Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Valley Falls Race - WVMBA

Valley Falls - 1:47 - 14 miles - 4th place master's sport

Two weeks off the bike while on vacation, a couple of short rides, and then I found myself driving down to a WVMBA race with 1,700 ft. of climbing. Not the kind of race preparation that I would've planned.

I arrived at Valley Falls State Park, WV early, parked, and made my way to register. From the beginning things looked well-organized. And actually got a t shirt that I can see myself wearing.

Talked with a racer that I had met in previous years. I thought he had had a green Salsa dos Niner, but this time he had an orange one. He told me he had cracked the frame and Salsa sent him a new one. He looked at my bike, and said that I had a crack too. I laughed thinking he was kidding. Glanced over to the bracket that holds the relish shock, and there it was - a hairline crack. I never would've seen it on my own. The crack was in the weld and appeared that it would hold up for the race, I hoped.

All the other usual suspects arrived and got ready for the race. Experts were to do two laps, sport one and a half, beginners one lap. Sport started half way up the hill, so we rode up and awaited the experts (who started at the base of the climb) to begin. As the experts rode up by us, I could see the pain etched on their faces. I knew right away that the beginning was going to be tough.

We started soon after, and since I had been watching the Tour de France, I decided I would do some drafting. Not sure if I really drafted or not, we weren't going fast, but I began the steep road climb at a moderate pace. I would stay on someone's wheel, trying not to blow up my legs, and then leap frog up to another rider. Passed a good number of people like this.

We then entered the singletrack and began winding back down the hill. It was here that I passed Josh who was racing Dave in the sport vets class. They had a 26v29 battle going. Oh yeah, the only reason I passed Josh was that his chain had broken, not because of my blazing speed.

The course kept dumping us on to double track roads which some might have found boring, but it made it easy to pass people, and an easy place to stretch my back. In fact I had very little back pain probably due to this.

Climing, and lots of it. Some climbs I grunted my way up, others were so steep it wasn't worth the effort. I kept a very steady pace the whole way through the race. My nutrition change to Hammer products, and more to the point, my pinpointing what nutrition was needed at what time, really was evident in this race. I never got dehydrated, never lost my focus.

Fourteen miles never felt so long. I saw beginners on big huck bikes talking about how the trails sucked. Of course trying to ride those 40 pound behemoths on those trails would of course make it suck. I saw Josh pass me looking for Dave. I told a kid volunteering at an aid station to throw the cup of water right on my head. He didn't think I was serious. I was deadly serious.

I pushed it really hard for the last quarter of the race, and considering not riding the bike at all while on vacation, I was happy with how I rode. Dave came in first in his division. Josh came in I think seventh, which was good considering his mechanical. Don and Aaron came in the top ten of the expert division which is impressive.

Ate tons of food, checked out everyone's race times on the big monitor they have for us (way better than peering over the judge's shoulder for a peek at his/her laptop). Loaded up and went home, another race in the bag.

Update on the bike: Salsa had me send back the frame, and I'm awaiting a new frame. Everything covered under the warranty, I hope it gets here soon so I can get it built up. I've been riding my old Gary Fisher Cake, and it makes me realize all the more how much I love my Dos Niner.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

24 Hours of Big Bear 2009 - Part III

I awoke and thought about the nightmare I had just had, realizing it was not a nightmare but my night lap I had just been reliving. Within the first 100 yards of my night lap, I had fallen about 10 times. Somewhere during that lap, I had decided to give up racing, I couldn't imagine why I raced for average results, I couldn't imagine why I paid for the privilege of suffering. When I came to that final uphill that leads back to the campsite, I had thought about ways of short cutting the course. I couldn't believe I even considered it, but that's how low I was feeling.

Thankfully Dave doing back to back laps gave me time to recuperate both physically and mentally. I got up for my third lap, dressed quickly, and met Dave at the finish line. I didn't have to wait too long before Dave rolled in.

I was not in any hurry to do my third lap. I walked to my bike still adjusting my camelback. Got on my bike and decided I was just going out for a ride. Wow, am I glad I did that third lap. The sun was just coming up, and immediately the moisture that had covered every rock and root was gone. The trail was even a bit tacky, pretty nice conditions.

I was actually having fun on the third lap. My front derailleur was still shot, but this time I left it so that I had a 1x9 using the middle ring. Surprisingly, my legs did well with that ring and I was able to make it up all of the hills except the last one with that gear ratio.

Traction was good, mental energy was very good, physical energy not bad. I finished the third lap in just over two hours and had not really pushed it at all. I'm sure I could have had a lap time equal to my first lap time had I pushed at all. The fact that we were going to finish in fourth place regardless of my lap time was what kept me from going any faster.

I got back, and Dave went out for his fifth lap. I had to wake him up, told him that fifth place couldn't catch us, and we couldn't catch third place, so no reason to go out if he didn't want to. But he wanted to. Dave got back from his fifth lap, I would've had time to go out for a fourth lap, but there really was no need, and I felt completely satisfied with my three laps.

Jame and Mike had packed up and gone, and it was just Dave and I closing down camp. I sat down eating one of the best chicken burritos I had ever had in my life, and thought about the odd sights over the last 24 hours. I remembered the hula hoop girl out in the woods, twirling lighted hula hoops while a disco ball and boom box accompanied her. Surreal. I remembered hearing circus music, rounded the corner and the local ems guys were doing the circus theme, and then announced: It's Three Ring Circus!!! (the name or our team, I guess they were keeping track. It was priceless) I remembered wanting to quit any and all types of racing at about 2:00 a.m. I remembered taking a huge endo some time during the night lap and amazing myself that all I got was some good abrasions as the rocks softened my fall. I remembered sitting around the campfire listening to the Pens with the Stanley Cup, and then all of the car horns and people roaring in support. I remembered running into a ton of people I've gotten to know over the years racing.

So yes, when all was said and done, we were all making plans for coming back next year to give it one more go.