Thursday, May 31, 2012

Earl's Trails - A Map

If you like maps and mountain bikes and Earl's trails, throw me a freakin' bone and VOTE FOR ME in this freakin' contest.

When I saw that my friend Alex mention a "new orienteering map" for Earl's trails, I got EXCITED, because I love maps and I love Earl's trails. Like many MTB trail networks, it is somewhere between hard and impossible to find a decent map of the area, although of course "everyone" knows their way around the place. I had been steadily trying to consolidate my growing pile of GPS tracks from there into something useful, because maps excite me, and disseminating information does too. But it wasn't going very well, and anyway, having some orienteers do the hard work for you is MUCH better.

So, I got Alex to send me the map, traced it in Paint.NET to distill it down to the MTB-relevant data (um, orienteering maps have a lot of information on them), and discovered that I have no idea what half of these trail names are, and the OTHER half I probably used the wrong name for. SWEET.

If you have anything to add to this "masterpiece," especially trail names, LET ME KNOW! What I do have here is words I have heard other riders use to describe trails. Sometimes, "other riders" are LIARS.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Adventures in 0.5x Speed

I went up to Coyote Hill for the Greater Vermont Fresh-Cut Singletrack National Championships this weekend.  My race experience was quite unremarkable, because I paced myself really conservatively, which is to say, went out the back in the first 60 seconds of the race.

I did eventually ride back into the middle of the pack (finishing 9th/19, although 5 dudes DNF'ed) but there was not much hanging out to be had. However, on lap two, my roommate and general life nemesis Cary Fridrich was about 15 seconds up the trail when he broke his derailleur and ended his race. Afterward, he told people "I broke my bike with, like, a giant log" and they were like, "uh huh, sure you did." Luckily his faithful videographer was there to back up his claim: Also, now I know that "drunk Colin" and "mid-race Colin on 0.5x speed" are actually the same person. RABEND-IT.

In totally unrelated news, my brother nominated me in this contest to win a free trip to Sun Valley. Basically, you badger your friends via social media into voting for you, and if you make the top 10 overall in votes you haveget to make a 90-second video convincing the Sun Valley tourism folks that you should be the winner. It's actually a pretty ingenious promotion, because it's a proven fact that most people will spam the hell out of their friends for personal gain.

NO BUT SERIOUSLY SUN VALLEY IS A GREAT MOUNTAIN BIKE DESTINATION! I went there two years ago. It was so dope that I turned my bike into this pile of parts:
So I could ride in a place that looks like this:
And I would like to go back.
Did I mention that you should VOTE FOR ME? Because I would like to make a video. And, I suppose, get free stuff.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Weeping Willow Race Report

I am so stoked that Weeping Willow is turning into the MTB version of the Gloucester GP. We're now in year three and it SOLD! OUT! several weeks in advance, making it the only MTB race this side of the Vermont 50 to do so. That might say more about the lack of "landmark" quality MTB races we have, but in any case: the people have spoken, and the people think Willowdale is the new hotness.

29 elite dudes preregistered, and some more managed to get in with secret-race-day-even-though-the-race-is-full reg, so it was LEGIT. As such, I relegated myself to the back row, because I wanted nothing to do with legitimacy on a 85-degree, 2.5 hour race day.

The race started and I got the reverse holeshot. 2 minutes into the race I started to fear I was missing something, and started freaking out trying to move up. I was somewhat stymied by the traffic situation, and kinda just bounced around like a cat on the wrong side of a door. Which I suppose is why I need to keep getting the reverse holeshot, since I can only contain myself using physical obstacles, not my BRAIN.

Sadly there was a lot of doubletrack in the first half of the lap so I extricated myself from my confines and started riding too-hard-even-though-it-feels-sustainable. I passed a bunch of guys and ended up on Tim Daigneault's wheel.

Willowdale is "non-technical" at riding pace, but is actually sneaky technical at race pace, because when you're DRILLING IT you better be looking 2 turns ahead in the singletrack if you actually want to go fast. Otherwise you spend equal time DRILLING IT and JACKING THE BRAKES and don't do anything except tire yourself out.

In related news, I spend most of lap one tiring myself out.

At the end of the lap, Ezra Mullen was also hanging out, and then he tried to pass Tim, and they had a "miscommunication" that left Ezra riding in the woods and both of them feeling horribly wronged. BIKE RACING!

Then they took off up the trail to continue their adrenaline-fueled feud, which I elected to not participate in since were only 25% done with the bike race and it was EFFING HOT out.

Tim's adrenaline ran out first and I caught him on the first road utilizing my new "roadie power" (seriously, I've done as many road races as MTB year!). I even gapped him with a brutal 300w attack. BRUTAL!

Then I noticed that my ordinarily semi-janky bike was starting to sound extra-janky. I spent a while trying to diagnose the rapidly developing case of Jancaitis jank-itis in my front end to no avail. I changed my brake pads recently, maybe that's it? They seemed a little loose, I dunno, maybe that screw that holds them in is loose? It's a torx head, which is basically magic, so yeah, that's probably it.

I rode along wondering what I should do about this.

Then I stopped to investigate and realized my ENTIRE FRIGGEN BRAKE CALIPER was in the process of falling off, so hey, kids, when you have to take your brake off for your buddy's old-school roof rack, MAKE SURE YOU PUT IT BACK ON TIGHT.

I hand tightened it as best I could, got passed by Tim, and resumed pedaling with a much quieter bike.

I noticed with some concern that Will "Dad Legs" Crissman was now quite close behind me, along with Greg Jancaitis, Alby King and Jacob Harris. This was annoying, as those guys are ENDURO DUDES and I am a CROSS DUDE, and I need to develop a nice cushion early to hold off their inevitable late-race surge.

I talked myself off the ledge of panic and found my singletrack-carving power animal, which is basically the only way to go fast at Willowdale. Somehow, I distanced them slightly, and caught back up to Tim. Hooray!

The only thing I remember about the 3rd lap was telling Tim that 4 dudes were chasing us and we needed to GO HAHD, and him claiming not to care, but then being very diligent about sticking to my wheel. I realized that I might be getting played.

I also realized it was still effing hot and I was getting effing tired, so yeah, those dudes who were chasing us? Two of them caught up - Jacob Harris and Alby King. We also caught Todd Bowden (?!?!?@) at this point, and suddenly we had a five-man party train going into the final lap. OH THIS IS GONNA HURT SO INTERESTINGLY!

Todd is way better than me (us) at pedaling, so we were f-ing flying on the fire road section, with Todd laying down the watts and 4 little ducklings following his every move. This was all going quite swimmingly until Alby decided to zone out while sitting in 3rd wheel and SMOKE the only obstacle on the whole doubletrack section, which led to a spectacular explosion about 6 inches in front of me. Check it out, photo evidence:

"Hey, this position worked for Graeme Obree"
"I guess I'll true my spokes during this crash"

Alby was kind enough to shout "I'm ok" from the ground so it was obviously still FULL GAS, now with three people, as Tim had also been slowed down in the crash. At this point I was starting to feel the cramps a-comin' so I was relieved to dispose of two dudes. All I need to do now is suffer for another half hour to the line...

Then we got to the singletrack and everything fell apart. Jacob ATTACKED, which is total bullshit, because if I have cramps, everyone should have cramps. Tim caught back up, which was somewhat plausible, but so did Alby, which was utter bull, since he had very clearly died less than ten minutes ago.

The only bright side was Todd actually pulling aside, because he had this funny idea that I wanted to chase Jacob. HA HA! In the 3rd hour, I only chase finish lines, and that was WAY FAR ahead.

I was deathly afraid of Tim or Alby leading at this point, since they were back-from-the-dead zombies with unknown leg strength and a potential hunger for brains. Fortunately Willowdale makes passing pretty hard, and they never asked, so I just droned away on the front of the group at the slowest pace I thought I could get away with. I figured, as long I could lead us all the way to the final half mile of doubletrack, I had a fighting chance with some fast-twitch shenanigans, cramps or no.

Somehow we dropped Todd (maybe he had a mechanical, and that's why he let me pass? I struggle to believe I live in a world in which I can beat Todd Bowden at anything) leaving us with a sweet 3-up sprint for 14th place. OHHH BABY. It's like cross season all over again, only with more cramping!

I led the doubletrack at a whopping 13 mph. Tim and Alby had no intention of coming around, to the point of Tim putting his hand on my back as "encouragement." Dear god it's like a track sprint!

I think Alby made a joke about "actual strategy" or something at this point. I felt briefly ashamed for having an "actual strategy," but luckily it was time to fire off said strategy, before the lack of response to his chat got any more awkward. So I did it (sprint on the last flat stretch, rest on the short downhill, sprint again on the final climb) and neither of them were particular interested in that level of sprintiness.

Meanwhile, Todd Prekaski was busy abusing the Photoshop "Clone" tool on my chest hair:

So, bikes are still fun. Did I mention I got beat by 13 guys who didn't have to reattach their front brake caliper during the race? Cheaters.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fat Tire Classic Race Report

After hitting Hopbrook on a grand total of two weeks of training (and getting my doors predictably blown off), I was STOKED to go to Fat Tire on FIVE WEEKS of training.  With a 150% increase in training volume, I knew I would be 150% faster and win the race by 20 or 30 minutes.

Especially because it was forecast to rain, which meant that the ludicrously-fast-and-easy Fat Tire course might just require a little bit of bike driving this year.  And I am the only person on the planet who excels at technical courses, so yeah, 20 or 30 minute victory, easy.

Fat Tire always pulls a good turnout and this year was no exception, despite the 50-degree rain.  28 guys in the Pro/1 race, and a holeshot that turned left into singletrack after 20 seconds -- so of course, I lined up at the back.  And then spent a lot of time in the first minute having a squeal-your-brakes party with everyone else who didn't start like Durrin.

Eventually we strung out and started going fast, and guess what, you can't pass anyone on singletrack in the first five minutes because we're all going warp speed!

But it's ok, because it's a mountain bike race, and you have two hours to end up where you belong.

"Where I belonged" turned out to be somewhere in the middle of pack, with Matt Green and Jacob Harris.  I spent most of the first lap drafting them, aka "getting mud and sand in my eyes for questionable benefit."  As far as 50-degree rides in the rain go, it was quite nice.

Unfortunately with the rain coming down and 100 Cat 1 racers out there, the technicality of the course was increasing fast.  Early on lap two Jacob crashed, and Matt and I set off alone.  I was running Maxxis Aspens, which you can "make work" in sloppy conditions.  Matt was running the MTB version of Dugast Rhyno tubulars (!!), so lap two was mainly me getting gapped by Matt in every corner, and then fantasizing about killing him and taking his wheels while I chased him down on the straightaways.

During this pursuit we somehow managed to overtake several dudes, and I caught a super rad crash on camera.

Luckily, before I had to resort to murder, Matt started showing signs of tiring.  Ending lap three, I gapped him and decided that it was time to go WICKED HAAAHD and finish this thing off.

So I did.  The first half of lap four went quite well, Matt disappeared, and I felt great.

Then lap four kept going, and I started to feel crappy, but it was still ok, because everyone feels crappy by then, right?

Then, two dudes whom I had passed an hour ago caught up to me and clearly did not feel as crappy as I did.  They were, in fact, racing their faces off, at a level of trying-hard that did not seem reasonable to me.  Guys, it's raining.  And I'm cold.  And tired.  Why aren't you?

The final insult was Brian Wilichoski, who broke his chain about 10 seconds into the race, passing me on the short pavement section with five minutes to go and screaming BRAAAAAAAAAAP in my ear.

I limped in for 15th/28 (king of the bottom half, baby!), failed to find the hot showers (oops), cleaned up, and then watched an increasingly miserable train of riders finish over the next 30 minutes.

April MTB Racing, yeah!

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