Sunday, April 20, 2008

WVMBA #3 - Big Bear

Big Bear - 1:39.57 - 7th place master's sport - 13 miles

My favorite race of the year. Arrived at Big Bear and registered, ran into a new racer Bob. We jumped on the bikes to warm up a bit, and ran into Dave from last year's Month of Mud on his new Hi Fi. Left them to do a few all out efforts as a warm up and got to the riders' meeting late. This would prove to be a problem.

We lined up and off we went for the first one mile road sprint before entering the woods. I know myself, and was certain I would not do well here. Even though I warmed up a bit, it's never enough or worthwhile for me to blow out my legs at the beginning. So we ride up the road, me towards the back half and we ride by the normal right turn into the woods. Uh oh. We continue up the road and turn left into single track, the place where last year's beginners turned in. The good news, we wouldn't be doing the rock gardens or steep climb. The bad news, I wasn't quite sure how many miles we would be doing.

I felt pretty good and started picking up the pace, memories of last year's 24 hour race coursing through my head. I slowly started picking off riders as we would enter a roller or a technical section. Knowing the course was paying off.

Then I hit the wall. Every hill felt steep, I started wondering why I pay for the privledge of this torture. Then it hit me, I needed some gel. We were given free Hammer gel, so tried that. Wow, after about five minutes I could feel it. I picked up the pace and flew down the long descent that leads to the creekbed. It's probably the fastest I had ever taken it, and almost lost it going over one of the rock drop offs, but held it together. This year the arms felt fine during the descent, but my hands were cramping from being on the brakes so much. Cleaned the creekbed with no problem.

Up on to the fire road and realized two things. If the course was going to head back up toward the airfield, I had some good energy left, but if the course was heading back to the finish line, I didn't pace myself well. Unfortunately, it was the latter. I flew through sections that in past years troubled me. Continued to pass people in the last miles. Rode it hard, like I should have been doing all along. Made it to the finish line, and I think the course was only 13 miles rather than the 17 I was expecting. Legs were tired, but not trashed like they should have been. Oh well, learned a hard lesson there.

Dave ended up getting first place in sport masters! His winter training really paid off for sure. I got seventh place, but realistically could've gotten fifth had I paced it right. Ah well. Currently I'm in fifth place in the overall point standings. Henry Clay race is next on the agenda.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

WVMBA #2 - Mountwood

Challenge at Mountwood - WVMBA - 2:26 - 10th place master's sport - 16 miles

Deja vu all over again

Just like last year, the drive down was scattered rain. Only oddity, stopped on way down at a rest area and came across some guy washing something in the urinal. Couldn't see what it was, maybe luckily. Got out of there quickly.

Registered, warmed up, start moved back to 12:30 but I anticipated that. A nice downpour hits us as we wait for the start and about 40 degrees. I overhear the guys in my class ask two of the riders why they weren't riding expert this year. Yikes, not a good omen.

Off we go, up the gravel road and on to some fire roads to help spread out the field. About 17 of us in our group, and I was about two thirds back in the pack. Entered the single track and passed a couple of guys taking off their rain jackets. I made that mistake last year.

A lot of people who had race tires were sliding all over the trails. My tires though a little heavier were really good for all of the mud on the trails. Only fell once and it happened while going over some slick logs.

My goal was to ride steady for for most of the race, and then turn it on for the last half hour. It's the only strategy that's worked for me. I hope that some of the other guys will blow out their legs and I'll catch them later. I've never been able to hold a fast pace the whole race.

Don't know if it was the nutrition, the accelerade, the new bike, or all of the training (probably the combination) but I rode this race so much better than last year. It took me three hours last year, and I was wasted and cramping when I finished. This year I felt mentally sharp the whole race. I played some mental games with some of the riders by hanging on their rear wheel and making them push too hard to keep me behind them. Little did they know I couldn't have passed and held it.

The entire race I was in the midst of all of the racers. Being passed and passing others. Races are so much fun when you're not in the back of the pack by yourself.

Well according to my pregame plan, it was time to turn it on a bit, if I could. Way up ahead of me I got a glimpse of a guy in my class, so my goal was to catch him. For the next couple of miles, I pushed it as hard as I could, and slowly I was closing the gap on him. I bomb down a rocky decent which ended in a creek with a sharp right turn. Hit it just right, kept my momentum and when I looked up the hill I could see my prey. I shift to get the gear to pass, and clunk. My dérailleur stuck. Had to jump off my bike and fix things. Quickly realize I was going to be stuck on the one chain ring, I'd have a 1x9 for the rest of the race. By the time I got back on the bike, the guy in the black jacket had really opened a gap. I started to chase him down again, but I think he realized I was after him, and he really opened a gap. I wasn't sure I had the gas to catch him again.

I then realized I probably wasn't going to catch him before the race's end. I decided to just ride a good hard pace and try to keep the cramps from hitting my quads (I couldn't get into the granny gear and the muddy hills were taking a toll on my legs). So after about a half a mile or so I round a bend and there he is. I'm not sure if he had a mechanical or if he had blown his legs trying to stay in front of me. Regardless, I stuck on his back wheel for the next mile as we wound through the tight single track and down some great descents. Finally, we dump out beside a gravel road and I recognize that we are on the home stretch. I give it everything I have and pass him hoping that he won't stay with me. And he doesn't. I reach the finish line with a room to spare and take over 10th place!