Friday, November 21, 2014

Cheshire Cross Race Report

I write this having just left a John Hodgman show early.  He made a lot of jokes about being old and irrelevant, which as someone who used to blog hit perhaps closer to home than I would have liked.  After thirty minutes of wishing for the show to end, I realized that as an adult I am in control of my own destiny at all times, even when there's an implied social contract that wants to suggest otherwise.  So here we are!

Now that the days have gotten short, like every other pro desk jockey, amateur bike racer, I've totally quit training, unless you call a 90 minute mountain bike ride in the dark "training."  While trying to figure out if I had any kind of plan for maintaining respectability up until NBX (Nationals?  HAHAHAH), I decided that racing double weekends is really the only thing I can trust to help me hold some semblance of fitness.  Working long hours and drinking beers might be making me fatigued, but it's not making me tired, you know?  Or maybe vice versa?  Someone who's a coach, help me out here.

Anyway, down to Cheshire Cross I went!  Christin was at a bridal shower so I had full agency.  Cheshire is one of those races I'd heard good things about for years but never made it to, well, this is THE YEAR!  

I showed up and the first thing I found out was that Al had flatted two tubulars preriding, which would have been great except he brought extra wheels and won anyway.  But that should tell you something about the course... it was at about half rocky doubletrack, the kind you think "oh this will be so sweet to ride cross bikes on" but then you spend the whole time trying not to flat, so it's like kinda sweet but kinda not sweet, which is actually a good synopsis of bike racing in general.

In any case I put 30 freaking psi of caution into my tubulars and lined up with 20 friends or so in the 1/2/3 race.  I missed my callup because I was trying to pee without exposing myself (YOU FOOL!) but it didn't matter much, there were only three rows.

I took a very casual approach to the start, which seemed like it was clever until we got into the woods and I immediately got gapped off the peloton by someone who had never ridden a bike off road.

The gap appeared to be several miles long but I got across it in all of 10 seconds (mostly under braking) so I guess it wasn't.

Then I chilled some more and went around a few more dudes when it was easy.

Somewhere in there Amos did a step-over dismount for the barriers that I didn't believe I had actually witnessed until I went back and watched the video (watch the video!!).

Near the end of lap two I tagged onto a diverse group of dudes battling for respectability.  I drafted them and continued chilling, a luxury that really only exists in a non-UCI race when your wife isn't spectating.

But, it was almost like I had a plan!  Because lap 3 was the lap where EVERYONE FLATTED.  If I were a know-it-all I would tell you that lap 3 is when everyone gets too fatigued to unweight over the rocky sections, but the racing is too tight for people to avoid the rocks, so tubulars get MURDERED.  In any case, that was the lap I went by Aaron Oakes, Mike Wissell, Jules Goguely and Eric Carlson with flats. 

Seriously, 20% of the race flatted in a lap!  And I wasn't one of them!  

At some point we picked up Hunter Pronovost who was riding pretty well for a dude with promoter legs.  I haven't raced on promoter legs in at least two years now....

Hunter and I rode around behind Keith Gauvin until he told us that if we didn't do some work, we were going to get caught from behind.  This seemed like standard old-man trickery, but there were a LOT of dudes lurking 10-20 seconds back and I respond well to peer pressure, so I started trying to figure out a way to "contribute" without actually "contributing."

Sooooo with about 2.5 laps to go I might have finally gone to the front and I might have taken as strong a pull as I dared going into the longest technical section on the course... and when I came out of it with a 3 second gap I was like "well, just crush it for a lap until you break their spirit and you're set."

Which of course was operating under the assumption that everyone else is as breakable as me.  So a lap of crushing later, we got the bell and the gap was all the way up to 6 seconds, and the status was "well, just crush it for a lap until you break their spirit and you're set."

I could tell the crushing was getting difficult because I basically dropped my bike on my head trying to shoulder it on this lap.

Eric Carlson was CHARGING despite a flat which kept everyone behind me far too motivated, but I hung on juuuuuust barely to stay out of the sprint for fifth place (which he won), and holy shit, that means I was fourth??

....I'd like to thank everyone else for not putting enough air in their tires.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Cycle-Smart International Race Reports

 Day 1

After coming to Northampton for the past six years, I finally got something other than a bone-dry grass crit.  A light rain started around 11 and carried most of the way through the elite women's race.  I'm not gonna call it perfect conditions (it was a little sticky by the end.  wah.)  but it was basically as good as things get for me.  Slippery and fast.

Just like every other cat 2, I drew a crappy start spot, and it didn't really matter as much as I wish it did.  I stood in line on the pro-only section with a bunch of dudes for a bit, and then when it was my turn to run around the tree I fell on my face and made everyone stop.

After that, though, things were very shreddy.  For some reason much of the scrub zone had tunnel vision for the greasy, muddy line through the apex of every corner, which was not at all the fastest way to go around corners.  I definitely set a record for "most people passed on the outside" on lap one.  

Jon Nable took this video of me screwing up but looking awesome which I might have watched at least ten times.

As we settled into the second half of the race I ended up hanging out with official Quebec cyclocross ambassador Jean-Phillipe Thibault-Roberge.  In years past I have clung to him mercilessly like a barnacle, but clearly he has been doing too much school and not enough riding because I was able to take enough pulls to be non-annoying.  Obviously not 50% of the pulls though.  That would be crazy.

After 45 minutes we caught a cracked or demotivated Tom Sampson who wanted to chat up JP about the good ole days of racing Canada Cups.  I recognized that dudes who want to make jokes probably don't want to hurt very much and went to the front and DROPPED TOM SAMPSON.

ahahahah it makes no sense that I typed that and Tom will probably lap me next time we race mountain bikes

But anyway.  Going up the run-up for the last time, it was down to me and JP, and I got a little gap.  "well then," I thought, I'll just attack him a bit herer and take this two second gap out to five seconds, and he'll give up, because that's what I would do."

So I did that.  But three minutes later my legs were full of bees and JP was still dangling two seconds behind me, so this turned out to be a much much more painful way to finish one place ahead of JP than if I had just drafted him for six minutes and then outsprinted him in my traditional cheeseball fashion.

In the process of holding my tiny gap for an entire lap, I did end up turning my fastest lap of the race, so that's good for something.  The downside was that I caught Tim Ratta and Derek Hardinge coming past club row, and could do absolutely nothing when they opened up the sprint 1 second after I got there.  Damn bees.

Day 2

If Day 1 was the muddiest Northampton has ever been, Day 2 was the fastest it's ever been, with the thin layer of mud consolidating and drying into a layer of dirt that was basically pavement on most of the course.

It was also one of those days when things were just working right.  While everyone else was flipping out, I was calmly walking through the first bottleneck.  While other guys were getting caught on the wrong side of gaps, I was going around them just before they blew.  While other dudes were thrashing themselves into headwind trying to make the next group, I was chilling in the draft, saving  matches, and bridging later.

I wish I could pretend this was because I've FIGURED OUT BIKE RACING and wasn't just surfing a wave of luck.  

But basically I spent forty minutes drafting guys who didn't want me to pull (??) and then attacking them to get to the next group when they started slowing down.

This ridiculous peak of this cycle came when I was riding behind Jesse Keough and decided "this isn't fast enough, I think I'll bridge up to Aaron Oakes" and it actually almost worked.

The reason it didn't work is that, right as Sean McCarthy and Mike Busa were drunkenly cheering for me, I crashed on my face on a totally easy corner.

"Well that was a weird, I guess you were just being too aggressive trying to get across the gap" I thought as I rode by the pit.

Then I almost crashed on the next turn, too, because I had a front flat.

Hahahahahaha did I say everything was working right?  Oh, cyclocross.

So then I rode half a lap on a flat front tire, including the pro-only section.  Luckily flat tubulars grip quite nicely, they just don't roll very fast.

Eventually I got to the pit, and while a bunch of dudes had passed me I figured I could still go flog myself for the last 15 minutes and have something to show for it.

However, once I got back out on a pit wheel I felt oddly terrible.  Like I was suffering the same amount, but I just wasn't going very fast.  After a lap I basically gave up and decided that the lactic acid from my legs had pooled in my quads while I was getting a new wheel and I dunno, something something cramps muscles training fueling sad.

I was going to drop out when I realized that every single person behind me had been pulled.

I tooled around for a lap, which included picking up my GoPro (did I mention I broke that off in the crash?) and pulling aside to tell Jeremy Durrin I believed in him, even though I knew Jerome was going to smoke him in the sprint.

It wasn't until I got pulled at one lap to go that I realized the neutral wheel I'd picked up had a nice little hop in it and was rubbing my brakes every revolution.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mansfield/Minuteman Weekend Race Report

Hey!  This blog took a little break for a while.  I was busy putting on Night Weasels, getting sick, sucking at Providence and getting married.  One of those three things I will write about later, try to guess which it is!

While I haven't had time to write, I have had time to add captions and fret over music choices for some chainstay cam videos, which are deserving of a better home than just my vimeo account.  So here we go!

Mansfield Cyclocross Race Report

The big difference between this race and Providence was that I knew I was under the weather going into this one.  I nearly got the reverse holeshot start, rode something like "hard tempo" all day, and eventually ended up going into the last lap with Tim Ratta and Patrick Collins.  There was a 16" single barrier (OLD SCHOOL!) that I had been hopping every lap, and a 12" - 16" set of barriers right before the finish.

What, you don't measure barrier heights with your skewer on preride?

Anyway, I hopped the single to start my attack, and hopped the double to finish the attack and not have to sprint against Tim, so that was a pretty sweet way to get a totally medicore 9th/22 place finish.

Minuteman Road Club Cyclocross

I did a fair bit of email consulting and mspaint-map-drawing with Russ about ways to make last year's course more balanced this year.  And it worked!  In that the course was much less of a cornering contest, and that I got dropped much harder and faster than last year.

Despite the fact that I was still feeling under the weather AND had raced the day before, I ended up hanging out with Mike Wissell for most of the race, which didn't make any sense.  I even went so far as to attack Mike with 3 laps to go, which certainly led to me hurting a lot more, but also led to Mike getting inexplicably better at turning and catching me about a lap later.

After that we "worked together" valiantly to try to put all the cat 3s in the race behind us.  We were not successful, although that's mainly because Kevin Goguen isn't really a cat 3.  The other cat 3's were vanquished once the clock struck 46 minutes.

Obviously I then repaid Mike for "working with me" by beating him in a sprint:
Russ Campbell Photo

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Quad Cross Race Report

Quad Cross Bar Cam from colin reuter on Vimeo.
I kicked off my ninth (oh jesus, really?) season of cyclocross at Quad Cross this year.  They had flipped last year's course and it was so.  much.  better.  in this direction.  The punchy climbs were now fun euro-chutes and the long maybe-pedaling downhill was now a long pedaling uphill.

Wait, did I just praise a long pedaling uphill?  Yep.  That's how you know it wasn't a UCI race.

The miracle of pre-reg got me a front row start, which I uncharacteristically missed my pedal on. By the time I was going faster than the people around me, we were into the first turn and I decided not to doing anything dumb trying to move up (see:  not a UCI race).

I may have chopped Mike Wissell anyway, just out of habit.

I spent most of the first lap waiting for the race to start hurting, which is what happens when you haven't raced cross in a year and your legs got torn off at the last race (Dirty 40) so badly you didn't want to write about it.

Eventually I was like, whoa, I feel strangely decent (probably because the course was mostly technical sections) and I started moving up.

I moved up until I got to Tim Ratta, and we were racing for fourth.  My plans of drafting him on the doubletrack climb were thwarted by him attacking me with the fury of a thousand suns every time we got onto said climb.  Turns out there IS a limit to how hard I'll sprint to stay in the draft.

After the climb was a good five minutes of technical cornering so I was able to undo the damage each lap in that section and get back on his wheel, just in time to get to the power climb and get attacked again.

This seemed like a recipe for not getting fourth (I had even told myself "it's ok little buddy, the money pays five deep"), but I forgot that on the last lap I my ability to suffer is basically triple what it was before.  So this time, I went with the attack, and counterattacked at the top into the hairpin that marked the start of the technical section that had been getting me back onto his wheel all day.  And then it was basically a "don't screw up" contest from there.  Which I won.

Thus marks my traditional "better than you really are" race.  Gotta love technical local races when everyone fast is at a UCI race or raced the day before!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Attitash Enduro Race Report

Ever since I snagged a sweet deal on a long-travel trail bike (thanks, universal 29er adoption!), I've been meaning to try racing it.   I had this idea that since the best part of an XC race for me is the descending sections, doing a race that would be EXCLUSIVELY descending sections would be great for me.  Because there's no way that kind of race would self-select good descenders or anything.

Unfortunately, to properly ENDURO you need to preride, because it's not like an xc race where a few mistakes on lap one aren't a big deal.  The whole race is about 15 minutes long, and you only get one shot at each section of trail.  Knowing what's coming up is pretty essential.  So I had to go up a day in advance to preview the course and try to commit every single turn to memory.

Obviously, I flatted exactly one minute into the preride.  Did you know that when you're flying down a hill, slamming on your front brake and turning puts a ton of force on your tire bead, like maybe a lot more than the normal xc riding you've been doing?  That thing didn't burp, it VOMITED.  Flat in under a second.

So then I rode a tube for the rest of the weekend.

My dreams of being a secret enduro prodigy held up through the preride.  Note that preriding has the word "riding" in it.  Riding and racing aren't the same thing... but they're pretty similar... right?

Then it rained overnight.  Adam Snyder told me it was going to be hairy.  Adam Snyder knows what he is doing.  I did not like this information.

Before we could race, we decided to do one last preride run on stage 5 in the morning to see what it was like after the rain.  Tom Sampson, Mike Sampson, Steven Hopengarten and I started down the trail.  We made it all of ten seconds in before we got to a wet wood bridge.  Mike and Tom went straight over it.  Steven's brain had been replaced by GIDDY ENDURO STEVE's brian and thus he may have been slightly more aggressive with his line selection, which led to him flying through the air horizontally before hitting his EYE SOCKET ON A ROCK.  Right in front of me.

Happier times for Steven and his bridge.  [pinkbike]
Seriously, he fractured his freaking orbital floor.  And then did the race anyway.  And then went to the ER and they were like "we have to fix this so your eyeball doesn't fall into your sinus."

But this blog is about ME, and for ME, seeing that crash was BAD BAD BAD.  One of the many keys to racing downhill fast is to never, ever, ever think about the consequences while you're doing it.  You can think about them before, and after, but in the moment, thinking about what could happen to you only makes you ride badly.

And now I couldn't stop thinking about how much I didn't want to hit my eyeball on a rock.  And how many dudes were wearing full face helmets.  And how despite all this, it's probably not less safe than racing a crit.  Maybe.

ANYWAY at some point it became time to race bikes, and Steven was full of ibuprofen, and blissfully unaware of his eyeball's potential to make a run for it, so we hopped on the chairlift and tried to pretend we weren't terrified.

(My personal goal had been lowered from "prove secret Enduro prodigy status" to "don't die")

Stage 1 started straight down a work road on a blue ski trail so "don't die" speed was achieved in three pedal strokes.

There were some parts in the woods that were rocky rooty cliffs of terror.  In between them there were some parts where I reckon the fast guys were pedaling.  I did not pedal those sections.

At the bottom I was like "oh, here's that part with the big slippery rock and the tree right next to the line that you don't want to hit," so I stared at the rock, bounced off it and hit the tree.

Somehow this ended up being my best stage (ranked second in Amateur 30-39!) so I'm guessing a lot of people ended up at a complete stop with their bars wedged into that tree.

Since this is Enduro we got to ride to the top of the next stage.  I discovered that "gravity athletes" just get off and walk their bike on steep fire roads.  It was very civilized.

Stage 2 was a fresher-cut trail than Stage 1, and had no terrifyingly fast fire road sections.  It almost "flowed," as long as you consider "flow" to be sliding down a mountain of muddy, loamy roots with your back wheel locked up about half of the time.

The only mistake I made on this stage was unclipping a foot when I had all my weight behind the saddle, which led to my pedal trying to go through my shin.  My shin was up to the task, but holy cow, it's still swollen on WEDNESDAY.

The we rode back up because Enduro!  It turns out a 26'er with a 24x34 low gear can comfortably be pedaled at about 2mph.  I rode while talking to people who were walking.  I hate walking.

Stage 3 was like a steeper version of Stage 2.  It was going SWIMMINGLY until it dumped out of the woods onto a ski trail and a bunch of high-speed slalom turns, and I made the mistake of letting go of my brakes for a second.  My bike accelerated to the speed of sound (duh) and I immediately overcooked the first turn.

Since this was my first enduro I was taking the "stay on the trail" ethos (far too) seriously and locked up the brakes to avoid breaking the tape... at the price of coming to a dead stop.  So that would be a "mistake," I believe.

One of the weird/cool/favorable things about the Eastern States Enduro series is the "climbers prime."  Basically, whichever amateur goes the fastest on one of the transfer sections gets a $200 dropper post -- and while I usually hate pedaling uphill (see:  every other blog entry here, ever), the idea of racing a bunch of dudes who don't shave their legs up a hill seemed like something I should probably take advantage of.

So... I did that.  I went as hard as I could and finished the transfer in 12 minutes.  I have no idea how close the 2nd best time was, but I did get to stand on a podium for it and I did get a magical seatpost for it.

The downside to "winning" the transfer is going into Stage 4 totally cooked -- because you're not off the transfer until you tag into stage 4, and then you're on the clock for stage 4 .  So the mistakes-per-minute rate increased significantly.  I ended up straddling my top tube in the middle of a stream (not fast), falling in the mud after failing to ride a snowmaking pipe (not fast), and flying off a fire road into some deep grass (not fast, not safe).

One thing I now appreciate about racing enduro is how hard is it to gauge your performance.  We're racing down a hill of wet roots, mud and rocks.  You are screwing up CONSTANTLY.  For me, I spent the entire race either braking (and then wishing I hadn't) or overshooting corners (and wishing I had braked more).  For every line you hit and think "ah, that was correct,"  there's at least four more where you kind roll your eyes as you go through it.  I could have gone faster!  Ugh, why am I on this line?  OH CRAP I SHOULD HAVE BRAKED MORE.

So this is why, after four stages, I didn't actually know that I was in 2nd (out of 15) dudes in Amateur 30-39.  I screwed up a lot.  Turns out everyone else did, too.  The guys who don't screw up every stage race the Pro/Open class I guess... or maybe they just screw up while going faster.

(Note that Tom and Mike Sampson both beat me by over two minutes and didn't even make the podium of the pro race)
You don't even know how much of a roadie I look like here, because you're a roadie, too.  [pinkbike]

Stage 5 was the last stage, and it featured the-bridge-that-killed-Steven.  It was fast and rocky on the fire roads and steep and slick in the woods.  It had a step-up jump that I had taken the B-line on in preride, at the cost of many seconds.  I was apprehensive.

But, the nice thing about never racing downhill is that you actually learn how to do it DURING the race. By the time I hit the last stage, my downhill skill was the highest it's ever been in my life.  I held decent speed on the rocky fire road, held it together on the dark, muddy cliffs, remembered the giant log in the woods, cleaned the step-up (not without trepidation) and by the end of the run, I was even thinking about pedaling between the turns.
If one did not clean the step-up it would look like this. [pinkbike]

Came out of the woods, into the last turn, in front of the only spectators I'd seen all day -- and promptly laid it down, sliding on my stomach down a hillside of grass, mud and rocks.  It only took me ten seconds (thanks, Strava) to run back up the hill, straighten my bars and get moving again -- but it was enough to cost me second place.

Game of mistakes, this enduro thing.  Just to underscore that, the guy in 4th (Rob Westover) beat me on four out of five stages by some healthy margins -- but I beat him on stage one by over a minute.  Now THAT'S a mistake.

The worst part about making that many mistakes in a bike race is that it makes you want to go back to see if you can do it better.  So I guess I'll see you next year, enduro...

Pinkbike coverage with a video that makes this look much easier than I remember


Monday, August 18, 2014

Another 24 Hour Lap Time Post!

I'm still working on getting the full lap data for Great Glen, because I'm sure there's a lot of cool stuff in there.  In the meanwhile, someone sent me this email that was too well done not to post (with his permission, of course), which answered some of the "but what's the statistical certainty???" questions that were posed in the comments last week.  Enjoy.

"Hi Colin,

Don’t know if you remember me.  I’m [explanation of how we know each other redacted].  Anyways, I enjoyed your cheater writeup.  You’re probably done with comments about this whole deal, but I was bored at work this morning and took a look at some of the lap data.  Some of the comments were asking about statistical certainty of Sam Anderson’s night lap times being fake.  The short answer is “oh my god, yes”.

I looked at the lap times from the top 10 teams from the 2011 24hogg.  I discarded the first lap (running) and then averaged every rider’s laps started before 8 pm and called those day laps, and averaged every rider’s laps started between8 pm and 5 am and called those night laps.  So from the top 10 teams, we have a population of 32 riders, and I added Sam Anderson’s laps to the data set.  When you plot them, you get this graph:

The dashed blue line represents even lap times day and night.  As you would expect, every legit racer is, on average, at least 2 minutes slower in the dark.   If you look at the ratio of night:day for the 32 riders, you find with 99.9% confidence that all riders should run lap times 1.078 to 1.147 times slower at night compared to day.  And this makes intuitive sense as a good rider running 40 minute day laps and going 8% slower at night would run 43 minute laps.

So onto Sam’s night:day ratio of 0.998.  If you run a t-test to determine if his lap ratio is significantly different from a normal person's, you find that there is 99.999999999% confidence that his is an outlier.  This translates to a 1 in 1.3 million shot of his lap times happening without some outside influence (cheating, mechanicals, whatever).  

You made a great case that something fishy was going on with his lap times.  Just though you should know statistics is on your side.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

24 Hours of Great Glen Race Report

Ah, the 24 Hours of Great Glen.  I've done this race six times now, and I've been writing about how rad it is since 2007.  After finally managing to pull of a win in 2011, I'd missed it for two years straight.  Not just physically missed it -- emotionally missed it.  A lot.

So when MY BOSS (of all people) asked the office "what do you guys think about doing a Great Glen team?" it took me less than a second to say "ohmygodyes."  Evan was also on board within about five seconds, and that was all we needed.  It took a lot more digging around the valley to get a fourth teammate than I expected, but we had a lot of ideas.  We eventually ended up with former-pro-team-director and Valley-Strava-legend Jay Gump as our last guy.  Note that Jay's palmares do not include "mountain bike racer."  But he did race the Widowmaker Challenge at Sugarloaf in 1992, which was only 22 years ago.  I'm sure the sport hasn't changed in that time.

Did I mention that Ross (the aforementioned boss) actually did a year as a pro on the road back in the day?  Or that Evan's a cat 1 on the road currently?  We should have just named the team "A lot of hard pedaling.  And Colin."

I regaled the office with tales of how Great Glen is a roadie course that's like 50% gravel road.  The office was EXCITED.  If you called BikeReg at any point between June and August, the reason the phone rang four times is that someone had to finish a sentence about Great Glen before they picked it up.

As is required, there were rumors of a super-team showing up and blowing everyone away.  Those rumors didn't materialize, luckily, and we went into the race with a very real chance of winning... assuming that the survived racing mountain bikes at night.  Which was possibly a tall order, since on the one training night ride we did, Ross hit a tree and had to take a week off to recover!

The planning around who would do first lap was intense, as always.  Evan ended up drawing that straw, mainly because Ross's ankle was STILL not right after crashing on that night ride.  Obviously we got Evan totally wound up and he was 2nd out of the gate, but managed to calm down enough to drift back to 5th on the run.

(Don't try to win the run, ever.  There is always someone who is a great runner and a mediocre rider who wants to win it.  It's only 2 minutes out of 24 hours)

Giddy Huff kept himself together for the whole first lap and came to the tent in 2nd, narrowly ahead of third (another expert team). He was pretty far behind a singlespeeder in first (damn singlespeeders), but that was okay, singlespeeder was on a coed team.  We got this.  Giddy Huff passed off to Giddy Gump with third place hot on his heels...

So we've been joking about Jay's possible mismatch between his power and handling skills ever since he got on the team, which really speaks more about his power (insane) than his handling (pretty decent).  The joke was always "Gump will totally be our fastest guy as long as he doesn't pedal 600w into a crash."

Uh, guess what happened on lap one?

So Jay has a HUGE wreck.  Right away, over the bars on one of the whoops.  He said he was going so fast he landed "halfway down the bridge", which is a course flyover you hit right out of the start.  By comparison, I never even gapped this bridge once during the race, never mind overjumping it.

The good news is, Jay's not dead.  He turns a 44-minute lap, which is fine, but when he gets off his bike to run into the tent he looks like he's 80 years old, putting all his weight on his saddle and basically using his bike as a rolling cane.  We're down to third place.

Oh crap, right, I have to race my bike now.

They changed the direction of the course at Great Glen this year, and made it a bit longer.  I like the new direction, but man, when you've got six years of memory IN THE OTHER DIRECTION, lap one is HARD.  It seemed like I blew every other gravel turn, outriggering and over-braking to stay out of the woods.  But, it was LAP ONE, so I was making up for these mistakes by dumping watts all over the place on every hill.

I caught the coed team that had been leading.

I could see the expert team that was now leading.

My seatbag started to come loose, so I stopped to put it in my jersey.

I caught the leader.  I was full of adrenaline!  I attacked the leader as soon as I got to him, hoping that the 'ole go-right-past would break his spirit and he wouldn't even try to draft me.

Much to my surprise this didn't work.  It did hurt a lot, though.  He happily slotted in behind me for much of the lap... even pulling alongside on the paved climb across the road.  Ruh-roh.

It wasn't until the technical section at the top of the hill across the road that I was able to start putting distance in.  Adrenaline-based decisions about how fast you can jump onto a bridge with a turn in it?  That's my wheelhouse, man.

I finished the lap, carefully navigated the floating bridge, and sent Ross out with a thirty second lead.

Bridge of Absurdity!  [Ernie Mills]

(In the interest of brevity I'm not gonna talk too much about this bridge, let's just say it was an AMAZING course feature)

I got back to camp, and Jay was nowhere to be found.

Some investigation revealed that he was lying in his tent.  On his back.  And had taken some muscle relaxers.  And didn't know if he could ride his next lap.

This is generally not what you want to hear from your teammate after one lap.

It turns out Jay's had some back issues (maybe a lot of back issues) and his back was totally seized up after that crash.  Luckily he rolls with muscle relaxers these days, and reported that he felt "better than expected" as long as he lay there and didn't move.

Uh, great.

Ross padded our lead a little bit.  Evan had a small mechanical and lost a bit of the lead.  Then Jay went back out for the great "can Jay still pedal a bike" experiment.

(I actually never really understood how close Jay came to not being able to ride until after the race, because he's one tough dude and didn't tell us how bad any of this was until afterward)

Jay survived his lap, but we lost another minute of our lead, and I went out with only 10 or 15 seconds over 2nd place on my second lap.

Recalling my last lap, I did NOT want this dude on my wheel.  And he REALLY wanted to be on my wheel.  We started the lap HARD.

I was stomping up a climb about a mile in when all of the sudden, there's a buzzing sound and my back wheel slams to a halt.  What just happened?!  Oh, my seatbag came loose again.  And this time it fell down and jammed in my back wheel/frame.  And then got ripped off.


I stuffed the dead seatbag in my jersey (AGAIN!) and frantically took off with a lead that was now better measured in bike lengths than seconds.

But, now we're on lap two, and I am *learning*.  Giddy pedaling was down, but mistake-free riding was way, way up. I ended up clocking almost an identical lap time to the first lap and sent Ross out with a one minute head start.

We finished the rotation and had extended our lead to a whopping four minutes after five hours.  After eight hours, 10 minutes, because 2nd place had flatted.  Every lap Jay did was a dice roll -- if he had another crash, he might not be able to finish his lap at all, and we wouldn't even know.  Waiting for him the tent was nerve wracking.

The sun went down and we knew the next 10 hours would decide the race.  If the roadies (and Jay's back) could hold it together for 12 night laps, we had it.

The first night laps went fine, about three minutes slower than day laps, although the fact that Jay had to use his bike as a cane whenever he dismounted was definitely costing him more time, since he was dismounting more at night.

I've ridden this race a lot, and I really like the challenge of riding fast at night.  My first night lap felt GOOD.  But, night laps always feel good, that's the problem -- the reduced visibility increases your sense of speed.  This is why people will claim things like "I ride faster at night" sometimes.  But the clock doesn't lie -- my first night lap was a 42:54, my slowest of the race by over 90 seconds.

But when I went back to the tent for my after-midnight lap (lap five), they had posted the "fastest night lap" standings.  And that 42:54 was the best, by almost a minute over Sheldon Miller.

I was only sitting fifth on the day-lap standings, though -- I'd been beaten by Don Seib, Sheldon, Brian Lyster and Sam Anderson on the first afternoon.  Some of them were on five-man teams, or cruiser teams, so I didn't know if they'd even ridden a night lap yet.

I started my fifth lap feeling kind of queasy, because it's a 24 hour race and that's how the low points go.  But early in the lap, I realized that the cramp in my side that had been present for the last three laps was gone.  And we were over halfway done.  And every line I'd blown on my first night lap, I remembered.

After two miles, the lap was going well and I was feeling decent.  I realized this was my last shot at a fast night lap, and who knows how fast the guys who beat me on day laps were currently riding.

I went as hard as I could hold, and took as many risks as I dared.  Zero mistakes.  It felt fast, but the last one felt fast, too.  The time?  42:20, 34 seconds faster than my previous night lap, and slower than every day lap I'd done that far.

(Laps like this are why huge improvements at night are such a red flag)

But it was enough to hold up as "fastest night lap!"
I'd like to credit every ride I've done with just a crappy bar light for this. [Christin]
We ground out the rest of the night.  The team was amazing.  Even with a guy who could barely walk, we never had a "disaster lap."  Evan and Ross never even crashed.  We slowed down, but so did everyone else, especially our competition.  The gap was up to 18 minutes by midnight and stayed there until the sun came up.

My final night lap, the growing fatigue and wet roots turned me into a pinball machine on the singletrack.  I tried to make up for this by getting out of the saddle and going harder... which just led to more pinball.  Duh.  44:15.

After this lap was my absolute low point.  The sun was just coming up, I was feeling kind of ill, but I knew I needed to eat more.  At 6am the Gorham Girls Something Something Team was there serving breakfast.  It was... delicious.

But you know what happens after you eat meals, right?  FOOD COMA.

I slept face down in my tent for 20 minutes at 7am, my first sleep of the race.  I didn't want to, but my body demanded it.  It sucked.  I woke up before my alarm.  I felt terrible.  It was the obligatory "why did I think this would be fun?" moment.

As the race wears on, the easy part of it starts to be the riding.  The hardest part is the half hour before you ride again...

And sure enough, a mile into lap seven, my funk was over.  It's a beautiful, cool morning in the White Mountains.  I'm shredding a mountain bike on trails I've basically memorized by now.  We're almost done.  We're winning the damn bike race!  What the heck was my problem?

Lap seven was smooth, if not powerful.   42:22.  And now that Jay could see again, his lap times dropped five minutes!

Barring a frame break or other huge mechanical we had it.  I relaxed, knowing all I had to do was survive a final lap and it was over.

Evan clocked a 44:13 on his final lap.  Did I say all I had to do was survive the last lap?  Because what I really meant was "beat Evan's time to maintain bragging rights."

I got to the tent at 10:30 and I was hungry.  Way too hungry.  Shaking-hungry, in fact.  I ate a gel.  I sprinted back to the tent and got another gel.  Ate that gel in the first mile.  It's the last lap, the "eat real food" rule goes out the window.  Just get it done!

Final lap adrenaline is the best.  It hurt, just like every lap, but you find little bits of extra motivation to pedal the sections you were coasting before, when you know you don't have to do it ever again (until next year).  I was hungry, but only had to ride the sugar-wave from two gels for 40 minutes.  I survived.

Heck, I more than survived, closing out the race with a 42:03 (omg negative split u cheater) and high-fiving Ross out for our team's final lap, lap thirty-two, with a twenty five minute head start on second place.

Holy cow, we did it! [Christin]
Thanks to Pure Adrenaline (second place) and (third place, with two teenagers, one female!), we were pushed the whole way.  I veto'ed the vote at 9pm to do double laps at night because we couldn't afford the time loss.  It was a great race the whole way, and unlike the other time I won this race, it wasn't truly in the bag until Ross rode across the floating bridge at 12:05.

Thanks to Great Glen for putting on an amazing event, year after year.  The new course changes and the floating bridge were rad.  The organization and timing is top-notch, and honestly, and the WEEKS, if not MONTHS, of entertainment we got from the planning/camping/racing/rehashing process make it more than worth the price.

Thanks to the Creature Feature ladies team for being awesome campsite-mates, smashing the women's race (14th overall) and having more fun/looking better than we did while doing it.  Bonus points for THROWING DOWN at the end of the race to pass some men's teams when they already had the women's race locked up.

Unlike most endurance races I do, the phrase "next year" was already getting thrown around on the drive home.  See you there!

  © Blogger template 'External' by 2008

Back to TOP