Friday, October 30, 2009
Fixed gear mtb'rs are an odd bunch, even more odd than single speed mtb'rs. I'm going to relate a 'back in the day story' but first we need to define 'back in the day'.
'Back in the day' wasn't when they had a B cyclocross category instead of the cat 3's, that was last fucking week. Back in the day the only people that had ever even _heard_ of cyclocross were people that had lived in belgium. Back in the day, mountain bikes were a novelty, and no one had a 'cross frame that was designed and built as a 'cross frame. We had road frames that were modified by a local frame builder by welding on canti brake bosses, pinching the chainstays by the bottom bracket and moving the rear brake bridge a bit higher on the seat stays. My first CX bike started life as a Schwinn Tempo .
Back in the day was when guys still raced with toe clips (yeah, 'cross racing with toe clips!). Index shifting was considered effeminate, there were more five speed freewheels (not freehubs) than six speed freewheels, and you would see an itinerant racer with a set of chainwhips removing the 13t from his freewheel so he could put on a 21 for the putney road race in the parking lot of the west hill shop. The longsjo classic was a one day crit on lower main street (even now, longsjo was a one-day crit longer than it's been a stage race).
Back in the day, we rode fixed gears for early season training. If you didn't have a bike you could leave set up as a fixed gear, you were cajoled into removing your derailleurs, buying a track cog, lock nut, and track chain. This was a point of discipline. No sprinting for town lines in your big chainring in february (they wore ski clothing back then, some guys even wore ski goggles on really cold days, and no one had bike helmets, I remember one brisk morning wearing a ski mask and safety glasses). The idea was to force you to ride for 5 hours in an easy gear to build your base fitness. There's a good reason for junior gear restrictions, the guys from 'back in the day' figured out the damage that pushing big gears did without base mileage without having the help of sports physiology. Fixed gear riding was never intended to be the domain of the urban hipster, once Tullio invented the derailleur, fixed gears became the domain of track racers and spartanites.
Back in the day there was a local bike club called The Sons Of Italy Road Club. You won't find too much about them, they went defunct somewhere around 2001, but they were pretty active in the area in the 80s and 90s. They used to hold an annual banquet in the fall, I could be mistaken but I believe the seeds of NE-BRA were sown here. This was the first time I met Chronoman, he was wearing a nametag that said "hello, my name is Terry Bradshaw". They used to have guest speakers at these banquets, the most notable of whom was Chris Carmichael. Chris talked alot about training, and of course, about his most famous client - Lance Armstrong. I don't remember what year that was, but it was pre-cancer and post world championship. During the q&a, I asked Chris if he thought lance would ever win the TdF. Chris answered 'I think he has the potential. Barring any accidents, yes, I think he will win the tour one day'.
Now, back to where I was heading when I first started writing this epic. Another guest speaker they had was Paul Curley (HEY!). This, if I remember correctly was the last banquet they had. Paul spoke a bit on his rather extensive racing career and then dedicated the rest of his address to his training philosophy. At one point, he mentioned 'fixed-gear' and 'mountain biking' in the same sentence. They served beer at the SoI hall, and I wasn't quite sure that I had heard him correctly. So I raised my hand and asked "did you just say you went mountain biking on a fixed gear?"
He replied "yes".
Again, having made a few trips to the bar, I'm not exactly sure what I said, but I know it was something along the lines of "that's fucked!"
This flustered Paul somewhat, but he continued with his presentation. I'm sure I feel asleep.
Fast forward about 17 years. MTB racing has peaked and declined. If you have a single speed mtb, you're cool. If you have a single speed 29'r, you're _uber_ cool. And, I guess now, if you have a _fixed_ 29'r, you're so fucking cool that thick mud solidifies as you approach allowing you to glide effortlessly through, coors light cans turn blue as you ride by, and hot chicks nipples stand out when you're in the vicinity.
I say this only partially toungue in cheek. Back in the day I was thoroughly ridiculed for wearing black/brown/beige dress socks when arriving for afternoon rides after work, even though I folded them over to resemble 'crew' socks (I remember a clause in the USCF manual as late as 1989 stating "socks will be white, shorts will be black. A thigh panel with the sponsors name will be allowed"). Now, white socks are totally gay, and the uber cool wear fucking argyle.
Now, certain bloggers fully embrace the off-road fixed-gear trend. These people are far more prolific as bloggers, racers, and slackers than I. While I ridicule the off-road fixed-gear rider for coming to the party 20 years after paul curley was using it as a spartan training regimen, I envy them for my inability to jump in with both feet due to pragmatic commitments of my own doing.
I sincerely hope that off-road fixed-gear competition becomes at least as successful as off-road single-speed competition has become. I won't be doing it, I'll have respect for those that _do_ embrace it, but I still think it's fucked.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
"The Quick Step rider blamed his positive doping controls on his drinking; indicating that he drank so much that he did not know what later happened. "I was very drunk. I do not know what happened, but the next day I tested positive for cocaine," he said.....Quick Step later accepted Boonen's explanation that his positive test had come as a result of contact with other cocaine users, rather than direct ingestion of the drug......"Hair samples proved that there was no cocaine in his system for more than four months," said Lefevere. "The amount of cocaine present [at the time of his positive test] was enough to say that there was someone with him who was using it, and he came close to those people.""
Really, a contact high from blow?
Right - Sorry Boom Boom, the only way to test positive for blow is to do blow. Being in the same room with it doen't set off the catalyst.
(posted by a survivor of many a lost weekend)
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I had too much shit to do this past weekend around my house, so getting away to maine for one (or both) of the verge races wasn't really feasible. It just so happened that The Cider Hill Farm in amesbury mass was holding the "5K Cider Mash Orchard Run" cross country running race. Amesbury is about ten miles from me, though it turned out the actual race venue was 13.6 miles (hence the 27 miles reference).
The ride there was actually nice, it was relatively warm, and there was a solid southwest wind, so I had a tailwind all the way there. The race flier promised "real cross country". I had thought of riding my bike over the course, but the first thing you see from the registration table was the first climb, up the side of the apple grove, allegedly up an old ski run. I had my road bike, no way I was going to make it up that.
Eh, I'll just wing it. I wasn't here to set a PR. My knee was still acting up from the crash at the pinnacle challenge three weeks earlier. In fact, this past week was the first time I was able to run for 30 minutes without my right knee feeling a severe tendinitis type of pain (A/M/P CL? I dunno, it just fucking hurts). Besides, if I wanted to go for a PR, I wouldn't have ridden my bike over. I've already learned that drains many seconds per mile from me.
Anyways, it turns out we're going over that big hill twice, and we were warned at the line of a long section of deep thick mud - no pr's for _anyone_ today.
It looked like there was reasonable talent there - lots of people in club jerseys, most WCRC. No MVS. Indeed, both Craig Fram and his son were there. Not knowing the personalities, I guessed the race was for 2nd.
The horn went off and it was a mad dash for the 178 runners to get across a short single lane bridge less than 100 yards from the start. I sprinted at the beginning to avoid the bottle neck, and made the top fifteen coming across the bridge. Then next 1/4 mile was a hard-packed flat dirt farm road. Take a right to go between rows of apple trees where we were greeted by the sweet pungent smell of dropped, fermenting apples for another 100 yards. Take left, and start going up
Seriously, wet grass with saturated ground underneath. Without a good shoe, the only people getting up this without slipping were the most surefooted of runners. The first 100 yards was the steepest, I'm estimating over 15% grade. After that is 'leveled' out to about 5% to the top of the hill.
I crested the top in what I thought was 10th spot. I looked behind me and saw one person. that hill really thinned things out. "Those were people who died". Running down the other side on a farm road, I passed one runner, Kurt Mullen, before hitting the mud bog. First mile in 6:30. Later analysis showed 175 feet of climbing, all in about 1/4 mile (see graph below)
Yup, lots 'o mud. This stuff was more than ankle deep. they had gone though and spread hay, so you sank in and couldn't keep your speed up, but at least you weren't pulling ten pounds of mud out with each step. They had cleverly placed little signs along the mud bogs - "CAUTION, WORM PIT" and "DRY SOCKS?", there were more.
I started to feel the tendinitis in my knee. It was only hurting on the up sections, so I let loose on every downhill and nursed the up sections. Kurt caught me on the up sections in the second mile, and I would close the gap to him on the downhills. Towards the end of the second mile, they run you back and forth between rows of apple trees in about 100 yard sections, up and over a small hill each time. I started to hear cheers for "YEA, FIRST WOMAN" getting closer and closer behind me. Coming out of the grove and back onto a farm road we headed up again. Yup, way up. Not as steep, and this time on hardpacked dirt.
I could hear the woman (later identified as Kelly Jenkins of West Newbury, or as I saw her "The Ab Queen" - her abdominal muscles were simply fantastic) breathing behind me getting closer. I pushed off hard with my left leg and just soft-legged with my right going up the steep climb.
End of second mile - 7:10/11:40. Graph shows 115 feet of climbing in this section, not bad considering I ran _down_ the 145 foot climb I went up in the first mile.
The second steep climb peaked well past the 2 mile mark. The graph shows this one climb to be 150 feet. Kelly didn't catch me before the top, so I pushed the pace back over the top and started to distance her, while gaining back on Kurt. I was way faster than him on the downhills. I caught him through the last section of orchard just as we came back out on the dirt road we started on. I was holding his pace, but it was hard. I was faster than him on the downhills, but he clearly had the stronger uphill and flat pace. He slowly pulled away, beating me by three seconds over the last 1/4 mile. I'm usually good for a sprint, and normally I would have turned it in the last 100 yards, but today I had no lungs left. My legs were good, but no fuel. Kelly came in 6 seconds later.
My time - 20:20/6:33 pace. Before I saw the course I was hoping for 6:30, because I haven't been running due to my knee pain. So, I'm pretty happy with a 6:33 pace, it got me 11th overall and 4th on the 40's age group.
I'll tell ya, the 40's age group is without a doubt the most competitive. In the top ten at this race there were 5 age group winners and three finishers in the 40's age group. The top two on the 40's got 2nd and 3rd overall. You had to go down to 8th place to get a second place from any other group, Greg Balog got 8th over all and 2nd in the 30's. Craig Fram won in a 17:42/5:42. Just to give you an indication of the toughness of this course, that's the slowest 5K Craig has run this year.
So, now I had to ride 13 miles home, into a headwind the whole way, over the many rolling hills on rte 110 between amesbury and haverhill. I got home just in time to see the Patriots spank Tampa Bay.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Let's get one thing straight right away. I'm a lance fan. Not a lance fan-atic, just a fan. I truly appreciate what he's accomplished, how he's impacted cycling in the united states, how he's used his fame and fortune to advance the cause of cancer research, and the inspiration he's given people towards becoming cyclists and getting involved in the LAF. I'm also exceptionally dubious over the doper allegations, and fuck off if you're a lance hater (I have no patience for it).
Anyways, Race Across The Sky wasn't about lance. It was about the Leadville 100, a 100 mile MTB race centered in leadville colorado. Lance won this year, and they decided to use his fame as a vehicle to launch the film. Lance wasn't a minor character, but how could he be? He won the fucking thing, so of course he would be prominent. But shown just as prominently in the film is Dave Wiens, the founder of the event Kenneth Chlouber, as well as Travis Brown and Matt Shriver. Susan Demattei even had a good amount of face time. I make this point to make the distinction clear: Race Across The Sky was a movie about the Leadville 100 that had lance armstrong in it, much in the same way that Breaking Away wasn't really about cycling, it was a movie about a teenager coming of age with cycling in it.
Turn out was good, the theater was about half full. The manager was quite surprised, as he had to come out and help take/sell tickets. When he came out and saw the line at the ticket kiosk he actually said "wow!".
The movie was broken up into 3 parts - two panel discussions, before and after the actual movie, and then the movie about the race.
The panel discussions were poorly edited and hosted by a total putz (didn't even bother to look his name up). The low points of his performance were:
In the first segment - the 'panel' were all seated on wooden stools, the MC placed one foot on a stool rung and broke the rung. They didn't bother to cut away or get him another stool. As the discussion went on, the legs of the stool were noticeably widening as he shifted his position
Second segment - With a new stool, he asked Travis Brown if the fact that Travis was riding a 29er was beneficial. Travis replied "um, I wasn't riding a 29er, I had 26" wheels. My bike had drop bars".
The panel discussions were in fact interesting - if you're a cyclist and you knew the characters. I wasn't riveted, but light jokes were made (the theater audience laughed several times), and all the participants came off as friendly and relaxed in both segments. What made it difficult was the hacked editing I mentioned earlier. The flow of conversation was disrupted to the point that you felt like you had to mentally shift gears as the topic changed with the camera angle. Clearly, not much skill went into the transitions. The first segment went on too long, and if you aren't involved in sports as more than a fan, it will probably be the thing that turns off the majority of potential viewers. If this ever makes it to broadcast/cable/satellite network, the length of the first panel segment will have the cycling layperson switching over to survivor re-runs ten minutes in.
The movie - Pleasantly surprised to hear Bob Roll as the narrator. I don't know if this was shot in HD, but it wasn't shown in HD. It _should_ have been shot and shown in HD (a big fat fucking 'F' if it wasn't). The motorcycle camera shots and helicopter shots were spectacular. Shots showing the riders at the top of the course (Mount Columbine) rivaled any european racing footage I've ever seen. The footage of the actual race was excellent. Good camera shots, music not too overdone, the editing was done so that you actually felt a sense of the dramatic nature of the event. Little interviews with riders who had stopped for whatever reason, added a good feel to the difficulty, though a bit too much was spent on the people who didn't make the first time check. I suppose it was necessary to show the frustration and anguish of people who were actually turned back because they didn't make the first aid station in a reasonable time, but it was just a bit much for my taste.
Then there were the obligatory racer profiles. One woman racer had been hit by a car years earlier and suffered a broken back (five individual spinal fractures), two shattered legs, massive internal injuries, of course was shown in tears describing her comeback, (as was her husband). Curiously though, only about 30 seconds was spent on a woman racer who has MS (maybe she declined a more detailed interview?). I think that story would have been just as compelling, if not more. Alot of time was spent on Dave Wiens and his family, with his wife Susan Demattei given alot of camera time. If there was any question that this movie was a lance fest, these segments put it to rest. Time spent on lance's personal life or off the bike during the movie? Almost zero (exactly two mentions of his Gfriend and son in attendance with no interview, one short segment of him leaning on his bike and talking about the race). Third place rider Matt Shriver was actually interviewed off the bike as part of the movie, with significantly more time than armstrong.
As the race wore down and the movie came to a close, I would have liked a better choice of music. It was the same cheezy solo piano crap they have every year when they show the end of the ironman hawaii with the late finishers coming across the finish line. That said, I suppose it was a necessary addition to give the movie a slightly broader audience appeal. But you know us racers, we want to see racing. As empathetic as I am to the person just barely making the cutoff, it just isn't interesting to me, but that's just me.
I'm not going to go into the race details - all that information is on-line - except for one thing. Lance gets a flat about 7 miles from the finish. He has no clue how to change a tubeless tire (he admits this in the panel discussion after the movie). He spends his CO2 cartridges just pumping the tire back up then riding as far as he can until it was flat again, and rode the last three miles completely flat. One comment I've read today was "now we know lance is a litterbug". Well, we didn't see lance tossing his CO2 and not picking it up, and in fact the first time he stops to service the flat, he _does_ in fact pick the cartridge up, and Bob Roll even states, something to the effect of 'lance is clearly frustrated as he retrieves the spent CO2 cartridge'. I suppose the comment could have been about whatever happened to all the fuel packages he used - the same argument could be made for _all_ the elite racers. I'm pretty sure they had a crew go over the course the next day and pick up as much as they could. Does that excuse tossing wrappers off the bike? IMO no, but I don't know what they had said about such things, maybe they said "we'll have clean up crews".
Movies like this are necessary. Sure, the editing and directing left a little to be desired, but anything to raise awareness and un-marginalize our sport is good effort. It wasn't a lance propaganda piece, and it wasn't a smaltzy effort by a studio noob with delusions of coppola. It was done by a group of people who feel emotion for the sport and are obviously working towards greater acceptance. I'm sure there are other people out there that feel the movie was expertly edited and directed. I _know_ there are people out there that will lambaste the entire effort.
I'll probably buy the DVD. Hopefully it will be in high def.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
I don't know how many of you have had this happen - you're riding along, and all of a sudden you 'wake up'. You ask "how the hell did I get here". You can't remember a large chunk of your ride.
That happened last night. I remember riding north on main street in boxford and taking a right on lakeshore rd. Then I suddenly realized I was in haverhill on boxford road approaching chadwick road. Boxford road isn't some straight flat road. It's windy, twisty, and hilly (well, just little short rises).
For the first mile, the road has no flat sections, and no straight sections, and you can see for more than 100 feet in one spot - though even there a small car can be obscured by the dip in the road. Two SUV's cannot pass here without one going off the pavement. Many times I have had to brush the edge of the pavement on my bike for an f-350 (this is farm/horse country) that refused to take a bit of dirt on his right.
Yet this is where I went 'out'. This means one thing - I'm tired. I was looking forward to riding in today, quite possibly one of the last 'shorts only' days of the year. Instead, I'll be taking a nap in my car at lunch. Dreaming of days gone by:
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I was riding to work this morning, watching my HR spike as I was watching my speed drop over a small incline. Granted, it was 32 degrees at the start for the second day in a row, and I'm wearing an extra 42 pounds of clothing, but I wasn't overheating, just hyperventilating.
It occurred to me how much work I need to do on a regular basis, just to keep up in the masters. Last weekend was a good example. I "raced" the New England Velo-Cross Challenge, mechanical-ed in the first 1/4 mile, then crashed half a dozen times times just trying not to get lapped. The last crash resulted in me jamming my left rear canti underneath the rim with my right leg on a run-up. I had to deflate the tire and open the skewer to get it free. I DNFd with about 2 to go.
I sense myself getting slower and slower, and I'm not sure why. I did a 5 K road race about a month ago, and had the slowest time I've had all year (including the second 5 k of a duathlon in may). Then at the pinnacle challenge I ran even slower. I _haven't_ been over training, if anything I've been taking it easy for the past few weeks.
That's when I started thinking about the time I need to put in on the bike just to stay with the genetic freaks in the masters field. Freaks like this guy:
He rides a few dozen times a year, and rarely races any more. He showed up Saturday on his old 'cross bike that he hasn't ridden in three years and got 3rd in the master 35+ (ok, there were only like 6 guys, but he was in like second for a long time before he faded). This same guy, at the CX national championships at fort devens in '96 (?) had never raced 'cross before in his life, showed up on a borrowed bike, and got 3rd in the "B" field. He made a comment after wards something like, 'I was wondering when anyone was going to chase the two leaders down and no one did, so I attacked'. Then there was the time in 2001 that he had the flu for a week, was running a fever of 102 on saturday, got up on sunday for a 3 hour drive to race the jiminy peak road race, and got 10th in the masters 1/2/3 (full field, btw). Don't get me wrong, I like the dude, he's friendly, humble, and genuinely a nice person. He's just a genetic freak.
I can train all year, and just barely keep up with guys like him.
So I'm riding to work this morning, numb fingers and toes, wondering why I do it. I started thinking about all the guys I've known over the years that claim undying passion for the sport of cycling, that I haven't seen at a race in years. Of course their excuse is always the same, 'family/job'.
Hmmm....Me too. I have a family, a job, I even own a triple-decker rental in a a city 40 miles away that I have to maintain (it sucks, I hate it, I never wanted it, and I'd be just as happy to let the fucking bank have it, but I have a wife who is deeply concerned about the credit rating implications. She's right, but my emotion of the whole fucking thing is enough to let it go and deal with the fallout).
But I ride, I train, and I race. I can't let it go. When my wife and I first started discussing long term 'arrangements', I made the point clear that the racing will continue. She would have to accept it as part of me and who I am, or the deal is off. I was racing 30 times a year when we met, and our second date was to one of the first iterations of the Watershed Wahoo MTB races in new hampshire. So far, so good. It seems she's glad sometimes to get me the hell out of her face (like that wasn't predictable). However, I get _no_ sympathy for injuries related to bike racing. She's helped scrub out a few wounds over the years, but I better be able to move those 5 yards of loam the next day, whether I'm nursing a case of road rash or not.
By the same token, a rather common critique of my training and racing is "you know, if you took it seriously, you'd be pretty good".
what a conundrum...I enjoy riding and racing so much that accepting it was a prerequisite to get married, but I don't take it seriously enough to really post any decent results. This is true.
Many years ago a local former pro offered to take me under his wing - "I could definitely get you riding as a good cat two". He wasn't asking for money, and I knew him well enough to know he was serious. I didn't take him up on it, because I knew how much work I was already putting in as 3, and I really didn't want to work that hard - yeah, it was the slacker in me. I had a full time job, had been recently married to my _first_ wife, and was enjoying life. I enjoyed getting out on training rides a mixing it up, not worrying about 'training', just interested in having fun. Making me a 2 would have been a _lot_ of work. Besides, it would have interfered with my drinking.
It won't be getting any easier. I'm getting older and I have more non-cycling distractions in my life. But I just can't see giving up on it. I feel it pulling at me in the winter months. I get bitchy when I don't ride enough. I have to keep at it.
So The next time you see me, don't hesitate to yell out "slacker".
(Did you ever feel like you've just wasted five minutes of your life? If you've made it this far, you have a lot more patience than I do.)
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Matt O'Keefe, in his most recent correspondence to me, has shown exactly those qualities. It is for that reason that I have taken yesterdays rant down, his actions in the Topsfield Road Race not withstanding.
His professionalism can be succinctly realized in the last two sentences of his message
"I respect what you have done for the sport and I hope guys like you rub off on the younger crop. Respect is important, to disagree on circumstances is part of life."
Geeze, doesn't even sound like the same guy, does it......
The only caveat I would add is that, yes, I hope more people participate at _least_ to the level I have * , but I shudder to think future generations might look to me as a fucking role model.
Thank you for demonstrating the dignity worthy of a professional, Matt.
(* I know those who don't know me very well have a hard time believing this, but I _do_ have a rather strong sense of humility. I'm often an asshole, but I'm a humble asshole. I've contributed significant portions of my time _off_ the bike so that others can spend time _on_ the bike, but there are many more that have much more than me. Being involved in local club administration for 15 years, I've seen the _lack_ of participation first hand, as well as the efforts of those who seem to make time out of thin air. However, I've never sought to have my efforts acknowledged with more than a 'thank you' from the people I've worked with, and I'm not looking to change that now.)
Now, everyone, do yourselves a favor and go here and or here, and especially here. It's time we lightened up a bit.
Friday, October 9, 2009
This day, the weather looked good, but it rained like a mother fucker the day before, so things promised to be wet, especially in the woods. The major mistake I made in setting up was _not_ considering the wet woods when prepping my MTB. I pumped the tires up for a dry course.
Other than that, I felt good. I knew I wasn't as fit as the last time I did it, but I had been running significantly more since then and was hoping that would translate into a better time: my goal - 2:25. My previous PR was 2:33, but that was with losing a good five minutes from an MTB flat tire, and trying to change a tubeless tire. (tubeless tires are almost impossible to remove, since the seal is achieved by a super tight fit. The only thing that enabled me to continue at all was knowing I would need a tube to fix it (and having one), since getting the tire bead to reseal on the trail is _not_ possible.)
I had big hopes to be able to run a 6:30 pace on the first leg, a road run. All my runs this year have been well under that. Since the 'road' run is really 4.8 miles (as noted here, though it's backwards from the race) a 6:30 pace would get me in the transition area in 31 minutes, and keep me in good contention.
As soon as I hit the rail trail, I could hear myself breathing - raspy congestion. This ain't gonna be good. Checking my HRM, I settled into a pace where I could breathe well. I was hitting my target HR for this section, but was feeling slow. About halfway through, I realized I was feeling significant lactic acid buildup in my lower legs. This _sucks_! I've been running about 15 miles a week, entering races, done two duathlons this year, and had nothing like this happen this year. WTF!?!?!
Checking my watch as we got back towards the transition area, I realized I wasn't that far off my goal, but I was working way harder than I had planned. I was thinking a solid effort without red-lining would get me 31 minutes. Not red-lining was the important goal, and pushing as hard as I dared got me back in 32:19. It beat my previous best on the first leg by 20 seconds, but was still disappointing from my goal. I ranked 3rd in my age group for the 1st run (out of 7, yippie....)
Getting on the MTB, I was still recovering, and not well. My legs were still killing me, they wouldn't recover until half-way through the MTB leg. The MTB was supposed to be my best performance. I soon found out today wasn't going to cooperate. this MTB course uses a lot of the same sections that the Eastern FuckTard Association courses here use. It's steep, windy, rocky, rooty, single track (~ 500' of climbing in the first two miles). At first I couldn't figure out why I kept falling down. That is _not_ typical for me. One fall, maybe two, sure, because I'm of the school of thought that if you didn't fall, you haven't ridden hard enough, but I was dabbing and slipping all over the place. Near the top it dawned on me - too much tire pressure. That's how clouded my mind was from the run, It should have been obvious the first time I spun out on a set of roots. The first time it happened I was going up a section of double track where there just happened to be a photographer. I asked if I was the first one that fell and he replied only a couple of guys made it, and I made it further than most. Fuck it, too late now that all the steep up is done. Dropping tire pressure now wouldn't save me any time now and might cause a pinch flat since it was all downhill from here. As I was riding the only flat section on the top of the hill I finally started to feel good. I felt better and better all the way down, and even passed a few people. I blew by one guy on a downhill section of fire road like he was standing still. sweet! I passed as many people that passed me, and from my experience racing MTBs the guys passing me were all _good_. They obviously had experience - and full suspension....hmmmmm.
My MTB fork is in rough shape. It's a good fork, a rockshox SID dual air. But it's beat. The bike is an IF custom deluxe Ti. Damn good bike, worthy of a good fork. I noticed some wear on the right stanchion early this year. I haven't ridden it much, but the times I've ridden it I haven't noticed any problems - until the thursday before the pinnacle. I went out on a 'tune-up' ride and noticed the lock out wasn't working. Next thing I noticed was the fork was riding very hard. I almost got tossed in a couple of section that the bike should have glided over. After the ride, I saw that the travel was down to about 1 1/2 inches, and sticky. Even worse was that the anodization was worn completely off the right stanchion. This wasn't the reason that I kept falling going _up_ hill, but it certainly would have made the downhill stuff more comfortable. I didn't have time to change it before the race, and even if I did I wouldn't have had time to ride it. Not good to try a new fork the day of a race - go with what you know. I ended up with a PR for the MTB leg nonetheless, though it's tough to qualify that. The course changes from year to year, and the last time I did it I lost 5 minutes on the tire change. The first time I did it I got the 3rd fastest time _overall_, and it took be 5 minutes longer. Today I had the 3rd best time in my age group (again) and 7th best in the solos (out of 20). I'm thinking the right tire pressure would have saved me more than a couple of minutes.
OK, back into the transition are. Last year Solo commented on people congregating at the entrance. This year, not _too_ bad, but I started yelling "CLEAR OUT" as I was heading for the mtb to rb change, and still bumped one dude from a team who just got done with the MTB leg and was pretty toasted.
Hop on the road bike, time to eat. This is a fun balance - keep a steady, competitive pace while trying to eat a power bar. At least on the TT bike I can rest on the pads and have my hands kind of free. I kept a decent pace up to the hill (first six miles). One rider came by me pretty quickly - a team rider - and I paced him up to the bottom of the hill (no, I didn't draft). I paced him all the way up the hill but he drilled it over the top and I lost him. A rider on a nice pinarello road bike (sans aerobars) caught me right at the top. The hill climbs 300 feet in .8 miles (~7%), so it isn't trivial. Once I got to the top, I dropped right back into the bars and blasted my way down. I hit 38 mph at one point without pushing too hard and left the guy that just caught me behind. At the bottom of the hill there's a 90 degree left, but the road is wide, and there are marshals. I went way to the right and swooped into the left, downshifting to keep in the 'power band'.
If the road was flat, taking the corner pushing 30 mph wouldn't have been an issue. If I had gotten off the aerobars and rode the bull horns through the corner, taking the corner pushing 30 mph wouldn't have been an issue. But, staying in the aerobars and pushing 30 mph into the corner was an issue. Since my weight was forward on the bike, when I went over the crown of the road leaning the bike, the rear wheel unweighted and started to drift. In a effort to stop the drift I had to steer/lean the bike upright, which set me on a course directly for the trees. The brakes on my TT bike aren't on the aero bars, so now I'm careening toward the trees probably somewhere around 30 MPH, unable to move my hands to the brakes.
Nothing to do but hope.
I hit the shoulder, the front wheel digs in the soft ground, and I launch off into the woods. I hit a stand of saplings which acted sort of like a bungee net, and prevented me from hitting the 2 foot wide maple tree. My polar data - only able to record in 5 second intervals - shows me going from 29 mph to zero in one of those intervals. Laying in the bushes completely upside down, I did a quick check of my limbs, struggled back to my feet, and staggered to my bike. The marshal came running over to help, and after a few seconds of forcing my back to straighten out and checking out the bike, I said to her,"wow, I'll bet that was pretty spectacular", and started to push the bike to remount.
She said, "oh my god, are you ok?"
I replied, "well, there's only one way to find out" and rode off.
I had a trickle of blood from my right knee and a good sized knot popping up on my right shin. My left quad felt like I may have pulled it. I had a spot in the middle of my back that felt like I got hit with a baseball bat, but I was actually recovering, and picking up speed. My breathing was labored from the pain in my back. This section was about 3/4 of a mile up hill, but not a tough grade, so I could still make decent time and not push it aerobically. I could see the guy I passed on the downhill about 30 seconds ahead. I ended up passing someone just before the top of the next hill, but then the guy on the pinarello was out of sight. It's all downhill from here and I wasn't too confident of catching him. Back in the aero bars, heading downhill I got my speed back up to the low 30's and was gaining on someone else. I couldn't believe how fast I passed him, a quick check of my speed at that point shows me hitting 40. At the bottom of this hill, there is a sharp left followed buy a hairpin right. Yes, I learned my lesson. It's better to lug the gear out of the corner than to ride the aero bars through the corner. However, I could see the guy I had passed not to far in front of me as he exited out of the hairpin onto the main road. I caught him about a mile out of the transition area and he said "Damn, I can't believe you got up" as I went by.
So, even with the crash, I was the fastest in my age group, 2nd fastest of the solos. I beat the #2 in my age group by 2 minutes. To be fair, Solobreak won the age group bike 2 split last year, and bested #2 by 3 1/2 minutes.
Time for the trail run. I still felt good, but now I my mind was swirling about the possible effects of my flying wallendas audition. I concentrated on pace. The trail run uses some of the same single track trails that the MTB course uses, except that they use shortcuts - the stuff that's too steep for mortals to ride an MTB up, including things like this glacially deposited boulder:
Think of running up stairs for two miles. I was limping slightly from the minor quad pull, but not so much that it was slowing me down - my pace was being dictated by fatigue. I passed two people on the uphill. and thought I would end up running alone for the whole downhill section. I got passed on the downhill by three guys, all team runners. I could tell from how clean they were. This helped me set my pace better. Towards the bottom there is a steep drop off - same as on the mtb leg. I ran down this, and my left leg nearly buckled. I recovered, and was thankful I was near the end. The course ends up on a section of fire road, just before dropping down another small hill into the field for the flat finish. I kept checking behind me. I knew I had something left for a good finish if necessary, but really didn't want to use it if I didn't have to. The next person to finish after me came in over 4 minutes later.
Monday morning: I got no sleep because my left quad pull meant I couldn't shift my position in bed without extreme pain, and I couldn't lie on my back because of the bruise from hitting the trees. My right shoulder had some sort of deep bruise, I can't see it but I couldn't raise my elbow higher than my chest, and couldn't lift anything heavier than a coffee cup. Both lower legs were so sore that I had to walk up and down stairs flat footed, one at a time
As of now, my quad is better and the cuts and bruises on my legs are negligible. I still have a big bruise in the middle of my back which makes sitting for long periods uncomfortable, and I can run with only minor twinges in my calves. I have full range of motion in my shoulder but feel a sting when lifting anything of weight.
The finish? 3/7 in my age group, 6/20 of the solos. I missed 2nd in my age group by 4 1/2 minutes. I'm thinking with the MTB set up right, and not crashing the road bike, I might have been able to pull back 3 minutes.
Well, I have no target events for the rest of the year. I'll do some 'cross races, and I'm toying with the jamestown race this weekend since I'm going to newport ri for the long weekend as my 15th wedding anniversary. They may get closed out because of the bump from the verge races. As of now the 45+ already has 61 pre-reg. I don't want to pre-reg since I don't know if I'll be in any shape to race that morning, and quite frankly if I don't race it I won't lose any sleep. I won't be doing the verge races though, those people are too wound up.
Monday, October 5, 2009
More to follow!