Monday, September 27, 2010

Ed Sanders @ the Lily Ponds

Cross season officially kicked off for me at the Ed Sanders memorial cross race Sunday morning. I got home from the Beer Run around 7:30 and didn't have much time to dick around before picking up DKEG and heading to the race.  Fortunately, I knew Saturday might be a long night and I had the bike and gear ready to roll for the race.  Quick cuppa joe and a shower helped to clear some of the cobwebs and I was off...again.

The venue is a cool water garden/nursery with numerous ponds and you guessed it, lily pads.  Coming back from PA I drove through some heavy rain and was looking forward to a nice, wet & muddy race.  That's what cross is all about, right?  We drove through some light rain on our way up there, however, it stopped before the 9am race.  With the exception of some damp grass in a few (very few) places, you'd never know it rained.  Much of the course was dry and dusty and could have used a little more rain, just to be tacky.  I geared the bike in anticipation for some mud bogs and probably could have used those teeth out on this fast track.  However, I knew I would be staged WAY in the back of a large field, 110 registered racers to be exact.  Only 98 of those people actually showed up that morning, but, I was still pretty deep in a very competitive class.  Today was going to be about improving my passing skills....and not puking on anyone.

As usual, I tried to hit it hard at the start and gain a few positions.  Tough to do when there are so many guys, but, I got a couple in the opening straight-away.  From there it was all about finding a hole and jumping in it.  I felt surprisingly good, considering, and was looking for my tempo.  About mid-way through the second lap my seat starts to move and slowly slides all the way down until it bottoms out.  Well shit, that sucks.  Nothing major, but, I'm not getting any extension in my legs and this is not the most efficient position to be in.  Riding out of the saddle for 3 more laps is not really an option, so, I just deal with it as best as possible.  The long, flat gravel sections kill me and my legs burn as they grind from this compacted position.  The good news is my gear choice helps with several of the steep hills encountered and I only run up one, which is a mandatory run-up anyway. 

It was on the second lap I saw a rider down on the side, not looking very good.  A number of people were on site to direct people to the side and keep the injured out of harms way. Well, any more harm that is.  I later read that he may have broken his neck and the race volunteers continue to re-direct racers for the remaining laps. Apparently he tried to cut a corner a little too short and stuffed his wheel in nice sized hole.  I wish him a speedy recovery.
Update:  I just read the rider did not suffer a broken neck. He got banged up pretty badly and is in a neck brace, but, nothing is broken.  I'm glad to hear this.

With my elfish seat height I rolled along for 3 more laps. It was damn near impossible to push hard on the flat sections and I lost time here with each lap.  I would get passed and then make up those spots once the course got technical again.  Unfortunately, it was a fast course and straight-line speed was more important than technical ability.  I finished mid-pack at 39th and 11th in my age group, meh...

Later that night I was sitting in front of my computer waiting for the registration to open on 3 more races. Hitting the refresh button in my browser every few seconds.  Start position is everything in these short races and the race to registration is just as important as anything you do out on the course.  Learning to play the game, one race at a time.

Anaerobic Assault (aka. Beer Runs)

The Tractor hosted another Beer Run Saturday night.  We staged from Bucks "Love Shack" and rolled over to the top of Scientology. This was the hill that crushed my will to live at The Curse of Dark Hollow and gave me my first DNF.  Fortunately, we were going down and I thought all I had to do was hang on and hit the brakes once in a while. Well, there was a bit more pedaling involved and the 1 minute start intervals meant you never knew how close you were to the person in front or how closely you were being chased.  Only thing to do is gun it from the start and keep the needle pinned the entire time. This hurts when your legs are stone cold, you just finished a turkey and bacon sandwich and washed it down with an IPA at the top of the run.

I blew a couple turns that came up alarmingly fast and took out a shrub or two. I was, however, was able to keep the rubber side down and not t-bone any trees.  That's a good thing considering the lack of oxygen impaired my ability to think rationally and see clearly.  17 minutes (or so) later we were down at the bottom, cracked another beer and waited for the remaining riders.  One more beverage for the climb back up to the Love Shack and then the drinking got serious.  Brett and Donna brought 4 kinds of homemade sausage and tossed them on the grill.  A clear sky and harvest moon made for a great night under the stars.  I was going to hang the hammock, but, decided to simply racked out in my car for a few hours. Rolled out around 6 as I had to get back home and prepare for the Ed Sanders cross race at 10. Good stuff.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Redemption at Teaberry

I never posted a race report from The Curse of Dark Hollow. I didn't think anyone would want to hear my whine like a little bitch. The Curse put a major smack-down on me and was the first race I ever DNF'd. Sucked. I'll just leave it at that.

A late season push to spend more time in the saddle and less time moving rock hasn't really panned out. Several projects have limited my time spinning the cranks, but, it's all good. Trying to find the balance in things. Dutchy tried to kill us on a road ride, a race at Schaeffer, some Psycho Cross, riding with the kids, plenty of rock crawling and that sums up the training regimen thus far. The Tractor even gave us a nice preview of the Teaberry loop a few weeks back. Chasing gunslingers through the woods on wet, slimy rocks is always fun.

So that's it, my fitness is adequate, not great, but, I can get through a ride. I skipped the SM100 this year and I sorta regretted not doing the race. Lots of friends, new and old, were there and it looked like a good weekend. If nothing else, it would have been good prep for Michaux. No, my final "big one" of the year was going to be Teaberry. "The hardest 40 miles in the forest" as the T-Shirt states. I knew what to expect and was going to ride a little smarter this time. Don't go out too fast, keep a sensible pace and try not to die.

The forecast didn't look good for race day. 50-60% chance of rain in the morning with possible thunderstorms. The forecasters were right on this time and I heard the first clap of thunder around 4am Sunday morning. Then, the sound of rain beating down on my roof. Shit, it's gonna be a wet one. Filled my belly with pancakes and bacon and decided it was all good. Just another day riding the sweet rocky goodness in Southy. Picked up DKEG and Jim and we headed north.

The mountain was socked in as we arrived, but, there was a lightness in everyone's attitude. Lots of smiles as everyone got ready to ride. We set up our pit, got prepped and had time to socialize before the start. A short beer to get in the mood and then the pre-race meeting. Another Le-Mans start and I line up a little further back than last time. Trying to keep myself honest this time. Bang, and we are off running.

A little longer run than The Curse and we are back at the bikes. Rolling, I settle in with a nice pace and find my place in the pack. They give us some open, flowy trail to warm our legs and a few guys comment about the fast trails. "Give it time" I tell them. The beat-down is coming up. Buchness is riding at a nice pace and I settle in around him. A Gettysburg rider is with us and a single speeder from Harrisburg. It's a good group. We pass Roger Masse on a descent. He dropped is seat bag and went back to find it. A few people have already pulled over with flats. It's going to be a long day, gotta ride smart.

Southern Gas was a blast. My first time on that trail and I really enjoyed the narrow "bench" sections. Rocks are typical on a Tractor trail and this one was no exception. Next was Mackey, then Virginia or maybe the other way around. Tough stuff, but, worth the price of admission....and then some. I didn't hit it fast, but, the tires held nicely and I rode a lot of wet rock I thought I might be walking. Little victories for the taking and I savored each one as they happened. I was on the bike more than off and that was good enough for me.

photo by Tomi

Somewhere on Mackey, I come up on Nate. He's having some issues but says its under control. I roll on thinking he'll catch and pass me any minute. Unfortunately, his misfortune was worse than he led on. A solid ride by a hard man, I wish I could have helped more. A loose brake lever meant a quick pit for me and I dropped a couple spots in the process. Not sweating it, I'm back on and in pursuit...sorta. I'm not chasing people today, but, I catch them in the technical rocks and regain my position. I rolled into AS 2 and was fortunate enough to get the last cup of Gubna. That, and a couple cups of the other beer, was just what the doctor ordered and I was ready to keep the party rolling

Fireroads provided a little recovery from the single-track smack-down. I knew Stooges was ahead and suspected it would be our final climb to the finish. Most organizers might take it easy on the racers and send them up a fireroad. This, however, is Michaux and the Cupcakes play by their own set of rules. After we worked our way down into the valley and had some work ahead to get out of it. With all its wet roots, rocks and punchy climbs, Stooge's hurt and yet it rewarded you with some beautiful scenery. Tall pines, narrow bench and mountain streams let the mind relax as the legs screamed for mercy. I picked my way up this trail, soaking in the views, knowing we had made the turn and were headed home.

photo by Tomi

A little more fireroad climbing and then the final stretch of single-track before the finish. I heard we were using some of the beginner loop for this final section. At AS 2 a Gettysburg rider grumbled and said something like "that stuff sucks". The fireroad was nothing to write home about (they never are), but the single track was kinda fun. Fairly flat, a little bony and a tad faster made for a fun way to finish the race. You could drift through the muddy turns as you tried to avoid small baby heads, it was a blast. I knew I was getting close when I could smell the camp fires. Then, you'd hear a cheer, next was the glimpse of the tents poking through the woods. I rolled into the chute and ended my race the same way I started it, with a smile on my face. Travis and the Gettysburg crew sure know how to throw a party. They serve up a hearty meal, so, bring a big spoon and prepare to feast.

Monday, September 13, 2010