Sunday, April 29, 2012

Massasoit Lung Challenge race report 2012

 Rick has no trouble acknowledging this - nor does my wife.

I am a dumbass (and a dork)

What else would you do with 60' of kraft paper??

Time and time again I'll scope out the start of a race - deem it "sprintworthy" then wuss out and take my time "easing" into to the race hoping I'll magically come out on top.

Start time costs results time exponentially when racing a course like this.  It's like when you leave a little early to drive into Boston and get to your destination extra early.  If you wait 15 minutes you get caught up in traffic - end result: arrival is now exponentially late.

So yet again - I took my time and sure enough -a massive bottleneck / traffic jamb going into and through the single track.  If you have decent bike handling skills you have effectively tossed your weapons to the ground to be slayed by the equivalent of lumbering one-eyed giants.   This is a battle after all.

Racer turnout was pretty huge.  Some regional big guns were on hand - so worthy competition was not a concern in CAT 1 (yeah still hesitant to ride with the pros at this point)

Didn't mean to go artistic with this one.

CAT 2 start. Somewhere in here  we can find Shawn Smith sandbagging.

I settled into the second row - and little by little lost ground chatting as we moved towards the start following each age group.  At the start folks took off  - me, not so much.  

Into the single track and over the bridges was flat out frustrating.  Aside from a couple of little climbs there wasn't alot of passing spots.  By now the lead group was gone

Finally after things opened up I was able to start picking off riders.  The course was pretty dry requiring some care while slicing and dicing through the twisties.  No sooner would you pass a few riders, then you'd find yourself stuck again going through the twists and turns.  On the double track full TT position was maintained.  A few of the sections had some strong headwinds - going aero was surely beneficial here.  

At the end of lap 1 passing no longer involved much speed differential.  I was still gaining on riders though.  Excellent. Two of those riders were Corner Cycle dudes (Samuel Morse and presumably Bill Shattuck).  Corner Cycle dudes are a crazy strong lot.  Some anaerobic work was required - but after 2 or 3 climbs I was able to clean them off the plate ripping through the twisties.  Next up: Robert Carmen from Team Edge.  He was moving at a decent clip so I settled in for a few minutes.  After some recharging - a pass on another uphill.  He clung on for quite awhile taking advantage of  the draft and line selection - commenting at one point "you must know these trails".  We start putting a significant gap on one other guy who was in the mix. 

I was feeling pretty good.  Maybe too good.  I'm not sure who the rider was - but we  bridged up to this fellow - settled in a little bit - then I lit it up on a sandy climb.  Operative word:  Sandy.  He was on the packed portion of the trail - while I slogged by through 3" or so of power sucking terrain (more stupidity).  The pass was effective, but left nothing in the tank.  Next wide open double track section - guess who passed me back?

Alright then,  I'll hang on his wheel and light things up after some recovery.  We come across Richard Pirro - who comments "I thought you started ahead of me" - Nope I am a slow starting wuss. Rich grabs onto the train.  At this point there's 3 of us trailing the unknown soldier.  We get to the paved section at the lap point and I  continue to suck wheel.  Stupid strikes again.  This was the moment to get ahead before entering the single track.  I hang on using very little juice.  He's not a bad rider, but I am carrying more speed into corners and over obstacles.  We get to a little wooden bridge section with an embankment on the other side and I nearly run into him while he slows.  It requires turning to the left (tailgating is stupid)  On the left:  Two trees that are clearly not wide enough to squeeze through.  CRAP!!  - There goes Robert, Richard and that other guy. 

I get back on course and gradually work at closing the near instant 150' gap.  Having done a few races now - I know it's best not to get emotional and go charging to reclaim your position among the clan.  Little by little I'm gaining.  This is good on two counts:  If I'm gaining at this rate - I should be able to drop them further along.   I get within 15' or so and feel good about the effort.  Then I forget to ride my bike.  A rock maybe 3" around pops the front tire off line and me bike is heading straight for a tree.  I leap off to the right and the bike hits the tree straight-on at the head tube.  The impact is so significant that I take a moment to make sure everything is connected.  Goody - nothing bad seems to have occurred.  Meanwhile.. I hear a heavy breathing rider coming up from behind.  DAMN, DAMN DAMN!!

Not only has the group ahead completely disappeared  - now I got some dude behind me motivated and stuff.  It's Sam from Corner Cycle. 

On flats and uphills he can be heard closing the gap.  On downhills and single track I can open things back up.  We're cruising along a flattish single track section and Sam comments on the bike handling.  Too bad it's not accompanied by fitness.  Sam makes his move on a climb - but never gets too far ahead.  I can reel him in when the terrain gets interesting. 

Towards the end of the last lap that hill.  You know the one if you've raced here.   It's a run up affair - one part gawd awful, and one part comedy.  Everyone is just gassed at this point while we inch our way up.  It's all I can do not to stop and savor the brutality.  I get on with it and proceed to pedal the last climb - Sorta..  At one point it turns into a 0.5 mph ziggy zaggy effort.  The folks at the top are digging the drama.  I re-align the bike with said course and torque the rest of the way up. Some one comments "unbelievable".  At this point - I'll take it.

A last blast through a technical downhill section and around towards the finish. 

Another rider is 20' or so ahead - full power is administered (he can see it coming) and I lose that duel by less than a second.

Phew!!   That should boost the ole fitness.

End results 8th (!) A bitch-slap of a reminder that starting slow is not so clever.

Some overall results - includes all Pro and CAT 1

Pro Men:

Pro Women:

CAT 1 Youngsters

CAT 1 19-29

CAT 1 30-39

CAT 1 40-49

CAT 1 50+

CAT 1 Women

So the deal is - I'm at odds with where to enter the Weeping Willow.  Run with the big dogs (there shouldn't be any traffic problems) or ease in and go CAT 1.

Methinks running with the big dogs would be a much needed follow up bitch slap.  A one-two-three knockout for sure.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fat Tire Classic @ Winding Hills - Farmington, CT

"A good course for roadies"...  "Nothing very technical at all"...  "There's a couple of roots to look out for - that's it"...

Heh heh..  I love me some irony. 

Firstly - what I consider to be a major accomplishment - the fruit of 300 miles of unimaginably restrained driving: 

This might seem unimpressive - but when you consider the new girl has 265 ponies pushing a 3300 pound AWD car and my fat ass - that ain't too shabby.

3 knocks on the table... (corporate thing we've been doing when folks get off track)

On arrival an hour and a half before the 1:30 start I put on fleece pullover and light jacket and headed out to check out the new course. Conditions: Still kind of dry - but the light drizzle was starting to help firm things up.   I recall last year was how easy it is to underestimate speed through some of the sweepers.  At least I thought I remembered.

Along the course I found Bikeman Don Seib being Don Seib. Encouraging everyone who passed and keeping track of his son's performance. I first spoke with Don last season post race @ the Weeping Willow. He was coming back from injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash so his performance wasn't where it had been in the recent past. His comment on the matter has stuck with me and provided some encouragement given the slow start this season.  With little emotion and total confidence: "It'll come back" . Holy crap did it ever. His fitness and CX results were very impressive.

After the winter that didn't happen there was plenty of fit roadie / CX talent on hand.  Knowing there was no chance I could hang in the CAT 1 / pro category like fellow nouveau pros Andy Gould (formerly known as "annoyingly compatible" - now he's just annoying - nice job with this race Andy!!) and Steve Crossley (sorry about this Steve) I opted to race with the fairly old guys in plain old CAT1.  For certain it'd be plenty challenging with perennial champion Mike Rowell in the line up (25 guys in our group).

Before the line-up I removed my jacket and fleece - donning a short sleeve jersey and shorts.  After all, I'd warm up just fine - right?  The fact that 98% of the crowd was wearing arm warmers,  tights and jackets should have triggered something in my little head.  One thing for sure, waiting for the start was getting chilly.

Lined up in the second row just behind Mike - off we went.  Like usual dudes were cranking at a pace way beyond my comfort level.  We headed up the double track were I lost a few spots going into the single track ridge line ride into a short wooded section.  Position:  Somewhere in the middle.

The course opened up again and the wattage gang laid it on thick.  Head down, TT style riding kept the lead group in site.  Sorta - but not really.  The course then tucked into some single track where I started making ground.  A pass here and there - then more open sections where letting off was not an option.   OK, I'm passing & not getting passed - that's a good sign.

About 3/4 of the way through the first lap I found my people pace wise.  I hung out behind them - moving well, but not thoroughly gassed.  Our group of 3 slowly picked off more riders.  Excellent - if this keeps up we're good.

At the start of the second lap a couple of guys went by pretty quick.  One of the guys yelled "don't let them go"  - which spurred us on a bit - we clung on, then passed them back before entering the single track.  Good, good, good.  We can create a gap in here.  But it only lasted so long before things opened up on the double track again.  Towards the end of each lap there is a section with 2 significant climbs (on each side of a hill maybe a 1/2 mile apart if you can picture it)  where spectators assemble.  The intent was not to create drama - but drama happened.   Going up the shorter single track side the rider in front of me was in spin mode smartly addressing energy reserves.  I get amped when I see climbs (maybe wanting to get them over with) and started passing on the right through the weeds - problem was, I wasn't fully committing to the pass.  Just kind of going a little faster.  We crested the hill side by side - with very little room causing some excitement for the crowd.  I figured the rider would yield - but figured wrong.  He maintained position on the actual course, and I ran out of room heading straight for a tree.  Folks loved it.  Lesson:  Hit it hard next time - no half-assed attempts.  He gained a decent gap and I worked to close it back up through the single track.  We neared the other side of the same climb - and I backed off.  Reason:  A lot of riders run up this climb.  I wanted to gain some steam to ride up and over.  Sure enough as I approach the last bit - riders (3 of em) are popping off their bikes.  I squeak by on the right just barely clawing my way up.  I get a shove on my ass as I go by.  Who does the shoving?  The same guy I was battling with on the other side.  He comments "It's all good".  You gotta love the sportsmanship. 

On lap 3 the rain started to pick up.  The course was getting super greasy.  These are the kind of conditions that work best for me.  No longer was it about blowing past folks in wide open then maintaining position in the single track.  Traction was getting marginal everywhere.  You could power drift your bike around corners using the rear tire only for steering.  Whee!!!  I maintained the lead on the guys I passed on the hill while passing more riders from other age groups - occasionally passing on the greasy corners themselves.  The guys behind were not letting up through the wide open though.  The strategy (as it always is) was to conserve energy by riding at the very limit of control.  Unfortunately I went past that limit on a LH turn and went down to promptly get run over by the guy who was 10 seconds or so behind as I was sprawled across the course.  Damn!!  If I nailed that corner it would have been worth at least a couple of seconds.  Instead it cost many.  The other guy (Keith Gauvin I think) whizzed past us while we untangled - then the runner-overer (David Diviney) took off - leaving me to get back at it - now, a bit out of sorts. 

I was wearing glasses up until that point - then took them off as the crash caked on even  more mud.  This was nice for a short while - then of course, I started getting mud in my eyes especially while doing the signature praying mantis pose on the climbs and flats - so I pulled them out of my pocket (now very foggy) - wiped them off on my muddy jersey and dealt with feeling my way around the course.

"Praying Mantis" - a naturally evolved staple within the repertoire.

Photo courtesy "Eastwood9er" Many more from the event can be found.

The last lap was getting to be a death march.  Temperatures continued to plummet (42º F from 52 or so at the start) while the rain continued to increase.  The event turned from racing to survival.  The drive train was grinding with the sand and muck, climbs were barely there due to so little traction & corners were very "let the bike go where it needs to go" affairs.

I bumbled around at mid-pace then upped efforts towards the end to try and make it all stop.  Up ahead - David - he had a solid couple of hundred feet on me as we approached the finish - but was looking  gassed.  I charged and missed the pass by one second while he did the ole' arm push through the line.  High comedy.

For the next couple of hours my fingerstips glowed bright white.  Glad we didn't have any additional laps - as I don't know that I'd have made it.

The end result -5th place. 3 minutes back from Mike, one minute back from 2nd.   Not stellar - but not bad.  My fitness is right where I figured it'd be.  Definitely behind - but a little commitment should turn that around. 

Due to the epicness of this race I have a plan should similar conditions prevail:

2nd set of glasses and something to keep them clean. Being able to see well helps.

The mantra for the next couple of months is simple: "It'll come back"...  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

One dropped cigarette..

The intent was to show how suitable clown tire bikes are in sandy ATV type trail conditions.  The outcome was a reminder of how dry things are out there.  Let's hope for some rain.

Big tires maketh big wind.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

King of the Burlingame - Round II - Don't even stand near the podium.. ya dufus.

This year...  A new (to me) car and cruise control that works- consistently.   Ooh.

Pre race bike maintenance consisted of adding some Stans and cleaning / lubing the chain.  Thatsaboutit.

4mm wrench to pull the valves (in case ya didn't know)

The weather - let's face it, was perfect.  The prior week *way* too damn warm for March in New England.  As a matter of fact the whole damn winter was too warm.  Any advantage that occurred last season due to being hahdcore and riding no matter what the temps was tempered with the conditions we experienced.  I knew it was coming but still clung onto the tiniest hope that genetics or something would prevail.  That won't happen again - at least until next year.

Rumor had it the course would be different - and it certainly was (in a good way) so there was no point in trying to compare to last years times.  Nor was there much point in excessively lofty aspirations with the crew from Corner Cycle on site..   Yeesh.  Talk about a game-changer.

After a pre-ride with Charlie and Geoff  (at least I think that was him) it looked like the newly minted first part of the course might benefit my riding style.  Nice technical sections where line selection and efficiency could add up.  Problem is, most of the middle and end of the race benefit those with actual fitness.  Wide open double track sections with a gravely sandy base.

At a point during our pre-ride I got antsy about getting back in time. The event coordinators made it clear "you miss your turn your done".  Charlie and Geoff decided to head back the way we came.  I asked a nearby Marshall for directions.  Good call.  He got me back out on the road - so I was able to get back to the car, lose the fleece thing and juice up with some sporty drink.  I headed back and had to wait for a whole minute and a half.

Ok then.   Let's see what happens..

What happened?  I rode my bike.  It felt good for the first part.  Then started feeling not so good.  Then it started feeling a little less good - so I backed off.  Then it started feeling good again.  While it was feeling good I tried fitting me through spaces I thought I could fit me through - which resulted in getting my jowls poked by a 3/8" Ø branch that was cut back (see even my jowls are bigger this year)  I kept on going at a "good feeling" pace and before long the finish showed up.

Glenn Anderson got some great shots coming down through a fun rocky downhill section.

I didn't feel particularly good or bad about the whole thing.  Until the results showed up.

Yick.  I don't mind not placing - but the "tolerable threshold" was missed by a couple of minutes.

Adam St Germain turned out to be the sleeper in the bunch - he was at the event last year, but I'm guessing something went horribly wrong.  Yet again, Ellen Noble (I think she can legally drive a car now) was Queened.

Afterwards - Dan took Charlie and I around Arcadia.   He led us along the time trial course and kept a nice strong pace going.   During the ride I tried to fit between some trees and didn't quite make it.  Then further along tried riding some boulder strewn trails & didn't quite make those either. Good thing we wasn't racing on that course. 

Further into the ride through some great terrain,  something wonderful happened.  Like it always does.  I started feeling energetic.  Why does it always take a couple of hours to get spooled up?  Turbo lag?

Next race:  Winding trails

Next post:  Maybe something with 2 wheels and...  motors.