Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Summer-y of Events

re has been so much going on in my life that I have been neglecting my blogging pretty bad.  I am finishing up my PhD in the coming weeks, which is the start of a new era for me, and the end of another.  It also means I'm spending 8-12 hours a day writing and sitting in front of my computer trying to piece together a subset of the 5 years of work I've done to make some kind of cohesive story.  Doesn't really make me want to sit down and type more about racing, or anything else.

I am also moving half way back across the country to take a job as a heat stroke and high-altitude researcher.  Along with this comes all the tasks associated with moving- finding a place to live, packing, transferring car registrations, getting new bank accounts, etc.

Add in the 6 weeks of racing in a row, and you're left with little time to do anything but work, race, and recover.

However, before I get into the thick of summer and things get really crazy, I'd like to do a short recap of those events I didn't blog about.

I did a full blog on the Mckeeysport Criterium and the Greene County Road Race, and after that was the Wisp Mountain Bike Race, then the 9hrs of Cranky Monkey, followed by the epic Tour of Tucker County, and finally the Fort Classic.

Wisp Mountain Bike Race:  My first real mountain bike race ever.  The days leading up to it I was extremely nervous and was all jittery and anxious.  The night before I rode my bike at a local spot to make sure everything was OK- and it wasn't.  My chain wouldn't stay on the front chain ring!  Well long story short, I got a new one from Pathfinder from my friend Shawn and- adding more stress- installed it morning of the race with 50 minutes before the start.

It was pouring rain the whole morning of the race, and cold.  No one was really warming up.  I didn't either, just a short 10 minute spin around to make sure the chain ring was on well.  I had several folks comment to me about my Kenda slant sixes: "You're going to ride on those!?!?" and "How are you going to do it on those?".  I didn't care, I had faith in them, and while the rear was pretty worn down, I had them set-up tubless and didn't have my others (Kenda Karmas) tubeless so went with it.

The start wasn't nearly as fast as I thought, and with a little bumping and rubbing of elbows, I was in first within the first mile.  The course goes down for about 3 miles and then rolls and cuts through amazing single track.  When I popped out on the double track after all of this, and started the first hard long climb, I couldn't even see anyone behind me.  And so that's how the race went.  It was unbelievably muddy conditions, where I had to run at least a mile in the race if not more like two miles.  However, I did very well and ended up passing half the expert/pro field in front of me (I was racing sport) after only the first lap!  The laps were much longer than anticipated and in the whole race I ended up taking something like 4 gels and drank all of 2 bottles.

Despite having to stop and fix my rear derailleur, and crashing bad once, at the finish, I had about a 6 minute gap on 2nd, and another 10 minutes to third (a two time sport national champion or something like that, I was told).  It was an amazing race, and one of my happiest days on the bike.  Everyone was complaining about the conditions, but I loved it- and there is no better testament to the Kendas.  People were shocked, but I wasn't.  Closing comment: the course was incredible.  Even the waist deep creek crossing.

1st place mens cat 2/3 (of 28), time: 2:35, distance: 21 miles, 1565ft elevation gain.

9hrs of Cranky Monkey:  This race is an entirely different beast.  After much work, 2 days, and love with a range of Pro-Gold products my bike was ready again. I raced with team mate Stephanie in the Duo Co-ed class.  It's exactly what it sounds like- you race for 9hrs, and try to complete the most laps between the two of you.  I've never done a race like it (obviously, the weekend before was my first mountain bike race EVER) and was interested to see how it'd go.  While we were going to race hard, Stephanie and I decided we wouldn't stress about it.  I did the hammer ride and pedal for pints the days leading up to it, both race-simulation rides that leave me exhausted.  But going into it I felt OK- tired but not sore or anything.

I did the first lap and you have to run to your bike.  I was ~4th of ~250 people into the pit area (where you leave your bike and wait for your teammate) and 6th out of the pit and onto the course.  After the first lap I was in something like 8th I believe.  I was pretty excited about that!  Stephanie kept up the high pace and going into my 2nd lap (our 3rd) we had 2nd place in our category locked up already.

Then things started to take a turn.  My rear tire lost a lot of air on this lap, but I still put in a pretty good time despite taking it a little easier because I could feel the rim hitting.  By the time I got back, it was nearly flat (10 psi in it when I checked it).  When Steph when out again, I put more sealant in the tired, pumped it up, and rode it around.  It seemed to seal up fine.  I put a little extra pressure in it- like 30- and was ready to go on my 3rd lap.  Between each lap I was swapping out my bottle and trying to each 300-500 calories, and just socializing with folks who were camping and racing.  This 3rd lap is where everything went wrong.  After working hard to catch a fellow Morgantown racer on a Duo mens team (I wanted to beat) I was screaming down a rocky descent when I misplaced my line and went right through a large puddle with a big hole in it.  My rear wheel hit hard and my tire instantly exploded- the rim had already been weakened I think from the previous lap.  Remember- no tube in it, this was the tire that exploded.  I stopped to check and saw the rim was cracked.  I tried to put air in it, but it wouldn't hold.  Not having a tube (idiot) I just started running.  I ran for probably 10-15 minutes before Dynamic team mate JR passed me and gave me his tube and pump.  I worked on it for probably 3-4 minutes (not having a tire lever oops), got it inflated, rode literally 30 seconds and it exploded again.  I then ran another mile about, and got off the rocky part of the course.  I decided to just ride it flat after that.  So I rode the final 3 miles on a completely flat rear Kenda Slant Six.  And I was still passing people.

Got back, and Steph told me as we passed off our timing chip, that if I could get it fixed, I could do a double lap and we'd make up the lost time.  However, I was exhausted- that lap was over an hour and my others were under 40 minutes.  I got back to our area, swapped out my rear wheel to my old stock tube wheels, pumped them up to 50psi (no risks), and my friend Shawn of Pathfinder adjusted the derialleur.  I ate, drank a ton, and changed my kit.  I tried to relax but I was pretty exhausted from the stress of it all and having to run.  I wouldn't have been so worried if I didn't have a team mate.  Anyways, after eating probably 1000 calories, I was ready again.  I doubled up this time, and on my second passed third place to get us into 2nd again.  I might add that this team was none other than JR and his team mate.  I was getting REAL tired now.  Steph went out again and I just hoped I wouldn't have to do another double.

Well, JR decided to do another double unbeknownst to us until we saw him fly by.  So now, I'd have to do a double to take 2nd, or it'd literally come down to the last mile or two and Steph decided she didn't want to risk it.  So I did another double, finishing up for the team, and passing JR's teammate AGAIN on the final lap to secure our second place.  I was SO tired and my back hurt SO much that my final lap was extremely slow-  I ended up doing 7 laps and nearly 60 miles of mountain bike racing.  After the race we hung out and got our podium picture and award (nice timex watches) and completely wiped out Carly and I made the trip back to Morgantown.


Tour of Tucker County:  The next weekend was the epic Tour of Tucker county.  I have never done well at this race.  In fact, last year I did just plain horrible as I had raced my A race Triathlon the weekend before and with the travel and such just wasn't recovered.

I went into this years not caring about the result or my place or any of it.  It was just a 56 mile really hard training ride.  Just a reminder this course is the hilliest course in the series here in Appalachia and ends with the most incredible climb that is 3 miles long and gains almost 2000ft, maxing out at almost 30% grade in the middle.  However, it starts with a bit of flat and then a good, long 7 miles of climbing, and then some rolling bits and flat part, a killer down hill, some more flats and a couple kickers in the middle, and then the epic climb.  I led the first whole climb right on the front of the 4/5 field.  I set the pace and tempo, and I felt good.  At the top of this first climb the field had split in two, and we were down to about 20 racers.  By the end of the rollers we were down to 15.  After some more up and down, when we hit the flatter parts, we were a group of 13.

I felt good and continued to be at or near the front for the first 20 or so miles.  Then I tried to ease off and get out of the way, but an attack and break that slipped away and got out of sight made the group chase a lone rider for nearly 10 miles, which really hurt and made me think I was going to get popped.  I just kept taking my Honey Stingers and tried to be relaxed.  We caught him eventually and the group slowed immensely.  I took over the lead again and led the whole field at a very leisurely pace for about 7-8 miles again.  It was really nice to actually be racing not just time-trialing the whole time.  We'd surge on hills and people would do little attacks but mostly we'd just ride along at a steady almost slow pace.

Going into the final climb, all 13 of us were together still.  The pace picked up considerably on the long grade leading to the first hard pitch.  I took another gel (my 5th) and prepared for the coming assault.  The attack came right at the base (the winner) and I reacted but just couldn't hold his wheel.  It burnt me out and as I tried to recover a group of 5 riders passed me.  I was now in 7th.  I think, in hindsight, I gave up a little.  I was so happy to just be in 7th, I didn't even care about trying to get on the podium at first.  But then, another rider passed me and I could see 3rd place up ahead, and I started to think: A) don't lose your top 10 position, B) why are you not trying to get on the podium!?!?.  So I picked it up again, and passed 1 for 7th again, then another for 6th.  I was closing in HARD on 5th, but he looked back and surged and it took the wind out of my sails.  I worked back to him, but as I did I was passed by another rider with about a mile to go.  So now 7th again.  I could still see 3rd up ahead.  At 1 K to go, I almost caught 6th again, but he stood up and hammered and I just couldn't react.  I ended up finishing 7th crossing the line within sight of the podium, and absolutely thrilled with my race.

7th place Mens 4/5 (of 31). 3:11 (minus a little because I didn't stop my Garmin at the finish). 56.2 miles, 6,627ft elevation gain

Finally, the Fort Classic:  Let me start by saying, I wanted to win this race.  I have been saying it since January.  It's flat, with 1 small hill in the 8 mile loop that you do 4 times.  I thought it favored me (although now after Tour of Tucker county, can I really say I'm not a climber anymore?) and really liked it last year.  However, I was really not feeling well going into the race.  I was exhausted- the weeks of racing, and the stress of dealing with job interviews and writing my dissertation had just left me completely worn out and I had no snap in the legs, and no motivation either.  I showed up later than I wanted and did a little pre-ride, that turned into escorting the juniors state championship race because they had no lead car.  This left me off my routine.  At the start I was nervous!  Why!?!?  Silly.

The first lap was crazy.  There were 7 separate attacks- all spurred by hearing my team mate Jeff and I talking about tactics.  The made all the other teams decide to not let us do anything I guess.  The worst part is, me being inexperience and also wanting the win- I chased every single one of them down.  All of them.  In the second lap, I followed a very strong attack up the climb and as he started to falter, turned it into an attack of my own.  We crested with 1 other rider and about a 200-300 yard gap to the field.  But then, the others seemed completely gassed, and unwilling to work.  So I just gave up (another mistake I think).

After some bumping and yelling, things settled down again and another attack went.  This time it stuck for about 1/2 a lap, but when we got to the hill again, everything came back together and I led up the climb again.  I wasn't trying to, I just wanted to stay at the front and was going my own pace.  But in retrospect, probably should have just chilled.  The final lap was a bit faster and I did hit the  hill hard.  Then, with most of the group still together, I worked hard at and on the front to be in a good position for the final sprint I KNEW was coming.  I had other racers comment to me after that I did way too much work that final lap, and while this is true, I also had to make sure I had my position secured as I had no team mates to help (they had fallen to the back of the group).

Coming down the final stretch things really heated up and the guy from Nu-Go I had raced with at Greene County did an excellent lead out for his team mate.  I tried to counter but ended up having to start my sprint on the front, from 300 meters.  I was swarmed and dropped to about 8th-9th with only 100 meters to go.  I stayed on the full throttle, grit my teeth and kept the sprint going, and just eeked out 5th place for the podium- with 1st no more than 2 bikes length, and 4th about a wheel.

Lots of stuff I could have done differently here, including saving my energy for a real attack, but I was happy to get on the podium again.

5th Mens Cat 4/5 (of 30). 1:32. 32.4 miles,. 1430ft elevation gain.

Sprint Finish!
So that's it.  We just got back from a weeks vacation (bad timing, but that's another story) where I ran a total of 3 times (only ran 4 times all of April and May) and got in the saddle twice.  Well, besides all the cruising around on the beach cruisers we got for the week!  But, we fished a lot and I caught my first Black Drum!

Next up is the Hilly Billy Roubaix, that b&#ch of a race- this coming weekend.

Not sure what races I'll be completing after that between now and cross' season, but I'm sure there will be a few.  I hope to blog about them, but you may not hear from me nearly as much for a few months....

Thanks for reading!

Photos by Myself, Fred Jordan, and Swim, Bike, Run Photography