Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Month of Mud - Moraine

Moraine - 11th Masters - 7th overall for series - 2:00

Almost forgot to write this up. Got to Moraine, and it was a beautiful fall day. I knew that I would finish in 7th place in the series as long as I finished. That took a lot of the pressure off. I decided I would ride a strong ride, but try to enjoy the day and the trails.

The experts started, and about five minutes later the rest of started. Almost instantly, the guy in front of me goes down hard. I saw his helmeted head bounce off the gravel road. I barely got the brakes on in time, and I just missed him.

The route this year was different. We quickly headed uphill, turned left in to some rocky uphill switchbacks. This section was packed with riders, things hadn't spread out enough. This section was built for me. Short sections that needed power, then stretches where I could catch my breath.

We got to the top of the hill and things started spreading out as we headed downhill. I caught the guy in front of me, but he was going slow. Finally, I found a place to pass him, and I could hear three guys behind me follow. I then stayed off the brakes and in no time at all we caught the pack again. Whew, time to catch my breath.

Had to do two laps, and like always when I was done with the first lap I couldn't imagine doing a second lap. But like always, I got in a groove and it wasn't too bad. And like always, I ended up not seeing a lot of people, I thought I must be dead last when I finished. Found out that I did okay actually, especially since I didn't push quite as hard as I could have.

Saw a lot of mechanicals, and saw a number of people totally cramping. Moraine's 12 miles feels like 22 miles by the time you're done. The rocks are awesome, very rideable, but you have to be on your game.

The series was a lot of fun this year. Got to see a lot of friends, the weather was awesome. A big thank you to the Month of Mud gang, great job.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Month of Mud - North park

Photo by Mike Briggs

North Park Time trail - #14th Masters - :35.51

Over 200 people? Yep, over 200 people showed up for the inaugural North Park time trial. Earlier in the week, I pre-rode the course, and on my single speed I clocked a time of 38 minutes. So on Sunday, I knew the pace would have to be high for the entire course if I wanted to get any points for the race series.

Mark and I registered, and then warmed up by stopping along the course to cheer on the expert racers that had already begun their laps. Sooner than expected, I found myself on the starting line ready to go.

In this time trial, racers are released every minute. Mark was two riders behind me, so my goal was to not let him catch me. Go! I was off. We had to first do a circle around a tree in the grass field. I almost went into it too fast and just about slid out. That would've been embarrassing.

I picked up the pace in to the woods and the initial switchbacks (where I heard later Mark took a handlebar to the chest when he crashed. I continued up the rest of the switchbacks, my heart pounding, and my lungs about to explode. Crossed the first bridge, and then soon enough I was at one of the steeper climbs of the day. Luckily with North Park being my home course, I knew I could recover afterward. And that's what I did.

Crossed the second bridge and hit those switchbacks at a high speed. All was going pretty well. Slowed down at one of the first creek crossings. I thought it best to slow down as a few weeks earlier I had burped my front tired slamming into the rock armoring. After hearing about a lot of people pinch flatting, I was glad I had slowed down.

Sped down the flowy downhill section in the pines, then headed back up the valley. Somewhere I had passed three riders, and no one had passed me. As I came to the really sharp switchback, a masters rider made a pass on the right. I had expected this, in the WV series he races expert. I stayed on his wheel for a long as I could. This definitely helped me pick up my pace quite a bit. Though I lost him on the last switchbacks to the Wisconsin shelter.

I crossed the road, and then made a left. I lost a bit of time here recovering, but it was needed. Soon, I passed my fourth rider of the day. Before I knew it, I was headed down the last decent.

At this point, I was getting a bit sloppy so I made what I hoped was a good decision. I descended at a moderate pace; I could've gone a lot faster, but I may have easily crashed.

Crossed the finish line, and about 30 seconds later, Mark crossed. I had done it, I had held Mark off.

Not exactly the finish I had hoped for, but compared to my total collapse of fitness this summer (heat, humidity, exhaustion) I was pretty happy. No back pain, which is great, but I definitely I could tell that my setup doesn't allow me to get all the power from my legs that I could.

Last race of the series this Sunday - Moraine. Rocks, rocks, and more rocks.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Month of Mud - Grove City

Grove City cyclocross - 15th - Masters - :58.45

And then it rained some more. That was the theme for Grove City. Rain, rain, and more rain. Pulled into the parking lot and got dressed for the rain, but at least it was cold.

Did a short warm up and then went and watched the experts finish their race. They were covered with mud, front and back. Soon enough we were lining up for our race. The rain had pretty much stopped, but I was pretty sure the mud would still be there.

The prologue lap was on slick pavement, and I decided to line up toward the back and play it safe. Unfortunately this was a bad strategy. There were no pile ups, so I was about midpack once we hit dirt and the first barriers.

I passed a lot of people as we moved on to the mountain bike friendly section of the course. We were then dumped on to the grass section, and a number of cross bikes caught me. Steady through the rest of the grass section, then on to the pavement and back to the start line. I was able to draft here, so I stayed with the pack. One lap down, three to go, hopefully.

Fourth lap - whew, I barely made it. As I crossed the finish line for my last lap, I saw the judges getting ready to pull people over for being lapped. Did my last lap, and caught and gapped a rider I had been battling with for two laps. I always need that kind of competition to keep my pace up. I also was able to work with another rider quite a bit. I could tell he wasn't in my division, so when he was sitting on my wheel for a lap it didn't really bother me. But when I dropped behind my "nemesis" I used the guy on my wheel. Once we hit the pavement I pulled to the side and let him use his higher gears on his cross bike to up our pace a bit. I then took back over when we hit the rough stuff. On the grassy sections, we took turns as needed. I'm not sure I really drafted except for the pavement area, but mentally swapping helped me keep up my pace.

The mountain bike was good for about one fifth of the course, but the cross bikes were just faster the rest of the race. Though I find it hard to rationalize buying a cross bike for two races a year, but I really wish I had had one.

It was a good race, muddy like cross should be. To be more competitive I need a cross bike next year. I also needed to be more up front at the start, as I was only about a minute behind three races, and that back of the pack start cost me at least that much time. But still, the race was fun. A one week break, and then the North Park time trial.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Month of Mud - Brady's Run

Photo: Fred Jordan

Brady's Run - 13th place - Masters - 1:14

Master's category getting pretty big now. I remember years back, there would be only like five us that might do the whole series. Now the category has really grown. The downside? Master is an open division. So quite often I'm racing with guys that are in master's expert division in the WVMBA series. I really don't have a chance.

Be that as it may, again there were tons of people at Bradys. It was in the 50s early on, but warmed up perfectly. Trails were dry and fast.

Prologue lap I was in back third. Started up the first hill and moved more mid pack. Mark was right behind me. Hit the straight away not one second too late. Mark passed me here and gapped me a bit. Slowly I worked my way back up so that I was only two riders behind him.

We took a sharp right up the very steep hill that would dump us on top of the hill. I was feeling good, finally this hill was actually dry. I was pacing Mark pretty well until three different guys at three different places jumped off their bikes but did not clear the trail. Even though we were telling them that riders were behind them. The last guy was the worst as he stopped, picked up the front of his bike, and started spinning his front wheel listening for brake rub. Problem was, it's a very narrow trail! We all yelled, but too late, off the bike again.

By this time Mark was about eight riders in front of me. I knew I couldn't close the gap on the first lap, I had to wait and hope he blew up on the second lap.

Rode all the log piles, rode a very clean first lap. But still didn't see Mark. Started the second lap, and rode up the steep entry hill except for one very brief dab.

I started feeling good on this second lap. It actually helped that the experts started lapping us as their energy had me pick up my pace. I remember specifically going down one steep descent with an expert behind me, urging me on in a fun way. I was riding way faster than normal, and at one point shot off the trail laughing. Got back on track, and soldiered on.

Much too quickly I got on the final descent to the finish line, feeling I had some power left in the legs. It was good to finally have some power again. The days of rest and the cool temperatures were great.

Found Mark who only finished three minutes before me, but I felt like he must have had a good ten minutes on me. Mike R. finished soon after, he knocked 20 minutes off his time from last year, and his cleat pulled off from his shoe half way through! Shred had to do three laps, and he finished soon also. He looked like he really had pushed the pace.

Great reace, I cut 15 minutes from last year's time, but I remember not riding hard last year as I went out just to do the race I was already out of contention as I had two mechanicals in other races.

Next up - Grove City cyclocross

Month of Mud - Bavington

Photo - Mike Briggs

Bavington - 17th place Masters - :57 minutes

Most riders I've seen at Bavington. Weather was perfect, though a bit hot by my time. Bavington is a time trial, which I like except for the waiting part. But with me racing the day before, the wait gave me time to get a really good warm up.

Sooner than I expected, I was off. I rode super solid, but had not spark in the legs at all. Every time there was a straight away, I just couldn't accelerate. I would've done better with a 30 mile race than the fast 8 miles we did.

Regardless, never dabbed anywhere, rode the plunge easily (unlike last year where I wrecked). Ended up three minutes slower than last year.

I really did not train this year to be able to pull off two hard efforts two days in a row. But overall, it was a really fun race, good to see a lot of familiar faces.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Peanut Butter Festival - Bike the Wilds

18th place Masters - 1:57
Overall 11th in the 36-49 division.

What to do, what to do. The last race in the Bike the Wilds series was Saturday, and the first race of the Month of Mud series began on Sunday. Which should I pick? I know that I don't recover well, and doing two races in two days would mean I wouldn't do well in either. So what did I do? Yeah, chose to do both races anyway. My philosophy would be to put in a solid, not an all-out effort on Saturday, so that I'd have something left in the legs for Sunday.

The Peanut Butter Festival is held in New Bethlehem, and as you get close to the town you can smell peanuts. The whole town smells of peanuts. The Smuckers factory makes their peanut butter there, and if you have peanut allergies, this is probably not the place to live.

I pulled into the parking lot and registered. I could tell from the beginning that this was a well-organized race. Did a warm up, and got in line. The race began with a sprint down one of the back streets.

Races are interesting events. Often I think I go just to people watch. For instance, there's about a hundred cyclists all sprinting down this road, and there's a guy next to me on a single speed riding with no hands. He might as well have put a sign on his back that said, Look at me! Look at me! One slight bump, one unseen pothole, this guy could have taken out half the field. I guess it takes all kinds.

We leave the road to enter a cemetery and the singletrack. Had I realized the bottleneck here, I probably would've sprinted a lot more. But there I was practicing my track stands. We got to the first downhill, and I hear everyone yelling about a really steep descent. I see people dismounting. I get to the top of the descent, and laugh to myself. I'm clearly too far in the back of the pack, the descent is nothing.

We wind through some singletrack, and everyone's trying to move up in the pack. We're on some doubletrack, and I move over for a down rider. I hear, "Hey, pick a side and stay on it." Great, someone giving me advice on how to ride. Me: "Hey, there's a rider down up here and I need to get around him, but thanks for the advice anyway. Have a great ride." I guess it was better than yelling at the guy.

From here it was a mix of singletrack and doubletrack. Eventually we worked our way to the top of the ridges. There was one section we had to push up one of the steepest hills I can remember. But when you got to the top the view was spectacular.

After all that effort to get up there, it was a blast to ride the hilltops enjoying the view. Since my thought was not to go out, for once I was able to really enjoy the views, and spent some time talking to other racers.

I paced a singlespeeder until we headed downhill back into the woods. Hit a low point in energy here, and a bunch of people passed me.

After a while, and some gels, I got a second wind and started pushing pretty good. Near the end after another horrible climb, we bombed downhill back into town. The downhill was on a loose dirt road, out in the middle of some fields. I had a top speed of 39 mph, so I can only imagine how fast the experts were going.

I got back into town, and was riding with another guy. We were going pretty casual, until he saw the crowds cheering us in, and off he went. I chased. All the little kids were yelling, "up the hill, up the hill." What they should've been yelling was, "turn left, turn left."

The guy I was with went too far, and to slam on the brakes. That gave me enough notice and I was able to take a hard left and to the finish line.

The trophies were to be given out at the actual Peanut Butter Festival. So I cleaned up and walked down. It was really nice. Lots of food booths, and luckily I was starving. The trophies were given out on a little stage by the reigning Peanut Butter Queen.

Thoughts on the Bike the Wilds series: good vibe, grass roots, close to home, new trails, great volunteers, energetic course directors, need some lessons on how to mark trails, much too hot and humid, a lot of fun. I'll be back next year!

Overall I finished 11th in the 36-49 division.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Two Mile Run MTB Race

Bike the Wilds point series - 18.5 miles - 3:22 (you read that right)9th place masters

Two Mile Run marked the fourth race in the Bike the Wilds point series. The training I did for this one? Went on vacation for two weeks, came back home got in two lack-luster rides in the ridiculous humidity we've been having, and ate a lot. Not a training regimen I would recommend to the timid. Oh yeah, and add to my lack of recent training: 90 degree temperatures with an even higher humidity level.

I arrived at Two Mile Run park, and got settled in. Things seemed well-organized, and sooner than I was ready for, we were lined up for a 100 yard dash to retrieve our bikes. As we started running, I kept it at an easy jog. I've been to too many 24 hour races where the first racer blows up their legs in these kinds of starts.

My strategy worked out fine, I passed a lot of people on the first hill. I'm sure their heart rates were skyrocketing, as cyclists aren't usually know for their running prowess.

The double track hill finally turned into the woods for some nice singletrack. I continued to pass people here, thought not much room for passing. Soon, while pushing my bike up a hill in some serious racer congestion, I heard a bunch of yells of, "rider back!" I glanced back and saw a bunch of racers I knew to be the normal race leaders come flying up to us. Asked one of the guys if they had gotten lost, and he answered in the affirmative.

Seeing racers lost brought back to memory my last race where I was riding strong, got lost, and received a DNF (even though I put in more miles than most participants).

You see once you've been lost in a race, it messes with your head a bit. In any race thereafter, you find yourself looking constantly for markers. And if you don't see one every ten feet, you start to panic. Even when you do see all the racer markers, you start wondering if somehow you've taken a wrong turn and are going on the course in reverse, or just riding in big circles.

All of this was in my head while I continued to race. The course was good and bad. A lot of good single track, and tons of course markings. On the other hand, the course marking were overdone in certain areas, and much too infrequent, or just plain confusing in other areas. More on that later.

I was racing surprsingly well for the first eight or so miles. Then my legs started feeling the two and a half weeks off the bike. Kept up my hydration, popped enurolyte tablets like they were candy, and put down shots of gel as I could. Mentally I felt good, but my legs were heavy. I found myself walking a lot of hills that I would normally ride.

The good news though was, even though I had heavy legs and the heat and humidity were ruthless, I was able to just keep riding. I figured I would finish the race in about 2:30 - 2:45. Unfortunately, I couldn't locate my Garmin GPS, so I wasn't sure how many miles I had put in, but I knew according to my watch that I was not going to make my normal time.

This is where the getting lost at other races comes in. After I put in over two hours, I started doubting myself a lot, wondering if I was still riding the course in the right direction. Luckily I ran into a couple of riders occasionally, which helped me quite a bit.

It's funny how in a race, after the initial furied start, you just seem to see the same people for most of the race. And this race was no different. It seemed that I passed and was passed by three other riders for mile after mile. Two of the guys seemed that they could've been in my class, but I wasn't really sure. In fact, I believe one of the guys short-cutted the course. I remember clearly passing him, having chased him down for quite a while, and then miles later there he was in front of me. Did he cheat? Did he get confused at an intersection? Was he just trying to survive? I'm going with option three. I really hope he wasn't cheating, and for as slow as I was going, I passed him easily.

Towards the end of the race, there were three specific spots where the flagging was really confusing. Oh yeah, this is where I also located the ground bees nest. A lot of us were stung, and my sting was still hurting three days later.

Anyway, I figured out my way to the finish line with a horribly bad time. Wish I had had my gps to see really how many miles I put in. They either really underestimated the mileage, or maybe I got off track for a while, or maybe my legs were just made of cement.

Regardless, a bunch of people cheered as I finished. I really appreciated that. I made it back to the van, grabbed ice water and cold oranges and collapsed in my camp chair till the nausea passed.

Went on the race site the other day to see how my finish compared to everyone's (and to see if there were a lot of dnf's) only to see there was some type of controversy and they're thinking things through before the post results. I'm kind of in the dark as to the specific incident, but it will be interesting to see the fallout.

One more race left to the point series. Not sure if I'll be going, it will mostly come down to whether I'm in the top ten or not.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Shannock Valley MTB Race

15 miles (too many) and a DNF (more on this in a bit)

This was the third race in the Bike the Wilds race series. The race was to be about 12 miles long - but not the way I race.

I pulled in to the lot and talked to a couple of guys that had raced the course before. They said lots of climbing, and they were absolutely right. Lined up in the town of Rural Valley, and off we went right on time.

The race starts off on the road and quickly heads uphill. Unfortunately, the temperature was hovering at about 91 degrees. We probably did over a mile of pavement before hitting some double track, still heading up hill. Quick downhill, then into the woods, more uphill. That was the theme for the day.

Through the initial uphill I had made my way to the front third of the group. I was overheating quickly though. I had half my water bottle gone with in the first three miles. I was not going to have enough water. My other bottle was being used to dump on my head and down my back in an attempt to keep me cool. I felt like I was an iron furnace, just radiating huge amounts of heat. I'm pretty sure I have no ancestry from any hot weather locales. I am not made for hot summer riding - at all.

I was still mostly heading uphill, sometimes in cut fiels out in full view of the sun. Lots of riders walking their bikes up hills. I passed quite a few people on these hills, but also found myself pushing up some hills. I think I could've ridden them, but I'm sure I would have bonked hard.

After about eight miles, I felt like we were finally, slowly, heading back down hill. A couple of riders passed me, and they looked to be in my division. It was hard to tell as this division had a big age range. I chased them for a mile until I passed one of the riders. He made no attempt to stay with me. That left one other rider ahead of me. This was unfortunately my downfall.

We dumped out on to some gravel roads, passed some guy sitting on the side of the road all bloody. Emergency personnel with him, it looked like maybe he got hit by a quad? Not sure.

The rider in front of me was now not far away. I saw him start to turn left where the arrow pointed, but then he came back out on to the gravel road and continued on. I came to the same spot and saw the arrow pointed left, but then I also saw an arrow that pointed straight. No one else was around, and the rider I had been chasing for thirty minutes was riding away on the gravel road. I decided to follow him. This was where my mistake was. It seems someone turned that one arrow to follow the gravel road, not sure if it was kids or what. The worst part was as I continued on the gravel road there were all kinds of race markers pointing up on.

I shortly passed the rider and tried to to put some distance on him. As I was riding though, the trail seemed vaguely familiar. Then after a while I was absolutely sure we were on the same trail as earlier in the day. I came out at a paved road and stopped to wait for the rider behind me. As he came out he said what I had been thinking, that we had taken a wrong turn.

By this point we had put in 13 miles and the race was only to be 12 miles. So we called it a day and headed down the paved road to the finish. In the end I got in 15 miles in 90 degree weather. A great training day, a horrible race day. I really felt like I was going to have a decent finishing time. And the worst part of it all? The rider I chased down, he wasn't even in my class. Ah well, that's racing.

Two more races in the series to go, and we get to drop one race. I guess I know which race I'll be dropping.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fat Tire Challenge

16th place - 1:53 - 14.5 miles - Second race of Bike the Wilds race series

Fatty would be proud of me - a solid mid-pack finish!!!

Drove two hours north to try out the second race of the Bike the Wild series - The Fat Tire Challenge. Easy drive, easy parking. I got me and the bike ready, did a quick warm up, and soon the experts were off racing. I had 10 minutes before the sport racers took off.

The sport category is a big one; it spans the ages of 36-49. There are a lot of fast racers in this group. I got to the start line, made sure I had my timing chip strapped to my ankle. The sport group was let off in a staggered start, the young guys first.

The race began up a dirt road which helped stretch things out. I entered the single track in the second group. The trails were fast, and for a change, dry. Lots of places to pass, until we hit the rocks. Jumped off, ran my bike up a few short hills, and back on the bike.

This race was similar to Creek to Peak in that we had to wind our way up to the top of the peak. The trails changed quickly from double track, to pines, to rock, to long, grinding uphills.

Lots of volunteers on the course to help direct the racers, and at mile seven volunteers were out handing out water. Unfortunately, the volunteers told us we were seven miles in and it was all downhill to the finish. They lied.

At mile nine there was long hill that had us grinding away. And at mile eleven there was a steeper and longer hill. Surprisingly, I passed a good number of racers at these places. I think the single speed training has really paid off.

At about mile 11 or 12 we started hitting some rock gardens. I was getting tired, and didn't ride the rock gardens nearly as much as I should have. The last several miles saw some fun downhills as well.

Passed about eight riders in the last mile, and finished with a time of 1:53. Was a solid race for me, felt pretty strong though tired, and passed more people than passed me. Next up is the Shannock Valley race in July.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

24 Hours of Creek to Peak

24 Hours of Creek to Peak - race recap - 2nd place sport

A place on the podium. You'd think I'd be excited, but not really. 24 Hours of Big Bear was canceled this year. I wasn't sure what race to do that weekend, until I got in touch with Jeff. His team was looking for someone to fill a spot, so I decided it was fate.

Packed up all of my stuff, why that takes so long I don't know, and headed down to Eleanor, WV. It was a long drive, but I would be staying Friday through Sunday, so it was bearable. I was first to arrive at camp, and noticed there were not many other groups camped. I found a place that had electric, shade, and a central location. Home. Set up the trailer and awaited the rest of the team.

Jeff, Dave, and Chris arrived in the next few hours and set up camp. We then went out for an easy pre-ride. It was raining, thought the forecast had not called for it, I should've realized the foreshadowing.

The trails were tight and running pretty fast. The name of the race was telling, Creek to Peak. Basically, we had to ride up a series of switchbacks to the top of the peak. Then rode around on top, then headed down the back side. Well-maintained trails, some easy sections, some technical, rocky sections. The back side was a surprise though. For quite a while we could see camp, but it never seemed to get any closer. At this point the rain was heavier, and it was dark. I finally made it back to the campsite, but my legs were feeling a bit tired. Found out later my rear brake was dragging a bit. Luckily fixed that before the race.

The rest of the teams arrived, but the fact was there were not many other teams. Well, at least there was a lot of room to camp.

The next morning arrived quickly, and before long David took off on the first lap. Our pre-ride had taken 1:45 at an easy pace with some rests, so we were hoping for much quicker times. But did I mention it had rained again? Yep.

Before long Dave completed his lap at about 1:40. Not bad considering the trails had gotten considerably more muddy. Jeff was next to go. Jeff was the fastest rider on the team, so were expecting a pretty good lap from him. When he was out about 45 minutes, it began to rain in earnest. A very heavy downpour hit.

Jeff got back in 1:35. Next, my turn. By this time it had been raining for about an hour, but had luckily stopped for my lap. I rode the first third pretty well. I got to the top being able to ride most of the trail. The logs were slick, but the rocks had traction. I did the top section at a good pace as well. I thought I was on track for an 1:40. But then I hit the last section.

The back section of the hillside must have been made up of a completely different soil composition. To be specific, I think it was peanut butter. Very quickly I realized my frame was being jammed with mud, and the wheels were not moving easily. Every uphill had to be walked, and both logs and rocks were very slick. What should have taken me 20 minutes took two to three times that amount.

I finally finished my lap, and was mentally and physically exhausted. Chris headed off for his lap. My lap time was 2:20!!! I could see the look in my teammate's eyes. I hadn't raced with these guys before, and I could imagine them thinking they should've gotten someone faster. I then asked them if their bikes were as muddy as mine? Their eyes widened when they say my bike, and all of the accumulated mud.

I cleaned up and my legs felt as they would never be able to ride again. Chris returned with a time of 2:45. The trail was getting worse. And, oh yeah, it began to rain again.

To summarize: course was closed from 1:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. due to severe lightning. We finished in second place, out of three teams. The closing ceremony was brief and orgainzed. We received medals and some swag. The for the hard part, I tried to drive home. Why is that always the hardest part?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dash for Cash

2:22 - 14.4 miles - 9TH place - 36-49 year division

Last time I raced Dash for Cash, it was three years ago, and it totally wrecked me - physically and mentally. So it was with some trepidation that I headed back for another dose.

It rained for several days before the race, and a huge rainstorm was coming in from the west on the day of the race. I registered, warmed up, then lined up to start. Riders are let off in pairs every 30 seconds. I joined a guy who was with his two friends that were fairly new. We took off, and caught up to his friends quickly. They were having a hard time in the mud, and it would be a long day for them.

I passed the three guys in the initial singletrack secion, and just plunged in to all the muddy trails ahead of me. The Jones mud tires I had on might not have the best rolling tendencies, but they did do quite well in the heavy mud on the trails. I passed a lot of people in the initial miles.

The first section had a lot of good rock gardens and logs, but with everything being wet and muddy it was tough to make it through sections. A rider behind me wanted by, I pulled over, and then we both took a hard right turn into a very steep downhill. The last time I rode this, it felt soooo steep. This time, it wasn't so bad, and I'll have to say the new Juicy Ultimate brakes were awesome!

Then I came to the "creek." Last time, the water was mid-shin high, this time it was over my waist. Had to hold the bike above me with one hand, and grab the ropes stretched across the creek with my other. It was ridiculous.

Jumped back on the bike, and continued on. Before I knew it, I came out of the woods and to the long grinder up the gravel double track. Last time I had to walk this section, this time I completely rode everything up to the top.

Back down into the valley, a bunch of creek crossings, lots of rocky, technical sections, steep uphills, and steep downhills. Rode up all hills but two, rode down all the steep stuff easily. Big change from last race.

One creek crossing completely ate me up though. It didn't look deep, but it was easily up to my top tube, and I fell and was completely submerged. But Garmin gps was also completely submerged. I guess it really is waterproof. Pulled the bike from the depths and looked at the gps, it was still running. Whew.

Rode through Birdsfoot golf course and knew I was in the final miles of the race. One of the golfers told me he could never do what I was doing, and I agreed that I didn't think I could do it either. Rode a bunch of wet skinny bridges without falling, and finally reached the final big creek crossing. This water was also chest deep in parts. Felt like I was in the jungles of Bolivia.

Finally finished, and compared how I felt to the last race. I was very tired, legs were heavy from all the pedaling in the mud, but mentally I was okay. My goal had been to be under two hours, and with a dry course, I think I could've done it. I pretty happy with my race, though I'm not sure how competitive I was, I'll have to wait for the race results.

This race was the first in the Bike the Wilds race series, and I hope I got the hardest one out of the way.

Things I did well: used a hydration pack, with all of the mud this was perfect; kept the mud tires on; had recovery drink ready to go, legs feel okay today

Friday, April 23, 2010

WVMBA #1 Big Bear 2010

5th place Masters - 1:47 - 14.4 miles

Oh sweet relief! I had so much fun at this race - what a nice change. For the last several years I've had chronic back pain from a pinched nerve. I've tried everything, physical therapy, weights, anti-inflammatories, yoga, professional bike fits, and nothing has worked. Always at some point in the race, the pressure on the nerve becomes so bad that I either have to jump off the bike and stretch or ease up enough on the pedals to take the pressure off. But I finally got it solved. I've had my handlebars pretty high up on my bike, but in a moment of desperation I threw on a pair of riser bars. I did a quick 30 minute ride on Friday to see what it felt like, and almost no back pain. But that was such a short ride. Ok, time to race and see what happens.

Big Bear is one of my favorite courses, but it comes so early in the year often I don't feel ready. I got down to BB really early so that I could do a real warm-up. I took a good ride to loosen up, and then I had a really good stretch session (mini-vans are great). Keeping my back warm would be hard as it was 38 degrees with some intermittent snow.

Oh yeah, and I'm sponsored this year! Sponsored by Fatcyclist.com. If you've never had a chance to read Fatty's blog, make sure that you do. It's hilarious, and he also raises money for some great causes. I'm proud to wear the jersey. And I promised I'd finish every race just like him - somewhere mid-pack, and gasping for air.

I got to the start line, thought I missed my start, but realized I was okay. Actually a bunch of people thought the same, and some of them got a late start. Anyway, off we went. A quick prologue loop and then onto the trial. There were about 15 in my division, and as we entered the real single track I was sitting at about eighth.

Better yet, I had been riding 15 minutes with no hint of back pain.

Arrived at the first real hill, and there were about eight people walking their bikes up the hill. They all had the same color race plates, so not sure how many were in my category - but usually I look for the guys with gray hair.

I spun my way up the hill passing all of the walkers. And still no back pain, great news. Tried to recover the best I could while still pedaling. Ended up talking to a guy behind me, and we both realize eventually we're in the same division. We both mention how we're just trying to finish the race, not really pushing it. We're both lying.

The guy behind me, that I never got a glimpse of, had some great strategy. We hit a big roller, and about three people ended up overtaking me. But I wasn't sure if my fellow masters riders was one of them. I took a look behind me and only younger guys. Yep, he passed me, and I didn't have the legs to match his pace. I just kept riding at a nice steady pace hoping I could catch him late in the race.

About 15 minutes later, I caught him! He had totally blown up his legs passing me at such a high speed.

Finally through the rollers of the 24 hour course and into the pine section. The course was in perfect shape, and I flew through this section. Turned left away from the normal 24 hour course and down a really fun descent. Of course I knew we'd pay for this, and we did. A rocky, slow grinding uphill awaited us. I almost made it without a dab until my back tire slid out on a rock. Still no back pain.

Back into the pine forest and back on to the normal 24 hour route. At this point I was passing more people than being passed - but no idea if they were masters racers or not.

Come to the big descent that ends in the creek bed. Blew down the hill, the new hydraulic brakes worked great. Went to make the sharp left into the creek bed, and promptly did a slow motion endo. Figures. Jumped back up and continued on.

Entered the field with a somewhat technical rock section that leads back in to the single track. Last year I had someone jump off and block me, afraid to ride through the rocks, this year it looked like the same would happen. But I made a pre-emptive move. As soon as the rider in front of me slowed, I yelled "rider back" and sped up. Lucky I did, as she was just getting ready to jump off her bike to go over the rocks. I blew by and passed two others that were trying to recover from the rocky section.

By this time I had been riding for over an hour with no back pain, other than the normal tiredness in the back. Awesome.

I pushed as hard as I could the last couple of miles. Caught a bunch of the beginners that were on a shorter course. Called out a lot of encouragement for them, as I remember how good that felt when I was passed as a novice.

Crossed the finish line and went to check my finish. Fifth place!! Somewhere I had passed four riders from my division, but I wasn't sure where. I knew I had passed two of them, but wasn't sure about a bunch of other riders. The four people that finished in front of me had five minutes on me. That never sounds like much time, but I know it is.

Can't wait for the next race as I think I can push it even harder since I don't have to worry about the back. Can't wait!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Getting skinny

Riding the new North Park skinny on Dr. J. Awesome trail, and it's keeps getting better.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

2010 Snow Storm

Some random pictures from the snowstorm...