Monday, June 27, 2011

RACE REPORT: 19th ever Putney/West Hill Mtn. Bike Race

With Lucy headed up to NH for a "girls only" weekend  -racing plans were pretty vague early in the week.  The EFTA series Moody Park race looked interesting but involved quite a bit of travel and interrupting Lucy's experience by dropping off Ava on the way. 

On Thursday the solution smacked me right upside the head.  Drop Ava off at my moms place in VT and do the ROOT 66 race about an hour away.  Like..duh!  Not only would Ava get to hang with her grandma, she'd get to hang with her cousins.  A few calls and it all came together.

Yet another opportunity arose:  Ava has expressed interest in camping so we headed to VT on Saturday and stopped at Woodford State Park.  Luckily there were two lean-to's available (out of twenty) when we arrived. Heavy rain was forecasted.  In turn, heavy rain was delivered about an hour after setting things up.

It was pretty soggy - but we made the most of it burning helpless marshmallows, terrorizing newts and walking the reservoir loop trail in a thunderstorm.  Good times, good times.

Stylin digs.  Later we ended up setting the tent up - too much light and too many mosquitoes.  
Ok, so it ain't the "proper" way - but we had our reasons!  It was raining pretty steady.  Note use of "LU" cookies - very convenient / chic substitute for graham crackers and chocolate bars. 
Trying not to laugh with a mouthful of 'Smallow.. 

Newt hunting


C'mon dad!!  Stop taking pictures so we can get this crap hike in a thunderstorm over with!

Both Ava and I didn't get as much sleep as we'd like.  Ava claims to have been visited by a bear in Telluride last summer while camping - so she was a little bit nervous trying to relax in a room missing one wall.  Ahh.. but at least we were dry. 

The next morning some pancakes slathered with Nutella - then we packed up and it was off to moms in Shaftsbury. 

Along the way I had to stop at the fish hatchery.  It was one of my favorite places to visit as a kid.  Some of these old trout are over 3' long.  Sadly - they no longer fill the 5-cent per helping fish food dispenser.  So we threw pebbles in there to get'm all riled up for nothing.

Still in her PJ's - clothes ain't quite dry..

Oh yeah.. This is a race report. 

I dropped off Ava and headed back over the mountains to Putney.  With all the recent rain, parking near the event was out the question.  Thankfully the event coordinators figured out a spot about a mile away so we got plenty of warm-up heading over to the course - which was also a test of your cow patty dodging skillz.  Man, this was just like being a kid on the BMX..

Mmmm.. fresh poo.  At least it's not between seasons if ya' know what I mean.

I entered as a CAT 1 not realizing I could race the pro/open category.  No worries though - as soon as the race started it was obvious it wouldn't be easy - at all.   Additionally, I haven't gotten much riding in for the past two weeks.  Between work and other commitments - training has come to a complete standstill.   

My usual strategy is to ease into a race - which I did for a whole 5 minutes.  Then for some reason I felt compelled to catch up with the guys up front.  The course started with a little field section, then went into a slight downhill with the first of many muddy corners.  Prior to the race I scoped out one spot that had strategic appeal (not an obvious line, but definitely faster) which yielded three riders in one swoop.  Ooooh yeah!!  Man I love strategery.  That one spot was about all I pre-rode. Oh well.  Time to test your unknown course adaptability the rest of the way around.  

The course wound through some mid-strength tech and then up and into some climing,  then some more tech with switchbacks and some more climbing.   When you got done with that climbing there was a downhill section that didn't last nearly long enough. It was in this section that one of my main opponents (Brian Cantele) had some kind of mechanical problem which soon put me in 2nd place right behind Ben Silberfarb who appears to live for climbing - what, being 20 lbs lighter and all. When we get to the top of a particularly long climb some guy says:  "There's a downhill coming"  which does come - but then is followed soon after with more climbing - enough climbing for Ben to just drift away.  Drat! Drat! Drat!

You picking up what I'm putting down?  This freaking race is a climbers fantasy.  On the last hill of the first lap I lose Ben entirely.  I was making some time on the descents but there's just not enough descending happening to compensate.

The  first part of the second lap is fairly quiet - until Jon Rowe (any relation to Mike??) shows up.  Great.  Another ridiculously skinny bastard on a climbing machine (rigid fork)  I struggle up the climbs and we trade spots a little here and there.  Again, on the descents I can create a good gap, but he gains it back and clings on for the climbs..  This lasts all the way through lap three where I catch Charlie "The svelte" Beal on his single speed.  He says "Took you long enough! ".  Yeah, yeah - just you wait till I get gravity on my side Prince Feather Lung.  I make a pass on the downhill (how sketchy was that Sir Charles??) and sure enough on the final climb of lap three he enjoys humiliating yet another gearie..  Whatever pal.  I have to think more to keep my bike going - so there!!

Into lap four I am hanging with Charlie.  No way I'm letting him go unchecked after that exchange. We get about 1/3 of the way in up a short steep climb then: POP!!  DAMMIT!!   Yet another SRAM Powerlink lets go (three this season - I must be doing something wrong).  Jon goes past, offers his condolences and I rapidly extricate my spare while 3 more riders go by.

Usually I can re-fit a new link in under a minute but this time the existing link is stuck.  The pin has been sheared off one end - so the two plates are still attached to the chain on the other.  After much griping and twisting it comes out and I link it back up - kind of.  All the mud is preventing proper seating of the new link - so I grab the only thing available for cleaning the chain - Gatorade.  Gatorade peeps - I have a new slogan - forget about  "Is it in you?"  How about, "Is it on you?" or "Sticky, but effective" 

The chain goes back together and I saddle up.  It's funny how an excuse like "I broke my chain" makes you go easier on yourself than you should.  I ride at a reduced intensity for a little while - then see those same three guys who passed ahead.  Hey,  it's not totally over yet!!

So I git crankin' and on occasion have to git' hiking.

Sidetrack moment: Speaking of hiking,  during one lap a thorough scientific evaluation of the merits of  hiking were tested.  At a certain point going up "Heartbreak Hill"  I hopped off and hiked alongside another racer who would not get off his bike.  I say "Your a stubborn one huh?"  He makes it clear that he feels it's better to ride.  At the point where the terrain becomes tractable again  - I hop back on and take off fairly quickly.  That pretty much seals the equation  for me.  Why bother wasting your biking superpowers when they aren't any better than walking it?

The last bit of the last lap is fairly quiet in terms of traffic.  I dart around a few riders and gasp up the last incline.  Not thoroughly taxed - nor exactly relaxed.

I figure - maybe 5th or 6th place if I am lucky.  Surprise!! - 3rd.  I'll take it.

After the race I clean me and the bike up in a little creek nearby.  A not so gentle reminder of how cold the mountain water in VT is.  Ahhh..  Yet again - just like being a kid - maybe a tad bigger..    Also after the race - I find out Jon Rowe grew up in Bennington and graduated Mt Anthony in 89' (just one year after me).  Cue "It's a small world" and if that weren't pathetic enough - I have to say: "You can take the boy out of Vermont"

This is a really great race.  Right up there with the Pinnacle and Camden.  It clearly demonstrated every ones weaknesses.  While I'm not terrible at climbing - there is obviously some room for improvement - most likely in the form of 10-15 lbs.  Charlie recorded just over 3000' of climbing.   Pretty stiff for a claimed 18 mile course.

The ride home was miserable.  Alot of mud / grit got into my eyes during the race.  So much that my vision was borderline dangerous.  Even after several eye washes- vision was compromised (scratched cornea?).   What worked best was to hold your eyes open for as long as possible to build up natural tearing - then do some blinking. Repeat every 5 minutes or so for the 3 hour ride home and everyone arrives safely.

Next race:  Who knows.  Let's hope I can take Ava along for a little side adventure.  It adds a whole new dimension to this silly obsession.


  1. Thank you for my "girls only" weekend. It was lovely. I don't care what these guys say. You're a sweetheart.

  2. I would have slept at Mom's house. Good call on the instant s'more LUs. My friend Fabian did the cat2 race and recorded 13.5 miles using the Strava app on his phone for 3 laps. I've been told Garmin is notorious for low mileage offroad.

  3. you better come to camden. I been practicin extra.