Sunday, June 21, 2009

How to suck at life...(Darkhorse Gallop Recap)

Well when you live to race these are the key ingredients...all of which are my fault. I guess it would all start this past week as I was looking forward to the race today. I knew it was going to be a slopfest and I didn't want to destroy the drivetrain of my race bike so I opted for the 29'er SS. Ok so I'm going to run the SS and I have to pick a gear so I opt for the 32/18 as it's not going to be THAT bad. I figure I can power through the few slick sections and spin out the rest.

It continues to absolutely poor the rest of the week and I have my buddy's get together the night before so I choose to pound down a few and not place a whole lot of importance on the upcoming mudfest. My intentions were just to finish so I would have enough races to compete for the overall in the H2H series. But as a true competitor I really expected to be very competitive and in the top ten. So here's where all hell breaks loose.

Arriving at the race and doing the prerace warmup revealed just how this beast of a course was going to show itself. Massive puddles, entire trails worth of 5"-6" deep mud with roots and rock everywhere, and changing conditions were going to make it tricky. I LOVE these conditions as I am proud of my bike handling skills and think I have an advantage. Well that's keeps me entertained for a little while.

Lap 1 was pretty good. As the gun went off, of course the entire group rode away as it is flat for the first mile and the SS is a big disadvantage. But up the first fire road climb I used the SS to my advantage and stomped the big gear to get half way through my field. It was really tricky and tough but I stayed consistent and tried to stay smooth in the tough conditions. It was working. Lap 1 was great and I was probably in 5th or 6th and moving up through the other fields really well. Through a few sections I felt my brakes fading and hoped they would last the race.

Lap 2 came up and I maintained and started passing some more of the previous groups. I also had some of my group in my sights and was trying to bridge the gap. It was working but my brakes were severely fading. I blew through a couple of corners into trees and had to start playing with the handlebar adjustments on my mechanical brakes. Which worked for a little while anyway. On to lap 3.

Lap three came and just as it started my brakes started to fade to the final TKO. I had nothing left and no adjustments left. I was reduced to being very careful and trying to milk any of the brake pads I had left to hope they were going to provide any stopping power. Actually I think when I hit the brakes the bike went faster. Just when they went out I was shoulder to shoulder with a teammate with no brakes and we simultaneously tagged a tree and ended up toppling over on top of each other. We were both good and continued on.

If it was not bad enough that my brakes were gone, now my body was trying to take another crack at giving me some pain. I hit a root and was thrown off to the left and as I put a foot down my knee jammed backwards uncomfortably. I kept pedaling and it seemed to be ok thank goodness. So anticipating each downhill I had to ride some sections side saddle in preparation for a fast dismount in order to slow myself down and run down the downhills. This was so aggrivating as I knew it was only a matter of time before my group was going to catch me - AND I FELT GREAT!!! Those 5 beers and two shots the night before didn't seem to have any ill effects. So one by one competitors came up from behind and I spun backwards and many got through which shouldn't have happened. I finally got to the finish hill and stood up and had no one in sight to catch. It was too late. I went all the way from about 6th or so to 14th of 20. What a bitch...

Now here's the kicker. I know people say that hindsight is 20/20. But what a dirty motherf*cker it really is. After all my struggles I found out some really interesting information - once the race was over of course. I wasn't familiar with the brakes I was running as my hydros are usually the brake of choice. With my mechanicals they have handlebar adjustments as well as adjustments on the caliper itself. I totally forgot that the two red dials helped dial the pads in and out and with a few quick adjustments I had brakes again. Are you f'n kidding me?

The next a-ha moment came when I was cleaning out my car tonight and found my mud fender which I wished I had today as I had all this mud in my eyes. I was looking before the race to find something to make a fender out of but I didn't think it would help that much. It would have been SOOOO worth it. And it was in my car the entire time. SONOFAB*TCH.

It continues. After the first lap I was so happy that I was keeping contact with this fast racer from my category that I totally forgot to take my bottle feed from my feed table. So now I was out of water and on for a second lap of horror. Great. Idiot.

It's just so frustrating not being able to race well when everything was under my control and I messed so many things up. The SS was a great choice as the first couple of laps proved it. I was cruising in the heart of my field when the little setbacks killed me. Actually a 19 tooth or 20 tooth cog in the rear would have been better but just not having the brake issue would have been fine. I could have pushed the 18 tooth to the finish fine. It's not the good races that you learn from, but the bad ones, and boy did I learn a lot today. I feel pretty foolish for the easily avoidable mistakes I made and will put them right in the front of my memory to make sure that they never happen again. I will avenge this disaster.

Maybe this is just the motivation that I need as my next race on the calendar is the XC Nationals in Granby CO. This kind of motivation may really help me push myself to the limits and remind me why when things go right it just feels so right. I know my priorities lie in the endurance arena, but when you know you have a great race in the bag it's so hard to feel yourself spinning backwards and losing that many places. Chalk it all up to experience I guess...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Westward Bound...

Now that the school year is coming to a close, it's time for me to head west for my yearly I'm sick of Jersey and want to get the F out trip. My work ends Tuesday and although I have some last minute errands to take care of, I will be leaving Wednesday or Thursday to drive out to see my buddy in Salt Lake City UT. I'll be there for 2-3 days then driving to see my nut job of a brother in Durango CO where all kinds of shenanigans and madness will insue.

During my visit to Durango it will basically be a testosterone filled pissing contest where my brother and I will constantly try to kick each other in the nuts and cause as much pain and suffering as we possibly can - Seriously... The usual routine is to climb, bike, hike, climb, bike, bike, hike, climb, bike, climb and repeat at least 3 times a day - or so it seems. This time my bro has just bought a new house so I'm sure building the new deck will be part of the strenuous routine which I'll be glad to help out with.

On the journey though I'm going to try to hit up Fruita, and or Moab for a day or two here or there as well as maybe summit a couple of 14,000 ft peaks. There has been a discussion of bagging 3 of them that are only accessable via the Durango/Silverton railroad which would be amazing. Let's see what actually comes to fruition and hopefully I'll have some amazing pictures for proof.

As part of my western madness tour I'll be stopping by the XC Nationals at Sol Vista in Granby CO. I figure since I'm out there I might as well show my attendance and support in the mighty thin air. I'm hoping some better acclimitization will help out as the XC Marathon Nats last year was a load of poop, at least that's how I felt. We shall see. I can't wait!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Power to Weight Ratio

So as the season has progressed thus far, my power to weight ratio has gotten MUCH better. As of late December I weighed 184 as the result of some wonderful holiday food and a battle with a Nissan Altima on my bike - which I painfully lost. As the season has progressed and my training has gotten more vigorous, my weight has been peeling off and my goals have steadily been reached. In april I was down to my race weight last year of 172 or so. So I made it my goal in April to be 165 by the Cohutta. I met that goal and set a new one of 160 for the Mohican. I met that and now the new goal is 155 for the Wilderness. Currently I'm running around 161 or 162 as a result of rewarding myself after the Mohican. So now it's crunch time again and there's 7 weeks left til the hills of the Wilderness will either be delightful or destroy me once again. I'd rather be on the happier side. The motivation is there since even when I can't put down a lot of power, the power I do put down doesn't have to push that much weight around. I'll periodically give up dates as a way to motivate myself and maybe help some others.

Monday, June 1, 2009

SSapalooza Race Report

This was a race that was on my calendar pretty early in the season but due to some unforseen obligation the race date moved to the date after my 2nd 100 miler of the season and therefore off the calendar...but not for long. My teammate and I made plans to go to the Mohican 100 and then he brought up the idea of doing the SSapalooza the day after as a cool way to absolutely drain myself of any and all energy and hope of living. It sounded like a great idea. So the plan was on. Do the 100 miles in Ohio and then drive 8 hours home to grab a handful of hours of sleep and then drive to Newburgh NY to do the 2nd race in 2 days. Only my teammate bailed for a more entertaining option and I stuck with the original plan.

So 9 am Sunday morning I was on the starting line after 3 hours of sleep after the dirty century the previous day. The race went off fast - just as my desire to live did. I was shot but I figured I'd put in an effort to try and not finish DFL. As I got into the 1st of two 10 mile laps I just went into conservative race pace and figured I'd have fun and maybe reel in some of the people that were blown up early and spinning backwards. It started to work as I got through a few people on the first lap and just kept being consistent and having fun. 2nd lap came about and found a buddy to chat with and make it a little more fun. We kept on and passed a few more and just had a decent race. I think it was awesome since I actually got to go over the bars uphill on a 29'er. That was a sweet feat.

After all was said and done I got to get my post race celebretory brew and really enjoyed the race as I wasn't as shredded as I thought I'd be. It was good to get out and see all the familiar faces and just absorb the great local scene. Or maybe I was just a little woozy and imagining that I felt alright. The Darkhorse guys really know how to put on a great event and it lived up to all the hype. It was my 2nd attempt at racing a SS and it was alright. The 32-18 worked well and I'll be giving this another try at some point. But for now it's recovery time. Lots of recovery time. Less than 9 weeks til the Wilderness 101 where I'm aiming to attempt a new PR. Let the fun begin...again.

Oh and of course it was good to know that the promoter enjoyed my company as they gave me some schwag for making the long trip between the two races. I came home with some awesome coffee and a set of Specialized sunglasses. 18 hours in the car was definetly worth it :-)

Mohican 100 Race Report

(Photo courtesy of Jen F)
Lets play where's Waldo. Look closely. How about half way up the hill all by myself on the left :-)

Race started off in downtown Loudonville and was a little chilly but generally just great conditions. There were a few passing thunderstorms the night previous but the course remained in great shape. Off from the line the 400 people hammered to get up the paved climb and fight for a spot going into the singletrack. I put in a solid effort and got up towards the front of the group. We did the first 4-5 miles which crosses the stream and has an immediate hike a bike up behind the campground. It drops out to the bike path on the other side of the campground and then into the Mohican State Park trails for 20+ miles of awesome singletrack. Kept on and flew right through Aid 1.
Aid 1 Road Crossing (Mile 20)

The singletrack kept going and was just amazing to cruise through. It was in great shape and a blast to carve. Once the ST ended it opened up to some gravel roads and some pavement which carried up the long driveway to Aid 2 which I rolled into chatting with some of the fellow racers.
Aid 2 Garage (Mile 34)

Leaving aid 2 I saw my buddy Nate from NYC and rode with him for a bit and got to work together with a few riders to gain some time on the gravel and pavement. It was some grungy doubletrack and gravel climbs but soon gave way to some more singletrack. The ST was superb again and dropping down and flying across the farmers field reminded me that aid #3 was coming up.
Aid 3 Split of 100M/100K(Mile 46)

After aid 3 is a little demoralizing since you climb straight back up the same hillside that was just descended. Once the top is gained it’s back to a few more gravel and road sections that lead out to the dreaded rail bed. The rail bed is about 12 miles of bone flat or false flat uphill that grinds all the way into aid 4. My main focus was to if possible - get in a group and paceline as it makes the pain a little better since the miles fly by. Fortunately it worked out well as I had a group of 4 to work with and get to aid 4 pretty quickly.
Aid 4 Park after small town(Mile 72)

After aid 4 it was back to some country roads and then there were some doubletrack climbs that were not long but enough to make you hurt. They were gradual and tough but rideable. The really eroded dirt climb was steep but good as the legs were there and putting down some decent power. This eventually lead out to the suspension bridge and on to aid #3 again.
Aid 3(Again) Split of 100M/100K(Mile 80)

After aid #3 for the second time I knew there were some gravel killers up ahead and I was going to make them my bitch. They destroyed me last year so I was going to try to hit them as hard as I could to help get to the end. It worked. I cranked up the steepest of the gnarly gravel and just kept a constant pace as I knew the end was coming closer. Winding through a few backroads I finally hit a familiar downhill and I knew I was on the road back towards aid 5 so I put more down and got there as fast as I could.
Aid 5 Under Bridge( Mile 92)

At aid 5 I was told only 6 more miles to go(more like 8). So topped off bottles and cranked to the remaining sweet singletrack which we did before. As I got there I was starting to really feel the miles and one of my local buddies snuck up from behind. Dave was tracking me down and I did all I could to hold him off in the remaining singletrack. We got to the campground and found that it wasn’t a direct finish and there was more hills and pain to be had. I was low on energy so I let Dave go with a half hearted chase. I just wanted to be consistent and save a good finish time. I put a couple efforts in but the hike a bike was a kick in the face. Once through the creek I knew I was done and just put whatever I had left to get in across the line in just under 8.5 hours. Actually it was 8:29:54 to be exact. 34th and WAAAAAY happy with how the race went. My best race to date – PERIOD. It all felt good and I raced very smart – finally. All the hard work is starting to pay off and it only makes me hungrier for more.

Cycling news got a couple of shots of myself and my buddies at the starting line. Check em out: