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 cyclingdirt.com 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.