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.