Monday, May 27, 2013

Coyote Hill 2013 Race Report

This weekend was a giant New England weather cliche.  Big temperature swings, rain, snow, mud. So naturally I decided I should probably race my bike even though I've been nursing a bum shoulder and hadn't ridden a mountain bike since my last race two weeks ago.

Its June next week! #NewEngland

We had been given Friday off due to working commencement so I had two full days to do very little except try to get the shoulder back on terms which I was successful at for the most part.  Range of motion was back, pain was minimal although it still felt pretty junky in there.  I had purchased some KT tape to try and had Gina tape me up while she was still in bed before I left for VT.

KT selfie

I was expecting the stuff to be a bit..stiffer I guess is the word?  It definitely offered some support but I guess I was expecting a bit more.  Initially I was worried it wasn't even going to stay put because it didn't seem all that sticky but it did seem that the longer it was on me the more solid it felt.  Maybe body heat activates the adhesive a bit or something.  I can't really accurately say if it helped or not.  The shoulder didn't hold me back at all which was nice.  As of this morning I have a tiny bit of pain but that was probably inevitable no matter what.  I guess what I'm saying is I have no idea if this tape is effective or not.  It did offer some support so I suppose that is better than nothing?  Although, at a dollar a strip...

ANYWAY. Not sure why I've never done this race before, it is really close to my house in the grand scheme of things and the drive is super easy.  Probably mostly due to my avoidance of sanctioned racing in years past and my focus on the EFTA series.  Kinda bummed now though because this course was a blast.  Even with all the mud and mess it was still probably 65-70% rideable (although slow going) and in my opinion its a great mix of up/down, tech/flow.  Definitely requires a well balanced rider to do well.  If it was dry I would say its one of the better courses in New England for sure.

Still had a pretty decent sized SS field in Cat 2 despite the conditions.  I think we ended up with 8?  A few of the names I recognized from various results sheets and several of us were stronger non-sanctioned racers who top out at Cat 2 due to the whole one day license rule.  I was freezing cold at the start and actually opted to race in my team CSC shell.  I was hoping the Swiss nanotechnology would keep me warm.  It did.

NEMBA Racing all bundled up

The start went up a slight incline (right up the farm's driveway) and then took a right into a field and we immediately hit 1-2in deep watery/muddy grass.  Everyone was completely coated within 2mins.  With that out of the way we got to some racing.  I slotted into second after the initial shakeout.  First sections of singletrack were greasy but doable and I was hoping for more of the same.  We had to do a bit of deep muddy grass climbing followed by a fire road.  I got passed here by Curtis L., I believe he was top 5 at Willowdale so I was expecting this.  Then I got passed by Lane M. a 13-14yr old racing SS.  This I was not expecting.  He was riding the climb incredibly strong and didn't even look that labored.  This worried me. 

I had a few of those "wait a minute, I am a grown ass man.  I can't let this kid beat me!" kind of thoughts.  But I figured I would be able to pass him fairly easily in the more technical punchy terrain.  Which was eventually correct but not after he put on a display of strength and riding ability that had me a bit dumbfounded.  Riding ironman like myself no less!  It was fun to watch and sobering to think that in 20yrs he'll still only be about my age and probably killing everyone.

After moving on from the Lane show, I continued to gobble up geared riders and waited for the eventual catch from teammate Mark.  I often start a bit faster but he typically finishes a bit faster.  Got me around 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through the first lap and slowly faded away in some of the muddy tech.  Back half of the course got a bit harder to ride with a few grassy false flat and some steeper sections that were basically unrideable with that soupy slick mud.

yeah soupy grass!

Popped out in one of the fields just down the hill from the start and got a time check from Mark's wife.  Apparently I was still right on him and he was still right on Curtis in second.  Well OK then, this race is only 12mi tops so might as well hurt a little bit.  I tried my best to get on the gas, but that didn't amount to much in those conditions.  I got a good indication of where I was shortly after in a section where you enter a field you can look across and see riders existing into the same field from a small section of singletrack.  I saw Mark exiting as I was entering and I counted it off at about 15-20secs.  Nothing quite like a solid indicator like that to help you hurt yourself a bit more.

This was probably eventually my undoing because I decided I was going to take a few risks and let it run in the singletrack a bit to try and make up the difference.  This was working well and with less traffic things were working out and I thought I might have an off chance of bridging the gap.  I was catching a lot of geared riders again which was a good sign.  But it wasn't meant to be because as I was making two quick passes I took a probably less than ideal inside line on a corner to make a pass and shortly after powering up the next incline I got that tell tale huge increase in traction followed by a wishy-washy feeling.  Looked down and sure enough I was at about 8psi.  Upon stopping I could hear the leak and saw the Stan's bubbling up.  I rotated it to the bottom of the rotation so it would pool up but it wasn't quite sealing.

Got the CO2 out after a bit of bumbling and shot it with some air and jumped right on to try and get rolling and force the Stan's out to the edges.  This worked for a bit but every now and then I could hear air spurting out and eventually it was too soft to ride again.  Hopped off and shot it up again and repeated the process and made it a bit farther but eventually it was soft again and my CO2 was cooked.  I only brought one and decided against bringing a tube due to the short length of the race.  I don't necessarily regret those decisions but I do hate a DNF.  After getting home and cleaning up the bike a bit I found the gash.

thanks a lot...DICK

Just over a 1/8 gash slightly off center to the left and I was turning left when I think it happened.  Doesn't look like much and I think Stan's claims they can seal punctures up to almost 1/4in.  But this one is a bit irregular and with all the water and mud in those conditions I'm not really that surprised.  I ran the course for a bit figuring I didn't know where I was so I might as well just continue on the course and maybe try to just run it in.  But eventually I was getting bored and cold so I started bushwhacking and just b-lining it to the start via GPS.

So I'll be making a gear purchase in the near future, might need brake pads as well.  The rear was getting pretty squishy towards the end.  Next up is my White Mtn century ride and then the Pinnacle in a few weeks, hopefully this got my gear issues out of the way for the season and I'll be ready to make a serious run at the Pinnacle problem free. #knockonwood

Monday, May 13, 2013

Wildcat 100K Race Recap

Spoiler Alert!

Ok! The 'ole 100K race recap.  These are always tough.  Mental accuracy fades over the course of that many miles, things blur and fade together and eating a bunch of horse poop doesn't help things get any clearer.  SO without further ado...

*Disclaimer* This report will be peppered with some criticisms of the event but please be aware that they are meant to be 100% constructive.  I have a lot of respect for anyone who dedicates the time and effort into putting on an event like this.  Many people, racers included, have absolutely no idea how much work it is.  I think this race and this course are a good local addition to this series and with a few refinements will be a damn classy event.

The venue at Williams Lake was an interesting spot.  Really kind of perfect for something like this and I think it could even have supported a bigger race with a tad bit more organization.  They let people kind of camp/park wherever to a certain extent which was nice and worked out fine.  Next year I would rent more port-o-potties though.  Bikers poop and pee a lot with the pre-race jitters and the what not.

tents are for squares

Morning of was a bit discombobulated.  Many of the timing chips had not been ready for pickup the day before at packet pickup so many riders were trying to get that squared away.  My timing chip (and it seemed like many others) was missing and I ended up just getting a green dot drawn on my race plate to indicate I was to be manually timed.  This worried me a bit but it ended up being ok.  It was confusing in the moment and you could tell lots of riders were a bit frustrated and confused before the start.  If there is one thing you want to have completely dialed, for an event of any size really, its timing and results.  Nail that and lots of people will overlook other things.

They lined us up on main street by bib number and I was assuming this was to let us off in maybe 50 person intervals or something.  I was towards the back with a number of 250 out of about 300.  Then we got the Go! and low and behold it was a giant mass start.  Everyone at once.  This was a bad call.  Next year stage the start.  Maybe they thought the initial false flat/climb before getting back to the campground's singletrack would be enough to string the field out but it was not.  I was able to find a vein and sprint up the left hand side of the road and probably passed about half the field or so but we all hit the singletrack together and it was a tad ridiculous.

Great trails around Williams Lake.  Nice technical singletrack with some cool mines and even a giant cave to ride through.  But it was a whole lot of stop/go/walk/run/stop/walk for several miles.  I think racers did a pretty good job of keeping things civil.  I got scolded by some women as I ran/weaved my way past racers when and where I could to 'relax, its a 100mi race' and as people continued to not be able to ride features people got more and more antsy to get moving.  It eventually got sorted out once we got back to town and the next road climb was quite a bit harder and started to string things out.  But by this time I had no idea where I was in my class and was worried someone had snuck farther up in traffic and was long gone.  It was probably better that way anyway.  Forced me to just ride my race.

We traversed out of town on some cool singletrack trails that I liked a lot.  Unfortunately I caught up to a group with some guys that had some issues riding certain things that created some bottlenecks but thats racing.  After some pavement connectors we got into the 'Gunks and the historic carriage paths / climbs.  Gorgeous terrain even though we couldn't really see much of it due to the weather.  We passed a massive waterfall that was amazing and you could really get a sense of the history of the area, I thought it was pretty cool.  The climbing was tough but not very punchy which was good for me to get into a rhythm.  I was actually riding with Amanda for much of this middle section of the course.  Yo-yo'ing a bit on the harder and then flatter sections.

Then we got to the carriage path descent down off the ridge.  HOLY CRAP AWESOME.  30-40mph at times.  Ripping switchbacks.  Just plant the outside foot, drift through the turn, use the full width.  So much fun.  Felt like old school mountain biking.  I was a tad freezing by the bottom though.  Temps weren't all that cold but I was soaking wet and the wind sucked the heat right out.  Finger tips needed some coaxing for a bit afterwards to get back on terms.  Luckily some of the Orchard sections had some nice false flats with peanut buttery mud to warm me back up.  The kind that require 200-300 watts just to keep from tipping over.

I still felt pretty good at this point but I was starting to get swept up by geared riders I had left on the climbs and I was worried that if I didn't keep the gas on that any SSer geared a tad larger than me would get back to me on the predominantly flat run into the finish.  Luckily there were a few mini bumps and with the mud even flat sections were bogged down and hard which in a way makes them a bit more like climbs which brings my gear back into contention.  I went off course a bit exiting the orchards.  There was a non-intuitive turn that was basically off a cliff that in my opinion could have been marked a bit better but I figured out my mistake relatively quickly and the damage was minimal.  Speaking with folks at the finish others made the same mistake I did so I wasn't alone.

I was then eventually banished to the 7th level of SSer hell.  A 13-15mi stretch of pancake flat rail trail.  Spinning 100-120rpm for 13mi straight is a very particular type of horrifying.  Won't necessarily induce cramps and doesn't require any kind of crazy wattage.  But the CHAFFING.  Dear god so much friction.  Non stop.  I would have loved to have some climbs just for the corresponding descents to take a breather for a bit.  Being mentally strong was very important for that stretch.  Very much a 'watching the pot boil' effect.  Nothing else to do but watch the Garmin and the miles tick by sloooooowly.

Finally got back into Rosendale and started the climb back up to the venue.  The trails had gotten greasier and the going was tough but I popped out on the road and started up my 150rpm sprint to the line to try and finish strong...or so I thought.  I sat up after coming through the finish area and then I start hearing yelling and it dawns on me that they are yelling at me to keep going.  This confuses me thoroughly because I had studied the race route pretty well and was certain that 100K riders were done upon reaching the campground.


This is a screenshot of the GPS data sent to riders.  My cursor is at about mile 66 and change at the end of the courses data and you can see the blue dot just a hop skip and a jump from the red finish marker.  BUT according to the people yelling at me I had to go and do another loop of all the singletrack that we did earlier in the day.  Now that I am clear of the moment I'm happy we did that because they were cool trails and because of traffic I didn't get to actually ride them earlier.  In that moment however I was a tad pissed.  This turned our race into much closer to 70mi which sure on one hand "its only a few more miles, whats the big deal?".  But why don't you go ride 66mi in the mud/rain and when you are certain you are done I will force you to ride 4 more before allowing you to get warm and eat food and I think you might sympathize a bit.

Luckily the food and beer was front and center once I finally finished and I partook immediately.  Still had no idea where I was in the standings.  I had ridden a lot of the course primarily solo and had only seen a few singlespeeders early and I was fairly certain they were all 100 milers.  All I knew was that I felt strong all day and that I had kept things consistent.  I figured I should be up there but was worried someone had snuck away in the early confusion.  Dustin came in about 7-8mins after me with a strong ride.  Results were taking a while so we eventually went to get out of our kits and warm up a bit.  Got back to the finish area and early results were just being printed off.  It was a nice partial surprise to indeed see my name at the top of the list (as well as the bottom due to being DQ'd for not having a timing chip but that was all sorted out).

You can tell you took a bit too long with results when folks who have pay-outs coming don't stick around.  2nd place on our podium bailed with $100 coming his way and several other podiums were missing folks.  Bad sign.  I had whiskey coming though so I figured I would hang out.  I love when promoters incorporate some local stuff into awards.

looking forward to this.

A few hiccups here and there but all in all I'm glad I tried this race out.  It was challenging and even with a lower percentage of singletrack than I would usually be interested in I thought the course was interesting and really put that area on display.  Hopefully the promoters will learn and grow and be able to continue this event well into the future.