Monday, October 20, 2014

Gordon Barker No Brakes Race 2014

I finally figured out why my cross results aren't quite as good as I thought they might be...I'm not actually fit! Like really at all!  Well I mean I am decently in shape, I haven't been doing nothing all summer but I certainly don't have the "normal" amount of race efforts etc. that I have in my legs this time of year.

I sort of had it in my head that despite that fact I had ridden enough to be in similar shape to years past.  I had this in my head because I hadn't had a good familiar race MTB effort to inform me otherwise.  Until yesterday when I got dusted at the No Brakes race.  Apparently the sharp end of my fitness is about as sharp as silly putty.

I suppose in my defense the Expert field was a bit stacked.  These late season races have a tendency to only bring out the folks who trend a bit more serious and fit.  Who probably all have a full season of racing in their legs.  And also in my defense I was in the back of the front group for maybe the first mile or so until putting my transmission in reverse.

It happened slowly but just about every time there was an extended climb or there was a prolonged straightaway power section or just about anything that required that punch, it just wasn't there and guys would pass me here and there for just about the whole first lap.  I didn't feel bad on the bike and I was riding cleanly it was just like being at 3/4 speed and trying to hit the gas and getting nothing.

I got over it pretty fast though.  I adjusted my expectations and just got to enjoying the fact that I was riding "hard" on my mountain bike and my wrists weren't really hurting.  The trails at Stratham Hill Park aren't super technical by any means but they are certainly more than Franklin Falls which is really just about all I've been riding off road this year.

Even though I was hanging back in the tail end of the field there were still guys back there with me and it felt like racing.  I got to battle with a guy second lap a bit.  We were together for much of the lap.  I was a bit smoother in the turny stuff, gaps would open and close.  Ultimately I tried to 'attack' him right before the last climb of the day but really all I did was eliminate myself from contention once and for all.  All my last little effort did was suck the last remaining glycogen stores out and initiate a nice little mini-bonk.

I was a bit lazy with race prep and probably didn't have enough calories before / during the race.  We were only about 1mi out from the finish and if I had really cared I probably could have kept the pace up and battled and just collapsed after the finish but I definitely didn't care that much.  Struggled up the last climb and soft pedaled in to the finish.  Even got nipped about 20ft from the line by a guy finishing strong haha.

I really enjoy the course at No Brakes and I've said it before and I'll say it again I hope the promoter thinks about making the leap into one of the summer series.  The facilities are great, the course is well balanced and the proceeds go to building and maintaining the trails at the park.  Can't ask for much more than that.

My wrists are somewhat holding up this morning albeit a bit sore.  I think this race was a good indication that I'll be able to get back into things next year at least on courses that aren't too crazy.  It felt great to be out in the woods hurting real bad on some sweet trails.  I didn't really realize how much I missed it.  I think I can eventually get over not being as fit as I was in 2012 and just focus on being pain free and having fun.  Here's to hoping I'll be back at it in 2015.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hanover CX 2014

Oh the humanity!

I'm coming to realize that sometimes you just miss the giant race changing pile up and sometimes you don't.  That's life and that's racing.  And sometimes the entire race is a massive mess of pileup after pileup where your only hope is trying to minimize the damage.

I exaggerate a bit.  Today wasn't quite that bad but it was probably the closest I've seen to that in my short CX career.  Hanover is probably the most technical course I have seen to date and it was apparent that many guys in the 4/5 field don't spend a lot of time on singletrack that has roots and leaves and short/sharp hills.

The course had several singletrack sections most of which had a steep incline into the trail and then a very steep but short descent dumping back out onto a path or road.  So gearing was key, picking the right line was extra key and the knowledge of when and where to apply pressure so as to not spin out and fall over was at a premium.  There was also a huge beach section next to the pond in the park that was really interesting.  This weeks heavy rain had created these little drainage fissures running through the sand as well as these pretty deep depressions where water had pooled.  It was three sand straightaways with corresponding 180 hairpins.  The straightaways were pretty easy but the corners were chewed up soft/deep sand.  Pretty easy to ride early but got harder and harder and ultimately probably got faster to just run.

The first lap crazy was a bit extra crazy.  There wasn't quite enough of a run out before we hit the first chokepoint which included a steep run up straight into singletrack.  I got to the top and was greeted by a parking lot.  Standing room only, guys just milling around waiting for their turn to move.  Luckily I'm pretty good and making passes in singletrack parking lots so I started hauling up the side running past people as they tried to clip in in traffic.

Got up to about where I wanted to be at that point somewhere in the 15-20th range and got into a small group heading into the sand.  Had to run a lot of the ups and downs into singletrack because of the traffic.  Made a few more passes but also got passed here and there.  I REALLY need to work on my power at threshold.  Far too many of my hard earned passes in technical stuff come right back when it flattens and widens out.  GOTTA MAKE THOSE STICK.

Second lap was my fastest.  Things had spread out and the group I was in was working pretty well.  I was able to ride most singletrack sections that lap due to clean paths to make a solid attempt.  At that point I was fairly certain I was in for a good day.  I was racing for top 15 and legs felt pretty good.  Then we lapped through and got up and around the first little chicane and were heading down to the sharp 180 into the first run up aaaaaaaaand our group exploded.  Quite literally.

I was taking a wide line in the middle of the group and getting ready to dismount heading into the turn.  Just as I clicked out some sort of something happened back and to the left (BACK AND TO THE LEFT).  I'm guessing some guys got tangled trying to turn and ended up going straight.  Right into me.  Basically got sideswiped and went down pretty hard on my left side.  Picked up even more rash on my left leg to add to my shin gash but the biggest casualty was my left brifter.  The next time I tried to get into my big ring it was no dice.  Almost seemed like the two paddles were stuck together somehow.  I was stuck spinning to win and was having a hard time holding the tail end of the group.

Then I finally got into the big ring and things were fine...for a bit.  Until the next time I had to get off the big ring.  Rinse and repeat as necessary in order to loose almost ten places over the next 2-3 laps.  Lost all rhythm and got bogged down or spun out repeatedly for the rest of the race.  By the last lap I think the paddles finally freed themselves and it seems fine now that I've cleaned the bike up.  I made two or three passes on the last lap and was about to make one more but ran out of race.  Came in 23rd  of 60ish? (exactly where race predictor said I would).  I was staged 30th so even with all the strife I'm ok with the outcome.

It was a really fun course.  Although I would have loved to race it with maybe half the people. Now its back to racing for NEMBA tomorrow and Orchard CX next weekend! #braap

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Night Weasels Cometh

Ok!

After all these years of following the fun on the internet I finally got to experience Night Weasels in the flesh.  It's a certified HOOT.  Especially when its wet, which from what I've heard is always the case.


Eric and I showed up early.  We walked the course trying to find the inevitable choke points and to watch the Cat 5 Carnage Extravaganza. There were a few good crashes, some stair failures but overall not too bad.

I was excited for the course.  Seemed like it was going to cater to some of my strengths compared to most other racers, at least from my experience so far.  This course is a bit more climby than most which helps neutralize the bigger/heavier power guys and those climbs mean descents which neutralize the guys who can't steer a bike.  Add in some greasy mud and slick grass and I'm a happy camper.

Our start was the combined 4/5 under 40 and 40+ fields which meant 102 guys toe'ing the line. #YEEHAA.  I was staged 52nd or so, although they were calling up rows of 8 and I noticed several guys drifting a bit forward as we rolled up.  All things considered the start was pretty civil and issue free.  No massive pile-ups (that I saw or was involved in anyway) or bad stop and go traffic.  I was able to move up a bit in the early goings on the first climb but I would say most of my passing was done on the descents.

best thing about our Chainline kits? easy to spot in a sea of #meatpylons

hammering along in the group that formed early

(photos courtesy of Russ Campbell Photography - he's got some great work check it out!)


Lots of weaving in and out of dudes.  My Clemente PDX's were hooking up great.  Plenty of times I can remember coming into corners way hotter than those around me while they washed out and I railed past.  Most guys don't round their lines out nearly enough (particularly when its wet) and their abrupt attempts to turn usually end in sadness.  Luckily I'm getting pretty good at quickly identifying guys who have it wrong and I'm even getting good at anticipating when/where they are going to lose it so that I can avoid them.

Ultimately I ended up in a small group yo-yo'ing a bit for the middle laps.  A few guys would stay close enough on the downs to catch me on the finishing straight but they wouldn't have enough to drop me on the climbs and I would pass and gap them on the descents.  Eventually that group dwindled as some of the guys ran out of juice with 2 laps to go.  One guy packed it in mentally pretty spectacularly as the announcer called '2 laps to go!' as we were pulling through and he yells 'Wait...2?!'  Never saw him again.

When I attempt to upgrade to Cat 4 early I'm just going to send this photo subject "c'mon"
(photo courtesy of Nick Czerula another great cycling photog)




this looks like I'm about to implode against that barrier but I can assure you I cleared it with impeccable form.
(obstacle photos courtesy of Katie Busick. So many good photogs at cross races!)

I had a pretty good battle with a Minuteman Road Club guy last lap.  He put in a good dig on the first longer climb.  I was at my limit and made the, probably incorrect, decision to let him go a bit knowing that I had the better of him on the downs.  He got a bigger gap than I would have liked and he was taking bigger risks on the descents than he did on previous laps and the gap was not coming down as fast as I thought it would.  Heading into the final climb and descent I could tell he was starting to fade and I was getting closer.  I pushed as hard as I could and he was bleeding seconds.  Rounding the bottom of the lift heading into the last little chicane he had maybe 15-20ft.  We were passing some lapped traffic coming into that turn and I got a bit jammed up.

He got into the finishing straight first as I was taking a wide line around the traffic.  Gap opened back up a bit but I got back up to speed pretty fast and I was closing immediately.  I definitely had a bit more left than he did and I was coming up on him fast. Buuuuuuut I ran out of road.  Got me by half a bike length.  5 more feet and I would have had it.

Ended up 34th in the full 102 rider field and I think 15th in under 40.  I'm happy with that.  Moved up about 20 places or so from my start position and lowered my crossresults points.  Thats a win.  Great course, great event.  It was a blast watching the pro men and women under the lights.  They go real fast.  If I stick with this whole cross thing I will certainly come back.

ERIC SMAAAAASH!
(another great shot for Chainline Cycles from Katie Busick)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

White Park and Sucker Brook CX

NH Cyclocross weekend! #brapp #embro #handupsarenotacrime #keepcrossweird #etc

I (double) dipped my toes into the world of CX this weekend!  First go at it was White Park in Concord NH on Saturday and Sunday it was Sucker Brook down in Auburn.  I think it was just about as perfect an introduction as I could have hoped for.  Saturday was cold and dry and Sunday was wet and wild.  Aaaaand I'm pretty much hooked.

skinsuits!

As I'm trying to think back on things now I'm realizing CX races are going to be very hard to recap.  Fast and furious and at your limit the whole time are not the ideal conditions for remembering accurate details.  But here goes I think I at least have most of the good / relevant / funny stuff in my memory banks still.

White Park:

The 4/5 races seem to usually be the first ones to get the day started.  Start time at White Park was 8am, luckily I didn't have to drive that far.  It was still pretty crisp at that early morning hour, somewhere around 40 degrees at race time.  My fingers and toes got a bit cold but other than that max efforts warm you up real nice, real fast.

I don't have any crossresults.com points yet (but I do now!) and many races stage based primarily on points.  I found out the importance of call-ups and staging almost immediately.  I was square at the back of a 65+ rider field at the gun.  My original plan was to maybe try and shoot up one of the sides but the particular nature of that start chute made that tough combined with the fact that EVERYONE had that idea.

I got pinched at a few of the early corners and was fully entrenched in some pretty hilarious traffic.  All while the front two rows waved bye.  Then we got to the first tiny little incline heading into an immediate hairpin 180 turn back down and some guy went 3/4 of the way up and then just straight up tipped over right in the middle of the course. Still clipped in.  TRAINED.

Things finally opened up for a bit as we worked our way around the baseball fields.  Made it through the barriers pretty smoothly and rounded a corner into the first steep S turn climb.  More clipped in tipping over.  More ridiculousness like this ensued for most of the rest of the first lap and much of the second as well.  Towards the end of my second lap I was settling in and getting a bit more comfortable with some of my lines etc. bombing down a short little steep hill into a sharp 90 I took a line a bit more inside and hit some kind of bump or something.  It was a sharp enough impact at speed that my handlebars rotated forward in down in my stem and the tip of my saddle wrenched down.

Luckily shortly after I was able to push down and forward on my drops hard enough to get my bars back to just about normal but I had to deal with a cock-eyed saddle the rest of the race.  I lost a few seconds trying to get situated after that as well as a few places.  Seconds are HUGE in cross.  Little mistakes are big mistakes.  I got back to business but had a hard time getting into a good rhythm.  Not sure if it was the course or me.  Probably a combo.  I was having a hard time 'putting everything together'.  I kept forgetting to shift at the right time and was getting over geared in spots.

I was in a small group for most of the rest of the race.  Passing in the technical spots and getting passed back in some of the more open stuff.  Last lap I was able to get away from them pushing it a bit through some corners and got in for 26th.  Just a bit better than mid-pack.  I was kind of expecting to do better in the 4/5 field but I was basing that on nothing and no experience.  I learned some lessons, had a good time and was even back home with most of my day still in front of me.  I'll take it!

Sucker Brook:

The forecast for Sunday had been great all day Saturday and then Saturday night I check again and things had shifted around to 'rain all day'. Oh good.  And It wasn't even really a sarcastic 'oh good' I was glad I was going to get a full blown muddy cross race in my first weekend.  I had a feeling I would do better in conditions like that and probably have a ton more fun.  I was also told that Sucker Brook was much more open and fast than White Park and I figured some adverse conditions would hold up some of the watt factory guys that like that stuff.

ridin' durtay

Luckily the temps were higher Sunday so the rain wasn't all that uncomfortable and it actually let up for the most part during our race but the damage was done.  Slick mud in the corners, standing water in spots...a good ole time!  The course was certainly more open than White Park but I thought it had a bunch of interesting turny bits and cool features.  Stairs, bridge, one set of barriers, big log step-up, sand pit.  Plenty of places to take advantage of and or suck at.

I was again staged on the back row of a slightly smaller field because they split the Open 4/5 and the Masters 35+ by 1min this time.  But I still had a solid 50 people in front of me.  This start chute had a bit more promise for me.  False flat pavement hill to a left hander onto gravel and then right into the grass/mud.  Gun went and I nailed my clip in and the guy right in front of me did not.  Just like that, up one row.  The road was wide and some pockets opened up and quite a few guys started off a bit over geared and as they attempted to get up to speed on the false flat I was able to sneak a bit farther up.

many thanks to teammate Sam for taking pics!

I was maybe about mid pack heading into the turn onto gravel and shortly after that there was a small depression that had some standing water and just a bit of mud.  I have no idea how this happened but somehow a guy about 5-10ft in front and to my left EXPLODED.  Full flip, bike in the air, dirt nap.  Two guys to my left plowed into him and got tangled up and everyone immediately behind him was held up.  But I was just to the right and snuck by.  Now I'm probably top 25 with a slight gap to the rest of the field.

The first part of the course was all the turny bits and very early I realized I was gonna have a better day than Saturday.  I was holding speed better than a lot of riders in my vicinity and making passes here and there.  I was making the right gearing calls, navigated my first go at the stairs cleanly and even made a pass there.  Some of the passes I would make would come back on the tail end of the course with the wide open fire road haul.  Definitely need to work on my leg strength and raw WATTS.

post sand-pit hammering

Shouldering and running through the sand pit went ok.  Shouldering the bike is a bit hard with the wrists but its a quick motion so it wasn't too bad and I didn't seem to be loosing any ground on the run.  Much of the rest of the laps were a bit of a blur.  I kept it upright all day which is more than I think most of the field can say.  I even had a mini battle with a guy on my last lap.  I passed him in the turny stuff but he closed on me in the longer straight sections and passed me back.  I was able to get on his wheel and passed him back in a quick down/up with a 180 degree turn that he tried to ride and stalled; I had been running it all day which I think was the right call.  I got a tiny gap that he quickly closed and we went into the barriers side by side.

why does my ankle look like its broken?

I did them a tad cleaner than him and got another tiny gap heading into the LONG fire ride haul.  He passed me but I was able to just barely grab his wheel.  I had to dig pretty deep to stay there and almost called it but then I remembered WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU SAVING ENERGY FOR?!  I gained a bit of ground on the log step up and I was right on his wheel heading into the sand pit.  I had a slightly cleaner dismount and the tiniest of gaps on the run.  I think I must have had a better remount as well but I didn't waste much time taking a peak back.  I got back on put it in the big ring and put as much down as I could muster.  I got out to the pavement climb coming into the finish and opened up my sprint.  Still had some decent power and figured I had it but snuck a peek under my shoulder to see where he was.  I had maybe 20-30ft and that was all she wrote.  RACING BIKES!  For a mediocre finish (16th) in the 4/5 field!  But who cares, we both enjoyed it.  Shared a fist bump after the line and I look forward to stalking him on crossresults.com in short order.

I have to pour over results a bit more, but I think I beat a good amount of people Sunday who beat me Saturday.  I'm gonna call this weekend a 100% win.  A marginally successful entrance to a new discipline and a whole ton of fun.

all clean. lets do it again.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Hoppy Red

Can it be? *insert phoenix metaphor*

Yes its true.  I'm brewing again.  And just in time for #Squamtoberfest.  Gonna be cutting it close with this one, but I'm brewing on a weeknight just to make sure I've got a bit over 4 weeks into this batch before its time to drink.  Should be enough but I usually like to take a bit more time even with kits that claim they are good in 4.

I wanted something simple yet flavorful.  Simple to make the time constraints but flavorful because its basically Fall now and the time for Shandy's has passed (even though that makes me very sad. although in another few years I feel like I will just drink those year round because #yolo).

Sooo I ended up going with a basic Red Ale but with a recipe that is a bit more in the West Coast American tradition.  A bit more body with a nice citrusy hops finish.  Chinook, Perle, Centennial and Cascade hops in this one.  Pretty interesting mix, should make for a nice profile.



Even though its been a while I picked right back up with the process.  Contrary to somewhat popular belief I didn't take this hiatus due to my now accepted British Bitter dud of a batch but more due to hauling around large quantities of liquid and having to twist wrists to dump things out etc. wasn't really doable.

Home Brew Injured Reserve.  Its a thing. Its still not all that easy or pain free but its doable now.  Its good to be back.  I'm thinking about getting another IBA going for winter.  I love me some IBA's.