27 May, 2013

Stony Creek. Marathon. Struggle.

I was told that I had to writing this post without as much whining as usual.  I will do my best.

Yesterday was the Stony Creek Marathon.  5 laps, ~50 miles of single and double track.  This race is typically held in July, or at least it has been the last couple/few years when I have participated.  This year it was moved to May, so the temperature wouldn't be 90+ degrees.  I haven't done well at this event in the past, with my only DNF occurring here.

This race has been marked on my calendar for a while.  Typically it was worth bonus points, but this year that was not the case.  4 hours and 50 miles is worth exactly the same as 80 minutes.  Even so, I have never done well here, and wanted to put on my best effort.

We arrived shortly before 9 am, and the Motor Club was already set up.  All I had to do was check-in, prep the bike, and change. So it was time to warm up, and I wanted to make sure the legs were spun out a bit, but not too much as I knew there was a long race ahead.

It was a small group at the start, 8 of us in the 30-39.  The 3 usual suspects, Anthony, with special appearances from Cerget and Pongopantz.  It appeared that a top 10 finish was in store, assuming that I finished.

Most of us lined up across the front row, and when it was time to go we lined up rather smoothly.  We hit the first climb and when we made the left into the woods for the first time, I was 4th wheel behind Lako (obviously), Cerget, and Osgood.  We stayed in this order through the first section of flats.  On one of the early 2-track climbs I went around Osgood and was next to Cerget, but the bottom of the hill was a loose right-hander and I couldn't complete the pass on Cerget.

I just tried to keep up through the singletrack with the leaders, and close up when I could.  Near the end of the lap we were mobbed by about 6 others from various groups, and things were kind of a mess going into the final climb, Three Gear Hill.  At the top it was Lako, Myself and Anthony.  [What happened over 5 laps is hard to recall, this may have been lap 2, I dunno.]

Lap 2 was more of the same.  I think we were still mixed in with some other riders.  At the top of a climb I went to the front due to the urging of Lako and put in a small effort leading into the singletrack.  It must not have been fast enough, as Brad soon went around me and as I took a look around, it was just him, Anthony and I. [This could have been lap 3].

Assuming that the previous events were in lap 2, then lap 3 was non-monumental.  I recall this is the lap that things started to break down for me.  I could feel the fatigue creeping into my legs, and see the elastic begin to stretch out more.

Lap 4 and Lako relegated the lead to Anthony for a while.  Those two began to pull away from me, and I began to do some damage control to retain my 3rd place standing.  I caught Kenny at this point, shortly after the switchback climb.  He said he wasn't feeling good, and was starting to cramp.
On the 2-track speed section heading to the finish, I came across Brad who was in the process of slowly dismounting his bike.  I asked if he was OK, but received no response.  I assumed it was cramps, like other riders I have seen pulled off.  I have was experiencing some slight twinges in my hamstrings, but figured I only needed one more lap.

Coming through the Start/Finish area, I say Anthony ahead of me going across the line as I was coming off the loop.  10 miles to go, I was trying to close now.  I finally made contact at the Rock Garden.  We rode together again through the rest of the section.  On the climb on the back side I went around and put in an effort on the downhill, but he hung on.  I was starting to see how this was going to come down at the end.

Roger Anthony coming out of the woods.

I stayed ahead, then during a climb with a sandy switchback, I lost traction and had to dab.  As soon as my toe toughed the ground my calf seized up and i couldn't clip back in.  Anthony went back around, and once again I had to claw my way back on.

It was just the two of us coming out of the last singletrack, headed to the finish.  He was in the lead, but losing steam.  I didn't want to go in front, but I didn't want to play games and let the others catch up.  So I went to the front, and he stayed right on my wheel.  Based on my previous experience, I didn't want this to come down to a sprint.  On the steepest part of the 3-gear climb I put in my last effort and accelerated up the hill, weaving around walkers and granny-gear spinners.

I had no idea where he was at this point, I was just trying to make it through the finish.  Down the hill I hammered out into the open, looped around the pavement, hit the grassy 180 and was working to the finish chute.  I didn't see Anthony around.  I made it.

Powering through the finish.

As I crossed the Finish line, I was actually unsure if I was done.  My lap counter had flipped to 5, but in my delirium, I wasn't sure if that was indicating the start or conclusion of the 5th lap.  I soft-pedaled up the trail, waiting to see if anybody else was coming through.  I then checked my mileage, and with 51 miles I concluded that I was done.  I cooled down and pedaled back to camp.

Done, right?  Thank Todd!

Brain and Ken were already back there relaxing.  As soon as I got off the bike my calf cramped again, then my hamstring.  It felt like my muscles were giving birth.  A short while later Aryn came across the line.

A-Rod looking good!
Nom nom nom...
Brain coming through.

I turned out to be a decent day, my first win in Expert.  I finished the race a full 40 minutes faster than last year;s time as well.  Quite an improvement. Ken got to step on the podium with a 3rd place.  Brian dropped due to a medical issue, but Aryn made it through unscathed and brought his family..

Top step, and no bunny ears!

Nice work Kenny!

Congrats to T-Payne for killing it in the SS division, Johnny Osgood for getting on the steps, Lako for rebounding and making podium, and Marc Ghirardelli for his Sport SS medal.

Everybody love Marc...

And I am also thankful for those men and women who gave all to protect our country, and provide me the opportunity to sit on the couch all day today and recover.

Stay Metal!


12 May, 2013

Island. Lake. Dry.

This was the second race of the Tailwind USAC series, 2013.  The announcer said this was the first (MTB) race at ILRA since 1996.  I wasn't involved in the local scene then, so I can neither confirm nor deny. Actually, that year was probably the first or second year of my mountain biking period.

Coming off a decent showing at Mud, Sweat and Beers, I wasn't sure what to expect.  The weather was cool, and I am getting tired of being cold changing into my kit.  I haven't raced yet this year without needing arm warmers.

ILRA is close to the apartment, so once again I had a short commute.  We arrived and parked next to Brain from the Motor Club once again.  He is definitely the 'Early Bird' type of person.

After picking up my number, it was time to change and start warming up.  I rode the opening hill and through the "new" singletrack, out to the road to see how things were laid out.  It was the typical trail except the kept us pinned to the grass for a bit near the long road crossing over the bridge.  I wanted to ride back to see what was happening at the downhill under the railroad bridge, but time was running short.

I got to the starting area and people were already lining up, so I moved in too to get a good spot.  I jumped in the front row next to Lako and Alex.  Soon Osgood showed up and wedged into a spot, then another rider on the outside.  We were 6 riders wide at the start, with 1, maybe 2 good lines.

It seemed we stood around a bit longer than normal at the start.  This gave me time to hand off my extra warm-up bottle,and give John Boy some good natured ribbing about his camelback.  40 some degrees, 2 laps, a generous supply of water was not needed.

Finally it was time to go and we shuffled to the line.  At the start, I paused a half-second and immediately jumped onto Osgood's wheel.  We took off over the hill and at the top I was in 4th wheel.  The lead rider from TSB veered off to the left at one of the forks, and ended up in second behind Lako.  Going into the new singletrack, it was Lako, TSB guy, Osgood and myself.  Soon, Lako began to pull away, and Osgood made a pass before the switchback climb.  At the top of the hill those two had made a small gap.  I was able to get around TSB after the big 'dip' in the trail and begin closing the gap.

I was grouped back with the leaders by the time we reached the rutted downhill to the small bridge and first road crossing.  As I reached the bottom of the hill to the left-hander, I felt something hit my left leg.  It was my bottle ejecting from the cage, and I saw it settle next to the trail.  [Numerous laps on the trail have never cause a bottle to pop out, including a descent during the warm-up.]  Being up front, I decided I did not need a bottle, I would either get my warm-up bottle from my wife on the way through, or worst case, a cup of high quality H2O from the aid station.

So back to us three at the front, Lako was throwing down a good pace, but shortly before we reached the RR track, a Hooligan came around me and jumped onto Lako's wheel, making my 4th again.  The quartet hung together throughout the rest of blue.

Right before making the left onto yellow the leaders from the 40+ group came by, damn those guys are fast.  Through yellow we were doing well, but I was noticing that 1-2 were opening a small gap on Osgood and I.  Before the wide bridge over the river I went around Osgood, and start working to close up the gap again.  I was back on the wheel of the leaders.  Not having any water, I just sat in for the rest of the lap.  Lako was still setting the pace, but we kept his wheel.

As we came around for the lap, I was sitting up trying to locate my wife.  She was there taking pictures, but had no bottle, as 48 minutes ago I assured her that I did not need it.  That is fine, I will just take a water hand-up from the aid station.  Wait.... where is the aid station?  Not near the start line.  Not at the finish.  Not at the top of the hill.  Shit, there wasn't one.  I swallowed a mouthful of spit and hunkered down.

As we came through the rough downhill again, I saw my bottle nestled alongside the trail, mocking me.  I thought about stopping to grab it, but still with the leaders, coming into traffic and crossing onto one of the fastest sections of the course, I skipped it.

Brad continued to lead until the second time we hit the straight along the RR tracks.  The Hooligan took the lead and put in an effort, as we hit 24 MPH on the straight.  I was starting to feel these efforts in my legs and I began thinking what I would do to hold on to third once things started shutting down.

Into yellow the second time, it was still the Hooligan leading, Brad right on his wheel and my yo-yo-ing off the back.  If an incline or effort was needed, I would get unhitched, but work on the flats to close again.  When we reached the trailhead parking lot for the last time, I knew it was going to come down to a sprint at the end.  I was just hoping I would have enough left to be part of it.

It was a bit of cat and mouse for the final miles, but the writing was on the wall and we all knew it.  When we turned onto the road leading to the finish climb, I was expecting a move right away.  Thankfully it didn't happen.  I was 3rd wheel just waiting for the move to happen.

When we hit the bottom of the climb Lako made his move and jumped to the right to pass.  I immediately responded and went to the left.  For a moment we were three wide coming up the hill.  Soon it was Brad and I side by side, and I was digging with all I had left.

In the end, he crosses the line a wheel ahead of me, roughly 29", or 0.1 seconds.  I screamed in frustration, but avoided profanity.  I immediately congratulated Brad in a good race [In my own special way] and kept riding down the trail.  I needed to get back to my bottle ASAP.

Back at the Jeep I continued to drink every liquid that I had brought along with me.  Brain came along, he too was in a sprint to the line.  He won his battle, but he wasn't sure about his placing.

Awards time came, and we had a full podium.  Many familiar faces, most of which I am sure we will see again this season.  I need to end up on the top step, Brad owes me some bunny ears.

And congrats to Mitch who put in a solid effort in the Elite race.

05 May, 2013

Mud. Sweat. Beers. Redemption

This is the fourth time I have competed in this event. Since 2011 I have come out and raced my singlespeed in the hills of Traverse City.

2011 wasn't my best effort. I finished 5th, about 1o minutes behind the winner.
2012 wasn't much better.  I bunch of riders missed a poorly marked turn, and I finished in 4th, 5 minutes behind the winner.

My brief research told me that the top riders were going to be back this year.  In addition Trevor Smela, local speedy guy was going to be there as well.

Still some snow on the hill!

We arrived in TC the night before,had a good dinner and got some rest.  The morning of the race, the short drive, and VIP Jeep parking made things really convenient.

 My plan was to start at the front, and hang on as long as I could.  I line up in the first row, that way I would not be caught up in any missed clips.  To my right was TrevRev, and a few other speedy folks to my left.

We took off and I got a decent jump.  I was third wheel heading up the hill.  There was some incident to my left, I heard the announcer call out a crash.  I am glad I avoided it.

We entered the woods and I was happy in 3rd letting the other 2 do the work.  We reached the first climb, and we caught on to the previous group of geared riders.  We made up 3 minutes in the first mile.  The two in front lined up, and I went left to ensure I would not get caught in any unexpected dismounts.  I ended up passing the bunch and now I was in the lead.  I kept a decent pace, but didn't push too hard knowing Will Power (aka Heart Attack) Hill was ahead.

The climb was much better than years past, as the added gravel and graded it.  Unfortunately the clear line was packed with geared spinners, and us SSers had to hit the more gravely part.  We chugged up, with our back tired slipping on each pedal stroke.

I was back to second by the time we hit the paved subdivision.  There were four of us now, and a DTE rider went to the front, with Trev, me and Anthony (remember him from Pontiac?) lined up behind.  About halfway through the paved portion Trevor made a jump and the other two latched on.  I did not make the jump, thinking with 20 miles left, I wasn't wanting to burn another match.

The three hit the singletrack ahead of me but still in sight.  Much of the race consisted of getting caught behind geared riders on the singletrack, and passing where clear.  This is incredibly similar to Iceman, but much warmer, and the conga lines aren't as long.

I passed the DTE rider, and was working to close on the other two.  I would catch glimpses of the orange Niner of Trevor, so I would keep pushing.  At one point I was behind 4 riders crossing a sandy powerline section.  The front rider went down in the sand and laid there like dead fish.  The other wo guys were waiting for him to remount, and I hopped off and ran around them all.

At one point a guy along the trail told me the leaders were 1 minute ahead, and 50 yards apart.  I kicked it up another notch.  By Timber Ridge I had closed on pair who had regrouped.  I was within spitting distance of them, but couldn't close.

We hit Joy Ride on our return to the hill and I had closed on Trevor.  I was on his wheel entering the subdivsion again.  Once again he took off and I couldn't hold his wheel.  He was flying!  I bombed back down Will Power, made the correct turn between the padded trees, and muscled up the last climb.

Entering into the hill I didn't see the leaders, but the sandy off-camber held the majority of my attention.  I didn't want to eat a face full of sand right at the finish.  I rounded the last cut-back to the Specialized tire, and I heard the announcement of the sprint for the end.

Anthony on the right, Trevor right behind in the white helmet.

I pedaled on, bombed through the mud pit, and finished a close third.

After the reason, the weather turned around, and I spent 3 hours drinking beer and hanging out getting a sunburn.  It was a good race, and I finally got my podium.  I didn't even mind finishing behind Trevor (who ended up in second, with the same official time as the winner Anthony) because he is a badass workhourse.

Time to head home and see what is next on the agenda.  Stay Metal!

02 May, 2013

Pontiac. Firebird.

So, the season has arrived, I skipped 2 or three common season openers before arriving at Pontiac.  It felt strange coming into my fist race so late in the season, but a minimal amount of time riding on dirt.  Will skipping these warm-up races have a negative impact, or will I be springtime fresh?

I arrived at Pontiac Lake not quite as early as usual.  It was good to have a shorter commute.  Brain from The Motor Club was already set up, so I poached a seat under the canopy and chatted for a bit.

Soon enough it was time to get changed and start warming up.  I spun around a bit and checked out the new Start/Finish loop around the field.  I was a little tougher mentally, but nice for the folks not racing to see some of the action.

By the time that I finished warming, I saw the cattle being corralled for the start and worked my into the mass of carbon and metal.  I found my group but had to settle for second row.  I lined up next to Gus, while the big guns like Osgood and the KLM Power Duo of Lako and Gonzalez sat in front.  We pushed our way forward awaiting our 10:04 start.

The seconds on the clock flipped to :00 and the surge was on.  Once again the rider directly in front of me missed a clip and fumbled around.  Fuck me, every race it seems I get caught in this.  Strike one.  I work around him as the train formed on the grass and headed to the dirt.  Once onto the singletrack I was last wheel in the group and knew I had to start making up ground.

The troupe consisted of: Anthony, KLM:Power Duo, Osgood, Fedewa, Hemingway, and W9.  (There may have been one other, but close enough).  We stayed together surprisingly well, but soon the rope started to stretch with the 3 leaders pulling away.  I made a pass on 2-mile climb to close on Osgood, but chose a sloppy line and ended up washing out.  Strike 2.  I quickly remounted and began the chase anew.

Before long we were down to a group of just 3 behind the leaders: Gus, Osgood and I chasing down Alex as he was left behind by Lako and Anthony.  The 4 of us congealed and stuck together for a bit, with nobody making a move.  After a short while, the leader from the next wave (Wissink) caught us and I waved him through on the left.  As he began to pass the cluster of riders, it was my intention was to jump on his wheel and follow him through.  Just as I pulled alongside the group, Osgood had the same idea and snatched my line.  The passing window immediately closed, and I was now at the back of a group of 3, with Osgood pulling away.  I missed my chance.  Third strike.  I stayed on the back of 3-pack for a bit longer, looking for a place to make a move and try to chase down Osgood.

Then it happened, we came to the mud hole on mile 8.  All 5 of the riders immediately ahead of me went to left, so I thought “Screw it” and decided that I was going to go straight through the middle and see what happens.  As I came to the mud I saw a log bridge/ladder on the far right side, and heard a commotion to my left.  I hit those logs full tilt and came busting out the other side.  I don’t know what happened on the left, but I was now directly behind Wissink and had a gap on Osgood and the others.  Home fucking run! (OK, I know enough about baseball that it is highly difficult to get a home run after a third strike, so I guess one of the earlier strikes was actually a foul tip.)

I tried my best to stay on Wiss' wheel and increase the gap behind because I knew Ozzy wasn’t going to let me get away easy.  I kept Wissink in sight almost the remainder of the lap.  I didn’t see John, but I thought I heard his name as he came through the finish area.  

Lap 2, the moment of truth (Ok, more than a moment, but less than an hour).  The race was now a Time Trial like years past.  I hit the singletrack solo and trying to maintain my speed.  At the switchback on 2-mile climb I saw the Red/Black/White & Mavic Yellow charging up behind and I put in a dig.  I wasn’t going to get caught, not this time.  I continued to push my pace, and I think I may have passed a couple riders along the way. 

On the straightaway leading to the final switchback climbs of the day, I saw two riders ahead.  One was a wearing blue and white, which I thought could be a KLM jersey.  I closed the gap on those two by the top of the climb.  On the short descent to the 2-track KLM got a bit of a gap and by the time I hit the final flat I was at full steam to make the pass and close it.  On the grass to the finish we were side-by-side and I realized it wasn’t Lako but kept up the effort across the line.

When the dust settled, I finished in 2nd place, a tie for my best Expert finish ever, and probably my least miserable effort.  I didn’t stay around long after the race, as the rain began and I am a sissy when it comes to the cold.

Terrific outings both fellow Twin Six reps Jorden Wakeley (1st Elite, duh!) in the Metal kit and Brain (4th Expert 40-49) and Ken (5th Beginner 40-49) representing the Motor Club.  It was Kenny’s first MTB race, and the conditions out there were less than ideal for the afternoon groups, but he fought through and got his METAL.  Let’s hope he stays there.
Brain playing it cool