Saturday, October 26, 2013

Singletrack Everywhere!

Last weekends romp around Saratoga kinda got me in the mood for more big XC rides.  Didn't have anything pressing at the house to take care of and I don't want to start raking the yard yet because there are still a decent amount of leaves still on the trees.  Soooo I got to trying to figure out some sort of linked epic I could check off my list.

I had several ideas but the temps stayed pretty cold today and there was a 40% chance of rain in some forecasts so being isolated a long way from home didn't seem like the smartest thing.  Originally I was thinking about trying to link Franklin Falls to Page Hill.  Which is totally doable, 8mi of pavement or there is even a dirt / class VI route that is possible but I haven't done it yet and cold weather isn't the best for constant navigation stops.  That one will happen next year for sure.

I've also been dying to check out Spaulding Woods, the new chunk of land that we are helping the Spaulding Youth Center develop into a riding destination.  They had already had some double track and had been slowly working on some singletrack.  We had a trail day there this Fall to build another new trail and do some cleanup and refinement of the other existing stuff.

My plans for a linked ride were foiled...but not if I linked them via car!  Plan was to check out SW first then drive over to FFD and then around to Page Hill.  20-25mi depending on what you ride at each spot, not that much driving and protected in case the weather turned on me, perfecto!

Spaulding Woods was as good as some of the rumors I had been hearing.  Not a lot of mileage yet but great terrain and some really fun trails that are easy to lap.  Most of the place is built into a hill so you can get a decent workout heading back up again and again to take a few more stabs at the down mountain trails.  Already some great berms and other features in place as well.  The trails need some wheels to buff out some of the chatter but once they ride in its going to be a really great spot in a great location.

Riding Franklin was nice, folks have been staying on top of leaf blowing and things were riding great.  Even scored a KOM and missed another by 1 sec.  Page Hill on the other hand was covered in about a foot of leaves.  Felt like riding through 6in of snow.  Getting really hard to navigate there unless you have either built the trails or ride them frequently, luckily I have done both.

I kind of like the linked by car format.  Lets you take breathers, warm up (if its cold), get some calories.  I'm thinking a full Central NH Tour de Force might be in order, although it would be a pretty big undertaking to do all the more well established ride spots.  A clockwise loop would be pretty reasonable as far as driving goes.  You'd need a full day, starting early.  Mid summer max daylight would help.

Ride Ahern first - 6-8mi
Then Ramblin Vewe Farm - 6-8mi
Then Spaulding Woods - 5mi
Then Highland XC Loops - 6-8mi
Then Franklin Falls - 8-10mi
Then Page Hill - 8mi

Solid 40(ish) miles of basically all singletrack.  Actually, as I'm writing this I'm thinking ending at Page Hill might be a bit brutal...counter-clockwise might be smarter then you could end the ride with a swim in Winnisquam at Ahern.  Hmmmm...Who wants in?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

2013. Shoulders and Wrists Maximus...Shoulders and Wrists!

We mortals are but shoulders and wrists.

I usually do one of these season recaps every year so here we go....2013.  Dominated by nagging shoulder and wrist issues but I still managed to have a decent year racing my bike.  Things went sideways back in late April / early May.  I was having a great run up getting more miles in March / April than I have in a long time.  At some point in April, not really all that sure when, something happened with the shoulder.  Not sure if it was rotator cuff or a minor AC separation but it had me laid up off and on for much of the early season.  As I dealt with the shoulder an old wrist injury cropped back up as well which my best guess is a damaged sheath that keeps the Ulnar nerve where it is supposed to be.

I then did my best to not let either of those injuries heal all year.

This made my riding patterns very sporadic and ended with the norm becoming long rides followed by down time trying to get pain under wraps and then once it was bearable back on the bike for a long ride.  Whatever I could manage really with races taking priority.  Fun fact: over half (55%) of my miles on dirt this year were race miles, almost 300mi of racing on dirt.  Luckily that pattern worked fairly well for my race plans for this year.  I decided to take another stab at more endurance formats.  I had tried this once before back in '08 or '09 but I don't think I was quite ready back then and returned to the XC summer series races the following years.  As I've made incremental gains over the years I have noticed that my endurance is right up there with really fast guys and my ability to suffer through long hours in the saddle is top tier as well but when it came to those really sharp VO2max, anaerobic type efforts I wasn't on the same level.

Even with all of my health issues this year I managed to surprise myself a few times at my longer races this year.  My win in the 100K at the Wildcat was a pleasant surprise and my finishing time was also a PR for me at that distance (although that was a fast course) and that was with early season fitness.  A podium at Carrabassett was also unexpected and again my time was the same as my Wildcat time on a much harder course.  Top 5 at NH100 with an all time personal best on that course and my fastest ever 100K time.  Not too shabby.  My luck ran out after that though and my last two endurance go-rounds saw me beat to a pulp with some of my wrist issues really catching up to me.

With my results this year I am fairly certain that I am an endurance type rider and I will continue to work on that type of fitness and that type of racing going forward.  100K and 100mi races are becoming more and more popular and we are getting more options in New England every year.  I think I need one more year racing these distances consistently before I jump into a 100 miler but that is probably the eventual goal here.  I'm certain I could probably finish one but I think with a bit more work I could be fairly competitive, not with the top SS guys they are beyond ridiculous, but I think I could be one of the better regional riders for sure.

First things first though; I need to get healthy.  I'm getting there.  I think I'm clear of the shoulder.  Pain is minimal and when it crops up from time to time the recovery is faster and faster and I think I can focus on strengthening it again now.  The wrist is still nagging but two weeks off the bike recently got me over a hump of sorts and I think I'm much closer to being back on track.  Much of my early work in the gym this Fall will probably be PT in nature.  I have gotten away with being hard on my body in the past but I think those days are over.  Gotta smarten up a bit or I will crumble to bits in no time I'm sure.

Next step will be to stay healthy next year.  Starting that quest with beating myself up less.  Yes, its (pretty much) official.  My days of riding fully rigid have come to an end.  There are things I really like about riding rigid and a part of me has liked the added challenge (in a way) as well as the respect you get for being silly enough to actually do it.  But the beating is no longer worth it to me and I've got nothing to prove.  I have really enjoyed my time on the party bike so far this Fall and it has also reminded me that I am a pretty damn good technical rider and descender when I'm not getting rattled into oblivion.

More than likely I will be getting some sort of fork for the Spot and possibly even going back to running the Thudbuster full time.  Even with the added weight and slight loss of efficiency I'm guess I'm going to be going real fast next year.  The drive is already there even now.  I'm excited for a healthy go at some long races.