Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cycle-Smart International Race Reports

I've been remiss on the blogging front, because I killed my GoPro (more on that later) and blogging without videos just seems soooooo 2008.  But CSI was great, we've got a cup of coffee and an hour, let's DO THIS!

CSI Day 1

The Saturday course remains one of my favorite in New England, despite the fact that there is a GOD AWFUL WINDY POWER SECTION in the lower field, because everything else is jam-packed with FUN:  sandpit, runup, rideup with stairs that you could only ride if you were insanely motivated, pro line downhill, rad woods.

Stoke was high.  Random number was also high.  But it's okay!  I sliced and diced through the aforementioned power section and was deep into the core of the field heading into the fun section on lap one.  

But then, as I was passing some guys on the outside of a turn, the standard UCI-lap-one-almost-crash happened where a tangle led to a chain reaction of five people barely-not-crashing.  Which was great, except that Trent Blackburn's not-crashing moved his rear skewer directly into the line my front wheel was committed to, and then he and I were very much crashing.

Sorry Trent.

I swear I was up and back on my bike in under five seconds, but when the race is wheel-to-wheel that's enough to go from "comfortably in the middle" to "last." 

I immediately got out of last, though, because some guy hooked his bike on the unbreakable tape on the runup dismount, and had never dealt with unbreakable tape before (thanks JD).  So instead of unhooking it from his bars  he tried to break it by pulling his bike, and it's entirely possible he's still there to this day, uprooting more and more stakes with panicked tugging.

I started furiously chopping my way out of last place, because I am better than last place (tm).  

AJ Moran counter-chopped me while RUNNING down the pro line, which was great, there is a video of it on the internet but I can't find it now and speed bloggers don't have time to google "got GLVed at CSI video rad" for the next 10 minutes :(

My legs were refreshingly functional so I made some real progress for a while.  Right about the time that progress stalled, Eric Follen caught my group and he was in full Wilcox-mode.  Wait, do you guys even know what Wilcox mode is?  Sigh.  It's when you spend 15 minutes warming up during the race, and then become the fastest guy on the course and break scrub-zone hearts for 45 minutes.


So Follen cruises through with his sub-1-hour Mt Washington wattage, and then the game was to hack my way through traffic and shred technical sections to stay on his wheel for as long as possible. It was excruciating, but effective, and I think I managed to win the game for at least 3 laps, which is longer than anyone else around us did!

I finally gave up on Eric as he pulled me into Andrew Lysaght's group, because now #houseclash was on, and my body hurt.

Since I had caught Andrew it was clear that I was going to win #houseclash.

Then, as we rode along the upper road section, there was a brutal ping-chunk from my back end, as my rear wheel destroyed my chainstay cam.

After 5 years of running a GoPro less than an inch from my spokes, I finally got to find out what would happen if they touched!  It was surprisingly not-catastrophic... but it did leave me with a broken-off GoPro mount spinning wildly on my rear chainstay, which was loud, and distracting.  

So I stopped to take it off, and giving up 10 seconds at Noho with two laps to go HURTS.  I chased and chased and chased, and I watched Andrew sit in while some other jerk pulled the group around, and I knew exactly what was happening -- right about the time I started to threaten to regain contact, he attacked, shelled the guy who had been pulling (that's what you get for pulling my friend around, jerk), and rode away from me for the #houseclash win.

I ended up 37th/65, which was pretty tolerable for being 65th/65 at one point.  On to the next one!
Jesse Quags took this photo of me looking competent on the very legit pro-only section!

CSI Day 2

In typical double weekend fashion, day one left me thinking "wow, take away the crash and the chainstay cam explosion and you coulda had a great result."  Hopes were high...and legs were crap.  Dammit.

I had a much better random draw and a crash-free start, but you know what, being mid-20s on lap one when you're a mid-30s racer actually just means that you're going to have a pretty demoralizing race day.  Every group I was in was stronger than me, and the field was windy, and legs were bad.  I got popped from groups I really really really wanted to be in.  Over and over.

This also led to a lot of riding around in the wind by myself, which of course is my forte.  I built some character by going as hard as my little legs could go (that's how you're supposed to bike race, right?  I frequently try to avoid this) which still wasn't fast enough to avoid getting caught by Eric Follen (duh) with a few laps to go.

Eric had helpfully towed Preston up to me,  but he had also punched Preston straight in the face with his calves for half an hour.  I lasted about four minutes with the Follen group and pulled the plug when he accelerated to 0.9c on the finish straight.

Preston came around to try to close the gap, but the warping of space-time made it impossible, and soon it became cleared that Preston and I were going to have a classic end-of-race-throwdown-with-your-buddy.

I came up next to him on the runup and he was breathing like he was dying, which seemed like a good sign, so I pushed it a little through the next technical section and oh, crap, now I have a GAP with 1.5 laps to go, so I had to do real honest work, instead of just winning the sprint?  Sweet plan Colin.

But I did!  It's probable that Preston was totally slain from half an hour on the Eric Follen Express, but whatever, I'll take it.

I rolled in for 36th/63, getting basically the same result from Day 1 via totally different methods. 

And then I ordered a new GoPro.

In the meanwhile, you should watch the DirtWire highlights, because they are SO FREAKING GOOD:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Putney West Hill Shop Race Report

I just checked, and in my 10-year cyclocross career I've raced Putney eight times.  EIGHT!  Pretty sure the only events on the list that can top that are Gloucester and Cycle-Smart (9).  I remember cheering for Dan Coady there ten years ago, right before he rode into a tree in a downpour, back when I was a Cat 4 but I hung around the races all day because cyclocross was so cool.  Five years ago it was also the race I went to right before my whole life exploded, but the beauty of five years is that now that's just another funny thing that happened at Putney.

The old course (did you think we were done with blogstalgia?  HA)  used to be a sub-6-minute powerfest, with a brief technical section up around the shop and then riding the perimeter of the corn field, then the road, then the runup.  It was BRUTAL for people with bad steady-state power (hi) once they lost the draft.  

Slowly, though, the course has changed, and it seems like each year they add more turns in the cornfield.  The old Putney course is gone, and what remains is a cornering and sprinting extravaganza.

Hey do you know anyone around here who likes cornering and sprinting?

Unfortunately, my prerace prep involved 5 hours of riding downhill bikes at Berkshire East without food or water, and then certain hosts refilling my margarita glass against my will at least three times.  So when I awoke Sunday morning, it was clear that I would be MANAGING THE SITUATION and not SMASHING FACES once the race started.

There were 31 guys in the 1/2/3 race (I remember back when there were 10!  I finished in the money!  It was a niche sport then!) so the start was somewhat relevant.  I got away somewhere in the middle and began managing the frickin' situation, which on lap one meant "totally not reacting when the lead group of ten guys got a gap."  Nope.  I just stayed tucked in behind Andrew Lysaght and watched the race ride away.

A much more spirited Preston came flying by us and tried to go across the gap.  I don't know if he ever made it, but he eventually spent half an hour riding by himself, so I like to think my decision was appropriate.

Anyway.   The turny nature of the course led to minimal separation, and Andrew was still trying to figure out how much traction a downed cornstalk provides, so we spent the first few laps with tons of guys HANGING OUT, with me slowly realizing that I didn't feel anywhere near as terrible as I should have given the previous day.

Notably, Cary was dangling about 10 seconds behind the group, riding by himself, which I thought looked like deliciously more work than sitting in with five other guys on the road.

Despite my perception that we weren't really going that hard, we started both shedding guys from our group and picking up stragglers from the original lead group as the race wore on.  Somewhere along the line Andrew Borden (wait I just realized why so many people were cheering for Andrew Lysaght) came to the front and towed us around for probably three more laps.

Finally as we neared two to go he realized that watching my shadow coast while he pedaled on the road was not ideal, so he flicked me though, so I FINALLY took a pull, for all of one minute.  

The thing was, while I had been managing the situation, er, chilling, for the last half hour, Andrew Lysaght had been doing the same while figuring out how to beat me.  

So when we crested the runup, he attacked, and for the first time all day the wheel in front of me got really hard to follow.

I pulled my big boy pants up and stayed in contact, though, and after the turn fest in the field I was feeling like things were going to be okay, after all.  We had picked up a dangling Preston (30 minutes alone will do that to you), so the group was four.

When we hit the road Andrew L attacked again and I distinctly remember thinking "wow, if your line onto the road hadn't sucked you probably wouldn't have had to go STUPID HARD all the way to the turn to get back into the draft."

So I was at the back of the group.  And you better believe that when we crested the runup, and I saw Andrew had five bike lengths on us, and he stood up to attack again, that all I could think was "hey, hey, you guys shouldn't let that wheel go" as he rode away.

But it was hard so we let him go.

Any plans I might've had for heroic turn shredding and gap closing were squashed by Preston's presence in the group, because the last thing I wanted was to burn all my matches chasing Andrew just to get smoked on the road by Preston.

So we just watched Andrew ride away while preparing for the inevitable road-to-runup throwdown at the end of the race.

I have blogged about this here MANY times, which is kind of problem because I think Preston has read those blogs, and as we neared the cone in the road and I could see him looking around Andrew #2, I could tell he was going to attack exactly in my preferred attacking spot.

(I don't think Andrew #2 has read those blogs though)

So Preston lit it up, and all I could do was follow him, which meant he got to the runup first!  Luckily, I knew that the left line on the runup can be faster if you're freaking out hard enough (guess Preston didn't read far enough back in the blogs) so I smashed into the back of him on the dismount, ran up the left side, and drew even with him over the top:


"I totally got this," I thought to myself, right as I remounted and caught my chamois on the back of my saddle.

I regret to report that my balls might have been a casualty of the process of finding your pedals while your chamois is caught on your saddle and your heart rate is 300 and Preston is RIGHT THERE OMFGGGGG

Somehow I managed to get in my pedals and win the sprint by a wheel.

Then I lay down on the ground and flopped around pathetically trying to figure out how to get more air into my body so I didn't die.

It was awesome.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Orchard Cross Race Report

I raced Fruitlands Cup of Cyclocross on Saturday.  It went very, very badly.  Apparently not sleeping, not eating, and not riding for a week and then riding the most physically demanding cross course in New England is not a good plan.  I was sad from the gun and got sadder.  My major achievement was not dropping out in the hope of "getting open" for Orchard Cross, The Biggest Grassroots Race in New England (tm),  the following day.

It kinda sorta worked.

It certainly made me appreciate riding quite a bit better on a quite a bit easier course.

Rumors that Orchard Cross was much more power-oriented than years past proved to be a bit overblown -- I thought it still felt much closer to "balanced" that "disgusting roadie power fest and I hate you guys."

The holeshot was a total downhill sketchfest on tractor ruts.  I survived.  I might have advanced my position (27th?  seriously I am staged 27th in a local 1/2/3 this is what I have become?!?!) a bit in this process, but I was mainly stoked about coming out upright.

Lap one was obviously full blast.  I dangled in the generally vicinity of the Kevin Sweeney group, which seemed like a decent place to be.  I certainly never got any closer than tailgunning it, though, and I kept electing to not pedal hard and "catch back on in the technical sections" -- so of course after a few laps of this, I didn't really get back on in the tech sections, and you know what, maybe I'll just ride by myself for a while.

I turned a corner in the Orchard on lap 3 to find an apparently dead Doug Thorp lying on his back and an apparently murderous Mike Wissell remounting.   So that was great, temporarily.

After half an hour my back stopped working (note:  15 minutes longer than yesterday) which really put a damper in my zest for suffering.  Andrew Lysaght closed the ten second gap I had been holding for a few laps and dropped me like a stone.  He still has to pay me rent, though.

From there on out I mainly rode around waiting for the race to end, shralping the berm, and coating my rims in mud once a lap in the bike wash runoff just to experience the joy of carbon braking surfaces in the wet.

Entering the final lap it was clear that I could mail it in and maintain my position.

Entering the final time up the runup, though, zombie Doug Thorp was suddenly five seconds behind me, which was really bad news because if he had appeared that rapidly, it meant he was going a lot faster than me and probably hungry for BRAINS.

So then I had to ride my damn face off for the last four minutes of the race to save my brains.  Which I just barely did -- holding a gap that was measured in bike lengths and not seconds into the final turn, but no one comes around me after the last turn, so WHATEVER.

Then I talked to Thom about how Orchard Cross is huge and it's super cool.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

HPCX Race Reports

Last weekend Christin and I went on and adventure to the Mid-Atlantic, because there was a UCI doubleheader four miles from where she had to be for work that week.

Mid-Atlantic UCI racing is an exotic thing that I rarely sample.  It is a mysterious land of single tape, @gregwhits, and a healthy scrubzone full of dudes I have never raced with before.

But!  Lest you measure your race quality in double-tape, let the record show that the day one HPCX course was DOPE.  There was a lot of turning and a lot of climbing, but somehow the climbing was broken up enough to be shockingly tolerable, except the finish straight which was just a good old fashioned WOW THIS HURTS section.

I drew a crappy start spot but nailed the clip-in and was shortly having to back off before I accidentally passed someone who was actually good and got in their way soon after.

Then some dudes tangled going into turn one and a lot of us put feet down and that was the end of my good start.

The descending portion of the course was not easy to pass on, which meant lots of time for making jokes while hanging out in traffic and not yet feeling the effects of the effort.  It was a lot of fun. In the highlights around 1:30 you can hear me and Greg yelling at each other: http://dirtwire.tv/2015/10/hpcx-elite-men-day-one/

Eventually the effort put a damper on jokes, and around 25 minutes in I started to feel quite feeble, and whole host of dudes I wanted to beat rode away from me.

Around 45 minutes in, the gel I had eaten on the start line kicked in and suddenly I stopped getting sand kicked in my face going up the hill.  I settled in with a group of two other guys and we rode around merrily not getting 80-percented.

On the last lap, the guy at the front decided he was sick of going super hard, which meant we all got to recover, so when the race started up again I felt AWESOME and won the group so hard, if you look at the times you'd think I lost the group ahead of us.

HPCX Day 2

Day two's course was allegedly "less climbing" but what climbing remained felt longer and steadier than anything we did on Day one.  There was also a rad downhill sandpit and a difficult uphill sandpit:

This time I drew a back row start and definitely didn't get anywhere when the whistle blew.  So I rolled around near the back remaining competitive with a few gentlemen and dangling annoyingly close to the @gregwhits group.   I was slaying the downhill sand but having to run the uphill sand, which left me totally freaking winded at the bottom of the climb, which led to me eventually giving up on ever hanging out with Greg.

Just like the day before, I eventually found a scrubbuddy and he was very enthusiastic about pulling on a windy day, so clearly we were going to be buddies for a while.  He wanted to chat, which was great, except when he told me we were going to "get this guy on the hill" which made for a quite uncomfortable two minutes.

We did get that guy though.

I added value to our group by riding into his back wheel when he botched the sandpit.

When we got to the last lap I prepared to THROW DOWN, but I guess not everyone has the same final lap adrenaline spike I do, because I kinda just gapped him two minutes before the sprint, and once again bridged far enough ahead to the next group that I appeared to lose a sprint.

Did I mention I didn't get pulled on day 2 either?  WOO FINISHING RACES

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Mansfield + Minuteman Race Report

Mansfield Hollow
I found out this year that Ron, the Mansfield Hollow promoter, first ran this race in 1983.  This race is ONE YEAR YOUNGER than me.  Apparently there were a few years in the 90s that it didn't happen, so it's not the longest-running race in #NECX (I think that would be Putney, right?), but still.  32 years and counting of a surprisingly good course on the shores of some artificial lake in middle of nowhere, Connecticut.

Because the race is 32 years old, it doesn't buy into modern BS like crossresults staging, so we lined up in proper scrum fashion, and I missed the scrum.  So that was back row out of almost 40 guys.

And the holeshot was like a 12 second sprint into one of the twistiest parts of the course so... at the back I stayed, more or less.

Then we got to the downhill angled flood-control-log hop and I yelled "hopping in traffic, let's get wiiiiiiild" at Jesse and he repaid me by bobbling his hop and kind of sitting down on my front wheel as I landed my hop, stopping my bike.

Luckily the mass of my body was not so encumbered so I was able to fly off my bike and roll down the hill while swearing at Jesse.

When I got back to my bike, I was in last.  The rest of the race was a time trial as I attempted to ride back to where I wanted to be.  Toiling alone on the course (note:  not my forte, in case you're new here) was actually going pretty well for a while, to the point where I was SO SURE I was catching The Sweens, because the gap was down to 10 seconds and we still had two laps to go, right?

Then we had one lap to go and the gap was still 10 seconds because I only had 45 minutes of riding hard alone in me, and then I stuffed the sand because I was le tired and that was that.  I rode in for 20th out 35 which is, um, not good at all, but I still had fun, and here's a video!

Minuteman Cyclocross Race Report
The two races at Bolton Fairgrounds always end up being courses that suit me, because it's smooth and flat and there's a lot of GRASS TURN SHREDDING.  MRC in particular has tended toward "the turns you need, not the turns you want" over the past few years so I had high hopes that I might be able to not-suck on Sunday.

But then my guts got all weird and I didn't want to eat breakfast but I had to eat breakfast and yeah, you know how that goes... too much portapotty time and too little motivation on the start line.  I let Matt Sousa take the last spot on row two even though I got to it first, which pretty much summarizes how bad I wanted it when the race started.  And when the race starts with 90 seconds of pedaling, followed by five minutes of turning-sprinting-never-passing-anyone hell, you really benefit from wanting it off the start line.

So my lackluster start turned into extreme frustration in a hurry, because when I decided that I did actually want to race my bike, it was hilariously impossible to rectify the situation since the course was nothing but slow single-file turns with the occasional 10-second max-power-sprint-because-we're-all-recovered thrown in.

Protip:  the start at MRC matters, and it matters a lot.  Don't be a dumby like me.

Eventually we got a few laps in and people were no longer MAX POWERING the max power sprints and I was able to move up a bit, and I got like 5 spots into "moving up" before realizing that I felt like crap and bikes were dumb.

Then Cary caught my group, which reminded me that bikes are dumb and friends who are gonna beat you are dumb.

My group was like seven guys, and Cary went to the front of it on the start straight, which made me think "sweet that chump is gonna pull us around," but then we hit TWISTY HELL again and certain people who are not me were unable to match Cary's shredding ability... and now Cary is pulling some people around, alright, but not me because I am now in "the chase group."

Due to aforementioned lack of passing, fixing this situation took a WHILE, but eventually I got myself into free space five or ten seconds behind the Mantis group.  This was the point at which knowing people makes a big difference, because if he had been some random guy from Ohio I would have taken my bad feelings and gone home, but instead he was THE MANTIS and an annoying number of people think "hey Cary's beating you" is a "cheer" so I really did want to fix the situation.

Thus through some character-building suffering I clawed back the group, now containing Chris Merola, Bill Kenney and Cary.  Cary somehow managed to out-turn the group one more time (he was turning really well, it was obnoxious) but this time Chris brought him back and even counterattacked going through the start-finish at one lap to go, taking Bill with him.

Obviously I didn't cover that attack because I am a lazy piece of cyclist and Cary was right in front of me which is all that matters.

So then we go back into twisty hell a few seconds down on those guys, but Cary has been shredding turns all day so we can probably close it back down, no problem!  Except Cary turned back into a pumpkin and exploded randomly at the apex of a turn, and I was a hot tired mess so I couldn't summon up the sick balance move to avoid him... I just jammed my brakes on, tried to get by, failed, and then toppled over him at 1 mph.

Bikes are dumb, friends are dumb.

He got up first but I chased him down and decided that he would pay for crashing us by beating him in the sprint.

He decided that if he was going to lose in a sprint he could at least crash me again, so that's what he did on the dismount for the logs!  This time I didn't actually go down, but I did get to stand there and wait since he blocked the entire course with his prone body and bike.

Then I roasted him in a sprint because that's what friends are for.

I think next week I'm gonna focus on my start a bit more.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Gran Prix of Gloucester Day 1 Chainstay Cam

Hey guys!  Remember me, the guy who used to have time to doing things in September?  Because I don't.  Between putting on the best night race not named "Midnight Ride", accidentally starting a sanctioning body, and trying to get my threshold power back to something that lets me finish a UCI race... Septembers are pretty hectic.

But now it's October so here's some content!

You should watch the first 30 seconds just to see how ludicrously good my start was.
GP Gloucester Chainstay Cam 2015 from colin reuter on Vimeo.

I drew a decent callup (44th/85, I think) but I had GLOUCESTERHYPELEGS so when the sea of dudes parted a little bit, instead of thinking to myself "you belong here in the 40s," I dropped a billion watts and rode up until I was a few wheels behind Jamie Driscoll.

Then there were some bottlenecks which let me recover a little, and then some guys crashed, and then I was in 30th or something at Gloucester which was a much better place to be after five minutes than my normal position of 60th.

Most excitingly (to me), my experiments with "training" seemed to pay off in that, as I slipped back slowly,  I could actually pedal a bike alone in the wind with some measure of success.  Which was good, because I couldn't find a wheel to save my life... just a few guys per lap catching me and dropping me slowly but steadily.

But you know what?  When you're in 30th, "a few guys a lap" still means you're in 41st/85 when you get pulled after 50 minutes.  And that's pretty good for a scrub like me!

The next day I mechanical'ed out of the race after ten minutes, I am dumb, let's not talk about it for a change.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

24 Hours of Great Glen Race Report

11:58 am:  SO HYPED

This was it, the final year of the 24 Hours of Great Glen.  I remember my dad doing this race the first time it happened, when I was 14, in 1996.  There were 22 teams.  There was a hurricane.  The stopped racing in the middle of the night because the camping area was flooding.

How they decided to run the event for a second year after THAT, I will never know.

When I heard that The Greatest Mountain Bike Event Of All Time was ending, my first reaction was "hmm, maybe I should promote a 24 hour race," and then I started thinking about it and OH MY GOD is that an obscene amount of work.  I got promoter anxiety just THINKING about the number of moving parts that go into a well-produced 24 hour race.  It makes every race I have ever put on look like child's play.

So, Great Glen folks, thanks for sacrificing your sanity and stress levels for two decades.  You've given thousands of mountain bikers a uniquely awesome experience that will never be matched.  
Sally Annis unretired and crushed souls.
Now, about this year...

As defending champions it was clear that Officeteam (tm) had to come back for a second year.  With Jay hopefully not sustaining a crippling back injury on the first lap, we had high hopes that we would be faster and more awesome-r than 2014.  Our opponents looked similar to last year -- the 2nd place team "Pure Adrenaline" was back with 3 of 4 team members returning, and 3rd place (Barker Mtn Bikes) was back with 2 out of 4 team members the same.

Because everyone who rides a bike has already hit their plateau of career mediocrity like myself, it was clear that we would win again, because no one could have gotten faster since last year.  Yup.  Definitely winning this.

So when Ross came through on lap one, over a minute behind Pure Adrenaline's rider, I was confused.  We were beating that kid last year when he was 17, now he's 18 and shaved a minute off his lap times??  OBVIOUSLY CHEATING I TELL YOU.   Time to start blogging about lap times!!
"I've won Seven Sisters but I can't beat a guy in a cowboy hat and jorts over 200m"
We sent Jay out and he didn't crash in the first 200 meters, which was a huge improvement.  He rode the team's fastest lap of the entire day, which was great.  He lost another minute-plus to Pure Adrenaline, which was NOT GREAT.  

That's okay though, Evan will surely right these wrong against Pure Adrenaline's "new guy."  The "new guy" had replaced their "slowest guy" so he was probably also the slowest, right?

Evan lost another minute and got caught by the Barker Mountain Bikes team, who also had some puberty-fueled flying eighteen-year olds we may not have adequately accounted for.

OKAY.  We're FOUR MINUTES DOWN.  I'm our last rider to head out.  Time for me to be a goddamn American hero and close that gap!

...I lost another thirty seconds on my lap.

And that's how, after four laps, we knew we were screwed.

It took us almost until midnight to beat Pure Adrenaline on ANY lap.  By that time, we were twenty minutes down, and had changed our goals from "win the race" to "don't get lapped."

Luckily Great Glen is still AN EXPERIENCE no matter what, so our 24-hour trip to second place was a grand old time.

My first day laps were normal.  Dodging lapped riders while racing at cx intensity, each lap making fewer mistakes but failing to pedal as hard.  Sitting around camp, realizing you have 17 more hours to race, wondering how you forget every year that in addition to being super fun, racing for 24 hours is SUPER HARD.

As defending "fastest-night-lap" champion, I had high hopes that I would turn into a course-slaying werewolf when the moon came up.  It didn't really work out.

On my first night lap, my helmet light failed, so I did the whole lap on just the bar light.  If you've never ridden with just a bar light, you probably don't realize how often in the course of riding a bike you want to look at something you bars are not pointing at.

Let's just say that going into every single turn trying to remember when the rocks on the exit were is not the fastest way to ride.

And of course, because I was flustered by my lighting situation, I fell off a bridge (a bridge over nothing, thank god) around mile seven.

And then I rode directly into some poor woman's butt while trying to pass her, knocking her (and me) over.  Turns out that standing in the woods saying "I'm sorry I ride like an asshole" is ALSO not the fastest way to ride.

So yeah my first time out at night was not the fastest night lap.

Luckily I was able to borrow a helmet light from Regina Legge as she finished up the 12-hour race, so my SECOND NIGHT LAP was surely going to right the wrong of first night lap, now that I could see and maybe wouldn't ride into people's butts randomly.

And it's true, second night lap was totally mistake free, except for that spot when I laid it down hard on a gravel corner.  Lying on the ground in shock at how abruptly you just crashed:  also not the fastest way to ride.

By the third night lap there were no dreams of glory, it was 4am and I was fueled purely by ramen and banana chips (you have no idea how many banana chips I ate during this race, those things are amazing).  Even without shooting for glory, I still managed to be tired enough to not see a rock on one of the fast downhills.  My punishment for this was hitting my foot on it so hard that MY SHOE FLEW OFF from the impact, and I had to stop, put my bike down, and run back up the hill to find it.

Night laps are still the greatest thing, though.

When the sun came up, it was time to finish the job, but just like last year my darkest hours were from 5 to 7am.  Maybe there's something about the sun coming up that makes your body realize you just stayed awake BIKE RACING for THE ENTIRE NIGHT.  Waiting around, trying to eat, trying not to sleep, trying to stay motivated... there's always that hour when it all seems so difficult.  And that hour is never spent on a bike.

As soon as the lap starts, everything is fine.  After 18 hours, your body is getting pretty used to the pattern of racing.  It's the sitting around that it can't handle.

My final race lap, and final Great Glen lap EVER, I knew it was going to be special.  We were still over ten minutes away from getting lapped, and we had just lapped third place.  I left the tent just ahead of Kyler Walker from the third-place team and had my first head-to-head racing of the entire event.

I had been putting a minute or two on Kyler most laps, so I wasn't expecting him to catch me and stay with me on the first long climb, especially because I hit it harder than any lap since my first one of the whole race.  But he did.

I also didn't expect him to pass me going into the descent, and I definitely didn't expect to ride off the trail and hit a tree trying to stay with him on the descent, so hey we're just over 2 miles in and this lap is already quite special!

Walking back to the trail from the woods is not a fast way to ride so Kyler got a pretty good gap on me there, but it was good in that it helped me refocus on riding my own pace.  By the time we reached the bottom of Blueberry Hill at mile 6 I had closed the gap back down to five or ten seconds.  I liked my chances.

Then I shifted to my biggest cog under a bunch of torque and.... CRUNCH.  The chain went over the top of the cassette and wedged DEEPLY between the cassette and the spokes.

(Did I mention that my rear wheel was basically a potato chip when the sun came up so we put a different wheel on the bike for my last lap?  And didn't check the high limit screw because it was 9am during a 24 hour race?  Yeah)

I tried to pull the chain out.  It didn't work.  I got off the bike and tried harder.  It didn't work.  I decided to run the last 2.5 miles of course pushing my bike... but you can't do that when your back wheel won't turn.

I put my bike on my back and started running.

Thirty seconds later I stopped, because I had realized that running a hilly two miles with a 25-pound bike on my back might actually cost me the forty minute lead we had over third place.

In retrospect, at this point, I had probably burned two minutes.  I think one or two riders had passed me, and Kyler was obviously long gone.  But in my panicked haze, it felt like I'd already lost ten minutes, and we "only" had a 40 minute cushion.

I realized I could probably get my chain out of the wheel if I broke it, so I took out my chain tool and broke a link.  Then I neatly packed up my chain tool and put it away because I'm an idiot.  Then I tried to get my chain out and of course it still didn't budge.

I got my chain tool out AGAIN and cut off the other end of the chain, leaving a 12 inch piece of chain stuck under the cassette.  The wheel would roll (and savagely whip the chain into my seat stay sometimes, yikes) now.  We're in "business!"

So then I ran/scootered/coasted the rest of the course.  Did I mention the panic level?  I was pretty sure I had given up 30 minutes through my mechanical work alone and now I needed to run as hard as possible just to keep us in second place.

It wasn't until I got lapped by Pure Adrenaline right as we reached the floating bridge (and I had to take the detour because you can't run on the bridge, boo) that I realized I had somehow kept the time loss on that disaster to less than fifteen minutes.

Ross had had an extra fifteen minutes to charge up his adrenaline level, so he RIPPED the next lap, putting almost a minute into Pure Adrenaline's fastest rider (!) and getting us back onto the lead lap, albeit just barely.

Jay a mere ten seconds slower than Ross on the next one, beating Pure Adrenaline AGAIN, and finishing up just a few minutes after noon for us with 34 laps ridden in 24 hours.
Michele took this rad photo of my Aaron Gwin run on the plunge. 
As usual... now that it's over... what a great experience.  I'm going to miss this race so much.  Thanks to Ross, Evan and Jay for being kickass teammates, and congratulations to Pure Adrenaline for coming back and KICKING OUR ASSES this year.  They beat us on almost every lap for 24 hours straight.
Even a 3-man podium gets pretty busy when each "person" is a 4-man team.
Meanwhile, there was an actual women's RACE this year, with two women's expert teams tearing it up all day and all night.  They eventually finished 9th and 15th overall, crushing an uncountable number of men's teams, and probably having more fun than we did in the process.  They camped with us and I ate their food at 3am, it was great.

No one had any fun it was terrible

So, anyone got a good venue in central Mass for a 24 hour race?  I'm thinking some kind of farm or state park with a big field for camping and.... wait.  Didn't I just say how much work this would be?


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