Monday, April 19, 2010

Race Report for 2010 Root 66 MTB Race #2: The Fat Tire Classic.

2010 Fat Tire Classic.

PRE RACE: The day did not start out well when I got pulled over for doing 75 on a stretch of 3 lane highway (rt 6) which was posted (and I did not see) at 50 mph.  The ticket I received was not the worst part either.  I was hoping to get to the race early so I could take some pics of the Nate and Mike racing.  Well it took the cop 20+ mins to give the freaking ticket.  You would assume that w/ technology he could have all my info at his finger tips w/ in seconds or at least minutes.  I bet the guy was just having a sandwich and checking his FB.  That ticket meant I have gotten pulled over for speeding 3x w/in the last year and I better get the message I need to slow down (and save that speed for when I am on the bike!) Got to the race in time for me to get registered, changed, and get a decent warm up in.

COURSE: Race course, though a slightly different lay out every year, was quite familiar to me as I have raced this at least 10x over the past decade.  It’s always fast!  Lots of fire road and open sections w/ some twisty single track thrown in to make it a mtb course.  Nothing technical, though some root sections, and a couple of steep short punchy climb. It has some really nice flow to it though.  There was a new climb this year right before the end of the lap that was really steep and required some careful traction and power, but wasn’t very long.  I’ve also said this a thousand times: this course brings out all the roadies.  And indeed the field was quite big w/ lots of faces I was not familiar w/. 

BROTHER: The guy standing next to me, I knew quite well though.  My younger brother!  We were back to racing in the same age group and same category.   He used to be one fast mofo (and that is quite a good story) until he got hurt.  And I mean “winning cat 1” fast!  Last year he started to get back into racing and had two days before this race, moved back up to cat 1 again (after being called a sandbagger, which is another story).  Nothing like a little bit of brotherly competition.  This race was going to determine who mom loved best!!!  Just kidding of course…

RACE: It was a little bit of a messy start w/ some deep sand in the fire road, and required some negotiations.  So I lost track of how the field was getting split.  My bro set a high pace (for me) right from the gate, and my goal became to try to stick to him as long as I could.  I did initially lose some ground but was able to catch up to him once we hit some single track which bottled necked the whole field.  At the end of the first lap, we switching places several times, and I eventually stayed up front and started to develop a tiny gap.  

On the second lap, I would try to pick off riders, by catching up to them, staying on their wheel, recover, and then pass.  If I got passed, I would try to draft as long as I could hold it w/out burning too many matches.  By the end of the second lap I had a little bit of bigger lead on my brother but I could still see him in the longer fire road stretches.  I had also caught up to two guys in the same group and had passed them. Yet, as hard as I tried, I could not drop them though. Soon they were back up on my wheel and one passed me and started to create a small gap.  On the next climb I was back on his wheel and eventually passed him. 

Lap three was a real suffer fest trying to unsuccessfully keep these two guys at bay.  I’d create a small gap but then somehow they would be right back on my ass.  We yo-yoed like this through the lap and the same one passed me again toward the end of the lap.  By the end of the third lap, I felt like I had burned all my matches, had nothing left, and had no idea how I was going to survive the last lap.  The answer came in the format of little Gu packets w/ extra caffeine.  Three of them in one lap!

On the long steady climb of the start/ finish area, I caught back up, passed, create a gap and finally thought they were gone. Of course they were not, but they were also not catching up to me and the gap I had created, which looked like it was 15 seconds was sticking.  Then out of now where, with less than a 1/4 of the last lap left, the other guy, that had not yet passed me, passed me like I was standing still.  I had nothing left and could not come up w/ the power needed to try to stick to him, so he disappeared. PO-ed, my goal was do anything it took to keep the other guy off my wheel and not get passed by him too. Losing two spots w/ less than a mile left was not something I wanted to regret and second guess myself about! Yet, at about 300 yards before the finish where this steep short hill is, as I came around the corner, I saw the guy who passed me struggling up midway through.  This gave me a boost and by the time I crested the top, I had his rear wheel.  I stayed right on his wheel as we came to the finish area, which was a short hill w/ a left turn.  As we powered the hill, I cut to the inside and was able to somehow find another match to burn and beat him in the sprint.  My brother came in 2 mins behind.   

I ended up finishing 17th out of 26.  Not very exiting results, or anything to write a lengthy race report about, but I was quite happy w/ my performance.  Specifically, I was glad I did not crap out on the fourth lap like I felt I was going to.  My race time was 1 hour 47 mins, and it was balls to the wall the whole race, and I can honestly look back and say I gave it all I had. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Race Report for 2010 Bunny Hop Brook Dam, Root 66 Race #1

Race Report for 2010 Bunny Hop Brook Dam, Root 66 Race #1

So here it was…my first race as a Cat 1.  Sure there was Burlingame two weeks ago, but that’s a 30 minute time trial and that for me doesn’t count (especially since I suck at staying that anaerobic).  I remember so vividly when I was a newb mtber waiting for my cat 3 start at Mt Snow on my Proflex, watching at the Cat 1 racers on their expensive $3K (!!) bikes, thinking about how those guys were the real deal. The true racers, riders I respected and wanted to be like. Cat 1 was the promised land of mountain biking and you were really someone if you raced in that group.  I vowed then that in five years I would be a Cat 1 racer too.  Well this was of course over 10 years ago. 

So there was some excitement about finally racing Cat 1. The flip side was of course that w/ the whole knee fiasco, my training, since the end of Jan, had been non-existent.   So my question/conflict was that even though I was racing Cat 1, could I really be considered a Cat 1 racer?! Would I get completely killed out there? Would I get taught that really I was only a “cat 1 wannabe”?  Driving the 2 ½ hr down to the race left me ample time to obsess about this and contemplate the four laps we were going to do.  I, and you have to forgive the really cheesy metaphor here (just saw Clash of the Titans w/ the kids) felt like I was being send to slay a dragon w/ a teaspoon: not exactly promising.

Bla, bla, bla!  “Shut the fuck up”, was the other narrative going on, and enjoy that the weather was about to turn nice and for once I would not be racing the Bunny Hop Brook race in a semi snow/ sleet/ rain storm. That should be my focus.  Racing conditions were not going to be miserable, and though it rained the night before, it should not be the mud fest of previous years.  My goal should be to just finish, and not care if I DFLed.  All I wanted was my knee, legs, and lungs to hold on for all the four laps.  Strategy was to close the pack and not get in anyone’s way.  This was somewhat of a new racing distance for me and I knew I had a steep learning curve ahead.  It was going to be about learning about the learning curve and I just wanted to use it as training.  I wanted to ride mostly in the middle of zone 4 for the first two laps and then start to bring it up slightly for the remaining two if I had anything left.  Of course I could not find my handle bar mount for my Polar HRM watch and it ended up being hidden under my arm warmers.   Racing by feel instead of numbers is much better anyways.  I think the thought of having an exact strategy is a little bit like believing in god:  really in the end it doesn’t do much of anything, but helps you to feel better since it makes you feel like you have a plan while you are on the way.  My other two strategy points were to remain loose and relaxed and by the time I was the starting line I had forgotten what the third was!

I got there on time for once!  How nice it was not to have to rush around trying to get everything ready.  I ran into some guys from last year’s cat 2 who had also moved up  and we got to  talking.  Before I knew I was back to running late w/ little warm up time left (which, w/ the four laps ahead, was not something I wanted huge amounts of anyways!).   I lined up w/ Joe and Scott from last year; Joe being the one I barely outsprinted at Mt Snow 3, while he beat me at Mt Snow 1.  Scott and I engaged in the usual disclaiming of our fitness and abilities “and not training and therefore we are going to suck” routine.  We both agreed this would be quite painful both physically and emotionally.

The course was really nice.  Mostly dry w/ a few deep mud puddles strewn throughout. There were really only four sections needing to be carefully navigated to avoid flatting.  Overall nothing bad at all, and very easy compared to the previous year’s mud bath.  There were a couple of steep climbs that burned already by the first lap and a wet grass field crossing riding directly into some pretty strong head wind that also sucked by the first lap.

The first lap went somewhat better than planned as I was not the last guy.  I knew Scott was behind me but was unsure if there is anyone else.  Everything was rideable and I was staying pretty loose and riding smart, picking my lines.  On the second lap I almost went down big time, riding a fast S section on ledge.  Coming out of the last fast turn my handle bar just caught the outside tree and almost sent me down the ledge.  That was as bad as it got.  I caught some riders on the second lap but decided I was not going to look at their number plate as I just wanted to focus on riding my own pace and not be forced into a higher pace which I might not be able to sustain.  I was able to pass them on the last climb of the second lap and did not see them again.  The third lap is where things got interesting, and by that I mean painful.  At the beginning of the third lap I consumed a Gu pack and had a little bit of energy burst.  Yet once that wore off in the middle of the long climb I hit “the wall”.  Suddenly I was calling for my granny gear which I had not yet used and could feel my legs just burn and struggle to turn each pedals over.  It really felt like I had no matches left and started to worry about being able to finish the race.  This was made worse when some of those !@#% fast guys lapped me and came by me like I was going backwards.  I was able to grab the wheel of someone who passed me, which helped to drag my sorry ass to the end of that lap.  When he pulled over I asked him what he was doing and he coolly stated he finished his fourth lap.  Mother fu…good for him!  The last lap was a lot better, since it was the last one.  I was able to pick up the pace and consume all the Gu packs I had left.  I stayed in the middle ring longer on the climbs and even passed a couple of guys, none of which were in my group sadly.  On the final stretch of asphalt I saw a rider in the distance who I knew was in my group and burned all I had left to catch up.  As I announced I was passing him on the left on the last climb, he turned around to look at my number plate and took off.  I had nothing left and could not keep up.  He beat me by 6 seconds.  I ended up finishing with a time of 2 hours and 13 minutes to place 14 out of 19.  That certainly leaves lots of room to move up, but it is also better than DFL. Joe did beat me by 3 minutes, but if my knee holds and I can increase my training, well who knows, maybe beat him and maybe brake into the top ten.  Top 10 in Cat 1….now that sounds like a Cat 1 racer!

Here is a topo map of the race course: