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