Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Obligatory July Blog Update

Hey, you know what? If you don't finish bike races, you don't have much to blog about! And lately, I have been disturbingly good at not finishing bike races. But anyway, I did stuff in July, seriously. Check it out:

HRRT Freedom Fest 3 Hour Race

This was the ONLY bike racing option in all of the Northeast on July 4th weekend, because apparently promoters think everyone is on vacation and not feeling racey, and would rather compete with each other on the same date than run a race on the holiday weekend.

So... I went out to Schenectady with Official Lady Friend (tm) Christin, and we did a 3 hour race with a grand total of 30 starters. You might think that with only 30 humans on bikes present, I'd have a shot at being the fastest one there, but you'd be wrong -- Scott Levreault from Joe's Garage was there, and he can BRING IT (on a rigid singlespeed), much to my chagrin.

The trails were fun, and super tight, and twisty, and then it started raining like there should be a tornado watch. After an hour, my rear brake had PEACED OUT and my front brake was also interested in retiring from its duties. I was riding with Scott (aka IN FIRST PLACE) but I was keenly aware that I was going a little too fast and soon going to be riding with NO BRAKES. Because I had been flogging myself in the mud just last weekend this all seemed especially stupid, so I quit.

Meanwhile, no one told Christin that she could stop riding when it was un-fun so she rode on while I played games on my phone in the car. Ha!

Wrath of the Boneyard MTB Race

The plus side of DNF'ing was that by the time DA BONEYARD rolled around on July 17, I was STOKED to throw down on the mountain bikes. With a name like "Wrath of the Boneyard" you knew it was going to be gnar, and I do loves me some gnar. I decided that this race would be a great experiment to answer the question "is a 29er hardtail the best race bike always?"

Sadly, the answer is NO. Because the Boneyard was ridiculous. Like, if you gave me a pickaxe and a granite quarry and all the time in the world... I still probably couldn't make a configuration of rocks quite that evil. The first two miles of the course were the most rugged thing I have ever raced on.

Which is pretty, cool, and all, but damn would a dualie have been the ticket here. 29er hardtail hypothesis: REJECTED.

It was also 90 (billion) degrees, so I was full of pedialyte and employing the "let everyone else get really hot in the first hour, then catch them) pacing strategy. I felt like this had real potential, but near the middle of lap two my stupid hardtail, with its stupid light race tires started going "clunk" when I hit rocks. I was like, "oh maybe it will seal," but then I remembered the sealant was 12 months old so I was totally screwed, unless I brought a tube, which I didn't, because FLATS DON'T HAPPEN TO ME, DAMMIT.

Then I ate a hot dog, and once again Christin had to keep racing her bike for much longer than me, which I was only partially jealous of. Then she won her category and GOT PAID, which I was definitely jealous of.

The Week I Broke Everything

Since I was just telling you how flats don't happen to me, (cuz I have "finesse" or something), I proceeded to get a flat tire on my Monday ride (using a tube), flat on my Thursday ride (with a new tubeless tire) and flat on my Saturday ride (just because). I also broke my shoe (!?) on Saturday. And my chain.

Just in case you were starting to think I'm not THAT GUY WHOSE BIKE BREAKS

Valley MTB Epic

Matt Myette had this great idea to do a mountain bike ride that linked up all the trail systems in the greater Sutton area into one epic ride. He said it would be 45 miles of trail and 20 miles of road. Apparently the greatness of this idea was less obvious to his friends, as only six of us could be conned into this adventure: Me, Matt, GREGWHITS, Ronnie Steers, Pete Smith and Karen Potter.

We rolled out at 8:30 AM with a strong thunderstorm to the north. Luckily, it was moving east, so we were safe from it. According to my phone, that is, because in reality it was raining on us with a check-for-tornadoes (yeah, again) fury twenty minutes later. Oops.

Then it stopped, and we were like "oh it's gonna be good now," only for it to pour again. And then a third time. And a fourth. NEW ENGLAND WEATHER!!

In between the downpours, it was approximately 200% humidity in the woods, which led to a phenomenon I've never seen before: the deer-fly comet.

As we rode through the woods in air so thick it practically punched you in the face, the lead rider's tasty flesh would pluck deer flies out of the air. The flies would assemble in a cloud behind him, ignoring the fact that there were five other tasty morsels following. Eventually, the lead rider would had a cluster of 50-100 flies chasing him, building into a trail of flies drafting each other and him, stretching roughly 3.8 astronomical units into space.

This was particularly rough for the 2nd rider, because if he got too close to the comet he would literally end up with confused deer flies bouncing off his face, and if he said something like "HOLY SHIT I JUST ATE A DEER FLY" the lead rider might stop, and then EVERYONE got eaten by deer flies in retribution.

At lunch time we had ridden 4 hours, I had broken my bike 3 times, and Pete, Karen and Ronnie decided that riding should be "fun" instead of "dumb" and they went home. Matt, Greg and I ate giant subs and cheese fries and remarked on how "90 degrees and humid" is very very marginally better for riding than "raining like crazy."

After lunch, I tried to ride my bike with 1500 calories in my belly. It went poorly for a while, and then my reluctance to drink water because my tummy hurt made things go even worse. Around the 5th hour on a mountain bike, I cracked completely and Matt and Greg started having to wait for me. Which they did, probably enjoying every minute of it.

Eventually I sorted my internals out enough to get back to effective sufferation and we rolled into hour six of GETTING RAD, which was now just "surviving technical stuff when you're shattered." I failed that part of the test at one point, and went over the bars, landing miraculously unharmed EXCEPT for my stupid knee, which I tore the skin off for the fourth time this year.

You know how when you're making smores, your marshmallow catches on fire, so you blow it out, eat the burned part of and put it back in the flame... only to catch fire again? That's my knee this year.

While I was busy bleeding down to my ankle we kept riding, because no big deal, right? Finally we reached the RESERVOIR and HOUR SEVEN of bike riding, and I was so excited to be basically done and also at a body of water on a hot day.

We jumped in, swam around, and I was like "man, swimming is tiring" so I just stood there in water up to my shoulders.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, there was a violent shaking on my wounded knee! And it REALLY HURT! So I flipped out!

I bolted out of the water to discover that a mother-effing fish had just bitten a flap of skin off my open wound, and that nature is scary, and we should pave everything.

Then we rode 15 more minutes home, during which Matt couldn't sit down because of his saddle sores, which made me feel a bit better (note: Matt rode without chamois cream, using a Champion System chamois). Now it's been four days, and I'm still eating everything in sight and my quads are still sore. Dude, biking is hard! Even when you don't have a Rapha camera crew along to properly epic-ify what you're doing!

Here's a picture of Matt summing up the ride, and really my entire bike-racing month:

Luckily the DARKHORSE 40 and 24 HOURS OF GREAT GLEN are coming up next month, so soon I will vanquish the memory of a silly July with either AWESOME TIMES or EVEN MORE FAILURE. Till then!

Friday, July 1, 2011

All Out In Moody Park Race Report

This weekend served up a fair bit of controversy in the New England mountain bike world, but it's the same old things we've been squawking about for years: why do EFTA and Root66 schedule events on the same day, and should we really race in this much mud?

The former is infuriating. We had 125 people at Moody Park and 200 at Putney; the venues are 40 miles apart. Combine 'em and we could've had a 300+ rider turnout at a non-Massachusetts venue, aka a RARE OCCURRENCE. Instead we get two small races. I'd love to know why no one will run a MTB race on Saturday -- seems to work fine for road and cross.

The latter? Eh, I'm still not sure. If you reschedule/cancel cuz of mud, you pretty much threw away any and all profitability you had. If you skip muddy races (as a racer), you don't get to race and the trails get trashed anyway.. and now the promoter has $30 less money to try to fix it with.

So I keep racing in the mud, but I don't ride for fun in it. A compromise.

Anyway, due to the conditions and competition, the Moody Park elite race was all of 7 dudes. Which made me think I could win, maybe, ha, until I saw what 7 dudes were there. Jonny Bold and Matty O'Keefe are still in the "guys I can't beat unless their bikes explode" category, so that was the end of that. Although if there was ever a day for bikes to explode, it was today...

Since I'm a really smart guy who can't tell the difference between the Putney Elite start time (11:30) and the Moody Park Elite start time (11:00) I rolled into the parking lot at 10:50. Matty O was like "hey, get ready" in a strangely serious tone and I was like "NO YOU GET READY, LOL" and starting dicking around like usual before a race. Then they said "experts and elites to staging" on the megaphone and I peed my pants a little and started freaking out.

LUCKILY! I have been racing without a warmup for years so 5 minutes was totally enough time to get it together. GO!

We started on top of a giant hill so the race was fun for like five minutes. Until we hit the first unrideable mud hole. And then a bunch of rideable mud holes. And I started thinking about how the dollar amount of wear and tear I was about to put on my bike.

A motivational thought, to be sure.

A group of 3 rode away (Jonny, Matt, and Andy Gould) and I was like, whatever, it's a long race. I hung out with Matt Boobar and Jeff Landfried in 4th. Matt was holding me up a bit on the descents, so I was like OH MAN I GOT THIS and went tearing by him.

Then we hit a minute-long uphill mud bog run (walk) and he pranced past me like a pro XTerra triathlete in a mountain bike race. Which is because he was. Ohhhh...crap. I was NOT cool with the idea of running hard in the mud for 2 hours (go ahead, predict my cross season from that sentence) so I waved goodbye and rode with Jeff instead.

And by "rode with Jeff," I really mean "impaled my shoulder on a tree and stopped riding to think about crying." Seriously. You know those broken-off branches on the lower trunks of pine trees? They are SHARP. Holy crap.

So that was lap one.

Lap two was more of the same, tooling around with Jeff, shredding the gravity cavity, and oh yeah, ripping my knee open again on a mossy log. Seriously. One second I'm running (in a bike race, argh) and step on a log, next thing I know I'm on the ground and have somehow reopened the wound from the Glocester Grind that had FINALLY stopped being a scab. And then I bled down to my ankle for a while.

At this point dropping out seemed like a really good idea, but the finish is at the top of the hill - and once I'm up there, I really wanna ride back down. Well played, race promoter...

On lap three, Jeff and I caught Andy, who had paid the price for riding a JONNYBOLDPACE from the gun and was now a shell of a man. Suddenly I realized we were racing for 4th, which would become 3rd if any of the guys ahead had their bikes explode, which could actually be some money. And I needed money to offset the horrible, horrible things I was doing to my bike, as I rode through rivers of mud that look like someone had emptied the septic tank onto the trail.

My special mutation is apparently riding through pools of shit that make normal people get off their bike, so I gapped Jeff as I rode at 3mph while he tried to keep the shoes on his feet as he walked. And then I decided to hammer, because it had been an hour and I was finally warmed up, and I knew it would be really annoying for him to chase back on. And I do love being annoying.

So 10 minutes later he yells at me through the woods, from 30 seconds, back, "HOW'D YOU GET SO FAR AHEAD?!" and I stuffed my lungs back down my throat long enough to yell "I GOT RADDDDD." Even though the truth is that I tried pretty damn hard, and took some extremely un-rad lines during the process. I have an image to maintain here.

Then I was all alone. Boobar was visible occasionally through the woods, but only to confirm that the course was twisty and he had almost 2 minutes on me. So I rode hard, but only put-me-out-of-my-misery hard, not chased-by-a-bear hard. And finished 4th. And did not get any money, nor did I deserve it.


In between all the rivers of crap was a pretty cool course. If this race was dry, it would have been THE BOMB. Less climbing, more singletrack than Putney -- if they end up double-scheduled again (and they will, because WHY NOT?), I'll come here.

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