Thursday, April 14, 2016

2016 Austin Rattler

It's been a while since I've blogged or posted a race report so lets see how this goes...

Around December a buddy of mine invited me to go to the Austin Texas area for a few days with some like minded dudes to do some riding as well as race the Austin Rattler (part of the Leadville Series).  I'll be honest, on paper it didn't look like a race I'd enjoy with so many dirt road miles and almost no technical challenges but it's hard to argue with 5 days of riding in 70-80 degree weather when it's likely 40 back home so I said ok. 

We arrived a couple of days early and I was a good little boy and didn't totally bury myself pre-race (like I did at Circumburke last year but you wouldn't know that since I never did a write-up...) with a solid ride on Thursday and then an easy pre-ride of the course on Friday.  It turns out that they changed the course a bit from years past and added way more single track and cut out some of the later dirt road sections.  (yay me!)  Sure, you still needed to suffer through 7-ish miles of dirt road but they were almost all flat or slightly downhill so the mental punishment would be minimized. 

Race day, we show up and get our shit together (for once, I did almost all prep the night before so I didn't forget ANYTHING.  weird).  with about an hour before race time, we notice that a lot of people are lining up already.  shit!  guess it's good I had my stuff together so Warren and I hopped in line and waited, and waited...somewhere in the 100-150 riders back range.  I wished I was closer to the front but knew that I could make up lots of places in the opening road sections.

Thats a lot of dudes

When the gun fired we were off!  well almost, the front guys were OFF! but further back in the pack, things were a bit slower with me officially entering the race 17 seconds later.  The first 5 minutes of the race saw me making all sorts of aggressive moves for passes (which isn't easy when everybody is riding 5-wide).  When things finally sorted out, I was absolutely amped up and ready to do some serious damage!  At this point, I'd estimate that I was somewhere in the 40's but there was a group of about 10 dangling ahead of us a tantalizing 20 seconds up.  I'm wicked smaht and amped at this point so I proceeded to pull my whole group of maybe thirty dudes for about 10 minutes with only occasional help but I was racing and it was April and I kind of forgot how to do this smartly...

Eventually, we hit the more singley track and me and a couple of other guys who had shelled the rest of the group (I think?  we were going too fast to look back) caught the group ahead of us in the miles of twisties.  I couldn't open things up in here but it did at least allow my heart rate to drop below redline which is good since I still had about 3.5 hours to race. 

At the start of lap 2, I felt my first quad cramps ramping up (sweet!  only 40 miles to go!  this shouldn't hurt a bit!) so I wisely found a group and sat in for most of the road miles so that when we hit the single track again, I was fresher, had clean trail in front of me and was able to make good time. 

Rolling around to start lap 3 (what?  that's it for lap 2?  yes, little drama and lap 3 is more interesting), I shot my last gel and (mercifully!) grabbed a gel hand-up at the start/finish because I could feel myself imploding.  Fast.  For me, at this point, the race was now about maintaining my position as much as possible.  I felt like I was gonna pop at any moment (why did I go so fast on lap one?  oh yeah, bike racing is fun!  until you're le'tired) and my quads were about ready to pack their bags and leave.  Thank goodness for me, I found a dude with massive WATTS who was more than happy to pull my sad group of 4 along the dirt roads at what felt like Plaid Speed but was probably more in the 20 mph range.  Things were merry until we finally hit the trails where drafting didn't work and I had to let the group go.  My legs were poo and I was feeling the impending cramps of doom descending upon me. 
the watts monster

Finally, on a small rise, when I stood to climb, both quads completely seized on me.  I looked down and it looked like my left quad in particular had completely migrated from my knee area to my fun zone.  I very briefly thought about walking it off but figured I'd just end up a heap of quivering nothing on the side of the trail if I did so I simply dialed it back a bit more and spun as if my life depended on it. 
nearing the end

the next hour was pure and utter hell but I worked my way through the pain with lots of positive self talk, drinking and looking back to make sure nobody was going to pass me.  Thankfully, it all worked out with me crossing the line in 4:17 which was almost exactly my pre-race best case scenario goal and 24th place overall (in a registered field of 850) and 8th in the massive 40-49 age group.  Good enough to qualify for Leadville by a good margin. 

 done.  beer in hand.

 texas dirt in mouth

 qualifiers coin

Overall, it was a fantastic race.  Well run, good course and lots of cool folks around.  I'll be back again next year but (hopefully) with a slightly smarter game plan and a better starting position.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bond Brook Tread Fest 2014

The Tread Fest is a race I've wanted to do for the last couple of years but haven't been able to for various reasons.  This year, though, I wasn't going to miss out.  I've fallen in love with riding there so racing there is a must.  The race format was pretty straight forward, the expert/pro class would do three laps plus a prologue loop through the parking area to spread things out a bit.  I lined up on the front row and got a really good start sitting third wheel until we hit the first corner of the prologue and the guys in front of me missed the first turn and about 10 guys got by.  Then, at the very next turn the guy next to me overshoots the corner forcing me to stop yet again or get into a crash letting more people past.  Thankfully, that was the end of the corners and I had about 200 yards of gravel to sprint past everybody and slot in behind Tony Giguere who I knew would be one of the strong men on the day.

We entered the trails 1 & 2 and were shortly joined by Dereck Treadwell (Tread from this point on.  look him up and be scared).  Tread quickly dispatched me and got on Tony's wheel.  The two of them slowly built a lead on me going up the Insulator climb but I latched back on at the end of long Split Rock descent.  Sadly, the xc ski trails that led to the next section of single track had some climbing so those skinny little bastards (both about 40 lbs lighter than me) pulled away again.

I kept Tread (sorta) and Tony in sight for the rest of the lap but just couldn't hang on the climbs.  My only hope was that the technical sections would wear them down more than me (not sure how that would happen since they were both on full suspension and I was on a hardtail).

Tread heading down Wannabe
Me a few minutes behind
Forrest tearing shit up on his Carver fat bike

Halfway through the second lap.  Shit is gonna get real soon.
The first lap was marked by an extreme lack of excitement in the strategery department.  It was clear that the standing weren't going to change unless something interesting happened.  Foreshadow, foreshadow.

A little over halfway into the second lap, after the 6 Back climb, is a tricky little section.  you enter at speed and then have an off camber chundery corner with a hole and then a quick, almost 360 degree, offcamber hairpin to negotiate.  In pre-rides, I was always sure to warn my fellow riders to be careful of this corner so I, of course, endo'd nicely there on my second lap.  There was no bodily damage and I didn't think the bike was affected either so I quickly got up and got to making up lost time.

one of the many switchbacks (I'm guessing 6) on the 6 back climb
I sprinted as much as you can down the Quarry trail and then disaster hit.  I was entering a quick, high speed juke section when my front tire folded over on the first juke (I guess I burped it a bit in my endo up top).  I grabbed fistfulls of brakes hoping to avoid crashing into the trees ahead.  It sorta worked but I still slammed one tree head on in a semi endo move jamming my groin/inner thigh into my stem and bashing my right hand on the tree.  ouch.

A quick assessment proved that all of my body parts were still (mostly) working but the tire definitely needed to be taken care of so I gave it a full blast from a Big Air! canister.  At this point  an overinflated tire was far better than another crash.

At this point I figured I was out of the running for 1st or 2nd but I still hadn't been passed so I hoped I still had enough of a cushion to hold onto 3rd place overall.  But, but, but, just minutes down the trail I came across Tony trying to diagnose a shifting problem.  As much as I hate to take advantage of someone else's misfortune, I knew I had to try to get a gap on Tony in case he got rolling again quickly so I made a mad dash through The Works section of trails.  Unfortunately, it wasn't long before I realized that my front tire was going soft again and I was feeling a little sideways roll in the rear as well.  Frick! I had used my one and only CO2 but I did have a hand pump as well for safety's sake but I didn't want to risk getting passed at that moment so I took a calculated risk and decided to keep rolling at a slightly more conservative pace in the tech sections and drill it as hard as I could on the open climbs.

At the very top of the course, before the descent to the start finish, I caught a glimpse of Tread where the trail passes by closely so I knew that he had about 5 minutes on me at that point.  Enough of a gap that wouldn't likely allow me to catch him at my slightly handicapped pace.

about to go up the Insulator Climb for the 3rd time
As I rolled through the start finish to begin my last lap, I heard someone yell my name so I glanced over and someone yelled something and held up one (or was it two?) finger.  I wasn't sure what that meant.  Maybe he was telling me I had one lap to go or that I was in second place?  I didn't know so I decided to not think about it.

Since I assumed that Tread still had a good lead on me, I went into defense mode.  I had seen my buddy Wheels a while back and knew that he was slowly reeling me in so my goal for the last lap was to be conservative where I needed to and go as hard as I could where I could to hold onto second.

What I didn't know was that Tread had flatted at the end of lap two and had gone to his car to fix it as he lapped through and was now on a tear trying to catch me.

Tread blasting through the mid lap point

Luckily, I had enough of a gap (started at around 2 minutes I've heard) that I held Tread off and rolled into the finish in 1st but thinking I was in 2nd.  Right after the finish, I saw Chris Riley, the race promoter, and he congratulated me.  For what? I asked.  Just then, I saw Tread finish up about 45seconds after me.  Damn that was a close one! 

The "podium".  Tread, me and Wheels

and my winning prize. a pair of 2015 Scott Premium MTB shoes! Swank

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sometimes I race and sometimes I blog.

Over the last few years, the blog has pretty much died.  It just became too difficult to come up with something interesting to write about on a nearly daily basis and it became even more difficult to find ways to grammatically bludgeon the english language.  to add to the dearth of interesting stuff to write about, Strava came along and made me not care about racing as much.  I've always had a competitive itch and, for the longest time, racing is what temporarily satiated me.  But, with the invent of Strava, nearly every ride has become a race of sorts and I can quickly see how I compare to other folks.  Is it the same as lining up toe to toe with a pack of shaved leg, 140lb wunderkids?  No, but based on the lack racing in the past couple of years, it must be just enough to keep me satisfied. 

That's not to say that I don't ever race.  I do, just not as frequently.

I already blogged about race numero uno (just read below) but I never did for race number 2, The Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge And Other Various Things.  It's been a long time so I'm going to do the cliff's notes version.

Lined up with the pro/expert class and got a good start for once riding with the elites for the first 5-6 miles of technical singletrack and xc ski trail riding.  I was digging a bit hard for so early in the race but it was fun to hang with the actual fast guys for a while.  Eventually, though, my senses returned to me and I let them slip away.  It was at this point that team manager Big Al caught me and we started a multi hour ride together.

Things were going swimmingly until I had a couple of mechanical issues with my bike and I had to watch Al ride off into the sunset, I assumed never to be seen again.  thankfully though, near the mid-point of the 60+ mile race, I saw him ahead on one of the races longest climbs so I dug in a bit to close the gap.  Again, it felt like I was going a bit hard for such a long race but I figured having a drafting/riding partner would pay dividends later in the race.

At this point, Al and I were the top two experts overall and looking like we'd have a pretty good finish (foreshadow! foreshadow!).  things get a bit blurry from here on out but I do remember at some point on one of the hut to hut trails that Al started to pull away from me and I didn't have the gas to pull him back. Crap.  In the back of my head I hoped I'd see him again but knew it wouldn't happen.

Shortly after losing Al, I noticed Tyler ( read here:   carrabassett 50 part duh ) and a single speeder catching up to me.  Ruh roh.  When they got to me, I literally had nothing left to give and had to sadly watch my 2nd and 3rd place finish disappear right in front of me.  Luckily though, that was the last of the passing and I was able to slowly plod my way to the finish as the 4th non-elite.  Not bad but not quite what I was hoping for. If you are interested, you can see the rest of the results here:  results 

As always, thanks to Team Bikeman and Bikeman.com for helping make this nonsense happen. 

Bradbury 12 hour recap to follow shortly. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Maine Sport Mayhem!

Well, it had to happen sometime.  I knew that despite my believed lack of fitness or technical skill I'd eventually need to toe the start line at an XC race if I hoped to ever jump start my "season".  my first real, and logistically easy, chance was this past Saturday at the Maine Sport Mayhem!  (their exclamation point, not mine).  As usually happens for this race, the weeks leading up to the start had primo conditions which meant that things were dry and fast but, on race day, things changed.  In the form of rain.  lots of it in fact.  This quickly turned a pretty nice course into a quagmire that was barely rideable in lots of areas.

There was a small but strong turnout for the race and a missed clip in saw me enter the woods 5th wheel with my main competition, Tony, getting the hole shot.  By the mid way point of lap one I had passed all but Tony but he already had a comfortable 45+ second lead on me and with the conditions quickly worsening, I didn't have the mental fortitude to drill it to attempt to catch him.  Guess I need to work on my mental game!

Anyway, after two of four planned laps, the race promoter asked Tony and I if we wanted to shorten the race to 3 laps which we were both happy to do because we could hear our bikes being ground into submission.  In the end I finished 3-ish minutes back (i'm too lazy to see if results are posted) but felt good to get the season going and finally have a burning desire to race! 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

It's Almost Go Time

It seems like forever but my first race of 2013 is just around the corner, The Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge (aka - the longest name in the world).  I had other, earlier, races slated but some I skipped because I just didn't have the speed or skills back yet and others like the Maine Mayhem! got cancelled because of torrential rain. Pushing my race start back probably wasn't a bad thing since it gave me more time to feel like an actual bike rider but having my first race after smashing my hip to bits be a 100k mtb affair might not be so wise. 

Fortunately for me (and you if you bother to check back in a couple of weeks to read the report) I am not always prudent and lets face it, a total meltdown during the race is much more interesting to read and write about than something that goes smoothly.

According to my Strava account, in the last few weeks I've gone from averaging 3-4 hours a week to almost 8 so things are shaping up but how much real endurance will be in my legs by next weekend is the real question.  I crumbled on a 3+ hour road ride over the weekend and my best case scenario at the CBCC is 5 hours.  Egad!
To help prepare for the post race keg, I've been training my liver and dancing legs. Proof.

Marcy and I renewing our vows at Pop the Cork:

sealing the deal

and then party all night

I don't know about you but I'll be ready.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Riding With the Crissman

It has been AGES since I last posted.  Why?  Well a number of reasons really.  I haven't raced yet so it didn't feel like there was much of interest to write about.  I've also been super busy on the work and home fronts so there has been no time to squander.  At least not on the semi-regular basis required to keep a blog going.

My "training" continues to improve and I feel I'm this close (if you could see me, you'd see me holding my fingers this close together. Damn-it!  you can't see that either...) to being in good shape again and my hip has been feeling really good.  Some days I have a bit of nagging achyness, usually after a long run, but otherwise it feels good so who's to complain?  Me, that's who because that's what I do. 

The video above?  That's a poorly edited (ie - not) video of Mr. Crissman and myself tearing up my home turf on Sunday.  Still not faster than him but he has Enve rims and luscious chest hair so I don't expect to be. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Words cannot express just how awesome this v-day card from my daughter is.  It makes me smile every time I look at it.