Monday, June 24, 2013

Lewis Morris H2H

I never get thrilled about racing Lewis Morris. Maybe it's the full gas aspect of the race or the lack of technical features always has me going into this race so excited...yawn. I tried to put that aside and just know that it's a good test of my fitness and great prep for next weekend's race in South Dakota at the Tatanka 100. I wasn't sure how my legs would respond after a hard Stoopid 50 race last weekend but I was ready to test them out. I knew I had some juice so I'd be ok but exactly what would happen - who knows.

My race was a pretty uneventful one. I lined up on the outside and charged hard off of the start to try and get in good position going into the singletrack. I hit the turn sitting 5th and accelerated with the group and already feeling that it might be a tough race. I was digging deep and the legs were responding but not with 100% like I was hoping. I stayed on the group as Cody shot through then Eddie then BL. After that I let a gap open and could see those just ahead but couldn't close it. My stomach felt off and the legs were not fresh. I kept pushing and through the lap I could hear Joe and Brian somewhere behind. I was thinking it was only a matter of time before my wheels fell off and they would come blasting through. Into lap 2 Joe latched onto my wheel and I could tell he was hurting. He passed me on the steepest up and I just rode his wheel hoping to use him to get me to Ben who I thought was just ahead. Into the next climb Joe asks me if I want to pass and I told him no just ride smooth and we'll work together. He said that's nice - and admitted he couldn't hold that pace any more and he was popped. I never saw Joe again. After that I passed Nick Lando who seemed completely shattered. I actually thought he might have been a slow rider on his first lap...yikes. He tried to latch on but never saw him again.

So I'm just waiting for Brian to pass now. In the longer twisty sections Brian is right there but I hit the climbs with whatever I have and expect him to close but the gap remains or opens. Start of lap 3 I'm still alone seeing flashes of Brian somewhere behind me but the gap is remaining. Through the back parking lot I hear someone flying up and here comes was Ben. He must have had an issue or I passed him in the pit. He cruised through and I tried to latch on but I didn't have it. I just rode steady for the remainder of the course and finished as solid as I could. I finished up and was glad to be done with that race.

7th place in around 1:30. It was a solid effort and a hard one at that. I haven't looked at my HR data but it was high. I threw up in my mouth twice and pushed pretty hard. I chatted with Cody later and he said that he finished in 1:24 so I was happy with only losing 6 minutes to him. Looking back I shouldn't have ridden as well as I did. My legs are still recovering but on top of that I had my wedding shower the day before which was good, but stressful to say the least, I woke up with a sore throat that has progressed today into congestion and a nice head cold, and generally just feeling kinda crummy. I'm really happy with the result and that should put me into the points lead for the series. I'm still focusing on the endurance races but it's good to see that consistency is paying off in the shorter races.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Stoopid 50 Recap

With a good night's sleep and a solid breakfast under my belt I headed over to the start of the Stoopid 50 in Boalsburg PA. As I was going over the bike and spinning around a bit the impending weather was starting to show it's self with sprinkling showers that had everyone's mind on the thunderstorms that were to hit mid day. The start rolled out at a decent but controlled pace and we headed up the 3.5 mile road climb to hit the amazing Tussey's ridge. The day prior I was chatting with Mike Tabasko and we were in agreement that last years race went off WAAAAAY too slow and this year if things looked the same then we need to fire it up and make some legs hurt to get a better selection for the singletrack. We kept on the road and about 1/2 mile from the top it switches to gravel and I see Mike drive to the front and string out the group...perfect! I was boxed in but this gave me the opportunity to get around the single file line and fire up the left side to 7th position or so and have a nice smooth entry into the singletrack. Our plan worked VERY well. So we were off with no traffic into the techy trail that most rave about in the S50.

As I kept it steady I was just enjoying the magical thing that is the Cannondale Scalpel. Holy crap is this new bike nice. This was ride #5 on the bike, and I wasn't sure how it would react at race pace in some of these finicky situations. It was great and kept me right where I was hoping to be. So continuing on this ride we rode it FAST. Picking great lines made it so much fun and confidence inspiring. Knowing I was in a good place I was enjoying the trail, and noticed a few guys on the side of the trail that were definitely helping my placing. Attrition is definitely a big part of a race like this. Smooth and steady is the mantra.

Off of Tussey's I got on Tabasko's wheel and hung there for the next 25 miles it seemed. We hit the climbs and he got a little gap...then in the singletrack I got right back to his wheel. Rinse and repeat into the final aid station. I grabbed a bottle and hit the next climb that NEVER ends. I wasn't feeling the best so I rode as hard as I could turning myself inside out over and over. I got towards the top and a rider came up from behind and pedaled by hard. There was no way I could latch on. At that point I knew I was in 5th and would be very happy if I could just put whatever left I had down and maintain my position. I knew there were a lot of hungry riders behind me.

I hit the last gravel road climb and hit it hard. I knew it was almost over so I pushed as hard as I could and cramped myself pretty badly but I was moving quickly. I made the left off of the road to the final gnarly descent happy and ready to get this over with. It is NASTY. Your line and confidence were crucial. I was doing well on this tight ribbon of rock until I clipped a tree with my bar and caught some rocks in a bad way. I flung off the side of the trail down the low side and did all I could to protect myself. I went through a tree stump and ended up face down, head down, attached to the bike I was trying so hard to protect, still clipped in and both legs cramping HARD. Dinky Dinky Do Do Dee Do...relax...relax...there's no one coming...get up...relax... I peg legged it back up to the trail with my bike and got on. Here we go. I lit up the rest of the descent and over the 3 bridges and into the finish. No one passed and I maintained.

I finished 5th overall in 4:12 and had a nice scare on the approach to the finish. Those thunderstorms that we were afraid of never materialized and it made for an amazing race day. $100 bucks richer and a nice podium shot later it was back on the road home to jersey. It was a great day and what a ride. I'm convinced the Scalpel will really help my game and it sure worked well on the rocks of State College yesterday.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Mohican 100 Race Report

Looking out the hotel room the morning of the race I saw some puddles and it was raining a bit as I went to bed so I just hoped for the best. The forecast was not good as it was calling for some severe thunderstorms to hit during the day. The best I could do was go fast and finish before the t-storms hit. So I got my stuff together from the Little Brown Inn, which is the best spot to stay for race day, nice and close to the start and finish and perfect for every aspect of the race. I left the room, enjoyed the mild and humid weather, and rolled towards downtown to get my warmup in and head to the line.

Promptly at 7 we went off and I was at the head of the massive peleton and worked my way to the right side and tried to stick with the fast kids. I got blocked by a few that couldn't hang on the hill but I turned it up, got around them and got to the back of the lead group and into the singletrack. I just concentrated on being smooth and consistent and picked off riders here and there and enjoyed the opening miles on that amazing place. I got stuck behind a few riders that were less than thrilled at the slick conditions. Since I raced two weekends ago in the greasy goodness that is Jungle Habitat I was fully comfortable on my small block 8's and sliding through. Conditions weren't horrible but definitely unpredictable in spots.

I blew through aid 1 and the whole time I kept thinking that there was no way to for me to ride the course faster than I was. I was riding well and I also could recall being in much more pain at this point in the past. So either my fitness was doing really well or I was about to fall I popped out of the singletrack and hit the road sections and was trying to get back to a couple of riders who passed me in the singletrack and were flying. I had to monitor my efforts to not max out on every hill. It's tempting but not the best way to pace yourself for one of these races. Through the gravel roads I kept it consistent and a good solid pace. At one point I saw Jim Mayuric coming up from behind and we worked together for a bit to keep the pace high. Then Mike Tabasko came up from behind and joined us for a bit too and we pulled hard into the singletrack before aid 3. They were riding fast and at a higher pace than I wanted at that point so I let them go. I could see them ahead for a bit but just couldn't get back to them.

Legs were starting to show the wear of the first half of the course as I rolled into aid 3 at the new location and I wondered how the course would be changed. It definitely seemed to have a few more hills thrown in just to get to aid 3. I filled bottles again and took off descending some new trails that connected with the old aid 3 site the the powerline climb to follow. I did well on the climb but the dreaded cramp monster appeared. Wonderful - 3.5 hours in and I was dealing with cramping already. I wasn't thrilled but I pushed through and wouldn't give in. I got over that climb and just wanted desperately to get through that rail trail with some people to work with. At this point though I was in no mans land and it wasn't looking good.

Then my chain started to show some signs of distress. It was creaking and moaning louder than I've ever heard it. It was going to blow up - I was convinced. So from the back roads I hit one of the gravel climbs that gets steep and switchbacks to the impromptu aid station. I had to tone it back thinking it was going to explode with one hard stroke. I begged the people at the aid for lube but no luck. I had to be happy getting a bottle topped off and praying aid 4 would come soon. On the next section, a SS guy Trevor came up and I let him go. I wanted to play it safe and the legs were still giving me some issues. So I popped out to the roads again and was by myself with Trevor somewhere just ahead and now Nate was sneaking up from behind. His presence was all I needed to pick it up a notch. Especially knowing that the rail bed was coming up. So I pulled and all 3 of us grouped up for the rail bed.

With me being the only geared rider of the 3 of us I told the guys that I felt like the hot girl at the gym - all the eyes were on me to do some work. So I put my head down and pulled. My legs were feeling it so I couldn't go as hard as I'd liked but it was good as I would take a pull and hide and then go again. I know the other guys were appreciative as they benefited from my gears and I benefitted from hiding from the wind inbetween pulls. We worked it pretty well and then hit glorious aid 4. I got the lube and food I needed and we set out for the final portion of the course. We kept together for a bit but then on one of the steep gravel roads I popped off and said goodbye at about mile 80. I was content with soloing in as hard as I could at this point.

On the next climb, the right hander that goes up a valley, I saw Nate and Trevor ahead but couldn't close. Back to some more roads I knew that greasy grassy valley would be coming up. I just stayed steady and cleaned it knowing the suspension bridge and not much would be left. I crossed the bridge, got up the gravel steep sucker just off of Wally road and then knew I had one more gradual climb before the descent through the farmers field and the final paved section to aid 5 and the last piece of singletrack. Once I got to aid 5 I knew I'd be home free.

I got to aid 5 uneventfully and laid down all I had left to get over the final climb and to ride into the back of the campground. I was smoked but disappointed at how my legs felt. I was hoping they would be snappier but the greasy climbs took their toll. I was good with hydration and food and don't know what I could have done better. I turned my gps off knowing my goal of a 7:20 wouldn't be met and I didn't even think I'd be close to the 7's. I kept driving hard and flipped back to my clock approaching the finish and to my surprise I was still in the 7's. I crossed the line at 7:48 knowing I did all I could and hopefully I would place well. I was hoping for a top 10 but didn't really know where I was. Volunteers told me estimates but I never really like to trust them to get my hopes up. I see Jim at the line and he told me he was 7th and 10th overall and I was the next guy after him in the Open class. Really??? That means I was 8th in Open Men and 13th overall. Holy crap!!! TOP 10 at an NUE race!!! That is amazing. I know it's my favorite race but I'm still shock. What a great feeling. I'll be back for more at the Mohican and hopefully a few more top 10's at NUE events...

Mohican 100 Pre Race Issues

This was my 5th go at the Mohican 100 and it seems I would get most of my bad luck out of the way on the trip out. This is my all time favorite race course and I couldn't wait to get there and get my head in the right spot and be ready to throw down race day. My travel partner backed out last minute so I was doing the drive solo - which isn't necessarily a bad thing - but it's great to break up the driving. So I drove the 6.5 hours west and stopped just shy of Akron for a good night's sleep in a cheap hotel, leaving only 1.5 hours to drive the next morning. I checked in, ran my bags to the room, and went out to get my bike off the car and proceeded to lock my keys in the car. Really...

I just caught the back door before it fully slammed shut but it latched and there was no way to pry it me. So I gave in and asked the front desk for the local police number. No luck, it was a liability and they wouldn't do it. I then asked them for a coat hanger to try and pull some magic. They had none. The worst part is there were no metal coat hangers in the rooms - only ones attached to the rack that you couldn't steal. I asked a few passers by if they had any and no luck. I even went so far as to roam around the hotel grounds and check the garbage and nothing. I was screwed. The whole time I kept myself calm knowing stress would not bode well for race day coming up. At worst I would have to either shatter my window or call a locksmith. I wasn't looking forward to either knowing those A-hole crooks that stole all of my belongings had the satisfaction of breaking one of my window's not too long ago.

My only glimmer of hope was that i had about a half inch space that I could get something into the edge of the driver's side back door. The problem being that I couldn't hook the door lock and the keys were lying on the driver's side front seat. Great. Plus I had no coat hanger to even try to fish them out. At this point I went back to the hotel to look for anything I could cannibalize in order to try to fish my keys out. It would be a longshot but I was so pissed off at this point I was willing to try anything to get those keys out. I stared at the back of the mini-fridge thinking if I could rip the coils off the back to use but I'd probably have to pay for that one. Same thought went through my head with a mattress coil. It would be satisfying but a little too expensive to replace. Something had to work...

Then came my moment of genius - I'm proud of this one. I dumped out my gear bag and my backpack that I had with me. Nothing looked like it would work. Then I looked a little harder. I had a spiral bound planner with me. Lets just say it's not so spiral bound any more. I ripped out the metal binding and proceeded to straighten it out and use that to fish for my keys. It took about 3 different configurations to finally snake it from the back door, over the front seat, and finally hook the lanyard on my keys. Thank goodness for that lanyard. I gently dragged it over the seat, get closer to the door, and then have it fall off the hook. Really? It took over an hour to get to that point. Since it was closer I had to rework my wire and finally get the lanyard out the crack in the door and yank on it with everything I had to get it out of that small opening in the door. Totally psyched and amazed that it worked I couldn't get to

So after finally falling asleep at 12:30 - I checked in at 10 - I got that rest I finally wanted. That is until the hotel alarm went off at 7 am and the hotel had to be evacuated. It was just a fitting end to a lovely stay my first night in Ohio. Of course when I could go back in I couldn't go back to sleep so I loaded up the car and headed out for Loudonville. At least I would get there early and be able to relax and nap a bit to rest for the race the following day.

I headed out on my preride and went into the opening singletrack in the Mohican State Forest. I love that place. It has some of the sweetest flowing trails of anywhere I've ever ridden. I was just so happy to be there and riding. That was until I had a bee fly into my helmet and sting me right in the middle of my forehead. Wonderful. I was still sticking with the theme of getting all the crap out of the way before the race actually began. Ignoring the sting, I kept on and did my warmups and checked out any changes to the start and finish of the course. Everything made sense and was a little smoother so I was happy knowing what lie ahead. All I needed was to chill, check in, and throw down the next morning. The fun was yet to come...