Thursday, December 03, 2009

Holiday Angst

I should be working right now. In fact, I should be cranking away on an estimate that is due Monday, but I have yet to really start because I'm a master at procrastination. Add in that I can start to feel a bit of angst creeping in amongst my bones and it's a perfect recipe for crapping away a bit more time this afternoon before hopefully, maybe working on what I should be doing.

A few years back, I came to the conclusion that exchanging a bunch of trinkets with everyone and their dog that you deem important in your life is a bunch of commercialized BS. Shortly thereafter, I convinced my wife of the same thing and we notified friends and family that we would no longer be exchanging our money for theirs through the intermediaries known as stores, malls, and online shopping. In short, we won't get you anything and please don't get us anything. We'd much rather enjoy your company over the holiday season than have you spend your hard earned money trying to find something you think we can't live without and vice versa.

My angst derives a lot of it's power from that decision. While I always have been a bit on edge about the holidays since I've been old enough to be aware of the trap we've laid out for ourselves when it comes to picking out gifts for other people, I've felt a bit more pressure in sticking to my guns with the new system in place. Mind you, this hasn't completely worked as we still give gifts to our kids and a few select friends kids that exchange with us becuase imposing our wills upon a child at Christmas time, just steps over one of those boundaries I'm not ready to cross. We also still receive a few gifts from our parental units, which I think is probably something that will never stop and truth be told, we do appreciate it as their gifts tend to be very utilitarian- gas cards, grocery cards, and the like. However, for the greatest part, it has worked out well and we don't receive a ton of gifts of varying value that add to the clutter of our daily trudge through life and for that, we're pretty thankful.

I think my issues really kick in when I feel the want to get small trinkets for a select few people. In my mind, I used to think I had a pretty good knack for picking out gifts for people. That part of my brain still kicks in when I run across things I think would make particularly well suited gifts. Add in that I do enjoy giving things to people, but we also seem to be running a family budget defecit this year (in hopes my bonus comes through), and you've got a great recipe for mixed emotions when it comes to the season.

Anyone else fighting the angst of the season out there?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Du'in it to it

CITA put on the Dirty Duathlon this weekend. This was my final race on the schedule for the year. Sure, I know Jingle Cross is coming up in another 2 weeks, but I'm not planning on going unless it's to heckle for a day and I doubt that's even going to happen. With the somewhat anti-climatic ending to the IMBCS races due to the concellation of Sugarbottom, an indulgent October, and a rescheduling of the Du, I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I toed the start line.

My original running partner in the form of Adam (the fit guy from Rassy's) was out due to a strained achilles a week or two before the original event date. That left me scrambling last minute to find a suitable replacement since I surely don't run. Through luck of the draw I hooked up with a guy name Jamie who happens to be a smokin' fast runner. We traded some emails back and forth and a couple calls. The plan was to hit it as hard as we both could and hopefully hold off the advances from other teams. Considering Cam and Kristy smoked the field the last few years running, it was going to be a pretty tall order for anyone to take them down. Jamie was a bit more confident than I, but stranger things have happened.

Yesterday definitely had a bit in the air with temps hovering right at 45 with a bit of windchill on top of that. I began to 2nd guess my choice of race kit in the form of bibs, long sleeve jersey, and an ultralight sleeveless base layer. I knew I'd probably do this, so I purposely avoided packing more bike clothing. I had done a couple recon laps the day before with a race pace lap at 19:45. I was hopeful to stick that time for 3 consecutive laps, but knowing the amount of climbing I'd be doing, it was a hope at best. I managed to find Jamie in the crowd of runners after a few harried minutes wondering if he was going to make it in time. He'd been out warming up and was ready to go, so all was good.

The starter lined the runners up and sent them on their merry way down the road to the pool before turning in to the singletrack. I nervously paced around hoping things would go as planned with Jamie coming in the top few runners as he was predicting. The first runner came hauling down the hill and it was Ryan who'd teamed up with Herb from the All 9 squad. Next up was Jamie about 30 seconds back. We tagged and I ran my back down to the pavement for a flying mount as I drilled it trying to catch Herb. I wasn't necessarily worried about Herb, but those lurking behind me definitely had me running scared. Just into the 2nd section of Hillside, Herb had dropped a chain and I rolled on by. I could see Neil coming up from behind and a few more bikes scattered behind him as I took the lead less than halfway into my 1st lap.

Pretty quickly I could see/feel someone coming up behind me. Thinking Neil had caught me, I was pretty surprised to see Jedi Jed flying past as I let him by. I picked up my pace for a minute or two trying to hold his wheel, but knew that pace would cook me so early in the race and most likely cause me a crash or two as well. I let him go and concentrated on riding as fast as I could without blowing up or blowing chunks. I was holding or eaking out a bit more gap on the riders behind me and at certain points I could see massive amounts of riders hitting sections of trail mere minutes back.

Rollercoaster creek crossing

As I hit the switchbacks going down Rollercoaster, it was great to hear people cheering for me and again as I headed up the gully climb into the meadow before dive bombing back to the finish. I poured it all out on the climb knowing that Cam and others would be eating me up on the climbing legs. As I hit the downhill to the finish, I stayed on the gas clipping through the start finish a shade under 19 minutes. I'd knocked off 45+ seconds over my race pace lap from the day before! Still sitting in 2nd as I headed off into my second lap, I wondered how long I could hang on at this pace. I still felt pretty good so I just tried to maintain my effort without going too far into the red.

With traffic pretty much a non-issue at this point, I was free to bomb through a good portion of Hillside. I was surpised though that I started catching people partway through my second lap. Most everyone I passed were great about moving to the side or even stopping all together as I worked up to them. I could start seeing Cam at this point and knew it wouldn't be too long before he was lapping at my heels. As we worked to the last section of fingers on Hillside he called for the pass and slid on by. Again, I upped my pace for a minute or two trying to hold his wheel, but knew the result was going to be the same as with Jed. I settled back down determined not to let myself slip any further back if I had any say in it. I could still see a few chasers, but it appeared I had close to a minute gap on anyone else at this point.

Another round through Rollercoaster with the crowds cheering on the racers and encouraging me to play catch up helped to keep my energy level high. I sprinted back down the hill, across the line, and headed out on my final lap with around 19:15 clocked off this time. I was still moving well, but I could tell the effort was catching up with me. Knowing I had less than 20 minutes to go, I poured everything back out one more time. I was climbing a shade slower and standing more on the short steeps, but I was still rolling well. I made it through Hillside still setting in 3rd and hit Rollercoaster for the final time.

I grunted my way through Rollercoaster making my way to the final climb. I'd been passing riders at regular intervals for a while, but now I'd caught a couple riders walking up the steep grade to the meadow. I called out that I was riding and they needed to move. Unfortunately, the gal was a bit confused on where to go and managed to go nowhere. I hit a root about the same time and spun my back tire drawing a few gasps from the crowd watching the sufferfest on the hill. I kept my momentum and climbing the side of the wash riding up and around the rider making that one of my highlights. Still holding a firm grasp on 3rd I raced to the transition area and tagged Jamie for his final run.

At this point, I figured we were pretty well set for 3rd place. I knew Jed was a long ways in front of me and figured Cam had gotten pretty close to or had chased him down. I spotted Jed in the crowd and he confirmed that he'd beat Cam in to the transition. Now it was time to wait. I don't think anyone saw Jed's runner come in, including Jed, but he pulled through in 1st place. Now we were waiting for Kristy to come in. I looked up the hill and couldn't beleive what I was seeing. Kristy was hauling the mail down the final hill and Jamie was somehow flying past her. With a scant few seconds separating them at the finish, we'd clinched the 2nd spot. I've definitely got to hand it to Jamie, he knew what he was capable of and put on a superb race.

Rassy's took the top 3 overall positions with the relay teams and in addition we took the top 3 men's open with Louis, Kent, and Nate taking those honors. Our very own Teri Sue showed the way in the women's open taking the win and hopefully stamping her come back to doing some more racing. Congrats to all my team mates! A huge thanks to CITA and the Capital Striders for putting on a great event with their volunteer work forces.

Thanks to Doug for the photo.

Monday, November 02, 2009

October and out

No, I'm not giving up on this lame ass blog. So quit your rejoicing and get back to reading! With the birth of our little one the last day of September, the last race of the year being cancelled out, some sickness hanging around, and enough other crap going on, it was time to fully imbibe in the off season lifestyle. Ride when I want, however slow I want, and imbibe as many carb laden goodies as I can.

I took full advantage of the entire month, though I did have one small setback and participated in a single cross race. I was quickly rewarded with a whopping 9th place in the cat 4's. Considering my expectations and goals, I was completely fine with that result and pretty much swore off any other races for the year with the exception of the Dirty Duathlon. I raced the du last year and had a blast teaming up with Heather from the PRC squad since I don't run.

Suffering at Altoona Cross:

Enjoying last year's Du:

Beyond that, Cranksgiving is looming on the horizon as one of my favorite annual events. Squirrel will also be hosting one of my other favorites in the Turkey Day ride. Last but not least, we had the annual Spooky Woods ride this weekend. While the weather put the kybosh on any off road fun and frivolity, a hearty dozen souls gathered together for a little black label action instead. The original plan was to creep our way out of Orlondo's whenever we felt like it, score some tunnel party action down the trail, and eventually roll into the Cumming Tap for beer laden good times. Squirrel, being the master planner he is, threw the plans out the window and had us a little bonfire set up at an undisclosed location just a scant jog away from the start. We partied with good friends, good beer, and good tunes for several hours. We thinned out some of the surrounding deadfall to feed our fire, and partied the evening away. We even turned in relatively early with most of us rolling off around 11pm. What we lost in quantity this year, we more than made up for in quality.

That pretty much finishes off my year. I'll probably try to piece together a recap of some of my personal highlights, but all in all, its been a great year on the bike and I'm really looking forward to starting fresh for next year.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The life circle starts again

If you'll look closely at the date of my last significant post, you might be surprised to find I've been conspicuoulsy absent from my duties of blogging for the past couple weeks. It definitely hasn't been for lack of exciting and momentous occasions.

After Manawa, I was pretty geared up for the final showdown at Sugarbottom with my buddy Keith. Considering my finish at Manawa had boosted me into a slim points lead for the IMBCS series, I knew he'd be gunning for me. Add in that Sugarbottom is a place he's familiar with, I've never ridden there, and we were both coming down with colds and we had all the ingredients for something epic. As the week rolled on, a more pressing matter came into focus. We welcomed the birth of our daughter, Emery Lynn, the last day of September. She came into the world just before 5 in the afternoon, born at home, weighing in at 9 lbs and 22 inches long. To say we were ecstatic would be just slightly erronious.


I can hear some of you now saying, "well, I guess that means his final race of the season is out." Well, you'd be wrong. You see, we've been expecting another bouncing baby to grace our family early in October. My lovely wife has been gracious enough to let me postpone and miss a number of things, but there was no way I'd be going racing if impending babydom was upon us. However, with Emery being born mid-week and both grandmas plus our friend Erica being available to help out, it was determined that I could still challenge for the points series. Now that is one awesome family!

However, the weather had other ideas for us. The rain blew out the original race date and things were postponed for a week. I was both happy and nervous about this set of events. Now I'd be able to spend more time with my newest family member and hopefully get closer to 100% health wise, but I'd also have to sweat another week of wondering how things were all going to fall out. After another week of cruel winterish weather, the race was cancelled all together. I'll get around to recapping my season another time, but for now, I'm excited to be a new father again. I have 2 wonderful, beautiful girls, an awesome wife, and a pretty kickass life right now. I've been blessed for sure this year.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Furnace Creek 508

Nope, I'm not doing it (yet...), but it's one of those things that is way out on my radar as something to possibly aspire to when I've finally lost all my marbles. However, that hasn't stopped my buddy George from signing up for his 4th time riding the event. He's hoping his crew can do some live blogging on his site during the race- If you want to check out the main race site, you can follow some updates on there as well. His racing totem is "Red-Eyed Vireo". Good luck out there George.

Monday, September 28, 2009

IMBCS #10 Lake Manawa race report

The race season is nearing its end. As I type this, we have one solitary race left to savor until the 2010 season fires back up. However, that's skipping ahead a week. This weekend left me headed over to the wilds of Council Bluffs to race at Lake Manawa for what is somewhat deemed as a border battle between the Iowegians and the Nebraskanites. I wanted/needed to do well in this race. Never having been to any Nebraska races or this venue, I had to base my anticipations on hearsay and a few old race reports. Seeing as how Cam tends to have some pretty epic battles over there and a few other friends have reported some really strong riders out that way, I knew I'd be in for a pretty hard fought day if I was going to finish well.

The course recon info I gathered ranged from very Denman's like, to sandy, to technical with very limited passing. All of this had me primed for not knowing what to expect and as such, I drove myself about half batty during the week trying to figure out how to race it. Nate and I car pooled over to the race leaving enough time to hang out a bit and still get a full recon lap in. We took off with Cam and Julie to get the lines figured out. Cam does what he does and motored away for the most part even during warm up as I tried to hang on as best I could and not start breaking out any real effort that I'd need later on. By the end of the first section he was pretty much gone and I just wound my way along on my own. On the back section of trail I had my worst run in of the day catching my left shoulder pretty hard on a narrow section between 2 large trees. At least this was the recon lap.

As time wound down, we worked our way to the line. Different from the Iowa races I've been in, they started each category in a wave based on open or age group so you were only racing guys in your class at the very start. I liked this aspect of it as it really pushed me to go hard right off the bat as I could see exactly how much work I had to do to finish where I wanted. 11 of us towed the line for the open class which I found odd considering the +35 and +45 age groups seemed to have much larger contingencies. The starter rang the siren and we were off to a sprint for the singletrack entrance a scant quarter of a mile down a paved park road. The start to the singletrack was cordoned off by 4x4 posts spaced 3-4' apart making for some interesting lines as everyone was flying through them. I was sitting 3rd wheel as we came up on the posts and the 2 guys in front sat up slightly so I followed suit. That wasn't the smartest move as I got pushed back 2 more spots to 5th wheel by a couple guys who stayed on the gas. Starting off the first lap I had 3 Nebraskans and an Iowa guy leading the charge in front of me.

Neal (the Iowa guy) was sitting directly in front of me and staying hard on the wheel immediately in front of him. They'd both hammer the open straights and pull me slightly until we'd hit more technical sections where I could latch right back on. This lasted for about a mile and we could see the first two guys opening a decent gap over us. The guy in front of Neal took a few bad lines slowing us down, but we were in a pretty bad area to pass. At the next logover Neal decided it was now or never and took a faster yet higher risk line straight over the log in lieu of just to the right which was only a couple inches tall versus 6-8" tall. I was hot on his heels going straight as well. Neal didn't stick the landing. Or more accurately stuck the landing a bit to well and burped the air out of his tire which was slightly cocked and went ass over appetite. I somehow managed to avoid him while making a quick check to make sure he wasn't dying on the trail as I tailed it up to 4th place.

I knew we'd be hitting a few more open sections where passing would be possible so I sat on the wheel of 3rd place until I could punch it again. I stuck the pass and as we hit more technical areas I opened a gap slowly. The first 2 riders were basically out of site at this point and we were only half way through lap 1 of 3. I kept the wick turned up and figured I would either catch someone or end up being caught if I tried to mellow out my pace any. As luck would have it (for me), near the end of lap 1 I could see another rider up in front of me. I pushed a bit harder, caught him in the twisties, and tailed him through the start/finish area. I sat in on his wheel for the first part of the open section on lap 2 drafting and catching my breath before cranking on it one more time and passing him just before we hit the maze of trees again.

The pass stuck and I was sitting in 2nd place halfway into the race. The 1st place rider was nowhere in site so I stuck to my plan of keeping the hammer down lest I be caught from behind. As I worked into the back section on lap 2 I passed an expert rider on a Superfly singlespeed that was slowly working his way down an open section. I never looked back, but when we hit the twisty section, I could tell I had someone closing in. He was gaining quickly on me so I tried upping my pace in the tight areas. That didn't go quite as planned as I now started pushing beyond my pay level of skill and nearly went down twice. I ushered him back by so as to hopefully grab his wheel and keep myself upright in the process. About a hundred yards later, he laid it down on a slick leaf covered corner and I went right back by. Ahh well, at least I tried to show some good camaraderie.

Lap 3 started with Mr. singlespeed right back on my butt and passing me into the open area. I hopped on his wheel for a draft as he pulled us along at over 20 mph. Sweet! As soon as we hit the tech sections he opened the gap and never looked back again. Thanks for the ride. I was riding well at this point and put together a quick game plan in my head. I pushed the open easy sections as hard as I could and I dialed back the tech areas just enough to make sure I wasn't going to bite it. I couldn't see anyone too close behind me so I thought I was pretty safely in 2nd at this point. I held my game plan together through to the finish and latched onto my placing permanently. As I looked back, a scant 20 seconds back came 3rd place so I definitely needed to keep that hard pace I'd been pushing.

Those Nebraska boys can definitely ride. A full clean race is what I attribute to hold onto my placing. I know the 3rd and 4th place riders each had at least one fall apiece where I only came close a few times. The first place rider had over a minute on me. All in all, I was pretty ecstatic as I went into the race hoping for a top 5 finish and came out much better.

As far as the course goes, the first 2 laps were a bit wet, but by the 3rd lap it had dried pretty nicely. I was running more cautious by then though so it really didn't give me much of a boost. Overall, I liked the course and it seemed to suit my skill set. I wasn't the fastest on the open hammer sections, but I had enough technical skill and strength to close it up on the tight, twisty areas. The overall feel was a lot like Denman's in that you could really use the flow if you knew the trail well enough, but the open sections would allow for some fast riding if you needed to hammer and go as well. I didn't find passing too difficult as long as you played your cards right. If you were gassed going into the open sections, it would be difficult to pass, but otherwise you could find a spot pretty easy as long as you weren't in the woods.

I know there were a few photographers on hand so I'll try to find some pictures to post.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A quarter buck of fun

I used to think the best thing in the world for a quarter of a buck was anything housed in those crappy plastic bubbles within the red metal and glass machines that you'd see at the entrance to every grocery and drug store growing up. Of course, now that I think about it, I'm not even sure when the last time I saw one of those was. Then again, even if you could find one, I'm sure the prizes are crappier than I remember and the cost has doubled or tripled as well. Ahh, the memories of childhood. For the mere price of a shiny quarter now, I enjoy something a bit more fulfilling. Quarter Rage has to be one of my favorite times on a bike or just in general. Like minded buddies doing some friendly smack talk, throwing down whatever they've got in their legs, and having a metric shitload of fun at the same time; what more could you ask for?! All for the low low price of 2 bits.

Last week was the first installment for the year. 5:30 being the start time, I showed up a shade before 5 and took and easy run through to get the legs warmed up. The trail was dry, fast, and loose. The singletrack was mostly clear with just a smattering of leaves and walnuts covering spots of the trail as autumn has started to press it's will upon the woods. Looking to better my time from last year of a 23:26, I knew wouldn't be too difficult. I had my sites set on something in the 20:xx range as a pretty decent goal. I started 2nd in line behind Jordan who was breaking in his new Raleigh 29'er from the shop in the best way possible.

I hosed the first section of trail dropping down from the levee as I tried keeping the bike under me rather than diving off into the chain link surrounding the pump station. The first few corners into the singletrack weren't treating me much better as I would hammer the pedals and slam on the brakes rather than flow through the corner. My heart was all ready jumping up in my throat and I knew I'd better find my form quickly. Sure enough, I backed off a tick and the form caught right back up as I hammered through the trail as quickly as possible. I caught Jordan just past the tractor tire and he let me fly past. With open trail in front of me, I just pushed on the pedals for all I was worth. Finally on the paved trail, I tried tucking in as tight as possible while cranking up the watts to the finish. My lungs and legs were burning as I crossed the line barely able to see straight.

My reward? Not only did I better my previous time, but I took down the course record and held on by 2 seconds to take 1st place overall for the night. I've got to say, even with all I've been lucky enough to accomplish on the bike this year, winning this little bragging rights race was one of the highlights for sure. I racked up a finish time of 19:22 according to Squirrel which knocked off the previous time by a scant 3 seconds.
Winning time:
The take:
She was briefly mine:
The second week commenced the online smack talking. Squirrel made up a pretty funny little ditty to encourage a few of the big boys to show up and strut their stuff. Basso answered the call and I pretty much knew things were going to be stepped up. Squirrel pre-rode the course and wasn't quite sure that the record would fall again tonight due to some trail moisture, leaf build-up, and extra walnut bombs throughout. I wasn't quite so optimistic, but I was still going to give it a run. I figured my plan from last week carried me pretty well through so I went for a repeat doing a warm up lap just prior to taking the line. I slowly worked up my speed and was feeling pretty confident as I headed into the last section of Denman's. I hit a hard left turn a little hot with a shade too much front brake and before I could even squeak a 4 letter word out, I was on the ground. The very combination Squirrel had been talking about had bit me square in the arse. Nothing hurt but my pride, I mounted back up, stuck a mental note in the bank and headed back for the start.
Lined up:
As Squirrel said go, I managed to repeat, if not worsen my screwups in the first section. Again, I nearly ran off the trail right at the start and didn't make anything better as I started into the first section of singletrack coming in too hot to the corners, nearly stopping, and then trying to hammer again. I knew tonight would be a push as I didn't feel quite as good as I had last week, but I intended to lay out whatever I had on the trail. I did get the flow going again, but it seemed more labored this week as my ragged breathing pounded in my ears and my heart surged to keep up with the effort I was begging from it. I took the short line through Little Italy this week which should have shaved a good 3-5 seconds from my time. I don't think I was quite as clean through a number of the turns this week, but my straightaway speed didn't seem to be suffering much. In all, I was still riding clean as I came up on Elaine as the first rider to get past. Just a brief second or two and I was by her. I rode the tractor tire again this week trying to get a better line for the follow up log. I caught up and passed a couple more riders along the way as well.
I was just getting a good eyeball on Jacob who was the minute man I was chasing as I entered the firepit section of Denman's. I had a couple bobbles up to this point, but was still keeping it sunny side up. I finally ran out of luck as I came around the big tree with the muddy spot on the inside of the right hand sweeper. I carried good speed into the turn and had a good weight balance, but the traction wasn't there. Both tires scrubbed out sideways trying to find any bit of dry ground available and I swung the bike nearly 180 degrees past the corner putting my inside knee down to the ground as I slid along for the ride. Still clipped in with my left foot, I righted my course pretty quickly and headed back down the trail.
A mere flesh wound:

I ran pretty cleanly through the rest of the trail and hit the pavement return section once again. I didn't have quite the legs under me as I did last week and couldn't spit out the speed I wanted to. Overall though I finished in 19:26 only 4 seconds off my time last week. I think I've got an 18:xx tucked away somewhere with the right trail conditions and a bit better run through on my end. However, Pete proved for all that the big dogs have the skill to show us how it's done running an 18:21!

Hurting at the finish:

Pete enjoying the spoils of victory:

Pics stolen from Courtney. See you out there next week!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

IMBCS #9 Science Center TT & #5 Sycamore TT race reports

After the 24 hour race, I've got to say, I think the euphoria of doing well left me a bit of post race hangover. I took a day off the bike and then blew my plans for easing back into things with Renegade Cross practice that Tuesday night. My legs still felt pretty dead and the addition of running and jumping didn't do much to help that fact. Add in a bee sting on the sweet part of my inner thigh and I wasn't feeling much love that week. I pulled it back together though and got a few recovery miles in and was feeling much better about things by the end of the week. Saturday morning rolled around and I went out for some gravel miles to get the legs back under me. Sedore pretty much showed us his ass as he hit it hard right off the bat and put a gap in that we couldn't pull back.

On Saturday afternoon, some friends came in town for the races and we met up at Sycamore to get a feel for the ruts since I hadn't ridden there since 2000 and he'd never ridden it. We quickly realized, that we weren't missing much by not having ridden it. The scenery is great, but the complete lack of disregard for the trails from the motorized users was appalling with the ruts and leftover mud bogs. We rode down to the trestle bridge and back. On the way back, we punched it up from fish camp to the parking lot and figured the TT times would be in the 8-10 minute range at the most. After that it was time for a bit of grillin' and chillin' back at our casa.

We all rolled out to the science center trails early enough on Sunday to take our sweet time and get a lap in before the race. I really didn't need a lap considering I ride the trails all the time, but I figured a good warm up was in order. That's about the time Ryan announced a bit of a shakeup in the race. We'd be running both Hillside and Rollercoaster in a backwards format and doing 2 consecutive laps. That certainly was going to make things interesting as I don't think I've ever done Hillside fully in reverse. As fate would have it though, I'd ridden part of Hillside and Rollercoaster in revers just a couple weeks earlier, so I at least had a partial clue on the flow.

Keith and I took off on a recon lap and my legs weren't feeling the greatest right off the bat. I slowed a bit and decided to get more spinning in as they warmed up. Slowly they worked around and by the time we were done with Hillside, I felt pretty decent and it was close to starting time. We headed off to the line and were greeted with a bit of a clusterfuck. People were missing their start times left and right by not being ready to roll at the prescribed time and the timers in a moment of indecision decided to pull the next racers into the open slots and send them out to keep the show rolling along as quickly as possible. This works great in theory, but when you're hand timing everything, trying to recount minutes forward and back without a specific minute reference of when the rider took off becomes very difficult.

Soon enough I was at the line and felt pretty decent. I hammered the short pavement section and flew into the singletrack. I was a bit jacked up at this point and really screwed up the short first section of Hillside with bad line choices and trying to run it too fast. In all it didn't cost me much time, but really drilled it into my brain that I needed to work on being smooth and the speed would follow. Sure enough, I got my flow going and halfway through Hillside I passed my first minute man in the form of Sumpter. He was a bit surprised I had caught up that quickly (as was I), but he pulled and let me pass with nary a second lost.

Looking good, but screwing up the first section:

I passed a few others as I worked my way into Rollercoaster. By this time Cam was hot on my tail and I gave him a quick line around me as we headed towards the creek crossing. Shortly after that, I felt one more rider closing in on my. Jed was tearing up the course in hot pursuit of Cam. I offered him a pass before the gnarly climb up to the meadow, but with him on a single speed, he couldn't partake until we'd gone about halfway through the meadow section. We both rolled back down to the start finish going all out, but his single speed let me latch back on as we hit the pavement for the last time. As soon as we hit the climb to the singletrack though, he was gone. I screwed up the start section again this time, just not as badly as the first time through. After that, it was hustle and flow through the remainder of the 2nd lap. I hammered it down to the finish line and awaited my time.
2nd lap finding some flow:

Back to the timing issue. I had mistakenly turned off my timer at the start of my 1st lap and didn't notice until I had completed one lap of Hillside. I turned it back on at that point and timed out the rest of my race. I wasn't sure of my time, but based on how long it took me on my 2nd lap through Hillside, I should have been right at a high 36 to low 37 minute time. Results had me listed at a 38:10 which was definitely off by my calculations. The missing man formation had come to roost for the unlucky souls that were trying to figure final times. Things were finally straightened out though and I managed a 37:10 for the 2 laps which put me in 2nd place for my class.

We had a couple hours to kill before the afternoon TT through Sycamore which was rescheduled from earlier in the year. In all, I liked the format of doing both races in 1 day as it helped pull more people in from outside the area and the 2 for 1 pricing played into that as well. Not to mention the fact that the afternoon TT would be very short due to unplanned construction in the middle of the trail.

We all lined up by number again, but due to people missing from the morning, the timers would again have their hands full in the final calculations. At least this time, they knew it going in and were a lot better prepared to compare start and finish times. Sumpter was once again ahead of me on his single speed and we joked on the line that I'd be hunting him down. He took off like a shot as I waited my turn. I hit the trail with everything I had left. I just about shot through the first sandy corner and cost myself a few precious seconds as I skidded almost to a stop to get back on line with the trail. After that, things flowed pretty well. I did cut a little too close to the inside on the tree that had fallen across the trail. I was treated to a nice rap on the helmet and a spot of road rash on my back as they both made decent contact. After that, it was a game of keeping my heart crammed back down my throat as I indeed tried to hunt Scott down.

Burning all the matches:

The finish line was at the end of a decent straightaway that you could sprint down. Of course, less than 50 yards past the finish line was a drop into the creek, so it made for an exciting sprint to full lock up the brakes end to the TT. Scott stayed out in front as I only managed to close the gap to around 15 seconds back in the short span. Overall I squeaked a 9:28 for the TT which garnered me a 1st in class. Definitely a productive day for racing on my end. CITA threw a pretty nice bash at the end with free beer and a goody box that we all mauled like a bunch of wild animals as soon as the top racers had their pick of the litter.

Mauling the prize chest:
In all, I've got to say I really enjoyed the TT's. I tried my hand at the science center TT last year as one of my few races and didn't enjoy it nearly as much. Of course, I think that may have been in large part due to my complete and utter lack of training or riding of any sort at that point of the summer. With my time and focus on the bike this year, things have definitely been going well for me. A couple more races in the series, some fun "racing", and possibly a cross race or two and I'll be pretty well spent for the year.

Thanks to Angy and Justin for the pics.

Monday, September 14, 2009

24 hours of 7 Oaks race report- the last 12 hours

The next bit involved some overreaction and panic on my part. I'm not sure if it was a middle of the night brain fade or what, but I was convinced that Tom was overdue on checking in from his first lap. We'd lost track a bit on our own timing and I thought he'd been out past an hour. I started asking various people if they'd seen him on the trail and nobody had. I didn't want to bother the scorers to see if he'd checked in since they had a difficult job as it was, so all I could do was sit and wait. Finally, someone from our camp mentioned that he'd rolled through earlier, hadn't found me (I was out looking for him) and headed out on his 2nd lap. Whew, I breathed a sigh of relief and sat waiting my turn.

The wee morning hours of camp:

Tom checked in after 2 more solid laps hovering in the 50 minute range. He mentioned the 2nd lap being pretty tough on the legs and he was ready for some rest. As I sped off into the darkness, I reminded myself that I needed to pace just a bit to make sure I wasn't playing damage control on lap 2. The 4th lap was pretty uneventful with few people out on the trail and everyone I came upon graciously pulling off to the side as I zipped by. At this point I really couldn't tell the difference between teams and solo racers. I was feeling ok by this point, but even that was enough zip to put a pretty big difference in my pace and those I was passing. My mantra was to take it fast, but safe, and make sure I didn't get passed. I did have my single fall of the event on one of these laps. Coming into the 180 downhill switchback known as "187" I made the turn, but slowed enough that I basically came to a stop with my tire switched up. Over I went toppling into the center of the trail. I was right back up and brushing myself off with only a few seconds lost, but it was enough to reinforce the fact that this trail can bite you anywhere and anytime it wants. My first of the double laps went by in a respectable 45:50 which was still just 3 minutes off my best day lap.

Along in lap 2 (I think) I came across the sight of Charlie Farrow standing with another gentleman at the back end of the big G-drop. They were well above the lower turn off line that has been burned in this year. It appeared they were stopped and engaging in a conversation of sorts. Later, I found out the Charlie had actually been stopped and napping at that same location. As this lap wore on, my legs began to rebel from the effort and I could feel the faint tinges of cramps coming on. I'd been smart every lap and made sure to hydrate whenever the trail flattened out or become non-technical enough that I could steal a drink. Fortified with Accelerade and a shot of elite in each bottle, I managed to keep the cramps at bay, but I knew the wolves were starting to circle. My second lap suffered a bit from going back to back, but I still squeaked a 47:40 which was to be my slowest lap of the race.

During these laps, it must be noted that the fog setting in the valley aka campground, was absolutely shrouding everything. As I descended to the grass switchbacks before the timing stand, I could scarcely see more than a few feet in front of me as my lights would bounce off the near rain cloud we were enveloped in. I sprinted through the time station for my second lap and went to hand the reigns back to Jason for his turn at the wheel. I wasn't quite sure that the timers had my number and check in info right, so I went to double check and was relieved to find out all was good. As a side note to any aspiring racers, if there's ever a doubt on whether or not you've been scored for a lap, always double check as it is the racers responsibility to make sure they're counted correctly. I know one solo entrant rode by Sunday morning and was lamenting that he was missing a lap at scoring and wasn't sure they were going to give it back to him.

I was a bit wound up after my laps even though my body was tired. I knew I needed some fuel and rest. I was also worried about someone possibly missing their rotation and also to see if my laps had helped to work our lead back out to any safer margin. I ended up snacking on a few things, and dragging a chair up next to the fire. I spent the next hour or two in a mental fog as I rested by the fire and tried to keep track of Jason's laps and when Nate might need to be up. Our lead was back on the rise as we kept the burn up on our laps. By this time we'd gained back to over 20 minutes, but we were still a single mechanical from falling right back into the other teams clutches.

At the prescribed time I roused Nate from his sleep. I was making sure we weren't going to lose any time from a slow transition. The handoff occurred and I was back to resting in the chair. I'm dreaming of my next couple laps and figured that I would be racing in the light for both of them. As the clock wound closer to my lift off, I realized I would again be riding at least in partial darkness and fog. I wasn't quite enthusiastic about this prospect, but I figured to make the most of it. As Tom rolled in from his lap for the handoff, I headed off for my 6th lap. The fog was still blanketing the valley and though you could see the sun tinting the edges of the sky, it was still dark.

I rolled through the first section of the course trying to get my legs back under me. This scene tended to repeat itself with each passing lap. My legs would protest against the effort required to hump the bike up the first set of switchbacks before they'd get some respite on the downhill. About 5-10 minutes into the lap, they'd wake up and realize I was serious about keeping them moving along. The one major climb up to the top of the powerline by Dead Mans Curve was going to be the challenge again. The baby ring was the gear of choice up front as I didn't have the power to maintain my standing pedal stroke in the middle ring on this section of steep climb any longer. As I started the climb, I again found Charlie napping by the side of the trail. All was still well in his world as I checked in on my way by.

Aside from the increasing light bringing some renewed energy to my legs, the lap was seemingly like most of the others. As I neared the end, I caught sight of Keith riding just ahead on the trail. I put a goal in my head of catching him by the time we got to the check in station. There's nothing quite like a rabbit to catch to motivate tired legs. Off I went and started the chase. Finally catching him as we came across the pond dam and headed back down to the bottom of the hill, I sat on his wheel as we came through to the check in. I turned another respectable lap at 46:24. Nate seemed pretty amazed that I was still running that fast with half my lap in the dark.

I felt like a well done roast after that lap. I was stringy, tough, and probably not very tasty. However, the sun was up, people were starting to rouse from their slumber, and I decided to just stay up for my next lap. As you can see below, I was starting to feel my oats a bit by now.

Counting down until the final lap:

I went to check on the other teams that were still doing laps. By our calculations we were sitting a shade over 30 minutes up on 2nd place at this point with 24 laps in the books. We knew that without a full lap up, we'd have trouble convincing any of the teams to agree to a truce, so we kept the pressure on full bore. Jason, then Nate, and Tom all headed out for there next rounds as I sat and waited. I nibbled on a little food and drink trying to keep myself in shape for one more round. However, it was mostly the thought of only one more trip around the trail that had me pumped. By the time Tom rolled in for the exchange I was ready to pour out all I had left on that lap and leave nothing in the tank. I knew that no matter what, unless we drew straws for another round, I would be done with 7 laps as there wasn't enough time to go through another full rotation.

Off for the final lap:

As I hit the lap, fatigue was getting me on the hills. I kept the pressure on the pedals as high as I could stand it and powered through. My lines started getting a little sloppy and I had to do a few mental slaps to the face to clear the fog out of my brain. I don't remember much of the final lap beyond making sure I continually felt like I didn't have any more left to give at any point on the course. I felt like I was rolling pretty well and a quick check of my computer as I rounded the campground area confirmed I was still rolling decently. I floored it through the final upper sections and let it rip without caution on the downhills. As I powered my way through, I saw a few more people out hiking the trails to catch glimpses and shots of us crazies still out riding.

Keep your focus, no getting snake bit this far in:

Last lap is hurting:
Smile for the camera, you're almost done:
Finally, I was done. The timer stand loomed large as I worked through the grass switchbacks for a final time. I sprinted through and handed over to Jason with a well deserved 44:54 lap time. Still being able to rip out a sub 45 minute lap felt good, but I also knew I was done unless catastrophe struck. My body and legs were done. I needed to be off the bike and just chill for a bit. Before that could be done, I needed to find out how long we still needed to race. I wanted to check on a rule with Ron about the overall placing. It would seem that while each team (2, 3, or 4 man) race against each other for class ranking, the overall is open to any number team. Being that we were shooting for overall and there were some strong 3 man teams in the race, I had to make sure we could call it done soon.

I sought out the 4 man Peoria team first. They were packing it up and calling it a day. There had been discussion about chasing us for another lap, but when they saw Jason shoot off looking fresh for a 29th lap, they knew that there really wasn't much chance left to catch us barring some major malfunction as we had edged close to 40 minutes up by this point. They conceded and we congratulated each other on pushing a great race pace for the full 24 hours. My plan was to only have Nate go off on a lap if I thought we really needed it. I had to find the single 3 man team that we hadn't lapped as of 7 am and find out for sure they were done racing as the scorers didn't have anything listed for them beyond that lap. I tracked them down and indeed they were back out for a lap, but had planned on quiting at 7 until they got wind of the 2nd place 3 man team (Keith's team) continuing on with laps and wanted only to cement their win in the 3 man category.

Before I could get back to tell the guys we were indeed done, Nate shot out for what I like to think of as a victory lap. We firmly stamped the Rassy name on this year's 24 hour race with a total of 30 laps completed before noon. For a 4th year in a row, we had secured the top overall position for the shop! I think we were all pretty happy to be done and felt a bit of euphoria creeping in as we began the task of packing and waiting for the final results.

A happy group of winners (from l to r- Tom, Jason, me, and Nate):

With the winners check firmly in hand, our weekend was over. I headed the truck back south as the other guys worked their way home. Tired, sore, and happy, it was definitely an experience to remember and one I'll be taking part of again.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

24 hours of 7 Oaks race report- the first 12 hours

Boone 24 hour course map

This weekend was it, numero uno, the big one, the event that I really wanted to look back at this winter while sweating my ass off on some trainer in a funk filled garage or dark basement and know that all the work was and is worth it. I won't leave you hanging in suspense or even make you read past the first paragraph to find out the answer on how it went. We won! Now that the excitement is all out of the way, I'll work on boring you to death with the plethora of details and notes I have swirling in my head as sort of a journal on how it happened.

The team:

I don't think anyone can call it "their team" as we all played equal parts in securing the victory and took equal amounts of punishment inflicted on our bodies. I will say though that Jason and Nate taking an extra lap each just to make sure we were fully cemented in first place was an awesome thing! Jason, Nate, Tom, and myself came together to make the 4 man Rassy A squad this year. While I tried not to think about it much, we had some big shoes to fill. 3 straight years the A squad has delivered the team/overall 24 hour win for the shop. I think we were all thinking, hoping, and planning on doing whatever it took to bring back another winner's check, but we really didn't talk much about it. We'd all find ways to put the pressure on ourselves and I think talking about winning might have been our undoing. Every time someone said we had a strong team and should be contenders for the win, I did my best to shake that thought out and respond that we just wanted to go, have fun, race hard, and come away with something near the top. I think we achieved all of that and more.

The prep:
It's funny how things come together. I've been thinking about this race all year. I've been planning on doing this race all year. As of a month ago, I had no idea in what category I was going to compete or if I was going to attempt solo or find a team. My early season plans fell through on doing a 2 man 24 hour team and I was a bit awash on where to go from there. A few emails and a bit of scouting around opened a few doors. After a week or two of emailing around and checking availability of people, we finally secured a full roster. Looking at the IMBCS results from 2 weeks ago, it was pretty apparent that we were all about equally matched in looking at raw time data. We all had some pretty solid times and should be putting up a good fight.

In getting ready to race, I took my final preparation pretty seriously. With the understanding of my gracious wife, I hit the training pretty hard with a couple weeks to go and then worked on doing a smart taper with 1 week left. Of course, my taper also left me passing up on doing the East Village Crit, which I was a bit bummed about, but I had a touch of tunnel vision going on and wasn't to be deterred. Beer was gone for the week prior (ouch!), hard riding was gone by that Wednesday, and all systems had been checked over. I got some night laps in at center to make sure I was dialed in on night riding again and then had a couple easy spinning days on Thursday and Friday just to keep my legs primed. I knew at that point, the only thing I could do was make myself slower by crashing or hurting myself, so just keep it in check and be ready come Saturday was the plan.

The race:
I took the Rassy truck up Saturday morning to set up base camp for any of the shop racers that wanted to partake of the awesome support that the shop provides us. With a full compliment of generator, awnings, tables, work stands, etc, we couldn't have asked for a better setup. OK, so maybe a team bus, mechanics, and personal masseurs for next year would be cool (Greg?)...

Base camp:

After the setup, it was hurry up and wait. Jason had all ready planned on being our lead out man and I don't think anyone wanted to challenge him for that spot. We all gathered for the mandatory pre-race meeting and I began to wonder who we'd be contending with. A strong team from Chicago gave last year's squad a hard run, but we weren't sure if they were back. There were also some strong looking 3 man teams in the running as well. I did manage to find out later that not only were we competing against the other 4 man teams, but the prize for overall winner was open to any team, regardless of numbers. That made for some interesting moments late on Sunday morning, but I'll get back to that.

Finally, we lined up at the start with Jason ready to rock. Per the usual fashion, the start of the race involved a 50 yard LeMans style run to the bike, then pegging the heart rate up the gravel hill to the upper section of singletrack, bombing back down to the start, and then diving into a full lap. Sounds fun, right?! As Kyle pumped the tube until it's bursting point, I held my breath in anticipation. Bang! The tube exploded and a surge of riders dashed towards their bikes. Taylor Webb was leading the pack onto the gravel with Jason and Keith nipping on his heels. Apparently at the base of the hill, Taylor's legs turned to stone and Jason along with a few others motored past. I headed towards the start/finish line to see who would come through the opening section in first. About 10 minutes later, Jason was leading the charge into the first lap and had put us in the lead and was charging into his full lap.

The LeMans start:

With open trail in front of him, he put it to full use and came in with over a minute gap on our next chaser as Nate saddled up and took over the push. He smoked his lap as well and came in with around 2 minutes on the next team. Tom was our 3rd man up and headed out for his pull. The 2nd and 3rd place teams were in full pursuit mode. A team from Peoria was our closest chaser and put in a hard charger for their 3rd rotation. He chased down Tom and was basically sitting on his wheel as we made the exchange for my lap.

I still don't have great legs for the start of any race, but I was determined to make it hurt for both myself and my chaser. We wound our way through the grass track to the entrance of the singletrack. He was sitting just far enough back from my wheel that he wouldn't be in trouble if I bobbled and would slide right by without losing any momentum. I stood hard on the pedals and about the 2nd switchback in I heard it. Some clanking and banging, followed by a few cursory words about a chain. Not sure what was happening for sure behind me, I took this as my cue to pour it all out and go from there. With several laps in my mental bank from the race 2 weeks prior, I felt comfortable letting it hang mostly out on the downhills, keeping my momentum for the short steeps, and downshifting just enough to hammer out of the saddle for the longer climbs.

I hadn't pre-ridden the new section of trail on top of the ski hill that was added, but the reports were that it wasn't overly technical, just rough. Luckily, the reports were right on and I was able to keep some pretty good speed going through this section before bombing back to the start. One thing I had noted was that most people were just cruising along through the grass switchbacks and I decided to employ a different strategy. I hammered them as much as possible and would slam on my brakes at each of the 180's before sprinting down the next lane until I reached the walk point at the check in. A quick cyclocross dismount and run by the scoring table put the lead back into Jason's hands. I managed to turn my lap in 42:45 and was ecstatic since it bested my laps from the XC race even after they'd added in another 1/2 mile+ of length to the course.

Feeling good on the first lap:

The Peoria team had dropped back a few spots with the mechanical costing them about 10 minutes as their rider ran back to the pits and sent another rider out in his spot while he stayed to fix the chain. At this point, I think we were back to a few minutes up on the chasing teams with Keith's team hunting us now. With it looking like the racing would be tight for quite some time to come, we started settling into our rotations. The plans was for each of us to time trial every lap and hopefully continue building whatever gap we could. By first flush, it appeared there weren't any appreciable differences in our lap times versus the other top couple of teams. It seemed to boil down to a mere minute or two per lap and that was all we could hope for.

As the afternoon wore into evening, we focused on staying hydrated and ready for more laps. My 2nd lap came in a shade slower at 43:19, but was still plenty fast for me. I'd set a goal for myself before the race of cranking out 44-45 minute laps during the day and hopefully 50 minute laps at night. The good news was, we were all popping off 43-45 minute laps during the day and would take slightly more than a 10 minute lead into the start of the night lapping. Tom was the first night lapper and headed off a bit after 7 with dusk starting to creep in. He ran about half a lap with his lights on before handing the reigns back to me for my first night lap.

2nd lap took a little more effort:

I had mixed feelings going into this lap. I had good faith in my light setup running a 400 lumen helmet lamp with an 800 bar mounted light. I've been mistaken for a train running loose through single track on more than one occasion! However, my legs were feeling a bit cooked all ready from the 2 hard day laps I'd put in. As I took off on my lap, the cool air, instinct, and something else took over completely. I'm not sure I've ever felt that type of energy surge before. It was absolutely electric as my legs came to life and the thrill of screaming down every descent pumped surges of adrenaline through my body. I was literally giddy with excitement as I screamed into the finish line for my handoff to Jason. The look on my team mates face, matched my own euphoria when we checked it over and I'd ripped off a 43:35 lap IN THE DARK! Between a solid lap from Tom to start the night, my follow up lap, and another fast one from Jason, we had built the lead to 20 minutes.

Taking a breather after my first night lap:

At this point, Nate was feeling pretty good and we decided to break out the double laps in hopes that we could each get some sleep. I hopped into my bunk which I'd set up in the back of the Rassy's truck with a sheet diving the space in halves and my air mattress in the back half.Though sleep wouldn't really come, I managed to get some rest as I tossed and turned listening to both our music and that of the wedding party going on some 100 yards away. I set my alarm for where I thought I'd have about 15-20 minutes before Tom came in and called it good. I got up a few short hours later and checked the time sheet we'd been keeping.

Damn, something had happened and we were back to a scant 11 minute lead. I'd been anticipating that we'd keep opening the gap and we'd be closing in on 30 minutes by the time I was up again. Alas, our luck had slightly run out in the form of some whacked batteries putting Nate in the dark halfway through his 2nd lap. Some forethought on his part though left him with a small commuter light to pick his way through the final parts of the trail. We avoided disaster for sure as losing a complete lap would have been nearly impossible to overcome, but it definitely put some hope back into the legs of our competition. A little hope can be a dangerous thing.

Part 2- the last 12 hours coming shortly

Photo credits to Angy and Tom

Monday, August 31, 2009

Big Creek Road Race report

I wasn't supposed to be racing my bike on a beautiful Saturday morning in October. Oh wait, it was actually August, but I'm sure I can be forgiven for thinking it was a beautiful fall morning with the brilliant sun shining down and the long sleeve temperatures hugging us in their embrace. I was supposed to be piping the drier in our basement to it's new home snuggled against the washer that I'd moved earlier in the week. The rain out of Race like a girl on Thursday night and a thoughtful wife changed my Saturday plans so I could keep my legs sharpened up for my goal race of the summer this coming weekend- 24 hours of 7 oaks.

I was more nervous heading out to this race than I had been pretty much all summer. This would be my first chance mixing it up in a road race, the cat 4's and 5's were to be combined, and I really wanted to avoid meeting the pavement up close and personally. I swallowed my nerves, dropped the money on the table, and grabbed a race number. Only 8 were signed up when I put my name on the list. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all. I went about my pre-race activities and got a short warm up in. I hadn't ridden the course, so I really didn't know if there were any hills to speak of, but a few others informed me it was pretty flat overall. I wasn't sure if that would be a boon or burden to me as the call was made to line up.

Waiting for the start:

Wow, there were a ton of guys lined up. Surely there can't be this many in the 4/5 race. I was wrong. I've heard counts that there were some 50ish of us lined up to take the start of the race. 46 miles in 8 laps with a huge pack and a bunch of nervous bike handlers. Maybe I should drop out the back and ride my own race. That thought repeated several times during the race as we went round and round. We shot off on the first lap and I was sitting somewhere in the middle of a giant swarm. I could see the pack of riders stringing out towards the front and knew I wanted to be somewhere closer to them. However, the first lap wasn't going to be the place to get there.

As we wound our way back through the chip seal park road nearing the end of our first lap, it happened. I think we all knew it would, but were just wondering when and who. Just in front and a couple feet to the right of me, I heard some shouting, some locked up brakes, and the sounds of aluminum and carbon attempting to integrate themselves into new shapes and splinters. Luckily the crash was just far enough right that I flew by uncollected as the pile up gathered a number of guys. I caught a glimpse out of my peripheral vision of the bikes piling up and thought quietly that I hoped everyone was fine. The pack soldiered on and we finished out our lap.

I quickly decided that I needed to be a bit further towards the pointy end of the field and starting picking my way through as best I could. Slowly, I worked into the top 20 or so riders as we started putting on more laps. Though I don't remember seeing it, apparently there was an attack on lap 3 that melted back into the pack pretty quickly, but succeeded in raising our pace to near 26 MPH for that lap as we accelerated to counter. That succeeded in throwing off roughly half the pack and put us closer to 30 riders now in the main group.

Somewhere in the middle laps, I had a few things I noted. At one point, I looked back to see how many were left in the pack only to realized I was tail end charlie so I hightailed it up a few spots lest I be dropped for being an idiot. I also realized that the game of keeping your wheel clear of the other guy was both tiring and not all that much fun. Accelerate, brake, coast, pedal, swerve and repeat. I still was thinking of whether it would be better to drop myself off the back and ride alone or stay in the pack as long as I could.

I honestly never thought much about competing for the win. I wanted to finish the race and be road rash free. However, I'm still a competitive guy and I thought that I might be able to at least sneak a good finish in or possible help out in some small way if any of our team wanted to try to make a move. I stayed with the pack and decided to ride it out.

The last lap was the most fun for me. Having ridden a few Tuesday nights through to the point where some attacks are occurring, I was pretty ready for the biting of the bars that occurs as the pack accelerates out of the corners. On the right hander into the tailwind section, the pack had blasted up to 30+ on every lap as we rounded the corners. I'm in no way, shape, or form a sprinter, so I really have to wind it up and keep the hammer down to not be dropped in these accelerations. As we hit the corner for the last lap, I dug down and prepped for the hard push that I expected to come and to possibly shake a few guys off. The next thing I know, I'm wound up and blowing past the pack and off the front. I hesitated for a second or two wondering what I should do next.

I was pretty sure I didn't have the legs to stay away and didn't have anyone looking like they were going to bridge the gap. I was 50-100 yards out front by this point and still cranking away. I knew I'd be gone if I tried to hold on as the pack would eat me up and spit me out like a piece of gristle as they passed. I engaged my brain at this point, dialed my pace back enough to let my heart rate drop back a bit, and waited. About 10 seconds later, the pack had me, but I had recovered enough to hop right back in and go.

With roughly 1/2 mile to the finish, the pack seemed to solidly into one solid mass. As we tried to adhere to the center line rule, the pack spread from ditch to centerline with no real place to move forward. A line or two moved up on the outside and I grabbed wheels where I could to make my way up. As we came down to the final sprint, we went full road width (is that the way it should be?) and wound it up. I had more or less boxed myself in for the sprint and with my slow wind up, I was still spinning it up as we hit the line. Another 100 yards or so and I think I might have moved up a few more places as I still was accelerating pretty good when we hit the finish. Looking at the photo I stole from Chad (thanks), it appears I'm sitting in 12th across the line which is definitely fine by me. Congrats to team mate Reed on taking the win and Chad on coming in 6th.
Still winding it up (I'm the rider on the left side entering the picture):

I did get some flack for my gut reaction I posted to facebook after the race, so here are a few of my post race thoughts. I was really looking forward to trying my hand at road racing. My fitness is the best it's been, I'm getting good at riding with a pack and knowing where the jumps will be, and I thought maybe we'd get a few team mates into some type of break. The reality was that while I was working hard, I never really redlined it, the biggest excitement was trying not to hit someone or be hit, and my single foolish attack should/could have been a good move if I'd thought to put it together with a couple team mates. I also had enough sense to figure out my foolishness quickly enough that I didn't get dropped, so my tactics are completely lacking. All in all, I ended up a bit on the bored side as I was looking/hoping there would be more excitement and pegging it as we took turns beating on each other. Sure, I'd have most likely been off the back, but that experience also makes you better/stronger in the long run. I guess I had built up road racing to possibly be the end all, be all of racing on the pavement and felt a bit deflated at the end. I'll definitely try it again though and maybe my experience and expectations will help me change my perspective on it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

IMBCS #8 Seven Oaks Rec (Boone)

I'm finding myself to be a bit of a hypocrite lately in that come Monday morning I'm constantly scanning blogs waiting to hear how everyone else's races went and to see their analysis of how they fared on the trail. All the while, I keep putting off writing up my own report. Such is life I guess. Hopefully I'll be able to keep a bit more on top of that. Without further adieu and no more gilding of the lilly, I present you with my race report and my humblest of apologies for delaying my write up.

I raced the beginner's course at Boone last year. I won't lie, it kicked my ass 3 ways from Sunday on the BEGINNER loop. It was my first foray into mountain bike racing and most definitely a trial by fire. I tried to erase the pain from my mind by not even bothering to ride a full lap there last year and waiting until early July before I completed that task. All told, I had 4 full laps of the course under my belt going into the race this year. I was far from dialed in given the technical and challenging terrain, but I have had a pretty good run coming in thus far with this being my 4th race of the year.
This is how I looked last year:
I also was going into this race with a completely untested bike. After an unfortunate incident with baby blue, I had made a huge leap up by going to the Superfly which is a full carbon rig. All the parts were swapped over from my Paragon and I re-cabled the bike as well. I had put 40 pave trail miles on the day before with everything working well and did a short warm up as well, but I knew in the back of my head, something would happen before race end.
The Superfly:

I hit a short warm up on some of this years beginners loop and was rolling pretty well. I popped my tire pressure down a shade more and waited for the line up to begin. The start was to head out to the 2nd ski lift, pull a 180 around it and then jump onto the track laid out on the grass as we wound our way back to the entrance to the single track. Here, as much as anywhere, I knew the better your spot going into the track, the better you'd come out at the end. I've got a whole post dedicated to how much my start abilities need work, but I'll save that for another time. Let's just say for now that they are "lacking" a bit. I somehow weaseled my way in about 10th wheel +/- as we wound our way to the woods. Amazingly, everyone was polite and just stayed in line through the grassy areas. I'm surprised there weren't fistfights trying to get into the track first.

Sure enough, the traffic jamb started instantly inside the track. We'd hammer the flats and then pack ourselves in like sardines up the climbs and switchbacks. The biggest trick was trying to keep my own flow going while not running over the guy in front of me and being mindful that I didn't want to screw the guy behind me either if I went down. As such we walked some switchbacks and had issues in other areas that I knew to be relatively "easy". I had a big oops at the G-drop where the guy stalling out in front of me pushed me off line and into the stump that sits to the inside of the lowest line. I hopped off, let 1 guy by, and shoved my way back in line. After that, things went so-so for a bit as I worked to catch up to another train of guys. The next bad spot was a messed up switchback where I had to unclip, take a sideways hop, and partially landed my foot on the guy behind me's wheel. I felt bad about that and made sure to apologize after the race even though it wasn't anyone's fault and just part of racing.

Somewhere after the first couple of climbs, my chain started making noise. I knew nothing good was going to come of that and just hoped it would hold itself together for the race. I soon found out what the noises meant. I couldn't get into my 32 cog out back and was skipping horribly about halfway through the cassette. I would drop down to my baby ring up front to try and get the right climbing gear and then hop back and forth trying to find a gear in back that the chain would stay in. Soon enough, the problem worsened and spread to the front derailleur. It alternated between dropping my chain from the middle ring to the baby ring on rough descents to skipping halfway between the two rings on the climbs forcing me to play a careful game of guess where the chain in lined up now and jamb the shifters as quick as I could to hopefully slide back into one ring or the other.

Somewhere in the woods:

About 3/4 of the way through the lap, I finally had passed most of the traffic I was dealing with and started settling into a flow. Most of the technical climbs were behind me and with traffic, I'd walked a number of them, but had only let a couple people past and passed a few as well so I figured I was still sitting about 10th wheel. Before I knew it, the first lap was done and I was hauling the mail down the back of the pond towards the start/finish line.
Flying downhill:

As I crossed the grassy area, I spun my shift adjuster all the way out trying to get as much tension on the cable as possible. I figured it was my only chance at getting anywhere near being able to shift normally for the second lap. Luckily, my plan worked to a certain extent and I could shift somewhat better through the rear gears as I started lap two. By now I had only a couple guys in my sites as I entered the woods and wasn't in any real danger of running over them too quickly. As the lap wore on, I still felt pretty good, but my knees were starting to ache from climbing in too big of a gear since I still couldn't shift to the combo I really wanted. At one point, I came past Jim Logan walking a hill which I found to be pretty odd considering how well he'd been riding and usually kicking my butt.

I came around and kept moving on this lap. With traffic pretty much gone, I was able to clear a lot more of the trail this time through. However, my lap 1 effort was catching up and I wasn't holding the best lines and subsequently couldn't clean some of the areas. As I passed a few more riders that the course was having it's way with, I noted Jim had hopped back up to my wheel. I knew he probably wasn't going to be there for long. As I tired further, my bad line choice about snakebit me. On a fast downhill right hand sweeper, I went out too wide. I got into the loose soil next to the built up edge of the trail and saw the tire start to slide and turn out from under me. I pitched forward and knew I was headed over the bars. At the last second, something caught, the bike squirted around and I was back on my seat scarcely believing what had just happened. At this point, I think Jim knew he'd better get around me quick or risk becoming a part of the carnage.

Sure enough, he was ready to go and I pointed him by as we rounded behind the paintball field. A few more turns and he was all ready out of site. The rest of the lap was relatively uneventful, but I could feel the pounding my back was taking as I hammered the roots at speed. I kept up the pace on the downhills and really felt pretty good about them as I finished things out. One more sprint down the pond dam and I rounded the corner to home. 3rd place in the sport open class with a 7th place overall out of 42 starters. I was pretty happy with that finish and am looking forward to more laps during the 24 hour race.

I think there's a bike in there somewhere:

Special thanks to Angy for shooting pics at all of these races and giving me something worthwhile for you to look at !

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

IMBCS #2 Ingawanis Race Report

IMBCS #2 was originally supposed to happen much earlier in the season. Due to some torrential rains this spring, the course was pretty well washed out the week before the race. I'd heard good things about this course after last year's race and was looking forward to the challenge. The north side was supposed to be full of a lot of good climbing while the south end had more fast and flowy singletrack with some good climbing still in the mix. The north side was closed out due to logging this year leaving us entirely on the south side.
I picked up Kurt and his girlfriend Mindy to do a bit of ride sharing considering we were a 2.5 hour drive away from the race. We got up there in plenty of time to relax, do a recon lap, and get ready to race. After my recon lap, I knew the race would be fun, but also fast and painful. Just 1 day back from Colorado, I wasn't sure how my legs would react, but I was ready to put them to the test. Passing would be tough for at least a good chunk of this course so the holeshot was again going to probably be a deciding factor.
I knew Keith would be hitting it hard trying to get into the woods first and I should do what I could to hang on his wheel since he's been riding hard this year. We lined up and I was sitting nicely on the front row again. I'm not sure if there's a specific consideration on where you line up, but I haven't had anyone chastise me yet for lining up towards the front. We started out on the gravel road with a shallow climb and about a 1/4 mile to string things out before diving into the woods. Once the starter pistol went off, we were hammering. Sure enough, Keith got his holeshot, sliding sideways onto the camp entrance road and hammering up to the woods. I wasn't too far back sitting about 4th wheel until the last 100 or so yards before we hit the woods. I let up just a little and 3 or 4 people shot past putting me back a bit further than I wanted.

Early in lap 1:

The train got moving pretty quickly with 5 of us bunched up while the first 3 shot off the front. I knew it was going to be a hard chase to run any of those guys down and was chomping at the bit to get some passing done. My legs were all ready running me into the red, but I still felt good since it was lap 1. At the open section I couldn't really get my speed up enough to pass anyone, but knew there was another opening coming soon. We were hauling the mail up the climbs. I remember noticing the dirt seemingly shooting out from under the rear tire of the guy in front of me as he powered the climbs. Even more than that, I was actually holding his wheel up the climbs.
Powering the rock climb on lap 1 or 2:
In the 2nd open section, I put the hammer down as most of the guys sat up just a shade to grab a drink. It was getting toasty back in the woods even though the temps were relatively low. I ended up leading the train at this point and just pushed myself really deep into the red trying to open any type of gap. Most of that lap is a blur as I was pretty well cross-eyed with effort pouring everything I had out. I managed to open a gap on a few of the chasers, but still had some guys pretty hot on my wheel as we hit lap 2.
On lap 2 I knew I had to back down or blow up completely. I finally started downing some liquids and let a couple guys by so as to not hold them back. I think I passed another rider or two at this point as well. Looking at it now, it seems for the most part that after lap 1, you're pretty well set into where you're going to finish out within a spot or two unless something drastic happens. I wonder if this holds true for most people? I spent the rest of lap 2 in recovery mode trying to keep the pace high, but hopefully rest up from the pain of lap 1. By the end of the lap, I'd at least consumed enough liquid and paced it out that I could turn the screws back up on the effort for the final lap.
Flying down the g-out:

Lap 3 I was ready to hit it hard again. I didn't have anyone immediately around me, but could catch glimpses of people both in front and behind. Slowly, I started to real another rider in. I finally caught his wheel and rode it for just a bit as I recovered from the effort. I passed him only to realize it was a 60+ expert racer so no real advancement in my own class. I put the pressure back on the pedals and did my best to use the 3 total laps I had under my belt to work the lines and let loose on the downhills. My Colorado trip was at least repaying me through more aggressive downhilling as I was able to really roll through here.
I focused mostly on keeping my tempo even along with my heart rate on lap 3 since I didn't seem to be in any danger of catching or be caught. I made sure to clean all of the loose sandy corners that were threatening on every lap to catch someone unaware. For the final time I had to ride the rough new section of trail for the finish and then I was done. I finished out 7th in the sport open class. I was pretty happy with the effort and result.
Nearing the end:

Finish time:
Looking back, post race, I think I gave up a position or two by letting too many riders get by as we neared the entrance to the woods. A little more effort getting to the woods probably would have made for a little less effort in the woods. I still need to think more about it being ok to get passed rather than having to do the passing. I'm sure that will come as I can better assess my overall fitness and skill level in comparison to other riders in my class.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My own Breck epic- day 3 and 4

On day 3 in Breck we listened to the rain come down most of the night and by morning it wasn't looking much better with a cold drizzle falling off and on. There appeared to be some fresh snow on a few peaks as well. With the day essentially shot for riding, we decided to head over to the Coors Brewery in Golden for a tour. After stalling and repeated stops and starts we finally headed out late morning for the hour drive over. Lunch was the first order of business with some pretty decent Chinese at a great price. I think it was the cheapest meal we ate all week. After lunch, it was on to the tour.

Here's the only time during the week that I really needed my ID (and wanted it as well). My sob story didn't do much to convince the seemingly sympathetic gal at the check in desk and I was denied the wrist band that allows for 3 tasty beverages upon completion of the tour. We grabbed our electronic tour guides and quickly wandered our way through the halls of the brewery before we were finally dumped out into the sampling area. I sipped my root beer as the rest of our crew took turns downing a couple brews. Luckily one kind soul didn't want all of his sampling and scored me 1 free drink, so all was not lost.

After the brewery, we decided to hike around downtown Golden for a bit and check out the various bike shops. We wandered into 3 shops and only 1 gave off a friendly vibe as we pondered the various goods they were showcasing. We headed back to Breck and found our way to Empire Burger for some seriously good grub at dinner time. Being Taylor's birthday we weren't quite done at that point and headed out to see if we could kill some time in various drinking establishments. The first bar was your basic hole in the wall and after some creepy vibes from an overly friendly drunk, I was glad we headed out. The second bar had a much better scene with a lot of younger people doing the beer pong thing as we looked on. I even managed to score a few games of pool to blow the dust off my skills. By that time, we needed to wind down the evening in hopes of hitting it hard on our last day with Andy playing tour guide.

We met Andy at the gondola parking lot at the prescribed time. It was chilly out and we weren't quite sure what the day had in store for us with regards to weather, saddle time, or routing so we were all pretty much loaded for bear at that point.

Friday morning dawned bright and chilly.
The first route we were taking would have us hitting the Colorado trail until it met up with Peaks trail where we'd downhill back into Frisco. The nice thing about Colorado is that even when its in the 40's in the morning, you can turn up hill at any given time and build a lot of heat quickly. Sure enough, Andy routed us straight up as we headed towards Peaks trail. We started out in the rolling meadows and pine needle single tracks.
Meadow riding at the start:
As per our typical mode of riding, the higher we got, the rockier it got. Pretty soon, Andy and I were mostly off the front and grunting up a few power climbs littered with rocks. I was feeling good and upped the tempo just slightly riding off the front. We regrouped a few times along the climb. I stopped at the top of this rock garden feeling pretty good about cleaning it to snap a few shots of the guys grunting their way through.
Rock garden action:
Enjoying the climb:
Once to the top of the mountain, we connected back into the downhill section of Peaks trail where the rider had attempted to kill me on day 1. Knowing the trail a bit better this time, we all gained some speed on the descent and had a blast as we flew down the trail. Even the steps were no surprise this time and led to some serious grins all around as we hit Frisco. Our choices were pretty open at this point, but we could see that some weather would soon be upon us.
We opted to hit the paved trail around Dillon Reservoir and into Keystone so Andy could show us some of his home base stomping grounds in the form of the Red Trail. The paved trail was pretty cool with going across the dam and getting some good views of the reservoir.
Going across the dam:
As we worked our way through Keystone and started up the Red Trail, we were met by the most biker's we'd seen all week (other than on paved trails). It was some type of junket for bike mags that appeared to be sponsored by Giant as they were all riding some full suspension variant of Giant. All told there were 20 some riders headed down as we were coming up. We hit some pretty sweet spots along here including some great sidehilling action that was good for a pucker factor.
Alas, the weather wasn't going to hold forever and we started to get rained on. We made a pit stop in the cover of some pines and broke out our rain gear along with some food.
Rain break #1:
From here, we continued on up the hill which was now a bit more slick with the rain having soaked the trail. At least it was still ridable and we weren't tearing things up which wouldn't have been the case here in Iowa. We continued up and the rain let up on us as we hit some spots pretty similar to our climbs on the Burro trail with sections of nothing but rock punctuated with flatter sections of dirt and rock. We finally started hitting rain again and the decision was made to head back down as it looked like it was going to be set in for a while.
Posing somewhere along the trail:
As we started our downhill, the rain picked up to a pretty steady downpour. I quickly noted that the cheaper raincoat I'd decided to bring today did not have waterproof sleeves and my arms were soon soaked and shivering. Now we had what I can only describe as one of the most unforgettable moments of the whole trip. The rain was pouring on us and we were descending like a group of madmen down the mountainside. The rain was running down the center of the trail in the exact line that we most wanted to take. We rode the rain line and hoped that there were no hidden rocks, sticks, or other nasties waiting to throw us headlong into the woods. My adrenaline level soared as we went further and further down before we were finally spit out on the trail in one piece. We did come across one guy just after the downhill that needed a bit of help as he was on his 2nd flat repair of the day.
Helping out:
By this point, we were all a bit on the muddy side and getting pretty cold so we opted off the dirt and onto the road descent the rest of the way to Highway 9. We hit some pretty fast speeds as we wound our way down the tarmac and towards the paved trail back to Breck. Once we hit the trail and knew we were closing in on home, it was time to smile again.
Muddy but happy:

We found our way back to town and started the packing process. The bikes were coated with a nice layer of grime and grit so we hosed them down before loading them up for the trip home.

Ready for a bath:

We rounded up all our gear and got it loaded up for the long drive home. Taylor, Kyle and I were headed out that afternoon while Chuck and Kurt opted to stay overnight before heading back. We all made our way over to Empire burger for some additional refueling before hitting the road. One long ass drive and we were back in the 515 about the time the sun was dawning on a new day. I had an unforgettable time and it was made all the better sharing it with some great friends. Thanks guys!