Sunday, June 26, 2011

All out in Moody Park EFTA NECS #5

They haven't run this race since '08 when this happened. I really liked this course and I was bummed when it got destroyed in '08 due to a huge thunderstorm the day before and the trails not drying out in time before we turned them into so much mud soup.

Unfortunately in its first year back an almost identical scenario played out with a very wet week prior to race day and the trails not having time to drain.  Aaaaaand then this happened.

It's hard to remember back to '08 but I think this year might have been worse.  Temps warmed up a bit today just enough to dry some of the mud out and make it that lovely heavy peanut butter glue, with some really soupy spots here and there.

Smaller SS field today, only 6 of us got started after the Elites.  Got off to a decent start, riding 3rd around the parade lap and into the woods.  Held that position about halfway through the first lap and then got passed by Mark Tucker.  Things were hashing out exactly how I had guessed based on the names I saw pre-registered.  I was behind who I thought I would be behind and in front of who I thought I would be in front of.  So I just got down to ticking things out.  And by that I mean walking a good portion of the course, riding where I could.  My brakes weren't really functioning all that well which made things pretty interesting.  Rear brakes were 100% gone and front brakes could only stop me if I was going pretty slow.  You could use the mud to slow yourself down a bit but that was unpredictable and didn't always work as expected.  Surprisingly I didn't have one epic crash though.  Kept things upright all day.

Got to ride off an on with the Ride Bully.  He had some tire issues on lap one and then probably just gave up the ghost and was just going for a cruise otherwise I don't think I would have caught him on the last lap.  We chatted a bit, mostly about how much fun we were having.  Then a singlespeeder had to go and catch me while Shawn and I were enjoying a nice discussion.  I've been beating this guy this year but not by all that much and I knew he would be back there lurking but I thought I had enough of a buffer to be able to just keep on trucking home without really needing to push too hard.  Wrong.  The three of us trudged through the mud through one of the walky sections.  Little did he know (or probably care) I was secretly gauging his condition while we made small talk.

We were walking the same speed and when we got to a short rideable section I let him come through and I noticed his riding style was a bit "loose" and he almost crashed twice.  That's what happens when you are pretty tired.  Shortly after the rideable section I gave a short burst of running a try to see how quickly he would try and stay with me.  He stayed on but he didn't rush to close the small gap I created.  This made me think he wasn't quite game for a full on slug fest and if I actually gave it some gas on the uphill rideable section coming up I might get away.  That was the plan and when we got out onto the first section of doubletrack I 'put the hammer down'.  It wasn't quite as impressive as that terminology but it was effective.  The gap opened up quickly and by the big switchback that allowed a peek back he was nowhere in sight.  I was hoping the out of sight out of mind would kick in and he would give it up but I didn't want to risk it so I kept it on until the Gravity Cavity and then I just went into slowly but surely mode and tried to keep moving without cramping.

I probably put way too much thought into those tactics but thats what its all about at the amateur level.  Taking little race scenarios and blowing them way out of proportion so as to increase you're own personal GNAR.  Crossed the line with a hilarious time of about 2h41mins.  Then I proceeded to just stand around not knowing what to do because I was covered in so much mud.

I held my position and came in for 4th of 6.  Bike is fairly annihilated and I will probably have to strip it down and build it back up this week.  Probably going to need new brake pads and some fresh applications of grease in the appropriate areas.  Lots of teammates were taking pics on course, I'm hoping I'll be able to share some here once they make it online.

Shaun demanded data. Forgot to press the lap button coming through on lap 3 and scored myself a negative split from laps 1 to 2 but I think thats more due to inaccuracies in the track data and me hitting the lap button a tad earlier the second time through.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Pinnacle XII EFTA NECS #4

HOLY CRAP THE BERMS!  Team Pinnacle has been hard at work making this already awesome course and trail network even better.  Seriously these things were like 5ft tall and you could get all kinds of horizontal.  There were several people set up taking pics of racers can't wait until those start trickling out.

 I mean seriously.

Ok had to get that out of the way now to the standard recap:

Singlespeeders got started after the Elites again this year.  I used to hate this because you'd always have all the Experts breathing down your neck.  But now that I'm a bit faster I like gauging how I'm doing by how long it takes certain people to catch me.  I geared down to 32-20 for this race, I think I made the right choice.  I was a bit worried I might get blown out the back during the 'parade lap' at the start but I was actually able to stay towards the front of the field.

A few of the usual suspects got off the front early never to be seen again but I was in the next group of about 4-5 riders.  I was hoping I would feel better later into the race but like just about every year at the Pinnacle those climbs make you feel like crap immediately and then its just suffering for the rest of the day.  But also like every other year those descents make it all worth it and even more so now with those berms!

Steve caught me just before we topped out on the first lap.  He came by looking pretty haggard but also moving pretty fast.  Those typically go hand in hand at the Pinnacle.  I was able to hold his wheel for a bit finishing off the climb, because of this I started screaming at him that he was not going fast enough.  He heard me and took off and won Expert Vet I.  Glad I could help.

Heading into the 'pump track in the sky' Shawn caught me and we got to shredding pretty hard.  We were caught in some Expert traffic a bit (yeah thats right EXPERT traffic, get out of the way EXPERTS team NEMBA coming through) but we finally got free'd up and started getting a little loose and taking some risks.  Hard to not let it rip at dangerous speeds, just a bit too fun.  Things were going great and I was happy to be getting whisked along this far up in the Expert field.  Then unfortunately I got into auto pilot a bit.  We were just about to the clearing before the plummet and I've done this race so many times that in my head I was remembering a mostly straight run into that area with no serious obstacles in the way.

I realized just a bit too late that I was screaming at probably 20+mph at a 90 degree hairpin turn with a large tree on the inside corner and two smaller trees on the downhill side.  i.e. you had to get it just right no margin on this one.  I locked em up and started tokyo drifting, I knew fairly early in my slide that this wasn't gonna work out so I started thinking optimum bail strategies.  Looked like the only viable option was to try and rail the corner going way too fast and just see what happens.  Went for it and I think I hit a rock or root just as I was pulling through the trees, if I had suspension I might have been ok but the shot I took was a bit too much.  Couldn't keep my weight back and ended up over the bars and flying and I could tell my wheel took a beating as well.  Lots of forces being applied in a short time.

Luckily, as some will attest that ride with me often, I have perfected the 'graceful step over'.  This one was a bit more violent than graceful but I was able to avoid any damage to my person and kept on trucking.  Unfortunately I lost my train and had to get to suffering by myself for a bit.  The rest of the race was pretty uneventful.  Just trying to hold on and keep things upright.  I had a pretty good wobble in my front wheel (which can hopefully be fixed) so I was trying to keep an eye on that as best I could.

I was starting to fade quite a bit heading into the last lap.  I'm usually good with one bottle but it was pretty hot today and I was really craving some straight hydro as opposed to Cytomax.  Coming through the lap point heading into lap three I see Carl standing there with a bottle yelling at me if I need water.  I think I yelled something like Hell Yeah! or maybe I didn't and he just looked at me and it was obvious.  Either way I wanted to make certain I got that bottle so I proceeded to ride directly into him.  PRO BOTTLE PASS ACHIEVED.

That really hit the spot, thanks again Carl.  MEGA.  Mentally I felt like I was right back in it.  I saw a SS just up the trail who was loosing me on the climbs and I was catching him after the descents.  He started walking up the climb to the fireroad and I figured this was my best shot to try and get past him and out of sight.  So I burned the few matches I had left to at least put on a show of strength.  I was hoping he was fading as well and if I blew by with authority he might give up the chase and let me go.  Unfortunately I think he might have been a bit more seasoned of a racer to fall for my shenanigans.  He prob just set to reeling me in slowly and I was fading fast on the rest of the climb after my fake out effort to get away.  He caught me at the top of the fireroad climb just after the water tower and started putting little incremental gains into me in the following switchback climbs.  I could see him for awhile but he kept gaining and I had nothing more to put down.

I think he had some left in the tank because he ended up putting a few minutes into me by the finish and I was descending better than him.  Final descent was just trying not to kill myself or loose any places.  I noticed on my Garmin that making the 2hr mark was gonna be close so I got after it a bit trying to come in under.  I was successful and stopped the clock in 1h:58m flat.  I didn't get a chance to really peruse results to see how that time compares but it was good for 6th in a field of about 15ish?  I beat some names I wasn't sure I was going to beat.  Mentally I'm starting to get to the point where I will be expecting to beat half the people on the line and If I'm towards the front of the field early its not a fluke.  It's a good feeling.  This season is probably the first with consistent results that are confirming the years of flogging I put myself through.  I'm glad I made that seemingly weird decision to ditch derailleurs and start racing again 6 years ago.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I heart New England

Seriously.  I've probably said it a few times but daaaaayum is NE awesome.  It's like a 70,000 square mile playground with EVERYTHING.

This past weekend Dustin and I got serious into shredding Pine Hill Park in Rutland, VT.  Second trip back and this time without wet leaves everywhere.  This made things much more awesome and borderline disastrous.  High speeds, ample out now!  I'll let the edit do the talking.  I have a lot of fun every time I ride there, 'nuff said.  Got some great 'looking back at the rider' footage...slight tweak to the angle from last time I tried made all the difference and I think its the perfect perspective for these trails.

We saw some idiots on BMX bikes and a crazy bitter grandma who LOVED crapping on anything you said and directing her rage at the incorrect people.  She was awesome.  She spent a lot of energy trying to reprimand us and another lovely couple for something a stupid kid did and then immediately broke the rules of the park herself before walking off.  I pity you crazy bitter grandma.

Also got to chat again with Michael Smith (the supreme chancellor of Pine Hill) and this week he has 430(!!!!!!!) high school kids building/maintaining the trails there for the entire week.  I can't even imagine what NEMBA could do with that much manpower.  We could rough in 20mi of singletrack at our new spot Page Hill in a day or two let alone a week.  Good Lord.

Speaking of Page Hill, I was messing around in the woods there Sunday getting things started with what hopefully will be our own little local Pine Hill's to dreaming. Check out the details here:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Turn Back the Clock Ride

Last night I hooked up with the Rhino Wed night ride because the NEMBA ride was going to be way down in Bow.  That ended up getting changed but that is neither here nor there.  Rhino's group was heading up to the Campton/Waterville Valley area to ride some trails in and around the Smart's Brook area.  These were trails we used to frequent back in college when we were bumbling around trying to get the lay of the land in the area.  Decent trails but not really 100% designed for biking but it worked for us at the time and you could always tell that there was probably more but that area borders some large wildernesses and 1-2 wrong choices could have you stranded and those were pre-GPS days.

Turns out there is indeed more stuff to ride in the area but you definitely need to have some local knowledge.  Many of the trails we were on were super fun to ride but not immaculately maintained.  Much of the singletrack was like riding shadows of once awesome trails almost like they've been sitting there since I was in college until now...Some of the riding reminded me of our time up at Mont St. Anne.  A few spots of craggy, doubletrack drainages, big stream crossings, downed trees, etc.  Every now and then we would turn off onto smaller singletrack trails that I often didn't see until we were on them.  I was trying to stay plastered to Paul's wheel because lines were definitely not apparent and it was obvious Paul could ride most of this stuff with his eyes closed.

We did a decent amount of climbing and in turn got in a few really cool descents, all fairly techy.  Pulled one of the biggest hail mary's I've had to pull in a long time on a pretty steep rooty section.  Hit an off camber root just wrong and things were looking prime for a pretty horrible high speed crash but I got my foot out as I was going to lay the bike down and ended up doing a weird fastplant maneuver a la Tony Hawk planting my foot and pushing off just enough to allow my tires to hook back up and keep things upright.  No idea how it all worked out, happened way too fast but the guy behind me was pretty impressed.

We ended up getting in a really decent 10mi or so ending on a trail built by a coworker of mine who lives in the area: Casale's Trail.  Nice work Mark, really fun.  I was really pleased with my climbing ability still geared with the 18.  I think I should be able to push that full time from here on out, although I may dabble with gearing specifically for certain races (i.e. Pinnacle).  Wrists are still always sore the day after a ride but I have at least gotten to the point that they don't really affect my riding.  Hopefully one of these days I'll actually be able to let them heal...I think I finally have my Ergon grips dialed in to my preferred riding position and they feel really good.  My saddle is starting to get a bit thrashed...I'm thinking about having Eric at Chainline reupholster it.  He redid one of his saddles with some hilarious hot pink synthetic vinyl stuff they use for boats that you can shrink fit, etc.  Came out pretty nice.

I'm thinking about taking a little break from bigger MTB group rides for a bit.  Regroups with the bugs right now are some kind of fresh hell and I am so thoroughly covered in bites right now its ridiculous.  I must have EEE and West Nile about 10 times over.  Got some road tires on order from Kenda, hopefully I can get the roadie back on line by next week and maybe do a group road ride instead.