Saturday, August 30, 2008

Insane Vacation Recap

So, if the only time you have to blog in a week is during a 24 hour race, that's kind of funny, in a sick sort of way.

Let's see if I can remember how it all went down. One of the cardinal rules of blogging is not to talk about your job, but we'll have to break that one since it's half the story. You should already know that I'm a software engineer by trade, and that's all you'll need to know.

Last Wednesday found me rushing frantically around trying to finish my current work project in time to be out of the office by 3. I had to be out by 3 to make a 5:20 flight out of Providence. I eventually made this flight by 20 minutes, while learning a few things:

1) Never drive on 93 south from Boston. Never. It looks shorter, but is it NOT.
2) Never fly out of Providence to save $130 bucks, because you will lose most of that savings in gas and parking, especially if you get there with barely enough time to throw it in airport parking.
3) The sign on I-95 that says "TF Green Airport use 295 Exit 4" is the worst sign in the world, because (a) 295 is longer and (b) it's Exit 3, guys.
4) Powergels must be in a clear plastic bag if you want to keep them in your carryon. Fuck you, TSA.

Two flights and two hours of delay later, I was on the ground in Boise at 1 AM local time... or 3 AM EST. We had another 2+ hours in the car back to Sun Valley/Ketchum Idaho, so it was nearly 4 AM by the time I got to sleep. I was back up by 9 because I made the mistake of checking my crackberry and the ole work project was not, in fact, out the door.

It wasn't out the door at 11 AM either, but through the miracle of the internet I told everyone I "really had to run" and "would work more later" so I could join my brother and the rest of our 24 hour team on a ride.

That night I came home, tidied up a few more work issues, had a nice dinner and went to bed early. Ahhh... finally my vacation feels like a vacation!

Friday morning I woke up around 10 AM and made the mistake of opening my computer. I was immediately attacked by IM windows and emails, all with the same question: where the hell are you?

It turns out that the people who deal with vacation requests were on vacation when I submitted my vacation notification and thus I was never officially granted any time off. I told the people from my main project I was leaving, so no problem there, but I kind of forgot about the other one I was on...

See, there was this secondary project that I had only assignment for: "watch how it goes and make sure it's on track." Guess what I didn't do for two days? Watch it. Guess where it went? Very off track.

So I basically wrote code as fast as I could for four hours straight trying to cover my ass Friday morning. Then I had a nice, relaxing, hour long conference call. Then I swapped the bars on my loaner bike, set the bike racks up, packed up again and got in the car for the four-hour drive to Grand Targhee resort. Ahh... now it's a vacation, right?

Negative, Ghostrider.

At this point I knew I was in minor trouble over just up and leaving work so I had to keep checking the crackberry. It was full of good news, like "your app is failing to run in user mode, do you know why?" and "will you be available for support this weekend by phone?" and "we need more work on project #2 for the demo on monday, can you help?"

The answer to the first one was no. The answer to the rest should have been, but it wasn't.

Oh right! There's a race report in all this. I made three posts during the race so maybe I can keep this one on target for once.

Meet the team:

Steve
Strengths: Serious runner.
Weaknesses: Fourth time on a mountain bike.

Pete
Strengths: Wearing a helmet cam
Weaknesses: Sharing a bike with Steve


John
Strengths: Faster than me
Weaknesses: I might slash his tires because he's faster than me


Me
Strengths: Blogging
Weaknesses: Altitude, sickness, might have to write code mid-race

As soon as the race got started we realized that with everyone turning sub-40 laps, your number comes up disturbingly often. Two hours is just barely enough time to stop feeling ill, shovel some food down, talk some codshit to the next guy and then go wait for your turn again. At Pete's request I built us a high-tech monitoring system that would keep us on schedule:
This had the added bonus of preventing me from working.

After 8 laps we had put the other four man teams in the rear view, but we were still trailing the lead solo and lead duo. Those mothers could ride.

I ended lap two with a gel-squashing crash that put jersey #1 out of commission:

Losing those gels was doubly bad because I went on to near-bonk of both of my night doubles due to lack of quick fuel.

When the sun went down, the lap times came up. In addition to playing "musical bikes," we were also playing musical lights, so Pete and I were swapping his NiteRider back and forth. It had 1:30 to recharge while Steve rode, which was allegedly enough time.

With 20 minutes left on my second lap, it made a soft little pop and was gone, with no warning.

I'd been slowly chasing someone down for the lap and was only 30 yards back. The daring move was to sprint full gas through the dark until I caught them, then ride their lights back to safety.

I whimpered and locked up my brakes.

As I stood there in the dark wondering what to do, my eyes started to adjust to the moonlight and the three backup LEDs on the light. I looked down at the ground -- I could see a slightly lighter-colored strip extending a few feet in front of me -- the trail.

It blew me away how successful I was riding with just the 3 LEDs. My visibility was only about 5 feet, and I had to keep my head low and my eyes locked open, but I had enough of the course memorized by then I could keep things moving pretty safely. The worst part was when I passed a solo climbing and I lost my night vision because of his lights right before a rock garden -- that was pretty much the ugliest line I've ever ridden.

I made it back with a positive split of only six minutes, yelling and gesturing about how awesome I was for riding with just LEDs. It's funny how people never think you're as awesome as you do.

After that it was time for a proper nap. I took a shower, fixed a chain jam on the shared bike by taking of the chainrings (!!), and headed down to the tent in the camping area.

2 sleepless hours later, I really appreciated the "quiet hours" at Great Glen. And I really wanted to kill the duo teams that communicated by shouting at the top of their lungs as they rode past. And the pit crew that cheered for every single rider. Loudly.

I did get to ride the sunrise lap, which was nice, but being the first lap of a double it was hard to enjoy. I made sure to get one more crash in during the night by trying to "rail a turn" while "riding through a giant pile of sand that looked like packed dirt in the flat light." That's my story and I'm sticking to it, and yes, the dust tasted great.

After that double I was pretty wasted, and running up a hefty calorie deficit. I was only the verge of cracking but a quick math/time check showed that I had only one lap left to ride. I grimly forced down some lasagna and yogurt and waited to see what kind of lap times we could turn in the morning.

See, John had been smoking my laps the first day, but I had a couple things in my favor on day two -- I'd had another 24 hours to get healthier, another 24 hours to acclimatize, and most importantly, he didn't know we were racing. And he had to ride twice more.

His first morning lap was a 38. I could barely shift the loaner hardtail, my wrists were so pummeled, so I took Steve/Pete's dualie for the last lap and gave it all I had, taking it as far as adjusting the seat height while riding (thanks, quick release!) to save time.

The bike rode like a dream, a brand new Fox RLC is miles ahead of an old-ass SID on washboard. My wrists barely even hurt as I descended everything 20% faster than any other lap. I gave it everything I had on the uphills, failing, alternately mashing and spinning as I tried to find a rhythm with my only slightly-refueled legs.

I crossed the line in 38 minutes and nearly threw up. John went back out and rode another 40. If only the timers had cared to post lap times down to the second, we would know if he avenged the Flying Moose.

We ended the race in second place -- the duo team was just too strong, they settled into doing morning laps at 39 minutes and we lost even more ground. They were just better. It happens.

After the race ended the challenge continued -- repack the car and drive 4.5 hours across the desert on virtually no sleep. It sounds hard, but it's not, thanks to 90+ degree temperatures and no AC. Extreme discomfort is even more effective than caffeine... plus I drank a coffee to be safe.

Back in Sun Valley at 6pm, I had 8 hours of programming to do for work by noon Monday. So I stretched it out to 38 hours without sleep and did half of it. Then I passed out. Then I did more work... as fast as I could... and then got in the car to drive to Boise.

Landed in Providence at midnight... without my luggage... to finish the busiest vacation evar.

I can't breathe!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

24 Hours of Grand Targhee Live Update #3




Eight laps done now. Finished my second double as the sun was coming up, and just rode my fastest lap of the race (37ish) to finish it off.

I am utterly toasted.

Four hour drive home is going to be intense.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

24 Hours of Grand Targhee Live Update #2

Now with full sentences!

It's 8:30 pm now. We've been on it since noon and I've been sick since Monday. It's a long story and a pretty valid excuse, but who wants to read about that? Let's just say that chest cold + 8000 ft + 10% humidity = serious throat pain.

The good news is we're in 2nd overall and might even be moving up. The bad news is this is made possibly by a low 4-person team turnout; with $1000 going to the solo/duo winners, the fast guys are riding that. It took us 6 hours to pass the lead solo, and we're currently hanging 10 minutes away from getting lapped by the lead duo. As a self-respecting 4-man team, we are finding the latter fact a bit tough to swallow. But damn -- those guys are fast. It's not over, though, we've actually only lost 2 minutes on them in the last 3 laps, and it's only the early night. We're hoping to stop the bleeding soon and starting coming back, but when the sun goes down anything can happen -- and lots of those things are not fun.

Obviously the four man team has wicked downtime versus the deuce, I mean, I'm so chill-bro-ified I can write blog posts. It's still hurting wicked hahd though -- at 35-40 minutes a lap we're all doing a cross race once every 2.5 hours, which doesn't sound fun at all when you put it that way. But I think we're having fun.

My laps have been steady, 38-38:20-38:40, and the most exciting thing I've done was a wicked hahd bail I mentioned a few hours ago. The trails out here are sandy troughs through meadows, and I attempted to ride out of the trough to set up a corner at high speed. My front wheel never made it out, and I skipped like a stone on my back across the meadow before rolling to my feet. No injury, but the destruction of my gel collection and encrustification of jersey and multitool was punishment enough.

We're heading into double lap time so I have six laps to play Dr. Chill Bro-ington the 3rd, then I'll be serious satellite radio for a bit, and after that I might even sleep for an hour or two -- whoa.

24 Hours of Grand Targhee Live Update

Bad News: I just crashed damn hard, while going damn fast.

Good News: The blow to my spine was cushioned.

Bad News: The blow to my spine was cushioned by a pocketful of gels.

Also Bad News: I'm out gels now, and my jersey is disgusting.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Riding in Sun Valley


It's ok... I guess.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Quiet Monday

It's been pretty well established than I'm an insufferable racerhead, but with a 24 hour race last weekend and a 24 hour race this coming weekend, even I could figure out that maybe I shouldn't race on Sunday. Judging from what I heard it sounds like I picked a good one to skip, not that I don't like "40 minute climbs" and "rail trails" in my mountain bike race.

What to do on a raceless weekend, then? Oh, the plans I had. I was gonna log some "serious hours" and some "cx practice" and some "Wompatuck recon," oh yeah, three rides in two days. Then Linnea and I headed out Saturday on what should have been an easy 40 miler and I could barely pedal, it was like my legs had never even been flexed before, I started to understand why to the average couch-dweller a 100-miler sounds like a big deal, riding a bike is HARD. Now that gas is down to $3.65 a gallon I might just buy an SUV instead.

So that was it for "serious miles." Got up Sunday to head to CX practice with Mr. HUP East, it only took me 20 extra minutes I didn't have to convert my cross bike out of road mode. Added bonus: dragging brakes build fitness.

We eventually had five attendees, my legs were still shot but I was on my first ever tubular ride so it was a grassripping good time. A single "hot lap" put me back in the hurt box for good but I was able to fake competitiveness for two minutes.

I thought I would finish up by being a total badass and preriding the 25 mile Wompatuck race course, well, I broke a spoke after five miles and brilliantly dislodged my rim tape removing it, breaking the tubeless seal. A CO2 later it had failed to seal back up (WTF), and that was the end of my day. I got to do more cross training on the walk back.

Now today my throat is sore, so maybe I'm working on some sickness to go with my stupid riding habits.

Not to finish with negativity though, there's two pieces of good news for the readers tough enough to make it this far. Man, what do people blog about when they don't race??

1) The Root 66 Expert 19-29 season standings have me in second place over Sean Daley by a mere 3 points with 2 races to go. Why is this a good thing, you ask? Because we're effectively tied, we both dropped three races already, so the last two will be a proper showdown with the winner taking home $225. Not that I need help getting up for a bike race, I would just rather have to "beat someone" than "show up" to get 2nd. Suffice to say I'll be packing an extra tube in the coming weeks.

2) I have a personal aversion to August cyclocross, but I don't hold it against anyone who indulges -- so I quit feeling sorry for myself after that stupid Wompy ride and made the crossresults.com Race Prognosticator aka "The Competition Stalker." I already wrote a bunch of crap about it over there so I won't get into here -- the bottom line is, I am gonna use the shit outta that thing this year, so fellow number junkies should probably click that link.

On the other hand, if you're like anonymous internet poster 'jan' then you might agree, "man do they have a lot of numbers....jeez.. too much."

If I remember correctly, Alex's boyfriend Ed was the guy who suggested this feature, as a greasemonkey script. Which would have been even nerdier. Thanks Ed!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

24 Hours of Great Glen Race Report

Warning: This is really long.

Ok, I think I might finally be cured of the two-man team. I've done it before -- back when it was the only MTB race I did all summer. Back when I was "kinda" in shape, ok, not really, my training plan was a lot closer to Jerry's 34 ride plan then what I do now. Oh, right, I wrote about it last year, which of course jinxed me into busting my knee.

Anyway. When you race XC's every weekend, it's really really hard not to go hard from the gun. I might be the master of the DFL start, but DFL XC speed is still too fast for 24 hours. Way. Too. Fast.. The great thing about the two-man team is that everyone thinks you're a badass. The bad thing is, you have to suffer like a dog for 24 hours for that respect.

Ok, enough foreshadowing...

This year's 24HOGG had us sharing a campsite with a 5-man HUP team comprised of my buddy Justin, illustrious bloggers Kerry and MegA, apparently retired blogger TomN, and Chip, who gives me nothing to link to but was a pretty funny dude nonetheless. They were ostensibly going to support us, but were mainly there to take pleasure in our misery and be asleep when I needed a clean bike at 3 am.

Really though, sleeping aside they helped us a ton, if we had been unsupported it would have been effing murder.

Last year there were only two mixed pairs, and Linnea and her brother won by about 10 laps. Apparently everyone else noticed the easy pickins ($250!) because this year there were 9 mixed pairs entered. Seven of them were people I didn't know (and thus, "no big deal"), but the other one was the couple of Harry Precourt and Kay Sherwood. Harry was 3rd solo here last year; Kay was on the winning women's expert team. Not only were they no joke, they were probably faster than us based on Root 66 results. So we were going to have bring our A game to have a shot at the money.

"Bringing the A game" got started early -- on the run. I've only run twice this season but I was ready to throw down around the pond. I ended up sandwiched between tall freaks on the run, while being surprisingly out of breath. I think I was hanging out around 30th at this point.

Ran through the tent to go get my bike which Justin was holding, funny thing was, he saw me coming and flipped the bike out in front of me to be extra-helpful -- except it was not really helpful because I ended up on the drive side, which I can't cross mount from, because I suck. Here's a pic of me taking the bike while saying something like "noooooo wrong side" to him. Bonus: A younger gentlemen making a swerve around the madness.


Got on the bike, got two pedal strokes and someone grabs my jersey... hard. What?! I look back and it's Gewilli, the largest parasitic organism on the planet I guess. I informed him that a parasite can't be larger than its host body and sped away.

We lined it out pretty fast and I started passing people that had been running for show, but did not want to pedal for dough. Into the blueberry climb we got our first look at the course conditions, and they were MUDDY. One of the mtbmind guys got a pic of me literally seconds before I dropped off a bridge into the first mud, here I am clean for the last time in 24 hours:



Photo credit: mtbmind picasa.


Up the switchbacks I was on Rich Person's wheel, then passed when he bobbled, then passed more people, passed another guy who crashed descending... then all of a sudden I was alone, only 15 minutes into the race!

First lap was shockingly lonely after that, I was discovering just how muddy the course was, I kept telling myself to keep my HR down but I kept seeing fun numbers like 186 on my Garmin anyway. That's the kind of number that makes me say "whoa now, slow down" in XC races.

I worked really hard to ride stuff on the first lap, I was wicked inefficient but damned if I wasn't moving. Finished up the lap in 10th overall, 46:something including the run, tagged Linnea, hit the bike wash, back to camp to eat some food... oh damn, this is intense.

I shoveled some pasta salad down, my dad made it, it was incredible, I'd gush about the ingredients more (pepperoni!) but that would be pretty food-blogger-ish so I can't. The first transition period was wicked frantic, and half an hour after sitting down I was heading back to the tent for lap two.

Linnea laid down one of the fastest laps rode by a woman the entire race -- I'm waiting for official split but from my calculations only Melanie Brown did a faster lap than her 47:55. So she was basically riding even more out of her mind than I was. Probably a bad sign. Even worse, despite her sick lap she entered the tent 20 seconds behind Harry who had just turned a 41, so we weren't even winning our category. Holy crap, this is intense!

Back on the bike. Passed Kay quickly to retake the lead, tried to ride a smarter lap, somehow ended up with a max of HR of 184 anyway, ended up coming through in 8th or 9th overall with a 45 minute lap. Wash the bike. Check the results, find out we're blowing out the rest of the mixed pair field and all but one of the male pairs. Top ten overall is probably not sustainable for a pair but man, I am stoked right now! Back to the camp. Eat more pasta. I'm out of control, I'm working on my brakes, filling bottles, running around, Chip is loving it as he relaxes for 4 hours before his next ride. Back to the tent.

This time Linnea come through a minute behind Harry after turning a 50. Dear god, we aren't even keeping pace, despite the fact that we're riding way too fast. We can only hope they're doing the same.

Another lap, trying to ride smarter, walking some of the hardest sections now. Still pushing dangerously hard as evidenced by hanging with the Fior di Frutta expert team for most of the lap. This lap starts to drive home just what kind of trouble we're in, I've basically done 3 cross races so far and there are 20 hours left. My stomach is starting to question the pasta salad, which leads to a 47.

This time at the exchange I tell Linnea we have to slow down, we can't beat Kay and Harry by going their speed on the first afternoon, we have to back off and race our own race. She agrees, and we decide that I'll start the double laps next time out. Wash the bike. Check results -- still in 10th. Grab some food, grab some gels, only 40 minutes off. This is intense. This is insane. I think I said this to Chip at least five times during the break.

Linnea is feeling it to and she drops another two minutes to a 52 minute lap, which puts us three minutes down on Harry and Kay. That's ok, well, it's not ok but what can you do? I head out on the double telling myself to ride smart, because we have 19 hours left, and I am definitely nearing the no-fun zone. First lap of the double is a 48 and I pass Kay near the end of the lap. We've lost a lot of ground and I don't feel good. Coming through the tent and going out for lap two I only have a minute or two head start on a fresh Harry. He catches me quickly and we have a quick chat --

Me: "I think you got us, man"
Harry: "Come on, it's only 5:30!"
Me: "Exactly."

This lap is where the wheels came off. I told myself I was riding "smart" but I was actually just riding "slow." Barely had a spirited walk going on the hike-a-bike sections, which were getting longer as I got more tired. Came into the tent and Linnea and my dad are there-- "What's wrong? Did you break your bike? Are you ok??" Generally not good questions to receive after lap five. No guys, everything's fine, I just positive-splitted by 6 minutes and I need to throw up.

Finally we were on doubles so at least I could catch my breath. Linnea was out for one day and one night lap, so I headed back to camp to do my night setup and contemplate how much misery I was going to be in for the next... uh...17 hours. Crap, this was too intense.

During the break I scarfed down more pasta salad (dangerously tasty, really) and the always-clutch Fritos and salsa combo. And then -- unlike the last three breaks -- I had an hour to digest. Ahhhhhh. I got busy with the stick because I was having some cramping issues, weird, I can't imagine how doing 4 cross race efforts in 6 hours could make me cramp up.

Pasta salad, please save me:



Linnea comes back in with respectable 56 and 60 minute laps. We're now 20 minutes down on Harry and Kay, but I've already given up hope against them, I just want to get through this thing. We've slipped to 15th overall as well. Heading out for the double I tell Linnea that I'll be back in less than two hours and if she's not here I'm going for a third.

My first night double was pretty good. Having lost the head-to-head race, I can focus on settling in and doing something halfway sustainable. It's my first time riding with a quality headlamp and it makes a big difference. Lap one is a 55'er, and I send a message back to camp that I'm expecting to be 2-4 minutes slower on lap two. It ends up being only 1 minute slower, and when I get back, Linnea isn't there.

My motivational tactic of "I'm riding a third if you aren't here" has utterly backfired. I decide to wait a bit, because I have no water and no food and I don't actually want to ride a third. The three minutes I have to think before she arrives allow me to get quite worked up, and we have a quite unpleasant exchange. It becomes apparent that she wasn't having fun before I started yelling at her, so she's definitely not having fun now. Seven minutes after I came in she's off, and once she's gone I feel bad. Really bad. Crap.

This was definitely the low point of the race for me. I was having real trouble transitioning from "race mode" to "ride mode," exhaustion was already overwhelming me (physically and mentally), my teammate is showing signs of cracking equally and here I am making things worse by yelling at her. God, I'm such a idiot. She had asked me to ride a triple next, so spent the next two hours shivering, eating, and contemplating three upcoming hours in the dark. I tried to sleep, but I was dirty and freezing. No go. I was happy when the alarm went off at midnight, because it meant I could get up and start doing stuff again. Even if "stuff" was a "triple." Linnea rode a 70 and 76 minute lap, undoubtedly feeling the motivational effects of being not even halfway done. Our exchange this time was far more civil.

This time I made a crucial mistake, I routed the cable to my helmet light outside my jersey. It was immediately annoying, flopping around, getting caught on my seat during a remount (!). Things only got worse when, not ten minutes into the lap, I tried to pass a zombie-like solo rider on the inside. He drifted in, and I narrowly missed a tall stake holding the tape up.

Well, I narrowly missed it. My light cable didn't. My head got jerked and everything went dark.

I don't swear much (on this blog), but I yelled "FUCK!" at the top of my lungs. Several times. The zombie-solo rider continued, without even looking back...thanks, dude.

The reason I was so panicked is because there's a middle section of that cable, not part of the battery or light. And it was gone. The stake was kind of springy, who knows where it had gotten flung to.

I flipped the bar lights on and started hunting in the grass. Where is it? Crap! Racer after racer sped by, asking, "are you ok?" Not really, but you can't help me, I thought. I widened my search... maybe it got flipped back up trail from the stake? After what was probably only a minute of desperate hunting, that felt like hours, I turned and grabbed the stake to see if I could tell how it had flung my cable... and lo and behold, my cable was dangling from it!

Phew.

I took the time to route the cable internally this time.

That lap ended up at a mediocre 62 minutes, which I was satisfied with given the light shenanigans, and being lap one of a triple. I was solidly stuck in survival mode on lap two, which ended up being my worst lap of the whole race -- 1:04. This sucks, so, so much, I thought. Why are we doing this? Really, why? I don't want to ride anymore. Linnea is hating life. I am dead tired. I decided that if she met me at the tent and wanted to quit instead of ride more, I wouldn't argue. I guess this was another low point.

In the midst of all this pathetic quitter self-talk, I came across a guy bent over his bike with a mechanical, in the dark, at 3 AM. Unlike in XC racing, competitors can support each other, so I wasn't even cheating when I asked "need anything?" (I say this in XC races as well, but I secretly pray that no one else says "yeah") And he did need something, a chain tool.

It turned out to be Jorge from MRC, who oddly enough I had chatted with on an earlier lap. I left my chain tool with him in the dark and forged ahead, figuring that if I broke my chain I could just wait for him to catch up.

(Another aside, in what is already the longest post evar: I didn't get my chain tool back until Tuesday, but when I did get it back it came with $40 of free food and beer at John Harvard's. MRC'ers Jorge and Steen TOTALLY RULE and that was NOT NECCESARY but REALLY TASTY.)

Lap three of the triple saw more slogging, but a little hop in my step because I could feel the end coming. I had a midnight conversation with Tim Johnson as he ran by me in the singletrack in which he said: "Because road racing is boring." Damn straight, Timmy.

At the tent Linnea did not want to quit, in fact, she looked quite fresh. She was headed out for a double and then the sun would be up and we'd be back to singles. Her spirit was somewhat contagious, and I told her to enjoy her sunrise lap and headed back to camp feeling better.

My bike was probably up to 35 pounds between the mud and lights, and I was too spent to clean it. Luckily I had a backup bike, a clean and light hardtail I probably should have switched to earlier. In any case, no bike cleaning, just more pasta salad and Frito eating, I even took a shower because I had a lot of mud in...um... important areas. At 5:15 the sun was coming up and I was ready to try to sleep -- Linnea was due back (optimistically) at 6:15 so I set the alarm for 6.

Before I could fall asleep I had a hilarious conversation with a very confused Meg -- read about it here -- and then slept almost 20 minutes before getting up again. I rushed around to get ready, got some help from Justin (about to go out on his fourth lap, boo-hoo) and hit the tent reborn at 6:15. Checked in with the timing crew and found out we had a problem -- Linnea had clocked 79 minutes on her first lap, was reportedly "begging them for food" and was probably "bonking wicked hard."

Protip: Eat before you sleep, unless you like bonking wicked hard on your future laps.

I shivered in the tent for almost half an hour, found out that we had finally gone a lap down on Harry and Kay, talked some trash to Bad Brad and Gewilli, eventually realized that Linnea was going to be totally bonked and I needed to go ride a double. Headed back to camp to get more gels and of course that's when she rolled in, for our second missed exchange of the day.

I told her I was going to ride around 1 hour a lap, but then I got on course. The sun was up and my bike was light and clean. I had twenty minutes of sleep in me. I was movin'. Life was good, and I clocked 52 and 55 on the double to come in way under the 2 hours I told Linnea I'd be out. She wasn't there (missed exchange #3) but I didn't worry much, I tossed the baton to the timers and headed to camp to go find her. She wasn't there either, in fact we must have passed by and she was at back on course soon after.

At this point in time the bacon was cooking at camp Hup and I was powerless to resist. It was 9 AM. I could taste the finish... and it tasted like pork.

Back at the timing tent, though, not all was well. Linnea was still hanging out in the hurt box and turned another 72 minute lap. It was now 9:58.

"Want me to ride a double and finish this off?" I asked. "I can just ride slow."

She looked shocked, much like I had 12 hours earlier when everyone was asking me if I was ok. Sometimes you're the last person to realize how slow your lap was. We settled on deciding in an hour -- either she would meet me with a gel for my last lap, or meet me and take the baton for the last lap.

One problem though, I was on my first single lap in 14 hours. 51 minutes later I was back. We huddled again -- we had 1:11 left to ride. I could easily ride again and get back in time for her to ride also, or she could ride and maybe get back in time for me. I decided I didn't really want to ride a 14th lap that badly, so she headed out.

I hung out in the tent for a while and checked the standings. Alex's team? A lap behind us. Brad and Rich? A lap ahead. Gewilli and Jerry, two laps behind. Harry and Kay, a lap ahead. So there was no reason for me to ride a last lap -- until Justin's final-lap heroics got started...

Team Hup hit the tent at 11:22. Justin had 48 minutes to hammer out a lap in time to get Kerry out before noon -- and if he pulled it off, I had to ride a lap to keep us ahead of our Hupster campmates.

Being a hypercompetitive idiot, I instantly decided to ride lap 14 if he made it in time.

Linnea, finally back to full throttle, clocked a 59 and got back with ten minutes to spare. I told her to wait in line outside the tent, and only cross the finish line if Justin made it. Believe it or not, I had to explain this one a few times.

At 11:55 Justin came down the plunge. At 11:57 he was rounding the pond, on his way to riding a 46, so Linnea ran in and I headed out with Kerry and another guy to the cheers of the timers at 11:59. The cannon went off before I even crossed the road.

The final lap of this ridiculous saga (and ridiculous blog entry) could have been tranquilo, but hypercompetitive idiots don't really get that sort of thing. On my third or fourth wind of the event, I hammered out one last lap, passing back a sport team to move up to 25th overall, passing Gewilli with a broken derailleur, finally catching solo IBC'er Chuck D'hemecourt at the end. We rode in slowly, crossing the timing mat together one final time at 12:54.

It started raining at 1:10. Thank you, weather gods. I was so wasted, all we could do was pack the car as fast as possible and drive 45 minutes back to my parents' house and crash. We skipped the awards ceremony like total lamers -- sorry about that, Harry and Kay. You guys were freaking amazing, rock solid and super fast for 24 hours. Lots of people have told me they were impressed with our performance, well, those two beat us by 1.5 laps and finished 15th overall. Now that's impressive.

This is probably the longest blog entry I've ever written, and I still left out tons of memories. The whole thing was a ridiculous roller coaster of emotions and exhaustion, I don't even know if I captured it. In a way, I wish I could bottle how I felt at 10pm so I can remind myself next year not to do another two person team.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Wacky Promoter Weekly Vol 2: Stupid Prize Money

You know, this might have to become a regular feature here. I didn't realize how many boneheaded promoter decisions get made on a weekly basis. Of course, promoters are awesome people, and I love them, and without them the sport would die, and they should never be criticized, etc, etc. Anyway, sometimes awesome promoters make decisions that are not awesome. I will be highlighting one of those today. Said promoter is still awesome, but would be awesomer if they corrected this error.

24 Hours of Great Glen Prize Money: Cut n' Pasted?

We all know that I loves me some Great Glen. I've known the crew over there since I was in high school, I've raced there twice, and my third 24 hours is coming up this weekend, and I'm super stoked as always.

That having been said, the prize money is one of the most sandbag-encouraging decisions I've ever seen. Let's have a look:



See those sections in red? Click the image and have a look if you can't read them.

It almost seems like they couldn't be bothered to have different purses based on category, like the rows were just cut-n-pasted as an example and then left that way. Every single winning four-person team gets paid $400, except Expert and Pro which get paid $600. But wait, you say, isn't that fair? Shouldn't all winners get paid the same??

No. Not at all. Not when you have skill-level categories in your race. The winning Women's pro team gets $400. The winning Women's beginner team gets $400. Heck, every winning Women's team gets $400. So winning Women's beginner is the same as pro? All the sport teams that beat the beginner winner will go home with $0, but the beginner team gets $400 just because they labeled themselves differently?

Four hundred bucks is not a small chunk of change. If you're a borderline sport team, is $400 enough to push you toward signing up for beginner? If you're a borderline expert team, maybe you should race sport and have a shot at $400, since you'll never win expert...

People sandbag for enough reasons already, without a huge financial incentive.

The fact of the matter is that it's hard to categorize your team for a 24 hour race, since it's so different than most racing. People miscategorize their teams for many non-malicious reasons as well, I'm not saying every team that outperforms their category is a horrible bunch of sandbaggers. There's always one sport team that blows the doors off half the expert teams on the way to a top-10 overall finish. Maybe those guys are sandbaggers, maybe they've all be training since they reg'd back in March, maybe they're just better endurance/night riders than traditional XC. Whatever it is, they were in the wrong category, and while they might feel a tad guilty about it you're still giving them cash money, as much as most other teams. This is stupid, right?

Ok, so what's the solution here? It's simply, really -- strip the skill-category based designation for prize money. For 4-man men's teams you have: Beginner/Sport/Expert/Pro/Master. 4 of those are skill-based and 1 is age-based. So, give the fastest old-guy team money like you're doing now, (because 45+ guys shouldn't have to fight the pros for money), but them throw all the Beginner/Sport/Expert/Pro teams in one big list sorted by laps. Then take the top 5-6 teams and pay them, regardless of what category they're in. Overall winners are experts? They get the most money. 2nd place pro team still beat all the experts by 2 laps? Give them 2nd place overall money. Sandbagging sport team was 9th overall? Cool, you won your category and all, but didn't end up in the money. That's how prize money should work, go fast = win money. You can't sandbag if you're all in the same category.

Not convinced? Let's run a hypothetical prize breakdown. There's already $3k allocated to men's teams ($400/$400/$600/$600/$1000 for overall winners), how about this:

1st: $1000
2nd: $800
3rd: $600
4th: $400
5th: $200

So now you're paying 5 teams instead of four, the overall winners don't get $1600 ($600+$1000), but on the other hand 2nd place overall doesn't go home with nothing if they're pros. And there's no category BS. Ride fast, get paid, just like it should be. You might even get more entrants -- I've heard "well it's a lot of money to enter, and we can't beat the other pro team" as one of the reasons last years #2 pro team won't be back. An $800 carrot might change their mind, and would give you better racing and more entries to boot.

I know it's too late this year to fix, Great Glen, but next year, please rethink your prize money.

Reminder: I love promoters. They do awesome work. I am trying to help make your race better. I am a Great Glen junkie and I'll be back next year unless Sven rips my tent down while I'm sleeping because of this post.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Holiday Farm Classic Race Report

Dedicated readers may have noticed that my july went kind of badly.
With the big show of Great Glen coming up next weekend, I probably could have used a weekend off. But on the other hand, I didn't want to head to Great Glen with this gnawing "am I totally burned out?" worry following me everywhere. I mean, I'm going to feel like crap by midnight anyway, when the two-man team starts to really kick my ass, but I need to be able to convince myself it's not because I'm a terrible athlete.

So, Holiday Farm it is. I guess the weekend off will have to be the 17th, instead. I raced here last year and had a feel-like-crap start, and then broke my bike two hours (and still not done) later -- but somewhere in between the biological and the mechanical I remembered a pretty fun, mostly singletrack course that might have even suited whatever riding style I have. This year's course was a totally different loop, or series of loops, but had the same flavor as before -- mostly singletrack climbing, mostly singletrack descending, muddy in spots, everything was rideable if you were on top of your game and plenty of things weren't if you were tired. One of the best courses I've raced on, now that I think about it, too bad it had to compete with Fort Rock this year for racers.

We were warned in advance this was going to be a long one, three laps at 45+ minutes a lap. This may have contributed to our very pedestrian start, but I was able to secure DFL nonetheless. We rolled gruppo compatto for five minutes through the field while my heart rate warmed up, it was such a nice reversal from the Mt Snow screw-you start that I actually started to have fun. Even though I was last.

And I stayed in last for a good fifteen minutes. Eventually things started to separate, so I started moving up, but I really wasn't very interested in hammering up to the front with over two hours to go. Tim D and some other guys I didn't know disappeared of the front, which is generally how these things go.

After a half-lap we came back through the start area, which confused me greatly. I caught onto Sean D's wheel and we had a little discussion about what the hell lap we were on and how many guys were ahead of us. In retrospect, this conversation was incorrect on all fronts. Then we hit climb #2 in the lap and I got dropped like a bad habit. So I had a quick "do I suck?" trial in my head.

Evidence for the prosecution: The defendant weighs 145 lbs, at worst, and is getting dropped climbing... yet again. He still has to race two hours, and yet he is already wondering how long he can hold this pace. He is eating a gel out of desperation. Ladies and Gentlemen, these are the actions of a bike racer who sucks. No further evidence is necessary. The prosecution rests.

Judge: Trial adjourned while we go downhill for a bit here. Court will reconvene when we get out of the big ring.

Defense: Wheeeeee! We're catching up again!

Judge: Positive moments in the midst of sucking are inadmissible in "do you suck?" court, sorry.

Prosecution: And now he's getting dropped again on this climb. The defendant sucks.

Defense: Yeah. Pretty much.

I was pretty convinced that I sucked at the pedaling part of bike racing at the top of the third and final climb on the first lap. Sean was gone, and I was slipping hopelessly on roots thanks to my semi-slick rear tire. Good news: it weighs 485 grams! It rolls super-fast on hardpack! Bad News: It doesn't actually work off-road.

Then we headed back downhill and life got fun again. It was a pretty fast, pretty open descent so I kept telling myself, "Sean's probably not pedaling, you better pedal here since you can't climb" which lead to a 34 mph top speed (awesome) and only one trip off the trail into the woods (not awesome). I was able to bring it back onto the trail without stopping, and Sean reappeared ahead of me just as the descent ran out. He yelled something at me through the woods so I yelled back "hey man, wait up!"

And he actually did, as far as I could tell. I caught him a few minutes later and he denied waiting, but I'm pretty sure he did because we immediately had this conversation:

Sean: This is epic!
Me: Yeah, we're not even done a lap!
Sean: THIS IS EPICCC!

So he just wanted to tell someone how much fun he was having. And so was I!

Soon after that we did finish a lap. I thought we were going to hang out for a bit longer, but once we went uphill again we got separated. The weird thing was that I was the guy pulling away, so maybe I don't suck? Who knows. Time to ride alone for 1.5 hours, at least the trails are sweet.

46 minutes later I finished up lap two, as the fun-factor was predictably draining away and I was pretty ready to be done. I could tell I was slowing because I was having a hell of a time catching this sport rider in front of me (Sports started behind us, so I thought I was lapping him), but when I finally got there he turned out to be a guy in my class that I had totally lost track of. He claimed the two leaders were "just a bit ahead of him" but that was "total bull," cuz I went wicked haaaahd for another twenty minutes and didn't see anyone. The good news was I dropped him to secure third, the bad news was I starting to cramp up "like no other" and I still had a big climb left.

The fun factor really bottomed out when I started cramping up after the last downhill, all I wanted to do was ride in peace but instead I had to spin gently while trying to stretch parts of my leg I didn't even know how to stretch, and my god, are we done yet?? This stretch was not this long last lap. Finally I hit the last field, so I dropped the hammer purely for the sake of hammer-dropping, which led to pathetically flopping across the finish line while cramping in both legs.

End result, 3rd of 12. I got dusted again by series leader man, and the field was on the small side, but make no mistake, that was so much better than July and now I'm wicked stoked for 24 hours. See you out there.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Wacky Promoter Weekly

Let's get this out of the way -- this will be a post complaining about some promoters. If you're the kind of person who has trouble differentiating between "specific criticism of someone's actions" and "attack on all promoters by a naive and thankless racerhead," you may want to skip this one.

Ok. Let's get started with the Bradbury Mountain Enduro. It's a 30-mile, one lap, Le Mans start mountain bike race that was supposed to happen on July 27th. It's been around for a while and I've heard some good reviews, so I was planning on checking it out.

Then, around mid-June, it got canceled, citing land-access issues. Ok -- that sucks, but I can deal with it. Hopefully the weirdos who register for things 2 months in advance on BikeReg got their money back.

The real wackiness got started this weekend at Mount Snow when some random guy in the woods told me it was back on. Not being one to trust random spectators with beer, I headed to the internet. And behold, a search turned up a thread on the MTBMind forum proclaiming the return of Bradbury, complete with a letter from the race organizer that was sent out to the MMBA list. An excerpt:


There has been a premature report about the cancellation of the Bradbury race.
...
We got the permit from the State… all signed and official like...

It’s on.
Details will be up online very quick.


Oh sweet! Let's go race bikes! I couldn't find any of these "online details" just yet, but no matter.

But then, only a four days after that post, we have another letter from the promoter:


But as much as I tried to generate some buzz and
get folks interested in reviving this one, I got very little reply. No
reaction. I think about 3 active racers emailed me, and one called....

I'm out. I think the XC thing has mellowed a bit and I'm not sure
there's enough interest...


Whaaaaaa?

Maybe there's some backstory I'm missing here, since I only know what I read online. But unless I'm missing something, it basically went like this:

1) Promoter announces race is on.
2) No one calls about race over a four day period, that just happens to coincide with Nationals
3) Promoter cancels race.

I don't know about you, but when I hear "there's a race happening" I don't immediately call the promoter to tell him I'm coming -- I just plan to show up. So I don't know what kind of response this guy was expecting, especially since 90% of the racers in New England were at Mt Snow without internet during that time. Anyway, I'll stop beating the dead horse now, but if you're going to run a race contingent on racers RSVP'ing, you might want to tell them that.

Of course, un-canceling and re-canceling a race isn't the only way you can qualify as a wacky promoter. You could also schedule your non-series-affiliated race on a weekend when both of the New England Series have races. That's right -- New England mountain bikers have 3 choices this Sunday, a classic EFTA race near Boston, a Root 66 series race in Western Mass, or some six-hour thing in Pittsfield, VT.

Come on dudes. There's a lot of people around who would give a six hour race, on good trails, with good prize money a shot, but those same people are the ones who race a lot. And if you race a lot, you probably tend to go to most EFTA's or most Root 66's, so you're already booked this weekend. And even if you aren't one of those series-junkies, you're likely to choose a race based on travel distance, so backwoods Vermont will lose out anyway for CT/RI/MA residents, aka "Most of New England's population."

I know there's a lot of factors that go into scheduling a race you're promoting, but shouldn't people showing up be your primary concern? Know your racers, and know what events you're up against, and let that drive your schedule. It's a lot easier to draw people as the only choice than it is to out-promote your event over someone else's... especially if they're already hooked into a series.

Promoters are awesome, but sometimes they are wacky, which is why I must comment on it. If you're an offended promoter, ask yourself, "am I wack?" If you are, stop it! If you aren't, then I wasn't talk about you anyway.

Postscript:

Since I wrote this (7/27) and published it (8/1) the Peak Adventures Six-Hour race got rescheduled to August 24 due to "torrential rains." Uh-huh, I'm sure the rain had a lot to do with it, and the mere 21 preregistrants was just a coincidence. But hey, better late than never! Hopefully the new date will help attendance and confirm that I am always right.

AND, on top of that, the Root 66 race got canceled/uncanceled, because the guy that runs that felt like he wasn't being wacky enough... I guess.

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