Wednesday, October 31, 2012

2012 Season Recap / Highlight Reel

The sun is setting on the 2012 race season and what a doozy it has been.  It was a year of milestones for me, I broke through a few barriers and reached some new heights but not without some trials and tribulations along the way.  Its been a long year for me, I haven't verified 100% but I believe this has been my busiest year to date.  I toe'd the line 11 times this year from April to Oct...not bad.

This year I was lucky enough to get into a free program put on at PSU where they partner Fac/Staff with a senior in the Athletic Training program for 8 weeks of structured training.  My trainer Rob got me on a pretty intense HIIT program that yielded a lot of fitness improvements as well as a lot of new knowledge for me on how to use my limited training time a bit better.  My time spent with Rob got me pretty excited for the season and I hit the ground running in April at the SS-a-palooza.

SS-a-palooza - 10th Sport NY & North

I got an early indication that my work over the winter had punched me through to riding at a new level.  I had some issues early on at this race with a few funny crashes but surged late as everyone else was fading hard and managed a top ten finish out of a very large sport field (87 riders).  In the lead up to this race I had been telling Shaun and Dustin that the top 10 riders in the Sport field would certainly be sandbagging...whoops.

Weeping Willow - 8th

Got a nasty little cold a few days before Willowdale that knocked me down pretty thoroughly.  I was bummed because this is always a big target for me and a course I love.  I was able to get clear of the worst of it by that Saturday and I decided to give it a go and see what happens.  Willowdale always has the largest SS field in the EFTA series and the competition is tough.  I have been battling for a top 10 finish the past 2-3 years.  It didn't come easy, I drained all the available energy I had on tap and even crashed late in the last lap and messed my finger up (its still messed up) but I still managed to crack the top 10, something I hadn't been able to do healthy up until then.

Glocester Grind - 5th

Oh the Grind. Such a mess every year. Course doesn't really suit me or my bike but its usually a decent enough time so I usually show up. This year was just as messy as years past.  My rear wheel fell off mid race (lolz) and I never really recovered from that and rolled in for 5th in a small field.

The Pinnacle - DNF

This one stung...A LOT.  The Pinnacle has always been one of my favorite courses and one of my biggest targets every year.  The course hurts like hell but suites me quite a bit.  I can leverage my power to weight advantages and despite running rigid I typically don't lose much time on the descents there.  Everything was going perfectly early on.  I felt really strong, the confidence was there and I was riding top 3 well into the race in a decent sized field. Then my rear wheel mysteriously taco'd and my day was done.  I have since deduced what probably happened but to be so close and then miss out on a result I have been battling for for years was tough.  I plowed through it and luckily that was the end of my gear woes for the rest of the season.

Moody Park - 6th

6th at this race doesn't look like much and is a pretty standard EFTA result for me but this field randomly got stacked with talent thanks to some coverage and another big SS race coming later in the year that brought some pros into town early.  Moody was finally dry this year and the course was rippin.  I raced pretty well and got nipped for 5th late in the last lap by a Cat 2 CX racer but I was able to best someone else who had gotten the better of me at Willowdale so indications were still good I was going better than I ever have.  It was also nice to see I was now 15mins behind professionals instead of just 15mins behind the rest of the entire field like I used to be.

Harding Hill - 3rd

Even though I pulled a podium here I am probably more proud of my 8th at Willowdale and 6th at Moody than this result but even though it was a smaller field it wasn't a freebie and it was nice to win some syrup for my troubles.  They ran this course in reverse this year which made things interesting.  I think I am equally indifferent to it in either direction but it does make it an entirely different race.

SSUSA - 200th?


NH100 - 5th

This may have been my biggest result of the year. This was my 4th go at this race and every year I have improved as I chipped away at breaking the 7hr mark.  If you look at the results year to year the 7hr mark somewhat stands out as a good delimiter...if you can break it you are pretty damn fit no if's and's or but's.  I came close last year but ultimately fell 16mins short.  Prep this year was good and I thought I had a solid shot this year.  My cleat fell off at mile 47 and I proceeded to learn some great lessons in determination, perseverance and suffering.  Long story short I made it with just over a minute to spare and scored a top 5 finish.  Hard telling what I could have done with two cleats for the whole race but this race probably does the best job at showing my progression over the past 4 years.  NH100 2009 raced on a 1x9 hardtail with suspension up front - 8h57m. NH100 2012 raced on a rigid SS - 6h58m.

Bradbury 12hr - 3rd

Teamed up with Shaun to check out the whole 12hr thing.  Its awesome.  At least at Bradbury it is.  Course was a blast and having such a big team presence was great.  It was fun to watch the results as the race progressed and watching gaps extend and shrink as we battled over such longer periods of time then I'm used to.  Watching our gaps to 3rd slowly come down over the second half of the race was awesome and catching them late in the game and seeing Shaun step up and regulate when everyone else was dying on the vine was fun to experience.  Team endurance racing is rewarding and a hell of a good time and I will be doing it as often as possible moving forward.

Gordon Barker No Brakes - 12th

That looks a lot like my 'worst' result of the year but I'm actually pretty pleased with it.  Gordon Barker is a smaller time charity race that doesn't really break out by age or ability other than a giant Sport field and a giant Expert field.  SS is not taken into consideration.  So that 12th is in a big Expert field of about 60 riders with most of those guys running gears.  I could have probably taken 11th if I had less consideration for childs lives but the finishing straight wasn't really straight and there were lots of families around and a full on sprint to the line didn't seem prudent.  Fun race, hoping it steps up to the big show in years to come...

Tinney's Hill Climb - 10th

Dbone talked me into a road race and then he beat me.  What a dick.  Good times though, hard effort but one of those where as soon as you finish you immediately think "damn I could have gone harder" even though during the whole event you just want to die.  Weird how that works.  This was a great way for me to wrap up my race season (unless there is a random winter MTB race like last year) and we even got a big road ride in after that was awesome.  Note to self: talk Dustin into early season road ride in the Whites so I can motor pace behind him and Schnellinger and then get picked up by Carl on the side of the road shaking with calorie debt.

So thats a wrap! Time to wind down a bit, eat lots of food over the holidays but gain absolutely no weight (lolz again).  Hopefully shred lots of powder snow and then ramp it all up again next year and hopefully punch through to even greater heights.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tinney's Tavern Hill Climb

I'm a road racer!

Although I doubt I'm allowed to say that officially with hairy legs.  I'm sure there is a by-law somewhere that prevents that.  It just so happened that a little local hill climb race coincided with our visit to Saratoga for Halloween so Dustin and I decided to try our hand at hurting real bad for 20mins with a bunch of other people.

I didn't have high expectations seeing as I didn't know the climb and going full gas from the gun isn't really my forte.  But I figured I should be mid pack or a bit better depending on the crowd and how I felt.  They run this race twice a year, once in the late Spring / early Summer and again in the Fall.  I think there was a higher turnout in the Spring but we probably had about 20 people on the start line.  Looked like a solid mix of serious individuals along with some weekend warrior types.

There is a short neutral roll out and then once you hit the bridge its game on until you make it up to the Tavern / lake about 4.5mi later.  The grade is pretty reasonable early on and things started off pretty civil.  We were probably rolling along at just better than conversation pace for probably the first 1K or so.  Then 2-3 guys decided it was time to quit screwing around and things got painful.

I tried to hop on the tail end of the move and was moderately successful.  I grabbed a wheel or two and was there or thereabouts to the sharp end of the race for maybe the next 1K or so.  Then I started getting this weird side stitch / cramp that I have never really gotten on the bike before.  I used to get them from time to time when I was running more training for my tri a few years ago but never on the bike.  No real idea why or where that came from but it ended up making things difficult for me.  I had a hard time getting a good lung full of air and getting out of the saddle and staying there was made difficult as well because it was hard to stretch out my right side.  That made it hard to stay on wheels as the pace was increased and they slowly started drifting away.

I was hanging tough with Dustin up until the headwall which required lots of out of the saddle work which wasn't really working for me so I did what I could and settled in.  Got passed late by a women whose kids were cheering for her at the top of the final big pitch.  That probably gave her a surge of motivation and she just spun away from me which in turn gave me a surge of demotivation and I let her go and putz'd into the finish for 10th at 22mins flat.

I'm sure I have a better ride than that in me but its a pretty punchy climb and I'm much more of a tempo guy. It was fun though and I would probably do it again.  Great way to measure your fitness early and late in the season, kinda wish they did something like that around here.  To top it off there was a great little mini buffet at the finish with pulled pork sliders, slaw, potato salad and fruit.  If you live in the Saratoga area and ride road bikes and you don't check this race out you are an idiot.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bully Merrimack Invitational

I don't have a lot of time this morning to document this ride in a thorough fashion but it had to be mentioned due to the high levels of awesome.  Luckily cyclists and blogging go hand in hand and the Hill Junkie has me covered with a great recap.

Shawn stitched the various ride spots of Merrimack together in a nicely cohesive way and by the end of the day we had close to 40mi done.  Pace ended up being pretty spirited but manageable.  Early on I didn't feel all that hot and spent most of the morning tail gunning.  Then I ripped my tire open on a fast rocky powerline descent.  It wouldn't seal and I had to throw a tube in.  My bike was also making some kind of weird clicking noise (that I still need to figure out) and I was worried that my day had gone sideways and the stars were not in line for me.

Then we hit Millipede and everything was right in the world.  Someone had blown the leaves off of several singletrack trails in the middle of the ride and they were all awesome.  Pace elevated to somewhat ridiculous levels considering the length of the ride but its hard not to let it rip in a group like that in those conditions.

Shawn's better half met us halfway with food and fluids ready.  Supported team rides?  Can't beat it.  We then got over to Horse Hill to ride some of the great NEMBA built singletrack there.  Great stuff but a little climby for 30mi into a ride and we were all starting to feel it.  Many of us commented on how it felt like we were stuck at mile 33.  Luckily my legs were coming around and I wasn't tail gunning anymore (until we hit pavement).

We rolled back in averaging close to 10mph for the day to chili and wings ready and waiting.  I'm not even entirely sure the day could have been any better.  Except for having the hot tub running.  Nothing like sitting in a hot tub with a bunch of dudes after riding around with a bunch of dudes.  Maybe next year.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Gordon Barker No Brakes Race

Playing bikes in October! In the rain! I'll be amazed if I don't get sick. But it was worth it. Turns out I really like riding bikes in greasy mud. I kinda knew that before but this definitely confirmed it.  There is a fine line between grease and just ridiculousness though. The rain held off during the race and temps weren't too bad. I like how the grease levels the playing field a bit. I can hang with many more Expert riders in conditions like these.

It ended up just being myself, Bully and Carl from the team. Weather kept a few folks away but the turn out was still pretty good. Quite a bit better than what I was expecting. I was hearing talk that the Expert field was 60-70 strong. After getting our miniature race plates (Bully and Carl didn't even need to trim them for aerodynamics) we rolled around a bit to get warm.  The start was fairly well organized as was the whole race, not bad for a smaller operation. Seems like Stratham is pretty recreation oriented and there were lots of volunteers/families there to help out.

It was a mass start and we were about 2nd or 3rd row.  I'm fairly certain they had some sort of minor celeb or like a beauty queen or something set off the air horn to send us off which was pretty funny.  Then I missed the start button on my Garmin and got right to spinning at 140rpm.  Some of the heavy hitters (Dylan McNicholas, Crossley, etc.) got the pace ramped up pretty fast and everyone else followed suit.  I was getting my doors blown off just trying to hang on hoping that we'd get into steeper terrain or at least singletrack.

Unfortunately there was probably 1.5-2mi of various flat/field riding to get done before that happened.  I was getting passed left and right but luckily as soon as you finish up with that stuff the trail turns up and I got right back to stealing spots back.  Guys were dumping gears and I was sprinting by.  That climb hurt pretty bad because I was already basically red lining just trying to survive.  Once we got to the top though we got into the greasy off-camber turny stuff and I really started to make up some ground.


Lots of guys were not following the rules of the race and using their brakes. Somebody should tell them that when you do that you usually fall over in conditions like these.  Find those ruts, control those slides and let it rip.  I was having a real good time.  Lots of really fun sections to the course and a good amount of some really tough steep climbing.  This would be a great venue for a summer series race, plenty of parking and facilities and a fun well balanced course.

I ended up having a quick mid race conversation with our Exposure Lights sponsor rep Steve J.  I had never actually met him before only exchanged emails and when I rode by he saw my kit and asked who I was.  We yo-yo'd a bit until I was just able to get away on the last climb to the fire tower.  It's nice to see reps like that getting involved and laying waste to singletrack with everyone else.  We are looking forward to working with him more next season.

I ended up getting into a sprint of sorts with two other riders coming into the finish but speeds were getting pretty hilarious and the finishing chute/area wasn't really equipped for 3 people to be coming in full bore.  There were lots of kids around so we all sort of neutralized things and rolled in, I was second in the group.  I hadn't really had any idea where I was in the field. I wasn't expecting to do all that well racing geared guys but I started hearing guys saying we were just outside of top 10.  I was fairly surprised.  They didn't really have results up (should hopefully be online tomorrow) but it looks like Bully and Carl got 6th/7th and I got somewhere around 15th (12th Official Results) coming in a few minutes after them.

The organizers had several hoses set up around the venue and everyone was able to immediately hose their bikes off, like it never happened!  Then I got a free visor (who wears these things anymore?), water bottle and an enormous free woopie-pie.  I'm glad I made the trip.  This is a cool event, I hope it gains some traction and eventually becomes a New England regular.