Monday, June 30, 2008

Mount Snow Short Track/Hill Climb Report

After the morning's shenanigans it was time to attempt to refuel and race some short track. I've gushed before about how intense/awesome the Mt Snow Short Track course is, but it should be noted that I had never raced it, which is probably why it seemed so cool.

Anyway, it's completely non-technical, big ring all the way, with one loose climb that you can just get over by standing and flailing. Well, the first five times up it's easy, then you start to flail more, then you try the middle ring once and notice that you went way slower but still hurt equally, and then you go back to suffering in the big ring until the race ends.

We had a field of 20 or so Semi-pro/Experts and it went out hot. My first lap was 1:30 and that was at the back of the main group. The only people behind me were the two women and a guy who had dropped his chain.

But, since I was in contact and we were hauling, I could get my draft on. I clung to Ben C and the same Bliss junior that I raced at the Coyote Hill Short Track for a few laps (all in the 1:40 range) until the pace finally started to become reasonable. It was just like how I deal with the first lap of a cross race... try not to die for the first five minutes and then start racing.

Eventually I came around the two of them and led up the climb, and my big-ringing antics were enough to open a small gap. This was cool but unfortunately meant I was heading out into no-man's land with 18 minutes of SUPER PAIN left to go, which figured to be much less pleasant than riding with someone else.

Strangely enough I started to realize I was gaining on Stu Jensen, who dominates me in XC races, and I slowly chipped a second or two out of his lead each lap until I was on his wheel. I figured this was a sign that either I was actually having a good one, or he was having a bad one. After riding a lap together it became very apparent he wanted me to lead, so I hammered the hill again and got a huge gap, and then he promptly dropped out... so I guess that answers that question.

From there on in it was just a parade of guys lapping me as the gaps opened up. I kept on keepin' on and after 15 laps in just over 26 minutes they let me stop.

And then they announced 30 minutes until the hill climb start! Which I had stupidly preregistered for, because it seemed like a deal. I was too wasted after the short track to eat a gel, or spin, or do anything else except sit on a picnic table to prepare.

After 20 minutes of staring at my feet I started to feel ok, though, I was thinking that maybe the short track was a good warmup and maybe I'd be able to give another 10 minutes of effort to get up the hill...

Then the hill climb started, and it went like this:
I got beat by every single Sport rider.

Mount Snow Super D

The first stage of the four-race-weekend saga was the Super D. I've never done a Super D but I do like going downhill, so hey, why not? I have four inches of travel in the front and 2.3 in the back, that's pretty good, right?

Maybe if you're Greg Carpenter.

Thirty minutes before the start, I was up top with fellow IBC'er and 6-inch travel biker George for a Super D practice run. Ten seconds into the run my seat was in my stomach and I was reminded that nothing at Mount Snow is easy. A minute later George flatted and now it's panic time. He headed back to the top, I headed for the bottom to grab him a tube and CO2. Gotta hurry to get back up in time for him to change it...

Of course five minutes later I crush a rock I never even saw in the high grass they call a trail and now I have a flat too. I ran all-out to the bottom of the hill (ow), got Thom to change the tube and put a little air in, wasted a ton of time trying to find George's tube before just grabbing one of my own... back on the lift... get to the start line in time to get the 30 second warning for the expert start. Ugh. My front tire only had 15 psi or something so as I'm pumping frantically the race starts without me. After spotting everyone a 30 second head start, I'm off.

Not much to say about this run, I caught a guy on a hardtail and never saw anyone else. Top speed was 30 mph, which feels more like 900 mph when you're bunny-hopping a water bar every 4 seconds, going straight down a work road.

Luckily we were going to do two runs, with the best combined time winning, so I still had a chance for redemption. This time I actually made the start and used my Le Mans skills to get into fourth or fifth place in line down the opening slope. I was right behind Miles on his freeride bike going into the first steep pitch and as I put my belly-button on the saddle, he just wheelie-dropped off it like it was no deal. I realized that my bike and lack of giant brass balls were going to be a problem.

We hit the first wooded singletrack section and two guys got tangled up, awesome! We kind of bottlenecked a bit and I rolled back into the mix and started hammering over roots while trying to pass someone.

Then the line I was on kind of disappeared and I was like, crap, I need to be about a foot to the left. I tried to steer over there while finishing off the pass, and while I managed to get my tire on the line I wanted my weight was hanging way out to the right. There was a little drop, my tire washed out a bit, and that was that -- flipping over the bars I went.

I hit the ground, and before I can even move I see the guy I was passing doing a huge nose wheelie, since my bike/body is blocking the trail... he's teetering... ohhhh crap he's flipping over onto me. So I lay there pinned to a rock, in a tangle of bodies and bikes, while everyone else rode away.

That's when I realized that my current bike/skills combo is going to get me killed if I try to ride any more Super D's against competent people on all-mountain bikes.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mount Snow Garmin Pics

I am way too defeated right now for a proper race report. The short story is, I did four races in two days an all but one of them were total failures. Here is the tale of the Garmin for now, I will write about my numerous calamities later.

Super D
Short Track


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bonus Content

I know there's some nordies still reading this, and I'm sure many of you enjoy opportunities to read/pick apart my best attempts at prose. So, you might be interested in an article I wrote on ski throwing over on nordic commentary project.

In other boring commuter news, anyone remember that crazy thunderstorm that came through Boston around 5:30 yesterday? Yeah, I was trying to ride home in that. I was not successful.

It was a cool experience, since I didn't get electrocuted. It wasn't even raining in Inman Square at 5:30, but when I looked up Hampshire Street toward Somerville I was like, "hmm, I can't really see the buildings down the street so well through that fog."

Then I noticed the "fog" was coming towards me at 25 mph, and was actually a wall of rain.

I couldn't find an overhang in time so I ducked behind the downwind side of a building. For the first few minutes, it was raining sideways so hard that I fared much better than the mass of people I could see across the street huddling under an awning as rain flew under it. Eventually the leading wind gusts passed by, and I was forced to find better shelter.

All in all it was a pretty cool thing to be outside in. I especially liked how all the bike commuters-- who ordinarily don't talk to each other-- were very chatty as we rode directly at the black clouds just before the downpour started. The camaraderie of shared stupidity, I guess!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Putney Race Report

Sunday found me at the end of a predictably unsuccessful rest week, having just gotten my legs eaten for lunch by Matt M on a 2-hour MTB beatdown Saturday. Yes, you read that right, a guy who rides his mountain bike once a month (at best) thrashed me all over the woods behind his house. Despite my claim that I didn't want the ride too go "too fast" I managed to put in over half an hour above 170 bpm... for reference, my max at Putney was 183.

But it's all good because that was just an "opener," yeah, that's it. More importantly, after 2 hours of fighting my hardtail around singletrack at near race pace I realized that my current style is just incompatible with that bike. It's fun to ride, but when I get some lactic a-flowin' I start to lose my ability to bike handle with it, I ride poorly and get more tired because of it. So the hardtail is officially off the bikes-I-race list, and I switched over to the Scalpel for Sunday's race.

We rolled up in Thom's paaaahty caaaah with George and Mo along for maximum gas-money defraying and general company. I tried to get George to take his first hit of chamois cream, but you know, it's really hard to describe what it is and what it does in an appealing way... so I failed. Maybe next week.

The course was the same as last year, which went ridiculously badly for me. After a preride lap with the Garmin I finally figured out why, freaking Putney has 800 feet of climbing per 4 mile lap... that's more climbing per mile than Pat's Peak. Combine that with lots of fast double track descending and nonthreatening singletrack, and you have a climber's course. Which as I'm sure you know by now, is exactly the roadie-favorable type of thing I love to whine about.

We started with 15 guys, and despite my best efforts I could not secure the DFL spot off the start. Things were going so... differently... that I was up to 11th as we entered the first singletrack. I wasn't even going that hard, so it was a very strange feeling. Did we all just realize that winning the first 5 minutes means little in a 2 hour race? I hope so.

Luckily my bike knew that last place was where I needed to get to. Four pedal strokes into the singletrack I slid off an off-camber rock, and the sound it made was a little too loud to just be slipping knobs. 10 seconds later I could tell it was unusually squishy back there, yep, I burped it, so off the bike and digging for the CO2 I go. Four guys pass me, and now I'm in perfect position! Sweet. 30 seconds later I'm on it again, in last.

A minute after that I hit a bump and my front brake sounds like it's shredding itself. I can't tell what's going on except that it's grinding super-loud and has no power. Um, bike? I'm already in last, you can stop malfunctioning now, really. Everything looks ok from the top view, I'm out of breath, I can't tell what's going on... crap crap crap!

Take the camelback off, again, get the tools out, whatever is wrong, I guess I can just loosen it up... I get down there and my stupid brake cable got sucked into the rotor! Ok, well that's an easy fix, too bad I unpacked everything first. Turns out that the wheels I stole from Linnea's bike (thanks, btw!) have these nice rotors with big slots in them, unfortunately big enough to fit a brake cable into. This has never been a problem with my rock-solid, super heavy BB7 rotors, but now I know to cut that cable a lot shorter.

So by the time I got my act back together the singlespeeders came by, letting me know that I had spotted my entire field a two minute head start. Most excellent! I stomped after the singlespeeders and chased them around for the rest of the lap. Since they are generally wicked fast dudes, they provided some good pacing, although I did notice that if they would only get some gears and suspension they could totally smoke me.

Anyway, while they were cranking up the 800 feet I was spinning like a madman. I've suffered enough on hilly courses in the past, trying to stay out of the granny ring, and I've finally learned my lesson -- don't turn 50 rpm when you can do 75, especially when the climb is 2 minutes long, just don't look down at that 22-tooth ring you're turning and you can preserve some pride.

Things kept going pretty well and by the end of the first lap I had actually picked up one guy from my category. Midway through lap two I hit the jackpot, there were like six guys all racing mostly together (Miles, Sean, Keith, and a bunch more), so when we got to Heartbreak Hill (you know it if you raced, 180 vertical feet at the midpoint of the lap) I laid down the girly-man-spin and suddenly had a very respectable race going on.

Even stranger, I was still feeling good, save for my stomach which was a bit perturbed by the 7-month-old-gel-that's-been-through-the-wash-twice that I had just fed it. But still, better than I usually feel after an hour. I just kept granny-ringing it and next thing I know I can see Tim D in the leader's jersey up the next hill.

Side note: Tim keeps showing up to these races and beating me. My plan of "keep finishing and you'll get the jersey when he DNFs or doesn't show up" is utterly failing.

I could tell I was starting to lose my edge because it took me most of lap three to close the gap to Tim. As soon as I got there I made an attack into the longest, fastest downhill, because I was worried he could easily hang with me based on how long it took me to catch him. I opened up a small gap, but then halfway down I hit another bump and there goes my brake again!

At least this time I knew what to do so it was a quick fix, still though, he got back ahead of me and led to the end of the lap. I clawed my way back and did the attack-entering-the-downhill again, and this time it worked. Alone finally, it was time to spin out the last lap and go home.

Or was it? Out of nowhere I saw Nate Pepin on the singletracky switchback section, he was only 15 seconds up with half a lap and three big climbs to go. Sweet, I thought, I am totally catching you, dude!

Unfortunately he also though "crap, he is totally catching me," because when we got to Heartbreak Hill again he had somehow put 10 seconds on me in a minute of descending. That guy can ride downhill... or maybe I can't.

I still thought I might be able to take care of business with all the climbing, but he had more than enough gas left to hold me off. Despite my best efforts to stay off the brakes and attack the hills, the gap went nowhere and I rolled through, 18 seconds back in 3rd.

Not that I'm complaining, that was probably the best race I've ever had on a non-technical course. I'd like to thank Matt for beating on me Saturday, and my bike for breaking on me Sunday, for making all this possible!

After the race we hung out to eat Curtis' BBQ (they had a truck on site!) and watch George throw down in the sport race. After an hour the heavens opened, blowing tents over and drenching racers. We huddled under the stablest tent (which isn't saying much) and watched people suffer. It was great!

View from the North

View from the south

(Wicked twisty Saturday ride with Matt)

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Possible Scoop

Hey blogosphere, am I the first person to embed video of Frank Schleck eating it big time at the Tour de Suisse? Am I?

Another tragedy that could've been avoided but for the UCI ban on disc brakes.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The ProTip to end all ProTips

Alright, so usually when I say I have a protip for you it's something stupid. It's often barely a tip and certainly not pro. But this time it's different, ladies and gentlemen. This tip is wicked pro.

Ok, so it's summer in Boston. You're commuting to work, you finish your ride and think, damn, I'm wicked haaaaht, I can't roll to my cubicle like this. Some people solve this problem with a shower, but I bet most of you lazy-asses solve it with the ubiquitous Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee.

Since 50% of Boston businesses are Dunkin Donuts shops, you're never more than a few steps away from that iced goodness. You drop your $2.50, get your drink, start guzzling and head to work.

The problem is, it's cold. It's refreshing. And it's chock full of ice. You take a few, nice, deep swigs, and then it's kicked. If you're like me, you're already making that empty-drink-gurgle with your start before you even sit down to work. And to think you just paid $2.50 for a drink that lasts 3 minutes!

Today's ProTip is get your iced coffee from Au Bon Pain. Most other iced coffee vendors give you the same 60% ice cube drink, but ABP lets you make your own. It's just like self-serve soda, and it's only $1.80 for a 16 oz. Drop 5 ice cubes in there and the fill the rest of that sucker with coffee. It's cheaper than DD, you get far more coffee than DD, you don't get a terribly diluted drink after 5 minutes like DD.

The only downside is that now you've got 16 ounces of iced coffee in your hand and it's wicked easy to slam that in all of 10 minutes, too. And then you're effing wired, which makes you write blog posts!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Kingdom Trails

As previously mentioned, I really think I need to take a break from training. My frail body cannot handle any more 10 hour weeks on a diet of pure coffee.

The thing that sucks is that after 60 miles, 9000 feet and 8 hours of Vermont singletrack this weekend, I really want to ride more! Maybe a nice drizzly commute with cure me of that desire.

Saturday Linnea and I rode with Rich Blair and Mike and Sara Zocchi for four hours at a smokin' pace. As the guy with the most Kingdom experience, I was leading or near the front calling turns (of which there are many) for the whole ride, and every time I looked back there would be four people right on my wheel. It was a great group, I don't think we had to do a single regrouping stop for the whole ride. Of course the downside to that was that I had to actual exert myself for four hours straight, which is hard.

We ended the ride by going to check out a trail called "Moose Alley" that I had never ridden. It looked wicked fun, several miles of winding singletrack, and I kind of neglected to inspect the contours it crossed.

So that turned out to be a 700 foot climb. At some places that would be a super-gross ride straight up a hill, but the Kingdom pulled through (as always) with an endless and surprisingly fun switchbacking, singletrack climb. We hit the top and the vote was unanimous, turn around and go straight back down.

Day 1: Singletracky!

It poured rain for a couple hours overnight, so Rich and Mike ran for home Sunday morning with the intent of doing a road ride instead. (WTF?!) Linnea and I had invested way too much to bail due to mud, so we went back out of another wicked four hours with Sara. After 2 hours of slick roots and greasy mud (not actually a bad thing...) Sara convinced us to get all Hill Junkie on things and ride up the Burke Mtn. Toll Rd.
Can you find the riders in this picture?

It was super foggy up there so no one was driving around, heck, the road might have been closed for all I could tell. In any case it was a solid 40 minute climb up to 3300 feet, a lot of work even with mountain bike gearing.
A Lincoln Gap-ish pitch
The descent gave me a new appreciation for car brakes, which somehow stop a 2-ton vehicle without bursting into flame. Linnea's front disc brake was set up slightly off-center, which meant one pad was applying more pressure than the other. After 500 feet of 10%+ downhill, one side of her rotor was overheating and visibly warping as it expanded more than the other side. We stopped to try to fix it and I promptly seared a rotor-print into my glove taking off her wheel, that thing was hot. She tried to back out the pads with a torx wrench to balance it out and promptly stripped the heat-softened bolt.
The required riding self shot

She was able to coax her bike the rest of the way down by stopping periodically, but that BB5 caliper is definitely dead. My bike held up a bit better, although it smelled like a barbecue when I stopped.
Proof that we summitted -- the view from the fire tower

Kingdom Trails is one of the few places I have no problem driving 3 hours to just for a ride. Heck, I'd make it a day trip. If you've never been there, start planning a weekend there right now, you won't regret it.

Day 2: Climby!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Time for a Break

Last night I rolled down the to Dover TT with the IBC mountain bike team. There's no particularly good reason for a bunch of mountain bikers to want to go do an eight mile time trial, but our collective reasoning seems to be "Thom does it and he's faster than us." Thus, you get a bunch of hairy legs without aero gear mixed in with the TT-bike crowd.

Five weeks ago I clocked 20:06 here, my first time ever seeing the course. Surely another month of training plus knowing the course would make me go faster?

Ugh... If only. This time around I tried a few things differently, and either due to or in spite of these changes, I was 13 seconds slower. I lucked out with Linnea starting right in front of me, but it took me 12 minutes to catch her and she almost passed me back on the long, gradually downhill second half of the course. For some reason I just can't power along at 25 mph like everyone else. For now, I'm blaming the cross bike and being grateful that I don't road race.

Did another quick mountain bike ride this morning, for reasons unknown. I felt absolutely terrible. I think it's probably time to hang up the bike for a while, but I have a Kingdom trip planned for this weekend. Oh well. After that, I'll rest, I promise.

Edit: I forgot to mention the highlight of the trip back from Dover -- getting yelled at by a guy on a hybrid for riding "two abreast on a narrow road."

Not in a hybrid; on a hybrid. I've got to hand it to him, his indignation was righteous -- I'd hate to see what his reaction is when something actually bad happens. And for the record, there were zero cars behind us...dude.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Channel 3 XC Race Report

Oh man.

Seven days before the race, I had just finished freaking out in the heat at Pat's Peak, and I checked the forecast. Sunday was the hottest day of the coming week -- 84 degrees predicted in Andover, CT.

Gee, I thought, that's gonna be tough, I don't think Pat's Peak even broke 80.

Three days before the race the forecast was up to 91.

Two days before the race the forecast was up to 95. Tough doesn't even begin to describe it. I started hydrating Friday. I drank a Pedialyte Saturday. I picked up some Hammer electrolyte pills. I was prepared... and terrified.

Somewhere along the line, I forgot that I needed to prepare my bike as well as my body. I showed up at the start line on the Scalpel with a bunch of parts I threw on the night before and rode for all of ten minutes before the race started -- a new Reba Race and a crappy old crank stolen from Linnea's old bike. Two minutes to start and I notice that my headset is a bit loose -- so I borrowed an allen key from Ben Corbalis and tightened it while we were getting instructions. Generally not a good sign.

The Reba ended up working great, after I correctly guessed the psi that would give me "race stiffness." The crank... not so much. I must have gotten some grit on the spindle because that thing was LOUD! And not shifting very well, neither up front or in back. Getting out of the big ring required dropping all the way to the granny and then back up, for example. At the last minute I packed a giant 8mm allen key in the event my crank decided to fall off.

The plan for the day was to start super slow and try to survive. Such a simple plan, and yet so impossible to follow. I took it out in last place, which was great, but I couldn't convince myself to let everyone ride away. Nick Bartow took a wicked header on the first monster log, so I picked up a place and the race was on. I tried to ride easy, stay relaxed, but the heat and sharp climbs made it impossible. I saw 193 on my HRM repeatedly throughout the lap, that's way higher than I've ever sustained before. I thought I should probably slow down, but I was still riding at the back, and my legs felt ok.

So what's the deal here? I was at 186-193 bpm for most of lap 1. Given that my max is about 195 (or so I thought...), does this mean I should have slowed down? Had it been cooler I know I would have been down around 180 for that level of effort, which is pretty normal. Except for feeling like my head was in an oven, things seemed to feel ok. Seriously, any of you real athletes out there, is a super-high HR always a sign of impending doom, even if it's being caused by extreme heat?

So yeah, there was some impending doom. Lap two started off pretty well and I was motoring through the field for a while, and it looked like my dawdling lap one strategy was going to pay off. But then I realized I had to pee. There was no way I could hold it off for another hour of racing. My super-aggressive hydration strategy has some downsides. What to do?

I've had discussions with some people who are more serious than I about what to do in this situation. The answer seems to be, piss your shorts. This seems pretty repulsive to me, but what do I know? If that's what you do, that's what you do.

I couldn't do it.

I was already so hot. My HR was still through the roof. I just stopped, faced away from the trail, and let it rip. Got a nice 20 second break, and didn't have to soil my shorts. I'll take it.

The problem was, that 20 second break turned off my ability to race. I got back on the bike and I was cooked, smoked, toasted, burned. My heart had tasted a respite from the torture chamber and it wasn't going back in. Suddenly, it was like I had two brakes dragging. I started hemorrhaging places.

Lap three was utter misery. It took me almost 20 minutes of soft pedaling before I could get back to the scalding, sustained suffering that qualified as racing today. The interesting thing was how many other people on the course were going through the same transformation -- I was going back and forth with so many guys as we alternately blew up and recovered. Just to name the guys from my category, I traded places at least twice with Sean Daley, Eric Carlson, Matt Green, Keith Berkoben, Mukunda Feldman, Randall Jacobs... probably more guys, too. The whole group of us were all within 2 minutes so there were lots of places getting swapped -- and plenty of reasons to keep trying to race.

The course went by a nice, big 15-foot wide stream each lap. I'd been consider jumping in it from the beginning of the race -- by lap three I was ready to try it. I was in the mix with the aforementioned guys, so it was possibly a bad idea. Twenty seconds at least, but what would happen when I hit the icy water with fiery legs? Instant cramps? Losing the will to race (again)? I didn't know. But I wanted to find out.

I ditched the bike and ran into the water, predictably slipping and falling on the submerged rocks. Ahhhhhh, so nice. I flopped onto my back, unfortunately straight onto a big rock which kept me out of the water. I rolled off it and got my torso underwater. The cold made me hyperventilate, and it felt amazing!

I emerged from the water in time to get laughed at by Mukunda Feldman. I don't blame him... but man, how that changed my race. I should have done it on lap two. Somehow it just reset my body heat enough that I could hammer once more. I was legitimately hammering once again -- instead of feeling incredibly hot, I was able to think about how much my legs were hurting. Which is how you're supposed to feel in a bike race.

Lap four was madness. I rose from the ashes, but I only had twenty minutes left to salvage my race. Luckily, we had a fairly dense group of riders, and I was making places fast. With five minutes left, I caught Eric Carlson for the third time today, and it was time for some Winsted Woods revenge. I tried to do the old pass-and-dust but I couldn't get it done, he was tenacious and my technical skills were going down the tubes from the effort. He stayed right on my wheel as the pace picked up. Soon we rolled up on Randall Jacobs in some hard singletrack, and I continued to waste energy by riding his wheel super-close and dabbing repeatedly when he bobbled. I couldn't get by him, and then we hit the last climb on the course, before the fast downhill and flat sprint to the line.

I hit 198 bpm trying to pass Randall, the highest I've ever seen. It didn't work. I cracked at bit near the top, but I was sure that our drag race had dusted Eric. I looked back and he was right on my wheel. Oh crap.

We had a brief fire road descent to recover. On the flats, I finally got that last-60-seconds-of-a-cross-race burst of adrenaline. I went nuts in the big ring, staying seated as my bike ghost shifted wildly. I passed Randall, hung onto the last corner, and exploded 20 yards before the finish line. I had just barely enough of a gap to limp across the line, one second clear of Randall and Eric.

I crossed the line and didn't touch the brakes. I rolled straight back to the car, right past the car, down the embankment, into the stream, where I lay for 20 minutes.

Now that's my kind of cooldown.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Critical Posting Mass

Alrighty, none of these things are blog-worthy on their own, but when you throw them all together they become just barely worth the effort to write down. And read. I think.

1) I had a motorist say "thank you" to me the other day, no joke. They wanted to go right on red, I was in the way, I moved, they thanked. It's almost like we were sharing the road. And yes, that's why I'll tell you how to ride in traffic. Hint: not two abreast.

2) My friend Alex has this insane scheme to make money by selling baked goods at Wells Ave on Sunday. This strikes me as a lot of work for a little money, but that's because I consider baking work. I am, however, intrigued by the idea of a person become a professional bake saler, and I know that I am easily separated from my cash when offered post-race snacks. Perhaps it will be an inspirational story of how one girl exploited hundreds of hungry cyclists to fund a ski career. In any case, if you're one of the few Boston roadies that will read this between now and Sunday, think about the phrase "cupcake prime" for a few moments when you're making weekend plans.

3) It's going to be 92 degrees on Sunday. Good thing we don't race 'till 2 pm. It will surely be cooling off by then... right? No? Crap. Expect the next race report to prominently feature the word "cramp."

Monday, June 2, 2008

Pat's Peak XC Race Report

Hills, Heat, Hardtail, Happiness -- pick any three.


So Pat's Peak was going to be the race where I followed the lead of my sensei Thom and rocked it pro-style, that is, ditching the usual camelback and heavy dualie for a hardtail and a single water bottle. We're talking about probably 4 pounds in weight savings here, which I ordinarily would scoff at, but I did have to climb 3500 feet during the course of the race. Maybe Hill Junkie could tell me how many seconds 4 lbs is worth over 3500 feet of climbing when you're putting out, like, 150 watts, but I think it's a lot.

Last year Pat's Peak was a mudfest. I remember the downhill was smooth and slimy. Who needs dual suspension for that, I asked? Well, this year it was bone dry, rutted into washboard by the 24 hour race and sport/beginner classes. I needed dual suspension for that, it turns out.

Last year Pat's Peak was a thunderstormfest, so climbing in the open on ski slopes wasn't super hot. This year -- sunny. I'm crawling uphill at 4 mph, the breeze is coming up the hill with me (also at 4 mph), it might only be 74 degrees but the sun is pointed directly at my head and I feel like an ant to God's magnifying glass. Surely, this is what hell is like, I think to myself.

This is commonly known as "adversity," a situation that requires "mental toughness," and often leads to me "doing shitty."

So yeah, this was not one of my best performances on a bike. Despite my light weight, I cannot climb sustained grades to save my life. Pat's Peak has 3 major climbs per lap -- I was getting killed. My bike and body were nice and light, but instead of getting whisked uphill by angels I was getting grilled. Even angels like to barbecue sometimes, I guess.

The actual race followed the typical pattern of fast first lap, horrible gut check 2nd lap, meltdown on the 3rd lap, slight recovery on the 4th lap. Highlights included my patended DFL start, followed by riding straight into a ditch while screaming "ahhh I suck" as I tried to move up by cutting the inside of a loose turn. Somehow I got it together (maybe by riding too hard) on the first lap to get all the way up to 5th by the end, and I was within striking distance of Timmy D, the series leader, only 15 seconds back. You're set, I told myself, because you generally speed up in races. Just keep doing your thing and you'll undoubtedly overtake him, take the series lead, and get podium girls. You're the man now, dog!

On the second lap he appeared to gain a bit on me. That's odd, I thought, you are supposed to catch him and beat him. Well, no matter, I can still see him, so it's only a matter of time before I speed up and defeat him. No reason to worry.

By the end of that lap, however, it had gotten to the point where I could occasionally see him on the longest straightaways. This is generally not a sign that you are within "striking distance."

At this point I was so hot, and my stomach was so distraught, that I was ready to stop worrying about doing well and start worrying about finishing. In my melting-down state it took me until the end of the third lap to realize that I had a full zip jersey on, and there was no reason to hide my chest hair from the world. As I passed a cheering Yash I unzipped in the most flamboyant, er, Euro manner possible. In addition to making him the happiest man on the course I also noticed an immediate reduction in discomfort. In the future I will try to remember I can unzip before 75% of the race is over.

I also managed to pull my back wheel out of the dropout on the 3rd lap, with my massive torque. That's what I get for doing the full-bike-disassembly car-packing and not paying enough attention when putting it back together. I was hoping that re-seating the wheel would make me feel super good (because maybe my discs had been dragging for a long time!) but alas, nothing except the sweet release of death could make me feel super good at this point.

On lap 4 the legendary Hupster PVB passed me, and I got to listen to him "shift," which is when I realized why he breaks chains a lot. It seems to involve random amounts of torque and lever-pressing until the bike ends up in a different gear, that may or may not be the gear you wanted. We had a little chat where I said pathetic things about how I was sucking and he didn't rub in the fact that he was crushing me. It was nice. Then he rode away.

Fittingly, I got lapped by the leading pro/semipro with a minute left to ride, confirming that I am so much slower than them it boggles the mind. Maybe not your mind... but my mind, anyway.

Uhhhh... see you next week?

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