Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Decompressing MTB Nats

It has been over a week now, and although the event was a lot of fun, especially with the fam, I hadn't been able to have closure on the biggest event of my season. This year brought 2 major changes in my racing: new coach, new category. Thus, it has been difficult to gauge my fitness against a new level of competition. I also skipped out on no less than 6 spring road races plus a stage race so I wasn't sure if that would hurt or not affect my performance.
Looking at the results at Nats, I'd like to think I can draw the conclusion that I am in decent shape, I am inline with where I was last year, and my result is indicative of where I should have finished. Here is how I came up with this:
1. My finish time of 130minutes was a few slower than French Freye's which was close to our finish at a race the weekend before.
2. This time would have placed me close to 40th in the pros who did the same # laps.*
3. My time divided by 4 laps versus the experts time divided by 3 laps would have put me in contention to win every expert age category.* U23 is a different story however!
* The pros raced on slightly wetter terrain, the experts a bit more so. But, with the experts doing only 3 laps, I'm pretty sure I would have been pushing quite a bit harder on the climbs so it's a wash in my book.

If you think this is BS, keep quiet because it's helping me feel better about my race! Another no-race weekend coming up, but I'm hoping to hit up both Bbury and the 'bowl.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Off Week

With the cancellation of the Bradbury Enduro, the timing was prime for a proper week off the bike. This is something I haven't done the past few years. The hope is I stave off my traditional 'cross season meltdown and finish strong. I honestly don't know what I did with all my freetime, but I think it was good! I got back on the bike Sunday with John Alfond, a CO resident whose heart remains in the East.

Summer actually is fun doing things rather than riding! We spent 3 days on 3 different lakes Friday-Sunday!

Friday, July 25, 2008

KONA 2k9

Just got a sneak peek at Kona's 2009 bike lineup courtesy of Facebook. Dang, I'm drooling.
I could tell you what's in there, but then I'd have to kill you!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dual Slalom Training

The boys really enjoyed watching the DS event at Mt. Snow. Since I'm grooming them to become professional cyclists (drugs not included) I figured I'd help get them trained.

Shimano Kids' Race Report 7/20

The most competitive event of the weekend was the kids' races on Sunday. Fenix raced in the 3-5 year-old division and Drake competed against the 6-8 year-olds. This is always a fun time with the pros mixed in the field and the parents hoping their kid doesn't have a meltdown!
Fenix went off first and I rode with him. He was solidly in the top-10 when he suddenly wrecked on the finishing straight! No idea what happened. Fortunately there was no drama, he dusted himself off and rode over the line relatively unscathed. All he could think about was the Gatorade and medal!
Drake took off next. His group did 1 full lap of the ST course. He had a front row start (not like dad!) and got away clean avoiding the standard startline pileup. He battled back and forth for 6th until his competition wrecked in a turn and Drake cruised in with the spot.
For their efforts, Oakley offerred them full sponsorship and this new rig to drive to the races. Unfortunately they needed a license, so Oakley had to rescind the offer.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

USA MTB Nats ST Report 7/20


Sunday marked the final day of the Nats saga. But it would not go quietly!
Weather was pretty decent, overcast, slight sprinkles, but still pretty humid. The course looped us out of the start/finish and halfway up the first loose dirt/rock access road before traversing athe grassy ski slope, then scream down towards the base, then a short bump up, a right and a sweeping left to the finishing straight. I expected the pace to be high right from the gun so I set out for a longer warmup to be ready for the pain.
I was a little more savvy about getting to the line early. I was first row in the staging pen, then 2nd row after callups. I was optimistic for once!

Burns and I before the pain really set in

The whistle blew and we were off. I chose the right-hand outside line knowing remembering from starts in the past that the first soft left-hander generally bottles riders up. I hoped to ride wide in an open lane. Well, it's OK to hope I guess! There was a chaotic skidding and rubbing of tires from all sides and the bottlenecking spread across the whole width of the track. I was getting bumped more and more outside until I ran out for room and the barrier impeded my progress. I hit the brakes, killing all momentum and was now watching the leaders and eveyone else pull away. Things were still congested and slow up the climb and we were soon single file. Coming through the start/finish I was last, I couldn't believe what or how it all happened! Some people may say they were last at some point, but really mean like last group. I was DFL! Oh the humanity! I laughed as I passed Babs and the kids, it was all I could do! The mind said quit, but the brain doesn't know how to do that so I pressed on, keeping with the pass/don't get passed theme for the weekend. For the next 19 minutes I fished for riders ahead of me, keeping motivated I was improving my finish every lap. Of course I was begging to get pulled every lap, but I was mid-pack late in the race and too close to pack it in. Riders were tougher to pass as time went on. Thom Parsons was the rabbit I was chasing in the closing minutes. Note: Thom races on a singlespeed. He raced XC Friday, SS Saturday, and now ST. He deserves the Ironman (Ironhead? Ironlung?) Award for the weekend. He is a proper biker. I would get him on the flats as he spun out of gear, but he would mash the climb and bridge back. As we closed on the 20th minute, I got by him and his group on the climb, but was too far back from John Burns to justify keeping me in the race for the final 3 laps so I and the rest behind me were pulled.
A carbon copy of the day before, I in 20th, Burns in 19th. I guess that's consistency and where we belong. But on this day, I really wonder where I would have finished had I had a better start. Fellow Mainer Brad Perley put in a great effort and finished 16th. I kept the Hei Hei fully locked out and it felt like a plush hardtail.
Again, I'm satisfied with the result all things considered, completing a fully enjoyable Nats experience.
Next up is a rest week, then a favorite race at the Camden Snowbowl 8/10.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

USA MTB Nats XC Report 7/18


Friday morning dawned into a nice day. There was no precipitation, meaning the course was going to be exactly as I had pre-ridden it the day before. Confidence was high. I put slicks on the Kona and spun out on the road for 1/2 hour, saving the intense efforts for the race and ecpecting to start out slowly.

I took the start a bit too casually as I expected there would be call-ups for all racers. I figured there was no sense in staking a position on the line and used the time to stay loose. Sure enough, they called up like 10 guys and then me, as in: "The rest of the field!" Dangit! Unfortunately, this is nothing new to me, so I accepted my BACK ROW position and set my mind to "Passing feels better than being passed" mode. I made up ample positions once the course widened and started going up choosing less-travelled lines that I had scoped out the day before knwoing they'd be good. I was amazed that guys were getting off on the first steep section. Must have been due to too many guys in too small a space. I was right behind Thom Parsons at this point and we both were doing track stands just waiting for things to get organized and flush out. I made up more spots on the first descent (that was a surprise too!) and then set out for the toughest climbing of the course. I don't remember whether I hit the granny gear the first lap or not, but I sure did later. Funny thing is I did 2 laps pre-riding in the middle and never felt badly. I guess a 4-lap race changes one's plan of attack in a hurry. There were mini-groups of guys ahead and they served as goals to bridge up to. I would generally reach them on a cliimb, ride their pace, then pass on the next flat. My confidence in the singletrack descent the day before dissipated each lap. The first lap I was able to ride Thom's wheel so that went well. But the remaining 3 laps I always entered solo. On my second lap my front wheel washed out on a fast right-hand turn so I think my conservative mode kicked in from there. Everytime I went in with a gap on guys behind, it was erased by the time we exited so I was definitely losing time in there.
"Dad might be faster on a dirt bike!"
The race was pretty unexciting overall. The last lap was a true test of perseverance. Brad Perley was sitting with his mom on the toughest climb of the course and he said "Just keep the legs sppinning" as I went by for the last time. All I wanted to do was get off, but that helped me get over the hump and finish. I pretty much emptied the tank. The legs were just starting to send cramp threats on the last annoying climb in between singletracks so I knew I had no accelerations left for a sprint. John Burns blew by me on the final approach to the finish and I just waved him by, I was done.
So I'm pleased with the result. There's a chance I could have been top-15 with a better start, but the reality is I met my goal of a top-20 finish(I dreamed of a top-10, but people say I'm a dreamer!). Not bad for an Old Man I say! The Hei Hei was a real asset on the course. Its lightweight coupled with the lockout-ability of the shocks helped put the power to the ground rather than bobbing. I was fully confident on it all day.
Babs and the boys were awesome in the pits handing out bottles, telling me what position I was in, and providing motivation, a real team effort. Next up is a fun/rest day, then the short track on Sunday.

USA MTB Nats XC Pre-race report

The fam and I loaded up the family truckster and made the trek south and west on Wednesday to Mt. Snow using the rest day for travel.

Babs' KONA Lisa HT was relegated to ride in the elements on the roof

We stopped in Brattleboro for dinner at an old stomping ground when I was in grad school

Thursday was pre-ride day. The boys were equally amped to be riding.

I originally planned to road ride to loosen up and do 1 lap of the course given the traditional brutality of the course. But, I eased onto the course instead and soon headed through the start/finish and up the mountain. There were rumors of changes to the course, but I still didn't really know what to expect. The start loop was quite different, taking out a techy singletrack section and replacing it with a screaming downhill on a fireroad back to the start/finish area. Then the toughest climbing of the lap began. The bonus being, they took out a 99% 0f the time impossible to ride section and sent us up a fire road instead. It was this section where I lost the jersey last year as the eventual winner was a faster runner than I. This is not XTERRA, this is just biking, and the winner should be the best biker, not duathlete. The mid-section of the course was pretty much all climbing, but the descent down was well worth it. They also re-routed some of the most challenging downhill singletrack making it a very rider-friendly course for all participants, albeit less challenging for the more advanced riders. Also excluded was a perennial mud bog that seemed to collect all of the mountains drainage after a rainstorm, and it always seems to rain here. I was very happy descending, so happy that I decided to do another lap.
The legs felt good and I was amped for the race the next day, a nice change from my usual nervousness.

Podium pose practice

Friday, July 18, 2008

MMBA #3 Race Report 7/13/08

2nd Overall
1st Expert Vet

This is going to be brief because I am already 1 race behind reporting.
I left the fam on the Cape on Saturday and drove home to ME for a night's sleep at home before heading to the campus of UMaine Orono for the Campus Krusher.
Master of Mud bragging rights were on the line between Racin' Rick and I. But we were all competing for 2nd place as I brought French Freye up with me.
We arrived ample early and Rick, Freye, and Big Al and I had a spirited pre-ride of the 6 mile course. It was a mix of technical, rooty, baby head rock singletrack/XC ski doubletrack/open road. Climbing was virtually non-existent.
At the gun, Freye took off and was never to be seen again. That left Al, Rick and I in a mini-group. There was an exchange of positions as I hesitated in the 1st techy stuff and Rick passed. At the next open section Al came around and appeared to be planning to set the tempo for us. I wanted to avoid any team strategery and passed them both just before the next singletrack. At some point Al passed me again and I really thought I was getting played as it didn't sound like Rick was close and I thought Al was going to kill the pace to let him catch up. To make matters worse, I dropped my H2O bottle very early on and with only 3 laps to race, I was very concerned I was going to be hurting later on and didn't want to go hard. Then again, I deduced Al was doing his pre-cross training routine and going hard early on because he sure wasn't slowing! Then, we came around a bend and there was Rick with his injured bike. So the pressure to beat Rick was off. It was now simply a matter of finishing strong and intact. Al, a consummate good sport gave me a pull of his bottle at 1 point and that was all I needed to feel like I could hang on. We headed into our 2nd lap together, I behind Al, as I picked up a fresh bottle. I washed a front wheel once and lost some time, but Al dropped a chain after a mud bog and I slipped by, and the racing ended there. I went hard to create a gap and then rode my pace for the rest. I really enjoyed the course, but my body took a bit of a beating from the tough terrain.
I was pleased with my time, -3 minutes behind Freye and glad to have made the trek north for a great ride. It was unfortunate the drama between Rick and I didn't play out, but there will be more opportunities!
Next up is Natz at Mt. Snow!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

NECS #5 Horror at Harding Hill Race Report

Elite 4th/8

I took a detour due west en-route to the Cape and hit up this EFTA event in Sunapee, NH. Ordinarily I’d be competing at the Fitchburg Longsjo Stage Race at this time of year. But several factors helped me decide it was not meant to be this year. The hope is this is better prep for Natz next week anyway.
This was a seriously small-town event run by the Sunapee Lions Club held not so much at the Sunapee ski resort, but more in a field that has some fire roads and simple singletrack in the woods. Nonetheless, I was happy to enjoy an effort on the mountain bike on a nice albeit hot day. At registration there was no elite class so I expected to be doing the expert age-class thing. However, at the start line they asked if there was anyone who wanted to race elite so I rolled up with 7 others and we were off first. The course was very reminiscent of Sugarloaf, 5 miles of wide open rolling double track that would periodically dice into singletrack sections. But way easier in terms of less climbing and non-technical singletrack. So it was no surprise we quickly settled into a fast 5-man freight train with U23 National Team Member Ethan Glimour setting the early pace with pros Adam Snyder and Nathan Ringquist in second and third then a Rhino Racing rider and I bringing up the rear. The pace was quick but not intolerable. The front got shuffled a bit after Ringquist was pushing the pace on the climbs the last 3rd of the lap. We rolled through the start/finish as a group intact and set out for our 2nd lap. Given the fact they started novices some 20 minutes after us and lap times were like 25 minutes we quickly came upon lapped traffic. After mowing a few of them down, the group was shuffled again and I found myself in 2nd on Ringquist’s wheel and experiencing first-hand his intention to push the climbs but chill a bit on the flats. All was going according to plan when we hit one of the bumpiest tech sections and I dropped a chain and was ghost peddling forcing Gilmour and Snyder to dismount as they were right on my tail. I gathered my crap up and got rolling again only to drop the chain again, this time those guys got around me and my losing time began. I tried to chase back on through the start/finish but also needed to slow to pick up a bottle. It was tough to make up time on the fast double track so I hoped I could eat into the lead in the techy stuff. Unfortunately, the lappers were everywhere now, especially in these areas and instead of making time, I was losing it. I had a couple of dabs having to come to complete stops behind some riders, including watching a guy ham it up for the crowd and launch himself over a boulder and land flat on his side! So the 3rd and 4th laps I was on my own, catching glimpses of Gilmour ahead, but could never close the gap and settled for 4th place, 1 out of the $. That’s OK because my prize was arriving on the Cape and greeted by the family.So it’s a week of R&R with the family then the MMBA event at a new Bangor location.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

For the love of biking

Had a couple of extremes training the last 2 days. Tuesday I cruised to Portland for my first group road ride of the year. This PVC ride is pretty rigorous depending on who shows up. Nonetheless, the hills don't get any flatter so you can easily tire yourself out over the course of this 48 miler. Eric Weinrich was there and he and an Elite rider got away for 75% of the ride so it was a semi-chase-mode ride. It was great to ride with others. A late ride downpour cooled down the engine speeding up recovery.

Yesterday I connected with Racin' Rick (he got a new haricut):and Mike Hartley (who threw down a torrid pace):
at the Snowbowl in Camden. I had no agenda and was just looking forward to mtb riding some climbs and sections of trail I don't get to at the annual race. This was a nice mix of riders, each of us with unique strengths pushing the others to ride slightly out of the comfort zone. Rick's blog has a nice write-up, pics (suprisingly unselfish, none of him!), and a profile of our ride. Mike brought his Shepard/Husky/Kujo mix dog who made the whole 2:45hr ride. She was fast and had even another gear called "Squirrel!"
We completed our descent and Rick says he's going up to the top 1 more time because it was still light out! Dang I was on empty, but Mike and his dog were in so who was I to say no? The final time down made all the effort worth it and I pedaled straight to the lake and walked in fully geared. After a tuna sammy and beers with the boys I was fully satisfied and grateful for the opportunity to ride with these guys.
I thought I wasn't hungry, but I couldn't resist the golden arches as I cruised through Augusta and succombed to a Big Mac and shake attack. It was like an eater's playground!
Next up is the NECS Horror at Harding event in Sunapee, NH. I'm ready!