Thursday, September 11, 2014

Recent Races and Updates

Ok so it's been a while for a new report. Let's see...

The last few races I did were the Stoopid 50, Summer Sizzler, Stewart Six Pack, High Cascades 100, and Nittany Lion CX. Some were good, some were not so good, some caused me to stay off the bike for a while. Here's how it went.

Stoopid 50 - Still an amazing race. Felt decent but not overly energetic racing so soon after the Mohican/Bearscat double. I rode hard and solid until the aid station at mile 32 or so and then fell apart. Lost a few positions riding to that line at the end and finished 8th place. I'll be back for more at this one.

Summer Sizzler - Fun MASS series race that I have never done in Sewell and after I got accustomed to riding the sandy corners I had a blast. I finished mid pack in the pro field and really enjoyed the xc format as opposed to the endurance stuff I'd been doing.

Stewart Six Pack - I had high hopes for this one as I've done well in the past but I also raced the Sizzler the week prior so I didn't know how I'd feel. I went out hard and was comfy in the lead group of 8 or so for the first few laps. It then dwindled to 5 and then after 5 laps it shattered apart. All I knew what that there were 3 guys ahead of me and I put down all I had to the end. I never felt super good but I was consistent and riding hard. I finished 3rd only 15 seconds or so behind my teammate in 2nd place. So all in all a great effort even though I wasn't feeling super fresh.

High Cascades 100 - Oregon is absolutely beautiful!!! What a great venue and just amazing scenery and beer everywhere. The downside...the dust! Holy hell was it bad. The first 10 miles of dirt was horrendously dry, dusty, and loose. I stuck with my brother for the first 40 miles or so into Aid 2 when I realized that he just wasn't keeping pace. Something was off with him. So I said gbye and kept on rolling to see if I could get into the finish in under 9 hours. I did well and put in some hard efforts when I could, especially up to the never ending snow fields...there had to be 40 of them. Some small, some not so small, and some bridging across rivers. Once my feet thawed out I kept moving noticing the 9 hour mark was approaching. I got to the road at the end and absolutely crushed myself trying to make sure I'd cross before 9. I did just that 8:46 was my finish time in 26th place. It hurt bad but I'd met my goal and got a medal for making it in under 9. Part of me wonders just how much extra time I could have cut off if I decided to leave my brother earlier but that was part of our agreement. Overall it was fun, well marked and some great trails but that moondust was horrible.

As a results of something going wrong at the HC 100, I had to have surgery. I think the issue was that my saddle had slipped backwards and canted up a bit. Causing me to severely irritate some tissue under my sitbone that needed to be removed. It was so sore after the race I couldn't even sit down. The couch hurt - nevermind a bike saddle. I still tried to do my recovery ride and that was severely painful. But I pushed on through it.

After the HC 100 I did stop by the MacKenzie River Trail and ride that - what a killer ride! That's definitely a must do if you are in the area. The only problem was my sit bone was so sore I had to ride the entire 30 miles of trail standing up. Good thing the majority of it was downhill.

So with 7 weeks of irritation and the effects of surgery I was forced to cut down my training hours and what I could do - I mostly had to stand. It was aggravating but who knows maybe it will be beneficial somehow. I'm still debating this.

So now being on the upside of surgery I raced the Nittany Lion CX in Trexlertown PA and tried that going fast in grass circles thing again. There were 80 something riders in the field and we had a hard, clean start for once. Towards the end of lap 2 I wanted to vomit but I stuck with it and hung in there forcing myself to go as hard as I could and just get the workout in. I did just that shedding riders and passing when I could and I think I had an ok race. No real mechanicals and I forced myself to go pretty hard. I know I definitely wasn't 100% but it's part of racing my way back into fitness.

Up next a few more endurance MTB races and some CX races. Oh yea and I'm fat so I'm working on that. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Despicable Double - Part 2

On to day 2 was the Bearscat 50. With no sleep, lots of soreness from the previous day at the Mohican 100, and for some reason a lot of motivation I lined up for the start. There are a LOT of racers on the starting grid and I had 90% of them beating me this day. I figured that riding hard for 8 hours and the overall fatigue would leave me with nothing from the start and stay that way, or become worse as the day went on. I had visions of curling up into a ball and crying in the woods before even finishing the first lap. Who knows what would actually happen. So at the starting line they had signs for anticipated finish groups and what the hell, I put myself in the first group. If I was fresh I belonged there but I had no idea what the first hard pedal stroke had in store for me.

Off we went. The horn sounded and I put the pedals down hard and cleared the first couple tight turns clean and ramped it up. To the point where I was passing people, and more people, and a few more before the first tight singletrack. I actually had some legs - really?!?!?! Through the first trail I was probably sitting in the top 20 and happy just to be there and pedaling. The really rough stuff popped up and I rode it clean and was feeling good. Much better than cramping and vomiting like the day prior. I figured it wouldn't last so I'll keep on the gas and see when I completely crack. It had to be soon. I went back and forth with a couple of riders but hit each hill hard and drilled each somewhat flat section. What the hell I still had some energy... Finished lap 1 and then had the realization that I might actually finish this race. The first lap didn't hurt that bad but I figured the second lap would be much worse.

On to lap 2 I pedaled steady and rode some of the sections better with less traffic this time. All along still waiting for my legs to literally fall off. I was still riding well and feeling decent but the wall was dangling in front of me that I was supposed to hit. I just wanted to get to the end of this lap so I would be finished. Then I could eat, drink, and get off this stupid bike. 150 rough dirt miles in 2 days is a hard thing to agree to in theory, but it's even harder to actually get on your bike and complete. As I feared the legs were achey but every time I dug deep, they kept responding. Wow...I was really impressed. The last section I dreaded was a washed out, baby headed climb that was a couple of miles before the end. If I could clear that the race was pretty much done. It's not super tough but it required that you dig deep and punch through it. If I was going to cramp or crack this was it. I see the section just ahead and even better, I see a fading rider just starting it. He bobbled, I rode steadily past him and then punched it over the top and kept on it. I did NOT want to leave this to a sprint finish. My legs would definitely not have that in them.

The effort worked as I killed the last downhill and drilled the pavement to the finish line. The rider I passed was not in sight and I didn't have to sweat out a sprint. I pedaled as hard as I could to cross the finish line in 4:28 and end the hardest weekend of racing I'd ever done. 100 miles of dirt in 8:09 followed by 50 miles of bumpier dirt in 4:28 the following day. It was a feat that I didn't know was possible and am very proud that I completed and actually did pretty well. I was 17th in the Mohican 100 and 14th in the Bearscat 50. Two top 20's in these races back to back really reminded me that my body can perform pretty well in some pretty demanding circumstances. What a weekend and it would be more than a few weeks to recover from this one.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mohican 100/ Bearscat 50 Despicable Double - Part 1

Yes you read that title right. I don't do smart things too often so why stop the trend? When the snow was still falling I contemplated doing both the NUE and MASS series and this was one of the major conflict race weekends. They are both great races so what was I to do? Yes...race both of them.

Now I will admit, in the weeks since I decided I would do it, I have wavered a few times. After I had registered and it sank in for a while once I pulled the trigger, that it was just plain stupid and I wasn't going to attempt the Bearscat, but rather donate my reg fee to the Black Bear cycling fund and be happy with a charitable donation. Nah, that's pretty weak... So I'm gonna do it! Maybe...

So after a bunch of repetitive cycles of this, the races were within a week away and I was determined to try the double. After all I couldn't do any reg transfers so it was either do the race or donate the money. The main issue being that I would need to leave pretty soon after the M100 was over to tackle the almost 9 hour drive to the park for the BS50. So after the M100 finish I would make the big call - go or just relax and stay in Ohio and do the normal thing and drive to NJ and collapse when I got home.

Fast forward to the day before Mohican, I jump in the car that morning and head out to meet up with my buddy Dan Rapp for the trip. It's always better to have two drivers, plus he was my ticket to actually getting some sleep in the event I tried to pull off the double. I mean racing a 100 miler, not sleeping, and then a 50 miler is suicide right???
So we drove out uneventfully and got to the venue with enough time to check in, preride, setup camp, and chill. The fun would begin the next morning.

At 7 am we were at the starting line in Loudonville OH and it was on. The gun went off and we were flying towards the first paved hill out of town to begin our long day. We kileed the first hill and flew past what used to be our turnoff into the singletrack approach. Thanks to some toolbags that upset the landowners we were not able to use that entrance and instead had to deal with a much longer road section to start. It steadily rolled allowing many more riders than usual to stay with the lead group. I just rode steady hoping to get into the woods in the top 20-25. This usually sets up for a nice, traffic free route through the opening singletrack and it worked.

The first 30 miles flew by and it went well. I rode the trails fast and smooth and thought I stayed within my limits. I kept watching my timeframe to see if I could him my predetermined aid station times and realized I was almost at aid #2 which was 3 hours in and I had not eaten. I had been drinking but not eating. So I took my multi hour bottle and emptied it into my stomach to try to catch up and stay on target. What a rookie mistake... I was in and out of the next aid station and on track but my power just started dying. I thought it was dehydration but I was drinking well. I kept on the pace but then I started cramping. It was too early for this!!! I knew something was wrong but in typical fashion I just pushed on through the cramps and was still making ok time.

Then the fun REALLY started to begin. As the cramps were coming and going, I started vomiting. Yup. Vomiting. It seems that trying to force 3 hours of food in is not the best idea. My stomach wasn't having any of it and it was obvious. Power was dropping, I was barfing, and I was cramping. Perfect. I still kept on. I don't know how to give up at one of these races. I always know that I WILL get to the finish line at some point - whether in the 7 or 15 hour range...I'll make it. So rinse and repeat this for the next 60 miles. I just had to hang on and try to get it to subside. By the last 20 miles or so it let up enough where I could ride well but definitely not the top of my game.

For about 10 of those last 20 miles I got to ride with Dan as he was coming back through after a snapped chain. I used him to help pace me and keep me company as I was suffering. The hills are not long but they are relentless. They just keep on coming. We hung together until aid 5 where it was all singletrack to the finish. He had some juice and I couldn't match for sure. I told him to go and I'll see him in a few. I wasn't too energetic but I did get some extra juice from knowing that I was so close to the finish. I rolled into the finish at 8:09 with Dan finishing at 8:08 and happy to be done. I had never had the vomiting issue during one of these races and it was not all it was cracked up to be. I was happy to still finish in the top 20 having all these issues. 17th was not too shabby. It seems the course was about 20 minutes longer with the new hike a bike, new singletrack into aid 3, and the new starting section as well. So comparatively it would have been well under 8 hours which I was pissed about missing. It just keeps me coming back for more.

So after all this being done and being exhausted. I got changed, beer'd, food'd and started to feel better. With that was the thought of the Bearscat in only a couple of hours. We had to wait for Dan's podium as he finished 5th on the day in the SS group, then we would start our drive back. Dan was hesitant as it always is a great time after these races but he agreed if I wanted to do the race the next day he was cool with that. Awards were at 7 so that's cool I'd be home at 3 grab some sleep and head to the race venue. Well then we hung around a bit. Then we went to dinner with Trevor and Dan's brother, and then wouldn't you know it. It was well after 9pm. Crap...

With a late start we headed home and Dan was the man. He kept it going through the dark windy backroads while I kept him company in the passenger seat. I was hoping to use this time to get some rest but between being uncomfortable, being afraid that Dan would fall asleep, and trying to keep the caravan of Dan and his brother who was following us together, sleep didn't happen for very long. Maybe an hour total of sleep. Ouch. I rolled into Dan's place in PA at 4:30. I was out of there by 4:45 and it was a 2.5 hour drive home for me. The math was not looking good at this point. That puts me at 7:00 to arrive home, and yet the venue is 30 minutes from home. Yup so 7:30 arrival for the 9am race was plenty of time.

Arriving at 7:30, registering, putting on my gear and saddling up I was sitting on the line ready to start my next race with little to no sleep and it just happens to be that it's not a very smooth course. My head was spinning about the infinite possibilities of what would come once the gun went off.

To be continued...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Cohutta 100 Race Report

It was hot, hilly, hard, and humbling. I had a lot of reservations going into this one. It was my 5th attempt at this race and 2nd on the new style course. I was hoping to best my previous attempt since I had felt awful and had a flat but this one would prove to be even harder. The biggest issue seemed to be the fact that I was only 3 weeks after the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek Race and the week prior to this race I had trained and beat myself for 18 hours of fun. Not the best in planning for a big race but it was early so what the hell. To top it all off I hadn't put any serious regular miles in until March 1st when I actually had time to train.

So as the siren went off I headed up the road with the big mass of riders into the first 2 mile paved hill. This is usually a great indicator of how the day would go and true to form it was - and not in a good way. I turned the pedals hard but just couldn't get to the lead group. I was dangling off the back thinking that either the group was going really hard or I just wasn't all there. The latter seemed to be the answer in hindsight. I just held my positions staying calm and riding within my limits. I figured even if I was out of it now I could claw my way back in.

The first singletrack was amazing and within no time I was at the bottom of the paved descent and onto the river trail where I ran into the log jam of riders. This was actually good since I was back to the main field and taking advantage of the roots and rocks to shoot past a bunch of riders. We kept on it and up and over the first few climbs and I felt ok but not great. Then the gravel started.

Once the road section started I knew what would lie ahead and I dread that section every time I do this race. It seems like the same climb over and over. So I put down a good pace and caught a bunch of racers and was feeling ok. I knew that wouldn't last forever though. Once I got to aid 2 which is 2/3 of the way through the initial climbs I was starting to feel my efforts and the pace was slowing. I kept riding hard to crest the last climb before the descent into potato patch and that's where I knew my energy was going down big time. So I did what anyone would do. Instead of conserving energy I had as much fun as I could and shredded the singletrack at the end of the lollipop loop and had a blast. Those trails are so fun and flowy - it would just keep my mind at ease before the 2500 foot climb back out of potato patch which would be my undoing...

On that climb I just felt the power drop and I resorted to granny gear. It was too hot, I was behind on my nutrition and hydration and just felt naseaus. I felt like I was going to pass out a couple of times so I had to do all I could to keep going forward and not stop. I thought many times of selling all my bikes and taking up lawn darts but I just kept going. If nothing else this was a big training race. And that's exactly what I did. I just kept going. Not too fast. As steady as I could push but still moving forward. Fending off cramps and dehydration I put in whatever food and fluids I could and just wanted to get to the finish.

Into the last singletrack I was so excited yet hesitant because I know there is more climbing in there than you think. Of course, just as I entered the singletrack a guy comes up on me from behind and asks me if I'm in the 100 mile or 62 mile version. There was an awkward silence just before I answered with the 100 mile and it was on. The next climb I put down EVERYTHING I had to get away and it was working. I had nothing to give but something was letting me claw away. My goal of at least finishing sub 9 was gone so this was my last battle. I drilled it everywhere I could - for as much as I could and put over a minute on him to the finish. For whatever it's worth, that was the shining moment of this race.

Another good hard effort to land me in 23rd in the open in 9:10. That was a long hard race and one that I said I would never do again if the course doesn't change. It's just not interesting enough to invest 13 hours of driving and all the effort to ride relentless, mindless gravel for that long. If things change I may be back but if not consider myself retired from the Cohutta 100.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

6 Hours of Warrior Creek - Round 4

Last weekend I visited the wonderful town of Wilkesboro NC and was hoping for a nice respite from what would be an abnormally snowy and cold lifestyle of riding in NJ. This year it didn't disappoint. The forecast called for showers all the day before and we were lucky to walk away unscathed with no precipitation on the course. I think there were maybe 2 damp spots on the course and they only lasted for the first two laps. Conditions and the prospect of a good hard effort for 6 or maybe 6+ hours was all I needed to lure me into this early season opener.

So as usual for this race - the race was to get to the line first. I saw the herd going over and jumped in as fast as I could and got to the front row of the race and all ready to line up...a full 30 minutes ahead of the start time. WTF??? Yup - the warming up that I had done would be for naught as we just sat there and chatted for 30 minutes not willing to budge. So at 10 am with cool but sunny skies the race went off. The only thing I wanted to do the first lap was not to go too deep to early on. So I stayed reserved and let people go when they wanted and passed when I could. I tried to be very aware of my efforts and monitor it the best I could. Lap 1 was uneventful and seemingly solid. Lap 2 went just as well - very steady and smooth. Starting to enter lap 3 I thought I would open it up a bit and see how I felt stretching the legs. I hit the climbs hard - went super steady - and rode the lap 4 minutes slower. I thought I was doing well as I did sense some cramps were not too far away so I had to meter my efforts. Maybe that was enough to slow down the lap or it was just my old friend fatigue setting in.

Lap 4 was steady and lap 5 was a little more spirited as I got to grab a half can of coke and head out knowing it would be my last lap. It went well and solid but throughout the race as well as I thought I was doing - I had so many people passing me that I thought for sure I was probably in 20th place. The one problem with this race is that if you don't have any support watching the race, as a solo you have no idea what place you are in. No leaderboard, no intel, nothing but a gut feeling for how well you were doing. At least those that were passing were passing very quickly and were out of sight in a few seconds. That made me at least hope that they were from the duo squads and weren't in my category.

Overall I felt like I was way slower this year compared to last and hoped I would be in the top 10 as I was 3rd last year. After I crossed the line I got cleaned up and checked results to see I actually finished in 3rd yet again!!! I couldn't believe it. No way did I think I was anywhere near the podium. After seeing that I felt great about not giving up and putting in a solid effort but I really wanted to see the lap data to see how I faired. I was 4 minutes slower than last year and that might have been attributed to the new lap/pit scenario or maybe that the course seemed just a tough rougher and eroded than last year. It's anybody's guess but I was happy with the situation and how I finished. I was 19 minutes out of 2nd and there was no way I was closing that gap.

To top it off when I got finished I found out that my teammate was taken to the hospital when I was still on course. At some point he was pushing the edge and found it. His front wheel washed out and drilled his right shoulder straight into the ground causing him to break his collar bone and crack the 2nd rib behind it. Ouch... He was ok but definitely in a lot of pain. I had just enough time to run to the hospital to get him and return for the awards ceremony and the prize raffle. Afterwards we settled into camp to let the days events settle in and for him the Percocet to settle in. We'll both be back for more.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tuscarora Endurance Race MASS #1

I awoke this morning with my hips aching, the back of my neck sore, my back sore, the pads of my feet swollen, and my lungs feel like it's a little hard to breathe. If it weren't racing season, I'd be sitting here thinking what the hell just happened to my body. Oh yea. It's mountain biking season...

Yesterday was the Tuscarora Endurance race as #1 of the MASS Endurance Series. It was a good day at the end of it all but it was a bit of a kick in the pants. I usually am down for a nice hurtful early season race but this was brutal. I started to think the past few weeks that the course would be atrocious so it would make more sense to race my singlespeed than to ruin a good race bike. So I found a suspension fork to replace my rigid and swapped over my race wheels. Thought about the gear ratio a bit and took my best guess and headed out to the hills of PA with good thoughts in mind.

As the race went off I hit it hard and started the climb second wheel as I just wanted to sit there for the time being over the ice and snow on the first corner to stay out of trouble. As I was racing an SS in the open field I knew the first climb would be tough so I did my thing and kept to the side to let the others crank by. One by one they came and my strategy was not to blow up on the first hill but ride conservatively and see how I could ramp it up later on, if possible on this non-shifty bike.

I was sitting in 9th at the top of the hill and thought that was ok for how I felt and how strenuous that initial climb was but I was curious of the mud and treachery that lie ahead. It wasn't as bad as last year but on the SS that next hill was a walk and the hike a bike was MUCH longer. I was getting pretty upset knowing that I could ride a lot of this stuff on the geared bike - which I did last year in worse conditions - but with the SS I had to walk. I was even geared pretty light 34-20 and still had all I could do to ride some of it. Thank goodness I didn't reach for my 18 tooth cog.

So through the first lap I got over the walky stuff and finally got to the rock garden that I love. It's hard - but great. I had to wait in line for some riders to clear but once it opened up I had some nice flow going through the bumpy slow stuff. The end is still tricky as hell but that's nothing a dismount and some hoofing couldn't fix. Rolling again I hit the next steep up and it was doable but not worth it. I walked it. Again this was killing me as I know it's a hard but easily ridable section on the geared bike. So I just rode as hard as I could when I was on the bike.

The next downhill and remaining fireroad was a blast but even things like being able to pick a big gear and mash the flat or stuff that pointed downhill was sorely missed. It doesn't seem like a lot but I just knew I was losing time. So I basically forced myself to forget about the other side and just ride. I finished my first lap in 40 minutes which wasn't too bad so onto the next.

The next lap was a little bit more free and I actually cut a negative split with a 39. I was rolling well but I could tell those hills were going to hurt my legs and fast. I did all the same but just tried to stay consistent and last through the hills. This worked until lap 4 when the temps went up just a bit - enough to start turning that initial climb into some slimy goodness. There were a few climbs that just turned soft and made it very challenging to turn the cranks over. At this point I was just hoping for the end and with 4 laps in I knew there would only be two to go.

For the last two laps I rode steady and went over the bars on lap 5 in the rock garden. It had to be done at some point so I was lucky to not hurt myself or really impede my progress. I hopped back on and continued to ride the rest of it, but the end was near. I kept using that as hope and I knew I could finish well. I still had some energy but the single gear was just using it up quickly.

I rolled into the finish at 4:20 for 6 laps completed. It was a great feeling knowing that I rode as well as I could on that horrible contraption and thought that I was 7th or maybe 8th in the open. I didn't ride well, I didn't ride fast, but I was consistent. As a matter of fact I cut another negative split from lap 5 to lap 6 so you could tell I wanted it to be over. I warmed up and cleaned up to check results that were posted to find that I actually came in 4th. How the hell did that happen. I guess I was pretty consistent. The 5th place finisher was 18 minutes behind and 3rd was 6 minutes ahead. It was just a good hard day in the saddle and a good lesson at what I really like to do on a bike - that is to pedal consistently and have gears to change that ratio appropriately.

Thanks to Zach for an awesome race and hopefully this will be a start to a great season. I know I have a lot to work on and it keeps me hopeful for what I can still accomplish with a little blood, sweat, and tears.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

2014 Season on Paper Looks Good

I'm in the middle of breaking out of the winter funk and so far so good. With the conclusion of February I am done with my ski team coaching and can refocus again on cycling. The team was so hectic with races and rescheduled races that I had to be ok with not riding for days at a time and meager 6 hour weeks. This was really hard mentally coming from a training standpoint where I like to see no less than 10 hours a week but I digress...

So with my schedule all cleared up I put in some long miles my first full week back and I'm already feeling a LOT better. I rode for 14+ hours and threw in a century as well and feel good. Hopefully this is a good sign of things to come. The main focus right now is mileage, some focused intensity, and getting down to race weight. At this point the heart of my season is a couple of months away and that's where the focus is. I'm not worried about the early season as I know I'll be in a deficit given the hard winter I've had. But in 2 months I hope to be flying.

Up on the calendar first is the Tuscarora 4 hour, Michaux 4 hour, and then the real challenge - the Cohutta 100. Either way these races have been great and although I haven't done the Michaux race I know the terrain out there and it should be some great early season training. I just want to get on some dirt and get to mix it up again. I'm hoping Tuscarora has some time to dry out before race day.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

New Season Coming SOON!

It's still all snowy and dreary out but the new season is quickly approaching. I am focusing more strictly on endurance races this year and I have a bunch on the calendar at this point. It's not set in stone but it looks pretty busy. I'll be visiting a bunch of familiar states but I'm still looking to sneak a new one in there. Looks like 4 NUE's and a bunch of MASS races with a few others thrown in for good measure.

The winter has been pretty hectic with ski team coaching but with the conclusion of February, the ski season will be over too and it's back to biking full time. I've been getting limited training in but more will come once my schedule clears up. Practice and racing almost every day takes it's toll after a while. So I'm excited for the dirt and long days in the saddle.

More to come...