Monday, December 12, 2011

DAS Beer Cross. Should all races be like this?

The plan was obvious several weeks ago.  How could anyone refuse?  A race within 25 minutes of the house, low entry fees, no UCI license requirement and the prize for winning:  Beer.  How cool is that?

It was so very casual I casually grabbed the SS mail order bike from the ceiling hook in the garage and stuffed it in the car on top of the Chili-Con-Crosso. Seeing how CX races are too damn short I figured I'd do the mountain bike version at 9 then the "A" CX race at 11.

No maintenance or cleaning of any kind (aside from checking the tire pressure) took place.   The bike was caked with mud from a ride a few weeks back, the chain - a little on the dry side & the brakes rubbing / squealing a little.  Fuss free who-gives-a-damn racing.  Does it get any better?

I had considered changing the gearing, having done a couple of CX training races here within the past few months.  It's a little lumpy - but nowhere near hilly enough to be running  a 32X20.   On arrival a quick spin around the course confirms it:  "this'll be extra spinny". 

We all group behind the "C" CX group (1 minute gap ahead of us).  Right next to me  Ms. Liz.  I start having the dreadful sensation I'm about to get chicked.   She tries telling me I have unfair advantage as I'm riding a CX bike with mountain bike tires (I swear - it's a bona-fide MTB).. I explain that I'll blow the doors off the group until we hit about 10mph.  

The CX group leaves and we ease up to the line.  As hoped I get the hole-shot off the start.  Within a few seconds the cadence is ridiculously high.  I figure that's gonna be all the lead I get.  "Just keep spinning, just keep spinning... "

As we round the first LH turn I can see the group just behind figuring someone's gonna catch me for sure.   

We head up a slight grade to a volley-ball court sand-pit.  The sand is so firmed up from the freezing temps that's it's effortless.   From there a little more uphill - then a downhill around a big semi frozen mud puddle.  Pedaling is useless. There's just not enough gears. 

Finally a quick RH turn around a tree - then up the biggest rideable hill on location.  The gearing is low enough there is no need to stand until the very last part.  At least on this lap.

At the top a flattish downhill. I keep thinking one of the geared bikes is going to catch me. Then we're off into some single track.  I can make good time through here.  The el-cheapo mail order bike is at the bottom of  heap in terms of components and weight - but she handles remarkably well.   Additionally no thinking is required.  Just point and rail it.

Along the way I catch some of the CX guys from the back of the group.  Dang.  Maybe this isn't such a bad ratio.  On the flats I can tuck in behind and spin the bejeezm out of her while keeping up.  We soon approach the run up hill.  Having silly low gearing helps here - I'm able to slingshot past a couple CX riders and ride more than half-way up.  The dismount is ugly - but fast.  I know better than to wait too long to hop off - and it goes good.  So good a guy near the top moves out of the way before the most technical section.  It's a little off camber trail  that has a short split section.  Go right and find a root happy to trip you up, go to the left and you'll find a kinder gentler (but slower) line.  I'm on a mountain bike (promise) so the root side it is. 

From there into a little more singletrack then the dread wide open trail around the track.  Top speed might be 15.... Just keep spinning, just keep spinning.  If there is any section where you might be caught ill-geared, this is it.  I look back and see the nearest rider is closing in.  Around the bend up to the sandpit and I DRILL IT.  Then DRILL IT even more up the next climb =  instant widened gap.   Maybe I'm getting some beer after all!! 

Repeated laps get slicker as temps rise - making for one spectacular blown out corner right after passing a CX rider. 

After 3 more laps it's over.  I get me some beer.  Again, how cool is that?  I'm kind of glad I didn't bring the "real" race bike.  That'd have been like Charlies race or something. Call me a stunted douche.

After an hour of the "B" class racing it's time to have my ass handed to me in the "A" CX race.  Out comes the Con-Crosso.  Wow this thing is fast. Not fast enough to prevent an ass whoopin' though.. 

At the start some serious dudes take off with serious power.  Within about one lap they are nearly a half-lap ahead.  Geez'm!!  With subsequent laps I'm not exactly gaining, but not exactly losing much either.

During the race there was a spell of good racin' going on.  I was with two riders for quite awhile, then one tripped up on a sharp RH turn going into some wooded singletrack which allowed a pass and a juicy gap formed.  The fellow behind kept me honest though, closing things up in time getting within 10 seconds or so at one point. Thank you kind sir.  I've been getting lazy and fat the past month.

I finish solidly in no-mans land somewhere between the top and bottom of the 11 guys in our race.

This may have been the most fun I've had this year.  Certainly the most rewarding. 

The formula:

Low entry fee + interesting prizes + no UCI stuff = fun. Danielson Adventure Sports has tapped into something wonderful.

A quick thanks to the Powerbar folk - for showing up and donating some eats! In between races I had one of their Harvest energy bars (Chocolate) and a nice caffeine laden gel (perfect for a chilly day). Not so sure about those gummy chewy things though..

Monday, November 28, 2011


Last year when I did the EFTA  "Turkey Burner" ride few folks showed up.  It was cold and drizzling.   I brought the beastly 30lbs mail order SS ride and had a ball until my body started shutting down.  

This year conditions couldn't have been nicer.  The main lot facing the water was full - and the lot on the other side of the road nearly filled.  For kicks I figured I'd ride the Mukluk.  It is the go-to bike this time of year.  Why?  - Cause this time of year I'm riding purely for fun.  The beater SS bike and the Mukluk have a higher fun quotient than any of the other bikes.

Within about 5 minutes of showing up Marty Allen swung by.  I connected with  Marty for the first time early this year at the Glocester Grind then at the Weeping Willow where he bested my time by 10 seconds.  Effectively - Marty be fast.  Marty be riding fast bike today.  He also be wearing fast clothes and sunglasses.  On this day, I be languid.  I be riding a slow bike.  I also be wearing slow clothes and safety glasses.   This'll be fun!  Rrroight..

Also along for ride NEMBA lads Shawn, Kevin & Carl -  a bunch of guys I've never met before, then Andy Gould (Mr annoyingly compatible) &  Nathaniel Williams (remembered him but not his name from the Pinnacle this year)  - couple more damn fast bastards.

We headed out of the lot guided (sort of) by Andy.  Quickly the hierarchy had formed:  Really fricken fast, fast enough to cause distress, fast enough to keep up and thankfully some more mellow guys.

I hung towards the front of the procession.  Nearby riders commented on the drone and visual impact of 4" wide tires.  Snowbikes do have a cartoonish thing going on - that's part of the appeal.  Another part of the appeal is the ability to bumble through rocky terrain.  They may not have the reflexes to whip through the twisty's quickly - but if you go off course ya just hang on while flattening nature's lesser obstacles. I could hear Shawn cracking up behind as I'd inadvertently create new lines. Whoops.

We even slowed down  to do some nature - the water was nearly perfectly still.

Carl gets a slice.  Small wonder seeing how his off road tires have turned into slicks.

We continued on in all different directions.  There was no real plan - more like Andy would have a thought - then we'd figure out how to execute it.  At one point we headed back towards the main lot area and trucked around where a CX race took place.   There were barriers set up.   Of course I tackled em' with the snowbike.  "WHATCHU MEAN MY TIRES ARE TOO BIG??!!"

As we kept riding - riders started dropping out.  As the riders kept dropping out  the remaining riders went faster.  Um... This is starting to hurt.  We headed over towards Fireline, a trail I remembered from last year.  It's fairly long for the area and packs a mid weight technical , but repetitive punch.  Hoo-boy..  This heavy bike business is kinda losing it's charm.  I had to relent mid-way and let Shawn go by.   It got harder and harder to be plucky man.  Finally, we got to the end of that trail.  At that point Shawn, Andy and others headed their own ways - "then there were three".  

 The three: Marty, Nathaniel and I.  Marty suggested we do a little more riding at an easy pace "maybe" (with a gleam in eyes just visible behind the fast sunglasses).  At first we rode easy down the carriage roads, then he and Nathaniel took the hell off (coincidentally this happened right after we passed a particularly well crafted gal).  Holy shit this was hard.  Marty and Nathaniel kept burning rocket fuel here and there  - I just kept dieseling. 

Starting from the area where the Big Ring Rumpus takes place all the way back towards the lot at Massabesic - Marty and Nathaniel pegged it even harder swapping pulls.   Through the tunnel under the road:  17.8 mph (WTF!!) - further on 19.6.. (??!!)  Continuing on...  22 point freaking 7.  ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING??!!  You can barely hit 25 down steep hills on these things!

I couldn't take it anymore and popped off the back just before a road crossing.  Even then I was pushing 18.  Anyone who rides a snowbike knows 15 feels ballistic.  Let alone 22 point freaking seven. 

Marty and Nathaniel eased up  momentarily and I got back into the drafty zone.  Only so we could crank things up just a leetle more before getting back to the lot.

Between Marty and the Mukluk, that was pretty much the hardest I have ever, ever gone. 

Good times.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Verge Series Cycle-Smart Northampton day 2 traffic... err - race report

They told me:  "You don't want to start at the back - there's no chance of getting near the podium".

And I didn't like that.

Not one bit. 

But I entered anyways.  

You see, my significant other has a significant job - that requires a significant amount of travel during this significant time of year.  To maintain a significant balance in our relationship it is only fair to allow significant latitude - especially given the significant number of mountain bike races I have pursued this year.

Luckily (I think) - my sister lives about 15 minutes away.  The little one gets to hang with her aunt and I gets to race!!  Not to mention - Look Park is pretty damn sweet.  Although the bumper boats and train were not in operation, my daughter was thrilled to be romping around outside on such a nice day.

So about that traffic race report:

Sitting pretty at the second to last row the guys at the back warbled and chattered about our predicament.  "What are you doing back here??!" to a couple of strong looking guys behind me. "I like to register at the very last moment!!" "You have to have some kind of weird obsession to willingly put yourself in this position!!"  Etc, etc...

The big guy with the clipboard commands every ones attention and announces: "We don't want what happened yesterday to happen again!!" - "When the start goes off, *do not* take off like a bullet and cause a 40 man pile-up!!"  - "There's plenty of time to sort things out after the first lap!!" 

So we take off.  After watching 100+ other riders take off that is...  We get moving by the time the leaders have nearly approached the second turn - a mere...  10,000' or so ahead.  That's exaggerating a touch - but it was nuts!

Not wanting to cause any trouble I kinda get going - maintaining my spot while letting an eager beaver or two whiz past.  Pshaww!  I'll get em' in a few minutes right?  Heading around the bends at the end of straight-away number one I zip past a rider here and there - then we get to the sand pit.  Oooh!!  Me likey!! - At least a half dozen guys are bound up and walking.  I saw somewhere on the Internet the best line through a sand trap is along an existing line.  It works!!  Presto  - instant 1/2 dozen dudes passed.  I do lose a good line exiting the second pit - but muscle through.

Well ahead we can see the leaders have tripped up on the "run-up" hill.  Great.  Everyone is jam packed behind leaving riders with no choice but to walk before the little chicane prior to the climb.   This is quite like a mountain bike race where one of those "all power no skillz" dudes gets the hole shot - only 6 times worse based on the head count.

Finally - after the hill things start to spread out a little.  While winding through the woods on the upper level of the course we can hear the announcer calling out the drama taking place in the lower level.  You know, about a 1/2 lap or so ahead.

As we progress one is able to start assessing the best spots to drop the hammer & pass.  Oddly enough, despite my lackluster mountain bike track record on the climbs - alot of guys really don't peg the uphills.  Sweet!!  Here and there I'm catching riders.  On occasion I'll pass another rider and they'll "retaliate"  but the love only lasts so long.  I "retaliate back" and then really open it up to make sure they get the point.   All along, wondering how much juice to ration.

One of my favorite little passing zones that my sister caught:

My sister and daughter can be heard cheering me on - and in key areas (like past the Bikeman tent - heh!) I'm at full throttle passing 3-5 riders at a time.  Whee!!  I'm getting near the front - right?? 


Not really.  Despite continued zoomy efforts throughout the race - I think this was lap 4:

Passes are getting less and less aggressive while approaching riders near the same level, but I am not getting passed anymore. Going into a few straights I can hear recently passed riders behind ramping up the efforts to slingshot by.  The answer is "nuh-uh".  Although the race is 45 minutes long - endurance man is starting to poke his head out.  If only the race lasted another 4 hours...

 Final result.  Drum roll please...


Are you frigging kidding?  

I might have legitimately passed 50 guys - but doing the CAT3 races without a call-up doesn't make any sense unless you can commit to a full season.  Alec P was right - the Masters 35+ race is where it's at.  Not only does one have plenty of room to move - you get to ride amongst some truly heavy hitters.  I'd rather be eaten alive by monsters than deal with Black Flies.

In the last race I was fairly evenly matched with Sally Annis.  Maybe I was having a fast day, maybe she a slow one.  But....  BUT!!  If I were to have matched her today - that would have netted maybe 16th or so.  A heckuva lot better than seventy-freaking-second.

After the race - I tried that walking thing.  Seems the twisting effort of hoisting the bike and stomping over the barriers did a number on an old back injury.  It'll come around - but helps underline how important it will be to lose some weight (gained about 10lbs while my wife has been traveling = no commuting) and maybe doing some Pilates or something to build the core.  Last year I participated in a cross-training routine with co-workers that included some core work.  I am certain it went a long way in preventing the same back problems that happened today. At least that's the plan. 

The venue itself was really nice.  Lots of activities and wares to check out.  I'll have to do it again next year,  only it will be with the "sorta" old guys.   

Some parting shots - courtesy the little one:


Nice grass

Nice ass
Daughters-eye view

To heck with dad - check out the dog!

There's another one!

I love this place!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Surprise! Let's do the Canton Cup CX

I had planned on a nice semi-casual ride at Harold Parker for the Wicked Ride of the East (had a sweet costume lined up too) on Sunday this weekend, but the weather forecast indicated 6-10" of snow for tonight.  Some quick arrangements and BOOM!!  I headed out to Canton for a first "official" CX race.

Knowing that the CAT 3/4 race was pretty much sold out and densely populated I opted for the Masters 35+ race (1/2/3/4) thinking it'd be a good way to ease into this CX thing without getting frustrated or in the way of too many people.

I'm guessing we had maybe 40 riders as my number was 238.  The startup had me in row 4 - but Alec Petro happened to be there offering some general pointers (basically get your ass moving off the start) and suggested I move up into a spot in row 3 as there was an opening available.  Cool!  Every bit helps right? 

At the start the group took off pretty quick but it didn't seem too terribly fast.  I gained a few spots as we headed up a shallow paved hill.  At one point I heard someone say "Hey!" - as in "Yo! - you's getting hurly burly"  So I cleaned up line selection amongst the group and we headed into the first RH into a straight section of double-track. 

Most riders stuck to the the left track as it was cleaner - but I hung out on the right side.  I'd rather deal with a bumpier ride than follow too close so soon in a race.  I gained a spot or two along the way. 

From there - I found some riders cruising near my pace.  Through some grassy fields we went.  Cornering wasn't super grippy or super slippy.  I bumped my tire pressure to 45 F / 50 R before the race.  I'm thinking somewhere near 35 / 40 may have been better - but I'm not sure where the sweet spot is with these skinny tires yet.

After the first field, there was a section of "almost" singletrack that included a log.  The log was maybe only 6" high but gave me the heebee jeebees.  The first lap:  Whap!  goes the back tire - lap 2, Whap!  - Lap 3 & 4:  I finally work up the nerve to air over cleanly (pretty sure mountain bikes are easier to loft).   After that - a nice paved section through a wooded area.  You could really lay on the juice here and peg the corners while hopping a couple of bumpy sections where tree roots ripped into the surface.

A short uphill followed.  It was here I'd gain time on riders juicing it in advance to fly up.  Then around some more grassy fields that included a little mud hole.  A few nice off-camber corners here really tested your ability to stay upright.  On several occasions the bike got out of shape - but I was able to just recover each time. 

Then down some corners into the biggest uphill.  It was probably the one called out as the "run-up", but if you carried enough speed you could blast up it and crest neatly every time.

A paved section followed - then went into some more corners - then some normal size barriers - followed by some more corners than the last of the barriers - and back around to the hill from the start.

On the second lap I was passed by some fellow just before the mud hole who was freaking flying, there was no chance of catching him.  Then a little while later I found myself thoroughly "chicked" for the first time ever.  This gal was moving.  She blasted by - and  instantly created a solid 40' gap.  Over time I slowly reeled her in. As we passed the crowds - I could hear people yelling "Go Sally!!"  From then on I had this song stuck in my head:

Sally was maintaining a solid pace.  Being that she passed all the guys behind me, I figured she'd keep me moving fast enough to prevent any more passes - so I did the honorable thing and sucked wheel - profusely.   At the end of lap three I heard a bell - and figured it might mean one more lap - but to be sure I asked:   "What was that??"  reply  "One more lap!"   Oh good.  Cuz I kinda want to puke.

As we headed into the field on the final lap, Sally yielded.  My response: "Umm, that's Ok, you're setting a great pace" - Sally:  "I need to practice some cornering" - Me: "OK, but I'm not sure I'm the right guy to lead".

From there I lead around the course - with Sally pretty much "right there" throughout 3/4 of a lap.  Unfortunately, at the first set of "normal size" barriers when I got back on the bike, my chain / rear derailleur was all bound up.  Bye-bye Sally, then another rider.  DAMN!  DAMN DAMN! - I got the drive train sorted out, rode the last few corners, hopped the last set of barriers then headed up the last hill only to have a rider absolutely rage past sprinting to the finish.

Phew!  I didn't puke!

Result:  Maybe 14th or so.  A little over 3 minutes behind the leader (JB of course)

At the finish talking "race" was Don Seib from Bikeman.  Apparently he crashed bunny-hopping the second short barrier and broke a rib (!).  He "had some difficulty breathing for 20 seconds or so"  but still put in a strong effort to finish 5th.  Damn. That's serious toughsmanship.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Race Report VT 57 or so...

I don't exactly recall  where I connected with the Vermont 50 - but it looked interesting.  It boasted 50 miles of great Vermont trails / roads  and about 9000' of climbing starting at the base of Mount Ascutney (closed these days for skiing reportedly due to divided ownership issues).  For sure it was plenty popular.  Some online searches mentioned how quickly it would sell out, so around February alarms were set up on the work and home computers.  The day registration opened it sold out in less than an hour. There were 800 mountain bikers signed up and 400 psychopath runners.

Not too long after registering an email came through announcing "Congratulations, you are in the Vermont 50!!".  It felt a little like when you open the owners manual for say..  an expensive camping stove to find the first page congratulating you for laying out 200% more coin than might have been necessary.

That was the first of a few emails:

Ayut, nineteen emails.  Early on, one email predicted there might be quite a few emails.  This prophecy was mikedly mightily fulfilled.

After reading the first half-dozen or so, I created a file especially for Vermont 50 emails.  The plan was to accumulate all of this information and create a single translated document.  Unfortunately upon attempting to organize all the data it became too overwhelming, so I just figured the best plan would be to figure out where I was sleeping and drive up there the day before

On Saturday I drove up, arriving around 5:30 in the afternoon.  Here was the line to register.  While in line I spotted the Hill Junkie himself - why, there he is already donning a Camelbak! 

We kept each other entertained while slowly moving up to the boxes with alphabetized names - only to find there was a line for folks who did it last year.  Apparently there was some kind of mix up.  I was expecting to pick up plate number 105 - but ended up getting 297.  No worries, as long as everything works out in the end.

I bought a pasta meal ticket - headed over to the building doing the catering and settled at a random table full of those crazy runner types.  They were rightfully proud to be runner types but at one point started hinting they hoped I wouldn't be one of those cyclists who gets in the way.  I pretended to be amused for a little while then another biker showed up.  We talked about the race, family and those serious racer types that show up for these things. 

The walk back to the car was purty:

Then I headed over to the Brown's house.  Who are the Browns?  A crazy great family I have never met. "Friends of a friend" that reside no more than 15 minutes away.  I got in around 7 and offered my thanks with a tasty beer.  I knew I was in for a treat from the beginning when emailing Mr. Brown.  Description of the compound:  "We're at the bottom of a hill with a fucked up looking barn Steve designed.  There are several other smaller fucked up looking buildings there as well - you can't miss'm".

 We talked for some time.  A bit longer than I had planned as wake up time would be 4:00 am.  I found out Mr and Mrs Brown had gone on a bike trip (before their 3 kids) all the way down the east coast years ago.  Why?  "we wanted to get to Disney".  That's freaking awesome.  Who does that kind of thing?  - Awesome people - that's who.

I went to sleep in the car (despite the Brown's offering a nice bed) around 8:30.  The car is a way better sleeper than you might first think.   4" memory foam mattress, screen for the sunroof, fan & curtains.  Perfectly cozy & quiet.  A little hearse for a little man to get a good nights sleep before a little race.

Going to bed that early knowing that you have to get up really early messes with your sleep patterns.  I woke a couple of times - then resumed sleep - to be startled awake by the alarm @ 4:00.  Time to put a little mustard on that mustard!

I arrived right around 4:30 and headed down to the tent to check-in.  The timing couldn't have been better as the majority of the crowd started showing up about 15 minutes later   It's a good thing I got there early too.  After I thought my stuff was good to go I realized I forgot gloves.  Not good for a longish ride.  So, back to the car - only to find I locked it but left a door open. Oops.  This lack of situational awareness would fully reveal itself later in the day.

After milling about trying to warm up - I could hear the announcer saying lots of important things from within the big tent.  All I knew was according to the schedule posted the day prior us VET II experts would be off in the second wave at 6:05.  

At about 5 minutes to 6:00 I headed over to the start area on the road and connected with fellow Bikeman Doug Southwick.  He mentioned how starts got completely re-arranged compared to last year.  I couldn't help but think - "that's a relief, I've never been here - it's nice having no preconceived notions - sorta like joining a corporation after a major management upheaval".. 

At 6:00 the youngsters took off in a wave of yelling, camera flashes, clicking pedals & shifters.  One thing for sure - it was really dark.  Good thing I brought my little 250 lumen light.  The countdown for our group began around 30 seconds.. Lots of people joined in for the final count:  7!!,6!!,5!!,4!!..3!!,2!! 1!!! "GOOO!!!!"  I was maybe 1/3 of the way back from the front as we rode down the paved road.  Folks were moving out - but not really pushing things.  About 500' from the start I began passing riders here and there. 

We continued on the road - into a RH turn that headed up a longish hill.  While maintaining pace several riders start falling back.  The lead group is maybe 200' ahead.  I'm not really gaining ground, and at this point it's not really worth chasing them down.  Little by little, good progress is being made.  After this first uphill - we started going downhill.  The prior trend of gaining on riders here and there was still in effect.  At one point passing a few riders on a slight LH bend I heard someone say "Eaasy..!" - Then  (in a kind of oh geez it's you tone) - "Alllby..!".   There was Alec.  Oh goody.  If'n yer racin' a longish  race he's a good one to gauge your performance.  Or at least he usually is.

 At the bottom of the hill - the trail started uphill into some jeep trails.  Fairly steep and greasy jeep trails.  Up ahead you could see most everyone dismounted - pushing their bikes.   At some point along the climb Alec passes by.  I'm pushing the pace but not too hard.  It's way too early for cranking.  Having experienced the worst cramps at the Hampshire 100 -I'm hesitant to overdo it so soon.

At the top of this climb - yet again another downhill.  The riders are going good - but not quite fast enough.  I start picking off a few here and there - being sure to call out my intentions loud and clear as things can get dicey if you mix it up at these speeds.  Along the way up the next climb I catch Alec.  Whaa... ?  That's not right.  I found out later that he was sick.  Figures..

Up and downhill we go.  As we continue on, skill sets and placings start sorting themselves out.  I seem to have the edge blasting down the hills - occasionally gapping the 2 or 3 riders amongst us by several minutes each time - only to have them slowly crawl back and just catch up at every peak.  It's annoying as hell and I'm certain just as, if not more annoying for them.  Every time they'd get to the top just ahead of me, they'd yield fairly quickly when things pointed down so I could bomb ahead without killing anyone.  This rotation goes on for many, many miles.

The views and landscape have some of that  morning misty magic going on.  Along the way traveling on dirt roads we pass some amazing homes atop hills overlooking valleys in each direction.  While not exactly leaving the group behind by much - I am increasing the gap on these more moderate grades.   At one point we exit the dirt road and climb up a lush, foggy mowed field with switchbacks.  As things get steeper - the guys I left behind start closing the gap.  At the top there is a feed station - everyone stops and I get outta there as quick as possible after downing a couple of cups of HEED.

Must GO!!  They is coming!!

The yo-yo-ing goes on, and on, and on..  Until maybe mile 40 or so.  Finally, Tyler Merrit gets ahead on a climb past a nice house in the woods with people cheering him on from the deck and it sticks.  Jon Rowe is behind but not far *at all*.  My back is really starting to get tense and it shows while riding terrain I can often drop riders in.  Not good.  Luckily enough I am still gapping Jon on the downhills - and even luckier towards the end, the course offers some great rooty singletrack to widen the gap further. We get to an aid station maybe around mile 45 and I down 3 Endurolytes and about 4 HEED's.   No Jon - at the moment.  Phew..

I'm doing ok - but nowhere near as fluid as normal due to extreme back tension.  Things start getting nerve-wracking.  I keep looking back to see where Jon is.  Good. Nowhere in site. Crap - he's gaining on an uphill.  Good - I can't hear anything but me.  Crap. I just wiped out in the grassy field.  Good - I'm a solid 4 or 5 minutes ahead at the bottom of the grassy switchback field.  No sign o' Jon.  This one's gonna be good!! Only 3 or so more miles to go!!  Just ride through the back pain and you'll do just fine.

Approaching the main road road there was an officer stopping traffic.  I swooped around the RH turn then up ahead - lots of spectators were shouting all sorts of encouraging things. Weapons remaining:  Flat terrain, technical terrain and downhills.  As long as there isn't too much climbing we're looking at a really good finish.  I put my head down and went into pure roadie time-trial mode.

I probably should have turned around the moment things didn't "feel right" but in a repeat of the Landmine Classic disaster, I clung onto hope.  Hope that the turn-off would be just ahead.  It's times like these where possibly a GPS ticking off the miles might help. After all, there was about 2 miles left to the race.  If you go say... past 2 miles there is a good chance you went past something important. 

Like a turn.

After several minutes of riding the road it was obvious.  Something is very wrong here.  What kind of mountain bike race would have you riding roughly 4 miles of pavement?  Certainly not the VT 50.  It's way too popular for that.  I came up to a property with a man doing some housework.  He was in and out of a work  trailer donning a headset radio.  One thing for sure - the headset radio combination did a hell of a job blocking out a confused, mud caked, Lycra clad mountain biker screaming at the top of his lungs.  I was tempted to poke him but thought better of that (dude was working with sharp hand-tools).  A breakthrough was finally had on "EXCUSE ME!!!" number four.   "Do you know where the mountain bike race goes!!?" Response:  "Sorry, no idea, you looking for Mt Ascutney?"  Me: "Yes!" - Him:  "It's that way..." Pointing towards where I came from.  I turn around and can't help myself - every expletive ever learned comes spilling out the entire way back. This pretty much sucks more than anything I've experienced racing bikes.    Up ahead there is a police car - lights flashing.  Huh, didn't see that before. 

I turn in and up the reclaimed course, pass the aid station and plug away.  There they are: Little signs saying "Not much further now" -  and my favorite from the moment "You should be proud!"  Ugh.

Along the way up a reality check.  I pass a rider stopped & clenching his calves.  Knowing how awful that feels I offer some encouragement: "get back on and ride easy - you'll wring em out"

After the climb - some extraordinarily amazing single track in the form of a beautiful bench cut along a gorge.  Although it sucks having completely blown "what could have been"  - the terrain is too fun not to have fun.  It finally spills out onto the grassy ski slope.  Just in case I wasn't humiliated enough, I overcook a turn and get a shovel full of dirt rammed up into my shorts.

Down through the finish and around to the timing board.  At the finish a few guys I either raced or know:  Doug, Terry, Jon & TJ.  Several guys that I passed on the downhills comment on the riding and wonder what happened.  I explain as well as possible - it's impossible not to put out a negative vibe.

Results  Geez'm Ted King is fast.  There were a few SS riders who killed it as well (yeah YES!! you Will!!)

Best thing to do was get away from everyone - no point in being Debbie Downer.  The day sure ended beautifully enough:

So here's the lesson boyz and gurlz:  NEVER EVER THINK TO YOURSELF "I GOT THIS ONE." That's what I was thinking the moment I reached the main road where the officer was.  I can't really pin down how I missed such an obvious turn other than to cite old age, going TT mode - and there not being anyone outside the police car at the crossing.. 

The good news:  Perpetuem, Endurolytes (12) and plenty of water (used a Camelbak this time - annoying but effective) worked wonders this time.  I had minimal cramping around mile 40 - nothing like the HH100.  Also - it's possible that speed & endurance have continued to improve through the entire season.

I'm on the fence about doing this one again.  It's expensive and there is no payout if you hit the podium.  At the same time, the terrain is among the nicest I have ridden and I kinda want to go back and address some unfinished business.

We'll see how things go at the Treasure Valley Rally - umm... (rolling eyes) if I don't get lost.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

DAS Wot I'm Talkin' bout!!

For the second time I headed out of work a little early to do a little racin' at the Wednesday night Danielson Adventure Sports CX Training series on the Chil Con Crosso.

And for the second time this handsome young feller trounced me - but I'm figuring some things out. 

Things like "tactics". 

Back in June I encountered these tacticky things racing against Doug at the Big Ring Rumpus.  I commented on his account and he offered these words: 

"Alby - you got a taste of the dark side of road racing. MTB courses have become increasingly technical. Top riders get spread out. It becomes a test of skill and fitness, really an individual time trial. I used to believe that was real racing. But it lacks the tactical element, the uncertainty of what others are going to do. You end up being at the mercy of the pack when they impede a chase or tag-team you to death when you respond to every move at the front. It has a special allure you don't get in most MTB races, except for the Rumpus and maybe Leadville."

So tonight's joust went like this:  We took off and pretty much the separation from the rest of the group  happened instantly.  Anson was up front moving fast but not too fast.  After a couple of laps I got bored and  thought I'd take the lead and up things a bit.  Within a couple of laps I eased up - then Anson goes by on the flats near the start / finish area like a freaking missile.  He keeps the power on for a good lap or so - creating nearly a half-lap gap. 

Then...  out of nowhere - he eases up to a crawl..  I catch up on the little climb and say it:  "Your employing tactifiicationalization huh?"  He looks a little puzzled and shrugs off the comment - but I'm persistent.  For maybe a minute or so we start discussing backgrounds and stuff.  He's a road biker with pretty good fitness (no shit) - and I'm a mountain biker with pretty good handling skills - that said Anson is no slouch with handling.  The concept that all roadies can't handle dirt is just silly.   That's the beauty of CX - good mix of different cyclists.

He lets me lead for awhile then with maybe two laps to go - does that pass at twice your competitors speed thing across "the flats" again - cripes he can drill it.  I up the pace a little - and really start finding the limit of these skinny CX tires carrying speed through the turns into an uphill.  Leaning into an off camber RH turn up the little climb the front tire starts making that sound tires make when they're at the limit:  Still gripping but folding over.  You know, kind of a ripping sound.  Drat.. That just cost a few seconds - I was gaining on him too.

The gap is maybe 7 seconds or so - so I keep the pressure on.  Through the woods - and across the double barriers (there was only one last week - bonus! more learning) I can see Anson not too far ahead.  Naturally across the flats towards the hike a bike climb he lays it on pretty thick.  I return the effort and then some - closing the gap a little.  The plan is to carry a shitstorm of speed into the hill to dismount maybe half-way up. Sure enough - I get to the hill and he's about 3/4 the way up. I fly up the hill as planned but haven't got enough dismount skills to hop off "just so" - and end up kersplat on the ground "just so".  Some gal at the top gets to witness all of the clumsy sputtering antics.  That's what men are on the planet for - right?

That pretty much ends it right there.  He weedles through a little singletrack techy spot - gets ahead and drills it to the finish.

Certainly was entertaining and it's great having someone there to keep you honest.  

Speaking of totally different races - I have been working on the epic fail (missed a turn at mile 48) report from last weekend at the VT50.  Every time I start thinking about that race I seem to find alcohol.  Makes it very difficult to finish.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bradbury 12 Race Report

Beginning with a simple email:  "Hey, you doin' the Bradbury 12?"  Rick: "Of course- geared solo" - reply:  "I'm thinking about it, but the VT 50 is the next weekend"....  The next day - Rick: "Let's do a two-man and give Freye a run for his money"

Rick is really confident and good looking to begin with - how could I refuse?  But just to be sure he wasn't having a man period - it seemed  prudent to double check and make certain he was truly OK with himself.  Yep, he seems intent on this team thing - after all (in his words) "there's a me in team".

After some childish back and forth, we (or maybe it was just me) settled on the name "The Freye Swatters" - so wicked clevah.

A few days before the event - there it was - the rebuttal team name "YOU GOT FREYE'D" - Andrew Freye of course and teammate (drum roll)...   Chris Gagnon.  Awe c'mon Andrew!!  Were you that intimidated??   I sure hope he was worth the fee.  You may as well have brought one of these to a paintball battle.  Sheesh.

The day before the race I headed out of work a little early.   I figured I'd have plenty of time to scope out a good spot to camp.  Being a Friday, traffic was typically slow...  After 4 hours of driving I passed Portland at 7 then headed into Freeport to find some pasta.   I came across "Amato's" which fit the bill foodwise.  Nothing extraordinary - but it was all about the carbs.. 

A quick trip over to Bradbury Mountain park and it was obvious on arrival:  This place is full.   Button popping full.  Like, no way you're gonna be able to camp anywhere in here full.  Crap.

After driving around I found the NEMBA gang - Carl mentioned he had settled in on Wednesday (??!)  After a quick discussion - it seemed I'd have to head over to  the lower lot parking across the street.  Fair 'nuff.  Pasta is pasta & sleep is sleep.  I ate up - headed over to hang with the NEMBA crew and just as I was about to leave the Rickster mysteriously emerged from the darkness - a bit less nervous knowing I was on site.  After all - our planning consisted of silly emails unrelated to planning.  Maybe coordinating multi-million dollar projects during the day renders him helpless with the easy stuff or something.  That's alright - cause I'm always calm and collected about everything.

Despite the crispy-bright moon - I slept pretty well.  A 40ยบ night will do that for you - as long as you have enough blankies.

I woke up sans alarm (the start was @ 8) made some coffee & oatmeal then headed over to the tent Bikeman had set up.  That was a pretty sweet arrangement.  Rick showed up and declared:  "You're doing the first lap" - then we tried to figure out whether to do single or double laps.  Some folks like doubles - but we opted to start out with singles.  We'd change things up if it felt better.

So..  there I was.  On the front line.  Saddled right up next to Napolean Freyenomite himself.  I chittered and chattered with folks - and seem to have not been paying attention to the instructions on who was supposed to go when.  Somewhere along the line I deduced that I was in the second wave or something.  After they yelled "GO"  I hung out until a frantic Rick yelled out:  "ARE YOU GONNA GO!!??" Listen up.  ADD hadn't even been invented when I was a kid.  Cut me some freaking slack.

I charged right outta there -ahh..  not one bit of traffic whatsoever to be concerned with.  Around the bend - and within less than a minute - I caught up and passed a few trailing riders.  I don't like leading anyways. 

Having never ridden these trails and being a little soggy - I had to find the balance between catching the hell up and not crashing.  I got through most of the field  - only to be bested by Andrew and Greg Jancaitis with a time of 44:27 - which was improved on several times later in the game.  Andrew was already almost 2 minutes ahead. 

After ending that lap I high -fived Rick and off he went.  He ripped a nice 43:29  and from there we kept at it.  So much for doubles - which wasn't a problem.  At one point Ricks dad came over and asked: "Ricky want's to keep doing single laps if that's OK with you"..   Thank goodness.  We finally found a way to communicate.  So what if it required a mediator.

One thing for sure - this 2-man team business was way easier than a solo effort.  When Rick was out, I'd down a bottle of Perpetuem (3 scoops worth) maybe a banana - and on my best lap (coincidence?) an Espresso Gel thing.  There was time to relieve yourself, chat a little then soon enough - you were up and at it.  Throughout each lap the good lines became more and more evident and the course was drying up. 

The course itself was 100% fun-ness.  Just a great sequence of single track.  Not alot of climbing except two steep rocks that made you have to work a little.  A bit rooty through the start and middle but overall a complete blast.  The end of each lap was super sweet: Log lined flow with an almost pea-stone base.

I was lucky enough to have Rick come in at 6:30 towards the end (7:00pm cut-off)- which meant the last lap was all mine.  Half-way through the lap - the lights came on.  There was extra traffic, but at the same time - folks were extra quick to move aside.  The ride itself was magic.  I don't get much night riding in except for commuting.   Scooting along between trees at night feels quite a bit faster and through the woods you caught either reflections or flickers from other riders' lights. 

As I approached the finish the sound of the crowd kept growing and growing.  Around the bend and up ahead you could see Tiki Torches and the finish line tent aglow.  There had to be a few hundred people - yelling, screaming and making a helluva racket with cowbells.  I cranked up the power to finish strong and flew into the tent.  Kids were everywhere giving high-fives.  It didn't matter who you were - you felt like a rock star.

In the end - we got "Freye'd" by a whole 11 minutes.  Not much at all when you consider that was roughly 130 miles worth of riding between us.  To see that I was actually gaining some time opposite Andrew later in the game was encouraging to say the least.

Casco Bay has tapped into a great formula:  Supreme singletrack, festive atmosphere, fast timing results, BBQ & even some live music.   Hell yeah.

And sorry - no real race pictures.  I did catch the kids race during a 45 minute "Rick Stop" (note the little guy getting nearly squashed - I've been there dude)

Speaking of kids..  If you happen to have a kid with say...  "Alot of nervous energy":  Get'm a bike.  They'll calm the eff down and who knows - might become the next big thing in cycle racing.

And finally - I'm calling it right now.  We're gettin' em next year.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Landmine Classic Marathon - Race Report.

I had such high hopes..  Possibly delusional hopes -  but this course was reputed to be chock full of rooty & technical riding  - with virtually no climbing.

Couple that with the Spearfish  which was designed with endurance events in mind and it seemed as though I might have a chance for some kind of payout (5 deep for the CAT 1 / Pro field 50 mile marathon)

I'll save some drama:  In the words of Jack Skellington after realizing his aspirations were out of reach:  "Ohhh  well..."

According to some of the event coordinators turnout was a record breaker.  No surprise really.  Between the proximity to Boston, the weather and a relatively quiet weekend for events, some talent showed up on a day or two before the event.  Including the usual suspects:  Jancaitis, Hines, Bold, Petro .. Yeah,  Those guys. 

Lotsa folks.

I arrived about an hour before the 9:30 start and got a little warmup riding in.  I also found where I was parked was optimal for setting up a midpoint station.  Out came the cooler and bottle stand.  The plan was to put one bottle over at the feed station you passed on the way to the lot - then set up this station. 

Between the bottles here and there with some Heed - and 4 packs worth of Gu in a Flask - I should be all set!  Right?!  It seemed like a good plan.

At about 9:20 we all grouped together at the staging area, listened to the pre-ride announcment and then rounded the bend towards the start.  I was in maybe the 2nd or 3rd row - not too far from the front. Nowhere near my usual hiding spot at the back.

When it was go time I maintained position - then as we started passing spectators near the parking area I heard someone shout "Go Alby!!" - Not wanting to dissapoint, I throttled it and gained 4 or 5 spots before entering the single-ish track beyond the field. 

I followed Steve Segenchuck for a little ways then passed and realized he was running full rigid.  Freaking Masochist. 

The lead group wasn't too far off - so I evenly applied some more power - and within a few minutes caught up with a second group not too far behind.   At the back - Will Crissman.  Oh good - he turned out a respectable time last year.  If I can just hang with him.

We continued on through moderate terrain - the pace was hurried but not quite as insane as the lead group ahead.  At the first sorta hill a few riders slowed up - so I passed on the right.  Will returned the favor and then muscled past (SS 33X17).  He did mention that was pretty much the only hill.  Thatsa relief. 

After Will gapped me by about 10 seconds I slowly made ground and caught back up.  Will had joined up with Greg and Alec - and who were pulling at a strong  but manageable tempo.  Sweet!  I'm riding amongst these guys!  That's gotta be good!  As we made way - the terrain got progressively more techy.  Even better! 

At some point Greg lost his chain. Will and I darted past - now Alec was leading.  I forget where it happened but we were able to pass through a rough spot.  Holy @#$!!  I'm in front of Alec??  Will joined up and we discussed this improbability.  I figured Alec and Greg maybe did a 12 hour race the day before or something.

After pacing with Will - he missed a turn leading.  I was able to yell to him within 10' of the turn - but the damage was done.  Now, I was all by my lonesome.   I little ways further a spectator yelled out:  "They're about 50 seconds ahead" - who?  The leaders!  Damn.  Today could be the day I thought.  Then I realized it is stupid to think things like that so early in the game. We were like 17 miles into a 50 mile race.  Alot of stuff can happen.  

Within time it starts to happen.  I am easing up a little to save energy for later - and little by little I can hear and see Alec making ground.  Crudburgers. Where did he come from?  Oh right - it's Alec you dope.  He snacks on over spirited youngsters who try too hard at the start.  Same goes for Greg.  Won't be long.

I approach the satellite feed station and stop to fill up my water bottle - then continue on straight ahead. There are lots of people at this station and I quickly realize the course don't go this way.  So I turn around then ask:  Where does the course go?  Someone pipes up - "over there!" pointing to the left.  I head over and get cranking.  Within 5  minutes I realize I have ridden this terrain before.  Uh oh..  What to do?  Turn around?  Maybe they just change up the course as you go.  I have been in races where they do that.  So I keep going.  Oddly - no one is around.  Am I really riding this well?

As I keep riding I keep looking at my watch.  Huh.  If my calculations are correct I should be passing the midpoint around 2:15 or so.  Was the feed station the midpoint?  I am not thinking clearly at all.   To make matters worse my flask cap has gone missing.  Rather than risk losing any of the precious contents I down it all.   Big mistake.  After an hour or so going around the loop I start getting that quivering sensation that occurs when a bonk is imminent.  You're supposed to consume this gook  guck (no Charlie, I don't supplement rides with yellow skinned peoples) little by little. If it lasted then you'd just down it all and go ride for 4 hours.  Crap! Crap! Crap!  Riding devolves into a death march.

Sure enough the feed station comes back into view - and now I see clearly where things went wrong.  I ride ahead to a table - find my bottle of HEED (Thank god) and down it in about 10 seconds while belching in front of some pretty girls.  Hey, I'm happily married and stuff - who cares.

I head back to fill up my water bottle and the folks at that table say "You know you're going the wrong way right?".  I know too well - turn around and launch up the embankment outta there with enough speed to catch way more air than I really know what to do with.  Yeehaw!!  Riding when your pissed is kind of liberating.  I blast through the last 4-5 miles passing countless riders from other classes. It is amazing how much of a difference having some fuel in the tank makes.  The speed differential is rad.  I remember thinking how rad it was being passed at my first race by some Pro dude.  I wonder if they are thinking the same thing..

I pass through the start/finish line 3 hours on the money.  Based on my estimates- yeah dumbass,  you messed up.  At this point reality has finally settled in.  So I just ride it out with the intent of getting in a good workout.  May as well.  These trails are super fun anyways.

The plan is to take a right turn at the feed station and finish up my ride with the same miles as you would if you rode the course correctly.  On the way to the station the ride is as lonely as it gets.  There's like no one in this pattern.  Finally at the aid station I hook a right and head back to the finish. 

At the finish I tell Jill and some folks tabulating results that I should be disqualified for screwing up.  I head back to the car wash up and discuss with folks.  Then it dawns on me:  I have done exactly the same terrain & mileage.  Maybe I can Un-disqualify.

Right - we'll see how that goes. 

Final results should be posted soon.  Finishes I think I have correct:  Will: 5th / Alec: 4th / Jonny: 3rd / Gregory: 2nd and first - I'm not really sure.

Damn, damn, damn.  

That won't happen again - at least at the Landmine.

The Landmine is a fun, fun course.  In spots the flow is too sweet - think swoopy up and downhill terrain that goes 8' at a time.  Whee!! 

When I got home - the usual post-race meal, Well, not quite.  I changed the brew up a little - have to support my VT peeps.

T-Bones - On sale!

Yep - it's prit'near fall.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

It's been three days

Burnout towards the end of MTB season?  No chance.  Get me outta the stinkin' car.

I've gone three days without riding.  Anxiety is high, weight is up and HR impossibly low.

Tommorow's commute can't come soon enough.  

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Psst.. I got me a CX bike.. Salsa Chili Con-Crosso semi review & first ride

Back in February I ordered the Salsa Chili Con Crosso through Bikeman as I plan on doing some CX racing starting this season.  It finally came around last week and was delivered by my mother in law to try and save on shipping - (Thanks Cynth!)

 As much as I'd like to be cool enough not to care about the color - it was nice to see it wasn't that blah silver color they offered last year.  Instead a nice black base - with blue markings.  It won't match my Bikeman kit though. Bummer.

First impressions - wow.  It's very nicely built.  The joints are smooth - nearly Cannondale Aluminum frame smooth.  I did the old 'ping' test for tone variance then checked the spokes with a tensionmeter.  The wheelset (DT Swiss 450's) was built very uniform  - good sign.  The brakes are Avid Shorty Cantilevers - definately old tech - but with some proper toe-in / alignment and balanced tension  they work plenty well.  Forks: some nice carbon work here- very smooth - no shuddering etc when braking.  Seat: WTB Silverado - I usually ride the WTB Rocket - this one is a little skinnier & longer.   We'll find out soon enough how it is for longer rides.

I built up the bike in a couple of evenings and figured out how the SRAM double-tap shifting works.  I like it.  Shifting is crisp - and you might even be able to wear clumsy gloves with these and still shift.  Shimano brifters with their two-lever system can be nearly impossible to shift with bulky gloves.  I also like that there is no front derailleur - there is plenty of range available with the 42 chainring  / 11-28 cassette. 

An additional bonus:  Don't like gears?  No problem - swap out the dropout hardware at the rear and run it single speed.  Cool.  Always wanted to try single speed and I just so happen to have a single speed wheelset.

Today I went out for a shakedown ride starting at the house.  Destination:  George Washington Management area - the same place I rode several times last winter on the snow bike.  I thought it'd be interesting to check out the trails in summer mode.

The Con-Crosso comes stock with Clement "LAS" tires.  They look to be suitable for dry hard courses - and worked well on the road-ride to the entrance.  The ride on the road was amazingly comfortable - that's in part due to the width of the tires.  The carbon fork and engineering that goes into the flattened seat and chain stays really smooth things out as well.   My Salsa Vaya commuter isn't quite this smooth  running WTB Terrainasaurus tires (32's).  That says something right there - maybe it's the tires, maybe not.

Before getting to GW Management  - I took a ride up Jackson Schoolhouse Rd.  There are some bony little singletrack trails aways in.  After riding the trails for 25 minutes or so through the woods I accepted that there was just too much debris on the trails after Tropical Storm Irene to risk damaging the drive train.  Sure enough a twig got caught up under my chain at the chainring and jammed up into the Pauls Keeper.  To think I had contemplated a "no-tools" ride.  That'd have been the end of the ride right there. 

Fallen trees everywhere.  Plenty of opportunity for dismount / shouldering practice out here.  

I freed up the chain, re-adjusted the keeper and headed back out towards the real destination.

When I got into the management area they had gates up in several locations.  Huh..  Didn't have those last winter.  Riding in aways there were people camping all over the place.  Didn't have those either.  But what they did have were some really nice dirt roads to cruise on. 

Some seasonal comparison pics:

Winter from the parking lot


Trail in the winter

Same general location ..

And finally - the beach.

A little different today.

Consensus: She's a keeper. Often you'll hear folks praise CX bikes for versatility.   No doubt, the Con Crosso is pretty versatile.  That said - it doesn't have a plethora of braze-ons for racks fenders etc like several other Salsa products.  It's meant for racing - and you can bet she'll be properly fed.  On the other hand - it rides sooooo smooth!!  At the risk of offending the hardcore CX population... umm..  I kinda want to use it for commuting. 

Bonus shot from Pulaski (right around the corner from GW Management):  Some pretty mossy singly-track.  Who doesn't like pretty mossy singly-track??

Back home - with a proper coating of dust.  Soon it'll be MUD!! & BEER!! & WAFFLES!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hampshire 100 Race Report

Sheesh..  After two three four (!) days - everything is still pretty sore.

I registered early to race the HH100 (it's 100k = 62 or so miles) for a couple of reasons:  It was my first endurance type race last year (I'm a little sentimental) and you  can save a few bucks registering in advance.  

Not really thinking ahead of the "Tinker effect" - it was obvious that I'd be severely outclassed when some familiar names started showing up a few days before the event.  You know - Jancaitis, Gagnon, Wilichoski, Hines, Lariviere, Spinelli, Foley, Seamus, Freye..  Really - it's just easier to link to the results.  You see most everyone there?  They're freaking animals.

Thankfully at least Andy Gould would be there.  Andy and I have something of a situational kinship.  Ever since the Big Ring Rumpus last year our progression has been close.   Upon arrival Saturday afternoon, Andy and I headed out into the woods, held hands & said a little prayer while holding back tears.  Situational tears.

That evening after wolfing down a pasta dinner from the venue, I went out for a little cruise.  The kind where you ride considerably longer than expected cuz it's so damn nice out- at a leisurely pace of course.   I first headed over to the crazy great singletrack section at the end - then headed out to do a little pre-run of the start portion.

The dirt road section at the start. 

The first real bottleneck area - single file bridge

Heading down the rail trail

Sunset lighting doesn't get much better..

I got back, tidied up the car sleeping arrangements and settled in at the very reasonable hour of 9:00.

I slept ok-ish waking to the alarm at 5:00 am. At about 5:30 the place really started humming.  Lots of cars were showing up in the lot.  And lots of lines building at the porta-jons.

I drank three cups of coffee - ate some cereal then suited & geared up to participate in the pre-race meeting.  Things were happening way faster than expected.  One minute I was chit-chatting - the next, there I am in the Port-O-Pot and I hear "Has anyone seen Alby" over the megaphone.  Crap!!  Squared!!

At the start line everyone is waiting.   No one seems too put off by the delay.  Relief!! Squared!!

The start is announced and we blast round the track - then head off on a short piece of single track through the woods with a log that trips up half the field.  As the lead riders get onto the dirt road a gap already starts forming.  No way I'm letting that happen - so I drill it, and a few riders latch on.  Within less than a minute we're all back together.  At this point I'm thinking that might not have been good energy management.  We've got what?  Maybe another 61 miles to go?

The group sticks together - and I hear one rider exclaim - "That was 36 mph!!" as we whiz along one of the moderate downhills.  Some of the riders are chatting: "about this time last year the experts caught up with us"  "we all figured we might wanna pick up the pace bout then". 

I am blabbering on about being way outclassed and Greg J offers a simple perspective:  "I'm just looking forward to comparing my time to last year".  That seems like a good plan.  I settle in and try to keep the nervous blatherings contained.  Mostly..  

For several minutes I am riding right next to Tinker.  So close in fact,  that I could reach out and touch him if I dared.  I really didn't want to fall into any kind of starstruck funk - but for a moment I definitely got caught up.  All this party could use now is Ned and Tomac.

The group clung together until we reached the footbridge.  Sure enough - things started to come apart - but we still keep fairly tight.  That is, until we hit the first uphill sections.  They weren't very big uphills - but big enough to induce some separation.  At one point 3 or 4 riders started getting hung up riding on the left side.  I see a clean run on the right and blast past.  Again I ponder-  was that too much too soon?  Meanwhile close by, Foley is blipping the throttle back and forth like a strung out thoroughbred.  

After that bit of climbing we headed towards the dread railroad track section.  I say dread as one pedal strike against a railroad tie can bring everyone down right quick.  We make it through safely and now a significant gap begins to form as we head along the long straight that parallels a runway.  The same long stretch that was a total bitch to ride last year (dry soft sand).  At least this year the recent rain has firmed things up.  The lead group has now cleanly broken free. Being a novice moron I start to chase.  Andy is the only one along for the ride...

The effort isn't full on - but it's far from sustainable for too long.  After several minutes I coax Andy into pulling for a bit & he voices concern about maintaining the same pace but takes the lead.  I chill out for a moment - then start pulling again on up to the first significant climb.  Trust me - it's a little disturbing the first time you see it.  "An effing wall" is the best way to describe it.  A steep-ass, rutty, gravely wall.  The grade has to be somewhere over 25%. 

Andy and I drop into the lowest gear available and slowly crawl up the thing.  For a moment or two it looks as though walking may be necessary but we both clean it.  Looking back we cannot see the chase group anywhere.  Onward greenhorn fools!! 

We continue up the hill - and  no surprise, Andy proves annoyingly compatible.  We chug upwards and before long reach the infamous Powerline climb. We can see the leaders ahead walking their bikes.  I drop into super low well in advance and Andy pulls away for a moment.  We both get to the steepest section and humbly dismount.   A couple of spectators are at the top "Hey!" I yell,  "did anyone clean the climb?!"  - Response - "Nope- they all walked" - Phew.. That's a relief.   The trail levels some and we hop back on - then head towards the downhill at the ski area.

Last year following Shawn Smith I nearly went OTB riding down this ski slope.  It's pretty easy to get moving fast and lose rythm / timing with the water bars.  As Andy and I cruised down - there were two riders standing on the right, another on the ground.  I assumed someone had crashed and they were gathering their wits.  Bad assumption.  It turned out the rider Roger Aspholm had sustained serious injuries. Greg Jancaitis and Brian Lariviere stood by - presumably until help arrived.

Andy and I continued on - through  the parking lot, past a little park then on and on and on- and on..  Soon we stop at a station - fill up with some water & Gatorade and continue.  Somewhere near mile 30 it hits:  Cramps.  Little ones at first - the kind I have managed to wring out in the past with reduced effort.  I am losing Andy here and there on descents - but things are starting to get ugly when things turn up.

Finally I break free of Andy bombing some downhills - only to have a stick get jammed in my rear derailleur.  I try back-pedaling then gently forward pedaling - but nothing works.  I have to pull over and yank it out.  Damn - Andy catches up yet again.  We ride pretty much side by side for quite awhile longer.  On a few uphils where Andy has crested first I start getting antsy and at one point start passing on the downside in a not-so good section.  Andy apologizes (really it's my fault for not just asking for the lead) and I go by - I get slightly ahead at another station - fill up and get outta Dodge - never to see him again.  

The trails serve up volley after volley of climbing and the cramps keep getting worse - occasionally spiking here and there in places they've never spiked before.  Having done the course last year - I remember certain climbs that induced some spasms.  One particular climb through a rooty / rocky sections does a number on me.  The tops of my quads can be felt rippling - what the hell is that??!  I am nearly shelled - granny gear up the hills, on the flats - maybe a few more cogs - but not too much - downhills, try to find the best position and sometimes hold the brakes while pedaling to keep the legs moving.  Cripes it's only mile 40.  

The remainder of the ride is pure survival - I stop at a couple of self-serve stations along the way to re-up my water bottle.  At  the second self serve around mile 45 or so a rider swings up behind.  I am standing over the bike - unable to bend my knees much.  He asks "hey- you got any air?"  I reply - while pointing behind the seatpost "just that - you'll have to get it yourself".   Thankfully no-one is around to see this.  The rider (Brian Wilichoski ?) fills his rear tire up - and remounts the CO2.  I can't even swing around to make sure it's secure.  Good job Brian (if that was you) - it stayed put the rest of the way.  

A few more riders are passing now - especially near the 52 mile mark.  It felt like I spent an hour alone at the 52 mile mark! Slowly the little mileage signs crept up:  52.39,  52.48, 52.55 - Damn this sucks.  Brian Lariviere and  Kevin Hines go by,  the first of the Experts go by - then Alec Petro comes up behind while I push the bike up a hill barely bending at the knees.  Geez this is humiliating..  The only trick left is downhills - I manage to drop Alec for a solid couple of minutes but it doesn't take much longer for him to go chugging past on the next uphill.

The absolute worst "I don't know if I'll make it moment" was while crossing a field with maybe 5 miles to go.  The sun is steaming hot, the grass and ground unbelievably slow. Mercifully I get across into some shade then onward down a dirt road and finally:  Into the ending I had been waiting for - sweet, sweet singletrack.  I'm nowhere near reinvigorated - but I'm able to manage the climbs then blast down through some bermy sections.  Greg Jancaitis catches up through this section, compliments my riding (of course - it's downhill) - then wisps past into a switchback climb.  I blurt out "did they have to add this??!" - Greg:  "YES!!" - I deserved that. 

Finally I get to the bridges that I had pre-ridden the evening before - I put a little verve into the remaining climbs - blast past the church / road crossing - being careful to bunny-hop the granite slab lining the grass - and get into the campground area.  Thank the lord.  It'll be over soon. 

I cross the road and put whats left into pushing around the track.  Finally I hear Maz yell out "Hey Alby!!" while I pass through the finish.  Yay - I survived.   30 miles of effin cramps.. Worst cramps ever.  Total time 5:33 - not great, but a solid 30 minutes better than last year.  I'll take it.

I wash the bike up and chat with Andy Freye about an upcoming race  - not too long after, Andy Gould comes through - only 4 minutes behind.  He had a flat - if it weren't for the flat -he'd have most likely gone by at the end also!

So there you have it.  One of the best and worst races in my career.  I need to figure out the proper nutrition and pace for these things.  After the Millstone 12 a few weeks back I felt like I went too slow.   Pretty sure in this race I went too fast.  I went through 5 bottles of water - supplemented with a little Gatorade here and there at the stations and one bottle with a gloppy mix of Perpetuem.  After reading Dougs account - I'm pretty sure some salty stuff may have helped.  I anticipate pickles wrapped in jerky dipped in mustard some day soon.  Even worse I had a little vial of Endurolytes in my pocket.  I haven't used them before - so I wasn't sure if they were the right thing to consume.  They're supposed to be for hotter events - what constitutes hot enough?

The results themselves are misleading.  Take the following (that I know of) into consideration:  Greg and Brian stayed with Roger when he crashed, Chris Gagnon had done a 6 hour race the day before (??!!), Brian Wilichoski had 2 flats and a broken chain, Andy Gould had a flat tire, Tinker and Manuel did this little race in CO the weekend before.   And that's what I know of...  The number of different experiences (really good and really unfortunate) are amazing at a race like this.  

In the end Justin Spinelli won overall with what appears to be a new record of 4:47 and change.  That boy needs a juicy contract.  Paul Simoes (fellow Bikeman) ripped it on the single speed -and the list goes on and on.  The Tinker effect was in full swing - lots of talent showed up for the 5th annual HH100. Lets hope things stay that way. 

The event is amazing itself.  62 contiguous miles takes alot of coordination these days.  I can't even imagine how everything is worked out.  It'd be one thing if it was in some state out West - but it's here in the jam packed  litigious East. 

Speaking of on and on - this post needs just a few more pictures - no?

Elite men podium - Go Justin!  With Manuel Prado (insanely gifted) and Tinker (what more can you say about Tinker? He's done it all)

Single speed podium - coupla Bikeman blokes (Paul Simoes / Chris Cyr)

Vet I CAT I podium

Vet II CAT I podium - Oh look, there's Alec and Brian again - and that guy I raced at the Boneyard a month ago :)

Let's hope I can move my legs in time for the Treasure Valley Rally - let's also hope at least a couple of Elites sign up - huh Jonny?  I wouldn't want to misrepresent the Elite field all by myself..