Thursday, August 18, 2011

24 Hours of Great Glen Race Report

The 24 Hours of Great Glen is a special race for me, because it's the perfect blend of stupidawesomesilly that gets me excited any time of the year. In the last 8 years, I've raced it 6 times and crewed it once. I have also been on the second place team for two years in a row now. Which is annoying, to say the least.

This year there were terrifying rumors of a super-pro-team showing up and crushing us... but sadly they turned out to be false. The alleged super-pro roster was actually so terrifying that it probably wouldn't have even been a race... but now we'll never know.

ANYWAY. We were the only pro team there, so my standard prerace anxiety was focused on the incredible shame we would feel if THE PRO TEAM got beat by any other team. That's pretty much as #notpro as it gets, right?

I have actually been feeling straight-up terrible since the Beverly Crit, but I was so JACKED UP to race the bikes that I almost convinced Mike to let me do the Le Mans start. Somehow he talked me out of it, and proceeded to crush lap one and give us a 1-minute lead. So far, so good.

I ended up fourth in the rotation, which meant I didn't even get to pedal until 2pm. I had TWO HOURS to work myself up... as if the fact that I took the entire week off anyway wasn't enough. My legs and lungs were unsure about trying hard, but my brain had already blocked them off entirely and was about to WIN ALL THE THINGS.

So I started my lap and almost certainly set the record for "fastest time to the top of the first climb." I was going first-lap-of-a-cross-race fast, without the drafting or coasting that makes first-lap-of-a-cross-race not kill you. About five minutes in, my lungs finally got a word in with my brain: YOU ARE GOING TO KILL US.

The rest of the lap was so, so sad. I had six HOURS total to race and I was pretty much blown six MINUTES into it. I limped around for the rest of the lap and clocked a 37:40, which sounds pretty good -- except that Kevin ('effing KEVIN!) had just posted a 35:22.

Lap two was ridden with significantly less fervor and yet was somehow faster. 37:26. Unfortunately, this was as fast as I was going to go for the whole event. And it was now 5pm, and even though we were already half a lap up I was already counting down the hours until I could stop racing. Which were a lot.

Sometime around 9pm we lapped second place, which confirmed my theory that WE GOT THIS, but did not cause any slowing down. Not when there was fastest-night-lap bragging rights on the line. Kevin ('effing KEVIN!!) led off with a 38:52 and I went out determined to beat him.

Night laps are super awesome because everything feels like warp speed because you can't see. I was DEFINITELY on a 25-minute lap pace, until I hit one of the punchy climbs and decided to stand up and DRILL IT. My trust $5 rear skewer decided to pop out of the dropout yet again (uh, not the first, second or third time this has happened this season) and the wheel jammed firmly into the frame at 15 mph or so as I ground to a halt. What's that smell? Burnt rubber.

In addition to creating a nifty wobble in my rim, I also bent the crap out of my disc rotor in this incident and rode the rest of the lap with it going KUH-SHUCK incessantly.

Needless to say this was not the fastest night lap. Luckily doctuhjay was just wrapping up a 12-hour 2-man adventure and was like, I hate my bike right now so you can definitely take a wheel of it!

Thanks Jay. Promise I didn't kill your wheel.. although not for lack of trying/riding style.

My next lap out started at 12:30 and midway through I came down with a nasty case of NIGHT EUPHORIA. Forgetting how much I wanted to be done for a few moments, I suddenly loved bikes, lights, darkness and fast laps. Things seemed to be going quite well, and I decided about halfway through that this would be my all-in attempt at fastest night lap.

I rode balls-to-the-effin-wall for the rest of the lap and still only managed a 39:46. Kevin, I hate you. And then Mike clocked a 39:33 directly after me, so I didn't even have fastest-post-midnight-night-lap.

Greg, you are my only friend.

It turns out that was the final effort my body had in it. Back at camp I was a wreck. I've never had problems staying up during these things and I was COMATOSE at 2am. Dragged myself back out for a 42-minute bonk lap, came back, ate and ate and ate and then passed out yet again at 5am.

I got up and did a morning lap that felt really quite decent.. only to come back and find out that I had done the slowest lap of my 4-man-team career at Great Glen. My body was DONE.

Luckily at this point we were two laps up on everyone and the rest of the team was solid. Remember how last year I joked about Greg being a zombie? Guess this year was my turn.

At 11:15 it started pouring rain, and we had the race in the bag, but quitting early ain't PRO at all. I rallied for a final lap, giving up 36 on the day at 9 laps apiece and the overall win.

How many eyes are open in this picture?  Zero?  It should be noted that I was sleeping in the grass next to the tent about 60 seconds before this picture.

It's pretty cool how you can give me a beer and a photo and suddenly it looks like I didn't want to die at the end of the race.
I look a lot radder if you pan the camera with me.

As always, Great Glen was about hanging out with everyone as much as racing.  We had an awesome crew to stay with -- Crank the Zank's 5-man team, Ian and Harris's 2-man 12 hour team, and Christin doing support, aka "just keet putting food in front of me." 

It should be noted that when she went to sleep at 2am, I immediately forgot to eat as I had become a domesticated animal after 14 hours of having actual support at a 24 hour race.

Meanwhile the Union Velo guys somehow got fifth overall as a pair, which just hurts my brain to think about.  I can't even blame it on old man power since one of them was younger than me.

The MRC expert team kept it TIGHT and pulled off second overall, which seemed pretty damn good to me for a bunch of old guys that I never see at mountain bike races.  Wait, was that backhanded compliment?  I dunno.  They were movin'.

Lauren effing Kling murdered the women's field and much of the men's field.  Again.  She stopped at 6am because she had over double the laps of the second-place woman.  I am not jealous of the fact that she rode a bike for 18 hours, but I respect the sheeeeeit out of that accomplishment.

Now that I finally was on the winning team at Great Glen (I can't even begin to pretend that I'm the reason we won), I'm not sure what to do next year.  24 solo? Duo?  SKIP IT ENTIRELY?

Just kidding, I like riding fast and in the dark, I'll almost certainly see you there for #7.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Gran Prix of Beverly Race Report

I did this race last year and it was tons of fun and I got third. Thus I was SUPERSTOKED to do it this year.

In related news, last year I was a Cat 4 in the 4/5 race. This year I am a Cat 3 in the 1/2/3 race. This time around was a little...different.

I don't really do anything above threshold until 'cross season (except for intervals... yeah, I'm gonna do some intervals soon, I swear) so my little mountain biker muscle cells were CONFUSED when the race started. SPRINT! TURN! Coast... coast... coastcoastcoast oh god why are we not pedaling? SPRINT! SPRINTSPRINTSPRINT sweet jesus why are we still accelerating??

Repeat that for 60 minutes and you have my view of the race.

I got a SICK clip-in off the start with my new Speedplays, probably because they feel just like MTB pedals, and got right up into 20-25 wheel. Which seemed like a good place to be, except that we went LUDICROUS SPEED from the gun and we were single-file all the way back to 25th or whatever. Or maybe two abreast? Hell if I know, I'm a mountain biker, but the point is that 25th wheel was nowhere near as sheltered as it usually is. So we rode 29mph for 20 minutes and I ate far more wind just staying in my position than I wanted to, and it started to seem very possible that I could not do this for an hour.

So while I am riding 99% to stay on a wheel, the guys at the front are launching attacks because they are GOOD BIKE RIDERS instead of FAST-TWITCHERS WHO CAN FAKE IT like me. Finally an attack stuck and seven guys got up the road, including the big teams. We slowed down to doing 28 mph laps.

And 2/3rds of what was left of the field was so, so happy to be off the rivet for a second that there was no chance of a serious chase being taken up. I personally spent my extra 1mph of rest trying to breathe deeply enough to get the tangled mess that was my stomach to open up again (did I mention I haven't been doing intervals?) and might've even taken my first drink since the race started.

We rode around until about eight to go, and then guys started racing for 8th place and it got fast again. Unfortunately, my goal all along was "just finish," so I responded to this pressure by sliding right to the back of the pack. "Dude, we're gonna finish, that's all you said we had to do" whined my legs (and lungs, and stomach). The danger of low expectations.

That said, I did rally enough to hold the wheel on the final lap, so I picked up a bunch of junk places as other people quit trying hard. Suckers!


Monday, August 15, 2011

Hodges Village Dam Race Report

A week late, just like I promised!

Actually there is no race report at all. It was pouring rain, I had no legs, and was on pace for three hours of racing. I recognized that flogging myself and my bike for 3 hours to get last place was not conducive to what I really care about (smashing Great Glen the following weekend), so I dropped out with zero remorse.

Jay Mueller properly epic-ified my experience with this picture, which is really the reason I decided to post anything at all.

"Heyyyyy, that sucked"

Monday, August 8, 2011

Darkhorse 40 Race Report

That's right, baby, we run our race reports on exact;y one week delay around here.  All part of the plan to fuzz my memories of an event hard enough that I can conjure up some false memories far more exciting than what really happened.

Plus, this whole living-out-of-a-suitcase thing for half of every week doesn't leave me with the ample blogging time I used to have.  Just sayin'.

ANYWAYZ, the DARKHORSE is one of my only must-do summer mtb races (along with the 24 hours of Great Glen, even though I have never finished without a mechanical. Something about 40 miles of big-ring singletrack just speaks to me in a way that 50 miles of doubletrack climbing doesn't...

To make things interesting/take the pressure off I did the Gran Fundo on Saturday, which was the exact same 60 miles of FUN as last year. Chill factor was high, and I finished hours behind the "lead group." So far, so good, and I was up and on the road at 5:30 AM from Northampton for the Darkhorse. At the time this seemed a bit rough, but the Cambridge guys were on the road a solid 2.5 hours before me, so... they're even dumber than I.

Eventually I arrived at the event, discovered I had no gloves and no chamois cream (note to self: 5:30 AM is not a good time to figure out if you've packed everything you need) and borrowed some gloves from Team Awesome (Bob Morgan). Didn't borrow chamois cream because that stuff is optional... right?

The race started with a TWO MILE GRAVEL ROAD. Ordinarily this would be super-lame, but with a 50 rider elite field it was actually the ideal way to sort the start out, because there were some real climbs on the road. The dudes at the front were like "let's go roadie fast" up the hill and all but about 15 guys were like "we're mountain bikers, so we'll see you later." So we cut the lead group to 15 by the singletrack and everything was nice and civil entering the woods.

Once into the woods I realized there were a few guys ahead of me whose "roadie fast" abilities vastly exceeded their "steering" abilities... so I obnoxiously tailgated them until I got by. Eventually I ended up riding with a Bethel Cycles guy with no one else in sight... and 35 miles to go. 3 hour TT? Hooray for mountain bike racing!

Bethel Cycles guy was going at 99% of my pace, so I obviously passed him and started riding at 105% of my pace. This worked great and I dropped him... caught some more dudes... moved into 8th place (I think) on the trail, and then THE LEG SADNESS caught up with me and my watch still hadn't cracked an hour. Blast. But you know what they say -- if you wanna make an omelet, you gotta break your legs. Right?

I used my massive wattage to pull my rear wheel out of the dropout for the 4th time this season (that skewer has GOT TO GO) and this took the wind out of my sails enough to drop a bunch of places and go back behind Bethel Cycles guy.

Finishing up lap one (20 miles down! 20 to go!) my legs were already sending out "about to cramp" SOS messages and I was in "suffer efficiently" mode. Thanks to some mechanicals/muscular failures, I did manage to pick up some places... but I also got caught by a dude fast enough that I had to ask if he was coming from the SS class. He was like, "nope, I'm elite" which made me wonder exactly how much I was slowing down.

BUT! He slowed a lot after catching me, and admitted he was probably riding too fast to catch me, and got CHATTY! Yay, now we can be ENDURANCE RACING BUDDIES!

So we rolled around and talked about how much we hurt and how we were out of the money. I was like "dude I'm cramping" and he's like "no I'm cramping" and I'm like "no I'll prove it to you" and started cramping.

At mile 35 we reached the BEER STATION (note: Not a USAC-sanctioned event!) and I realized that it was 86 and humid and I would much, much rather stop and drink a beer than go five more cramping miles with my enduro buddy, because that would hurt.

I made special care to confirm with the beer-stop ladies that I was the FIRST elite rider to stop for a beer. Therefore I am the coolest guy in the race, and everyone who beat me is clearly a big old square who takes their bike racing too seriously.

THEN, on the next steep climb, my quad cramped up so bad that I had to get off my bike and sit down. A few lapped sport riders with "impressed" with the drama, to say the least. I maintain it was not related to the beer (which was soooooo tasty) as it was only 30 seconds after consumption; if anything, the fact that I was able to fight through it and ride 5 more miles is a sign that cheap beer cures cramps.

My final five miles was definitely not that spirited, but I only dropped 30 seconds to my enduro buddy so I think everyone was pretty smoked by then. I finished in 9th overall, 3:13 ride time, and comfortably out of the money (6 deep) so I could jet out of there and survive the drive to back Northampton in time to be back asleep by 4pm.

So, the Darkhorse is pretty fun. I finally finished without a mechanical, so know I don't know what to do next year. Maybe not ride 60 miles the day before, and not drink a beer during the race? Grumble.


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