Saturday, May 31, 2014

Racing in May Re-cap

So far this year, I have spent very little time on the road bike.  In fact, I've only had the road bike out two or three times, which were ABRA races.   However, my Cannondale cyclocross bike has seen more miles than ever, as I've focused mostly on dirt/gravel rides in Preston County, WV, with an occasional mountain bike ride here and there.   Thus, I was feeling better prepared for what the month of May would bring to my race season....the Mountain State Dirty Double Roubaix and the 9 Hours of Cranky Monkey mountain bike race.

9 Hours of Cranky Monkey
To start the month off teammate Derek Clark and I would join forces with CER's Travis Olson for the 3-male relay class.   From a LeMans-style start, Derek began the race with a lead that had me thinking he must have forgotten something at his bike...until I realized he had close to a 50-75 yard lead on all other runners as he came through the log in station.

After 8-9 miles of single-track, he would roll in for the baton hand-off to Travis only 39min after he had left.   We maintained very consistent lap times throughout the race with less than 5 minutes difference from our slowest to fastest laps.   Nine hours later, we proved to be the most fortunate of teams in the class, racing unscathed from mechanical issues to a 1st place spot on the podium and an overall 2nd place in the race.  Dynamic Physical Therapy p/b Pathfinder dominated Co-ed duo podium with JR and Stephanie, Jeff and Nikki, and Nate finishing strong.  Congrats team! 

Mountain State Dirty Double Roubaix
I tried to prepare myself for this 2-day gravel race as much as I could by pre-riding the courses weeks before the race on May 16/17th.    The original course that provided quality, steep dirt and gravel riding with military firing ranges, not-so-happy-we-were-there turkey hunters on ATVs, a half-naked 8yr old with a BB gun that didn't think "pedal bikes" would make it up his road, and The Original Cucumber Corner, a feature Derek was particularly fond of.

Fortunately, JR would change everything of this race that I was familiar with from the pre-ride.  After a slow start with a six mile climb, Day 1 would throw a lot of gravel roads interspersed with a few asphalt and tar and chip sections.   Jason Samonds of Fat Head Brewery and I worked together from the first ridge to the end.  We seemed to lose ground the competition on the developed roads, battling against crosswinds.  But our mountain biking skills and experiences seemed to give us an advantage once we entered the rough county roads.  

One particular downhill that turned to 3-4 inch gravel provided the opportunity I needed to get back into the Masters 40+ category as it flatted several competitors tires.    Taking advantage of the situation and the many more miles of gravel, we rolled into the finish without giving up any spots at 19th and 20th overall, which put me on the 4th step of the podium.

day 1 dirty bike
I typically don't have opportunities to ride, let alone race, on consecutive days.  
5-10min of Progold
So, refueling, rehydrating, and preparing my bike for the next day would be a challenge.  
clean bike ready for day 2
Thanks to ProGold products, the bike cleaning would not take long and allow me to focus on a big dinner and drinking like a fish that night.
As I traveled to the race venue for Day 2, I realized that the 2-4 minutes lead over 5th and 6th place finishers from Day 1 would not be enough time to ride comfortably, particularly since the course would bring over 4000ft of climbing--1000ft more than the previous day.  After a short rolling warmup to start the race, JR would have us climbing the most enjoyable climb of the two days.  This first of many climbs had several switchbacks, varying grades, and surfaces from tar-and-chip to gravel, to dirt and sand, back to gravel with gorgeous views from "almost heaven" ridges.  

Surprisingly, my legs were not as fatigued from Day 1 as I had anticipated.   I crossed the first climb with a bit of a lead on yesterday's 5th and 6th place finishers.  Aware of this, I hammered the ensuing downhill with possibly too much trust in my tire pressures.  The heavy rains from the week leading up to the race had washed ruts in the gravel and exposed a drain pipe three-fourths of the way down.  My attempt to hop the pipe slammed the rear tire onto the downhill lip of that washout, flatting the tire, and pushing the rim out of true.   A quick tube change, a shot of CO2, and back to racing with time to spare on the competition, right?    Evidently, one of the two tubes in the Camelbak was a patched tube from a year ago...a failed patch at that.  The tire quickly inflated, then deflated.   (Two lessons learned:  1) just buy new spare tubes for races and 2) put a little air in them for a quicker install).  

With tube #2 in place and holding air, I was on my way, but in the role of the chaser.   I was grabbing every wheel ahead of me, trying to work back up to the 40+ 'ers that had passed me and eventually catching Curt Brown, Day #1's 3rd place finisher, who had also suffered the same fate that I had just minutes ago.   Although it seemed beneficial to both of us to work together to climb our way back, he didn't appear to be as interested.  So, I rode on with the extra resistance of a rim dragging against a brake pad.   We chatted about various bike related issues which seemed to take my mind off of the burning in my legs and lungs through the remainder of the race.

sorry Princess

Up and over the last climb and ridge, I began bombing down the forever descent to the finish, trying not to touch the brakes in hopes that it would make up some time on the competition and hold onto the GC podium.   Although I managed to catch Scott "Princess" House of CER, I fell short of the Master's Day 2 podium, and 4 minutes off of the GC podium for the weekend.   Fortunately, Dynamic Physical Therapy p/b Pathfinder placed several racers atop the podium with Derek, Shawn and Cara, as well as Nate and Stephanie placing in their respective categories.  Congrats team!

Overall, the Mountain State Dirty Double was a great race with a great format created by JR.  It's organization from registration through the awards on day 2 was beyond exceptional thanks to JR and Gina, and a phenomenal group of volunteers.   I enjoyed every minute of it, and looking forward to the 2015 version.