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.