Monday, May 25, 2009

Rhinelander Rasta Rally

5th on the day.
Man, Peariso can hammer...
Not a race/course for the weak of heart.... a true single track challenge
(Dis)Liked it so much.... I bit the dog back & did the 15 mile course a second time when it was all over.

Cable Off Road Classic 2009

First MTB race of the year…
The drive down from Ashland to Cable wasn’t what I expected for a Saturday in mid-May. Rising up over the Great Divide out of Grand View I notice all the evergreen trees have a funny look to them. A white powdery haze covering them -- the unmistakable form of snow. My guess that temps would be hitting the mid 40’s by the start of the race were out of the question.

I arrived about 40minutes before the 10am start. Fortunately I’d pre-registered the night before, and with it got a preferred start, so there wasn’t the added hassle of paperwork and payments to the morning. I could get the bike out of the car, jump on it, grab my timing chip and start warming up. Warming up being the operative word.

It was almost a toss up of just how much to wear for the event. The temps were in the mid 30’s and a wind in the 20mph range but the off-road setting of the Chequamegon forest mother nature’s wind should be muted, but still windchill would be created from the speed of the race. After a 20minute warmup & rolling up to the start line I opted to toss the outer jackets and go with basic longsleeve jersey, undershirt, bibs & knee warmers.

Lot’s of the familiar faces I around warming up or at the start line. McFadden’s, Scottie KJ, Jay Henderson, Tim Swift, follow Bay area guys, Matt Hudson & Paul Belknap. Also folks I’d recognized from previous races just couldn’t place the names. I got to the line early & fell into a front row start. One bitch to have and let it be notice, I don’t care what prima donna you think you are – DON’T THINK YOU CAN BACK INTO THE FRONT ROW. Be there on time, compromise your warm up like the rest of us or GO TO THE BACK! You're at a MTB race, have some class & show respect to your fellow racers. A couple people did it but most notorious was num-nutz Hollywood rider Tim Norrie – he didn’t just back in, he came racing to the front of the start line at the end of the National Anthem with less than 3 seconds to the start. He tries to shed his jacket and turn the bike in a position to get start. All he managed to do is get sideways and block off the right hand side of the front row (of which I was on) when the starting horn/gun went off, he got the obligatory obscene language from a few for being such an idiot. Note: Tim, next time spend your time “Getting Rad” alittle bit earlier so your haze induced state of mind doesn’t completely impair your sense of judgment on what to do when you’re late to the start line.

Determined to stay in the front 6-10 racers I worked up the right hand side of the group & fell in line in the top ten next to Scottie KJ as we worked our way down the several mile hilly gravel road start of the race. Not that particularly hard paced to start as I think there was reluctance of anyone to go to the front & break wind as well as climb hills at the start of the race. I didn’t bother to look back much but it seemed a sizeable group of 20+ riders held together. At one point a couple miles in I was aware of an upcoming hill and to make the most of momentum I took a pull/flyer to the front, guess it was a little bit overkill as I rolled up the next hill with the group 20 or 30 yards back. So if anyone was wondering, I was “that guy”. When the group made no significant effort to catch up I sat up & waited for it to catch me. My training has been coming along good but not so much so that I should be trying to work a gap on such an open course. Speaking of which, unfortunately to some, the race course was changed previous years, making it more open, faster paced & with less single track. I didn’t think I’d like it as much after I did a pre-ride a week earlier but was just fine with it once we were racing it.

After passing the previous race editions single track entry point it was still some length of time before we got into some quasi single track, let’s call it compromised double track. Probably my first mistake of the race. I should have been more aggressive in getting entry in the top 5 or 6, got in about 14th or 15th. From that point forward the racing started to pick up and gaps started to happen. For some reason, I wasn’t reacting well & staying close to the wheels in front of me. Mostly I was being lazy & complacent, not worrying about the gaps. Not exactly the best approach to the first race of the season. The late entry into the single track prevented me from getting into the group I wanted to be with and the climbing & additional single track didn’t make for any optimal passing opportunities. At 15-20minutes into the race it looked like the groups were getting set and I missed the tail end of the top 10 caboose. Shortly thereafter, stomach cramping, something that almost never happens to me, struck and always forces you to go into a neutral gear. (Note to self – don’t be eating pancakes & OJ just an hour before the race.)

When the cramping subsided I was able to pass up the guy in florescent blue & pink that shouldered me out earlier when we originally headed into the single track… to which I mumbled something about “I’d told you I’d get for doing that”…. And soon it was myself, Tim Wilkie and a big young kid whom I didn’t quite yet recognized that had dropped off the lead group. It latter turned out to be Peter O’donnel, he’s not exactly the little pip-squeek he used to be. He may have added some watts to his game but his size increase has neutralized it to some degree. The three of us rotated pretty regularly for what seemed liked the middle third of the race until another guy caught on, but Pete & I then pulled on abit harder and somewhere dropped the other two. We’d get glimpses ahead of 3-5 riders ahead but were never able to close down the gaps.

In the second half of the race come what I like to call “the climbs” a succession of 5-7 steeper pitched hills that pound on you at close to an hour into the race. Somewhat conscious of them I’d raced moderate to conservative in the first hour so I didn’t blow up on any of these hills. It was here we came across two other racers, Scottie KJ being one, he was slowed up considerably but I wasn’t sure what happened. I later asked him on the final 2mile stretch in but I couldn’t really hear his answer. While it felt great to close down some gaps at last & pass some people, however I wasn’t truly motivated to race like I normally am. I just didn’t have that mental spark, I felt like I was going through the motions.

Pete & I stayed together until the Ojibwa single track started when he began to pull away. I was starting to feel drained & hadn’t taken much time for fuel or drink to that point -- probably my biggest mistake all day. I’m one of those racers who’s body counts on it to keep up the pace, if not I’m just one steep hill away from a sizeable bonk. Shortly into this section I got some sweat in my eyes & squeezed them tight to try & get it out. Only when I open them I have the most faint light headedness & the outside perimeter of my vision is getting blurry & blackened. Oh great! I'm starting to black out! That's just wonderful. Exactly what I need right now.

Though I know what’s going on, I just never experienced that way before – my head is bonking before my legs. I quickly grab for my water & a single gel. Most of the time if it gets to that point, it’s too little too late and for the most part it proved to be the case. I was reasonably happy with how my racing & position had been to that point and to quite literally “seeing” it slip away was really frustrating. Perhaps with 4 or so miles left I could hear racers coming up from behind me again, it was Tim Wilkie and later Scottie KJ coming back on to catch me. Fortunately we were back into mostly open forest roads & I was able to hang onto them for a period of time. But as we crested a hill that led onto Randysek Rd, I’d been dropped and it was now Tim on his Gary Fisher SuperFly & Scottie assumably on a new Trek Top fuel riding a super fast downhill gravel road. At this point, as bonked as I was I had to remotely smile and think to myself I can catch these guys. They had a 30-40 yard gap on me when I was able to hit the downhill. I was hoping power & some physics would be in my favor. I raced my Trek Top Fuel 69er with Bontrager 2.0” Revolts in the rear & a DryX 29x1.75”s in the front. What I would tell anyone is do not underestimate the power of that skinny front tire. Terrific rolling resistance with just enough grab to handle most any single track. I run it with 25lbs pressure & put 28lbs in the Revolt. It’s a great setup on the 69er.

Even with Tim & Scottie drafting each other & rotating to some degree I managed to catch them just before the end of this ½ mile + downhill. I was still bonked all the same but happy as hell I’d latched back on. We rolled through the remaining gravel roads & finally got out on that final 2 mile stretch of former railroad grade that leads to the finish. It was here Scottie & Tim seemed to be chatting away like there out for some Sunday ride and I’m dying to hold their wheels. Fortunately I was able to until 1 mile to go. At this point, it appeared that no one was near enough behind me to threaten getting to the finish line before I so I back off & soft pedaled in for a 15th place overall finish.

Not bad, not great, but certainly better than my several previous Cable Off Road Classic experiences where placing in the 30’s & 40’s had become the norm. At least it was closer to where I felt I could & should perform at for the work & training put in. What was great to see as well was the cadre of one of the Bay Area’s 4 man 24-9 mile team place so well. Matt Hudson who’s finally been able to put some dedication into his bike training came in a minute or two back in 19th place & Paul Belknap & Kelly Mcknight came in 30th & 34th respectfully.

With frozen clubs for feet I sought out Katie & the kids as soon as I crossed the finish line. We got to the car where she informed me the thermometer for the car never showed a temp higher than 37 degrees for the entire race – guess that would stand to reason why it took my feet 30 minutes to return to life after placing them on the car heater vents. Would have loved to stick around & catch up with folks but with Scottie KJ having edged me out for any kind of award, I took a somewhat sick wife & sleepy kids home as a quick exit was in order.

Crazy thing happened on the way home, however, since we took separate cars. Kate was driving my Toyota Celica & I had the Prius & kids with me in front of her. I called her on the cellphone about 4 miles from home to tell her about where I'm planning on stopping before coming home. We're chatting 30 seconds when she's gasps nervously "Something just went wrong with your car!" In the rearview mirrow I see her fading back. Come to find out the next day at the mechanics the time belt tensioner malfunctioned and wrecked havoc on the engine. On the positive it can be fixed and at least it happened on the way home instead of on the way to the race.

Up next, back to good solid week of training and the Rhinelander Rasta Rally on the 24th.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cable Off Road Classic.... a preview

Training....In the rain, the snow, the wind, the cold... did I mention the cold? Finally this morning one can get out and see how all the winter & spring efforts pay off. It's been a very different type of off season so one can only wonder...
With the WORS & MNSCS opening races on Sunday, along with the windy & cooler conditions today it'll be interesting to see who shows up to toe the line at the Cable Off Road Classic. In past couple years it's had between 190 racers to as many as 250 when there's not be other races the same weekend.
Anyone hoping for the delightful opening singletrack in the first half of the race...well, you'll have to wait another year. A course revision likely from not enough rider input has the 23 mile course spending an inordinate amount of time on forest & gravel roads without the normal mix of single track. On the positive side, the race will go by fast... very fast (hold onto your lactate threshold).
Mostly it'll be good to see all the guys & gals that I haven't seen since last Sept/Oct and swap stories and catch up. You can bet the Duluth crew will be in their normal stellar early season form (may I be fortunate enough to latch on). If it's a smaller race field and not alot of the MNSCS racers come up today, heck even if they do -- I'm going with my three picks for winning Todd McFadden, the guy just always seems to perform at this race(he's got a 2nd place, a couple 6th places) this could be his year. Then there's Scotty KJ -- fast race, shorter distance if he's previous ailments are behind him he'll definitely be out front at a big portion of this race. Of course, if the hometown Jesrin Gaier been back on the horse training and I was a bookie in Vegas you could give the entire field a significant point spread and Jesrin would still pull out the big W. On the ladies side, again unless a speedy Jenna Zander or Kyia Anderson show up Sara KJ & Diana McFadden would be my guesses this early in the season.
Good likelihood the Cheq. Bay area guys will have one of their best races as a group, each year their abilities, the amount of time on the bike and likely their competativeness grow. I think it's even hard to pick the order of finish among them with Matt Hudson being the wild card. Belknap usually can come off ski season without almost any time on the bike and hold his own but it'll be interesting to see what Mcknight & Hudson have to say about it.
The Cable area will be missing Scottie Chapin but still represent well and the rest of the field is always a question mark as to who will come from Central WI or the Twin Cities.
Good luck & hope to see you all there!!!