Sunday, May 15, 2011

RACE REPORT: The Gloucester.. err Glochester.. umm Gloster... Glocestershire.. Oh screw the spelling: THE GRIND

Ahh.. my hometown..  Glocester, RI..  I'm proud to call it home - as we're one of the mostest ruralist locations in the state.  You can bet the state makes sure we pay out the schnoz for it too..

While there was a nice hilly race going on in CT - there was simply no chance of missing "my" local race.  The race that got me back on track in terms of fitness & passion. 

Described as a race through a rooty, rocky swamp,  The Grind makes short work of riders who haven't honed their skills.  In 2009 The Grind was my first MTB race and it made short work of me.  I thought I had some decent skills - but during a "simple" pre-ride I racked up at least 5 crashes attempting to ride out the rock gardens.  I wised up during the race and ran a few of the sections where it made no sense to risk things.

For example - this beauty of a spot will never be forgotten.  The course ran the opposite way in 09' - and this was the exact spot where I performed a classic "where'd my bike go??!!" Superman flight much to the delight of the Expert guy pre-riding behind me.

Trust me, it's trickier than it looks - Psst... The water crossing is faster.

The night before I tried putting my tools and crap in various locations with various fixtures. - The Grind is not a race to take lightly when it comes to equipment failure & backup systems.   Here was where I intended to put the multi-tool.

From there I was going to strap a "Big Air" CO2  canister on the seat-tube and strap a spare tube on it too.  I finally just accepted that this little touristy geeky apparatus was the best solution.  Everything is inside, it's easy to get to - and shouldn't fall off.  (Note the strap for added protection)

You might think it's silly looking - but it works.  

I had also very much in advance decided on riding the hardtail instead of my aging & cushy Yeti FS bike rolling Nevegals.  Last year I had my butt handed to me in Sport by a guy riding a late 80's rigid Univega.  Time to man up, take a few Advil and go hard. 

After a pre-ride with Andy Gould - whom I often happen upon while pre-riding it was time to head back and try to do muh hometown proud. 

At the start I chatted with a few fellow racers.  They're getting to know me from the few  ROOT 66 races I've done and a couple even insisted I move up towards the front for the start.  I might be OK at this biking thing - but I will never touch these guys when it comes to sportsmanship.  Can't win everything I suppose..

After the youngsters took off - it was our turn.  This time - I wanted the hole shot or at least a spot near the front.  Nothing worse than getting stuck in a conga-line through the the kind of terrain The Grind has to offer.  At the signal I layed on the juice and quickly tucked into 2nd place. The course went around a LH turn on the grass and headed back across near the start with a wide open straight-away.  I made my move and turned on the coals - 1st position into the woods: Acquired.   

Now into the woods - I kept telling myself  "chill the eff out"  - "Not worth dumping it this early"  I could hear the riders behind me - which certainly turns your "cool" into "Why the hell am I here?!".  It's alot of pressure to lead like this - no lie.   Within a 1/4 a mile or so - I broke rhythm and lost my line or something.  I didn't so much crash as simply lose all composure - and from there - lose my bloody damn chain. Again.  Much cursing ensued - and I was passed by 3 or 4 riders.  I heard one say "relax man, we got aways to go".  Hmm.. Dude's got a point there. 

Interesting tidbit on cursing - supposedly it helps with pain.  Here is Kari from Mythbusters proving so.. 

Most of the middle of the race kinda went blurry from there.  I recall passing one fellow in the zig-zag section on the grass - he says "Alby!" - I say, "who are you??" - "I'm Chris! - I have you marked"... Woah.  I'm like "marked".  In Rhode Island that could could turn out really, really bad.  At the same time I'm kind of flattered.  I keep on keeping on and we trade spots here and there- this guy is a good rider.  I keep managing to screw up in a few technical areas, but finally get by and get on with it.  Around midway through the second lap - the sky opens up.. Big time.  Result - if it wasn't slippery enough for you before... this should do the trick. 

Further into the second lap I chance upon last years rival - Shawn Smith.  I catch him just in time to watch a spectacular wipe out (sorry Shawn, really though - it was the best one I saw) Not only did he wipe out, but he continued to have difficult  simply getting up floundering like a fish.  (Sorry Shawn, this is the stuff many lackluster careers in comedy were built on).  He is undamaged (what, do you think I'd just laugh at a guy / situation if the dude was hurt?? - shame on you!!)  as I make my way past he says "Gould is just ahead - maybe 30 seconds".  This is all the motivation I need.  Andy has been killing it this year.  Along the way I catch up with a rider on a 26" FS bike - this guy can ride - he is nailing lines to the point where I can't help but compliment him.  I ride at his pace for some time and we get to a grassy section in between the wooded single track that includes some bermed corners.  Between the deluge, the slippery grass and speed - he cuts a corner a little too tight and starts going down.  Before he even hits the ground he is cracking up.  The rider:  Steven Crossley - yeah, that guy.  Steve rips.  I pass on the outside and keep a grindin'.

About 1/4 of the way into the third lap - I see him in the Blue Steel Cyclery jersey:  Andy Gould.  He is trailed by three younger riders and they are all moving pretty good.   About halfway through I get past these guys and finally, finally... I catch up to Andy.  I make a pass where reasonable using quite a bit of bug juice and within a minute or so say "Hey Andy, feeling strong?" In other words "I'm spent - wanna go?" He replies that he is just fine and I carry on the rest of the race being ever so careful not to do anything totally stupid.  Despite almost really screwing up in a few sections it all works out.  Easily one of my best races. Ever.

So there you have it.  1st Vet 2 - 2nd overall  Expert by a measly 7 seconds.  Damn you and congratulations Joshua Krzyzek. 

The prize:  Money!! My first ever money!! From a race!!  Almost got my entry fee back!!  YAHOO!!

I love, love this race.  Grassroots racing doesn't get any better.   A few sites from the scene.

Muddy masses discussing slipping, sliding, crashing, blood & gore at the finish.

Virtually guaranteed mud at the Grind

Awards Ceremony - this is where they give out MONEY!!

Folks hanging on the back porch -big thanks to the Peckhams.  Let's hope the tradition continues a few more decades.

Kevin & Steve chatting it up with Maz

Gaggle of award winners & watchers

So I get home - and tell Lucy and Ava "I won money!!!"  Ava's instant reply:  "Awesome, you can take us out for dinner"

She looks so sweet just reading her book.  Inside - there is much, much scheming.. 

I gotta go clean the mud out of my eyeballs.  Do you think Steel Magnolias or Beaches will do the trick?

See y'all at the Weeping Willow.  


  1. Great great great post!!!! You rock!

  2. I know it's about the thrill of sport, challenging yourself and all that jazz, but envelopes of cash rule!

  3. Great race, Alby. That course is one where you're either the hammer or nail. There is no in between. Yesterday you were definitely the hammer.

  4. Hey Charlie - even better than that - no environmentally irresponsible envelopes!

    Thanks Steve. The course and conditions were about finding the line between wreckage and maintaining pace. While Racing Ralphs aren't considered a mud tire I think they helped define the limits of tractions "gently"

  5. And now starts the bike maintenance phase of the week, the worst part about having fun while racing in crap weather. And you need to go 1x9 so you're not dropping your chain anymore.

  6. nice job man. by staying close to home this weekend I ended up winning 6x my entry fee. not in cash but for a store that's so cool it's almost as good as cash.

    after seeing your recent results I'm really wondering how I'll fare this coming weekend...

  7. The elite field totally thinks you should come hang out.

  8. Colin - that totally sounds like code for "lynch-mob"

  9. If that was code for anything... it was code for "psst, you're sandbagging."

    But really I just wanna hang out.

  10. Ooh.. I dunno. Using this cut-n-paste as a datum line:

    So I said "yeah come on let's hang out" and then I DRILLED IT and DROPPED HER because that's how I flirt with girls. Or something.