoping for some survivor swag but no one there knew why it was called that. So I ate cake.

A number of people complained about the rain. My standard response was that fighting cancer isn’t bright and sunny. Metaphorically speaking, I expect a rainy day.

I was most disappointed that no one commented about my bib – FU Cancer. In a crowd of people who hated cancer, not one person. One did say “I like your bibs.” And that was all.

Yellow rose at the finish line – Livestrong-Philly 2010

When I saw the sign for 30 miles to go I started rehearsing what I would do when I crossed the finish line. Last year was tough. For many survivors who cross the finish line, it is the end of a difficult journey. For me, it was the realization that my journey had just begun. And it was tough.

A Century must be 100 miles, no?

Crossing the line as a survivor is emotional. I can’t explain it but you can ride 99 miles and be fine and when you come to the finishing chute in the last mile it becomes very emotional. I wish for none of my friends to ever know what I’m talking about. Today would be different. I was looking forward to crossing this finish line with positive emotions.

After riding all day with no power left in my legs (thanks, Mount Washington) at Mile 90 my legs came back. I started passing people. Tons of people. I both wanted this moment to last but yet wanted to get to the finish.

With one mile to go the sun came out. It would be the only time I would see the sun all day. I entered the right side of the chute for survivors. My final 200 meters went way too fast. Or I went way too fast. I hope they had photographers to capture the moment because I grabbed a rose and held it in the air and almost ran over some people who had stopped. Oops.

On the day the Challenge was only 97 miles. So I rode the extra distance, with the rose between my teeth, to make it 100. It had to be 100.

Livestrong-Challenge Philly 2010
The Rose and the Jersey are from the Livestrong Event
The blanket and the medal are from MWARBH

After I changed out of my soaking wet clothes, I went to the luncheon in the tent.  I wore my Mt. Washington Auto Road Hillclimb shirt. Strangers came up to me to ask about the race. Was I doing it? (Yes, already did – yesterday.) What gearing did I use? (24:28)  Did you know my friend rode it yesterday? (Uh, no, I don’t think so.)

Wear a bid that says “FU CANCER” and none of the 3,300 cancer fighters wanted to acknowledge it. But put on a Mount Washington shirt and strangers come up and talk. Even with people who hate cancer, they don’t want to talk about it.

Livestrong Challenge Philly 2010 – It’s raining pretty hard

Right after I got back to the car a deluge occurred. Just another day fighting cancer.

Livestrong Challenge Philly 2010 – It’s raining pretty hard



I forgot how friggin hard the mountain can be…

It was August 2006, after knee surgery that I first remember writing that someday I wanted to bike up Mount Washington. In 2007, Ashley and I went to New Hampshire for Newton’s Revenge, one of the two bike races up the mountain. Weather forced the cancellation of the race.

Friday Night Meet & Greet with Peter Salon and Walker Savidge

In 2008 we went back and I made it, albeit with a crash which meant I didn’t make it without stopping, and I was using normal stock gearing on my bike.

The event tent at the MWARBH 2010

I decided I had to go back to make it without crashing or stopping and I would change the gearing. But May 2009, brought its own crash, a broken wrist, an e.Coli infection and a diagnosis of cancer. Yea, it sucked. Ultimately, I was able to ride but promised myself I would return in 2010 as my recovery goal.

Cars entering the Mt. Washington Auto Road

And return I did.

Entrance to Mt. Washington Auto Road

I arrived on Friday morning. I wanted to do a light ride and rolled slowly through North Conway which was congested with tourist traffic. Near the end of town, a couple of riders asked “mind if we jump in?”

Parking lot at the summit

I was surprised to see Walker Savidge and Peter Salon, two riders for the Garmin-Transitions U23 team who had come to Mount Washington for the race. Of course, they were in their full Garmin kits. Made me glad I never bought the full Radio Shack kit to wear. I would have felt so stupid.

Peter, Walker, Barry

They didn’t know the roads so I agreed to take them on a short — 60-minute ride. What fun. I turned into the wind and pulled for five miles. We talked about their gearing, they hadn’t made any changes to their road gears — I knew it was too big for the mountain but hey, who am I to say something? It was one cool experience!

Walker and Peter signing posters.
Walker said it would devalue the poster.

As far as the race, I came to the mountain without a ride down and was determined to find one on the race forum. I contacted Ted Essenfeld who agreed to give me a ride down. I met him at the registration area and sent a bag of warm clothes to the top in his SUV.

Tinker Juarez in the black jersey. He competed in Leadville 100 the previous Saturday, finished in 7:30.
I have no idea how he can still be walking.

At the start line, I was soaking up the moment and ignored warming up, instead, I was walking around taking pictures. The ground was rocky and sandy but I was rejoicing being here and being a survivor.

The pros and Top Notch group queue up for their start.
Walker and Peter had the low numbers but weren’t given any
respect by the other riders.

Although there were four age groups, the largest group was the 45+ and it was so large it was split into two. So we had five starting groups, each separated by five minutes. I was in the last group and lined up at the end of our group. I started dead last.

Cars at the base of the auto road

When the cannon sounded I tried to clip in and found neither foot would clip in. Oh boy. The rocky and sandy ground got in my Speedplay cleats and prevented the springs in my cleats from working.

Race announcer Richard Fries and Mary Power, Race Director — with .

After 100 yards I got the left foot clipped in but couldn’t get the right clipped. It would be easier to pedal a bike with platform pedals and tennis shoes than my Speedplay pedals with road shoes that don’t clip in. When I stood to pedal my right foot would slip off the pedal. And bang my chin.

Start of Top Notch group

At Mile 5 I was catching a woman, Joan Pew from Maine, who asked if someone was running Speedplay shoes and wasn’t clipped in. You could hear it. Props to her to knowing what brand it was. She offered to take a brush from her bag if we both stopped. I knew we couldn’t get going again so I kept going. It was a kind offer though and greatly appreciated. I would ride it out and keep trying to clip in.

Joan Pew. She offered to stop and clean my shoes. 
We would have never got restarted.

The ride up the mountain is 90-100 minutes of willpower. The body says to at least take a break. Indeed, I counted 31 riders who dismounted in front of me and were stopped or walking. One guy was carrying his bike up the mountain rather than ride.

Start of the third group, 35-45 years old – Theodore Essenfeld in white

I forgot how friggin hard the mountain is. I thought there would be some relief after two miles but there wasn’t. It keeps going up at that 12% grade with no breaks.

Two riders on the finishing grade. One was paperboying and would fall over; the other was simply pushing her bike. It is tough.

I crossed the finish line in 1:43 — just two minutes faster than last year. I thought I might have 10 minutes in me, i.e., finish around 1:35. I had ridden almost 3,000 miles this year and been “training” in France. But I’ll take any improvement. I came back cancer-free.

My third time up the Rock Pile

At the summit, I could not find Ted or his wife as she was forced to park in a service area about 200 yards from the top. So I never got into my warm, and dry, clothes. I was stuck in sweaty, nasty, cycling clothes. And a Polartec blanket. That was enough. I had to scrounge to find a ride for me and my bike. I accepted an offer from two different people – one to take my bike and one to drive me down.

Ted Essenfeld. He still owes me a ride down the mountain. Here he has my Trek Travel bag.

I was pleased that I sent up my Trek Travel bag with shoes, warm clothing, food, cell phone (for photos). But with the missed connection at the top, it was all for naught. At the end of the day, I told Mary Power and Kelly Evans, event directors at the Mount Washington Auto Road, that I might not be back next year. Each year gave me a new reason to come back but this year left me fulfilled. Mostly. Oh well, I have six months to think about it (before registration).

NOTE: (1 Aug 2021) – Although Strava was founded in 2009, I certainly was not using it then. But an upload of my data show my point-to-point time was 1:42:15. This is different from the “official” race time which starts at the cannon blast but cannot account for the time waiting on the bridge, dead last, while the front row takes off. It is the best representation for comparison of me to me. This was my best time despite a cleat that would not clip in.

A Quest for 50


Back on roads safely away from vicious man and dog-eating dogs, I decided I would try to hit 50 mph today. On US Rte 30, two miles west of Stoystown, Pa. is an awesome steep hill which is straight as an arrow, hits a dip in the bottom and goes straight up the other side. In other words, a perfect hill to gain speed. No worries about curves or stopping.

US Rte 30 looking east. The grade is longer on this side but steeper on the other side.

I parked at the bottom of the hill and started my one mile ascent up the 7% grade. Much of this climb was 10-11% but there is a 5-6% section in the middle which brings the average down.

At the top I turned around, put the bike in the big gear, and pedaled as fast as I could. I got in my aero tuck and watched the speedometer creep up – to just 45 mph. I was disappointed.

I rode through the dip at the bottom of the hill and began my climb up the other side. The total climb was 0.7 mile but the steepest section was near the bottom – the last 0.4 mile. In this section the road averaged 10% grade.

Though I went all the way to the top and turned around to try it again, my speed didn’t really creep up until I hit the bottom ramp. My Trek computer had me at 49.2. Close, but not quite 50. I will have to try again next week.

After a few minutes, I decided I would head over to Altoona, mainly to ride Horseshoe Curve. But when I reached Summerhill (yesterday, by bike) and saw the sign for Blue Knob State Park, I decided to follow the sign.

I parked at the park entrance and began the 4.5 mile climb to the summit. Many sections were hitting 14-15% and 16% in the last section. It was a nice workout.

There are no roads like Mount Washington but climbs like Blue Knob are helpful. Glad I came back, even if for a day.

Garmin Map and Stats – Rte 30

Garmin Map and Stats – Blue Knob

UPDATE: There will be no try next week. I have changed the gearing on my bike to ready myself for Mount Washington and have removed the “big ring” necessary to hit top speed.

Saved by Biscuit


Today was the STATES family reunion in Canoe, Twp., Indiana Co., Pa., near Punxsutawney. I had hoped to leave my parents’ place near Somerset and bike 75 miles to the reunion while they drove there. And I hoped to beat them there. That would not happen.

The temperature was 56 degrees (13 C) when I left. The ride was uneventful until I reached Johnstown. I had planned to follow Rte 271 through Johnstown for about 25 miles so you would think I could stay on it without a cue sheet for more than one mile. You would be wrong.

I went through Franklin borough just outside Johnstown and was barely paying attention to the signs when I briefly saw one which stated TRUCK ROUTE 271. At first I followed it but then doubled back to double check the sign. And it was clearly marked “truck route.”

It is marked TRUCK ROUTE, no?


To my thinking, this was the truck route which was longer and not as steep as the regular route. You’d think. You’d be wrong.

So I went straight instead of turning and I immediately began a real nice three-mile climb and did not regret following this route. Until I reached South Fork, that is. Then I knew something was wrong. Terribly wrong.

I found two guys who were “railfans” alongside the tracks with their huge cameras. One was from New Jersey. The other was from Vermont. Nice guys but they certainly couldn’t help me.

Rail fans from the Northeast come here to take pictures


I found directional help in the form of a man at a gas station. He had to think about how to help get me back to Rte 271 then discounted a road because it had a “big hill.” He said no bike could get up it. I told him the bigger the better. So he sent me that route. He was right (about big hill but wrong about being able to ride up it). I enjoyed every minute of the climb. I also called my mother and told her not to worry if I wasn’t at the reunion within an hour or two after they arrive because I went far out of my way.



Once back on course I stopped for a brief break at Duman Lake County Park near Ebensburg. After the break I made it to Nicktown then paused to read my cue sheet. I remembered I could turn right and end up in Northern Cambria where I could refill my water bottles – now empty. But my cue sheet, which I made, had me turn left. I turned left then made a right turn in half a mile.


Duman Lake Park near Ebensburg

As I approached Marsteller I spotted two huge Rottweilers ahead and fast approaching. I stopped and immediately dismounted. I turned my body to hold my bike between the dogs and myself. And they came right at me.

Not a photo of the actual dog – they were meaner looking
I figured I had little chance against one dog. And my odds dropped to zero against two of them. I was successful in holding one at bay but the second one could see my trick and was about to go around my bike and greet me from the back side.

I’m holding a carbon fiber bike. Lightweight and expensive although the cost meant nothing. In an instant I wish I was on a $100 steel bike. Or at least aluminum. I figured my only chance was to swing the bike wildly. It was a stupid plan.

There was a car parked a little behind me. I thought maybe I could quickly climb onto the hood then maybe the roof. But what happened next was too fast to accurately recall.

A tiny terrier in the lawn next to me came running out of his yard right to the two huge dogs. They immediately lost interest in me and saw a furry meal instead. The little gal let out a yelp – a big yelp from a little dog – and somehow she got away. I thought she would be mangled to death. Its owner quickly appeared and with the two of us there, and perhaps confused over what just happened, the Rottweilers scurried away. I really don’t remember why they left or where they went.

During the 60 seconds or so I was scared to death but outwardly calm. I tried to talk to the dogs but did not appear aggressive, other than keeping my bike between us, nor did I try to flee. And I kept my eyes on them, never turning my back, which is why I never saw the terrier who came to my rescue.
I am convinced that that little terrier came out of her lawn to protect me. I also believe that had she not appeared that I would have been hurting pretty bad tonight. I like dogs. It is a shame that some people don’t train or control theirs.
I was shaken. I got back on my bike and rode away, not fully comprehending what occurred nor expressing enough gratitude to the dog’s owner for what the terrier did for me.
I have a chance to ride this route again next Saturday but not sure I want to ride past this stretch of road again. I may elect to drive instead, stopping to thank the owner properly.
I reached Cherry Tree, Pa. and found a country store to refill my bottles. As is my custom, my bike and I went inside the store and no one questioned me.
My bike inside the store
The last 20 miles of my day were trying on me. These are real country roads with few houses and a lot of farms. Many folks own dogs, big dogs, and allow them to roam freely. I was on edge the rest of the ride.
At the end of the day I had ridden 90 miles, climbed more than 8,000 vertical feet, and narrowly avoided one nasty mauling.
Yesterday I biked the same route to my LOWMASTER reunion except that I avoided this stretch of road because of the dog experience.
Today I drove 50 miles, one way, from my parents’ house in Somerset, Pa. I carried two bags of doggie treats. My quest: To meet the owners and thank the dog.
Gabby Pizur and Biscuit

I took two bags of doggie treats to Biscuit, a 3-year old Yorshire terrier. The family was glad to meet me and wanted to thank ME for saving their dog. That is not what happened.

I explained that I was the one in trouble and their dog bounded over the 18″ – 24″ retaining wall from their lawn right into these two Rottweilers that had me cornered. I believe Biscuit acted only because she saw me, a total stranger, in great trouble with these dogs.

UPDATE FRIDAY AUGUST 27 – I did a phone interview with Ashley Watt, a newspaper reporter for the local newspaper in Ebensburg or Northern Cambria. I thought the focus was on Biscuit, the Yorkie, who saved my butt/life. I don’t know when or where it was published but a magazine called Punxsutawney Hometown, picked up the story for their October issue. Pretty embarassing. They called me a “former Punxsy resident.” (I was born in Punxsy but I’m not from Punxsy.)


Map and Stats for August 7 (from Ride with

Map and Stats for August 14 (from Ride with

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