Sunday, October 29, 2006

Month of Mud - 7 Springs final race

Final Month of Mud race - Seven Springs - snow covered trails, turning to slush and mud -1:33.58 11th place beginner - 4th place beginner in overall series ;)

Almost didn't go to this race. The day before it snowed at home. Though it melted, I knew that at 7 Springs, with its altitude, the snow wouldn't have melted. After much interal discussion, I realized I didn't really have a good reason not to go.

The entire drive up there was no snow, not until I was about 2 miles from the resort. I looked up and saw the snow-covered slopes, ah well. I pulled into the parking lot, and got out of the car to temerpatures in the 30s and strong winds.

Joe pulled in shortly afterward, and we went out for a warm-up ride. Unfortunately the temperature had risen to abou 34 degrees, just enough for all of the snow to start melting - creating a slushy, muddy mess. But at least the winds were strong.

Mike and Terri pulled in. They had come to watch and cheer us on. And they had their cameras!

We lined up for the race, and off we went. The start was a little different than last year's. The course started up a climb, which helped spread us out, and then into the woods. As usual, the sprint off the line is not my strength, and I found myself bringing up the rear.

The trail took some single track that wound its way through the woods at the top of the mountain. It was muddy, but somewhat firm underneath. In a couple of miles, I caught the first couple of riders. Their tires were not designed for the mud, which was to my advantage. I passed some people, and they passed me.

About half way through the first lap, I realized I was doing much better than the year before. I was able to ride sections I had to walk the previous year. I then entered the rock garden section. My bike handled this section really well, and I cleared both major rock gardens, passing several people.

As the first lap was nearing its end, it heads uphill back to the parking lot. I was thinkning to myself that I would never be able to do a second lap. The mud, wet, cold, and strong wind was really starting to take its toll. As I got near the end of the first lap, Mike and Terri were there cheering me on; it was a good motivator. But then I had to ride past my car. Oh, how I wanted to just stop and get a hot coffee.

But I continued on to the second and final lap. After the initial climb, I came out on the flats and saw a rider ahead of me. I entered the downhill section and just completely let the bike fly. As the hill leveled out and re-entered the woods, I passed the slower rider. It seemed to surprise him that he got passed. I kept in front of him for about a mile, but I could see he was determined to catch me. About a 100 yards later he did. The trail headed uphill through a bunch of rocks and mud, and he gave it everything he had to pass me. I had to jump off the bike and run it up the hill. But unfortunately for him, he used up all his energy. In less than half a mile I caught him again, and this time I passed him for good. I could see by the look on his face that he was done.

As I exited the woods and took the trail around a small pond, I was almost blow in to the water by the strong winds. I had to literally lean sideway in the wind so that I could pedal. The rest of the lap went fairly smoothly. The mud had taken all energy out of my legs. I passed a couple people, some passed me.

I finished, and was really glad there wasn't a third lap. Got cleaned up and went into the lodge for the award presentations as this was the last race of the series. Joe got second place in sport class, and got lots of great swag: helmet, camelback, tires, and lots of other stuff. First place in juniors won a bike! Then they announced the overall series winners for beginners.

"In fourth place, mostly because he rode enough races, and with no prizes, is..." Yep, I won fourth place overall. Not because I finished very well in any of the series, but because I was one of only four people in my division that raced at least four races. So even though my total points were lower than a lot of others, I still claimed fourth place. When retelling this story, I don't mention all of those details, lol.

Well, this concluded another Month of Mud series. As always, the races are fun, very well organized, and a very relaxed but competitive atmosphere. I can't wait for next year! And by then I'll be in the old man's division. Less people to lose too ;)

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Month of Mud - Brady's Run

1:35.32 - 13th place beginner class

This was my first race last year, and to say it was muddy would be quite an understatement. This year the weather was perfect fall weather. I pulled in and saw Joe. We went out for a warm up ride; everything went well until I tried to do some short sprints. A chain link was bent, and there were 5 minutes before the race began. Tried to straighten it out, but only marginally successful. And only the day before the chain had ran perfectly, oh well.

Lined up for the prologue lap, and off we went. Headed up the hill after the lap around the parking lot. Got up the first steep fire road pretty well, and went along the ridge for about a mile. Then we had to hang a really sharp right and begin the really steep hills. I'm not sure if anyone rode up without getting off the bikes. Mud, steepness, and a lot of riders were all hindrances. On my way up I saw Billy on the side with a broken chain. Found out later that he dq'ed. Because of my chain problems I had to stay in a really easy gear, as any real pressure really made the chain skip, and could break the chain quite easily.

Pushed my bike to the top, and jumped back on. The course, once you're on top, is really a fun course. Lots of winding trails, ups and downs, and a variety of log crossings. I found myself cleaning every log crossing I came to. A feat I was not able to do the year before. Having ridden the course before helped, as did the new bike.

My lower back cramping as usual had another surprise awaiting it. I had to go off the trail to get around a rider with mechanical problems. At which point I got stung. And guess where? Yep, right on the lower back where I cramp. Talk about adding insult to injury. The pain was intense for about 10 minutes, but luckily a later sting on my calf distracted me from my back pain for a bit.

So, I was passing some people, some were passing me, not going too badly. I then recognized we were coming to the end of the first 6 mile loop. I remembered a great downhill section from the previous race. I could see the guy in front of me that I had been trying to catch for miles, and I was hoping that he didn't know the course. As soon as the trail headed downhill, I let off the brakes and let my 5 inches of travel take care of the rest. I quickly passed the rider on the left going at a much higher pace.

We then started back on the lower ridge for lap two. He slowly caught me, and was drafting for about a mile. I think I could've held him off, but I was burning a lot of energy. Once we hit the first big hill again, I had to get off and stretch my back from the cramping. He passed me then.

Over the next miles I kept him in sight, but finally all of the hills took their toll. I ended up pushing my bike up quite a number of hills, that had I been fresh, wouldn't have been any trouble. A goal to work on for next year.

I hit the downhill section again, but never did catch up to the rider. Finished the race farther back than I would've guessed. I think my inability to get near the front of the pack at the beginning of the race really hurts me. It is extremely hard for me to close the gap on people.

But, I had fun, the chain didn't break, and the weather was great! I think Joe got 4th in the sport class.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Month of Mud - Grove City

Time: 47:42 (3 laps) 16th place in beginner class

Drove up to Grove City and parked. It was rather cold and wet, but it is called the Month of Mud. Signed in, and having never done a cyclocross rode around the course a bit and watched the experts' race. First thing I noticed was that most people had what looked like road bikes, but with slightly bigger tires and odd looking handlebars. The race looked like a road race, but then they turned in to the woods where suddenly there were some boards in the way. They dismounted, picked up their bikes, quickly ran over the 2 sets of boards and smoothly mounted their bikes and took off racing again. As I would soon find out, it was not as easy as it looked.

Met up with Joe B., we rode around a bit to warm up, and then the race was to begin. I was racing beginner, Joe racing sport - but they started both of our classes together. I started near the back of the pack since I had never done this type of race before, and unfortunately remained there quite a while. The race starts down a road and after a couple hundred yards takes a hard right into the woods. This is where the boards were set up. I dismounted smoothly enough, got over the boards somewhat quickly, and then jumped back on my bike. Unluckily I was not as smooth as the expert class as I promptly crushed all kinds of sensitive areas of my anatomy. Then my foot missed the pedal, so all of my weight stayed on the saddle, ouch. I guess there is a method to remount the bike quickly and smoothly - I have yet to find it.

Through the woods and onto some baseball fields. The trail followed along the outfield areas and a quick right into "ditch" with some more of the boards. I was able to pass some people here as some tried to ride the ditch and ended up eating some mud. Trail continued around the ballfields, down a gravel road, and back into the woods. Passed some people in the woods as it was really muddy and the cyclocross bikes were not really made for muddy, rocky trails. Back on to the road and up some small hills to finish lap one.

We were told that it was a four lap race, but if someone lapped you, you would be done at the end of that lap. So lap one was done, I was a bit tired and decided to pace myself so that I would be able to go all out on the last lap. The second lap went smoothly but passed only two people, and a bunch passed me - experts I was hoping.

Third lap was tiring, but I felt pretty good, saving energy for the last lap. On this lap Joe and the guy he was racing from the sport division passed by me on their fourth lap. I stayed with them for a little bit which helped me with my pacing.

I finished the third lap, and was ready to give it my all. That's when the race coordinator told me I was done and was to pull over. I found a guy I had raced with in other races and asked him if the race guys had made a mistake. Nope. We were lapped - but by a sport rider. I had assumed that if a beginner racer passed me that's when I would be done, but they said if any beginner or sport rider lapped us.

Well, I learned a lot and know that next year I will have to ride all out for the first three laps and if no one laps me I can slow down the fourth lap if needed. Ah well, live and learn.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Month of Mud - Bavington

Time: 1:00.50 - 11th place in beginner class

Month of Mud is a local race series. About 5 or 6 races, competitive but low-key. I did the series last year and was just hoping to do better than I did then. I had not been able to make the Bavington race last year.

I've ridden at Bavington, but as I was to find out I had not ridden on these specific trails. Got to the race early. It was about 60 degrees; good riding conditions. I took a warm-up ride to get a feel for the trail. I rode the first couple of miles and liked what I saw. Mostly rolling hills through pine forests. Muddy but not too bad. I was able to figure out some good lines through the mud.

With about 15 minutes till the start of the race, I made it back to the car just in time for the rain to come pouring down on our heads. I ducked in the car and waited out the 15 minute downpour. The announcement was made that the race was to begin, and I made my way to the start line. Once there I met up with Dave B., Billy, and Joe B. They were racing sport; I was racing beginner.

I knew this race was to be a time trial type of race, but the guys filled me in on what was bad news for me. Each racer was released one minute after each other. Beginner class was the next to last class to be released. Hence another hour to sit around and talk to different riders. I also got to watch the expert riders finish the race. They were mud from head to toe. Looked like it would be an interesting race after all.

Finally it was my turn. The guy before me was released and I was ready to go at the start line. Suddenly it was time to go. I started up the first hill which I had made easily in the warmup, before the rain. That was before the rain. This time I was suddenly off my bike, running it the rest of the way up the hill. The trail was definitely muddier, but overall not really too bad.

I took off as fast as I could, hoping that I would quickly catch the rider in front of me. From the looks of him, it looked as if it were his first race, and he did not look race ready. I rode and rode up and down the rolling hills, sliding here and there but overall doing well - for me.

Suddenly I saw the rider in white ahead of me. He was about three turns ahead, it had taken about 20 minutes for me to get this first glimpse. This motivated me somewhat to keep up my speed, but what really motivated me was the squeal of brakes that I heard behind me. As I rounded a turn I could see behind me a rider in a red shirt trying to close in on me. His speed seemed pretty aggressive.

I continued to pedal as quickly as I could, be he kept closing in on me. Heading down a hill that had a turn at the base caught me off guard, and I was quickly off the trail. The red shirt rider passed me before I could get back on the trial. I jumped on and took off after him. After a couple hundred of yards, I started closing in on the rider. I think that he had used a lot of energy to catch me, but couldn't sustain it. Not much later he too went off the trail after taking a bad line through the mud.

I took advantage and rode the bike hard trying to stretch out my lead. Pretty soon I saw the rider in white ahead of me again. I was closing in on him, but I could also hear the squeaky brakes behind me.

I caught the guy in white on a steep hill. He was off his bike pushing, he was weak. I quickly passed him. Ok, so I was pushing my bike too. My idea here was to get by him as quickly as I could, push as hard as possible so that when the guy in red caught the guy in white, I'd be nowhere to be seen. I ran my bike up the hill past white shirt got to the top, jumped on the bike and rode with all that I had for about a full two minutes. That doesn't sound like a long time, but in a mountain bike race it is.

I settled in to an easier pace and could not hear the squeaky brakes behind me. Finally settle in to a good pace for the rolling hills. Lots of great single track blurred by. A couple of hills that I had to hike the bike up. Caught a couple more true beginners on a winding hill through an impressive looking field of tall grasses.

Back in to the woods I went. The final part of the course had a lot of logs laying across the trail. None of them very big, so with the full suspension, it hardly slowed me down. I passed another person who got stuck on some of the logs. Soon though I could hear someone catching me. The rider behind me kept getting closer, until I could tell he was only feet behind me. Usually in this situation I would ride to the side to let him pass, but this race I was making pretty good time, and I was going to make him earn the pass around me.

After quite a bit of trail, the rider yelled that he was going to pass where the trail took a little split. Only as he was passing did I see that it was a junior rider. Sheesh, I would've let him pass me miles ago since he was not in my class, and his time wouldn't affect me at all. All this time I had assumed it was red shirt. The upside was that I had kept a higher pace than I would've otherwise.

Shortly after I was passed, I once again heard the squeal of the brakes of red shirt slowly closing in. According to the the guys I had talked to, I knew I was near the end of the race. Soon enough I shot down a short steep hill on to the gravel road. Red shirt not far behind. Knowing that this was the home stretch, I gave it my all one final time. I rode in my big gear till I didn't think I could pedal anymore. Red shirt couldn't catch me as I crossed the finish line.

I finished in 1:00.50 in 11th place. I was only a few minutes behind the riders in front of me. Had my lower back not given me trouble, and had I pre-ridden the course, I think I could've finished in the top 5. This course fit my riding style more than most of the courses, there were no really long climbs. It was a great time, and a great way to start off the Month of Mud series. And it was the first time in a race that I actually felt like I competed a bit, rather than just rode the course to finish it near the back of the pack. Looking forward to the next race in the series.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Tour de Strongland

Time 1:38 (flat tire)

Last year, this was my first mountain bike race ever. This year I had a new bike (heavier but with more suspension travel) and I had ridden more than ever. I was excited to see how I would do.

The week before the race I drove to Apollo to do a pre-ride. I ran into a couple that were mountain biking and asked if I could tag along. They ended up being the two race course setters. Though they were older than me, they kicked my butt as I tried to stay within shouting distance of their bikes.

The day of the race I arrive to the race course about an hour early. Register and get a warm up ride in. Right before the beginning of the race, it rains for about 15 minutes. Just long enough to make all of the rocks slick.

This year the experts took off, and we intermediates went about 10 minutes later. As we all took off from the starting line, I realize quickly that the pace is too much for me. But having ridden the trail the week before, I know it's okay.

I keep a steady pace the first mile which is on a gravel road. The course then goes up a short steep hill, and a few people are walking their bikes up the hill because of a couple of new riders that misjudged the hill. This allows me to move closer to the main pack.

The trail then winds and crosses a creek. I do no better with the creek this year than I did last year - I mistakenly pick a line through the deep water. Exit the other side and continue on. Keeping a steady but not too fast pace, I finally catch the main pack in under a mile. My strategy paid off.

The trail now winds its way up through very rocky woods. The hillside and adjoining ridges were at one time an active mine. Did I mention it was really rocky?

Slowly I make up some time, passing about six riders as they hesitated at some of the wood and stone bridges. The obstacles look intimidating, but are surprisingly very ridable.

I'm now starting to feel warmed-up, and pick up the pace a little bit. I then pass another rider who is stranded on the side of the trial fixing a flat tire. The poor sucker, I think to myself laughing. Ah but I've cursed myself. In 100 feet, I realize I too have a flat. I pull off to the side trying to change the tire as quickly as possible. Nineteen minutes later, I'm ready to go. Grrrrr. I can't believe it took me that long, and because I was rushing I don't feel like I got any kind of rest.

At this point I realize I have no chance at finishing anywhere near the main pack. So I ride the rest of the ride as quickly as possible, but never caught anyone else.

I finished in 1:38, but would've been 19 minutes faster without the flat. I rode much better than the prior year. I was in better shape, and my bike and five inches of suspension front and rear handled the course much better. Because I rode at a faster pace, my right lower back was screaming, but I'm starting to become accustomed to it.

I still haven't received the race results, which is what happened last year too. Interested to see where I would've finished.

edit: results received: 1:38.40 Master winner did it in 1:00, 2nd place 1:08, third 1:10 (without a flat, I perhaps might have placed fourth)

Monday, May 29, 2006

Training Log

Deer Lakes Loop 4.76 miles - interval training

5-29-06 41 minutes (3 rests)

ridetime: 35 min.

avg speed 7.8

6-7-063 36:51 (3 rests)

ridetime: 32

avg speed 6.59

6-13-06 34:27 (1 rest)

other details not available

7-27-06 30 min. approx. (1 brief rest) - all middle chain ring!!

ridetime 24:49

avg. speed 6.72

8-17-06 32:45 (2 brief rest)

ridetime 31:43

avg. speed 9.25

32 minutes

30 minutes (actually timed with a real stopwatch for a change, done with dos niner)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

WVMBA - Tour de Lake

The Tour de Lake race was in Spencer, W.V. It was a 3.5 hour drive down, but I listened to Harry Potter, and it went quickly. Arrived about an hour and a half early. Pre-rode about 4 miles of the trail to warm up. Trail seemed fairly dry in spite of the rain the last several days. The race would be 18 miles. I knew this was about 6 miles more than I was used to, and with the hills in West Virginia, I knew I was in for a challenge.

We all lined up on the dirt road near the parking lot. The experts in front, sport next, and beginners behind us. Experts went off, and then two minutes later we went. The race started on an old paved road and quickly went up a twisting very steep climb. Because of the pre-ride, I actually passed a few people up this climb as I knew which gear was good for me. The road then leveled out as it went through another parking lot. I then took a hard right and went up another steep climb, not on dirt. Many people were off their bike immediately. But I got right behind another rider and we both rode 3/4 of the hill, passing many people. I was feeling really good and quite impressed with myslef - this would be shortlived. Pushed the bike for a little bit, then jumped back on.

The trail went through some fields before diving back into the woods for some single track. Again the preride paid off as there were a number of logs and small bridge/ramps to go over. I got through this section pretty quickly and had a nice pace going. And then... down I went. Trying to ride over some roots that slanted from right to left down the incline of the hill, my bike just slid right off. I jumped back up, but about four people rode past me. Back on the bike, I continued on.

Unfortuantely I slipped about a half dozen more times, each time falling and letting racers go past me. I was hoping that I would be able to pass some riders soon. Then I saw a rider off his bike. He was in one of the "gulley" that we had to ride through. These gulleys basically went down steep into where small streams were coming off the hilltops. We then had to make a sharp turn and quickly back up a short steep climb. Many peope were mis-negotiating the gulley, myself included. As I passed the rider, I asked if he was ok. He said his day was one, he had broken his seatpost. He was stading there with seat in hand. I thought what a horrible thing, just start your race and within the first five miles your race day was done. Later in the race, I would wish that I could've been that guy.

The good news: with my new stem my back problems were rather minimal. The bad news: I continued to slip, slide, and wreck on the slippery roots. Each time, riders would go by. The first lap was about 10-12 miles long, but it was feeling as if it were 50 miles. The single track just kept going and going. About mile 7, I had an epiphany. The reason I was slipping so much was probably because I had too much air in my tires. The high pressure was allowing me to ride faster on the smooth fast sections, but unfortunately there weren't a lot of those sections. I pulled over and let some air out of the tires. The roots were not much of a problem after that. Hard lesson learned.

As the race continued, I rarely saw a rider. Luckily that meant no one was passing me, but I was not catching up to anyone. Finally I head downhill into a clearing and see the boy scouts there with water. I didn't really need the water as I had pre-hydrated the last two days, but it at least looked as if the scouts weren't packing up to leave, so I knew I wasn't the last one to go through.

Quickly the trail headed back into the woods and up a very steep hill. Exhausted, I pushed my bike to the top. I then jumped back on my bike and continued on. The trail continued to go on forever. Occasionally I thought I had gotten on the wrong trail, but I'd see the markers and realize I was still on track. Several times I had to get off my bike to push over logs or up steep inclines. Twice I got really light-headed from the exertion that the course demanded.

Finally! I caught up to another rider. I had seen him way off in the distance, and finally passed him. He looked as if he were about to collapse. I knew exactly how he felt.

I started seeing people on the race course watching for riders. I knew I must be at the end of the first lap. I descended a little technical section which dumped me on the finish line chute. I had taken a wrong turn somewhere, I should've ended up back near the original parking lot to do my second lap. I rode to the finish line and told one of the judges. He looked at his watch. I'm not sure you have time to do the second lap, he informed me. I checked my stopwatch. It had take my 1:45 to do the first 10 miles. I had 8 more miles to go, which would've taken me another hour and a half (perhaps two hours as my pace had dropped significantly). With the advice of the race official, I decided to end my race right there.

I was somewhat disappointed that I didn't complete the race, but there were many factors: my pace had dropped quite a bit (I realized later this was due to all of the early wrecks, they had taken so much out of me, but I hadn't realized it), it was starting to rain, it was getting late in the afternoon and I still had a long ride home, and I had gotten lightheaded twice. I think it was the smart choice, but it didn't prevent me from being disappointed.

Lessons learned. I need to get a new floor pump so that I can tell what my tire pressure is. On slick days I need to run lower pressure to increase my tire traction. Wrecks take a lot out of you, physically. Even though I never really got hurt from the spills, my energy had been sapped. I need to ride more intervals. I have the endurance to ride the miles, but I don't have the leg power to keep a fast pace. I really belong in beginner division, but I am glad I'm in sport, it's forcing me to ride harder than I would no my own.

My real goal are the races coming in the fall. So I need to take all of these early lessons, and apply them to the month of mud series.

Anyway, the race series in W.V. has been a blast. Very nice people, races are well-organized and run efficiently, and I have learned a tremendous amount.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

WVMBA - Tomlinson Run

This week's race was at Tomlinson Run State Park. Not far from where I used to work, Linsly Outdoor Center.

Picked my bike up from the shop on the Saturday before the race. They had to fix my rear pivot, dang bike is a lot of problems. Good news, Gary Fisher will be sending me a new rear triangle! Anyway, had to test out pivot and shifting, did a quick five miles around North Park. All seemed to be good, but I was going slow. Found out they had "adjusted" my rear disc brake; it had been rubbing the whole ride. Adjusted it, all good.

Sunday morning out of the house by around 8:30 and arrived at Tomlinson around 9:30. Registered and then noticed that the race director was an old client from the outdoor center. Small world. Warmed up a little bit, went to pre-race meeting, and then to starting line.

The premise: sport riders would have 75 minutes to complete as many laps as possible. If you crossed the line at 74 minutes, you could go ahead and do another lap. If you crossed at 75.01, you were done.

Experts started, and then we sport riders were released one minute later. The start was about a 400 yard spring on pavement before going uphill into some single track. As we approached the single track an expert rider went down hard, blowing out his front tire. What a horrible start for him.

We all got jammed into the single track, and we were off our bikes pushing already. The first part of the race was a gradual 1/2 mile uphill. I rode most of it, but had to get off occasionally for traffic jams and muddy conditions. Trail leveled off and then shortly went uphill again.

Huff, huff, off pushing the bike up some steep muddy hills. Some people passing me, and me passing some people. Lots of people taking spills. I was now happy that I had put on my mud tires. They were heavy, but I had no problem with traction on the downhills. A lot of the spills were from people who had left their race tires on.

Some nice descents, not very technical, and not much room to pass. Dump on to a paved road, and then back up hill into the woods. Over some homemade bridges. Not too slick, surprisingly. Another good downhill and then onto a longer stretch of pavement.

That's when it hit me. My back was not hurting (well not too much)! I had raised my handlebars a bit and moved my saddle up. What a nice surprise. Back into single track along a creek. I knew we were coming to the finish line soon. Short steep uphill, and then to the finish line. I crossed and looked at my watch. Grrr, my stopwatch had accidentally been stopped.

I estimated that I did the first lap in 37 minutes. To be able to do a third lap, I would have to finish my second lap in 38 minutes, I think. I decided to push it as hard as I could.

The start of the second lap went pretty well. Made it up some hills I hadn't been able to the first lap. But I was tired!! Pushing the bike up the steep hills was taking a toll. About half way through the experts began passing me. One expert rode beside me for a while. A couple of logs came. I pulled up my front wheel, and then my rear wheel, losing a little bit of speed. The expert had instead just jumped his whole bike over the logs in one "hop," losing no time at all. I stayed with him on the descent, and the he easily pulled away on the next hill. I'm getting better, but I don't have close to enough power.

Halfway through an older rider passed me, a short bit later I passed him. It went on this way for miles. We had similar pace, so we stayed together most of the second lap. We dumped out on the second stretch of road and I pulled away from him. Quickly though, he passed me easily. I found out later he was 65, and an avid road rider. What an inspiration.

Toward the last two miles I saw a rider ahead of me. I worked hard over the next half mile to catch him. One mile to go, and I was right on his tail. I had been overtaking people on the descents, and I knew one was coming up. We passed a picnic grove moved into the trees and then suddenly he did a U turn. He missed the trail, and I had been so focused on staying with him, I missed it also. Grrrr.

Back into the woods and up the short steep hill to the finish. Finished right behind the "lost" rider. But then they told me to pull over, I had just missed the 75 minute cut-off. I really knew it would be hard to do the second lap as quickly as needed. But I felt good that I had given it my all. And after all it is only May.

Hung out at the finish line and talked with a bunch of people. Talked with the winners of the sport class and vet sport class (my class). Very cool guys, and gave me some good insight. They were both road riders that had moved into mountain biking. Also talked to the older rider. I hope at that age I can still be racing. Everyone was talking about the snake on the trail that had been coiled to strike. Ironically, I never saw it.

Still waiting for the official results to be posted. I really am interested to see how close I was to making the cut-off.

Monday, May 1, 2006

WVMBA - Big Bear

First mountain bike race of the season. I'd only done a handful of races last season, didn't have a lot of prior training, just riding a bunch of trails in the area. This winter was an easy one, so I was able to ride my road or mountain bike at least twice a week throughout the winter. Didn't really follow any plan, just tried to ride as much and as far as I could depending on the weather and my initiative. I lost about 15 pounds last year, and was able to keep it off during the winter. Also, I'm 43 and you know, that weight just like to come off as easily.

My goals for racing: to try and stay in shape, not get hurt, have fun, and not finish last.

Back to my first race of the season. Woke up early Sunday morning, had some oatmeal and started on the drive to West Virgina. About two hours later I arrived at the second race of the WVMBA series held at Big Bear Lake. I signed up for the sport 35+ vet category. Last year I raced as a beginner. Most of those races were about 10 miles long. This race would be 14.7 miles long with much faster racers.

I took a pre-ride to warm up some, something I never did last year. Did some stretching, and then sat around way too long for the start of the race, they had moved back the start time by 30 minutes, grr.

Lined up at the starting line, there were about 175 people in all categories, all waiting to start. Experts went off first, then sport category went off about a minute later. We started with about a mile and a half of road. This helped us spread out some, but as soon as we entered into the woods, we plunged into single-track riding and abruptly came to a screeching stop. Some of the less-experienced riders got bogged down at some "technical" areas. After about a mile things cleared up a bit. Mostly because there was a really steep hill (I did say we were in West Virginia) and I quickly got off my bike and started pushing. I noticed last year that it took me about 4-5 miles to warm up, and today was no exception. At least I wasn't alone pushing my bike, most of the sport riders were pushing.

I hooked up with a group of riders about my ability. I was able to hang with them for a while, until my right lower back started cramping up. It was a problem I had last year on these longer rides, but I thought I had stretched and strengthened enough this winter. But alas, I think it's that I need to tweak my bike set-up some more.

Anyway, my back was cramping bad, tried to stretch it while on the bike but it wasn't enough. So I had to dismount and stretch my back out. Probably lost at least a minute doing this. Meanwhile, my small group of riders continued on. I thought I'd catch them, but couldn't close the gap. About 2 miles later had to get off and stretch again.

About half way into the race I got in to a nice pace (except for my back problem) I had a decent speed going. Legs were tired but the lungs felt pretty good. I wasn't passing anyone, but the good news, no one was passing me either.

The trail at the top of the climb had some rolling hills, and I crossed over an old airstrip by going over a very odd looking "bridge." Half way up the bridge, I hoped that I was really supposed to be on it, as it's rickety state did not provide me with any confidence.

Back into the woods, and then down the backside of the mountain. About a mile's worth of downhill awaited me. There were a bunch of rocks, but my new bike cruised right through it. I have five inches of travel in the front and back, compared to the 2.5 inches I had last year. The new travel allowed me to just pick a line and go and not really have to worry much, what a great feeling. I felt like perhaps I was gaining on the racers in front of me, making good time. When I reached the bottom of the hill I took a bad line and ended up in a mud bog and had to dismount. Worse, one of the women riders went flying by me. Well so much for me thinking I had made great time down the hill.

Back to some uphill sections, made most of them but had to get off occasionally to stretch, losing more time, grrrr. Hit the top of another "hill" and saw a rider not too far in front. I pushed it for about a half mile and saw a water station. The rider was off his bike drinking some water. He looked like he was exhausted. I finally passed someone! I left the fire road and entered into some beautiful pines with "bank" turns. What a great section. Then I headed downhill.

This downhill must have been over a mile long, and rocky!!!! But once again my bike proved up to the task. I was in a groove, just cleaning the downhill rocky sections with no problems. I ended up passing two other riders who had to pull over due to the technical aspect. Well into the downhill I experienced something new. My arms were actually getting tired from such a long descent. I had done a lot of weights over the winter, thankfully!! But still my arms were wasted. The downhill section dumped into an old creekbed. Not much water in it, but a lot more bigger rocks. Got through most of it, barely and onto a fire road.

I heard a rider gaining on me a little bit into the fire road. He yelled up that he wasn't racing, just going from one monitor station to another.

"How are you doing?" he inquired

"Well , I'm still riding, so I guess I'm ok, " I replied.

"What category are you racing? Clydesdales?"

Arghhhhhhhhhhhh, the clydesdales. It's the category for riders over 200 pounds. I guess I look heavier when compared to the anorexic expert racers, but not THAT heavy.

After I let the rider pass, I tried to get past that traumatic experience and finish the race. I figured I had about 2 miles left. I tried to push it as much as I could, but had to get off a couple more times to stretch the back. Got back in a groove and pedaled hard around the dam and back into the woods. Suddenly in front of me I saw that the trail was to cross a creek bed. There were a lot of long thick branches stacked in the bottom of it to act as a bridge. There was about a foot drop off that I barely saw as I got close, not enough time to pull of the front end so I just rode through it. Bang! Wow, I hit the bridge hard, surprised that I rode out of it without breaking the bike or myself. Passed a judge shortly and mentioned to him that I hit that bridge hard. "I know, I could hear you from here."

Felt someone behind me, saw the finish line. I pushed to the end and kept the rider behind me. Realizing it was a woman that wouldn't have been in my category anyway. Ah well.

Post race. My legs were exhausted!! My lungs felt not too bad. My back was screaming, my arms were very tired (never experienced that before) and my neck was starting to tighten. I ended up in 30th place in my division - last place except from the riders who did not finish. Had I not had to get off my bike to stretch my back I think I would've finished about 5-8 places better. As it was I finished in a time of 2:11.07.

Lessons learned: I need to train more, lose more weight, or both. I need to adjust my bike setup so that I don't have the back problem (didn't have this problem with my old bike). My carb packing pre race was good, the oatmeal was a good breakfast. I had 3 gel packs in the 14.7 miles, that was about right.

Overall, I really enjoyed the loop, the people were friendly, weather was great, and if I can get rid of the back pain, I'll really be looking forward to the next race.