Monday, November 5, 2012

Stoudt's CX Report - Smashed in the Head by a Bike...

Yesterday was supposed to be the Bubblecross in West Milford but due to Hurricane Sandy being a b*tch it wreaked havoc on the area and with lots of people without power and gas they thought it wouldn't be a good idea to hold the race. I agree it was the smart choice. But being the addict I am I was looking for another option. I talked to a few friends and we were working on putting together a local CX practice and do a full on race but that just wouldn't give the same intensity as an actual race. So that was the conundrum.

As I was perusing the web at my girl's place(since she actually was one of the few that had power), I came across the Stoudts CX race. Given the current situation after Sandy it did seem pretty selfish to use all that gas to get to Adamstown PA but the situation for fuel in PA is not dire at all. So we used the race as a great effort for racing, and bringing back tons of fuel in whatever fuel cans I could scrounge up was the secondary mission. So we loaded up 4 like minded people and headed out to Stoudts for the CX race. At least with 4 people going out we could warrant the fuel usage. How bad could it be the race was at a brewery? :-)

So we underestimate the time it would take to get there and roll in just an hour ahead of race time so we pop out of the car, run to registration, grab our numbers, and run back to the car to start warming up. After gearing up and finding the pit we got maybe a half hour of warmup in before we had to shed our gear and get to the line. The one thing I noticed beforehand was a nice grimy mud pit followed by a runup and then a few twisties in the mud that looked just fine. It seemed like a long flowy twisty course that could work to my strengths.

So the race goes off hard and my legs were just not warmed up enough. I dangled at the back of the pack which was probably good since they were squirrelly and all over the place almost crashing twice before the first real turn. Keeping steady I worked my way in traffic to find a good position. The mud and runup was tough as it was deeper than I thought. The rest of the course was nice and flowy and had some great tough turns. If you hit them wrong you would slide out and loose all momentum. So we kept on and I had a few ahead of me that I worked through and picked off one by one. I felt increasingly better and better as the race went on and traffic thinned. I could really get a groove going in the corners and I was able to track people down efficiently.

Somewhere in the middle of the race I had the most shocking thing happen that I would never ever have expected and I'll remember forever. I had a racer in my sights that I was tracking down and reeling in foot by foot. I hit this stretch of pavement that I knew I could get back to him on (or get close) so I turned the pedals over really hard. The next thing I know I look up ahead and I hear the racer I've been trying to get up to smash him and his bike on the ground. Somehow the course tape was broken and he caught it pulling him to the ground. He gets up in the middle of the course and is standing next to his bike. I ask him if he's ok as I fly by on the left and at that exact moment he whips his bike from the right side of the course and throws his bike off of the left side of the course which coincidentally happened to be right where my face and head were. Are you F'N KIDDING ME? From what I remember I saw the bike coming and lowered my head and hit the bike right in the bottom bracket/rear triangle area at close to full speed. It shot off my head and another 20 feet in the air as I somehow kept it upright. My glasses flew off and I then unloaded every expletive that I knew on him as I rode away and continued the race. Did that just really happen? I was in shock for a lap or two doing damage assessment.

From what I felt I was ok and not bleeding and just shocked at taking a bike to the face. I even asked my teammates at the end to check me out because if I was cut or messed up the adrenaline of the race covered it up. I was more shocked with the pure douchebaggery of a racer. It was unfortunate that he fell and must have been having a bad day, but to be that angry or upset to possibly kill another racer by throwing a bike? What if I had caught the chainring badly or even a pedal to the face? I could have been seriously injured or worse. So far the only injury I have from the incident is a sore neck and I can't believe that's it. That helmet saved me from a much worse fate. Really? Did that just happen? Still shocking...

After the incident I calmed myself down and I was able to refocus and keep riding. I did get that position after passing the downed-bike-throwing idiot so that helped. In the following laps I was able to pick off 1 or two more which felt better as I was still pedaling and riding well. I got to the finish and was just happy to get there alive. I was 14th of 25 and was happy with that finish as there were a lot of strong riders there and I survived being smashed in the face by a competitors bicycle. Now the effort was to catch my breath, get some warm clothes on and go punch this idiot in the face.

I looked around the parking lot and remembered I had to go pick up my glasses. So I started to roll over there to look for them. As I start over I see a guy kinda making eye contact and holding my glasses. It was the d-bag. He gave me my glasses and seemed upset at what he had done and repeatedly apologized. I asked him what the hell was wrong with him and what would make him do such an idiotic thing. I also reminded him that he could have killed me and I was lucky to escape with no injuries. He repeatedly apologized and really didn't know what to say. I was resisting the urge to just attack him for being such an idiot. I was sooooo pissed. My blood is boiling a bit just writing this recap. I accepted his apology and shook his hand and rode off as I didn't even want to look at him for any longer than I had to. I was still amazed that this even happened. I guess I really do need to shop for a new helmet now.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Independence CX Report

This past Saturday before the big storm is set to hit, I headed down to south jersey to compete in the Independence CX race. Being so far from home, about 2+ hours, there was a good reason that I haven't attended in the past. It's kinda hard to justify driving that far and only racing for 1 hour. So be it. Since I am persuing the NJBA cross cup I figured I'd get down there and hope for a great result and get closer to the podium. It's gonna take some big effort down the home stretch of the calendar but who knows. I'll just ride steady and see how it goes.

So I pull up and see yards of tape crossing everywhere. I get turned around just looking at the tape and even more turned around just riding the course. It's not your typical cx course as there's maybe only 50 feet of actual grass there. The rest is nice dirt/sand trails back in the woods. The technical features on the course were the beach run and the amphitheater of pain. The amphitheater is as it sounds with large steps to run up. It did get painful with every sequential lap for sure.

As I toed the line I had a nice front row call up and I hoped to use that to the best of my ability. We went off the line hard and there were some pretty fast guys in the group so I just hoped I could stay steady and get a nice finish. Off the line I was probably 7th or so into the woods. It was a hard start. Redlined off the gun I hope everyone would settle in a little. They kinda did as around one of the first bends a racer goes down tangled with one another and struggled to get going again. I had a clear line around so I just pinned it and didn't look back. That may not have worked to my advantage as I hit the beach and it seemed like I was standing still. I wasn't feeling it and one by one racers started passing me. I knew I was in for a long day if I kept feeling like this.

At this point I was looking for anything as a sign of hope. At one point I was going back and forth with Andrew Logudice and from previous races I know he's a strong rider. I couldn't hold him at one point and had to let him go. A few laps later in sections that he'd been out of sight, I saw him again so it seemed like I was gaining. That's all I needed for extra motivation. I put in some good efforts to close to him and I did. We passed and repassed each other as we had different grooves on the course. I said to him at one point to work together to try and pass the next rider which was Nick from Colavita. I took the climbs and hard corners and Andrew punched it on the flats and soon enough we caught up to Nick. In the second to last lap it was me, Nick, and Andrew hitting the biggest climb on the course. I put in a hard effort to try to get away and I just heard a lot of noise as somehow Nick threw himself on the ground. I hoped he was ok but had to press on to see if I could keep my gap and maybe see the guy ahead. As I hit the last lap I looked at those few sections on the course where you could see the others and there was no one ahead or behind. Somehow I shed Andrew as well.

I put down all I had left to keep my gap and finished with no more place exchanges and a good second half of the race. I was happy to have finished so well with not feeling good at all for the first half. Checking the results later I was 10th of 23 in a pretty good field on a pretty non-traditional course. I'd call it a good day.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Marty's 2 Day CX Race Report

This past weekend was going to be a nice hellish battle with the conditions I thought. With all the torrential rain pouring down I was excited with the mud battle that would ensue on Saturday and Sunday. Much to my dismay, there was no mud on the course. Well nothing of note really. A few slick corners aren't enough to really help the handlers out there so I was a little disappointed. The course was still very hard with a steep runup and lots more elevation than we've seen this season. So with that in mind I set myself up to do the best I could with the roadie course. Well the best I could considering I had some bad GI issues the night before and the Wed prior I really hurt my ankle during cross practice. Me foot unclipped in the middle of a hard pedal stroke and I proceeded to gouge the skin off of the bone on the inside of my ankle with the crank arm. So much so that if it were the slightest bit deeper I probably would have been in the ER getting stitches. The crank arm then dug into my calf creating some really nice colors due to bruising. So given all that happened prior to this weekend, I was happy just to be riding my bike.

Saturday's race went off hot as I got a call-up in the front row and tried to do the best I could with that. I had been getting poor starts all year so far and this was a bit nicer. That was until we hit the first barriers a few hundred feet after the start and when remounting my pedal wouldn't clip in and I almost repeated how I hurt my ankle in practice. 2 or 3 guys shot by and I had to regain position. The race was steady and fast but around another turn the pedal popped out and a few snuck by again. I chased really hard and got through a few but I never really found the groove of this course. It was good but the runup was so tiring that it really gassed me for the rest of the lap and I had a hard time recovering to punch it hard again. So I was in 10th in no mans land but had a few just ahead that I couldn't close the gap to. I tried but it just wasn't happening. Then on the 2nd to last lap I see Dave Wilson closing from behind. Oh man I wasn't feeling that great and now I had to fend him off. So I put the pedals down for that lap and he closed a bit more. I only had one more lap to keep that gap. It was probably only 5 secs or so. I told myself that on the last climb I would put it ALL down and try to open the gap and keep 10th place. I buried myself and went HARD. It worked. I looked back just before the finish line to see my effort had paid off and I kept my 10th place. I had no idea that Freddy was just ahead and finished 11 seconds ahead of me.

10th was a great finish. I know that had I not had the problems I did before the race and the pedal issues during I could have done a little better but I was satisfied. Pulling off 10th place in that really strong group of 24 was not that shabby.

For Sunday's race I did some late night surgery on my pedal to make sure it would not happen again. It worked. I had a solid start and kept the pace high throughout the race. Since the race was run backwards and there was no runup this time I found the groove much better. I was constantly attacking and riding well. At some point I was in 11th and saw a few fading in the middle laps and put the power down to get away from them. Later on I sat in 9th and saw a train of 3 behind me and wanted to make sure they didn't get close. Plus Tommy and Andrew were just ahead so if they made a mistake I wanted to be right there. I put all I could down and I couldn't close the gap to those ahead enough. I was too patient earlier on or I should have been right with Tommy and Andrew at this point. I did in fact open the gap to those behind me though which kept me satisfied. Sunday's race was a 9th place of 24 again. A much better race for me overall as I found the groove but had the heavy legs from Saturday. Really I'm pretty satisfied with how things went this past weekend. Next up, 6 races in 6 weeks. Time to finish up strong and then the end is in sight!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cooper River CX Report

Cooper River CX was a bit of a hike...about 1hr 45 mins but they made a great course out of a small piece of real estate. Fun, twisty, and DRY! Well dry was good for the day but I like the races a bit more muddy. It was a good race but still some frustrating parts. Call up...none. Got shafted and dumped in the back of the pack. Off the line I was probably 50th or so of 60 riders. I was in row 7 and not too happy about it. To top it off in the first corner someone blows through/gets wrapped in teh tape and it's on my side and I have to stop and get around the mess. Now I really was in the back of the bus. I can't think that there were many riders behind me if at all at this point. I'd have to fight all of the way through this mess. I did.

I kept it smooth and steady for the entire race. Lap by lap I picked off more and more riders and waited for the tight stuff to be smooth and attack coming out of it. The wide open sections were the worst. High hp was needed and it just hurt. I did well but not moving up as quickly as I would have liked. I was in 30th or so and I saw my teammates up ahead so my goal was to get to them. I worked and through the next few laps I got to Brian and Tommy was just ahead. Brian pulled me a bit and told me to go so I did trying to bridge up to Tommy. At this point though I got in a battle with a group of 4 guys and I spent a lot of my energy shaking these guys and less chasing Tommy.

I shed two of the riders and one stuck with me for the final two laps. I tried a couple hard lines and hard accelerations but he was right there. We hit the road and I waited for the sprint. It came hard on my left. I reacted but too late and when I did react all my legs wanted to do was cramp. I guess that was a good sign that I left it all out there. I finished in 24th place of 60 or so riders. The results say 46 riders were there but that's BS. There were WAAAAAY more racers out there. A decent result and a fun day.

Thanks to C. Perkins for the awesome shots!!!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Town Hall CX Report

Driving out to Eastern PA I wasn't sure what to expect for this race. I heard about some hill and knew that earlier in the week it monsooned so it could be quite nasty on the course. As I got there it was obvious the hill that they were talking about. Not super steep but long enough to be painful and switchbacked enough to keep you dizzy while attacking it.

The race went off and it did so without my legs. I put the first couple pedal strokes down and there wasn't much there. I was a little tentative since the last time I did a CX race I was on the pavement in the first 50 feet so maybe that was part of it. Anyway it starts right into the dreaded hill so I just stay steady and try to pick off racers when I could. The climbing was steady and the downhill was sketchy but I made up my time in the mud and the greasy corners. I was able to find lines that others couldn't work and ride past many lap after lap. I got into the flowing knowing this and about 3 laps in my legs started to come around.

By this point I was probably in 10th or 11th of 25 and saw a couple riders not too far in front of me. So I kept it steady and worked my strengths. Uphill was good, downhill was good, but through the mud I attacked and worked my edges and the lines that were hooking up. It worked. I picked off one rider each of the last couple of laps and somehow worked my way up through a few guys I've never beaten before. That made my ride feel really good. I was happy with how I did and really had a solid race.

I finished 8th of 25 and was happy to do that well given that I was just coming off of the Vermont 50 the week prior which really kicked my butt. I was extremely happy as well that both of my tires stayed on this week. No bike changes were necessary but my front tire was deflating on me. So that needs attention. Hopefully I can build on this and keep the momentum going into a great cross season.

Thanks to C. Perkins for the awesome shots!!!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

VT50 Recap

Man this is a hard race. Over 9k of climbing in 50 miles and you feel every pedal stroke on this sucker. Good thing for lights on the first 30 mins. Man it's dark and the group is going REALLY hard. W/out lights would be tough. I sat in 7th place for the first hour or so and then a couple got through me and dangled in front of me for a LONG time. About 2.5 hours in 2 more got by as my legs were checking out for the day. I kept on it but just didn't have a ton of juice. There's a lot of short steep ups in this race that really give your legs a beating. I was happy to keep a steady pace and checkout the beautiful scenery. A few more got through in the last 10 miles or so but I just kept on putting the pedals down hard and driving forward. I tried to jump on their wheels and use them for motivation but no such luck. I was able to hold a decent pace just not as high as the others.

I crossed the line in 4:45 in 14th place overall and 6th place in my age group. I'm pretty satisfied for how flat my legs felt on the second half. Great race and SOOOOOO much climbing. It's basically one really hard set of hill repeats for the entire 50 miles. I can't believe some of the stuff I rode up but I rode it all. The 5 hour ride home was a little tough but it's good to be home.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Westwood Velo CX Report

This was an absolute shit show. The further I get away from this race the more comical it becomes and I can't believe how bad it was.

From the gun I line up second row behind Dag and know he sets a good pace so I should have a solid start. The horn blows and we all go out hot. For some reason Dag slips back and our wheels overlap and not in a good way. I have to put a foot down hard and someone smashes into me from the left. The result was me tubling on the ground only 50 feet into the race. Great.

I picked up my battered bike and fixed the hoods. Both were bent inward. After I got them straightened out I had to straighten my bars as they were knocked crooked and I couldn't race like that. Then once that was done I had to put my chain back on. Yes really. So with all of this I had a minute plus gap to cover right from the start. I refused to get frustrated and stayed composed and just rode.

Lap by lap I passed one, then another, then another. I was doing good but taking my time to get through the field. With 25+ riders it would take a bit and I'd have to plan my moves carefully. I rode steady and soon found myself 4 laps or so in sitting in 11th position. I was riding very well and I had some good motivation and my sights set on those other riders close ahead.

Well it wasn't to be. On lap 5 I came through one of the mud pits and caught something sharp as it sliced my tubular open and wouldn't seal. Later I found that it was a 3/8" slice that was too big to seal. So I rode the flat carefully to the pit and swapped bikes. I lost a position in the change and rode hard to get it back. So during the next lap I just get the position back and start charging hard to get the gap opened to go after those ahead. Well after 1/2 a lap and the gap opening I start to hear a noise with each revolution of the rear wheel. I tap my brakes behind me to fix the calipers as I figured I'd hit them and they were just rubbing the wheel...nope. The tire was actually coming off the rim. Around the next turn the tube blows out and unseats the tire and tube. Really? Are you serious???

Yup. I was now almost to the finish for the bell lap and I had no bike to ride that actually worked and I wasn't even near the pit anyway. A DNF never entered my mind. I did look around the course for a sec to see if the leader was near to sit up and let him pass so I could finish quicker but he was nowhere in sight. The choice was clear. I wrapped the tube and tire on my chest and ran the lap and a 1/4 to get to the finish line. It was rough and hard but I wouldn't give up. I actually rode a lot of the grass with no tire as it kinda worked but every time I got to the gravel or pavement I picked it up and ran. Yea it was that kind of day.

In the end I got to the finish with my bike on my shoulder and the applause of the C race that was starting after mine. It was hard and very unlucky but I wouldn't give up. One way or another I was going to finish this damn race. Like I said laughable. The official results said 24 of 24 but I think there was at least one that had a mechanical and DNF'd so either way it was a victory. How bad can a race go? It can go this badly! Hopefully all of my mechanicals for the season are done with.

Kirkland CX Report

I had to be in the Adirondacks for this weekend helping close down my family's summer house so why not use it as an excuse to find a cross race to do. Kirkland CX was the answer. I rolled into the town park and noticed some nice elevation change to start. A bit more than most other CX courses I've done. I thought that was great as I can usually power up those hills pretty nicely. I did a preride lap and warmed up well and switching from endurance to CX I had very little to expect but hopefully just a solid performance.

We took off from the line pretty hot and I quickly assumed the 6th position. I was close to 5th place and hung tight to plan my pass. Around the first lap I took it cautious and rode a solid pace. I hit the feared runup well and cruised through the sandpit so I thought it would be a good day. As I approached the line for lap 1 I attacked and passed 5th place and kept on the gas hoping it would stick. It did. I then focused on 4th place. Dangling just ahead for the entire race. One lap I would close the next lap the gap opened. Rinse and repeat. I just couldn't get the gas to get close enough to make a move and that's how it stayed for the whole race.

Looking back at results I rode very solidly as all laps were within 10 seconds of each other which I'm very happy about. So I cruised across the line not too far behind 4th - 34 seconds - and took the 5th spot of 11. I was very happy as it seemed to be a solid field and I put down a great effort. Hopefully it's a sign of a good CX season to come.

Shenandoah Mountain 100 Recap

Since I was accused of falling off of the face of the earth last night...I thought I should go ahead and update some of my race info. :-)

The SM100 was a great time and such a cool venue as usual. This was my 4th time doing the race and it's just such an enjoyable time that it keeps me coming back for more. As of late though I wish it were earlier in the season so I could really hit it hard as I feel burnt by the time this race comes around. Either way it was good for another attempt.

On my preride my legs felt flat so I knew it might be a bad day on race day. Well the horn goes off the next morning and I roll with the lead group until the first few hills and let them go. I'm not sure if it was the lack of warmup or the flat legs but I just didn't think it would pay to dig that hard at that moment so I letup and just rode a steady pace. That was probably a good strategy as it would keep me fresher for the miles to come.

Up the first climb and into the first singletrack in the top 30 or so all was going well until I hear the hissing of my back tire that just got sliced open on a greasy rock. Great. I spun it to get the stans to seal but no luck. I ripped it apart, put some duct tape on the hole from the inside and threw a tube in all while watching probably 100+ racers pass me by. That was the depressing part.

So after the tire was all aired up I jumped in the line of riders and took off...well not really. It was the conga line from hell. Everyone being slow and cautious and not knowing how to ride up a hill. Every time the terrain pitched up everyone got off and walked. Really??? So I got pissy and called out and rode up through what I could to try and gain some positions. It was a lot of hurry up and wait. There were just no good spots to pass that many people so I had to pick them off one at a time. Even on the downhills everyone was sitting in line and grabbing their brakes. Again...really?

Out to the next fire road - I jumped on the gas and rode pretty angrily. Knowing the leaders were MILES ahead was not a kind thought. All I wanted to do was catch and pass anyone in sight. I did pretty well and passed probably 50+ on this road section and headed into the next climb. Again only to sit in line and wait to pass or walk as I couldn't get through. Totally frustrating. On the next fireroad I got a bunch more and then just settled in as the crowds were dwindling down. I was getting closer to where I belonged but still at a huge disadvantage. I had to save some juice for what lie ahead since I was putting down a big effort to make up lost ground.

The next few hills went well but I just knew I was far behind the race. The hill after aid 3 usually kills me and I rode it pretty well. Still in traffic I kept on and rode the best I could. Then into the soul crusher I had all kinds of thoughts back to last year when I could barely pedal in granny gear. It was not going to happen this year. I put down a good pace and tried to make up some more spots on this climb which I did and topped it pretty well looking forward to the finish.

Then with a little bit of motivation, the weather sucked the life out of it. It had been raining a good part of the morning and now getting to the 16 meadows(or whatever it is) the trail just turned awful. It was just mudpuddles and sloppy trails as far as the eye could see. I was really trying to make up time and this was not going to help. It was miserable. At this point I gave up hope a little as it was just so hard with everything happening at once. Crappy legs - flat tire setback - and now the rain to make everything even worse. It was not going to be a PR or a great day overall but at least I'd get to the finish.

So after rolling through the slop for a long time I finally hit the last few uneventful sections and made my way back to the campground. As I was on one of the last hills I heard my garmin beep as the 9 hour mark hit. Then I just totally soft pedaled in frustration. I had the worst ride of my life last year and rode a 9:23 and now this year with some bad weather and some setbacks I'd be very close to that. It just wasn't worth pushing any harder. I was burntout. The motivation was gone and I was happy to have my mountain bike season over. At that point I just wanted to hang up the fat tires for good for 2012.

I rolled across the line at 9:13 yipee in 40th place. Disgusted and tired I was elated for it to be over. 40th really wasn't bad considering where I'd spent most of the day but I just knew that I had so much more in me and if luck went the right way the day would have been much better. That's why there's always next year I guess...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Rattling Creek 50

I should start this recap with my thoughts from last year. I did this race after returning from Colorado in 2011 with a hatred of rocks and thinking I may have rode a little too much on vacation. I was tentative of how the race would go to say the least. That's exactly how it played out. I was fried. I could not ride the rocks well and I had no legs to carry me through the smoother parts, or any parts, for that matter. So I finished that race but left thinking I could have done much better...

The 2012 edition had to be more successful. I still raced the RC the weekend after coming back from Colorado although I didn't ride in excess as I did the year before. Call it maturity or whatever you will but I've raced this season smarter than ever and it's starting to pay off. Although only being 2 weeks of recovery since the Wilderness 101 I felt pretty good. I wouldn't say that I felt amazing, but good enough to try and throw down at the RC.

This year the race started and finished in Lykens in a effort to build up the town and create business. It was nice having pickup in town at the train station and being able to BS with everyone. So after number pickup and warming up a bit the start was only a few minutes away. It was a smaller field but definitely packed with some great riders. I knew it was going to be possible to get in the top 10 but top 5 was not looking good.

So the start went off pretty reserved with Jed Prentice leading out the pack up the paved climb out of Lykens. I was waiting to see if anyone would jump but it only picked up a bit just as it got steep towards the top. I had flashbacks to that of the Stoopid 50 when the whole group of 30 riders fell, including myself, on each other entering the first turn. I was not going to let this happen again and I stood up and made my way to the front just before the turn. I rolled into the singletrack in 6th place behind Stephan Kincaid, Collin Becker, Rob Lichtenwalner, Chris Edmonds, and Jed Prentice. We all hung together for the first 40 or so minutes pretty well. I kept listening behind and couldn't hear anyone sneaking up so I know we had a good gap.

Getting to the rockier and more techy trails I was having an absolute blast. I was loving the rocks and riding them very well. I was able to get through Rob as something didn't seem right as well as Chris as I was riding more smoothly. I exited the singletrack and had a nice gap. I focused on hunting down Jed next. I could see him in the distance and slowly reeled him in. All the while Chris would hit the fire roads and get back to my wheel. So a bit later after spreading out and getting back together, Jed and Chris and I were riding wheel to wheel. A few more hills and techy sections and things started to split apart. Jed was riding really well and I couldn't hold his wheel any longer. He was just riding the tight bushy singletrack sooo smoothly that he gapped me and I just concentrated on riding smoothly. At the same time Chris dropped off my pace and I was all alone.

Through the next bit of climbs toward the end of the course I was all alone - I thought. Maybe too alone that I relaxed a bit. I looked back on one hill section to see Chris coming back to me so I had to attack. I hit the next section hills hard knowing that once I got to mile 40 or 41 that the last 4 were downhill and I could maintain whatever gap I had. I kept looking back but the attack seemed to work - I didn't see Chris for a bit. Then the eerie feeling crept over me as I made the exact same turn I'd seen before earlier in the race....something wasn't right. Was I off course? The Rattling race is known to use trails forward and backwards so maybe it was correct? I kept going knowing that I'd probably see a race official soon if I made the wrong turn. I thought back and followed the arrows EXACTLY as I'd seen them but still felt unsure. It was a bad thought knowing that if it was in fact a bad turn I'd have to go back up the same way I had just come down...ugh.

Down a bit more and my chain comes off. Crap, ok shift while rolling and it'll come back on. Nope. Shift again and scoot a little bit...nope. Ok stop and look at this thing. The chain was somehow twisted into two! How could it have gotten thrown off and twisted like that? It took some time to route the chain so that there was slack enough to fix it but it was too much time. Probably a good two minutes to fix this issue. The good part was that I jumped back on my bike and no one had passed and I heard no one sneaking up. Wow that attack must have really worked! So I made my way down, down, and down some more though a couple turns that I had already done...a turn had to have been missed. So I soft pedaled to see if anyone was coming up and then saw the promoter Mike Kuhn riding towards me on the trail. I asked him if I was going the right way and he sadly said no and pointed me in the right direction back up the trail I had just descended. CRAP!!! Just then Chris rolled up on me as I turned my bike around and started back up the hill. Then we picked up Brian Shernce and the rest of everyone else who had made the wrong turn. How had we all missed this turn???

I was so upset. I got to the last 5 miles of a race with a great position and then went off course. I knew I was going to finish but how many people would pass in the meantime when I was riding in 4th? The issue turned out to be a piece of tape that was not put up in time for the leaders to see. EVERYONE in the top 20 went off course. So as the group of us grew leading back to the right turn, we called a truce and made a gentlemens agreement to casually ride the remainder of the race trail and when we got back we would appeal to the race director. Everyone knew their place and we could reconstruct the finish if he approved. So we enjoyed the last few miles of trail and rolled into town.

The leading group was pretty disgusted but anxious to see how Mike would settle the finishing issue. He went with a great idea - since the 3rd checkpoint was just before where most went off course, then he took the finishing order from that point. That way those who missed the turn and went awry would be marked in the place they were before they went off course. I was satisfied with that.

After all the day's events I came in 4th place out of the 45 in open mens in 4:49 according to my GPS. With some GPS data evaluation I calculated that there was 35 minutes lost and 5.7 miles of extra trail ridden because of the tape issue. Glad to be done after a crazy finish I was satisfied with the decision to end the race the way it did and with the great food at Kevin's place afterwards. It was just so much nicer to race feeling this way than the previous year. It was good to have a little redemption after feeling so miserable last year. As for the tape error, mistakes happen and it was great that all the competitors handled themselves respectfully and Mike did great with the results and the race as a whole. Big thanks go out to Mike and his crew and if you have the urge to get out to Rattling Creek for some rocky bumpy it!!!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Wilderness 101 Recap

Another good race went down in the hills of PA this past weekend. I started off with the goal of staying with the lead group for the first main climb and hang with them as long as I could. I accomplished this as they seemed to keep it a little more tame than in previous years - or I was able to just hang with them better. Anyway I rolled in the lead group of about 30 that made it over the climb together and rolled down to the tunnel under 322 - the only problem was that the tunnel was gated off and we couldn't go through...yikes! Chris Scott was there and we had to do it old school and whip a u turn and cross the highway the old fashioned way. Of course by this time 20 other riders bridged up and now the lead pack was about 50 strong. That wouldn't last long as on the next few rollers the pace was lifted and we dropped 20 or 25 riders as I stayed calm in the lead group.

This held together til the first aid station and it started to break apart on the climb just after. That was perfect as I knew it wouldn't hold together forever and staying in that group helped conserve a bit. After it broke apart I was on my own. The trails were in decent shape but definitely a little greasy. It was wise to tone it down a little bit on the singletrack since the previous rains and humidity would make the rocks and roots greasy and treacherous. I started riding with some other racers as we hit the next climbs and yo-yo'ing back and forth. I saw a lot of Garth Prosser, for a bit then Rob Lichtenwalner, then Joe Fish and we just kept our heads down and kept it rolling. Rolling into aid #2 it was just me and Rob and we pacelined for a bit trading pulls to make up some time. We hit aid 4 and then settled in for the big climb. I let Rob go and then got back to him later on the descent off the back. We rode together until the next climb when we settled in and I let him and Joe Fish go and we once again all got back together at the top this time with Roger Masse coming up to join in the fun.

As the race went on we all stayed within a few minutes of each other. In the rugged singletrack after aid 3 I felt my legs started to cramp. Great. Here's where the wheels would fall off or I would fight through to get it together. I ignored them as they fired through the remainder of the race but it definitely was a struggle at times. Both of my gracilis(inner thigh) muscles fired like normal first but then my hamstrings and quads started to go as well. That's not fun. So I spun more to get through and still found myself with the same group as they seemed to be having some of the same issues. Rinse and repeat until the final climb. I rolled into it with Roger and Rob and I knew I had to cap this one climb and do it fast if I wanted to get near my goal. As I hit the hard left turn and the climb pitched up I put my head down and settled in as I heard Rob and Roger chatting. I knew Roger was hurting a bit and I decided to leave them but hoped they would come back to work with me for the final 5 miles or so of rail bed so I wouldn't have to hit that alone. Nope - that plan didn't work. I crested the climb and saw no one in sight. I hit the rail bed looking back for them to be rolling up but nope. I really wanted the help now as I was still in the middle of a cramp session and it hurt badly to press through, but I had to. I hit those last 5 miles alone and now it was a time trial to finish off this thing. I was pressing hard on the pedals just to get to the finish line and was creeping up on Justin Pokrivka(SS) who I had worked with a little on an earlier rail bed but he was just out of reach to catch. I finished 5 seconds behind him and crossed the line at 7:36. 12 minutes off my previous best and 19th of 171 in the open class. I finished 23rd overall of 266.

I feel pretty satisfied overall. My goal was to finish in 7:30 in the top 20 and I came really close to getting both. My nutrition seemed to work pretty well as I just used only liquids in the form of Infinit Nutrition but I still had that cramping issue that held me back a bit. If I can figure that out I might be able to go a bit deeper next year and shoot for the top 15. As always if you're ever thinking about a 100 miler this is a great one to do. It was round 5 for me and I'll be back for more.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bulldog Rump Recap

This race is my team race that we put on each year and is usually a great event and a hard one to race well at. Prior to the event I was so wrapped up in work this past week that the race wasn't even on my radar. I did a few rides this past week but nothing of note and I didn't even prereg as I wanted to give myself an out. Up to the last minute I was still thinking of bailing on the race but I needed a good hard workout to prep me for the Wilderness 101 coming up in 2 weeks. With that in mind I lined up for heck of it. To continue the lack of prep I basically dusted off my bike and went over it and hoped it would be good for the race. I cut a tire the day before the race so I had to mount up a brand new tubeless tire that I hate doing as they normally don't fully set up in one day. Fingers crossed - I hoped that would hold. Plus my shifting was off, so I did a little tweaking and it seemed like it would be all set for race day. So I got geared up and sat on the line.

As the race went off I was in the second row. The rider to my left had a chain/pedal issue and slid to the right cutting me off running into my front wheel and almost taking me out. I had to put a foot down and hop a bit to stop from falling down. What a way to start off the race. I got myself back together and had to chase back on from dead last place. I put some power down and jumped past Brian Kelley as he was on a SS and was just laughing as there was no way to hold the pack's pace on his gear. Shortly after though the field bottle necked going into the first big climb and brought us all back together. I worked my way around Ken Welch and kept on a pace that I thought I could hold as I saw a few ahead. I rode up to Brian Lariviere and Ross Anderson and jumped around Ross to get onto Brian's wheel. We rode together for a bit and passed 2 other riders in the process. So we were riding steady and could hear other riders not too far away. I was happier with this but was not happy with what was going on below me. My drivetrain was doing everything but running smoothly. I didn't have my top gear and every other gear was making noise and not shifting right. I don't know if the cable stretched a bit more but it was really distracting. So we kept on and I felt that my legs weren't doing so good. At least I thought I might be able to keep the power down and save some face. Towards the end of lap 1 I was riding comfortable on Ross' wheel and using him to pull me back to BL. We went around a corner and he just pulled to the side as his bike had some issue. I kept the pressure on and used that momentum to get me back to BL.

Into lap two we stayed together pulling each other along and I knew it was only a matter of time until I fell off the pace. We were still doing ok though I was fighting the loss of power and my non-shifting gears. We passed Dave Kahl as he seemed to be having an issue. Towards the back side of lap 2 we heard someone coming up and it was the leaders of the 19-29 category, Eric and Dan flying through. We made room for them in the tight singletrack and that's where I lost BL. From there I just seemed to power down to try and make the rest of the 3 laps. I felt like crap. My legs just didn't want to turn over the pedals. My shifting was so bad I was hoping that the chain would snap just to end the pain. But then I hoped it wouldn't because I know my stubborn a$$ would then run the remainder of the race and I didn't want that.

Next came Brian Shernce cruising through as he was in a nice comfy lead and riding well. I said hi and kept the pedals spinning the best I could. Sometime after I saw John Lombardo pass through and then came Tommy Wheels chasing the other two 19-29 leaders. I tried to stay with him but I couldn't. At least I was hopeful at this point that I didn't see anyone from my category sneaking up yet. I later looked at my garmin and realized there was only about 4 miles of the race left so I put down a harder surge just to get this over with. So I pedaled steadier and saw Tommy coming back to me. I rode up to him and passed him as he told me he just fell and wasn't doing too well. I tried to get him to come with me but soon after he dropped back and I never saw him again. With one last lackluster effort I capped the last climb and hit the road to the finish and ended the pain in 1:44. I figure I did a 32, 35, then 37 min lap. Not too bad but they should have been more consistent if all was going well.

After all was said and done I was fairly satisfied with the result. With all going against me I still had rode pretty well and kept the shiny side up. The last few races I've found myself surfing more dirt than I would have liked and that's a good day all in itself. I ended up 12th out of 18 and took home some cash as well. So I got my hard workout, a good kick in the nutz, and a few bucks and hopefully some efforts that will benefit me in 2 weeks at the W101. That's the priority. We shall see!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Stewart Super Six Pack Recap

First off...let me say that the best strategy - well it's not really a strategy at all - is to not take a week completely off the bike and eat and drink everything in sight. Bad idea. Since this race wasn't my A race I was ok with this setup but as a competitor it still bothered me somewhat. My plane landed Saturday night after a week of lounging and getting fat in the Florida Keys and with absolutely no preparation I headed to the race Sunday morning. No hydration + getting 4 hours of restless sleep + no day before openers + stressing out as I had no food for the race = things could have gone better. Sometimes the best races happen when the prep isn't spot on, and sometimes it reminds you exactly why the wheels completely fell off.

So the race goes off and I find myself in the lead group of 5 and with Roger Foco getting a flat it soon goes down to 4, and then Dan Sturm loses a bottle and drops back so now it's down to Brian Shernce, James Harmon, and myself. So we all chat a bit and decide to work together to keep the gap opening and fight it out later. Each of us were taking turns where we were stronger and it worked well. If one of us bobbled, we waited, regrouped, and kept on it. That was great as I hit the ground hard twice as I was in the lead. So this strategy worked well for the first 5 laps until I started the dreaded yo-yo in the back. The heat, lack of prep, and the pace popped me off the back of the lead group. Brian and James would have to battle it out. It was great riding with those guys as it was great pacing, motivation, and company out there.

So after lap 5 I went into limp mode. I was still putting down power and riding ok but I knew I was on the downswing. My body just had enough. For not riding the week before my hands hurt, my feet hurt, my back hurt, oh and on lap 3 I got stung between the eyes and that added to the day's fun. I could just tell I was not on my game today. It was only a matter of time until I fell off the pace. I was kinda hoping the weather would take out the other two but that's not how it played out. My lines were sloppy and I felt like I hadn't been on a mountain bike in a month, nevermind a week. My focus went to holding a decent(although not fast at that point) pace so that no one could creep up from behind. I figured at this point I had put in enough work so that the gap was big enough and I wouldn't have to worry too badly. It didn't help when shortly into lap 7 my tire started getting soft and I knew I'd have to stop. I aired it up once with my co2 but it went flat again shortly after. So a tube would have to go in. I already was feeling sluggish and now this would slow me down even more. Especially since I aired it up too high and it was really rough on the back but it was a calculated as I didn't want to risk any more flats

So I rolled in at 6:41 completing 8 laps and 80 miles and pretty satisfied with a 3rd place finish. I actually went home and did a recovery ride so that with the morning warmup and recovery I would have 100 miles on the day. I realize I am sick in the head... I really did pretty well given the circumstances and with how I felt later in the race. All in all not a bad day really. I'll just have to relax and recoup and get back on my game for the next one. Next up is the Bulldog Rump and the Wilderness 101 which I want to destroy.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Stoopid 50 Recap

So the field goes off for the S50 and climbs 3.6 miles on pavement before entering singletrack. I figured it would go hot pretty early to break things up before the singletrack – it didn’t. The pace stayed tempo or a little above and lining up for the almost 180 degree entrance for the singletrack didn’t go well. Guys jumped the inside of the turn and it spread out about 12 wide and someone fell onto the guy next to him setting off the domino effect. Someone was lying on my legs I fell on the guys legs next to me and so on… What a great way to start a hard race.

We all manage to get up and hustle into the singletrack and then the conga line forms. This was fine and I’m used to this early on in the endurance races. We hit this amazing rocky ridgeline singletrack called Tussey Ridge. It was good until it was very evident that the guys in front of me couldn’t ride technically. I could see them falling off the pace of the riders in front of them and the rocks were killing them and slowing me up. I was nice at first but then I just kept telling them to let me by and nothing. So I stayed right on their wheels looking for a spot to pass. Of course when it opened up they hit the gas and just blocked the next section. I had to jump off on a couple of sections and was forced to let people by. I knew those that passed were going nowhere because of the tools that were ahead. I was really frustrated at this point knowing the leaders were getting away and I was stuck in this bottleneck.

On the following climb I got out and then just got into my rhythm. I saw a few up ahead including Butt forming a group and I latched on to see how the pace was. The group was moving along but I needed to lift the pace and just rolled off the front to bridge up to the next guy ahead. Feeling good I rolled through him and kept working my way up the climb eventually catching Kyle Lawrence and riding with him and one other rider for a bit. We rolled into the aid and through into the next singletrack section well. On the rough descent I kept my distance and once I hit the bottom my chain fell off and locked in the front ring. It actually bound up and got stuck on the front ring and stuck in my derailleur. I had to let them go and stop and work on the bike for a minute. I fixed it and kept on cranking again putting a good pace into the next hill. I felt good but saw riders coming up so I put the power down again.

I crested the climb well and got into the singletrack with a good gap. Through the rocky singletrack that I recognized from the W101 I rode clean and focused on riding smoothly. Where the W101 diverted was new trail and I was having a little trouble focusing on the trail. Around one bend I caught a rock and it whipped my bars around and threw me onto the ground. I was not happy. Of course my chain fell off too so I had to asses my wounds and put my chain back on. Of course this rattled my confidence and let those coming up from behind latch back on. Not long after Butt came cruising through. So I tried to get back into my groove and just ride smoothly again. It was hard and I was just off for some unknown reason. Around one corner I hear Butt up ahead yell and figured he’d sailed off the trail or something….nope it was a different issue. The big black root in front of me on the trail happened to be about a 5’ long black snake. I bunny hopped(snake hopped) him the best I could clearing him and yelled to the riders behind me to watch out. That was an obstacle that I wasn’t used to clearing.

The singletrack was nice and rugged as we kept climbing up and the group stayed pretty tight. We hit one turn and the next turn had no markings. Poop… We turned around to look for a missed turn but we were on the right track so after backtracking for a minute we figured out the correct trail and kept on. Of course as we started getting back into a groove I went over my bars again and threw myself in the dirt. A mile or so later I did that again. It was ridiculous how many times I was on the ground. So of course the group ahead was gone and I was really aggravated. To make things worse at that point I was just concerned with getting to the finish in one piece. I started to dial it back and ride conservatively. I crossed a road and kept going and saw no one and no signs and my gps was telling my I was off course. Great. I rode a half mile back up the trail and eventually saw another rider and he said we were on the right trail so I turned it around and kept riding. At this point I was totally demoralized and pissed how things were going. So what happens next. My chain keeps dropping or over shifting off the big ring…repeatedly. I have to stop many times to put it back on the front ring and on the jockey wheels. Now I know why they call this race stoopid because that’s exactly how my effort felt. I only wanted to get to the finish line in one piece. On the next road climb I put down some power but I couldn’t do much with my skipping derailleur. The smallest 3 cogs were useless and it was ghost shifting all over the others. It was so annoying as I felt good. If the bike was working I have no doubt I could have put down much more power and done so much better. At that point it was just about getting to the finish unscathed and not ready to sell every bike I own. Of course on the final climb/downhill I got passed by a few people that I wasn’t happy to see as I am still competitive even if I’m not riding like it.

I crossed the line in 4:43 in 18th place. Meh. It was a rough day and not much went right. The only saving grace was that I did feel good climbing so my legs responded well after the 100 miler 2 weeks ago and the 5k that tried to rip my legs off last week. I rationalize it in the manner that a bad effort will only make my training more disciplined and focused on the next priority race. I’m already jonesing to get out on the W101 course and really give it a go. That’s still 6 weeks away though. Stewart 6 pack and Bulldog Rump lie ahead first though.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mohican 100 Race Report

Check out the video of two minutes of the first climb. I think I sit 27th here:

Lucky and I rolled into town Friday afternoon amidst the passing thunderstorms and wondered what would be for the race day tomorrow. Reports of the Mohican State Forest was that it was dry and needed some rain. Well, the rain that we were seeing might have been more than just a passing shower and wondered if it was going to slow the course down at all. So we got checked into the camground at the race start/finish and proceeded to go through the motions of getting food ready and prepping for a prerace warmup and such. We eventually rolled into town and decided to do the first few miles of the course to see what conditions were like and to open the legs up a bit. On the first section of singletrack, we were pleasantly surprised to see that it was wet but not treacherous mud like we thought could be there. So we pedaled a little bit being happy with what was there and hoped for the best the next morning. We had a good pasta dinner and passed out early in preparations for the nice 4:45 wake up call.

The alarm goes off and I jumped out of bed ready to get the show on the road. I made a nice batch of granola pancakes and jumped on my bike quickly to get rid of my drop bags and to start spinning before the race start. It was cold. Like 45 or so and I needed my warm gear to get me to the line. I had leg warmers and my long fleece jersey on as I knew I wanted to stay warm as long as possible. I didn’t want to have to race that way. I would suffer for the first few hours being cold if necessary. The only extra step I took with the cold was to wear a sleeveless summer jersey underneath my short sleeve regular jersey for a little extra warmth. It wasn’t really going to do much but it made me feel better. So casually late to the start as usual I came in warm and threw down my cold gear and jumped on the grass on the left side of the start line. That way as soon as the gun went off I was right near the big boys. After a few announcements and glancing around to see the usual big guns the horn went off and we were rolling.

Rolling out of Loudonville behind the pacetruck and knowing there was 600 more people right behind you is a cool feeling. The pace lifted a bit and then the road pitches up. I see someone go shooting out on the left for the hill climb prime. I wasn’t thinking about anything at this point besides just keeping it steady and not burning too many matches too early. I did that for Cohutta and regretted it ever since. So I crested the first climb at the back of the lead pack and it stayed that way into the entrance into the singletrack. Everyone played pretty nicely and stayed in line just riding their pace. A few riders changed positions but everyone was just happy keeping a nice high pace and getting the miles in quickly. I saw the usual names come and go and realized I was in good company if I could hang with them. I was riding behind Charlie Storm for a while and saw Mike Tabasko as well. About 2.5 hours in I saw some more strong riders sneaking up behind me to ride through. Gerry Pflug and Mike Montalbano were right behind and just keeping pace. A little while after I noticed them a group of singlespeeders including Ron Harding, and eventual winner Justin Pokrivka caught up with Gerry so he lifted the pace and the entire group rolled through. At that point there were a few in front of me but not like the train I previously was following.

So into aid 2 I knew things were going well since I was a few minutes ahead of the time I needed to be there to get a sub 8 hour finish. That was great motivation right there. So I topped off two bottles and headed out behind a couple of riders and at some point found myself all alone with Jed Prentice. That was just fine as I knew he is a very strong rider. Again being in company like his I knew I was having a good day. So we kept on and rode solid and worked together very well when we had the chance to draft and try and pick up some time. My goal was a PR not attacking every racer in sight so I just wanted to keep a steady pace. Jed agreed that the plan seemed good. So we rolled into aid 3 together and Jed stopped for a bathroom break at aid 3 so I rode the next climb strong but was definitely looking for him to come back so we could work together again. At the top he did and we regrouped in time for the infamous 10 mile rail bed. We traded 2-3 minute pulls the entire time and did some damage on that. We had no one in sight at all except for the very end where we rolled up on Matt Ferrari and Dwayne Goscinski, the eventual 3rd and 4th place SS finishers. We caught them just before aid 4 so we did a quick pit stop and then we worked together where we could to make the pain stop. The SS’ers took off on the climbs and then Jed and I would work up to them and pull them along to the next hill. Rinse and repeat. We did use them to help a little faster pacing on the hills so they weren’t completely wheel suckers. We did joke with them about charging towing fees but it was all in good nature. We kept the group together and rode right past aid 4 and into the singletrack system that leads to the finish. As we hit the little rollers before the last longer bit of climbing I felt my legs and body starting to shut down. I hadn’t eaten in the last 2 hours or so…damnit! I had to let Jed go and pull over and let the SS’ers by and limit my efforts on the hill. I pounded some cliff blocks and got some energy back but by that time the group I was with had a couple of minutes on me. So I rode steady and whipped past the 100 k riders and rolled into the finish happy to see the group that I had worked with for a good portion of the race.

I rolled across the line at 7:33 in 17th place in open men. Super excited since I never thought I’d be any where near 7’s when I started attempting these 100 milers a few years ago and now I finished with a 7:33. Holy crap. 2nd 7 hour finish ever. Hopefully more to come. I can finally say I know how it feels to race these things and put down a hard effort. Glad to see I kept with the good company and didn’t bonk hard in the last half like I’ve done. What a great feeling!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Vermont 50 is on the schedule...

After some deliberating and soul searching...I have decided to throw my name in the hat for the VT50 this year. I hear from those that have done it that this is one of the races that need to be done in a racers career merely for the experience. So with the thought of concentrating on going long this season, why not do it in 2012. I know it's a brutal race but it's right towards the end of the season. Hopefully it'll be fun and not quite as epic as those make it out to be.

Mohican 100 is almost here!

The Mohican 100 is on the horizon and I'm not quite sure what to think. I absolutely love this course and I'm excited to get out there and race, I just hope my legs show up to help me. For the Cohutta 100 last month, I did well but half way through the race my legs just went into limp mode. I'm hoping that this round will be a bit better. My last two attempts in 2009 and 2010 were 8:30 and 8:56 respectively. In 2010 being the horrendously muddy race and a sure test of mental toughness. This year's conditions seem to be forecasted to be great. I just hope it delivers. If everything goes right I'm hoping to get my 2nd sub 8 100 miler finish. The task at hand now is to analyze some data and see how I can get to that magic sub 8 number. I do see that there are a few course tweaks and hopefully that shouldn't put too much of a dent into the race plan.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rumble in the Jungle Race Recap

Another great race was put on by Team Town Cycle and this years race loop was much more conducive to actually racing! It still had features that were technical and tough while creating much more flow and a great feel. The only trouble was it was TIGHT! If you had a spot to pass you had to pass aggressively.

Anyway as the Cat 2 race went off it was evident that the day was getting hot pretty quickly. That sun was starting to bake everyone and it felt kinda good! The start was pushed back just slightly and everyone was doing the parking lot crit just trying to stay warmed up. Finally we all rolled up to the line and got ready for the pain.

The whistle went off and it was a shoving match going around the first few corners. There were 15 pros and not sure where everyone panned out from the start but I was at the back. There were maybe two or three guys behind me. That's fine as I'd hope to start getting some back as the day went on. So on lap 1 it was so tight we all just had to stay in the train of riders flying through the smooth singletrack. I got stuck behind Johan Koserius and he was having trouble in the singletrack. He kept bobbling and clipping trees and of course as he stuttered I couldn't get around. So he started gapping us off of the group. A little while later Ken W. came through and got on Johan's wheel. We stayed in line up otter slide and at the top of Otter Johan once again bobbled and caught Ken with him and I flew by on an alternate line and drilled it hoping to open up the gap to them and catch back on the group ahead. It started to work as I stayed on the edge of control and worked every corner hard and heard a few racers up ahead.

I passed a guy I didn't recognize and thought ok maybe I'm in 10th or 11th now or something. Towards the end of the first lap I got up to Wagoner and he let me go through, I think just to use my wheel cause on the next road he flew by and stayed just in front. Through the parking lot feed on the start of lap 2 Greg and I picked up Matt Miller and the three of use were riding a pretty good clip through the twisty singletrack. After the one stream crossing on Warthog my chain decided to not want to stay on my front rings. Fumbled and tried to get going but Matt and Greg were gone. So I chased hard to get back to them. I saw them riding the top of otter slide as I was on the bottom and could see those two plus Rich W. I kept on the gas and was getting closer and closer. Then I hit some sharp rock up by tiger pen and my tire starts hissing at me. I do some random body english and eventually it seals up with probably 10 psi in it. I knew it wouldn't last long. So I rode it farther than I should and as I came up the lip after the nasty rocky crossing towards the end of the lap and I hit it with a shot of co2 and jumped back on. Now no one in sight in front or behind. I wasted all that energy chasing on just to deal with a flat...bummer.

So in an effort to keep the guys behind from coming up I got back into the groove and drilled it once again. This lap I was cooking. Lap 1 was ok since I was in traffic, lap 2 was slower with the dropped chain issue and the flat but the tire was holding and I cranked lap 3 hard. I felt the groove and was drifting through the turns and really making the momentum work in my favor. I got back to otter slide and saw the same thing...the guys a little further ahead but still reachable. I rode smooth and strong and saw them getting closer and closer. I eventually rode onto Rich W's wheel and he was having a hard day with the tight trees. I passed him and kept on the gas and kept it smooth. I figured he dropped off of Greg and Matt's wheel so those two would be much farther ahead. I put down anything I could to gap Rich and see if I could get closer to the other two but to no avail. I crossed the line and learned that Greg was 20 secs ahead and Matt was 40 seconds ahead! If only I didn't have those few little issues and maybe one more lap!

Either was I was excited to have ridden well and gave the new Lynskey a proper initiation on the trails of JH. I figured I was maybe 9th or 10th and I was really excited to see I got 8th! Sweet! That's my best pro finish yet!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cohutta 100 NUE #1 Race Recap

This past weekend I met up with a fellow endurance mental patient - Dan Rapp - and we made the haul down to Ducktown TN. We cruised down and arrived at the venue at 2pm on Friday which was perfect. Enough time to grab a campsite, go for a prerace spin, check in, and then go grab some grub. Timing was great. We had plenty of time to check over the bikes and setup drops and keep our minds at ease for the restless night of sleep that usually comes before one of these races.

The next morning we got up and had breakfast and started rolling the 1.5 mile trek over to the starting area. This worked out really well as I'm always super cold at the start and I actually got a nice 30 min warmup in before the gun went off. I pulled right into the middle of the front line and looked around at the nice company that was there. All the big guns that I've admired through the years were right along side of me. At least I'd see them for the start I thought. Glancing around I saw Tanguay, Pflug, Ferrari, Masse, Carter, Simonson, Montalbano, Sorenson, and many others that I am always impressed to be in the presence of. Of course last second came Jeremiah Bishop and after a short prayer the gun went off.

The race went off at 7am and I was content knowing I was actually warmed up for the start. We talked about an easy roll out to control the choke that came up shortly but Monte jumped and just cranked up the whole field. It goes hard for the first 2.5 mile climb out of the gate. My HR is screaming over LT as I shoot up the right side of the pack to tuck into the woods with the main group. I get in the long conga line into the single track as a rider or two shoots through and a bit later, 2nd place finisher on the day, Christian Tanguay shot through as I don't know how he got stuffed back there but I beat him for the first 3 miles anyway. So we sit in line and enjoy the tight singletrack goodness. At this point I'm sitting 26th and with a FAST group. It keeps on and hits the next good climb and I stay with the guys in front of me and we close the gap to a few others. At this point it's a group of 5 with Montelbano, Pflug, Ferrari, and some dude riding for Piggly Wiggly and we're freight training the singletrack. It was awesome and as it kicked up a bit steeper the singlespeeders took off and I just rode the wheel in front of me. As we hit the first sections of fireroad Monte and I dropped a few of the others with us and I rode his wheel and chatted with him for a bit. This kept on for the first 1/3 of the race. Monte soon walked away on a climb where I knew I had to ride within my pace.

Approaching the series of consistent and pitchy climbs, the surface got bad and it wasn't what I remembered. It looked like it was more recently graded and there was no good line. It slowed down the pace and made climbing so much harder than what I remembered. I looked down a bit later and realized I rode the first 40 miles of the race in just over 3 hours and was on a 7:30 pace. I knew I was going to pay for it later and Monte nicely reminded me of the same before I saw him depart. So I kept on the gas and limited my threshold efforts and got though the climbs I remembered were painful from previous races there. I did well and still rode solid for 4.5 hours or so. At that point there was a big decent, singletrack, and then a 2000 foot climb back out on fireroads. This is where I knew I was in trouble. My nutrition and hydration to this point was right on target but I knew I had burned a few too many matches earlier in the race. I had to moderate my efforts and really felt flat for the rest of the race.

I topped off the big climb finally and started rolling the hills I knew and picked up the pace a bit to help my placing. I took a downhill just like the rest and felt a rock hit the rim a little too hard. Up the next hill...yup...flat. So I was relaxed and pulled out my tube and popped it in. Hit the inflator...and it flatted. Crap. Completely checked over everything - turned the tire inside out - checked the rim for burrs or a spoke that cut the tube and nothing. Got another tube and finally got it to work after inflator issues. After 15 minutes of fighting with it and getting it to work - it worked. I was not looking forward to the 4 mile walk back to the last aid station. Finally I took back off and did what I could on the climbs. I wasn't very energetic but I got over them and looked forward to the finish. I was hoping for a sub 8 finish and knew that was long gone. So I actually stopped for a pee break and took extra time at the next aid station making sure I got rid of my bad tubes and picking up new ones and inflators. As the miles rolled on I picked up a little steam but not much else. Then I hit 100 miles and I still wasn't done...really? I know sometimes the Garmin is off but really? 101 miles...then 102...then 103...finally I see the road that is about a mile from the finish at 104 miles. I look at my clock and the 9:00 hour is rapidly approaching. I had to put down one last burst to make sure I didn't cross the 9 hour mark.

8:59:15 was my finishing time. A little disappointed, but proud that I persevered, I headed for the nice cold river to soak my legs. I was 43rd of 165 and in a pretty stacked field. There were some pretty big names in the top 20. It was just a good day on the bike if nothing else. The big thing I realized is that everyone goes through the blahs in these races. It's how long you're there and how it effects the race that really matters. I learned a lot and will have more of a great game plan in the works for the Mohican. My nutrition is what I question the most. I'm thinking I'm missing some key ideas in my daily and race nutrition that I need to get figured out. To have a consisted effort that I'm expecting now is going to take much more effort and experimenting than I originally thought on my minimalist attitude. Also in hindsight I would have MUCH rather have been racing the old course. I might have been able to keep it together since it was much less climbing and I knew it better. That's the way it goes with new or changed courses. It's part of the adventure. Just a great day riding the hills of Tennessee and Georgia.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Reving up for the 2012 season

Three races in and plenty more to come! At this point in the season I normally feel like I'm just coming out of winter slumber and starting to work on things. This spring is totally ridiculous weather wise and it's being seen all over. People have been riding hard this winter and it's going to be a fast and furious race season. The 6 hours of Warrior Creek race was amazing as usual. Those trails are just straight up fast and fun! I would put myself into pain on the climbs and then just enjoy the flow the rest of the way. I know the course was lengthened this year so I was hopeful I could get 6 laps in. I really wasn't sure that was possible. I would have to turn just over 1 hour laps since the cutoff was at 5:40 ride time. There was no room for 1:10 laps or higher. Good thing my early ones were quick!

I got literally 2 minute warmup. That's not a good race indicator. So off the line I went and worked my way up to 18th into the singletrack. Of course I had no idea who was a solo or duo but didn't really care. We were jamming and flowing through all of the goodness. It went well until I hit a tree mid-lap hard. It was enough to make me slam into another tree and check myself before getting up. A train of 5 guys blew through as I was on the ground and I jumped up and pulled myself back in. I latched on a while later and got back through them. It took some effort but I was determined to work my way through whomever. I did this for lap 2 and had some good progress as riders were passed and I was passed as well. The riders coming by did so at a hot pace so I assumed they were a duo whether they actually were or not. I had no idea where I really was.

Lap 3 I dropped a bottle after a stream crossing. That was not good. I was drinking on the latter part of the lap and now the bottle was gone. I had nothing and knew that wasn't a good thing. I had to conserve a bit and I dropped 4 minutes on that lap from the previous. I got to the pit and chugged as much water as I could and kept on it. A little dehydrated I kept on it but was a bit sluggish and my front skewer came loose twice...really? So I dropped another 4 minutes on that lap. Lap 5 was now upon me and so was the upcoming cutoff. I could tell I was slowing down...whether from the water or from early season fitness but I had to try hard to get some power down. I felt good but not great. I tried to gain time everywhere I could and was racing the clock. I hit the scorer's table with 1:15 left before I wouldn't be able to start another lap...whew! That was close. That lap was 45 seconds faster than lap 4. You could tell I was trying hard.

Now that I got 5 laps in that means I had to turn another one. What? I just laid out everything I had to get lap 5 in! So I took it easy out of the gate and then realized that if I didn't turn a 1:20 lap or quicker that my 6th wouldn't count. I couldn't let that happen. So once again I reached deeper and tried to find the power. I found something as I was having a blast once again and passed a few weary souls out there. They were done and I was anxious to get to the finish line and be done there. So I kept on it and was only a minute slower than the previous lap. Not too shabby. I finished in 6:53 with 6 laps and was one of the few to get 6 laps in. It was totally a success. I was tired, sore, and happy. 6th of 60 in the open class and one of a select group that got 6 laps - including teams. So that was a good sign.

Even better, after exhausting myself through the 6WC, I had the following week off of work so I rested my weary soul at Myrtle Beach, SC. That was nice to have a few days of basking in the sun after torturing myself. What a great way to wrap up an early season race!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Early Season has Begun

The past two weekends have been race weekends for me. They have been a blur and very little preparation, but that's how it's supposed to be right? Not having done much intensity it's tough but it's good to open it up a bit and see what's in the tank. I've been fighting a cold/allergies or some crap that's clogging me up a bit but I'm hoping to be 100% soon. I'm definitely on the upswing - at least for now.

The first race I did was the Allamuchy Short Track race. I had a good showing and some mechanical issues but overall a good experience. It was a fun course with a good solid group. It was interesting to see how fast everyone is already. This nice spring weather should have a nice bonk effect later in the season for a few. The second race I did was the Trooper Binkerhoff race in Coxsackie NY. It was a Cat4 field with 100 registered so I knew it would be interesting. All was well there and I worked my way to the front in time to have no sprint once again. No strategy and no sprinting ability makes road racing hard.

I'm hoping these efforts help put some pain in the memory bank and set me up for a good season. Just two weeks away is the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek in Wilkesboro, NC. I did this race two years ago and I did well placing 5th, and I want to go back and get all dizzy on the berms again and see if I can better that mark. Hopefully. I remember I was in a bad place for laps 3 and 4 and came back strong so I'm hoping my fitness and experience won't let that happen to me. I also didn't race before that one, so this year should put me in a better places mentally anyway. Just to make sure I'm ready to go I'm going to do one more hard effort this upcoming weekend.

This weekend is the Hell of Hunterdon in Lambertville NJ. This race I did last year on a very blustery and cold morning. This year it will hopefully be warmer, but in any case it'll be a different experience. With the 6 hour race looming the week after, I don't want to use all my energy this weekend. So I'm going to do the HOH at an easier pace. It's a road race with some rough pavement and dirt sections. Most will be on their road bikes and I'll be there on my mountain bike. I'm hoping this will keep me at bay and not want to go play with the big boys. That'll make it a much more pleasant experience and set me up better for the following week. We'll see.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Training Camp that almost wasn't...

President's Day weekend was a great weekend for cycling. It didn't exactly go down the way it was planned but it worked. My coach and teammate were all geared up, hotel reservations made, and psyched to go to work on the Friday before President's weekend knowing that as soon as work was over the fun would begin. We had made hotel reservations, multiple rides planned, and the big 'ol snowstorm that was heading into Blacksburg VA had other plans.

It was forecasted for Blacksburg to get 3-5 inches of snow that Sunday. This meant that there would be no riding Sunday and Monday with conditions being that bad. We were taking fat tired road bikes so conditions were going to play a huge part. Wonderful - FML. Last minute suggestions had us swinging our target from Blacksburg to State College PA. I love the terrain that the Wilderness 101 is on, and the roads in the surrounding area had to be entertaining, so why not give that a shot. Besides, my coach went to Penn State so he had to have some insight on the area...pull the trigger. We loaded up the truck and headed out.

What a great idea. We rode for all 4 days. Sometimes on amazing roads, and not so amazing roads. Great conditions, and not so great conditions, but we were glad to be out and get our miles in. Day 1 had us searching out some random hills and we got our fill. Hoping to get a nice 4:30 day in, we did 5:45 instead. We couldn't help ourselves. The roads were nice and traffic free, debris free, and nj free. Riding through the farmlands and endless hills was great. Just what we were looking for. Actually it reminded us a lot of Blacksburg. Temps were a little cooler but not nearly as bad as they could have been. The cooler temps didn't help on one of the climbs as it turned all to snow and the road bike push began. About 20 mins of pushing crested the top and we were able to ride away to the warm cozy hotel, not too far away.

Day 2 gave us the twofer day. A morning ride for 2 hours with some hills, followed by a nice jump in the hot tub, relax session, and then ride #2 in the afternoon for 1:45 or so on some mellower roads. This was great to spin out the legs and get them ready for our century day on #3. It was another successful ride as we avoided a snow push, but we did hit one pass where it was ice instead of snow. So that was sketchy yet fun. It was a MUCH shorter section than that of the previous day so we were all fine with that. So far all the rides had been turn as you go and the next days ride would be a garmin connect choice. Why have to find nice roads to ride when someone already did it for you?

Day 3 was our century day and it resulted in some beautiful valley climbs, amazing open roads, and jaunts through the Amish farmland. Evidently Monday is laundry day as it was everywhere. It was great to see the Amish kids playing outside during the day and waving as we sped on by. We even got to roll through Jersey Shore PA and give a nice fist pump or two as we wondered where Snookie was. We brought our own version of the lycra situation to the area. The route we did was very entertaining and one that I would do again. The climbing was good as we did somewhere around 6k vert and wrapped up with some of our familiar roads and just had a great day.

Day 4 was the recovery ride from our century and still seemed to put in 3:30. We had found a nice coffee shop in Lock Haven on day #1 so we decided to visit it the last day and make our trip there and back the recovery ride. Flatter, slower, and happier we rode to and from the shop and put the icing on a sweet weekend.

4 great days with just under 300 miles, 20k vert, and 18:30 of riding was perfect to jump start the season. The intensity ramp will start soon and racing will soon be upon us. The bad part of the training camp is that once I got back I ate everything in sight...for a week. I couldn't stop eating. So my previous weight loss was halted. I'm on the downswing again and back under 160 which is right were I want to be. Next goal is 155 by the end of March.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Weight and Stuff

My training has still been on track and it's been a great season for it. With the nicer weather I've been outside more often than not and the hours seem to fly by which is nice. It's helping me work towards my goals of getting faster and lighter.

As far as my weight goals I hit a 159.x avg last week so I guess I can say I hit my end of February goal already. That's nice to know. So now I'm working on my end of March goal of 155lbs. Will power has been the biggest part of the weight loss. With a healthy mindset, smaller portions, and some goals on the horizon, it has really been pretty easy. It's also interesting to see the weight fluctuations during my weigh cycles. Early in the week is heavier and the end of the week/weekend is the lightest. So it really helps mentally to keep track and see where I can go with this. At the moment I'm thinking 5 more pounds will be pretty straight forward to drop but then I start to walk the line of do I try to lose more. That would be great as long as I don't lose any power. That'll be tricky. We'll see.

There are some races sneaking up. I wanted to do a road race Mar 3 but it looks like I'll hold off til Mar 10th and then rev it up a bit. I'll be curious to see what my legs have in store with all of these base miles so far. I'm dying to open my system up a bit so it'll be cool to let it fly. I've gotta do some kind of intensity build as my first bigger race is Apr 7th in NC. That I wanna be flying for. Let's call it mini peak #1 of about 20 peaks ;-)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Gotta love this weather...

So far this season has been great and the temps have been making base miles pretty comfy. The trainer is still a big part of the training but at least at this point it's only once a week. Hopefully it can stay that way, or at least until I can afford some rollers. Anyway, the riding has been going doing another century Saturday so that's a century in December and now January and maybe I can keep that streak going. If things go as planned I have dirt centuries planned for April, June, July, August and September so I just need to fill in a couple of months in between and I'll be good.

As far as the weight situation is concerned I'm doing well. My goal for this month is to hit 160 by the end of February. As of this morning I was 159.8 and my average for this week is in the high 161's. I'm considering the goal met when my weekly average is at my goal mark or lower so I'm close. It really hasn't been tough. Portion control and good food is all that is really needed to get into the right form. Of course my sweet tooth has been going crazy and I have a little to satisfy it, but I try and keep the fruit nearby to see if that will do the trick first. So far so good.

2 months and 5 days til the 6 hours of Warrior Creek...
2 months and 26 days til the Cohutta 100...
4 months til the Mohican 100...

2012 is looking promising.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Weight Goal Update

So far so good. My initial goal was to be at 165lbs by the end of January. Well last week's average was 164 so that goal looks like it was surpassed and I'll keep working on February's goal. The goal for the end of Feb is 160lbs. Hopefully in a week or two I'll have that one on the horizon. Motivation is key and I'm already signed up for 3 big races in 2012 and that's helping. It also doesn't hurt that my schedule has been crazy busy and I'm running around constantly. It's all working so far. The goal of 155 for the 2012 race season is within reach...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Here's to 2012

With our lack of a winter, this year is going to be hard to not burnout it seems. Everyone has been riding a lot and I've been putting in some good time as well. I've been out in the good, the bad, and the stupid. That 4 hour ride Sunday (with single digit wind chill) definitely qualifies for the stupid category but it really wasn't that bad with proper layers. It's been exciting as my riding has been more focused already and is really giving me something great to look forward to this year.

Diet: I've cut lots of bad food out of my diet and I'm starting to look into this whole gluten free thing, not because it's trendy, but I'm curious if I really have any allergies to it. A few people close to me said it's been a great change in their life and I'm seeing if it would work for me. I'm kinda hoping it doesn't because I REALLY love pizza. I can get away with sandwiches on crappy bread or some other form of pasta but I can't sacrafice my love of pizza. We shall see how that goes.

Bike: For 2012 I've been craving something new to ride and I really want what I can't get it seems. I tried to order a Scott...Sold out. I would like a Superfly but that's the same as I've been riding the past few years so yawn... So I'm back to option #3 a ti bike. It'll be a bit more expensive but I'm going to look into the options that I really want and see if it is at all feasible. It should be anyway. I know it won't be superlight, but if it is dependable, and comfy, and gets me where I want to be really fast - that's fine by me. So I'm checking out this new possibility. As part of this fantasy I really want a fork with a lockout. Fox why are you so behind? So it looks like I'll be trying a Rock Shox this year. Let's hope that doesn't come back to bite me in the you know where...

Weight: I set a couple of weight goals for the new season. I want to be 165 by the end of January, 160 by the end of February, and 155 by the end of March. This motivatcion comes from my success in 2010 when I started off the season at 152. This was crazy light but it carried some great success and helped me get where I wanted to be for the future. I now realize it was too light and I raced the rest of that season at 155-157. Last year, 2011, I raced the entire season at 165-167. I felt good, had some great races, but wondered what if. I always felt a little heavy and even if not the case it played into my mental game a bit. So my targets should help get that out of my psyche and help springboard me forward even more for the 2012 season. Each year it seems that I'm still progressing but I want to make even bigger gains this year - and this should help.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Promise of a New Year

The past two years have been pretty crazy and I'm ready for a nice progressive good year. With my PE in 2010 and my father passing in 2011 I'm looking ahead and keeping my fingers crossed for a year with promise. A year with great potential. A year with bigger goals. A year with more success, happiness, and miles.

The off season has been nice as I've done a bunch of good riding either solo or with friends and teammates. Base training is in full effect and it's nice to not be riding so hard and doing the specified structured workouts. I do miss it a bit and I will be looking forward to racing again soon but I'm biding my time so that I can come out in better form this year and really put a dent in the competition. I've been looking back at the way last season went and I've had some ups and downs. The downs were hard to fathom at the time but in retrospect, they had some glaring errors surrounding them that I need to correct for this coming year. Hindsight is 20/20 right? For sure...

So for 2012 the name of the game is endurance once again. Last year I tackled a nice mix of 100's/12hrs/6hrs and 50 milers. This year I'll be looking more towards the 100 milers with some xc's thrown in and some other middle distance races too. As always I battle with my list of priority races since I want to do every race out there. For now the schedule is looking good but still in progress. I'm thinking of doing 5 100 milers this year. They will be the Cohutta 100, Mohican 100, Wilderness 101, Hampshire 100, and the Shenandoah 100. As a warmup for the Cohutta 100 in late April is the 6 hours of Warrior Creek in early April. That should help ramp up fitness and give me some nice early season goals to shoot for. I'm really psyched and hope it should give me a nice boost for the remainder of the season, whether physical or mental.

The next debate is the bike debate. Still trying to figure out the FS vs HT debate. I've always been a hardtail man. People are trying to influence me into the FS discussion but I don't think I'm quite ready for that yet. I want the most efficient means to an end, and I think that's on a HT for me. If I'm not fast enough on it, I'll have to work on my fitness and not blame the bike. We'll see... It's always a fun debate anyway.

So those are my thoughts at this point in the game. More to come and I'm just enjoying the nice weather that's allowing for some great early season riding.