Sunday, April 17, 2011

RACE REPORT: Fat Tire Classic @ Winding Hills Trails - Or: Unloading some Sandbaggage

First off - I have to say:  Damn, the weather sure turned out nice.  Some fairly heavy rain and wind passed through Saturday night, leaving me thinking the course would be total crap.  There was some mud for sure, but given that local forecasts suggested 1-2" of rain overnight - things really turned around.

Overnight our power went off in the house due to high winds.  After a crappy night of sleep (power outages kept triggering the motion sensor lights in our closet) wake up time happened around 6:00.  With no electricity in da house,  I started raiding all the backup systems:  LED camp lighting,  propane burner, stove top espresso maker and a gallon of water.  After prepping the espresso pot and cleaning the fireplace to ventilate the propane burner sure enough  - power was restored.  In an effort to reduce my own stink I made quick work of getting in the shower - just in case the wind won another battle or two.  Thankfully there were no additional power outages so the morning proceeded with the usual pre race meal:  Lots of coffee, a bowl of oatmeal and a bananer..  Things were looking up.

Around 8:15 I headed out the door.   Driving along the Douglas Hook Rd confirmed my concerns regarding lots of water but also looked a little more promising. Sometimes this spot will  be one big giant puddle across the whole road:

A little further on in Putnam, the water was churning with some verve at the damn - but I've seen worse.

All along the drive  in, little streams were overflowing & fields were flooding, but the sun was coming out.  I arrived at the Winding Trails park right around 9:40.   First impression:  Wow,  what a seriously nice place.  This picture does little to really show you how big it is or how it is laid out:

I parked down at the lower lot and walked up to check in.  Unlike the last race - no manly voice stating:  "CAT I please"  - Instead; "Hiyah -  here to register for the CAT 2 40-49 class" Ugh...

You see - this race had to be dealt with.  After asking for an upgrade the officials from the USAC stated that if I placed among the top 5 at a CAT 2 race they could upgrade me "for real".  Unfortunately, all the well placed efforts among the EFTA series from last season didn't count here.    What this did in turn, was make me start questioning things:   "What if I lose... badly?" - "What if I have a mechanical?" - "What if the guys in the EFTA series aren't as good?" (For the record - they are).  I let my imagination & paranoia get a touch out of hand.  To make matters worse - several of the confirmed riders on had some pretty strong results out there racing bikes.  CAT 2 roadies who beat CAT 1's are freaking fast.  Guys who race the Leadville 100 have serious freaking lungs...  I got myself worked up for nothing.

It's probably a stretch, but I think the nerves may have contributed to a lovely crash before the race.. Huh? you say - crash before the race?  You mean out pre-riding?  Nope - it's far more embarrassing than that.  I crashed pretty hard in the parking lot.

While moseying around I was riding no hands & decided to reach for my camera in my jersey pocket.  That kind of distracted me and the next thing I knew I was headed towards a curb.  Panicking,  I reach down and grab way too much brake.  End result: Confirmation that hitting the road sucks.  The following parts ended up oozing / bleeding:  Right elbow, right upper wrist where the Ulna connects, opposite side of wrist near the suicide zone, left outer and inner knee.  Geezm!!  I ain't even hit the trails yet!!

Things were now starting to look bad.  I head over to the bathrooms and clean all the blood up, head back to the car for an Advil, head back to the main area to chit-chat with a few folks, then head up the trails for a half hour or so to get warmed up.  Soon it is go time.

I line up and socialize with fellow Bikeman David Keppler maybe 30 spots behind the front and nervously wait for the start signal, then we start..

I have a style that possibly works against me:  I don't like goosing it in the beginning.  The power is there, but I just like easing into a race and turning things up after all the initial excitement.  After we took off I gained a couple of spots before the group was slowed by the first right and left turns on the doubletrack.  Things slowed so much due to traffic that I had to do a split second track-stand.  That's pretty slow.  The group continued up a little more doubletrack and I grabbed another couple of spots - but nothing too aggressive.   Before long we approached the first singletrack.  It was here that a massive traffic jam occured.  This time waiting required a pretty long track stand.  Why do I do wait to gun it again?

The flipside to this lack of speed is the gain in usable heart range.   By the time we got out of the first singletrack my afterburners were 100% ready - so I lit them hard.  I gained at least 10 spots in less than a minute before it's time to get into to some more singletrack.   Now at least, spacing is a bit more reasonable - but in short order I am stuck behind someone.  Once again,  as soon as the singletrack opens  up - it's time for another "burn".  This one yields maybe 5 more riders and I am able to start running at my own pace.  I can now see the leaders up the winding (hah!) trails up ahead and am really starting to get my groove on!! Yeah me!!

 Oops.  My groove just came undone.  Going full speed  from a slight downhill into a soft sandy left hand sweeper I overcook things, lose all traction and go down.  This further opens my already bleeding knee but it's not so bad.  I pick the bike up and a rider approaches from behind - I am about to take off - but that damn chain is off again.   I am a  loud cursing beeotch at this point.  So much that the passing rider softly offers:  "You'll get it".

Eventually I do get it - and proceed with the race.  The remainder of the race I kept the power on medium-high  picking off rider after rider especially on anything heading uphill.  On the second lap I overheard one of the lap counters say "That was the leader"  - which was a nice boost to the confidence but I'm taking no friggin chances and keep plugging away to the end  until I pass through the finish to wait.   The next rider from my group is 4 minutes behind.  I have just committed full on sandbaggery.

The good news:  I should have my upgrade for next week. 

The bad news, I should have given my medal and prize to the next guy and we all could have played pass it on.  Good old hindsight..  Someday I'll have the reaction time to do the right thing on the spot.

Here are the results from our age group:

Here are the results from all CAT 2 riders and the single-speed open class (white paper) and the beginners (yellow)

After the race I downed a couple of Cheeseburgers.  Mmm..  I swear, nothing tastes as good as a cheeseburger after a race cep't for maybe a beer.  Thanks ROOT 66 - and yep,  I did offer a good sized donation.

A few more sights & a video from the event:

 Really should have brought Lucy and Ava to this one - great park, lotsa kids.

Tandems are cool - someday I hope Ava might be willing to risk her life with me on one.

CAT 1 guys lined up - next time my pretties..

CAT 1 start - looks like the 19-29 somethings.  Man CAT 1's are fast. 

Overall impressions of the course:  A nice mix of single and double-track.  A bit tight in the beginning (bring your 26'r) with wider open sweepy sections (bring your 29'r) a few rooty bits (bring your FS) and finally - my favorite: One nice steep ass climb full of spectators (bring your SS quads!!)

Overall impression: Great well-organized event.  Definitely going back next year - and bringing the family.

Next week:  I should be playing with the CAT 1's at the Massasoit Lung openah!!  Let the hurt begin.

Regarding CAT 2:

Yah, I am a nerd who has a slight thing for Sarah..


  1. You should have borrowed the tandem and rode it yourself to be fair.

  2. Maybe with a willing passenger:

    Looking forward to your Palooza report. Obviously your not dead yet.

  3. Nice job, Alby, you crushed it. I too got the "efta doesn't count" response to my upgrade request and probably went into it with the same questions and feelings about racing cat 2. I only managed 4th, but from the sounds of it that might still qualify me

  4. Thanks Steve - I figured you were in the same situation. It seems silly with guys that are well established CAT 1 riders. Mr. Dan W has been crushing it in the EFTA series to the point of contemplating moving to Elite. Same requirement: "One top 5 USAC finish"

  5. Great job Sandie...

    They made you race Cat2, so enjoy your prize and congratulations!

  6. Sandie huh? At least some folks like Al know how to treat a dirtbag with some respect.

  7. Nice report, Alby. And nice meeting you Sunday. If I see someone fall off their bike in the parking lot at Massasoit, I'll be sure to come over and say 'hi'.

  8. Good meeting you Finn. I really hope the parking lots at Massasoit are softer.