Sunday, July 27, 2008

Duluth Powder Monkey

I'm surprised I didn't see any flippin' monkeys given how hot & humid that Duluth Spirit Mt jungle course was today.
Coming of the tail end of a very hard three week training block, racing this course wasn't a prescription for the best possible results. Even so, the race didn't go all that bad.... at least for awhile.
Anyone that's done it will agree, it's a tough challenging course, not overall built for speed except for the most technically adapt racers. That's not to say it's can't be fun, it's just a different kind of fun than any other race course or trail in the Midwest that I've experienced.
I overcame last minute indecision on whether to go or not but still arrived plenty early(for me that's anything close to 45 minutes before race starting time). Got in a good warm up (perhaps too much of one).
By far the most relaxed I've ever been at the starting line of a race, but actually now for most races I like to steal the line from Kareem Abdul Jabbar in what I recall to be the 1985 NBA finals. When asked if he was nervous, he simply said "The butterflies are dead." Fortunately I consider that to be a good thing going into most races.
The uphill start went well and though I lingered somewhat back thinking to not get in that position of holding up more technical riders as we entered the first section of single track. But once we got there I realized that was foolish as there wasn't anybody within 10 people of me that were overly skilled at pounding through the "gorilla heads", rock outcroppings and tighter twists and turns. (File that on in the memory bank -- go hard from the start, giving someone else the benefit of the doubt ain't necessarily the best strategy).
The rest of the race makes for an interesting tale which I could probably elaborate on at a later time, but it boils down to some fun riding with alot of guys I know and enjoy racing with. Early on I caught up to Charlie "Mr Ultra Endurance" Farrow, road a good share of the first lap with Bart Rodberg, chased down a surprisingly slow starter (no offense) Ross Fabroni and took advantage of a nice spill by the single guy I trade racing positions with more than anyone this season Larry Sauber. And not only that, I'm leading Mr. incred-ski Adam Swank for the first lap. Only he must have afterburners cause he put 14 positions in between us by the end.

Well, the cumulative effect of the training or the heat or something had me struggling by the 1/2 hr mark of the race. It was two laps and took 2hrs to finish. The big 20minute climb on the back side of the course had me surviving more than climbing only to relive the experience on the second lap. However that time I did have the opportunity to have a nice chat with fellow Trek FS 69er enthusiast Charly Tri from Rochester without an ill-timed flat he'd of done quite nicely today.

Side note -- you big wheelers don't knock it til you try it. I appreciate you express the opinion you like what you have but the 69er is a dead on sweet bike. (Not to mention you can ride an impressive rear wheelie with it, ah, but that's another story for another day).

So in the end, I'm out of water, out of energy, out of luck. I make some semblence of a scramble up the final hill and hope to avoid the nearby vultures circling overhead. Graciously giving up an additional three or so spots out of the kindness & mercy in my heart in the final mile and winding up 28th on the day.

My coach Josh Powers had me scheduled for another 90minutes -2hrs of riding afterwards but that could have resulted in heat stroke so I hit up the Baked Lays Chips, Pepsi, automobile A/C & took Kate & our clutch of children on home.

I must say an upcoming rest week never looked so appealing....
....maybe a Firehouse 50 this coming weekend (Aug 2nd) otherwise next up the Big 'Ole Ore to Shore (Aug 9th) I have a strong feeling it's going to be one of the best races of the year.

Til later....

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Riverbrook MTB Time Trial: Hatchery Creek Hayward

What are the odds?

Went to Riverbrook’s weekly Thurs nite MTB TT’s – great little summer MTB racing series put on by the cycling communities of Seeley, Hayward & Spooner. Some time ago they came up with a “Equalizer” format. Racers are handicapped with different starting times -- the least speedy go first and progressively the faster racers are released in 30sec to 1 minute intervals. When done to perfection, everyone hits the finish line at the same time. But regardless, everyone gets to compete both on an overall as well as handicapped basis.

And there’s no motivation like being forced to catch the slower person in front of you or to avoid being caught from behind.

So, this past Thursday the TT was held at the Hatchery Creek Trailhead in Hayward. Never having done the series before they use the best educated guess of where to start you in the lineup. Lucky me? With Scott Chapin, Jesrin Gaier & Tim Swift having good reputations & past experience I put 4th to last leaving only those vultures to hunt me down. With that kind of motivation it’s easier get a quick start. I left the start line with Tom Gaier & Tim Wilkie. At first I figured with Tom’s familiarity with the trails I could benefit from staying behind him but then I decided I was better off getting the biggest gap I could muster on the open Birkie trails at the start before the course entered the single track. Then let the chips fall where they may after finesse and handling skills in the single track took precedence over for straight up power in the open sections. The strategy paid off as I had gained 15 seconds or more by the time we entered the single track. After busting it wide open, the trails were a relief and my heart rate returned to a more reasonable sustainable pace. All I kept thinking, is I’ve got the gap, just keep it steady and don’t give up too much ground and recover to pound it again when (and if) it opens up again.

Even with my unfamiliarity with the trail, I managed to keep the miscues to a minimum. Taking note to listen for sounds of turning wheels and skidding brakes and glancing out of the corner of my eye on switch backs for any movements on the trail. Ten minutes in still all good, fifteen minutes still clean without any sign of trouble coming.

That’s when the bike gods released their fury – mind you not just on me, as I came off a S corner I got that sloppy feeling in the rear of the bike that can only come from a blown tire that’s rolled off the bead. End of the night for me. So hiking down the trail and counting time for the next racers Tom came through 30 seconds later and another 30 seconds later Scott Chapin with Tim Wilkie now behind him. Tom was out of any CO2 but was kind enough to toss me some bug spray (for which I was grateful on the next half hour walk back to the start/finish). I assumed I’d be seeing Tim Swift any minute and certainly Jesrin – I counted off a minute and then 90 seconds and still no sign of either of them. Only to discover when I finally got to the end that they’d both incurred flats within 20-30 feet of each other. What are the odds 3 of the last 4 riders flatting out on the same night.

So though it was a good hard effort, it didn’t provide the feedback I was hoping to get on how my racing speed is coming along. Though I was feeling pretty good and holding off Chapin felt like a distinct possibility. Next Thursday it’s a toss up, I’ve got league softball and the TT being held at Seeley which is notoriously challenging singletrack to ride a fast speeds. ….. we’ll see, maybe. Especially if I can drag some certain other individuals in the Chequamegon bay area who shall remain nameless unless they don’t start showing & participating in some local races pretty soon.

Regardless, it was a good time as Kate, Hope & Marshall were able to come along and have fun at the park with the other families and riders.

Up next, it’s WORS in Franklin, WI or MNSCS at Spirit Mt in Duluth – with a 4 1/2hr difference in drives times – I think Spirit Mt should be the easy choice. A hard core course that’s great to ride… it’s just racing it successfully is sometimes another story.

Chippewa Valley FireCracker

Like in real fireworks sometimes the anticipated “blast” becomes a “poof”. That’s much of what the 2008 edition of the Chippewa Firecracker held in store. In the training program I follow it had me coming off a rest week which theoretically should have made for some fresh legs and a great race. Rather the legs were a bit starchy and a fast opening lap had me backing off half way through. After dropping 4-5 spots I got back in the groove and followed John Fang (BKB rider) who was pushing it really well until he rounded a turn too hot & slide out just over half way thru lap 2. Feeling like some mojo was coming back I took to the front and pounded through lap 3 gapping two chasers. That worked well until the end of lap three when 2 additional riders caught back up and I messed up a water bottle & gel flask handoff. It doesn’t take long to lose 100 yards and the energy required to close it back down can be extremely consuming. I was able to get a few places back by the middle of lap 4 but the culmination of the hot day, and consistently running low on water each lap had me pretty zapped coming in the last few miles.
From each race you hopefully learn some lessons, pack up the experience and better know how to tackle it on the next go around.