Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Weeping Willow 2017

Ah, the good ole days.  Do you remember those?  The days when you weren't twice the age as some of your competition?  Or when your legs could ride at plaid speed for, like, ever?  Well, sadly, those days are gone and now I tend to focus not on the young man's version of mtb racing (xc distance) but more on the old fart version (endurance) because old man legs are a thing.  A thing that likes to go long but mebbe not so hard.

Having said that, I do enjoy me some XC suffering and it's a great way to remind my whiny legs that things could be worse.  I could still be focusing on this shit!

Anywhoo, early winter I decided that a good way to prep for my two "A" races was to sneak some XC races into the mix so that I could work on my leg speed and excuse making.  Mostly excuse making (seems like it's working brilliantly so far...).

Willowdale is the first such prep race.  It's historically, one of the favorite races in New England because of it's fast, flowy and dry trails.  Oh, and lack of real hills.  These elements add up to a fun but very painful experience because you can go full gas almost all of the time with very few downhills to coast or tricky areas to pick through.  Brap, BRAPPPPPP!!!!!

Because I'm a sucker for punishment and the fact that I know the only way to get truly fast is to go race against dudes faster than you, I signed up for the elite field and immediately put on a cup because I knew I was gonna get my dick beat in. 

I'm liking how all of my Stio gear matches my bike.  If you look closely, you'll see that I'm still rockin' the dork spoke protector.  nothing yells ELITE! like having that bad boy still on...

Anyway, lets get on with it.  Somewhere around 22-24 (although results only list 19) elites lined up.  I recognized some of the faces as perennial fast guys and a few that I didn't know but they got call-ups and looked to be fit as a fiddle so I knew the hurts were about to begin.  

The start was painful and I do mean painful.  Despite a solid warm-up, I was struggling immediately in the first open section.  Can you say "cotton mouth"???
Tell me this doesn't look like a motivated, hard charging bunch!
Photo by Gary Waldeck

That's me in the middle of the pic, black Stio shorts and red/black Bikeman jersey.

Thankfully, we soon hit some trails and I was able to grab back on somewhere around mid-pack.  Sadly, that was short lived as we soon found ourselves on another dirt road-ish section and the speed just got faster.  At one point, I looked down and we were doing 26 mph on a flat section, on MOUNTAIN BIKES!  This, coincidentally, is when I decided I probably wasn't going to win today.

Photo by Gary Waldeck

I eventually found myself in a small group that were all going the same speed and seemed to be about the same skill level so there was some nice racing and trying not to crash into trees at 20mph going on.  Somehow, as I always seem to do, I found myself all by my lonesome by the end of lap one (of three).  I hadn't seen the guy in front of me (I had already caught all of my carrots) and had one guy maybe 30 seconds back.

 All by my say-eelf (hint, you have to sing it)
Photo by Gary Waldeck

This is when the sads hit.  I was in no-mans-land.  My legs hurt, my ears hurt and I was seeing blury from the effort of the first lap.  I willed myself to keep pushing though and soon started to catch glimpses of the next guy up the trail.  I tried digging deeper to catch the guy ahead but I just couldn't seem to do it.  Even worse, I noticed two guys catching me from behind. 

Run boi, RUN!
Photo by Jim Paiva

Inevitably, I was caught at the very beginning of the last lap.  Sportingly, they let me pull through all of the fast opening sections and then one of them (who turned out to be Greg Jancaitus) blazed past me at a speed that I can only describe as excitedly stupid.  Lucky for me, I do excitedly stupid pretty well because excitedly stupid is way more fun than mopey I was able to dig deep and stay with Greg all the while wondering when excitedly stupid would turn into ouchy crashy.  Turns out, I didn't have to wait long.

I clung to Greg's wheel for about 10 minutes until he took an alternate line that I hadn't tried.  Not wanting to get gapped, I followed him and immediately went down (Hi there pointy rocks!) and tore the crap out of my right butt cheek.  This, coincidentally was when I realized my days as a butt model were over.  I hoped back up quick-ishly and with a bit of effort was able to grab the rear wheel of the other dude in our trio.  Sadly though, Greg had gotten away.

Me and dude who's name I don't know scampered along merrily and eventually caught back up to Greg who had very kindly caught the guy who I had been fruitlessly chasing a while back.  Now we were four with a couple of miles to race and the distinct possibility of a 4-up sprint finish.  The potential for ouchy's was extremely high.

Things went swimmingly for the next couple of miles with me barely holding 4th wheel when we came into the field leading to the finish.  This is when things blew the f' up!  No name dude went first from third wheel.  I think he got around Greg and the other no name just as we caught an expert female who was finishing her race.  Unfortunately, the guy in front of me clipped her bars and she went down.  After a bit of brow beating from me, no name went back to check on her as I rolled across 3rd in the 4-up.

I circled back to check on the woman but she was already gone.  I heard that she finished the race.  I sure hope she was ok.

Checking the results, I ended up in 13th about 8 minutes down on the winner.  Not exactly my greatest performance.  Comparing my lap times to the top experts (and adjusting for my extra lap) I would been at or near the top of the expert field so I guess middling in the elite field is where I belong.

I must say, the Kona Hei Hei DL performed flawlessly and I continue to be impressed by this bike.  Comfortable and flippin' fast.  oh and stupid fun.  so fun that I counted at least 5 (4-DL's and one Supreme) Hei Hei's in the Elite start corral.   Want one?  I hear Bikeman would love to sell you one.


Alby King said...

Not bad. Old man. Thatsa power course, but you already seddit.

rick is! said...

thanks dude. i may be old but at least i'm stupid