Sunday, October 14, 2007

Month of Mud - Moraine

5th place Masters - 4th place Masters in series - 1:41.36

We met near the marina on this morning, the last race of the month of mud series. We lined up to begin, and I awaited the announcement of the leaders, who would then move themselves up to the front of the pack to have the "pole position." And what a surprise it was to me that I heard my name called! I guess they must have called up those riders who completed all four races of the series.

Well, right then and there I changed my race strategy. I'm a slow starter, but I ride at a consistent pace. I decided to take advantage of being ahead of most of the pack and try to stay with the lead pack for as long as I could.

The whistle blew, and off we went. It was fairly open for several hundred yards and then funneled into some single track. I was right in the middle of the leaders at this point. I would fall back just a bit, but as someone in front of me would be surprised by some rocks, it allowed me to close the gap. Well, for the first half of the first lap I stayed with the leaders. I could feel the adrenaline and energy around me. It was a definite different feel than my usual races.

But then my legs couldn't keep the pace, and I slowed down quite a bit. Made it through the really rocky section, out on to the pipeline, and back into the woods for the downhill section.

I was with a group of three people for quite a while when we entered the downhill section. I was so involved in staying with the group I all of a sudden realized that I was just cruising through rock sections that on previous training rides had stopped me. The 29er at speed through rocks just seemed to float over most of the rocks. It was a definite high point for me.

Well, the first lap was much longer than I was guessing. Most of the MoM races are only about an hour long, and I was on pace for much longer. I caught a number of people on the flat section, and a few more as we headed up the hill on lap two. But then I just went into survival mode. I was burnt. I started getting passed more and more.

I finished up the second lap, slowly getting some energy back as I went. Most of it was a blur, but when I rode over the finish line I received an envelope with cash for getting fifth place Masters.

Couple of the guys I had met during previous races were at the finish, and we talked a bit about the races. Then headed back over to the parking lot, where they gave out the awards for the series winners. Surprisingly, I found out I came in fourth place overall. No prizes (just like last year) but it's still pretty cool to hear your name announced.

So, another great MoM season is finished. I had a great time, was much more competitive, rode stronger, finished much better than I ever would have guessed. Can't wait until next year.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Month of Mud - Brady's Run

6th place Masters - 1:28.44

A quick note before I get into the report. Last year I did the course in 1:35. This year I shaved off seven minutes. It doesn't sound like a lot, but trust me even one minute in a race can be hard to make up. And now back to the story...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Month of Mud - Grove City

8th place masters - 4 laps at 47.42

Last year Grove City was my first attempt at a cyclocross. Didn't go very well, here's a hint, a heavy full-suspension bike does not make a good cyclocross bike. Last year I did three laps in 45 minutes, was lapped by a sport rider and had to end my race there.

This year, I hoped that the 29er would be a much better bike. Got to Grove City early and had a really good warmup. The course was pretty much the same as last year, but it was being run backwards. We all lined up on the pavement start, and off we went. I couldn't stick with the front of the pack, as most of them were road riders and I just don't have that burst that's needed.

Did a prologue lap then we started the course. Very quickly we get to a double barrier. The Mammoth race really helped my technique, and I felt I got through the barriers pretty quickly. The course then heads downhill, takes a sharp right into a root-filled trail, then gravel road, and then some mini-singletrack with a sharp hill or two and some mud.

This section is where I did my best. Every lap I would catch several cyclocross riders. The sharp turns through the roots were no problem for the dos salsa. The gearing was perfect for the short sharp hills, as were the tires. I also held my own in the baseball field part of the course. I was able to really take the turns quickly.

But on any firm straightaway, the cyclocross bikes were geared such that I couldn't stick with them.

Anyway, on the first lap this guy who appeared to be in my class decided to shoulder me off the course. I'm not sure why as we weren't battling for first place or anything. I shouted some clever sarcastic remark to him, and then quickly passed him after a few turns.

Somewhere along the way, he passed me. I don't really remember when. At the end of the second lap, I decided I wouldn't let him finish before me. I really picked up the pace to see if I could track him down. After about half a lap, I saw him. Slowly started to reel him in on the "off road" sections. At one point on a steep dirt hill, I passed him on the third lap. I kept ahead of him for a bit until we got to the flat straight sections, and he would get ahead of me.

Fourth and final lap. He pulls ahead of me on the paved road section, but again I am right on his tail on the technical section. The race ends on the paved road, and he pulls ahead a bit. I finished probably less than five seconds behind him. We talk at the end, congratulate each other, and I find out he wasn't even in my class. Ah well, it did motivate me though.

The good news: I wasn't lapped this year. I did four laps this year in the time I did three laps last year!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Month of Mud - Bavington

12th place masters - :56.27

One of my favorite race sites. Mark and I got to the course early, registered, and then went for a ride. Mark had never been to Bavington, so as a warmup we rode probably about six miles of the course. Slight changes had been made to the course from the year before. Most of the changes were slight except for somewhere near the middle they put in a new steep, short downhill - a bit of foreshadowing.

While Mark and I were hanging out waiting, Joe B rides over to us. I can't believe that he'd already be done with his race, he was back too quickly. Notice immediately that he is not himself. Turns out that he crashed hard on the new downhill section. We weren't sure what he hurt, but it was obvious he hurt something. I helped him load his bike and sent him on his way to the hospital. It turns out that he had a partially collapsed lung and some sore/broken ribs. I am often amazed by the lack of injuries in bike races. Everyone rides harder than they normally would, must pass people, and ride trails that you haven't been on much.

Anyway, race started late, but finally it was my turn. We were released one minute apart as part of a time trail. I really like this concept as you are not all bunched up going in the singletrack. And when you do catch someone, it's usually one person at a time. Jerry, who is 71, went off two before me. It's inspiring to see someone of that age out competing. I hope I can do the same some day.

3, 2, 1... and off I go. This year the trails are completely dry, and I easily make it up the first windy root-filled slope. I also easily make it up the hill that comes after the first road crossing. Both of these were problems last year, probably due to the rain burst that had come through.

I quickly pass Jerry, but not too much later I see another racer, Charlie, slowly gaining on me. I picked up the pace to hold him off as long as possible, but not too long after I make room for him to pass. I then try to stick with him to help improve my pace. He slowly pulls away from me, both in the technical tight turns, and also in the areas where you can just bash your pedals.

The trail, one of my favorites, is in great condition the whole way through. I'm making pretty good time, though in the middle somewhere, I go through that phase of wondering why I'm out there, that perhaps it wouldn't be such a bad idea to pull over for a bit, sit down, and ponder life's mysteries. But at some point that passes.

I make it up every single hill this race, and not once do I need to get off and stretch my back, big improvement over last year! I had also left the big ring on the bike, which was a great move. I was able to use it quite a bit, even with the different gearing of the 29er.

Over the course of the race, I was passed by about four racers, and I passed about five. I think I may have only passed one of the guys from my class, I think the rest were sport racers.

About half way through the lap, I have to make a left turn where usually I would go right. Immediately I realize it's the new trail as it's still really soft, not worn in yet. I can see why Joe wrecked. The trail heads left, then a hard sharp right down the steep downhill. The downhill is mostly hidden by some brush, so unless you set up for it right it would be easy to take a bad line. Needles to say, after Joe's wreck I run/slide my bike down the hill.

Soon after I come out on a road, turn left, and then another left back into the woods. It's a definite hike a bike section. Very, very steep hill I take my bike up. Even lose my shoe part way up. But this section is worth it as the last two miles are a lot of quick ups and downs. If hit right not a lot of pedaling is needed to get up the hills. Almost near the end of the race, I hear my tire rubbing on something. Started to ignore it but thought better of it. Looked down and noticed my front skewer lever was hanging down. Uh oh. I have to stop and tighten it, losing about a minute, then finished the race.

Finished much better than last year. Couldn't do an exact comparison due to the trial changes, but taking into account that we were in the woods more and on the road less, I think I improved quite a bit over last year!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Month of Mud - Mammoth Park

4 laps 10 miles
9th place Masters - 53.09

The last two years I race in beginners, this year I've decided it's time to move up to Masters, now that I'm the ancient age of 45. Now I used to think Master's racers would be slower as they are older, but as I've found out from the spring races, that is NOT the case. They are just racers who are a little older. In fact when I looked at the MoM races from last year, the master racers were just as fast as the sport racers.

Missed Mountwood last year, so course was new to me. The course works it's way around a park. It weaves back upon itself then heads out into a field. Only one real hill, and it's placed right after two barriers.

I tried to take off with the pack, but was about midpack. Got through the first third of the course pretty well, actually passing guys on their cyclocrosses that couldn't take the turns as tight as the mountain bikes. Really didn't do well on the barriers, will have to practice that a bit more.

I did all four laps!! I did not get lapped therefore I did the entire race. I felt like I rode a real consistent race, I think all four lap times would've been very close time-wise. I feel like if I could get off the start line faster, I might be able to hold my place. But as it stands I tend to drop midpack very quickly.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Tour de Strongland

Approx. 12 miles - 2nd place Master's class - 1:13

Arrived and registered. Warmed up for about 15 minutes; arrived at the starting line. It had rained a bit in the morning, but it hadn't rained for over a week. I wasn't worried about the trails, but thought the rocks might be slick.

And off we go. My thought was to stay in the front half of the pack off the start line. The first two miles is gravel road before it heads into the woods. I found myself all the way in the back of the pack. I realized quickly I don't have the sprinting ability of the other guys. I made a quick strategy revision. I decided to keep a steady pace, and try to pass once in the woods and rocks.

On the gravel road I passed two people, then saw the course veering hard to the left into the woods up a small but steep trail. Having ridden this trail a lot, I knew what gear to be in. I quickly pass two more riders that misjudged the hill. Quickly got to the creek crossing, and passed two more riders that took the wrong line.

I now headed up the rocky winding trail that led to the top of the ridge. There was not room to pass on this section, unless the rider in front of you misjudged the rocks. My new 29er rolled over the rocks rather easily, and I was able to pass a few more riders that didn't navigate the rocks well.

I played some head games with a few riders in front of me. I would tell them I was behind them, or make some braking noise to let them know I was close. They would then use a lot of energy to increase the pace. I kept my pace the same knowing I'd catch them on the next technical section. We popped out of the woods and headed down toward the first bridges of the day.

I knew from the past that after the narrow bridges, the trail would head up hill. In fact three hills with small plateaus separating each. As we start to head up the first hill, I quickly pass two more riders. To keep my back pain at bay, I have to get in an easier gear and spin, but since I can now lock my front shock and the fact that I'm pedaling a light bike, I am able to keep a good pace up the hills.

I approach the next hill, and can see that the riders in front of me are unaware it's around the next corner. Again I shifted in preparation, and got past another rider or two on the short hill.

I was now coming upon the hill that just killed me last year. It's a long double track that is steep, levels off, steep, levels off, and then steep again. Last year I didn't have the gas to make the hill, and walked most of it. This year, I kept slow and steady and passed three more riders. Though some young kid went blowing by me up the hill. But it was clear he was not in my class.

Started heading down hill and back in to the woods. I took a bad line and was headed for a big hole. I was preparing for an endo, but the new shock got me through it. The rider behind tried to pass, but I held him off.

Made my way through the twisting rocky section and saw the downhill section coming. I could see a rider ready to jump back on his bike to do the downhill section, so I yelled that I was coming through. I was really not close enough to yell it, but he let me pass anyway.

Wound through some fields and fire roads, and back into the woods, leaving the worst of the hills behind me. Kept two riders behind me for quite a while until I misjudged some rocks. They both went by, I caught one of them later.

Finally pop out on the gravel road that leads to the finish. I was passed at this point. At first disappointed but then I remembered I didn't have a big ring, had a bash guard instead. Only one person passed me because of it, so really not a problem.

Finished the race, knew I did well but I didn't know what place I came in until the results came in the mail. The fall race season looks promising. I'm racing better than ever, can't wait for the next one.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

My new ride - Salsa dos Niner

I picked up my new race bike!! It's a Salsa Dos Niner. I bought it through Speegoat. A great experience all around with them. Picked a small frame, and picked all of the components. The bike came in at 23.5 pounds!! This is great as a 29er is usually a little heavier anyway. Compare this to my GF Cake at 29.5 pounds.

Took it for two short rides in horrible humidity, but didn't get a real feel for how it could do. Today I rode it out at Bavington. I rode the Month of Mud race loop, which I have ridden a ton of times. Last year at MoM my lat time was 1:01. Today my lap time on the Dos Niner was :54. I can only imagine that as I dial in the bike more and become more comfortable on it, I could reduce that time even more.

Why a faster time? Was it because the bike was a 29er? Probably several reasons.

1. My Cake was a little big for me, causing me lower back pain. Dos Niner was fit to me really well, almost no back pain at all! This allowed me to stay on the bike the whole ride without need to stretch.

2. Dos Niner significantly lighter which allowed me to ride faster and to ride up every single hill, which I had not been able to do on the Cake. This saved me a lot of time, not wasting time being off the bike pushing it.

3. Dos Niner's ride was smoother, even though my Cake has 5" of travel. I rolled over roots and logs, felt glued to the track and kept a higher pace the whole race.

Really looking forward to seeing what this bike can really do.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

24 Hours of Big Bear

Big Bear (BB) was my first ever 24 hour race, and I hope not my last. We tried to get a group together for BB, but we couldn't find enough willing. So I posted on BB message boards for a team. I got several offers, mostly from younger sport teams. That was tempting, but I didn't want to be on a real competitive team for my first year. Then I got contacted by team Bike Me out of Maryland. Their ages ranged from 37-57, and after talking to the team leader Jeff on the phone, Bike Me seemed like a good match for me, and I hoped for them.

Got to BB in the early afternoon on Friday. I drove up to the top of the park, where there is an abandoned airstrip that is used as the start/finish for the race. Now to find my team. Ty had gotten there Thursday and had set up camp, but I had never met Ty before so I wasn't sure where to find him. I finally found a car with Arizona plates (Ty had driven in from AZ to be with his old teammates). When I saw the Steelers stickers on his car and bikes, I knew I had the right place. Ty was nowhere to be seen, so I set up my tent and waited a bit. Soon Ty rolled in from his pre-ride. Ty is about 6' 4" tall and bald, and I never would've guessed he was 57 years old. We finished setting up camp and sat around and talked the afternoon away. I thought of going for a pre-ride myself, but the dark skies made me think better of it.

Late afternoon, Jeff the team leader, came walking into camp. I thought it was odd for him to walk in, but he explained that their pop-up trailer had gotten a flat just down the road. Met his wife Mundy (sp.) and her mother who were there to be our support crew for the weekend. Judy and Mike rolled in within the hour to complete our team.

Just as we got camp set up, a rainstorm rolled in and we spent the next several hours in the camp headquarters eating and getting to know each other.

I actually got some sleep that night, of course the queen sized air matress that I stuffed into my tent could've been the reason why. No more roughing it more than I have to.

Woke up the next morning, got some breakfast, tweaked the bike. Headed over for the pre race meeting. Before we knew it, it was time for the first lap racers to line up. Mike got the nod to be our lead off racer, as the rest of us had bad knees and other such excuses.

This was Mike's first race ever, and what better way to experience it than enter a 24 hour race, and be the lead off racer. Mike and the other racers had to run a large loop to their bikes, then ride their bike on the same loop, and then enter into the single track. The idea was to spread out the riders, but Mike told us they logjammed on the single track pretty quickly.

I got to the start line to wait for Mike, though I think I scared Jeff and Mundy. I was warming up, but they hadn't seen me and thought I wasn't going to be ready. The top racers came in just over an hour. Mike got in about 1:40, not bad for his first race and first time on the course. Later I found out from Mike that he had bonked about half way out. Even though he knew he shouldn't go out too fast, he did anyway. It's all right, we've all done it, even though we know better.

I was up next. I made Jeff and Mundy quite nervous. They couldn't find me, didn't know I was warming up before my turn. Jeff got already to go out in case they didn't find me. I knew something was wrong as I rolled into the tent and saw their expressions. Just trying to keep them on their toes.

Mike rolled, gave me the baton, he swiped his card I then swiped mine, and off I went. I entered the woods and quickly got to the first downhill section. Having ridden the course before helped quite a bit. I flew down this section, and around the corner to an uphill slick rock section. Almost pulled it off, just got a bit of tire slippage at the end. Travel through all the ups and downs, slowly gaining more elevation. Once again, my experience on the trail helped. I knew that if I got speed going into the short uphills, I wouldn't have to pedal much to top them. I could tell the new riders when they got stuck half way up.

They added more trail this year, and they did a great job by adding it to my favorite sections - the pines. The trail winds it's way through a huge plot of pines. It's so quiet in there, many of the turns are banked, it's relatively flat, and you can just fly. After the pines came the long downhill section that is just awesome. In the spring, my rear brakes hadn't worked and I couldn't really take the downhill with any speed. This time was different. I really let the bike go, letting the 5 inches of suspension just soak up all of the rocks. At one sharp right turn, I almost missed it, but quickly got back on track. By the time I made it to the bottom of the hill, my triceps were cramping, as well as my hands and fingers. Sharp left into creekbed that they humorously call a trail. Either they had cleaned this section out a bit, or I was riding more confidently, not sure, but I made it through very easily.

On some fire road, then up. Got in an easy gear and spun it through, making it for the first time. This was really the first hilly section as we did most of the downhill stuff up to this point. I was hoping I hadn't gone out too fast. Continued on passing the EMT camp on the left. Kept riding the singletrack, which was subtly going uphill. It snuck up on me, felt like maybe I was just a bit tired, but then realized the I was going uphill more and more.

Cross over a few fireroads and then into the real hill sections. Had to walk one of them, with one of the women I had been pacing myself with yelling to me to not get off the bike. Blah, I was tired. Got back on bike at the top of that hill, got in an easy gear and tried to spin my way up.

Looking at my watch, I was on track for a 1:30 finishing times, which I was thrilled with. That's when Mr. Murphy woke up and took notice of me. Going through one of the many rock garden sections, I remember hitting one rock a bit too hard. And of course, quickly realize I've got a pinch flat.

I jump off the bike, and really change the tire in record time. Thankfully I had switched to co2 rather than my pump. Back on the bike in under five minutes and continue up the hills. I make it to the last hill, suffering badly, when I notice I've got another flat in the same rear tire. I didn't remember hitting any rocks hard.

Bad news, I had only taken one spare tube with me as I had never flatted in a race before. I had a decision to make, patch the tire or hike the bike to the finish. Decided it might be faster to run the bike in. I come to the big bridge that enters in to the finishing tent, and realize that there is an absolutely huge crowd watching us finish. I'm a bit embarrassed at having to push my bike. My embarrassment grows to outright laughter as the P.A. announcer calls out my name and team name, and rambles on about how the rider coming in isn't going to let his team down, he'll finish anyway he has to, even if it means he has to push his bike in.

Hmmmm, rereading this entry I realized I never finished it, so here's some impressions sitting here in March...

First lap finished and I was exhausted. My stomach was upset and cramping from the hard effort and the gels I sucked down during my lap. I really thought at that point that I would not be able to do any more laps when my turn came around again. Well, grabbed a shower (not bad showers considering we were in middle of nowhere) finally got some food into me and stomach settled.

Wandered around the campground met Jeff R. and ran into Tom and Chris H. Tom and Chris were support for Holly who was doing the 24 hour race solo. Totally boggles my mind how people can ride for that long.

Tried to nap, didn't work. Got some good pasta in me for dinner and lots of water. Sat around campfire talking, finally got to sleep around 11:00 or so. One o'clock came very quickly and it was time for me to get up and get ready for my second lap that would be around 1:30 a.m. Went to the start tent to wait for Mike to finish his lap. It was quite cool, but I knew I'd warm up as soon as I got a mile or two under my belt. Mike arrived, he checked out and I checked in and off I went.

My thought was just to ride slow but really steady. My muscles were really stiff but after about ten or fifteen minutes they loosened up nicely. I had my ipod on really low to keep me company, but I would be able to hear riders coming up on me.

Some random memories from the night lap: I was surprised at the number of people awake to cheer us on as we rode, I passed quite a few people but some expert riders just blew by me, flashing orange pumpkins hanging in trees, a taped loop of a yeti howling, two guys playing guitar and banjo in the middle of the pine forest, the emt campsite all lit up with torches, the endless uphill back to the finish line. Those last hills seemed to go on forever, as if I were on a conveyor belt. In the end this lap only took me 10 minutes longer than my first lap.

Arrived back at the camp site and was trashed. Stayed up about an hour and a half then collapsed. We were down to four people now. On Ty's lap, his battery died had no lights, crashed, sprained his ankle and killed his bike. Sometime overnight Jeff bonked out on his lap and took over two hours to get back. But he got back with a great story of a solo rider basically just falling on his side in the woods, still clipped into the bike, and decided to wait out sunrise in that position. I could only imagine what he was feeling.

I woke up in the morning, hoping that I wouldn't have to do my last lap. I asked where Mike was hoping that he was asleep in his tent. No such luck, he was out on his lap. I got dressed and waited for him again at the start tent. At this point I was exhausted and really sore. But once again I loosened up quickly on the trail. This lap went by without incident, and my time was right on the my average of the earlier laps.

Judy finished the last lap for our team, another solid time, and that took us to the noon deadline. We were done, we had completed our 24 hour race. Tried to get tons of liquid in us, kept falling asleep if I sat down. Took the obligatory pictures and we all headed out. The hardest part of the race was yet to come, it was the drive home. I had to pull over twice to sleep, I was so exhausted. It was an awesome time, everyone I talked to was really friendly. The biking community is a really good one.

Post report: two days later, I had a pass to the U.S. Open at Oakmont for one of the practice rounds. I felt pretty good, thought I was recovered from the race. Went to the Open, and as I was walking up the hill to the clubhouse, I found myself having to sit down and rest, exhausted. Now I've caddied at Oakmont, and have never had a problem with that hill even when shouldering two golf bags. I couldn't believe how long it was taking to fully recover. But I'm already looking forward to racing again this June!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Dash for Cash

Approximately a 14 mile race completed in maybe 2:40

This race made Henry Clay seem like it was paved. Oh, but I get ahead of myself. The course was not too far from home, which was a nice change. Arrived early enough to see the runners take off. They would run the same course as the mountain bikers. I can't imagine running 14-18 miles over rocks.

Met up with Rob, Brad, Tim, Lynn, and some others. The temperature was in the high 80's, the race began at 2:00, but at least the humidity was high. Most of this course would run through private land that is opened only once a year for this event. Some of the course even goes through a local golf course.

The experts head out for 18 miles and then they start the sport class. Two of us are released every 30 seconds. Tom and I are paired off. We start the race and immediately don't know where to go. We have to wait for the team behind us, and then we're off. Luckily the rest of the course was marked really well.

Even though I knew better, I started off too quickly. The first two miles is rolling single track in fields and woods. Cross some rock gardens, but not too bad - yet. Start going through more rocky sections, now it's starting to get serious.

I hear a rider behind me coming quickly, so I move over to let him pass. Luckily. He tells me right around the next sharp turn is a really steep descent. And he was right. I got way behind the seat and rode it down perfectly. Until I got to the bottom where I promptly flipped over the handle bars. How embarrassing.

Supposedly it was 4 miles to the paved road where the beginners were to turn left and the sport turn right. Find out later it was really 5 miles, but felt like 10. I definitely went out too fast for the heat and humidity, and seriously considered heading back with the beginners.

But I continued on. Down the paved road and up some fire roads and on to the single track again. I started feeling better and for the next several miles seemed to do well. Though I did find myself walking a lot of the steep hills to save some energy.

Well this course sees a little bit of everything. Through pine forest, across knee high creeks, over a variety of bridges, through a golf course, and a tunnel! I think I had vertigo or something in the tunnel. Maybe a 100 yards long, and the only light you could see was at the other end. The term "the light at the end of the tunnel" had a new meaning. It felt as if you were riding on a conveyor that you couldn't see. Very odd, but very cool.

When I made it to the golf course, I grudgingly rode up the paved trail. I made it up! At this point I had about 3-4 miles to go, but really thought I might not make it. All of my energy was gone, I was walking up most hills, and walking my bike through many of the 3,234 rock gardens. I was getting sloppy and didn't want to get hurt - knowing I had a 24 hour race upcoming.

Caught up to a pair of runners. They had started an hour before us. I guess I shouldn't complain much. Met Tim on the golf course. He had bonked earlier and was waiting for his wife and Rob to meet him. One last hill he told me.

I finally get out of the woods and into some farm land and see the tents where that finish line is. I finish the ride in what felt like 5 hours, but was only 2:40.00. That was definitely the longest 15 miles I have ever ridden.

Felt light headed on the trail, and in the parking lot. Took the hose and sprayed myself down. Wow, that felt great. Collapsed in my van and talked to one of the other racers, hoping my energy would return. They had a great bbq cooking, and I was so worn out I had absolutely no appetite.

Chugged down a bunch of water, went down and listened to the live bluegrass. These guys know how to throw an after party. Finally get my appetite back, and have some local raised and cooked barbecue. Great stuff!

Got home a few hours later. Hadn't had to use a bathroom since 2:00, and didn't need to until about 8:00. And this was after hydrating all morning, drinking water bottle of energy drink, finished a full camelback, and all the water after the ride. Wow, was I dehydrated. Slept great that night. Whew.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

WVMBA #3 - Henry Clay

11th place Sport Masters - 1:56 - 15.25 mile

I had done a lot of rock climbing at Cooper's Rock State Park years ago, so I was looking forward to this race last year, but I wasn't able to make it. This year, my schedule worked out.

For this race, I had gotten the air out of my brake lines, got these great rotor tools called Drumstix which trued my rotors really nicely, and the swelling in my knee had gone away. Also, after posting some questions online it seemed best that I put on my Panaracer Cinders for this race rather than my Small Block 8s. From all that I heard, it was very rocky. I found out that calling this race rocky was an understatement.

Arrived at Coopers early, registered and went for a warm up ride. As usual, the registration was totally inefficient and the race time got pushed back to 12:30. We parked our vehicles on the Henry Clay road, down in the valley. We rode our bike about a half mile up the road for a mass start. At closer to 12:45 we were ready to go.

The race begins for about two miles all up hill on a paved road; this helps spread people out a bit. It then takes a sharp left into some single track. Once again, I only got an average start, but I've learned that's best for me in the long run. Once in to the single track (Scott's?) the trail flows along some nice single track, either level or downhill. My full suspension with the bigger 2.25 tires paid off immediately. I probably passed 10 people with pinch flats in the first 4 miles. Unfortunately, only one of those people was probably from my class.

I paced myself with a woman rider, one I think I have seen at the other races. Her pace was good for me, and she seemed to know the trails so I followed her lines through the rocky trails. Ahhh yes, the rocks. These trails were incredible rocky. So rocky that at several points my left forearm and hand cramped so bad that I couldn't really grasp the handlebar, I just had to lay my hand on it instead.

Well, in not too long of a time, we started hitting the hilly sections. The hills were steep but at least they had a lot of big rocks on them. Ended up pushing the bike up most of them, but I was not alone at all in this endeavor.

The race was quite a blur from there. Nice singletrack weaving its way through the woods with uphills and downhills throw in for fun. Went out past Raven rocks, did some time on a rails to trails type of trail for a bit, then headed back into the woods.

At this point, I hadn't seen anyone in quite a while and was wondering if I was still on the trail. There were not a lot of trail markers. Finally, saw some people going up a steep hill probably not more than two miles from the race's end. A racer from my class caught up with me. We talked a bit, he passed me. I reeled him in quite a bit, but couldn't pass him at the end. I think he beat my by about 1o seconds.

And speaking of the end of the race, how sadistic. I was exhausted, my fillings were loose from the rocks, and then they have us finish the last couple hundred hard yards right up a steep hill. Luckily they had one of the photographers was there to document me pushing the bike. Got back on the bike and finished the race.

This was probably the most exhausted I had been after a race. I think I gave it all I had. Could only get one piece of pizza down, no appetite. Stopped at Wendy's on the way home, felt sort of dehydrated and light headed. Though it went away after a little bit.

I really liked this course, I think I could do much better on it now that I've ridden it. This year has shown me that I have really improved over last year. I'm not finishing dead last, I'm actually passing people!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

WVMBA #2 - Big Bear

13th place Sport Masters - 1:55.06 - 15.5 miles

The Wednesday before the race, I take a leisurely road ride. I hit some gravel on the side of the road and my bike is swept out from under me. My left leg goes down by reflex and I feel my knee twist on impact. Unbelievable.

I was able to pedal home with some pain. Knee swelled up, as I knew it would. All this training over the winter, and I sprain my knee right before one of my favorite races. Well, ice, ibuprofin, and keeping it raised the rest of the week helps quite a bit. But the knee is still swollen on Sunday morning, but not much pain. I decide to go to Big Bear to race.

I pull in Sunday morning, and register. Just like the year before, I overhear they will move the start time from 11:30 to 12:00. Not sure why they don't announce it to everyone immediately. I go for my warm up ride and meet up with some other racers. On the way back I do some full intensity sprints. All warmed up. I get to the start line to hear the pre-race instructions.

I then also realize that I have no back brakes! The lever goes down to the handlebar. I figure the line needs bleeding. No time for that. I decide to ride with no back brakes and a swollen knee. I figure at least I'll get a ride in. The weather's great and I love the trail.

Experts are released, and all of us sport riders immediately afterwards. We ride about a mile or so on the road, then turn right on to a fire road for another mile. This really helps spread out the field some. Sport riders take a left into the single track, the experts continue on.

This year the rerouted the beginner riders, so there's not a huge jam up as I enter the single track. My knee is feeling good, and I'm finding I don't need the rear brakes much. I didn't get the fastest start off the starting line, but it was nice and steady. I see the first hill in front of me. I remember last year having to walk this hill. This year I'm able to ride it!! I pass about half a dozen riders on this section. Not sure what class they're in though.

This hill leads into two other hills, and I think I made it up all of it. I make it to the top of the ridge, and try to catch the riders way in front of me. In no time at all I arrive at the weird bridge that you have to ride up and over. Last year, I felt like it took forever to get here. I exit the bridge and turn left and don't' see the trail. I ask the volunteer there if I'm going the right way, and he points me to the correct trail. Hmm, he might have volunteered that information.

I head down the first real downhill section. I'm making good time with only the front brakes surprisingly. Make it pretty well through the mud swamp at the bottom, do pretty well clearing slick rocks up and out of the mud, but then rear tire slips and I step off the pedal. A female rider then passes me, just like last year. Very ironic.

Next enter into a section of ups and downs. I remember last year not riding up all of them, and having to rest my back at the top of each one. This year I ride up every one of them, and though my back hurts a bit, it's not nearly as bad as last year, and so I don't have to waste time stretching my back!

The other great thing? I'm passing riders, riders are passing me. Yeah, this is what racing is supposed to be like, but last year I don't think I even saw anyone once I got 3 miles into the race.

I make it up to the first water station and head in to the pine forest section. I realize I have expert riders passing me. The nice thing? Last year I got to this section so late that all of the expert riders had rejoined the loop before me and never saw one of them.

At this point I'm passing riders that are completely bonked. Not sure if they're in my class, but it's nice to see my pace worked out well.

Enter in to the long decent that eventually leads to the finish line. Clean most of it with only the front brake, but at a much slower speed than I'd like. There are two sections where it's safer to just walk my bike down. Wasted some time, but at least no wrecks.

Exit the creek bed and onto a fire road. Still in the midst of a lot of riders, this is much more fun! Last big downhill, and I have to walk my bike down a steep hill to the dam, more time wasted. After a few miles I see the finish line, and there are actually still people there watching us finish, lol. As I enter the final climb, my chain drops off. A rider catches and passes me. I get the chain on and finish right behind him. Luckily not in my class.

Well, I finish in 13th place, and easily could've been in 10th place with brakes. Ah well, at least no dnf. Finished in time of 1:55, last year on the same course it took me 2:11. It's nice to see the training plan pay off. I had lost 7 pounds over the winter, rode a lot on the stationary, figured out a stretch to help my sciatic nerve, and tweaked my bike fit to be more efficient.

What a fun race!!!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

WVMBA #1 - Mountwood

3:04 - 17 miles - 13th place

So a northeaster decides to blow it's way up through West Virginia, and dump loads of rain for days on Parkersburg. For some unknown reason, I wake up on the morning of the race and decide to go anyway.

After a three hour drive, I arrive at Mountwood Park. During the last part of the drive, the rain started again. It was 45 degrees, cold, rainy, miserable - the perfect weather for hypothermia. Resgistered for the race, unfortunately stood in line for 45 minutes getting soaked. Consequently, no real time to warm up. Threw on my gortex jacket and made my way to the start line.

I was in the fourth group released (sport masters 45+). The race headed up a gravel road for quite a while in an effort to spread the group out some. Headed into the single track to find some of the muddiest riding I've ever done. I can only guess the 60-75 riders released before me had a better trail than I did.

The first part of the race, about 6 miles was on one side of the ridge. We then had to cross back over the main road to the other side of the race course. The starter guessed that the loop was about 14 miles total. I was soon to find out he was wrong.

The first six miles went pretty well. I passed some people, some passed me. The second "half" of the ride was rather miserable. Very muddy trails, which turned my bike basically into a single speed. Every time I tried to shift on the chain rings, the chain would drop off. So I stayed in the middle chain ring the rest of the race. I could get about 3 gears on the rear cog. Every hill I came to, I pretty much had to walk my bike up it.

One woman caught me. She had been gaining on me for miles. Tried to hold her off, she never rode really fast, but never had to get off her bike. She could make it up many more hills than me and was just steady. I learned something from it.

Over the next hour, I finally caught back up to her. More for the fact that she got tired, not due to my biking prowess. We pretty much finished the race together. At least I had someone to talk to. Passed another young woman who looked like she was at the end of her rope. I asked if she was okay, she said she was starving. I gave her a GU, it made her day. Saw her at the end of the race, she looked completely different. Her eyes weren't dulled, she had some energy back in her. She said I saved her life.

The end of the race had us crossing a creek, like I need to be more wet. Got to the finish line and had to stop for them to take the ticket from my back. My legs started cramping really bad. I thought about how embarrassing it would be to drop over right there, not able to straighten my legs.

It took me three hours to finish the race. It was not 14 but 17 miles, and those last three miles were killers. In the end I'm glad I did it. It was quite the experience. I finished near the end of my class, but really could have been three places better had my rear brake not gone out near the end. I would love to go back to Mountwood in some dry weather, the course would be great I bet.