May 30, 2011

Catching Up

How about some race summaries??? Sure!

King of Burlingame MTB Time Trial: This was the first race of the season. It was short (30 min) and technical. I was the only junior in the Expert / Po class, but overall I was about midpack. Pre-riding the course would have been helpful, but doing it blind was fun. It was a good way to start the season. My bike stayed together and so did I!

Fat Tire Classic: Well, it was going really well until I randomly flatted. On the start of my second lap, on a smooth section, I managed to slice a sidewall. How, I have no clue. Wizards??? I ran light tires because Winding Trails is smooth and fast, but there was nothing on the trail that should have caused me to flat. I didn't panic too much because I had already built a 4+ minute gap on second and I had an awesome CO2 inflator. The cut eventually sealed, so I started riding again, but the hole ruptured. Ehhh, that was a bummer, especially since it is a 3 hour drive each way, but at least I got a really good lap in.

Massasoit Lung Opener: Based on how well I WAS doing at the FTC, I decided to do the Pro/Open race. Guess what? There were at least three fellow racers in the Open race who had been to either the CX or MTB Word Championships. One of those guys was...Jeremy Powers!

JPow!, Seamus Powell, Johnny Bold, Justin Lindine, the usual...

It was pouring and 40 degrees at the start. My first lap was decent, not too far back from the lower 50%. Then, halfway through the second lap my rear brake stopped working. Not having a rear brake kind of stinks because you can't stop (duh) I crashed into a tree on a downhill...which stopped me better than my failed rear brake did. I snapped the trunk of the tree in the process (it was LOUD!) and banged my head into something. The crash broke my front shifter's barrel adjuster, which forced me into the 26t chainring for the last lap.That was okay, though, because I really couldn't pedal at that point anyway. My head was okay thanks to my Limar helmet. I'm pretty sure I saw SNOW sometime during the race, maybe it was hail. Either way, there was stuff falling from the sky, and it was cold. My vision was horrible because of the mud being flung into my eyes. AND THEN I FINISHED! I was delirious towards the end of the last lap. I was totally trashed. It took me several hours to get warm again and I kept shoving food in my mouth until it was time to sleep. It was HARD. Was it fun? Maybe...

Weeping Willow: This is my "home course." I can ride to it in 45 minutes and I enjoy the trails. I wanted to do well this year. Last year was great and I wanted to repeat that success. I decided to stick with Cat.1 in hopes of having a stellar race. The pros were doing an extra 8 miles, which just seemed like too much. The juniors were staged with the 19-29 group.

I led for the first mile, which was entirely fireroad. One junior and an "adult" squeezed in front right before the singletrack - no big deal though. We quickly caught the HUGE singlespeed field and passing was nearly impossible. The guy behind me was having a temper tantrum, swearing and rubbing my wheel, but I had nowhere to go and neither did he. I ignored him and luckily I never saw him again. I passed the junior and once I had some open trails to work with, I drilled it to get a gap. I began to cramp halfway through the race, not because of dehydration; I was just pushing myself to go fast.

I went full gas until the finish. I won by 14 minutes and got 25th out of 108 Cat.1 men. I'm pretty happy about that result. I had fun and it sounds like everyone else did too.

Coyote Hill Classic: This was my third time doing Coyote Hill. It is a small race in the middle of nowhere. Mapquest doesn't recognize the town as existing, GPS units don't work and cell phones don't always work either. Welcome to Vermont! I have fond memories of the venue, but the course itself doesn't really suit me...soft loam, tight turns, muddy grass, short steep climbs with wet roots and some slick rock gardens. Each six mile lap has a decent amount of climbing. It is always wet for whatever reason. The course got changed since the last time I raced it (2009) and more loam and more rain made it slower than ever. Keeping momentum is not easy on this course. My legs were sore before the race even started, it was a long drive and, honestly, I wasn't too excited about racing my bike. This was also the first warm, summerlike race...80 degrees, 70% humidity! The other juniors were both Vermont-ers who knew the course better than I did, so I told them I'd hang out behind them on the first lap. Zeb led Matt and I through the first lap at a casual race pace. He got something in his derailleur, and as nice a kid as he is, this is bike racing, so I gunned it. Sorry! Matt hung on for a while, but eventually faded. Zeb came back on the last lap, casually saying "Hey Nathaniel!" through the switchbacks. I freaked out because I thought he was right behind me. Turns out he was actually about 5 minutes back. Those switchbacks are deceptive! So, I won, but it was not easy at all. I struggled. I could not ride my bike for the life of me. Chain suck was a persistent problem with everyone. I ran probably a quarter of the race (no joke).

The mud left three options: 1) Cross chain big-big, no chain suck, but say hello to CRAMPS!, 2) Spin in the small chainring and get chainsuck every 4 pedal strokes (also no joke), 3) RUN! (or walk...).

This was definitely the hardest race of the season so far and the hardest race I can remember from last year. Talking with others led me to the conclusion that EVERYONE basically had the same problems I did. Chainsuck was the name of the game. It is no wonder why the singlespeeders absolutely destroyed everyone. No opportunities for chain issues and no place for mud to accumulate.

Yay bike racing!

May 04, 2011

Rude Awakenings....

Alright, lets see, the last time I posted on the site it was the middle of a winter I couldn't forget about fast enough. Now it's the beginning of May and the harsh reality of what I thought was "intensity" training over the winter is starting to show it true side. There is no training like racing. This adage has been said to me over the years more than I can recall. How true it is. So now with three races into 2011 I am starting to see how the guys in the rest of the Elite field spent their winter.

The first race of the season was the M.A.S.S opener at Fairhill. It's a race that has become an early season institution. The start is a who's who of East Coast's finest racers. Pro road riders show up as well as the course itself isn't super technical or hilly. This year we had Aaron Snyder, Brandon Draugelis, Weston Schemp, Nick Waite, Chris Beck and Jeff Shalk towing the line with the rest of us. As you can probably surmise by now that was your front group of the race. I was not so lucky to make that group or the chase group, but followed up in the third group chasing them down. I can thank that to an absolutely horrible start where I could not get into my pedal. Once in though it was a chasing game for the 3 lap race. I moved into the top 20 and just tried to steadly make my way foward. After all was said and done I finished with a 19th place. Not bad considering the start and my goal was to finish in the top 20. I felt strong the whole race and when it was over I felt I could go another lap or two. Objective one down. Objective two practice my starts.

Race two saw me skip the Tour De Tykes due to scheduling conflict with a duathalon I had promised a friend I would do with him. The duathalon was a run-bike-run affair with the run being a 2 mile trail run followed by a 10 mile mountain bike race followed up by another 2 mile run. After showing up late and by late I mean the run had already started when we pulled into the parking log my teamate came through in about 12 position. I made my way through the transition zone and it was game on. Not knowing who I was racing and already being in 12th place on the bike I just tried to pass as many people as I could. When I came through the first lap I was with two other riders. I heard the announcer say "here is your 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place riders." Thinking I was in one of the top 3 positions I knew I had to try and catch the first place rider. Just out of the start/finish area I saw a rider twisting through the singletrack. I put in a massive effort and pulled him in in no time. After passing him I kept the gas on. When I finished and my runner started his second lap I knew we were in good position to maybe win this thing. With less than half a mile to go in the run my friend was passed by the guy I had beat in the bike leg. Damn. We lost the overall by 25 seconds, but did win the team classification by about 3 minutes. Not bad for my first duathalon.

Race number 3 was just this past weekend and it was the third race in the M.A.S.S series. Escape from Gragonue is definately a classic. The race itself is going on 10 years old (if not older). There is a Cyclocross race at the same location in December that attracts a huge crowd as well. The course is on private land owned by one of the Dupont's. It's completely closed off to riding throughout the year except for the 2 days they allow the races to run. The course is best described as a mix of classic East Coast riding conditions. A mix of mud, roots, rocks and everything else you can imagine in a 7 mile lap. We did 3 laps and couldn't ask for better weather. Adding to the fun of this course was having Jeff and Mike from the team come up from Virginia and Maryland to take part.

The start for me this time was much better that the Fairhill race. I won't lie, I practiced. The start was fast and I got into the top 10 into the single track. Then the dicing began. I had a guy chopping my lines and diving to the inside corners on all turns and I was on the inside already. I figured, after I put a wheel wrong and fell, I had to pass this guy in order to make up some time on the leaders. We came out to a freshly plowed false flat type of field section where I made my move and took care of the line chopper for the rest of the race. I passed 2 more guys and eventually finished up for the day in 7th. Gunnar on our team finished up 8th. Jeff pulled a top 5 finishing in 4th and Mike finished in 15th. A good day all around.

Next up on my agenda will be the Greenbrier Classic in Hagerstown, Md. It's a race I look foward to not just for the great course, but seeing the friends I don't get to see on a regular weekend basis. It's also a qualifer for the National Championships. So hopefully it will be a win-win weekend. So, until that post with stories from the trenches keep the rubber side down and be safe....Scottie