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.