Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rough day at the office

Some days make you want to quit racing, maybe even biking altogether. Saturday 29th at the Seeley Pre-Fat was one of them. Good race, just a very bad day. The festivities, awards & giveaways after the race are great & even the misty rainy weather couldn't dampen the spirits of alot of happy bikers.

Congrats to some really good races by Tim Swift taking 3rd, Todd McFadden & Bushy (thanks for help with driving the pace early on), Matt Muraski & the comeback kid Chad Sova (insane result for a guy that only got back in some serious riding 4 weeks ago). Tom Meyer really had a breakthrough day as well. And Curt Cline if they'd of had a 3rd lap, you most certainly would have passed me as well. Great job.

Note on MTB racing etiquette I've been meaning to get around to. In MTB'ing there's generally a really great camaraderie -- one of the reasons for that is as a MTB racer versus as road racer --almost everyone suffers all the same. Why is that? Because everyone that can -- DOES TAKE A TURN at the front pulling. If you sit on & wheel suck the guys in front of you -- you're sinking yourself pretty low on the cycling totem pole. And WILL NEVER garner the respect of your fellow racers. Wheel suck alot and a reputation will develop that will follow you for a very long time. Win a race or beat others that you've suck wheel at for the entirety of a race, or end up attacking them at the end of the race & they'll never respect you because you never did your share.

Which by the way -- let's get alittle mathematical about the benefit of wheel sucking -- anytime the speed exceeds 10mph there's a tangible benefit of drafting, that includes mtbiking. Benefits are reduced energy expenditure and recovery & lactic acid discepation at a higher speed than otherwise possible.

If the energy output required saves the drafter 3-5% -- you're getting a "free tow" of nearly a 200 yards every 20 minutes. (Resource: Over the course of a 2 hr race that's 1200 yards, almost 3/4 of a mile or 2 1/2 to 3 minutes in finishing times.

So what I'm saying is race however you like -- but understand there's no glory or respect without sharing the burden. MTB racing ain't road racing. Remember that next time you see your fellow racer pushing it at the front while you sit in, recover or at least have it ever so easier. Take your turn at the front. If you can't pull at all or are just barely holding on yourself, at least have the decency to not attack at the finish if someone else has pulled you along. Sit on, enjoy the fact that their efforts and your smart racing saved you from being caught from behind by someone else. But don't take their efforts and squeeze them out at the end.

Lastly my personal opinion alone, it was great what TJ Woodruff & Jeff Hall did for the finish of the Pre Fat. The last 300-400 yards is an old dirt railroad grade 4 wheeler trail and to my understanding neither drafted the other. They had an old fashion drag race to the finish -- That's the right way, the honest way to finish a race in style.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Double Time

Busy race weekend.
Hit up Calumet, MI's Great Deer Chase Saturday.
River Falls Border Battle Sunday.
Ironically the finishing times of both races were within 3 or 4 seconds of each other. What are the odds of that?
Work on a recap after I get some much needed sleep & rest.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Onto Calument Deer Chase, maybe River Falls Border Battle

Ever get those times in life where you get a bunch of work & obligations behind you and it coincides with alot of fun & exciting stuff going on in life? I couldn't be happier now that it's the tail end of the 2nd week in August.

Got the annual audit behind us at work, it went exceedingly well. Softball season is at it's climax - there's essentially a 5 way tie for first place each of the teams have 12-2 records - it all boils down to a bunch of head to head games for those teams next Monday & Tuesday. It's pretty exciting our team (5th Qtr/Dairy Queen)is in the drivers seat if we win when it comes to any tiebreaking factors for the league championship. I'm having my highest batting average season ever & am in a 2nd place tie for lead triples. In that category where most of the guys are half my age it's pretty cool (but also sad at the same time how too many guys my age let themselves go & don't maintain their speed/fitness to stay competative.)

Then to top everything off there's a couple MTB races this weekend!! Yoo-hoo! Calumet has their Deer Chase Aug 15th, a 27 mile mostly singletrack race. Flat, generally well laid out and challenging to the point you put speed into it. Hammered it last year with Jeff Juntti. Missing the "W" by .22seconds.... note to self: in a sprint finish remember to lock out the fork. But I gotta hand it to Jeff, he deserved it. Not to often was I able to get to the front as ge drove it hard all race long. I would have almost felt guilty winning. However this year I can't say I'll necessarily be feeling so charitable. From the sounds of it could be an even stronger more competative field this year. I guessing (perhaps hoping) 2nd place O2S guy Mike Anderson finds the 370mile drive from Alpena to be too far. In which case it could be a wild shooting match for a bunch of characters, Jeff J.,Tom Carpenter ('09 Miner's revenge winner) & Ty Gauthier, who placed 10th&11th last year but had great O2S races. Maybe even Jesse Bell - all of the UP. Myself, Paul Belknap, Bart Rodberg and whoever else that crosses the border from WI & MN. All one can do is get in the mix, give it a go, keep the mechanical issues out of the equation and see what comes of it. As a dad however I gotta admit I'm almost more excited about my little guy Marshall being able to race here -- last year he did the 3 mile race on the Trek Jet on training wheels finishing way far behind everyone. This year it's significantly different for him & he should really see a big improvement.

Provided that goes well... or terrible. There's always the WORS River Falls Border Battle Sunday -- I hear the course is great so that's always tempting and as a "bragging rights" race. It'd be great to help set the record straight as to what state (WI or MN) has the faster MT bikers.

Well, gotta wash up & prep the bikes -- hopefully some good race updates to follow soon.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ore to Shore

Awoke that Saturday morning with sights set on a Golden Bike & a top 20 finish – what was standing in my way? Well, of course the reigning Golden Boy and 600 other racers mixing it up in Marquette’s Hard Rock 48 mile MTB race. Anytime you take a look at the start list, or previous years results I tend to marvel at the caliber of racers (at least the ones that I’m familiar with) to know if the race distance doesn’t hand you your ass, there’s some stiff competition that more than capable of it. A think a fair note to say about the Ore to Shore is that results are all over the board & much more unpredictable than ANY other MTB race I’ve ever done or seen result on that includes any WORS series, MNSCS series or Chequamegon 40 race. Just because you race one way someplace else… toss that idea out the door at O2S because it’s a different ballgame.

Well, back to the waking up that morning… honestly, I didn’t feel too great, was really questioning whether I had it in me to compete where I set my goals at. On one level I should have the confidence, when I share my power stats from training efforts with some of the heavy hitting regional pro’s & compared to what they do I’m not all that far off. On the other hand, I like most everyone has some kind of kryptonite hanging out in the saddlebag now & again ready to bring one crashing to earth.

With this race really begins the core of my race season – interval training since February brought with it some very decent power into my game, but I did it at a cost of well…. skipping base mile training – just sprinkling in a longer ride here & there. So I guess it's fair to say I’m pretty fast… but only for so long. And these 48 miles would be testing every bit of how far I could push it.

Fortunately, in a brainstorm of sorts between me & coach Powers – I concluded that my kryptonite – was my body’s chosen path of blowing through it’s electrolyte stores like nobody’s business. Think-- free weed samples at Grateful Dead concert. That’s why after every race exceeding 90 minutes I’d feel destroyed only to be back to normal in about 5-10minutes after consuming copious amounts of Baked Lay’s potato chips & drinking a Coca-cola. So by fending off the body’s radical consumption of electrolytes – with some salt pills (no offense Hammer Nutrition to my simplification of your Endurolyte product). It might be enough on top of the normal Powerbar gels & water that I consume during the race to give my body’s engine the fuel & lubrication necessary to keep racing at it’s high end & not bonk. I’d fought this idea for awhile because I almost never cramp up (one of the more common signs of electrolyte depletion) but the miracle of Baked Lays kept me coming back to this possibility.

Kate, I & the kids drove over mid day Friday. It was pretty exciting, almost an electricity in the air, between the phone calls to other racers on the drive over & seeing others once we got there. It’d been awhile since I’d felt so amped up about a bike race. Though I was questioning things Saturday morning, Friday night I was as confident as I'd ever been. I had a stellar ride in the Gary Fisher Superfly hooked up on 29x1.75” Bontrager Dry X tires – on a flat, open & descending course I for one couldn’t feel better. I’d have no excuses resting on having picked the right gun to bring to the sword fight. Kate, in checking out water handoff areas, dropped me off at the 20 mile to go mark & I pre-road the course to the finish that evening.

Saturday morning, awoke to it having rained alittle, perfect to knock down the dust on the course, drove over to the start area – got a premo park spot right next to the start area. Warmed up & before I knew it I was parking the bike on the front row. Questioned only by one person whether I should be there -- considering the lung impairment of some walking pneumonia I’d had in the weeks preceding perhaps he was correct – regardless I was there, lined up with Marko, Tristan, Brian, Nathan, Eppie 1&2, not to mention the Golden boy, and determined to ride like I belong there.

And belong there I must have as the race rolled out, I maintained a position in the top 20 thru 40. The rollout can be alittle sketchy but generally it goes smoothly. I got in a brief word with the long, lost “ace” racer Chad Sova – I was shocked out of my mind to see him when he rolled up next to me. Great to see him racing I hope he’s able to do more, he’s done marvelously well before & he’s a heck of funny good guy to have around.

A couple miles in the race finally gets released from the leadout vehicle & it’s here that in last years race I wasn’t prepared to get on board, but this time around I was on it like ice cream to a cone. Stayed with the lead group of 20+ people that broke away at the initial hill climbs of the race. The race was on an auto-pilot of sorts as it went into Ishpeming, but upon exiting things started to break up. I could have & probably should have jumped up a few spots to better position myself into the top 10 or 12 but hindsight proved that wasn’t the best idea….. just ask cousin Doug, or maybe Mike Phillips, or Jeff Hall or even Marko Lalonde, among others.

Instead I pushed adequately hard after the section parallel to the railroad track & stuck with Paul Gorbold. At some point we came across a struggling TJ Woodruff working his tire over and passed him. It’s at some point down the course that Paul & I eventually get into something like a virtual 3rd & 4th place – worse case it’s 5th & 6th. What? Huh? Just about all but two of the guys (Brian Matter & Mike Anderson) in front of us had taken a wrong turn & gone off course. Sorry for them, really, but how many times or how many people can say… yeah 18 miles in the Ore to Shore I was in 3rd place. Coming from my humble background of athletic inability, it’s pretty cool.

Not much more time elapses before TJ catches back up and refuses to let anyone else pull. He would go to the front & when someone else tried to he’d attack & go back to the front. For a guy that thought he needed to or could catch up to the leaders, you’d think he’d been smarter about conserving some energy & picking & chosing his battles better. Regardless it made the ride to the trails leading up to the Misery hill zip along pretty fast – so thanks TJ, appreciate it. It’s one those hills I start seeing the collateral damage of top end racers materialize either with bike or body problems. Nathan G. & Chris Peariso. I couldn’t tell if Chris had bike problems or was still struggling to get back to racing condition after his monster BC Bike race effort (not to mention a couple weeks of R&R in Europe).

My mindset for the race was about going strong but also “containing” my efforts & racing smart. So once the Lost big guns got back on track they caught & passed us in the Misery Hill area. It was like a confusing flurry of racers. Not knowing until after the race they’d taken a wrong turn when I was talking to Doug. I’d only recognized Marko & wondered what had happened to him that he was coming from so far back. In hindsight it was a great opportunity to hop on & I missed it. Nonetheless, a group consisting of places 16th thru 22nd formed once we hit the pavement beyond Misery hill, including Spooner native, Matt Muraski as well as the Golden Boy. Kate had a great handoff & off we went into the final half of the race course. The group of six worked well together, I met a couple good guys Lance Beuning who road races for Grand Stay & a younger guy Tyler Gauthier from Ispeming who had a cheering section on every corner & aid station it seemed. We road up into two or three other guys on the long pavement section with the three hills of various sizes.

I felt decent and sat in content to work with this group, who always had someone at the front giving ‘er. Those next 15 miles went fast & slow at the same time – I was actually feeling stronger as the race went on, but in the back of my mind I kept wondering when the engine would start to sputter. With 5miles to go I started to work closer to the front & wanted to be in position of anyone else took off. We’d ditched the Golden Boy & a few others so it was looking like all of us would be in the money positions (top 20).

Here’s where the heroic nature of this adventure takes an adverse course – the sand dune downhill section that is known to any & all that race the O2S – was my nemesis. My pre-ride indicated that I should take the inside line to avoid the massive deep sand, only I took it too far to the inside. On a big bump or hump of sorts I came down at the wrong angle & burped some serious air out of my tire. With no CO2 (already donated earlier to a needy rider) I was screwed to continue at race pace. Despite my pleasant requests for a pump or some air – no help was forthcoming as racer after racer went by. The low pressure eventually took it’s toll & broke the bead & left me completely flat.

Agonizingly & helplessly I couldn’t believe my best race ever, let alone in one of the BIG Three (O2S, Cheq 40, Iceman) was slipping out of my fingers & there was nothing I could do about it. I rolled in on rim & tire, despite my hometown buddy Matt Hudson finally stopping & willing to offer up his camel back with air & pump. (Thanks Matt). Too late to do any good, I rolled in on tire & rim to the finish 51st on the day. Perhaps it’s not all bad to drop 38 places in 4 miles.

Not sure how many chances you get at having great races. Coach was pretty ecstatic about the race regardless of the outcome & really pumped about how good 9/10ths of the race was & indicative of my fitness level. I’m a bit more reserved before I start calling on Team Radioshack for a contract.

Well, if you race enough & train smart, you’re opportunities will eventually come. Four more races to the season, Calumet Deer Chase, Seeley Pre-Fat, Copper Harbor, & Chequamegon 40. Sure, there’s WORS River Falls & MNSCS Duluth-Spirit Mountain that might be hard to pass on.

It’s been a long season but I’m very fresh after coming off three easier recovery weeks in July due to illness. At the same time too -- however much I look forward to these great races coming up, I’m glad the season is wrapping up when it is.