Monday, June 18, 2012
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
Check out the video of two minutes of the first climb. I think I sit 27th here: http://bigbikesmedia.cyclingdirt.org/coverage/249412-Mohican-100-2012/video/639422-MH100-1st-Climb-Un-Cut-First-2-Minutes
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!