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.