Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Mooch Short Track Race Recap

The countdown to surgery continues but I refuse to sit and wait. I've finally been back on my bike without discomfort and the doc says it's great to keep my muscles strong before surgery. Perfect. So with the last couple of group rides I've been on I figured I'd try to put down some power to see how the knee felt. When it did it felt surprisingly good. Not perfect but I was really happy with the way it was performing. So why not try a race? ;)

This past Sunday was the MTBNJ short track. I signed up a few days before knowing I was completely unprepared for this - but what the hell. I have the fat, out-of-shape, and injured trifecta going on so at least I'd have a lot of excuses. So I packed up the bike rolled around and got to the starting line.

I came off the line slow towards the back of the starting field and began to ramp up to speed. I got out of the saddle and pedaled hard and the knee felt good so I went with it. I passed a few going into the first section of singletrack but definitely wasn't going to be towards the front of this group. I was riding pretty well but definitely with a lack of confidence. I got caught in traffic a few times and had to clip out once and I was very tentative jumping back on the course and lost a few spots. That left me to chase those riders that passed for the next few laps. I did finally work my way back up to and through them - completely out of breath and hoping for much more fitness that I should have at this point in the season.

The race continued and the knee felt good. So I kept on it feeling better and better and just aiming to catch whomever was in front of me. I saw a guy way in the distance and used him as my carrot for the remainder of the race as I had 3 laps to go. By the time I had 2 laps to go I was only 20 feet behind him. I figure I can get this guy. Ride up to his wheel and then when there is one lap to go then give it all I've got and I could open a gap in the singletrack and get past him. Plan worked like I'd hoped and rode his wheel to the turnaround where I would make my move. Only problem - we got passed by the leader so the turnaround was now the finish line. By the time I had realized the race was over I had no time to pass the rider in front of me which I could have easily. Ooops. Live and learn. I finished 22nd of 35 racers.

The best part about this day was that my knee felt awesome. I felt like I was my old self again. Not as fast or skilled with my forced time off but at least in the ballpark. Mentally it helped so much knowing that I basically came off the couch with a bum knee and did pretty well. It's not a result to boast about but the fact that I had no body or mechanical issues makes it a great day. So much so that I might have to do more of these before surgery. There are 3 more left that I could do...

Monday, February 29, 2016

2016 Has Started Off with a Much Bigger Challenge

After the Fat 50 I was feeling good about the season and trying to ramp up the training miles and really start to get the engine going. As usual I was bouncing back and forth between my training and my job as the assistant ski team coach for my high school. A month and a half ago I started out practice by going for a warmup run before the kids were ready and slid on some ice and fell and got my ski caught underneath me feeling a sudden pop. I had a good idea of what it was but after some doctors visits and having a bunch of blood drained from my knee it was evident. I completely ruptured my ACL. Damn...

So after a few more visits and lots of ice and rest my knee is starting to feel better but in 3 weeks I am going in for surgery. This puts the season on hold big time. I am doing pre-surgery PT to make sure the knee is in good shape before surgery. I am still riding my bike but definitely unsure of it's ability and have to scale my riding back a bit for the sake of the joint. This is the last thing I want to do. So at this point I'm trying to get back riding consistently before surgery - as the doctor said it's really good for the knee.

The doctor said that I'll be back on the bike in 2 months, running in 3, training by 4, and back to full ability in 6 months. I am hopeful with this timetable but of course I"m also hoping that I'll be back to racing before 6 months. My rehab and time will tell.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

And...2016 has begun.

Yesterday I took a short drive from my home to give the fatbike a little workout. Or rather have the fatbike give me a workout. I know it's early in the season but I want to give this season a little more of an effort than last year. With a little luck I think it could be the best season I've had in the past few years. Last year's accident and moving are all behind me so I'll have less excuses as to why I haven't been pedaling that hard. So onto the race.

Yesterday was Marty's Fat 50 and what a good early season event. The turnout was amazing and very well organized. Beer and pizza at the end were key! That's what I was dreaming about the entire time I was racing. I was even asking people on course if they knew what beers there were waiting for us for a little encouragement. Now for the race.

Before we got to the line we were waiting at Marty's store and someone notices my tire was going flat. Great... I rode to the car to swap the tube. This morning in the garage I blew the same tire off the rim. Riding around at the venue I bunny hopped a puddle and blew it off the rim, and now it was flat - great. I was thinking my race was over before it even started. The tire just didn't want to stay mounted. The last time I put it on I let the wheel lie on the skewer in the hop that it would seat properly without any issue. Thankfully I got the new tube in, hoped it was seated and had five minutes left before the gun went off. Rushed back to the starting line to settle in and wait for us to go.

I lined up in the front with my teammates Steve, Mike and Greg. It was a controlled start for the first 2 miles or so over to the trailhead. The race was neutralized and then final race instructions were given, then we were off. I knew there was some good firepower out there and I wasn't looking to stay in the lead group. We all rolled together for a while but it was obvious the group was going to split. My thought for the day was to get a good workout in and maybe finish in a good position. I wasn't willing to dig too deep and burn all my matches this day. By the end of the first rail trail, the West Morris trail, it had split up a bit and I was in the second chase group. We chased over 206 and up the next pavement climb to the singletrack which was starting to get wet and greasy. I had to take it easy to not blow my tire off and thank goodness it survived! Knowing that the tire mad that decent made me a bit more confident but still weary that it may have an issue. As we got back to the next rail trail the group I was with earlier regrouped and we were off on the grind all the way to high bridge.

The group was pretty steady for the most part. I tried to stay consistent and ready for surges. The group would slow for a road crossing, hiker, sign post, or whatever and then surge hard to get back to speed. I tried not to get too excited and as the others were sprinting up to speed I would just push a little harder and let the gap in front of me close. It seemed to work as I felt pretty comfortable up to the half way point. The only problem with the rail trail itself was that there were metal posts at each of the road crossings. It was important to call out the posts so the others behind saw them coming. The group was rotating pretty well and at one point we cycled through and it ended up that I was at the front. I kept it steady and called out an upcoming post at a road crossing and then heard a loud bang. Behind me I looked back to see riders separating around two cyclists that went down. At least that's what it looked like to me. We neutralized the group to give them a chance to get back on. We put our heads down once again and kept on it. We made it unscathed for the remainder of the 25 miles to the turnaround point in High Bridge.

Coming back there was a bit of an uphill out of the gorge and the group shattered a little but was able to regroup and made it to the singletrack climb and I was cramping hard. I could tell it was coming as my legs were starting to fade in and out. The next climb would either be good or terrible. The cramps took me off balance a bit in the super slick uphill grind and I had to walk a section then jump on and ignore the cramps. I lost the group there and just hit the road and wanted to see the finish line. I got caught at the light crossing 206 so I unfortunately had to wait. A few racers caught me there and I was hoping we could work together to get tot he finish and maybe catch some others. My legs weren't great so I wasn't hoping for much. As we were approaching the last rail trail to the finish I started working together with Selene and Ben to try to get to the line. We pulled and rotated and caught a few getting to the line. Unfortunately as we passed people they jumped on our train. As I started pulling hard to get to the line I got swarmed by a few riders and 2 from my group finished ahead of me. I finished in 20 something place. Felt ok for racing 50 miles in January. I know what I need to work on to get the engine really firing. Good work to all the racers out there!

It was a fun event for a winter race with no snow but I'm longing for the big singletrack races and not so much gravel. The tire held on, my legs held on, and I was happy with a good solid effort on a day I would probably have ridden an hour+ on my local trails. Instead I got just over 3 hours of steady pedaling and some motivation to prep more and train harder for the upcoming season.