31 October, 2011

Peak to Peak

I know I have been slacking with pictures, and I will try to get my post updated ASAP.

In 2010, Peak to Peak was one of my favorite races, if not my mostest favorite race.  I finished 4th place then, nearly 6 minutes ahead of first.  I enjoyed the suffering so much.  I remember going up the hill a second time, pushing my bike, slung low over the handlebars, and embarrassed I couldn't make it up in front of the cheering crowd at the top of the mountain.   After finishing the race, it was a party at the bottom, beer flowing, grilled food, friends and cheering for the pros.  I returned to the top and shouted for those riders making their way up for 3-4 trips.

This year I was hoping for more.  I signed up for the race in February, using an entry I won at the MMBA Expo.  Sport SS, and I was going to be prepared.  I had no idea what 2011 actually had in store for me.

Fast forward about 8 months, and I was at my peak weight for the year, and had ridden exactly zero times in the two weeks leading up.  Maybe this wasn't going to be much fun after all.

We headed north the Friday before the race.  Cold and dreary for the week leading up.  I wasn't excited about the weather.  I do not enjoy the cold.  My toes and hands easily get chilled, and overall, I just don't like it.  However, my legs LOVE the weather, and will chug away with no complaining for who knows how long.

After checking in to our room at the wonderful Crystal Mountain Resort, I sat on the bed looking out the window.  The weather was crap, did I want to do a pre-ride our not....  I really didn't feel like it, but since racing last year, I had a 2-tooth difference in my gearing, and wanted to know if I could make it around the course without dying.  My lack of training was not reassuring either.

I took off around the course, and the rain stopped.  It was cool and clear the whole route.  IT was mostly marked, and mainly cleared of leaves.  I made a couple wrong turns at a fork or two in the trail, but quickly recovered.  I was actually feeling decent, until I got to the hill before the hill (HBH).  It was steep, and I honestly didn't remember it at all from the previous year.  Since this was a practice ride, I walked up.  Then to the mountain, and I was able to slow churn to the top.  The hill before the hill was the worst.

Fast forward past the pasta buffet to the next morning, and I woke to cold rain and high winds.  Crap.  I sipped my coffee, got dressed, and slowly made my way outside.  As soon as I opened the door, I was caught by a gust of wind and pelted in the face by rain.  I mounted my bike pedaled around to the start and checked the starting times.  Good thing I did, as my heat was moved again this year.  Now I was heading off first.  I went back outside, surveyed the start/finish area, and headed back to the hotel.  "Warming up" wasn't really an option in these conditions.  Instead I stood in the hallway and did some stretching.

Finally the weather broke, and the rain stopped.  I had enough time to climb a couple hills around the golf course before lining up.  I took a spot on the front row, to the right side.  I wasn't sure how things were going to start, but I didn't want to be caught in a group.

As we took off I kept a decent pace through the grass and ended up in 3rd position.  First was an Einstein Racing guy on a CX bike, and second was a singlespeeder from City Bike Shop.  I just sat on his wheel.  My plan coming in was to let somebody else set the pace, and I would try to hang on, then decide what to do on the final climb of lap 2.

Halfway through the fist lap, another singlespeed guy came zipping by on one of the  dirt road sections.  I hopped on his wheel, and we were now out in front.  This guy had no team kit, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  I stayed with him and he kept a pretty good pace.  He really didn't make any moves to drop me (that I could tell).  We hit the HBH, and he jumped off and started running up the hill.  I figured what the hell, and hopped off and ran behind him. We then reached the ski hill and this guy was churning a very low cadence, as in "I am not sure if these low RPMs can be considered a cadence).  About halfway he got off and started pushing.  I figured 'What the hell' and rode around him.  I wasn't going to let the throng of cheering fans at the top see me push.  The was one Ron Sanborn up there, so I was glad I wasn't pushing in front of the future Expert singlespeed winner!

At the top, there was an aid station, but not the crowd from last year.  Stupid crappy weather.
Oh well, back down the hill and repeat.  I was feeling pretty good.  The rider behind me was not visible when I crested the top, so I cruised through the chicanes.  I rounded the corner to start lap 2, and Dave Bucholtz came running alongside me and told me to get my ass moving.  I had to listen.

Lap 2 was pretty lonely for the first half.  I started thinking about issues I was having at home and work.  My pace suffered, but I wasn't in 'Time Trial' mode, so it was kinda to be expected.

The second half of the course I began catching the beginner riders out there.  I tried to cheer them on and motivate them as I passed.  I have a soft spot for those that get out there and try.

Second time up the mountain, and I was starting to feel my lack of training.  I wanted to stop and walk.  My brain tried to justify it.  "They aren't going to catch you" and "Nobody will see you walking here".  I wasn't going to listen, I wanted to suffer.  I wanted to hurt.  I took my remaining anger and self-pity and channeled it to my legs and made it to the top.  Mission accomplished.  Now is was just coasting down to the finish.

Halfway down I heard some cheering for dub-nine, but I didn't look to see.  At another point there were 3 people in the woods before the final high-speed downhill.  I flubbed on some leaves and couldn't clip back in.  I think I was just panicking for no apparent reason.

Down through the chicanes, across the finish and I did it.  I won handily, about 3 minutes ahead of second.  I was excited to be on the podium of a "Big" race.  I went, changed my clothes to warm up, and headed back to the awards area.  The announcer said they were only doing beginner awards now, and the rest at the end with the Expert/Elites.   I was cool with that.

I went inside, had a beer, some free nachos and watched some football.  The big patio party from last year was not to be found.  At that point I go an email that said "They butchered your name, of course".  Apparently they moved my awards back up.

So instead, I wend and picked my plastic "medal" up off the table.  Oh well.  I will head to the top of the mountain to cheer on the Expert/Elites.  Except I couldn't because the chairlift was closed because of some wedding at the top.  WTF!

I really, really want to like this race.  However the organization (or lack thereof) is really wearing on me.  The swapped my starting time the last 2 years.  Expert/Elite start was delayed 15-20 minutes.  The sponsor beer was gone by the time the Expert/Elites finished.  It wasn't even free beer.  Awards getting shuffled around.  For 2012, I am not sure what I will do.

Oh yeah, I did get to unveil my new team kit for 2012 though.  I decided to be part of Einstein Racing.  I figured what team would be better for a guy that builds particle accelerators than one names after my friend Al.  Plus being sponsored by Grand Traverse Pie didn't hurt either!

26 October, 2011

Pando Expert

Damn, it has been over a month since my last update.  What a crazy stupid month it has been.  I have had a TON of crap going on, at home, at work, etc.  The only thing I haven't had was time to ride my bike.

So I head to Pando, last CPS race of the season.  I decided to dabble in the Expert 30-34 category.  Mostly for the mileage, but also to see how well I could hang with the "fast guys."  I have been ridin the Expert singlespeed category for quite some time, and could finishe near the top, but shifting is a whole new animal.

I got to the start much earlier than I am accustomed.  Racing at 10 is a lot different than starting at my usual 12:30 or so.  Finding a parking spot was easy as pie.  Mmm, pie!

Since I was racing in the first group, I was able to do a lap of the course during my warm-up.  It didn't hurt that one lap was only 4.5 miles as well.

As the time began, I wasn't really feeling excited to start, make a 180 degree turn and head up the ski hill for my first time that day.  The start wasn't too bad though, I ended up having to move out of the good line to plow my way through the grass up the hill, make a u-turn and come back down before making another sharp turn on wet grass.

The group of riders wasn't hammering as I expected.  Sport racers seemed to go out faster.  I am not sure if this is because of the shorter race lengths, or lack of experience.  I hung in on a group of about 6 guys and just kept in line with them.  I knew we weren't the front group, but I was happy to not be dropped.

About halfway through the first lap, there is a root right after a sharp left and I messed up on it.  I don;t know if it was nerves or what, but I lost momentum, became unclipped.  In a panic I moved over and let the whole group by.  Then another pack or riders (presumably from the class behind mine).  By the time I got remounted, I had lost quite a few places.

At this point, I was just going to ride my own pace, finish and see how I come out.  The Pando course isn;t particularly nice.  It seems the only time you get some speed going, you have to slam on the braks, make a sharp turn and head back uphill.

Lap 2 wasn't much better than the first.  I was so worried about the root still.  It was stupid, as I easily made it over (and did so for the rest of the race).  However, there was a loose, short climb that as I was ascending, I lost traction in the rear and again moved over to let a pack of following riders past.  I really need to replace that tire this winter.

After these two flubs, I finished the race with no other major issues.  Each lap as I came around, I had Team Kahuna come out and cheer.  It was enough to push me up the hill each time (7 in total).

In my typical multilap fashion, I lost a bit of time after each lap.  However the final 4 were remarkably close in time, so maybe there is hope.

After finishing, I checked the results and saw I was in 11th out of 17.  Not bad for my first attempt.  Not DFL at least.  A while later I was down to 13th.  Not sure how I got passed by 2 riders after I finished a mass start race, but whatever.  I ended up 13 out of 16 racers that finished.  Not terrific, but show I have room to improve.

I don't know what I am going to do next year.  I would be moving up an age group in sport.  Do I try that again, or just keep swimming with the big dogs, or fish..whatever.

23 September, 2011

Addison Oaks XC

In an attempt to get caught up with the 'Ol blog before Pando, here is my recap of Addison.

Last year I missed the Addison XC race due to a trip to Japan.  I think that was a fair trade.  I did make t out there for the 6 hour solo race, and finished 3rd.  This was also my first race on the rigid fork.

This year I needed to race at Addison, and perform reasonably well in order to secure my top place in the CPS Expert/Elite Singlespeed category.

We got to the park with plenty of time to register and relax prior to the race.  Which was good, as I was not feeling very well at all.  My tummy was grumpy, and my pre-race nutrition was only making it worse.

I was expecting a pretty decent finish, as there were only 2 riders pre-registered for the race, myself included.  When I got to the line, there were about 9 of us.  I really only knew one or two of them, but the others I was safe to assume were pretty fast.

When the race started, I clipped in and began rolling out at a pretty leisurely pace.  I mean there were 4 laps of about 7 miles each, and I was intent on not burning out early.  However, this wasn't the best plan, as soon I was out the back of the pack, and getting dropped, so I picked up the pace.

I wasn't sure how many got ahead of me during the roll out.  During the first climb I made a pass of a couple riders, leaving what I believed to be 4 others ahead of me.  I finished the fist lap in purgatory, not quite sure how far ahead the leaders were, nor sure of how far back the chasers were either.

Shortly after starting the second lap, I passed a rider walking out with his arm tucked into his jersey, the international sign for I crashed and broke my collarbone.  I asked if he was OK, but received no response, so I continued on.  I didn't recall being passed so I assumed he was in my category, and by my calculations, I was in 4th place.

A short while later, another ride caught up to me, wearing a Specialized jersey.  He asked how I was doing and I responded with "Dying, I want to quit and just drink beer" to which he responded "Me too, it must have been the 15 beers I had at the game last night."  15 beers and this guy is on my tail.  I must be slow because after 4 beers, I would be unconscious.

I let him pass on the wide dirt "road" section, but jumped right on his tail.  I followed him up the ensuing hills and fields staying right with him.  I could tell he was trying to drop me, but I was able to stay close on the punchy climbs.  We hit the paved road section and I coasted right on his tail.  Just before we went into the woods, he swung wide and said "Well, since I can't drop you, we may as well work together."

Back on the front I increased the pace a bit, as I had a bit of recovery riding behind him for a bit.  I could catch glimpses of him behind me, but he wasn't right on my tail.  I was thinking he was leaving me some slack hoping I would burn out.  The results showed I finished lap two only 5 seconds ahead of him.

Going into lap 3, my legs were starting to feel good.  I stood and hammered up the early climbs.  I wanted to build a gap and figured I might as well make hay while the sun was shining.  I do not recall anything significant on this lap.  I continued my solo ride, still trying to push the pace while beginning to encounter more traffic on the course.

Starting the final lap, a group of kids started as I came though the chute.  About 6 of them, hammering as fast as they could.  They surged ahead of me on the flat grass, but I wanted to get back on the front before the technical areas.  I knew the prime spot to make my move and I hit the climb that on the previous lap I was feeling good.  This time however, it was a different story.  I stood to pedal and my quads felt like they were shutting down.  The last time I felt like this was mile 45 of the O2S.  I passed the kids, but I had to work a lot harder than I wanted to.  My plan was to continue at a comfortable pace, and hope I don't get caught.  I would spin on the flats, and not go too far into the red on the climbs.

Maybe 1/4 of the way through the lap I was caught by another single-speeder, the RBS guy I was talking to at the start.  Going on what I recalled from my earlier encounter, I was willing to let the rider past.  However, in a move of slick trickery he declined.  He stated he didn't know if he could continue the pace.

So I worked a bit harder to increase my tempo, just to see if he would hang.  He could, and did.  So as we turned off the paved section, I began to let up a bit.  I was figuring this would come to a sprint, and I wasn't going to work too far beforehand.  He stayed right on my tail until near the end, where on a climb there were to paths, a high and low.  I took the high route and he went low, I slowed just enough to drop in behind him.

Realizing his mistake, he pushed the pace the the final sections of trail and got a bit of a gap leadinging into the pavement before the finish.  I closed the gap here, and stayed right on his wheel going into the grassy straightaway before the finish. 

This was the sprint I was waiting for (pretty much all season!) and I stayed right behind, watching his every move.  My plan was to make the pass near at the trash can before the line.  Then  I say his legs spin up and he was making his move at right about the same time.  I knew I couldn't stand and hammer based on the early climb, so I spun up to and moved to the left.  I had my legs going around as fast as I could as I moved beside, then past the rider.  I was grunting like a stuck big as I was gulping for air hoping to fend off (would I could only assume) impending charge. 

I shot across the line and kept riding to a group of trees a short distance away.  I did it.  I beat won the sprint, but I don't know by how much.  I didn't see his wheel when I crossed, but figured he was there.  The rider came over where I lay collapsed on the pine needles and panting and congratulated me on the race and I reciprocated. My wife came over told me good job.  I asked about riders ahead, and she said she saw only two guys, and I finished "way after them."  Thanks honey.  Then she asked if I heard her yelling for me at the finish.  I admit, I did not.  It was one of those moments like in the movies, everything went silent and felt like slow motion.

I checked the results, and discovered I was in third place, not fourth.  I considered this my first legitimate Expert/Elite singlespeed podium.  It felt good. After a brief recovery, it was time for the podium.  It was really quick, as I didn't even have time to change.

After receiving my medal, I grabbed some of the free pork and cold beer.  That was an excellent way to cap off my clinching of the   CPS Expert/Elite Singlespeed series.

21 September, 2011

Quick Stony Creek XC

I had the greatest intentions of doing a full recap of the Stony Creek XC race, but I have successfully waited long enough that I cannot remember much at all.

I cam to this race wanting revenge.  The last time I was out here, it was like 308 Kelvin outside, and it was my fist race on a geared mountain bike in a very long time.

This race I intended on at least finishing.  It was only 3 laps, and I think about 6 miles each.  Our group (Sport 30-34) started with the 19-29 group, so it was a bit harder to track position.

We took off, and there was a mad sprint throught the gate and once we got to the first hill leading into the couse, I made my move (just like a singlespeeder) and passed a few people until I was in 4th position.  I hoped it was just the youngin's ahead of me.

I settled into a groove on lap one.  I almost made a wrong turn coming through one section.  During the marathon we turned left, during the XC we turned right.  I went left, and wondered briefly why I was running over a bunch of flags.  Once I figured it out, it was back on course.

It was lap two I believe when I got passed by the "Tom's guy" that passes me in every race.  Someday I hope to keep up with him.  About that time, we came up on a rider from a local team (which I recall, but won't disclose publicly) that would not let people pass.

This rider had decent aerobic abilities, but poor technical skills.  As Tom's caught up to him to pass on an open wide hill, this other rider stood up, moved over and blocked the pass.  Mind you this is a 19-29 year old blocking the pass of a faster 35+ guy.

Soon enough, I closed the gap on this guy as well.  I made my mode on a wide section (road, 2-track, whatever) and pulled ahead.  As he started to close, I burnt a match and gapped him.

Coming around the start for the final lap, I was doggin'.  Luckily my wife was there to yell at me to "Pick it up!"  I though "I wish I could" but could only muster a glance in her direction.

On the final lap, my pace began to slow, and "Poor Passee" caught back up to me.  I made a move around him at the same spot as the previous lap.  I was doing pretty good, but then my rear tire slid out yet again.  I should really do something about that.

So I am stuck behind this guy in the waning moments of the final lap, concerned that #2 was closing on my quick.  I made my final move on the last set of rolling hills before the finish.  I stood and passed on the first incline, and didn't give up until the final grassy climb before the singletrack leading to the finish.

I felt pretty good dropping this character at the end, however, I know I still need to improve my endurance.  I crossed the line with a decent 30 gap on the guy, who I was not even racing, and 40 seconds on the second place in my group.

Time for awards, I went up for my first place medal for the day's race.  Then I went back up for my overall Sport Singlespeed award.  I was hoping for the trifecta, and at least getting on the podium for Sport 30-34 group, but I ended up in 4th.  Not too bad only finishing in 2 races.  If I hadn't flatted during the marathon, I would have been up there for sure.

So now it is on to bigger and better categories.  I may need to buck up for the actual USAC license next year, and get my but kicked by the big(ger) boys!

06 September, 2011

Maybury, Maybury, and Ruby

Man I suck at this whole blog thing.  I had such grand plans of racing, then blogging about the experience.  Yet here it is, over 2 weeks later and I am just getting started.

I am not sure what kind of detail I will be able to recall at this point.  Honestly, I don't really remember what I had for breakfast today!

First up is Maybury.  I like this course rather well last year.  I was racing beginner, and won my category, and had the fast time of all beginners.  The weather then was cold and dreary.  This year, it was hot, humid, and muggy, and humid...

I got to the park around 8 am.  I hiked the canopy and equipment back to the finish area to set up camp.  Standing around watching me work was Motor head Aryn.  Once I get things in order, he offered to help, but it was time for him to go warm up for the Expert race.

I was racing Sport 30-34 on the Superfly 100, and the start was about 10:30.  I got changed and started my warm up.  I wasn't sure really how I was feeling early on.  I was feeling bad, but things weren't really feeling optimal.  I rode around a bit, and caught up with Aryn on an uphill on his second lap.  I pulled alongside and cheered him on.  He started to comment back, and I told him to shut up and pedal.  If you can talk, you aren't working hard enough!  I did a bit more warming up, and I thought my legs were beginning to come around.  Maybe the 46 miles at Ore to Shore the previous week rode some sort of form back into them.

As I finished my warm up and headed to the start, my legs just died.  I lost all power and wasn't feeling confident at all.  When the time to race came, I went out hard, trying to figure out where things were going wrong.  It felt like I was working very hard, and going very slow.  Every incline felt huge, much larger than I recalled from the previous year.

I strugled through the entire route.  On the pavement leading back, another rider blew by me and told me to jump on.  I hopped into his draft and worked hard to stay there.  Unfortunately right after the pavement was two of the hardest climbs in the whole course, and I blew up on the road leading in.

I finished, but not strong, and not feeling good.  I immediately swapped bikes, and headed to the truck to add another tooth to the rear cog. Strong I was not.  After switching things around, I checked the results to find I was in 6th, DFL.  Later, I saw a couple more riders finished behind me, but didn't make things any better.  I was ~3 minutes faster than last year, but on a different course, and supposedly with more training.  Whatever.

I sat in the shade for about an hour, trying to cool off, rehydrate, eat, and figure out what the hell was going on with my body.  Not much time to reflect, as I had to get ready for my next race, Expert SS.  I wasn't excited to ride again, but I had already paid.

I got into the chute, and the Motor Club started cheering for me.  I was starting to feel a bit better.  At the go, I took off and hammered down the opening road.  I was spun out on my gear, and feeling fast.  The early part of the course felt decent.  The hills were smaller, and things were beginning to feel good.  I hadn't caught anybody, I hadn't seen anybody, but the good news is, nobody caught me.

Aryn and Brian came out to a couple points on the course to cheer me on.  The met me on the road near the finish again.  The were going to pace me up the hill, but I will be damned if I was going to take any help, and hammered with all I could.  I guess their plan worked, as they motivated me around the curve and up the hill.  I finished strong and collapsed just past the line.  I was spent.

I checked the results as soon as I was up (thanks Race Services) and saw I was in 4th, with a time 1 minute faster than my geared bike.  I don't know if the time difference can be attributed to gears, gaining familiarity of the route, race support, or bike confidence.  I am leaning towards the latter three.  In the end, I again finished 6th, top of the bottom 50%.

Time to tuck my tail between my legs, head home, and debate whether it was going to be worth driving to the Ruby Campground the next day.

From my understanding, the weather for Ruby is always rain.  Although I tend to perform better in the cool miserable days, I wasn't positive about the 4 hour round trip drive.  In the morning, I checked the radar, and decided what the hell.  I loaded of the SF100 and hit the road.

This race felt different.  I had already clinched the Tailwind Singlespeed series.  So this race was just for fun.  I was there for a fun day and that is all.  OK, a fund day and to win.  The guy in the car parked next to me mentioned the water was thigh high!  Wow, this will be interesting.

I didn't warm up as much, just explored the first half of the trail, and previewed the water crossings.  They didn't look very deep at all, and an Expert/Elite racer told me he just rode across.  So my thought was, if I was near the front I would try to ride the water, if at the back I would hoof it.

Again my boy Aryn gave me some insight on the race.  He told me line up in the front row on the right.  Hole shot was the key.  Heeding his advice, I lined up in the second row, far left side.  I was there just for fun afterall.

At the start the riders took off (maybe 8 of us) along the dirt road.  It seemed nobody wanted to lead out, and nobody was pushing the pace.  So I jumped around, splashed through some mud puddles and entered the singletrack second wheel.  Ahead of me was a 19-29 racer who kept looking over his shoulder.  I told him I was not racing him, lets work together and gap the crowd.  He settled down a bit and we had quite a gap on the rest of the heat.

It stayed this way until one of the switchback climbs, and he dabbed and had to dismount.  He told me to go ahead, and I told him to follow.  I got to the river, shifted to a low gear and spun my way through the water.  The kid behind decided to run it, and I put a large gap between us.  This side of the river had some climbing for sure, and I spun my way up everything.  Front of the race, there was no traffic and I was feeling surprisingly good.

I finished the first lap in the lead.  The second lap was pretty lonely as well.  I was off the front still, but starting to come across some of the beginners and kids.  I finished this lap off the front too.  I was starting to fade, and notice my lack of endurance catching up to me on lap three.

On the far side of the river, I got passed by a Tom's racer, but I wasn't concerned as he passes me every race and is in a different category.  A couple more riders went by a bit later chasing him.

Without any pressure, I let off the pace a little bit and cruised.  I think this was just a mental excuse because I was tired.  Each lap was ~1 minute slower than the previous.

I crossed the line in first (for my age group) and about 2.5 minutes ahead of second.  I felt pretty good still.  This was my first race win on a geared bike.  Not I am not sure if I have any excuses left now.

Tailwind wrapped things up quickly due to an impending storm (that never arrived) and we took off for home.

It is interesting how a poor Saturday can turn into a decent Sunday.  I am not sure what I did differently between the races, other than relax.  I though I was becoming pretty seasoned at this racing thing, but I still have a lot to learn about myself, and a long way to go training wise.

22 August, 2011

Ore to Shore

This year was my first Ore to Shore.  I have heard a bit about it, and I wanted to experience it for myself.

I signed up for the race many months ago.  At that point there was no question, if I am driving north for 7 hours, I am going to do the Hard Rock, 48 miles of pure singlespeed bliss.  Fast forward to the week of the race, and I was having second thoughts on riding the singlespeed.  I wasn't sure what the race would entail, and I was thinking my "newly" acquired Superfly 100 would be a better choice.  I went back and forth for a couple of days, and as time was running short, I went with the 100, based on having a bailout gear, and frankly it is the more reliable bike right now.

We arrived in Marquette the Thursday before the race, and got to the Country Inn and Suites, a race sponsor.  The weather Friday was not great, cool and rainy.  Instead of doing any riding, we decided to continue further north to Houghton, to show my wife the places I went instead of going to class.  After a quick tour of the area, complete with a stop at the "Library" we headed back to Marquette for race check in.

The Lakeview Arena was busy, but not packed.  As we were walking in, I mentioned to my wife to keep an eye out for people I know (so she can tell me their names!).   I was walking in the entrance, I passed a couple of guys that looked kinda familiar, but I wasn't sure.  As we passed, I kind of slowed and looked back, and saw them turn around as well.  It turned out to be a couple fellows I went to college with ~16 years ago.  They were up from the race as well.  I hadn't had any contact with them since my premature (immature?) departure from Michigan Tech.

Moving on to the check in process, it was smooth.  The hard part was remembering if I ordered a shirt of socks.  We did a quick loop of the expo, and headed out for dinner, Casa Calabria.  It was a bit of a wait, but we wandered over to Quick Stop Bike shop, which was busy with last minute repairs. The place was nice, and open until 10 pm for all those last minute repairs!

Dinner was over, and I was stuffed with garlic bread. [Side Story: We wanted to order garlic bread as an appetizer, and the waitress asked if we wanted one piece or two.  Obviously we wanted to pieces of bread.  She then brought out a hunk of bread the size of my shoe for each of us.  That is a lot of bread.  Then she brought out the salads, and another piece of bread.  Then the main course, and a third piece of bread.  It was tasty, but a LOT of garlic shoes.]

Back to the hotel, 15 minutes in the hot tub to relax, and off to bed.  Gotta race in the morning.  Several hours later and I was downstairs eating waffles in the breakfast area and studying the map one last time.  An interesting observation, there must have been some eager racers, because at 7 am there were people dressed in full kits eating their Frosted Flakes.

Getting to the start wasn't as bad as I had imagined.  There was actually some parking, which I wasn't expecting based on my trip to the Iceman last year.  I get prepped to race, and tried to warm up a bit before hand.  Some spinning and climbed some road hill in the area.  About 40 minutes before the start time, I head to the queue and see a ton of bike already lined up.  I was torn about warming up, or lining up.  I decided the latter was better, and the closest to the front I could get was in the 3:50 zone, a bit higher than the 3:00 I was shooting for.  I gently laid my bike in the street, then moved over for some stretching.

Anticipation was building as the rest of the riders came in, picking their places, packing in like sardines to get a front spot.  As time was winding down, we all straddled our bikes.  There was a surge forward as people filled around the preferred starters, and another a bit later.  The color guard raised their flags, and the national anthem began.  3 notes into the song, something popped and there was no music.  Instead of standing around, the mass of riders began singing the anthem, A Capella.  About 2/3rds through, the music came back, but we kept singing.  It was pretty awesome to have 550+ of your "friends" singing the Star Spangled Banner.

No time to reflect, soon after the gun went off and we were moving.  Well, the front was moving, we were waiting for our surge.  As I took off down the pavement, my plan was to ride smart, and avoid accidents.  I stayed near the edge, and took the turns on the outside, as not to get pinched.  I made up a few places, but taking the forum information to heart, I knew I would catch many of these people soon.

We made the right-hander onto the trail and the first thing I saw was a giant plume of red dust.  I guess the previous days rain did little to this section of course.  I pedaled along, and as the group began to slow (already!) I started moving up along the outside.  There was a brief climb early on, and I tried to pass, but the mass of humanity made that difficult.  A couple miles in, I saw the lady I started next to walking back out, a face full of dirt.  She appeared OK.  I know nothing more of her, other than she had a pretty nice pink Trek.

I continued a good pace along the trails to Ishpeming, passing when I could, maybe getting passed a bit, but not working too hard.  I knew it was a long race, some tough sections ahead, and many miles to go.  I was still pretty focused, as looking at some pictures there was a giant mining dump truck right next to the trail, and I didn't even recall seeing it.  Heck, we could have ridden under it, and I wouldn't have noticed.

The climbs thus far were not torturous, just unfamiliarity and traffic infcreasing the difficulty.  I tried to drink at the aid stations when I went by, as I had 2 small bottles with me. [As an aside, to those volunteering at the aid stations, I greatly appreciate your effort.  One thing I do ask is if you are holding out a cup and yelling "Water" please have water in your cup, not sports drink, orange juice, milk, whatever.   Thanks again].

There were some mud holes in the trail too, but nothing concerning.  Soon (eventually) I made it to the power line section just past halfway.  The entire section went uphill, so a mile away was "Misery Hill" and you could see riders snaking across the open field.  As I got to Misey Hill, I instantly realized I was not riding up, even if I wanted to.  It was loose, with baby head rocks, and about 20 people walking up.  I just took my spot in line and hiked up.

More field riding and onto CR510, a steady climb on pavement.  I caught up to Trevor from No Boundaries,
who was riding singlespeed.  I jumped in front and offered to pull him up the climb.  He politely declined, then passed me, then dropped my on the steady climb.  Just after the new bridge there was a bunch of kids with squirt guns, so as I rode by I spread my arms inviting the spray.  First, I was surprised by the force of the three water jets hitting me simultaneously, secondly, the water was pretty flippin' cold.

I remember finishing the pavement, then some dirt road, and all I was thinking was "Only 10 miles left" and thinking it was all downhill now.  I think this section had the sand pit, with a couple riders taking a dive into the beach ahead of me, but I made it through (although I am not exactly sure where this was).  There was also half a km of singletrack.  It was rooty, but a nice change of pace to stop hammering for a bit.  Continuning on, I was now in a group of 3 or 4 guys that kept swapping places.

We got to 1 mile to go and I tried turning it up on the grassy straightaway heading towards the arena.  As we hit the pavement, I thought I was home.  I stood to hammer, and my quads threatened to seize up.  This wasn't good, I normally don't have cramping issues.  A turn, more pavement, another attempt to stand, and the same results.  At this point I conceded to my legs, and just worked on finishing.

I got to the line, which was a bit further away than I had anticipated.  I rolled across, and immediately looked for some shade.  There I collapsed and waited for Danielle to find me.  After several minutes, she arrived, snapped a couple pictures, and then helped me get up.  I went to the free chocolate milk, then to the water station to rehydrate.  Since I was at the area entrance not, I jumped in the shower as well.  I washed off the caked on dirt as good as I could.

After my shower, I went in to get the results.  I finished in 3:00:45.9.  So, I was ~46 seconds off my goal.  I guess after 46 miles, 1 second a mile behind pace wasn't terrible, but I was (am) a bit frustrated.  That was good enough for 206/675 overall, 182/556 of men, and 29/73 in my category. After that, I loaded up, changed and left to get some food.

We stayed "Up North" for the next two days, relaxing, vacationing, and recovering.

It took 3 showers, a swim and a soak in the hot tub to get the red dirt off me.  2 runs through the washer for my kit, and my bike is still rust colored in areas. 

In conclusion, Ore to Shore is a great race.  I am not sure I will do it every year, but I will be back.  It was a well organized event, and a great group of people out enjoying the area.  I wish I was able to take in the spectacular views that were supposed to be there, but I guess I was focused on racing.  The course wasn't overly hard, but I think it was the distance that got me.  Looks like I know where to focus this winter.

16 August, 2011

Big M

Trying to catch back up with the race reports, but due to work, and vacation I am still behind.  Even after stealing the Pongo Rantz on the Tree Farm Relay, I am still behind.

On August 7th was another Tailwind event, the Big M. I have never ridden this course, so I thought it would be fun to do, plus I already paid for it.  Instead of driving all day, we headed up to Manistee on the Saturday before.  We spent the day hitting the beach and wandering around the 1st annual Smoked Fish Cookoff.

Sunday afternoon came (I think it was a 1 pm start) and I wasn't really sure how I was feeling.  The course was dry, but rain was forecast.

I tried to do some warming up, but wasn't feeling great. My training hasn't been going well, and in all honesty was non-existant (and still is).  Since Boyne Mountain, I have ~12 hours of saddle time, all of it racing.  So going in to this race, I was feeling slow, and heavy.

In the mean time, as I prepare to start, I started to get all OCD about me equipment.  I didn't like the way me shoes were feeling, I adjusted my socks numerous times, moved, removed, and fiddled with my helmet and glasses.  I just couldn't get things to fit!

Lining up for the start, I became more relaxed, as there were 3 singlespeeders, including myself.  We were doing 3 laps, so I figured I would try to sit on the wheel of the leader, and see what happens later in the race.  We took off first (of the 1:00 pm group) and one guy shot out of the gates pretty quick, much faster than I had expected.  I sped up and grabbed his whell, and noticed the other rider was already out of sight behind.

I soft pedaled behind the leader for the first 2 miles, when the trail made the first turn uphill.  The leader began to noticeably slow, and I was cruising behind. This is when a train of about 6 geared riders came through.  I jumped on the end of the train, and finished "2 mile climb" at which point the other SS guy was out of sight as well.

The train of geared guys began to spread out, and I made a pass of #'s 5 and 6 on another climb on the first lap.  I finished the first lap feeling decent, but knowing I was not in top form.  Early in the second lap #4 fell back, and #3 said "They are dropping us, we need to make a move soon or else we will end up on an island" to which I responded "I am not racing in that category, but if you want' I will jump up front and pull them back" and #3 let me by.

I began to pull, first up 2-mile hill and the flat shortly after I could see the 2 leaders.  I was pushing hard and closing the gap quickly.  #3 fell off a bit, but once I caught the leaders, he jumped on quickly.

However, this is where my lack of training became apparent.  I went too far into the red, and was out of gas.  I slowly fell off the group of leaders.  I finished the second lap and began to cruise the final lap.  I got passed by a couple/few more geared riders, but still no sign of the one-gear folks.

Third lap ended with nothing else interesting happening.  I casually pedaled up the finish chute, won the race, and pretty much clinched the Tailwind series.

It wasn't a pretty race.  I was able to test myself with a hard push, and was able to continue after "blowing up," but it really brought up the fact that form has slipped and I had fallen off the wagon.

09 August, 2011

Been Slacking

Sorry I haven't been keeping this up to date.

I have been (too) busy at work, and everything outside has been suffering.

I will be getting my Big M recap up shortly, but in case you haven't had your fix, here is Pongos recap of the Tree Fort Relay that we did on 23JUL11.


It is a pretty good recount, although it doesn't eeally focus on my awesomeness.
Although Pongo had child issues, I was at work past midnight the day before (morning of?) only to get back up at 5:30 to head to the race.   I chose the SS, as I was not familiar with the course, so I wanted to ensure I was not caught in the wrong gear.  I think with a bit more climbing, my times would have been more favorable compared tot he leaders.  I was lagging on my first lap, so instead of doing 2, I came in and got sugared up for my second trip around.  I "felt" faster the second lap, although my time was pretty much the same.  I guess that is good, as some of the other teams came out FAST but fizzeled on the second lap.

It was good meeting some new people, and the Farm race was a good time.  I am not sure if I am ready to become a full-time Motor clubber, but I will be back there next year, if they'll have me!

20 July, 2011

Mountain Man

Crap, I keep falling behind, and I still haven't been uploading pictures.  I need to quit racing so much.

This entry is the recap from the Boyne Marathon, another race in the MMBA Championship point series.  This is the race that can "make or break" your run at the overall win.

As our typical (for the last 2 years) plan, we head up to Boyne a couple days early.  We spend a day or too relaxing and visiting the area Up North.

Wednesday was travel, and relaxing by the pool.  The weather was warm, but not terrible.  I rode around a bit, but nothing major, just a tune-up ride to make sure the legs are fine.

Thursday, we did some driving around.  I dropped my wheels off at No Boundaries for a true, as the kind folks at Velocipede told me my rear was out of true when I picked it up the Tuesday before leaving.  We also made it to Petosky and Harbor Springs, if for nothing else than to purchase a dozen of "Tom's Mom's" cookies!

I got back to the hotel in time for an exploratory ride up the mountain with Trevor, from the No Boundaries team.  The course was about 67% marked.  We made it to the top, checking things out, nothing real new or major since the previous year.  At the top, there were no makings yet, so we rode the cart path back to the hotel, like last year.

Friday, my wife wanted to do some riding, so we hopped on the Little Travers Wheelway and rode from Charlevoix to Bay Harbor.  A nice little 25 mile jaunt to get the legs spun out before race day.  We got back to the hotel, and I took the chair lift to the top of the mountain to see the final course.  It turns out the route down was the old downhill course at the mountain.  It was a bit rough in places on the rigid SS, and there definitely was not as much recovery as coasting down a paved path.  After that, is was time for dinner at Red Mesa in Boyne City, and a stroll of the streets to check out the Boyne Thunder boats before hitting the pool once again before bed.

Saturday arrived, and I was up early to do my final preparations and check in.  The weather was going to be a warm one, and I wanted to make sure I had my fluids in order, I did not want a repeat of the previous week's race.  Danielle made it down to the finish area to handle the bottle hand-offs, and I chatted briefly with a couple other down-staters Sean and Dave during my warm-up.

When race time came, and all the singlespeeders (Expert/Elite and Sport/Beginner) were started at the same time.  I knew I was in store for 3 laps and was going to pace myself this week.  We took off and on the lower trails I cruised along in the conga line until we got to the first incline.  I popped out and worked my way frontwards and soon there were 4 of us.  2 guys from the same team, me in 3rd, and another fellow behind me.  I let the 2 guys up front dictate the pace, and I watched my heart rate, which was in a decent zone.

Then 2.5 miles in, on a bumpy descent my dropout sild and wedged my rear wheel agains the chain-stay.  As I worked to get things right, the 3 leaders disappeared, then the rest of the single speeders, then the group behind us, I was dropping fast.

Once I got things situated, I was back at it, but disappointed.  For those keeping track, this was 5 races in a row with bike issues, in 3 different places, on 2 different bikes.  Frustrating to say the least.

I spent the rest of the race trying to catch up, but not really knowing where I was.  The cart climb at the top was a bear, but I geared up slightly in preparation.  It was kind of nice grinding past those geared riders spinning in granny-gear, although at the time, I would have wanted to sit there and spin myself.

Lap 2 was non-monumental.  I kept working through the crowd that passed me.  At the top I saw my friend Dave on his way down.

At the top of the hill on the final lap, I passed another SSer on the cart climb.  I hammered past, trying not to explode, but get a gap on him.  He caught me on the ~1 mile loop at the top when I clumsily wiped out.  He remained on my tail and I offered to let him past, a bit a strategy on my part.  He however declined, a bit of strategy on his.  We made it down the mountain behind 2 geared riders, and he was right on my wheel.  They only thing I could do is stand and hammer on the finishing stretch.  I pulled past the 2 geared guys and was waiting to see the response from the guy chasing me.  There was none.

I ended up finishing 4th, 14 minutes behind first and second, and 2 seconds ahead of the guy behind me.  As I stood huffing-and-puffing at the finish, bad-ass Jorden Wakely came through the finish.  He was also on a singlespeed, but raced in the Elite age class.  That's right, this guy did one more lap than I did, but finished only 2 minutes after me.  I swear he wasn't even breathing hard, but he says he was.

With the race over and no need for podiums, I hit the pool again to enjoy the end of my vacation.  I wasn't disappointed with my performance, but tired of bike issues.  A little calamari pizza and a margarita on deer lake made me feel better though!

14 July, 2011

Gears and Tears...

I am a bit behind, so this post will be short, and without pictures for now.

A couple weeks ago (2JUL11) I participated in my first geared mountain bike race in year.  I had gear at Barry-Roubaix, but really is was probably 2002 when I was on a geared bike on a trail, and 1996 when I was in a race.

In that time, I have grown pretty accustomed to racing singlespeed.  I know how hard I can push to makes my legs hurt, with the forced recovery that a singlespeed requires on the flats and downhill.

The first lap at Stony, I rode at that level of hurt.  Unfortunately, gears allowed me to maintain that level for the entire 10 miles.  We started as a pack, and I was behind the leaders.  As we come to a brief rise in the trail, I stand, hammer and pass in typical SS style.  However, on the flat...click...click and keep going.

I lost a couple of positions on a loose turn as my back wheel slid out.  Still trying to get comfortable with the Bontrager 29.3 tires. 

My pre-race preparations were not any different than usual, however my standard drink was causing major tummy issues.  Every sip made my stomach grumble, making me a burping machine.  I still finished the first lap in around 45 minutes, 5 minutes faster than my expected goal.

By the second lap, the heat was beginning to become noticeable, and my legs were feeling a bit tired.  My second bottle was a bit different, and I was able to consume the delicious beverage without further issue.  On the last climb, I dropped to granny, and made my way to the top.  This was unexpected, as I usually do pretty good with climbing.  I finish this lap ~5 minutes slower than the first, just over 50 minutes.

By the time I got into the third lap, I was spent.  I was doing every climb in granny, barely getting my legs to turn over.  I have not experienced this level of effort in recent memory.  It was all I could do to keep my legs turning over.  I would say "pedaling squares" but I honestly think that would be an improvement.  I finished this lap, the whole time considering  just calling it quits when I got back.

My wonderful wife handed me my last bottle, told me it was the last lap and head up.  I figured I could churn out another 10 miles, although I am not sure my body agreed.  I felt like a full on bonk coming, to the point I was looking for the best spot to fall over when my wheels stopped turning.

About 6 miles in, there was a left turn going uphill.  I muffed my shifting and hopped off the bike to walk up the hill.  About 3 steps later, I hear my tire exhale in apparent exhaustion.  What the hell.  I was this far in, and wasn't going to quit now.  I move off the the side of the trail and begin the tube patch process.  I found the lead, threw on the patch, attached my CO2 canister and watched my tire fill....and drain.  The dreaded double bite.  I haven't had too many issues with tubes, or flats so I didn't think to look for more holes.  

Out of gas, both literally and figuratively, I was fortunate to be close to the Tailwind ATV, which provided my easy out directions.  I trudged through the woods, put the bike next to the truck and made my way to the finish.  My wife saw me coming, made sure my DNF wasn't injury related and walked me over to turn in my sensor.  I tossed it into the nearly full grocery bag, and she consoled me with the sheer number of people who did not make it to the end, either due to mechanicals or exhaustion.

As I got back to the truck, I finally noticed jut how soaked my jersey was, and how friggen' hot it was.  I made my way to the lake and took advantage of the shower facilities before heading home.  I was never so glad to stand in a public shower.

The results showed 66 DNFs, about 30% of the total racers.  I think my power/energy issues were two-fold, both over-exertion due to gears, and the weather sapping my strength.

This race also marked the 4th in a row with a bike issue.  I think I need a new mechanic.

30 June, 2011

It was Another Week!

Apparently I already have a post titled "What a Week..." so my titles aren't very creative!

Flash back to issues at work that surfaced on 20JUN11.  Not to go into detail, but let's just say I will be dealing with this for the next 90 days.

My wife was in Florida last week for a volleyball tournament (Assistant Coach W9), so my support group was essentially nil.  Wednesday I took delivery of my Superfly 100, a very special anniversary gift from the most wonderfal lady in the world.  However,  I was in the midst of a crappy week, and the only way to recover was a "mental health" day.  Think sick day, but for your brain.  This ride was covered in detail on the previous post.

After a good ~30 miles on Thursday, I rested Friday in preparation for my first race as an Expert/Elite.  This was to be at Cannonsburg for the State Games of Michigan.

It felt good to be back on the SS, kind of like an old pair of slippers.  I had gear up for the event, running 33x18T, preparing for a little more climbing than usual.  I had reattached my seat, and slightly over-torqued the clamp to ensure no more issues.

12:30 arrived, and it was time to race.  We (the single-speeders) started after the Elite men, before the women.  The race started and the top guys shot out the front, and I was kind of stuck in a pack of guys that were a bit slower.  I settled in briefly, knowing that 4 laps (~20 miles) was a bit more than I was used to.  Then the pack began to spread out, and I was caught behind a person with little experience racing.  I made the "On your left" call, but apparently it startled him, as he stopped and cut off my move, causing me to bobble and unclip.  I then had to wait again for another spot and pass more aggressively.  There were a couple climbs I had to dismount due to traffic, but is apparently slowed those ahead of me as well.  The rest of the first laps way relatively smooth.  I caught back up with the group, and on the climb near the end of the lap made a move around and pulled into 2nd place.

Lap 2 was uneventful.  I was passed by some geared folks, but was still holding strong in my position.  I was riding well.  However, on the flat after the "big" hill, I dropped my only bottle.  I had to jump off and reclaim it, as I dd not know of another option.  Lost a little time, but holding strong.

Lap 3 and I was begining to suffer.  I was losing power quick, and I could tell.  I took a Gu before this lap, and was waiting for it to kick in.  Meanwhile, about halfway through the course is a vertical-U with a short down, and a steep, loose up.  I made this climb on the second lap, but the third time is not the charm.  About 90% of the way up, my rear tire slid out and I fell over.  In one motion, without letting go of the bars with either hand, I rolled over, jumped up and ran to the top and remounted.  Imagine this in one action, with no stopping or pausing at any point.  Apparently there is some video footage, which I will link to when available.

Final lap, and I am ready to be done.  I have little power left, even on the gradual climb at the beginning.  I have been riding in and out of geared riders, but no SSers for a while.  I have no idea how many were in front.  Time to dig deep.  I tried to focus on the anger I had inside from the previous week, but somehow couldn't tap into those reserves.  It was just me and the bike.  I think I was passed by another SSers shortly before the skills area, and he quickly pulled a gap on me.  I dug deep on the last climb and closed the gap, but I was spent at the top.  He pulled away on the flats, leaving me to flounder.

Then to add insult to injury, my seat came off again!  This was ~1 mile to the finish, mostly downhill.  Knowing the drill by this point, I stopped, grabbed my saddle and stuffed it into my jersey pocket.  The rest of the clamp is probably still out there, and I could not care less.  I finished the race, dropped my bike and chunked the saddle into the ground. It took some self control to just not heave the whole bike into the finish line stream.
[NOTE: The seatpost has been replaced by my old stand-by, however I have not contacted Woodman yet to get their response]

The results were no quite so bad.  I ended up finishing in 3rd place.  Not bad, a podium in my first Expert race.  However, this was due to the fact that 2 other singlespeed racers went out for a 5th lap like the other Elites.  So in reality, I finished 5th, which was still better than my Sport finish last year here.

After the awards, it was time for some Sonic, and some repair work for the Pontiac Lake XC race the following day.  Swap the seatpost, put the 16T back on and I am ready to go.

Get out to Pontiac, and I was flying solo.  13:00 start, so I was in no rush.  I ended up meeting with Team Big Kahuna and hanging with them on this warm Summer day.  I got in some spinning to warm up, and could tell right away my legs weren't all there.  Instead of 4x5 mile laps, today would be 2x10 miles.  I don't know if that is better or worse.

At the start, the field wasn't quite so deep, just 4 of us riders.  My plan was to hang with the leaders and make something happen on lap 2 if I could.  At the start I hung back into position 4, with the first-timer taking the lead through the fields.  Once we were onto the dirt, this fellow was clearly out of his element and was quickly left behind (for an eventual DNF).  SO I was now in second, just pacing behind the Tree Farmer when we reached "@ mile hill".  This would be the last time I saw him as he was geared poorly, and had to hoof it up the hill.  All alone again, I pedal through the woods as race leader until the gearies caught up.

However, this day my bike wasn't feeling right.  There was much more creaking than normal, the chain sounded different, and I think I was developing some headset play.  I decided not to push the pace, but ride along carefully as not to damage anything.  Then during a climb about 75% of the way through the first lap, I was pushing hard and something locked up.  The dropouts slipped and my wheel was cock-eyed.  I moved over to the side of the trail, and began to readjust my drivetrain.  I didn't get it perfect, but it was rideable and I was not caught by either of the other one-gear crew.

Lap 2 was OK, I just pedaled along, letting anybody pass that wanted to.  I did not have any mechanical issues, but oddly enough this lap was a full minute slower than the first one (and 4 minutes slower than my TT lap).  I finished with being challenged by the other riders and successfully widened my lead in the Tailwind series.

However the Big Kahuna himself crashed on his second lap, so I waited around for him to cross the line.  He was kind of banged up, but still walking/  Results were particularly snappy this time.  I helped the team clean up camp, then it was back to Sonic and headed home.

The trip was annoying, as when I got on the highway (I-96) at Howell, traffic was dumber than usual.  Speed hit 80, followed by complete stops.  Where the hell was all this traffic coming from, and why?  As I approached Okemos I realized, these were all lemmings headed to East Lansing for the U2 concert, and were following the same set of Mapquest directions.  An extra 40 minutes added to my trip, but after exit 110 it was smooth sailing.

On to this weekend, and another race, this time the Stony Marathon.  I won the Brighton Stage race, so the double points do nothing for me.  I am not sure which bike I will be riding that day, it depends on when the SS is done.  Then up to Boyne!