Thursday, May 31, 2012

Racing in May

9 Hours of Cranky Monkey
May began with a return to mountain bike relay racing with the 9 Hours of Cranky Monkey at Rocky Gap State Park in Maryland.   In our third year racing at this venue, Travis O. and I recruited Dynamic Physical Therapy Cycling Team p/b Pathfinder teammate Jeff Gernert to compete in the Men's 105+ category for team 'That's What She Said'.

Jeff was initiated into multi-lap mtn bike racing by being given the 1st lap LeMans style run to his bike and then a 9mile singletrack ride around the lake at Rocky Gap.  Less than 50 minutes later, he rolled into the log in to pass the timing chip and lap 2 over to me.  Familiar with this course from previous years, I was able to pick my way around the congestion of other racers that is typical in the first few miles of the second lap.  In just over 40 minutes, I finished with a new PR lap time around 40minutes.   Next, Travis, also familiar with the course from previous races, finished with a PR lap just over 41 minutes.

The race course was evidently drier and faster than it had been in 2010 and 2011 as flows around the lake for most of the 9 miles with a section of steep and rocky climbing in the middle and a loose rocky descent back to the remainder of the lake loop.    However, these conditions would not last as rain began to soften the trails into a slippery surface giving an advantage to the more technically experienced racers.

'That's What She Said'
2nd place 9hrs of Cranky Monkey
The race would prove exciting in the Men's 105+ class as we would gradually climb up to 3rd and 2nd places.   At one point we would see a 1st place position, only to find out that a 'computer glitch' had temporarily messed up the scoring but left us with a considerable lead over 3rd.  A couple of strong laps later we would finish with 11 total laps, a couple more PR's,  a 14th overall finish, and 2nd in the Men's 105+ class.


Wisp XC 
Three weeks later, I would make the short trip over to The Wisp ski resort for the 1st ABRA mountain bike race of the season.  Last year I was able to take 1st place in the Vet Sport category on a very cool windy mountain top.   This year, the weather conditions would be more favorable as we would see temperatures in the 70s to 80s.   However, the trail conditions, although drier, would be much more loose in the beginning after a rocky prologue loop that had been added.   And, I would be racing with a much younger field of riders in the Sport class since the only 35+ class would be a 3-lap distance this year instead of the 2-lap.

Wisp XC 2012
James B. in 3rd, Chris J. in 5th
Feeling good about this race at the start, I had no idea of the troubles I would encounter over the next 17 miles.  Three crashes on the fire road downhill near the start, one of which would break my left shoe, bending the toe upwards in a 90degree angle, one wrong turn to be redirected by a lady in a bikini sitting along the trail .........(pause for daydream).......why would she be in the middle of nowhere?.....in a bikini?!....or was I hallucinating from the lack of oxygen.....oh well.....and a bad case of chain suck would leave me deciding that this was not going to be my day.  You win some and you lose some.  On this day, I had given in to losing.

So, I continued to complete my second lap stuck in the large chainring.  After a few miles of grinding a long, I noticed Mike J. had flatted his rear tire which, after a failed attempt at providing a 29inch tube for his 26inch tire, would be just the break I needed to move into 5th place on the podium.

Tour of Tucker
The final race in May would be the Tour of Tucker County on Memorial Day Weekend.   This race is always a memorable one as it has two serious climbs that make me feel as if I had ridden twice the distance.  The first real climb starts steep, then becomes gradual near the end.  Whereas the last climb, Sugarland Road, starts gradual and steepens to > 18% grades.

I would get dropped just after the steep grade of the first climb, but would make up ground by the time I reached the ridge, which consisted of several steep rollers.  By the time I reached the bottom of the long and fast descent, I had caught onto teammate Jeff. G's wheel for the climb up Sugarland road. My pedal rpm's would drop into the low 40's through the steepest grades of this climb.   The combination of the steep climb, slow speeds, and the heat made for a pretty miserable ride to the finish.

Considering the conditions and my apparent lack of physical fitness this year, I was very pleased with a 27th finish in 2hrs 9minutes, which was 2 minutes faster that my time last year.

A big thanks to all of our sponsors for supporting the team in 2012.