29 May, 2012

The Not so Gran Fondo

Just as a follow-up to the Tour de Frankemuth report, a short recap of Sundays Gran Fondo.

There were several options for distances when I signed up, something like 25, 65 and 130 miles.  I chose the 65, as a metric century would be a good recovery ride, and get some hours in for training.

When I awoke Sunday, it had just started raining, with the faint rumble of thunder in the distance.  I slowly ate breakfast, and kept waiting for the rain to break.

8 O'clock came, the time for the mass start, and the rain was coming down harder yet.  I went back to the hotel room to check Facebook to see what the people were doing.  Apparently the result was "wait".
Around 9 the rain stopped, although there was another storm entering the state from the NW.  It was pretty much over Travers city when we took off.

From the 120 preregistered riders, and the anticipated 150 day-of registrants, we had about 30 riders at the start.  A group of around 7 of us took off together, working at around a 22 MPH pace.  There was some sprinkles, but it was OK for the most part.  One rider rode off the front, and so did the guy in the enclosed recumbent thing.

About 6 of us hit the first rest stop, about 20 miles in.  One guy had a loose crank so we stopped in order to stay together.  After talking with the volunteers we found out that with the lack of numbers, each rider could get something like 2 apples, 4 bananas, a dozen cookies and over 2' of sub.  I wasn't that hungry.

In the distance behind us, you could see the dark clouds rolling in.  Three of us thought we could stay ahead of the storm for the 8 miles to the next station, which would also be the turn around point.  As we headed out, a fierce wind came from the north, and the storm flanked us.  The group of three were leaning hard to the left to stay upright, as the cloudy light turned night black.  We continued to ride when the heavens opened up and began dumping rain in buckets.

Just then a van stopped, it was the organizer who informed us he was "calling it" and we should head back.  His van was full, but he would come back for us shortly and we should head back to the previous station.   We got around a half mile down the road when the sleet/hail started.  At first I thought it was hard rain, then I felt the welts begin to form on my lips and face.  We pulled off and to shelter in a ditch.  We could barely see the road through the downpour.  As we sat shivering in the ditch, the lightning began, and we all reconsidered the decisions we made.  A state trooper drove by and slowed, but never stopped, never asked if we were OK or needed help.  We figured he didn't want to get wet, and he would come back later, as it would be the same amount of paperwork.

Finally the storm let up a bit, and we got back on the bikes and went another 1/2 mile to a self-storage place and stood under an awning waiting for sag to pick us up.  I think it was another 10 minutes or so.  The lot had a couple cars parked there waiting out the rain.  One guy in a truck notified us of a sever storm warning in effect.  Thanks.

Finally, we got a ride back to town.  I shivered my way back to the hotel and immediately into the hot tub.   Once warm, I called it a weekend and loaded up the truck to head home.  As I lifted my bike, I heard a slosh.  I removed my seat post and drained ~20 oz. of water out of my seat tube.  That can't be good.  We'll see how it works tonight.

A Road Untravelled

Last winter, I bought a road bike.  The reason was two fold.  First, the CX bike that I was using was a touch too large, so it had to go.  Second was I was planing on upping my basement training hours, and a new bike is good motivation for that.

So, after some time on the bike, I began to consider partaking in the local Tuesday Night Ride.  I had heard about this group a year or two before.  In fact, I attended their Thursday TT spinoff a couple of times in 2010.  That was a good introduction to how fast these guys are, without the fear of being dropped.  I had been warned that TNR is a hammer fest.

I went to a  few Tuesdays this spring, and this whole new aspect of riding added some much needed variation to my riding.  I found I was able to hang with the group (most days) and even mix it up on the sprints once or twice (without winning).  It is a great group, and taught me a lot about riding on the road.

So, after some successful outings on Tuesday, I considered trying out a road race.  I had my Cat.5 license for just such an occasion.  My first road race ever was chosen to be Das Tour de Frankemuth.  It is a relatively flat jaunt around the countryside.  Plus there was chicken dinner, and some shopping for the wife.

We headed up on Friday, as the race started at 8 am Saturday.  Friday night I picked up my registration, we looked for a place to eat (Tiffany's was packed!) and then watched the balloon glow.  I was disappointed there were no "elephant ear" vendors down there.

I had a decent week of training leading in, but stayed of the MTB.  Saturday morning came, and I wandered down to breakfast.  At 6 am on a random Saturday, there people at breakfast were all there to race.  The weather outside was cool (~60 F) and wet.  It had been raining on and off.  I wasn't excited to have my first road race on slick roads, but oh well.

After a warm-up, and a bit of course preview with the CTF crew, I left the hotel parking area, my back in the room wife still warm in bed, and headed to the starting area as the rain began anew.  I queued up amongst the other Cat.5 Men under 36, and looked around.  There were quite a few shivering, defeated riders before the race even started.

Finally at the line, I lined up in the second row.  I knew I didn't want to be at the front, but not too far back in case there is some commotion clipping in.  We took off down the road at a casual pace, heading into the first turn of off main street.  At the point, one rider began his surge for a solo break away.  He got up the road a little ways, but the group followed intently, not to let him get too far. 

Unfortunately, in the commotion, the whole pack of 50 went straight through the right turn by the golf course.   Nobody realized it until the chase vehicle pulled in front and told us to turn around.  Breakaway nullified.  As we got back to the (now) left turn, the next group (Cat.5 37+) approached the intersection from the correct direction.  We made the turn in front, but the 2 groups essentially merged into one.  This was unfortunate, as the was to be "No mixing of fields".

The group plodded along, and to follow the rules, the back group tried to come around ours.  Of course as one group tried to surge ahead and create a gap, the next group would chase, closing back up.  There was no way, without official intervention, that these groups would separate.  No rider is going to slow down to allow a gap to form.

So not this pack of Cat.5 riders is 70+ and surging down the road like a giant rubber band.  Pedal pedal pedal, brake, pedal, pedal...  At every intersection, we would slow for no apparent reason.  I tried to remain near the front, and rotated through to pull for a bit.

The pace wasn't bad at all, it was kind of like riding in the most frustrating group ride ever.  We came around for lap one, and I had slipped towards the back of the group as we headed back down Main St. towards the line.  There was a decent crowd lining the street considering the weather.

I am at the far side, underneath the American flag.

Back out for lap 2, and I managed my way back towards the front.  While some riders were fanning out a bit in a vain attempt to stay dry, I hugged that wheel in front of me.  I was conserving energy, and could dry off later.  This lap had a couple more attempts from riders trying to go off the front, but gaps never formed.  The average speed was up a bit, but still the group was surging.  There were some slower riders getting caught, and it seemed each time the pack would approach one of them, pull along side and slow.

Once back to Block Rd, we were on the final stretch to the finish.  This road was probably in the worst shape of any on the route.  It was narrow, and unpainted.  The group spread to cover nearly the entire width, with riders shooing up the left.  I moved to the right side, it was a bit rougher but more open.  I was pretty far back in the pack, and trying again to move up.

Once we hit the smooth pavement on the final approach, everything went to hell.  The pack was in a frenzy, riders passing across the yellow line to go to the front, rapid braking before the slight downhill, and I was caught in the middle.  This was my first race, and I was not looking to make and risky moves in oder to move up.

As we approached the final left turn back onto Main St, the section inf front of the silos, the entire group moved over to the left to hug the line.  This left the entire right side open, and I had a expressway to the front.  I accelerated up the side and took the final turn on the outside.  Dropped into my 11T and accelerated down the hill.  Now there were only 2 riders ahead of me, and just a straight away with some brick crosswalks between me and the finish.

Are we there yet?

I learned my lesson at Barry-Roubaix about going too soon and just sat in.  The lead rider popped way early and got passed.  As we hit the final stretch I stood and kicked several strokes and overtook the new lead rider.  I was pushing with all I had.  This is the point where every Tuesday, I would be passed by a pack of riders.  Not this time as I stood again, not knowing what kind of gap I had.  Where in the hell is that finish line?

Finally across, your winner, number 548, from Einstein Racing, Jon Whatchamacallit.  I didn't hear the last part, and couldn't really remember what my number was, so as I decelerated across the bridge I got congratulated by a couple of riders.  I cooled down a bit and regrouped with 3 of the CTS riders in our pack (2 from the chase group).  One of the riders (sorry, I don't recall your name) was the second to finish behind me, 1st place in the 37+ group, but later got relegated off of the podium due to the mixing of the groups.  That was unfortunate, but I am not familiar enough with road cycling to know how common that is.

Photo courtesy of The Timing Guys, Inc.

At the award ceremony, I received the standard medal, and a growler of beer from Midland Brewing Company.  I think that, along with a celebratory chicken dinner was a good reward.  No I just need to figure out where I should race next...

The Stages of Retreat: Day 2

I thought I started this post last week, but it must not have come back from the extended weekend.

Day 2 (Day 1 report here and here) of the Addision Retreat Stage Race would be my first chance to race XC with my bike "complete" as intended.  Since we spent the night near Auburn Hills, the ride in was short, so I got a few extra minutes of needed sleep.

The day was shaping up to be a warm one.  The course was set up to be the "normal" route, and there were no surprises.  4 laps, each about 7 miles.

Front row (L to R): Dub9, Gonzalez, Lako, Osgood

The group lined up to start, and the top 5 (overall) from the previous day were called up to the front.  I was pretty happy to receive my first call to the front, and chose the inside spot.  I did not intend on going for the hole shot, but just sit in and see how things panned out.

Headed out for lap 1

Right from the start, the 5 from the day before went out front.  Lako was pushing a good pace, with Bonnell second, followed by Osgood, myself and Gonzalez.  Shortly after we hit the single track, Bonnell was gone and Lako lead our group, with Osgood and I settling into a rhythm for the rest of the lap.

Lako still pulling

Coming around the grassy area, heading out for lap 2, Osgood made a move around Lako and put in a bit of a gap.  A short bit onto the trail, I went around Lako and closed the gap to Ozzy's wheel, and stayed there.  Big John continued to pull.  On the first 2-track/road section I put in an effort to come around him and tried to put in a gap myself.  He and Lako stayed right on me for the remainder of the lap.  I came in a bit fast on one of the grassy corners and the back tire slid out.  It was a somewhat fortunate mistake, as I moved back a place or 2 and wasn't doing the hard work any more.

Getting going again after untangling from the tape (you can see my handiwork in the background).

Lap 3 was mostly Osgood and myself.  That guy is a machine and just kept chugging away at the miles, and I was working just to hang on.  The best part of this lap was that my wife was there to do an unplanned bottle hand off.  I didn't need the additional fluids, but since the bottle she had was ice cold, I quickly jettisoned what I had in preparation for the last lap.

It was a good thing too, because unbeknownst to me, Osgood planned on turning the screws on this final lap.  Shortly after we got back onto the trail, Osgood got a gap on me.  My only recourse was to keep my pace, and try not to blow up.  I wanted to negotiate with him, let him know I wasn't trying to pass, and I would be happy with third if he would lighten up a bit.  But this wasn't for a 2 day overall, and I was a bit of a threat, plus in the back of my mind, a second place would be nice.

A couple of times this lap (several perhaps), he got out of sight, put a rider between us.  I seemed to be able to slowly reel him back in.  Unfortunately, as soon as I did, he would look back at me, then take off.  I had no recovery, and he played the strategy fantastically.  All I wanted was a clean finish at that point.

I put in what effort I had remaining after the paved section, just to not get passed and pushed off the podium.  I ended up third place, my first "expert" podium, and only 4 seconds behind Osgood (and ~3 minutes behind Bonnell!).  My lap times were pretty consistent, although still losing 30 seconds each  lap.

Tailwind had the results a bit speedier that day, and I was able to get me medal and make the trip back home at a decent hour.  It was a full weekend of racing, and I learned a lot.  I was still yearning for that entirely clean race, but I was getting an idea of what my abilities are/were.  There is still plenty of time left in the year.

(Unofficial) 2-day Overall Results:

Day 1 Day 2 Total
1 BONNELL, JIM ACF OF PONTIAC 00:51:02 01:53:26 02:44:29
2 OSGOOD, JOHN TEAM SANDBAG 00:51:26 01:56:17 02:47:43
3 WLODARCZAK, JON EINSTEIN RACING 00:53:41 01:56:21 02:50:02
4 GONZALEZ, ALEX TEAM SANDBAG 00:53:43 01:56:52 02:50:36
5 LAKO, BRAD KLM/COLD STONE 00:53:29 01:59:20 02:52:49
7 MCINALLY, TODD WATERFORD MI 00:55:54 02:08:22 03:04:16
8 GOERLICH, JIM TEAM SANDBAG/ MACOMB BIKE 00:56:28 02:14:46 03:11:14
9 LUCIA, ROBERT RBS CYCLING TEAM/RBS CYCLING 01:01:36 02:22:11 03:23:47

24 May, 2012

The Stages of Retreat: Day 1.2

Continued from here.

After sitting around a bit to recover, and some mild whining and complaining to my wife about the TT, it was time to get ready to race again.  This time on the short track, or STXC.  Basically this is a CX race without barriers or sand.  It is a curvy course through the grass, taking advantage of the minimal elevation changes around [Note: My Garmin recorded a total elevation gain of 7 feet].  As a matter of fact, a number of racers opted to race on their CX bikes.  I locked out my fork and called it good enough.


I recalled from last year that this race seriously stresses your anaerobic system.  The plan was initially to race "20 minutes + 2 laps" but was changed at the start to "follow the laps remaining sign" which eventually led to some confusion with the Elites and Experts on course at the same time.  The sport racers later began with the instructions of "Count your own laps"!

I think I lined up in the second row, and at the start all Expert racers hit the course at the same time.  Chaos ensued as this pack approached the first bend.  Two riders became interwoven with each other and some stakes with ribbon.  It was a crunch of plastic, metal, and man.  I believe they got up and finished, but it was enough to put a bit of hesitation in your mind.

My goal for this race was to push hard, and finish without wrecking.  I knew trying to keep up with the front guys (or in this case "catch up") would cause me to pop.  I rode at a good consistent pace, picking off riders when I could, and looking for the leaders of my group, who were way out there.

Here you can see the "Jet intake" method of breathing control being used.

At about lap 3, a rider on a CX bike in front of me slid out on a turn, and I had to pause and get around.  There wasn't much of an associated adrenaline rush there, as I was already redlining.

Around lap 5 (of 6) I caught up to the KLM rider from the earlier race, and pushed hard to try to put some space between us.  I knew 30 seconds was a lot to manage in 1.5 laps, but every little bit would help.

I finished this race in about 24 minutes, 5 minutes less than the TT, but it sure felt much harder.  I ended up in 3rd place in this race.  I made back 18 seconds of the ~30 I lost crashing in the TT, but still lost another minute to the top 2 in the group.

My HR profile from the race.

After the second race, I was hot, tired an hungry.  So I loaded up camp and headed to the pavilion for some complimentary Cold Stone ice cream while waiting for the results, which would be ready shortly.  The ice cream was finished long before the results were.  This was also the time when we found out, via the rumor mill, that there was not going to be an overall winner for the weekend, just "Day 1" and "Day 2" awards. After about 2 hours of waiting, we headed out for some (by that time) dinner and figured we could find out more tomorrow.

Day 1 results

The Stages of Retreat: Day 1.1

Last year I participated in my first stage race in Brighton.  It was two of the most dreary, miserable days I have spent on a bike.

This year, the race was moved to Addison Oaks.  There were a couple of new twists, beyond the location.  The temperature was turned way up from the previous year, and for some reason, there was NOT to be an overall winner declared.  There was an overall day 1 classification, and a day 2 (XC) award, but nothing for the three combined events.  Odd for sure.  It really isn't a stage race any more, but I guess naming it the "A Couple of Races at Addison Oaks on the Same Weekend" doesn't have the same ring to it.

We arrived Saturday with only about an hour to spare.  A little tighter than usual, but I had enough time to set up "camp" and get a brief warm up in before the first event, the TT.  I wasn't sure how I would perform this weekend, with the 12 Hour race still a bit in my legs from the previous week.

We lined up for the start, which was an out-and-back loop through the grass before hitting the trails.  Just enough to put some work into your legs before the dirt.

Two at a time start, and I was lined up next to a KLM rider.  He took off from the gate, and I tried to hold his wheel across the lawn as he took off like a shot.  We entered the trail in the same fashion and he was pulling strong.  There was a bit of a misstep in the loose, twisty stuff at the top of the first climb, and I was able to get around him.  I tried to make a gap, but was soon caught by the time we reached the end of the first rock piles, and passed soon after.

I again closed on his wheel and let him pick the pace, which was sufficiently hard for me, but the rider up knew the course well and was working good.  Then the problems came (for me).

I heard there were some reroutes added "after the RC field" to make the course different than the next day's XC race.  What that meant was that instead of making a normal turn on the singletrack, we stayed straight onto  some hiking paths with more grass and worn grooves.  I believe the second time we did this, I hit a rut and my front tire got crossed up, pitching me from my bike and tossing me a ways.  Not only was I annoyed by the wreck, my bar spun around and scratched my frame, and I got a grass stain on my new Einstein Racing kit!

Back on the bike, I fought to close the gap on the rider I started with, and a Cycletherapy rider that passed me when I was down.  I was able to get the KLM rider back into sight, but never catch back on. We ended up finished 3rd and 5th respectively, with about 30 seconds between us.

I was still hoping for that elusive "clean race" I have yet to have this year (not counting Stony), but it did not come here.  It was time to hit the shade, eat a banana and wait 3 hours for the short track race.

21 May, 2012

672 Minutes, or 44,000 Revolutions

I think this is the most timely I will have gotten a post up this year.  I am typing it the Friday after the race, but it won't go "live" until probably Monday, so I can include some pictures.

The week leading up to 12 Hours of Stony Creek was a hectic one.  There was some testing at work that was running behind, so I was working Midnight shift on Monday and Wednesday.  My shift on Wednesday ended up being 20 hours, tying my #2 longest shift.  That is OK, lack of sleep should help prepare for a 12 hour race on Saturday.

The morning of the race, we were on the road at 5 am, so up a little after 4.  The 2 hour trip meant that there was a minimal amount of time to sign in, set up camp, change, and prep the bikes.  I felt a little rushed as the countdown to the start began.  My wonderful wife was snuggled cozily in the backseat of the truck, awaiting the sun to rise at the very least.

It was time to line up for the start.  I sauntered up to the group of riders, no warm-up at all.  I figured I had 12 hours to do so.  I was amongst the Motor Club, and then I saw TrevRev from No Boundaries and Jacob in the mix as well.  (Jake was the rider ahead of me at MSB).   When the time came, we took off, rather fast if you ask me.  We had 11 hours, 29 minutes to race and these guys were blasting through the gates.  I accelerated a bit to get into the line for the singletrack, and settled in.  Trev, Jake and I all pretty close.

Aryn and Brian were behind me a bit, but I figured they would close quickly.  The initial plan was to cruise with each other during the race.  Then Jake came up to me, and we began pushing a decent pace.  I would do my geared duty on the wide-open areas and pull, and he would do the singlespeed thing and surge ahead on the climbs.  He was good company, and I think we finished the first lap in about 46 minutes.  Pretty fast, as the previous year's winner had 11 laps in the whole 12 hours.

During laps 2-3 we were pretty spread out now.  Jake and I were just cruising along, feeling pretty decent still.  We stopped after the 3rd lap for a bottle change.  My wife had awoken from he slumber and was manning the tent, so to speak.  Swapped some bottles, grabbed some food and back to it.

It was probably another 3 laps before we stopped again.  I think we had 6 laps in the first 5 hours.  The pace was starting to wear on me.  A can of Coke really helped things along, so we left again, planning on coming around the next lap just as the 6 hour people started and let them pull us for a bit.  We came through early, and started our lap ahead of them.  We figured they would close fast, and the pan would still work.

When hour 7 began, the hardtail was wearing on me.  Evey rock, bump and root made it feel like my kidneys had jarred loose.  I rode the first half of the lap standing.  I was seriously considering quitting, or at least stopping for an extended rest.  All of my pit stops have been quick changes, no sitting.  Everybody at camp kept saying "You look goo out there" but I was suffering.

Some dry gloves and a banana and then back to work!

Jake would not let me though, he motivated to keep pushing on, even as the rain began to switch from a mist to a sprinkle.  I was fortunate I never removed my arm warmers, and just pulled them back up.

Another Coke and some Advil and I was back at it.  Brian was at camp and checked the results for me, and I was in second, around a lap down.  I wasn't sure how delayed those numbers were, but I was determined to put up a fight.  At this point, with some consistent laps, we could end up with 14 total.

It was frustrating that our main experience with the 6 hour group riders is that they would sit on our wheel!  We offered to let them pass, 8-9hours on our legs, and they politely declined.

Around hour 10, I was spent.  I was barely able to keep my legs going around.  I felt we could still get our 14 laps if we pushed, but lap 12 I dropped to the little ring up front, and couldn't shift back out.  It wasn't a chain or derailleur issue, but a leg one.  Jake was still hanging with me, but seemed fresh as a daisy.  He kept handing my Honey Stinger chews and urging me on.

Starting lap 13, I just wanted to be done.  I was soaked, sore, tired, mentally crumbling.  I didn't know what place I was in, but at this point in the day, there was no reason to stop.  We went out again, and the torture was much of the same.

We crossed the line together after that lap.  We were ~20 seconds late to begin our 14th lap.  For that, I was grateful.  After 11:20+ on the bike, my hands were numb, my arms and shoulders could barely support my torso, my lower back was in knots, thighs powerless.

Jake technically beat me by one second, and I am OK with that, because had he not ridden with me, I would have stopped long ago, and he probably would have finished probably 2 more laps.  All in all it was 13 laps, 136 miles.  We completed more laps than most 2 and4 person teams, something to be happy about.

Jake and I after the race.  Apparently I am a bit delirious!

I slowly helped close up the camp.  The Motor guys packed up and left, and I waited for food and awards.  There was about another hour shivering in the cold waiting for things to wrap up.  Part of the delay was a rumored missing person on the course, but there was no information regarding if the person was a racer, or even existed.

I guess at this point I am leading the endurance series, but I still stand by the fact that I am not an endurance racer.  I think one 12 hour race a year is enough for me.  Maybe I could have a Lumberjack race in my legs someday, but not this year.

18 May, 2012

Crushed by the Stampede

The day after Mud, Sweat and Beers, I headed out to Fort Custer to race in the annual fundraising Stampede XC.

This would be my debut XC race in the expert category.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  Coming off the previous day's disappointment, I was not really in the racing mood, but I had already registered, so why not.

Upon arrival, I got a parking spot close to the tent city.  I guess racing expert has one benefit, I didn't have to park out in the back field for once.  I set up camp, and lazily prepared for the race.  I did a bit of spinning around to warm up.  The weather was nicer than the previous day, so no arm/knee warmers were necessary.

The countdown completed, and it was our turn to go.  The pack burst off the line pretty quickly, but as I was lined up in the second row, I settled into the middle of the pack by the time we hit the singletrack.  We were all in a pretty tight group through the first sections, I could still see the leader from my position.  The plan was to hang in until the trail widened and then try to move up.

A little ways into the lap, there was a somewhat loose climb that had a right turn at the top.  As the group ascended the rider in front of me just kind of fell over.  He was apologetic, and I was not concerned.  It was still early in the race, so I move around him and gave chase back to the pack.

This was when I had my first blunder of the race.  Remember back after Yankee when my chain broke?  Well, my replacement had not yet arrived, so I was racing on a chain that was 2 links short.  It worked fine at Pontiac, but I was not so fortunate at Custer.  In my effort to stay on the back of the pack, I shifted too much in as we hit Grannies.  It was a stupid mistake, but one that cost me.  I immediately felt the chain start to bind, so I jumped off and move aside.  I spent a bit of time working to get the chain shifted back down so I could pedal again.

Once back on the bike, I vowed to be extra careful, as long as the chain held out for the duration of the race.  I have given up hope of a podium by that point, and just wanted to finish.  The chain seemed OK, and I finished that lap in around 39 minutes.  Slower than last year on the SS, but I had an extra lap to do.

Completing lap 1

Second lap was more of the same, riding my own race and trying not to screw up.  Coming across the "roads" near the end of the course (before the trenches perhaps) I must have come off to hot or something, because at that point I dropped the chain.  This seemed odd, as it was pretty short already, and wasn't a 1x10 or anything.  It took me a few moments to get rolling again, but the race was shaping up to be non-spectacular.  I hammered the flats, but still came through in a slower 41 minutes.

By the time the third lap cam around, I was just looking to finish.  Shortly into the lap I realized I lost my bottle (turns out at the "incident" site the previous lap, I found it on lap 4).  So, I am not sure what I need to do to modify these cages.  The odd thing is I have the same type on my rigid SS, and on the Superfly 100 and never dropped one.

Completing lap 2

Third lap, cruising along, get to the top of the switchback climb, and I hear some clicking as I was pedaling along.  That couldn't be good, and sure enough a short moment later I was pedaling in neutral.  At least I had some practice at Yankee with my chain tool (which I still don't like and should replace) and took another couple of links out, and was back on my way.

My race goal at that point was to not walk out of the woods, so I was small ringing it the rest of the way.  I ended up finishing that lap in 45 minutes.  Overall, I came through 12 minutes behind the winner for an 11th place.

Sprint to the finish

Back at camp, I had a few minutes to eat something before heading out behind the kids race.  Frosty and I had a sprint start to determine who would be the last one onto the trail.  It was actually pretty close, since I was still in my small ring.  A short ways in, we found a fallen teenager, and Frost stayed back to wait for help, and I continued behind the kids, collecting water bottles along the way.

Sprint for sweeper!

So, the weather was beautiful that day, my race, not so much.  This was my 5th event this season, and I had yet to run a "clean" race.  I am hoping my time would come.  I guess what I don't get in quality wins, I will make up with the quantity of mid-pack finishes.

10 May, 2012

No Sleep 'Till....

 I thought the title was fitting, since I am not asleep, and the passing of MCA this week.  [Aside: In elementary school, we lip synched this song in music class for some reason.  That is lip-synching for some reason, the song was an obvious choice, since Licensed to Ill was recently released]

So, what do you do if you are at work at nearly 6 in the morning, and you have been there since 2 O'clock the previous afternoon?  Why, update your blog of course!

So, I could make this a Two-fer post, as this weekend I did back-to-back races.  However, I will separate them so it is easier for me to be lazy on my Metal blog.

Saturday was Mud, Sweat and BeersLast year was an off year, and since I was coming of a crappy weekend, I vowed to not let it happen again.

We drove up to Travers City the morning before the race.  Taking the whole day off made the 3 hour drive home the following afternoon more tolerable.  Upon our arrival in Cherry-ville, we attempted to check into our hotel, but the room wasn't ready.  (There mush have been a sell-out gathering the Thursday before?), so we the North Peak for some lunch.  After that we had some more time to kill.

So I figured, what would be a bigger waste of time than to go visit my old pal Super Dave.  What could be more exciting than to spend a vacation day watching somebody else work.  It wasn't a complete waste of time, as I was informed by an employee that "Lansing is a really cool place," a statement which befuddles me to this day!

Wait, where was I, oh yeah, the race.  I vowed it would not be a poor showing.  I really wanted that podium, and big 'ol beer mug.  We got to Mt. Holiday early enough we didn't have to park at the top of the hill, but no so early I needed a nap.

Game face...

I wanted to stay with the lead group (or try to) so after a decent warm-up, I got staged for the start.  I was in the second row, far right side.  Right behind a row of Expert ladies, seemed safe enough.  But things aren't always what the seem.  Right at the start one rider in the front row must have missed a clip or something, and kicked their bike 45 degrees and stood there.  So, as the cattle flowed around the stopped rider, I jumped on the gas to try to make up some places.  One method was to go to the inside of the first turn.  Apparently a bit too far as my bar clipped one of those orange fiberglass to mark ski courses.  Suffice to say, those are a lot sturdier than they seem.

Back on course, finally leaving the ski area, I tried to settle into a groove and make my way forward.  However, at the fist semblance of a hill, the singlespeed was again brought to a halt.  This time by a rider that decided to dismount and walk in the middle of the trail, and obviously felt that everybody behind him should do the same.

Finally, up Heart Attack Hill (or whatever the new name is) and through the subdivision.  I was spinning away on the pavement, when a couple geared riders came by and told me to jump on.  So I did, and picked up some much needed speed on the pavement.  Just before the left turn onto the private singletrack there was another climb, so I pulled away from my temporary train.

I spent the next ~9 miles working as hard as I could.  The trail was narrow at times, but I tried to make up ground whenever I could.  I knew they too out the wall (and Jack Pines) but I wasn't really familiar enough to really know where to find it.  At one point I was hammering down a wide trail, nobody in sight ahead or behind.  I was slightly concerned with the lack of markings, but the tire tracks and guy cramping reassured me I was on the right path.  Then I come around a sweeper and see 5 riders coming towards me.  Shit, how did I get turned around?

As it turns out, they too missed the turn, and were notified by a trail marshal of such where the trails met again.  He told them the must turn around (which is too bad, because I think dealing with The Wall was more work than the new singletrack).  Apparently one of the earlier waves tore through the tape across the trail, and I missed the little arrow up a tree.  However, with this group was a singlespeeder in a skinsuit.  That is like a double helping of "Fast Guy" so I jumped on his wheel.

This guy was hammering to make up time, and I was following, trying to pass when I could, or at least taking a pull.  It was a lot of work passing many of the people that I had already passed.  It was quite the feeling of Deja Vu.  When the opportunity to talk arose, the rider (Jacob) informed he was in 3rd when he missed the turn.  We had no idea where we were now, but we were making up time fast.

Through Timber Ridge we caught the eventual Women's winner, and I was holding onto hope that we could pull off something awesome.  Jake gapped me once we got back into the subdivision (must be the skin suit) and I worked to track to catch back as we entered back into the ski area.  It ended up being a lost cause, as I splashed though the puddle and finished a scant 4 seconds behind.

I was pretty upset, and frustrated.  I guess I should have paid closer attention to the markers.  If I had made that turn, I would have been on the podium, and met my goal.  However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I rode a 4th place race.  I was in 4th before I missed the turn, and had I made it I would have beaten Jacob, buy not because I was faster, but because I was lucky.  I probably would not have caught him alone, so he was rightfully third, and I was a solid 4th.  Maybe the time gap to the top two riders would have been smaller, but at that point, would it really matter?

Sunday would be a new day, a new race, and a new opportunity.  Move on!

Not Feeling It

So, as the week led up to the Pontiac TT, I just wasn't feeling "it."  We all know what "it" is, it is the feeling in your legs when you know you are going to have a good race, and you typically know during the warm-up how the day is going to open up.

The days before the race went like this:

Tuesday - My weekly group ride on the road.  I felt I was working quite hard, but wasn't going fast at all.  The numbers agreed somewhat.  I just chalked it up to the wind.

Wednesday - Weight training.  This was supposed to be Monday, but I didn't feel like working out then.  Did some 1RM testing, and my result showed no change or a decline in 5 of the 8 exercised measured.

Thursday - Some intervals at Anderson.  Wiped out on a corner, put some scratches on my new frame.  At least is isn't new anymore, so I don't have to worry.

Saturday Night: It was getting late, didn't know what to have for dinner, so we ordered a pizza.

Sunday, we got to the park with plenty of time.  Registration was much faster than last year.  Chatted with my boy Pongo, idle chatter, not much else.  I went to warm up, and I felt like there was a constriction in my chest.  My breathing just wasn't right.  I didn't feel ill, but who knows.

I did some more spinning around, and went to recon the last section of the course, the reroute on the climb, and the descent.  There were a couple spots that seemed quite loose for this early in the season.  Better take note of that.

As I lined up for the start, I was finally caught by JTP.  If I could pick one thing that ruined my race, that encounter may be it.  [As an aside, he looks a lot better in the grainy Facebook photos]

It was time to go, and the rider next to me took off at about the same pace as I.  We were side-by-side, so I pushed it a bit further to get ahead before the singletrack.  I soon found out that this was a futile effort, as soon enough he went (politely) by, and I never saw him again.

This pretty much became the theme of the day.  Rider catches me, passes me, then disappears.  I was fading fast.  My riding was sloppy, skidding off the course, into blind turns, etc.  Hell, there was on spot I had to brake going uphill because I was out of control.

I looked at my HR, and it said zone 6.0!  I hadn't realized that when I cleared my Garmin earlier int he week (trying to remedy the S-L-O-W upload feature) I hadn't reset my zones.  I think this broke my spirit.  There I was, feeling off, looking at what I though was an exploding heart, riding sloppy, and all in all feeling like a wreck.

Remember that loose corner I hinted at earlier?  Yup, I wiped out there.  Came through a bit hot, the back slid out and I was down.  I got up quickly, but still lost time.  My first lap was slower than my SS lap last season.  So much for a fast race bike and a winter of training. [My second lap was even slower]

I spent the most of the second lap, feeling sorry for myself, trying to figure out where I went wrong, and in-all having a miserable time.  I am talking "hang up the race shoes" kind of thoughts.  In the end, I muttered through and finished.  Apparently I looked strong there, but little consolation that was.

I hung around a bit to wait for results.  Diesel from the Motor Club received his first outright sport win, and Kahuna posted his first sub-1 hour lap, so the day wasn't a total loss.  The good news is, that with my earlier starts, and back of the pack finishes, I get home at a much more reasonable hour.

It was time to figure things out, I had my first 'A' race of the season approaching the next weekend.

01 May, 2012

Post Race: Yankee TT

Hmm, where was I.  It has been just over 2 weeks since the Yankee TT.  Let's see what I can remember.

I got out to Yankee Springs a week before the race to drop down a couple laps on the new Niner (with a Giant front wheel, thanks Jesse)!  This was the kickoff to my first mountain bike race season on a geared bike, and in "Expert" territory.  Please note the " " around expert, as I feel the term can only be loosely applied to my cycling ability.

So 3 laps at Yankee, under some of the best conditions I had ever seen the trail.  All decent times, although the laps were not continuous.  I felt OK going in to this race.  Times slightly better than the previous year, and perhaps in the general vicinity of competitive.

Fast forward to race day.  I head out early, way early because I don't like to be late, and because with this new category also comes an early starting time.  Flying solo because the missus had something better to do (other than sleep in).  I got to the Springs as the first teams were setting up along the finishing stretch.  It was cold, frosty cold.  I picked up my packet and sat back in the truck with the heater on.

As I was chatting Mitch,  an Elite racer (out the truck window, because I am a sissy), some weird dude comes up and starts heckling me.  It turns out Max Bottomtime (or something like that) from the Motor Club made the trip over after all.  So it was a brief catching up before he headed to warm-up for his elite start.  I changed, and began riding around for my own warm-up.  It was nice to have the warm-up loop available and not blocked for the kids race later in the day.

As race time approached, I headed to the chute and got ready.  I wasn't really sure how I was feeling, but 'decent' would suffice.  I had Team Kahuna cheering at the start, and when the number turned I was off.  The first thing I recall was how windy it was in the open spaces.

I pounded through the first lap.  Not really catching anybody, but not getting passed either.  Around halfway I reached down for a drink and realized my bottle was gone.  Not chance of turning around for it, so I kept going.

Lap 2 began, and I still felt decent.  JTP had not passed me yet, so I had that going for me.  As I approached the rough sections, I kept an eye open for my bottle, just in case.  I probably lost some time off my pace looking around instead of hammering, but I was getting thirsty.

On one rough downhill section, I saw it ahead of me on the trail  I stopped grabbed it and continued on.  It was satisfying to finally drink, but I really don't know what would have cost me more time; stopping for the bottle, or dehydrating.

I don't recall having any major issues, or accomplishments during the race, just pedaled along as best I could.

When I finally popped out along the road for the second time that day, it was just a hammer to the finish.  I caught up with another rider, but being the consummate gentleman that I am, did not pass at the line.

After being mobbed by all of my adoring fans, I caught my breath and headed back out with Sky from Team Kahuna for the kids race.  She was the last through the start, so we cruised along at a good pace, and along with Frosty, I was able to stop and collect random dropped bottles and discarded Gu packs from along the course.

About 7 miles in I must have mucked up a shift, and my chain started popping, after a couple revolutions of this, it decided to split.  Sky (and eventually Frosty) continued on, while I took out my handy-dandy Park tool.  As I removed a link from the chain, the pin came out of the chain tool, and I was able to spend the next 10 minutes trying to put that back together, before finally fixing my chain.

Jersey packed full of trail trash (the front mostly full of jelly beans)!

I was able to catch up with Sky before the finish, and escort her most of the way, letting her cross solo to the cheers and applause.  Then it was time to finally sit down by the fire, and eat some jelly beans, only for recovery purposes.

Dave, Me, Frosty, Kahuna, Sky

I was able to check the results after that.  I finished 13th out of 39.  Upper half, I guess that was OK.  My overall time would have been good enough for 1st in 2011.  Apparently I was NOT the only person who trained a bit over the winter.  It appears that at least 12 other people trained harder than I did.

The good news was that Payn never caught me!

Slow and Lazy

If my blog has one consistent them, it is "Sorry I'm Late!"  It appears that I start every post with some sort of apology regarding the tardiness of the content.  Well, it is happening again.  While I don't really care (at all) what you think, I just wanted to point out that this flaw is mostly regarding blog posting and not everything in my life.

Spring Break 2012 has come and gone.  I participated this year with my wife, who received a brief hiatus from her teaching.  Since my race season was to starting full swing shortly after, I let Mrs. Dub-Nine (Dub-16 if she hyphenated) pick where to go.  Most people would pick someplace warm and tropical.

She chose the Mall of America in wonderful Minneapolis, Minnesota.  She went once when she was younger and wanted to return.  Now, I could spend hours explaining all of the dozens of store on four floors of this monstrosity, but I am going to focus on a single day of this vacation.

It was a chilly Wednesday, and after already getting a couple of hours of shopping in, we hopped on the light rail and rode to downtown MPLS.  From there it was a short hop via bus (which was free as part of our train ticket) to some random street corner. [ED: I got this cool free app called “CG Transit” which would tell you which train station, closest bus stop, ETA, and other stuff.  Super useful]

We walked one block amongst rows of houses, and out of a nondescript garage appears T6 Mark.  That's right; we visited the worldwide headquarters of Twin Six, who arguably make the coolest cycling, and cycling related gear available Really, isn't even that arguable, if you try to debate this point, you would be wrong.

First thing, T6 Mark shows us around the building, including the racks and stacks of shirts, bottles, kits, and every other piece of gear they had available.  Next, he asked if I liked pizza and beer!  They had 3 huge pies delivered from Pizzeria Lola, and about 4 cases of beer brought in.  For the next half hour we hung out, stuffed our faces with potato pizza, drank silos of Grain Belt beer, and talked shop.  Even Brent Twin Six came out of his cubby to chat.  [ED: Apparently, if you work there, you need to adopt a ‘T6’ or Twin Six moniker, which would be cool to be called “T6 W9”]

After the pizza, it was my time to shop.  They set me loose to wander around and touch everything, pick out what I wanted and restock my closet.  It was a good thing we flew in with only a carry on, because it limited me to a packable quantity.  I left with a couple Tees, some socks, a new pair of their "Three Quarters", 2 one of a kind hats, and an OOP “MPLS Bike Love” jersey.

We sent our goodbyes, and Brent Twin Six (so formal, this guy) sent us to One On One bike shop to wander through the dungeon/museum/bike graveyard.  It was cool to see piles of old bikes, and bins of old components.  You could bring back any old steed from down there.  We had a cappuccino (from their custom painted celeste blue Italian espresso machine) and talked bikes before heading back to our hotel.

It was great to spend an afternoon with the folks from T6 (Brent, Mark, Megan, the guy whose name I don’t remember, and the other guy) and see how much these folk truly enjoy what they do, and embrace all aspects of cycling.  I had a fantastic time (Mrs. W9 as well) and I am looking forward to our next trip to the mall, so we hang out again!