Friday, July 27, 2007
I spent the rest of the ride across the street yesterday as it was just a tempo day for me. Got my requisite over-the-handlebars moment over with early on. The most challenging sections are the first 2 so we get them over quickly. There are brief monents for recovery on the double track sections. We get a nice long break as we bomb down the snowmobile trail/road right down the middle. All told I had just under 13 miles of singletrack action. Could there ever be too much singletrack?!
My sense is this race is going to be as much about mental toughness and concentration as it is about endurance. Although the singletrack is not technically difficult, it commands your full attention as a lapse in focus can find you overcooking a turn and breaking new trail.
I hope it's more fun than obnoxiously long!
I'll hit the mountain side Saturday to get a full feel for the race.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
What a fun finish to the weekend! Although I had a slight all-over-body soreness, I was looking forward to this short track race. Thankfully, my coach Beau mandated I do a longer-than-normal warm-up in order to flush out some of the XC abuse and be primed to go for today’s event. This race was on a short, maybe 1/2K loop around the base lodge area that had 1 stiff up and down and a hairpin turn to the finish straight. The race was 20 minutes plus 3 laps long. Since it consisted of any Expert 30 years or older, I didn’t know what the caliber would be, but I assumed tough. Turns out the winner placed 7th and the runner up was 2nd in their Expert 30-35 XC race the day before so the field was tough for sure.
I got a call up so was able to line up on the front line. I learned from my experience in this event last year that you have to be in contact with the front group if you want to have a chance in the end. Last year I got pinched on the inside of the 1st corner and could never make up spots and ended up chasing around the front pack of 10 in no-man’s land. Today, I got the hole shot and led the field around the first couple of laps. I quickly realized this wasn’t the ideal place to be for the next 20 minutes as I wasn’t getting away and there was enough of a headwind on the front stretch that made the effort at the front. After a few laps one guy made a break and stayed away for a few circuits. With the help of a few others, we reeled him in and settled into a true road criterium type race. I was always positioned in the top 3 so I knew exactly what was going on at all times. After yesterday’s narrow loss, I had ample motivation to go for a win.
The race ebbed and flowed as we were a pack of about 10 riders as many couldn’t match the early pace. We slowed considerably as the 20-minute mark came around as riders were looking to conserve energy for a final assault. The guy who made an earlier break was out in front when we were at 3 laps to go and I started tapping my previous crit racing experience. There have been far too may times when I’ve said to myself I should have done something, but was too conservative and ended up with nothing to show for it anyway. When we crossed the line with 2 laps to go, I decided I would make my move. The Specialized guy was out front, and I was 3rd wheel. There was a flat just before the climb and that’s where I hit the gas. I leaped out of the pack and stormed up the hill. I knew I was fast on the descent and turns so whatever gap I could create on the climb I would hold through to the start/finish at least. I had nothing to lose. Pulling from the experience I had the F-L crit, if I didn’t make a move I would have had to contend with a pack sprint finish and only hope to finish top-5. Today, I was in control and dictating the outcome; best case scenario: win, worst: pack finish. So I kept pounding the pedals. The roar of the crowd was chilling as I ripped through the start/finish solo. I never looked back because I didn’t want to! I heard Babs through the din and I gave it all I had heading up the climb. Unfortunately, the Specialized guy ended up bridging the gap and he was towing someone along whom I hadn’t seen all race. They just got ahead of me at the top of the hill which meant it was going to come down to the final turn. As I was 3rd wheel there, I was pretty much SOL. But I had a chance to glance back and see I had a gap behind so I knew I was on the podium. The 2 ahead of me had a fierce sprint and the new guy just edged out the Specialized guy. Nice strategy on his part. He chilled in the pack all race and had the legs to sprint at the end. His body type was also way stronger than either of ours so that was clearly his strength.
The announcer said that was the most exciting racing he has ever seen as strategy, tactics, and power were all used to the limit. I had a lot of fun (although I was hating life during the race!) and was very happy with the finish. Babs was so amped up! She even said she almost threw up when I went solo! Her excitement made all the pain worthwhile.
Next year, 2 jerseys!
0:00:07 is the story of the day.
As I had hoped, the weather cooperated as best as it could. The sun and breeze the day before did a good job drying the course where it could. Nonetheless, I turned the wheelset into tubeless and ran mud tires which were a timely purchase with my Snow Bowl race winnings. Race day was sunny and fairly mild so there was no worry of under-hydrating. After some callups, I lined up on the 2nd row and set my mind to the task at hand. I hoped I would get out to a good start, hit the 1st singletrack top-5 or so, and settle in to a groove. I knew my strength was climbing so I would push the pace there and play the descent conservatively. I had no idea what the conditions were going to be like in the woods and I didn’t want to lose the race there. There were some fast cats in my group whom I knew from New England that I marked as challengers, but had no idea what the talent level was from guys from away.
The whistle blew and we were off. I didn’t have a very good start and was only top-10 heading into the woods. As I suspected, Troy Kimball leaped up the climb and had a gap already. However, in the first section of woods, it was mayhem. Seems like everyone ahead of me crashed, including Kimball. I quickly dismounted rather than try to ride through the carnage and ended up passing at least 5 guys. I emerged unscathed and set my sights on what ended up being only a couple of guys ahead as we began our ascent. I soon passed Stu Jensen asking if he knew who was up ahead. He said just 1 other. I had no idea Kimball had wiped out back in the woods and he was 1 of the one’s I got by. So I settled in and tried to match the pace of the rider ahead of me. He was a tad quicker than I so he built up somewhat of a gap. I wasn’t too concerned as this was only lap 1 of 3. I was worried about who was behind me and I focused on keeping them at bay. I hadn’t seen Mark Gunsalus or Sam Wilcox yet. I maintained a good pace straight to the top keeping the leader (even though I thought he was maybe 2nd) in sight. But, just as we reached the summit and were about to enter the downhill singletrack, Wilcox came around me and entered the trail ahead of me. I was expecting it, so I just vowed to take it easy, stay upright, and try to follow his wheel. Well, that worked for a minute as I quickly endoed in a deep mud hole that caught me by surprise. My hands saved me, but were caked in mud. I shook it off, and headed on at my own pace. As it turns out, I didn’t loose too much time and the 2 guys ahead were in sight. I pursued them at a steady pace and prepared mentally for lap 2. I was on Wilcox’s wheel the whole time up to the summit allowing me to execute my plan to enter the singletrack ahead of him, hoping to dictate the pace and not loose any time as he was a talented descender. The tactic was short lived as I came up on lapped traffic and was slowed at a run section and Wilcox got by me. Again, I didn’t panic. I made it through and came out of the woods even closer to him than the 1st lap. I guess it was at this point that I forgot about the 1st place guy as I was focused on Wilcox. We rode through the start/finish close, but not wheel to wheel, and embarked on our final lap. I felt like I was in a good position and was going to push the climbs as I felt like I still had gas in the tank. I hadn’t used the granny gear the whole day and the legs felt strong. But, Wilcox made the move of the day when he pushed the pace on the section of singetrack at the base of the mountain that was unrideable. He ran smoothly and quickly and I just didn’t realize it in time and he was soon out of sight. When we emerged on an open climb section, I saw he was pretty far away and it was going to be difficult for me to bridge the gap. I’m pretty sure I went as hard as I could, but never saw the gap close so he must have been pushing it as well. Mid-way up the climb I was surprised to come up on the other guy in our class whom I forgot about. He was maxed out so I just continued on thinking how lucky I was. I summited and began the descent focused on riding defensively and conservatively. The race could not be won in the woods, but easily lost. I emerged in good shape at the bottom and was set to cruise to the finish when what to me wondering eyes should appear, but Wilcox a little ways up! After shaking off my disbelief, I set out to try to reel him in. I had under 1K to go, so there wasn’t much time, but the course was wide open so I had a chance I thought. However, he too was emptying his tank whether he knew I was back there or not and I just ran out of time and space.
So, after 2 hours and 12 minutes of racing, I missed out on the championship jersey by 7 seconds. There was a time when I would have been pissed and broken something, but I was at relative peace the finish. I was competitive and had a good clean race. Of course there were ample opportunities to have made up 7 seconds somewhere earlier in the race, but I’m sure the winner could have made up more time too, so it’s all good. I was close, but no jersey. But, you can count on 0:00:07 written on my handlebars as I prepare for next year’s championship!
Thanks go obviously to Babs and the boys for feeding me, Kennebec Bike and Ski for tuning the bike perfectly, my coach Beau for taking me to this level, and Kona providing me with a bike that helps me exude confidence both climbing and descending.
On race day, Babs and the boys positioned themselves in the feed zone and patiently waited for me to come by for the bottle exchanges. Drake was awesome as he held out a water which I could down while riding through the zone and then I traded with Babs up the hill. Fenix was the mechanic as he tried to spray off my derailleur. They all helped me get through the event and it’s always great seeing them excited at the finish. We waited a ridonculously long time for the awards presentation, then headed back to the pool which I think was pretty key for my recovery.
Babs made a mountain out of a mole hill and whipped up another great supper out of the leftovers, refilling my tank prepping me for the short track. That morning we packed up, they snuck 1 more session in at the pool while I did an extra long warm up. Babs and the boys hung out at the playground which was surrounded by the STXC course as we raced around and around. The boys were oblivious to the race, but I could hear Babs every time around really motivating me! The rest of the day was all about fun as the boys had their race with the pros. As un-luck would have it, my STXC awards ceremony was at the same time as the kids’ race so Babs was solo (what else is new?!).
Fenix is NOT intimidated!Drake went off no problem and raced around coming in 2nd. Babs chased Fenix all the way around giving him a hand when needed as this was his first no training wheels event. They both were were stoked to get their medals and Gatorade! Babs was happy everyone, including herself, were still in 1 piece! We took 1 more cruise through the venue where the boys met and got an autograph from the future star Sam Shultz. We then loaded back up and headed south, then east, then north, then south then east, then north to Maine culminating the trip with a much-anticipated stop at Gritty’s and Ben & Jerry’s in Freeport.
It was great to be home after a much rewarding trip. I owe everything to Babs who was the consummate team manager and who put up with my PRS (Pre Race Syndrome) like a champ. I appreciate all the sacrifices she and the boys have made to help get me to this level. I can only hope to repay them somehow, someday. Then again, Drake seems pretty happy with just holding a frog!
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
1st Overall Expert/Elite
Well, I had an elaborate report that is now apparently lost in cyberspace. So let me cut to the chase. I'm totally and pleasantly suprised by my result. At the line, my strategy was to keep Big Al in check, ride Racin' Rick's wheel on the descent, reel in Adam Larochelle eventually, and maybe ride with Freye for a lap or 2. Everything started out as hoped, Adam took off, Al had a ferocious start then settled in to a groove, and Rick towed Freye and me to the top and down on the first lap. Rick motored the descent and the rough stuff with his 29er. On lap 2, Adam was 2 minutes ahead and Rick, Freye and I teamed up on the ascent to begin the chase. At the top, all hell broke loose. Andrew slowed I thought just for a drink but was never seen again. Partway down the descent Rick pulled off stating he had a slow leak. This left me in sole possession of 2nd place. I felt lost without my riding partners! I soldiered on, trying to stay smooth and maintain a solid pace with the hope still of catching Adam. On the 3rd lap, I scaled back on the ascent and spun in the granny gear, wanting to save something for the final lap. The new sections were deceptively difficult. The soft and challenging terrain drained more out of you than you realized. Halfway through the 3rd lap I came upon Adam walking his bike. I couldn't believe what was happening! He broke a chain and I inherited the lead. Naturally, there's an adrenaline surge when you're first, but I had to temper it with the fact that I had another complete lap to go. Luckily I had conserved enough gas and made my way up the climb steadily, back in the middle ring. I was tired, yes. There were a few spots that I rode easily 3 times before, but now had to dismount and run quickly. But once at the top, I realized my fatigue was not limited to my legs, my left forearm and index finger froze on the downhill scaring the crap out of me! My upper body had taken a beating and it was rebelling at the worst time. I tried to flex it out as best I could, but I was forced to be extra conservative on the descent. The remaining lap wasn't pretty! I ate dirt a couple of times, including hitting a random tree stump and in the last singletrack section where you have to whoa down to fit between 2 trees! I was gassed to say the least! But I made it to the finish and was happy.
Props go to Big Al for toughing it out as long as he did on a rigid bike and condolences to Adam, Rick, and Freye for their mechanical mishaps. I thought this was going to be the first race where a strategy was going to be played out.
Now it's off to Nats at Mt. Snow to compete against the best of the best. This is what all the training has been for.
Monday, July 16, 2007
I still had the Aegis T2 I borrowed from owner Pete Orne when fellow Kents Hillian Matt Moore told me about this race he was heading to. I seized the opportunity to ride this awesome bike again and he and I headed south early in the morning.
Unfortunately it was a rainy day so spirits were somewhat dappened, but we rationalized it was going to be better than training in the rain.
We joined a record number of participants (90 or so), warmed up on our trainers and pounded the pedals. The course was just over 12 miles of mostly flat so it was a true hammer fest! Matt went out some 7 minutes ahead of me in light showers and wet roads. It didn't rain on my run, but one had to make full use of the road to avoid the running water and standing puddles.
Matt ended up 10th in our age group and 41st overall with a personal best sub-32 minute time.
Former NHLer Eric Weinrich finished ahead of me, he's strong!
I'm glad Matt talked me into the race and grateful Babs and the boys let me sneak it in. It was a fun event, except for the suffering!
Thanks to Cadence Photo
Final GC: 26th
It’s taken me a while to write this! I guess I’ve been grappling with the disappointment of the road race the previous day and its affect on my final GC.
I felt pretty well recovered after an ice bath and re-fueling the body. I was concerned going into the crit that I may not be able to keep up with the group, but it was apparent from the gun I was feeling fine. The weather was fantastic once again, so no issues there.
The big question was, who was going to win the overall? Johnny Bold who set the blistering TT time (but 2nd place was still only 2 seconds behind him) lost his lead at the road race by finishing 9 seconds behind the 2nd place racer. Crits are Johnny’s specialty, but this field was stacked and he had no teammates while the new leader had several.
As it turns out, the field stayed largely together, no one was really going to get away. I yo-yoed around the top-20 until the last 1/3 of the race where I focused on staying towards the front. At 1 point I found myself in a little 3-man break and earned some sprint points by coming across the line 3rd. the pack re-grouped with 3 to-go and now I found myself dangling all alone at the front of the pack. Everyone else was prepping for the sprint finish. It’s at this point that I should have made some noise and taken off on a solo effort. Clearly teams were getting organized and I was no threat to the overall so there’s a chance they would have let me go. I knew this was an opportunity, but basically chickened out thinking there was no way I could pull it off. In hindsight, I should have asked myself: What’s the worst that can happen? I get caught and finish with the pack and lose nothing? That would have convinced me to go because there wasn’t much hope of doing anything more than finishing with the pack anyways. Once again, my no strategy and lack of confidence cost me at least a shot at taking a positive out of the weekend.
Oh well. I’ll remember that one for a long time and hope to use it as motivation some time.
I want to be on this podium!So, I’m disappointed with my final placing based on my unexpected success last year. But, the cramping before the climb was out of my control and was the deciding factor to my end result. It’s back onto the mountain bike from here as I prep for Nats at Mt. Snow.