Friday, January 23, 2015

Fat & Furious at Gunstock 2015

Weeknight bike racing in the Lakes Region! At night! In the winter!

Polartec is sponsoring a series this year and Gunstock offered up their nordic trails for the first two races of the series as Thursday night events.  I was super pumped when I heard about this.  Usually you only really see weeknight stuff down south in the more populated areas so it was really nice to have the option to get a good race pace effort in close to home.

Gunstock Nordic Association opened their lodge up for the event. It was pretty ideal.

The turnout was great. Looked like 45-50 racers by the time things got going.  Course was a bit modified from what they had hoped to do due to snow conditions and the open trails that were available.  Loop ended up being a short 8/10ths of a mile but it had a decent little climb on the front half followed by some flowy descending on the back half.  There were two high speed left handers that were fun to try and take as fast as possible without washing out.  There was even a fan gun going through the start area that created sand pit like conditions.  Squirrelly snow that required power and quick reflexes to stay upright.

We did a mass start Expert and Sport all at once.  They ran it like a CX race.  45mins for Expert, 30 for Sport.  First go through the 'snow pit' was carnage as expected.  Everyone hit it at full speed trying to establish that front group.  Several guys washed out completely and most others had outriggers going just trying to stay upright.  I escaped unscathed and found myself at the back of the lead group of maybe 10 guys or so.  The gap from that group to the rest opened up pretty fast and pretty significantly.  By the top of that first climb it was probably already 15-20 secs.

I was on my limit on the tail end of the group.  Probably should have warmed up a bit more but that is pretty much always the case and I'm also just not really good in the first 10-15mins.  Lapped through with the group and heading into the snow pit the second time I clipped some deeper powder and before I knew it I was completely perpendicular to where I wanted to be heading.  Didn't go down but it took me a bit to get all figured out in that snow and moving again.  By that time the group had steam rolled away and I was firmly in no mans land.

I spent the next few laps isolated just churning along.  Didn't seem to be making any progress on the front group and no one seemed to be gaining on me.  Lapped riders started showing up pretty early with such a short lap and before too long it was basically impossible to keep track of who was who and where anyone was.  I started feeling a lot better around the 20-25 minute mark.  Power felt pretty consistent.  I'm not 100% sure but I believe I clawed maybe 2-3 guys back from the front group as they started to fade.  I'm only really basing that on how long it took me to catch them once I saw them.  I didn't pass them like a lapped rider it took a bit to come up to them and pass so I'm assuming they were stronger riders from the front group.

If that was the case I believe that put me somewhere in the maybe 7th-10th range?  About mid way through the tops guys lapped even me.  Don, Lee and Anthony all came by but I think that was it.  I was still feeling pretty good towards the end of the race but I was caught by someone on the last lap.  He rolled up to me about halfway up the last climb.  We rode together for a few moments and then he slowly started to pull away right towards the switchback at the top.  Luckily I was able to plow through my brain governor that was telling me I was giving what I had.  It took me several years to have the confidence to push past that, its a pretty strong biological process.

Grabbed two gears and got out of the saddle and closed the gap over the next few hundred yards in the rolly stuff heading into the descent.  I was fairly certain that I could take the descent just as fast as this guy so it was going to come down to getting there first and then keeping the pace up.  We came up to a lapped rider at the same time, I went left, he went right and I tried to use the opportunity to punch it with a clean line in front of me.  Not sure if he got held up but I got a slight gap and I was able to descend a bit faster and get to the line with maybe 3-4 secs to spare.  RACING BIKES!

Promoters decided to focus on the podium for both classes when it came to results.  With all the lapped riders and lack of timing gear it just got too tricky to keep everything straight.  Its all good.  I was about where I thought I should have been and I felt good on course so I'm happy with the day.  Upon crossing the line the race promoter was walking around giving out swag and I scored a free Bontrager beanie and then had some Moat Mountain beers with the Clarks Bro Racing crew.  Solid Thurs of racing bikes.

Can't wait to do it again in two weeks.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

MLK Super Weekend

On the surface this past weekend sucked.  Weather in my area was horrible. Brutal cold Saturday followed by a big warmup and tons of rain Sunday afternoon / evening into Monday.  Thanks New England!  BUT there were windows of opportunity and with a bit of travel I was able to turn this weekend into a SUPER weekend.

I had to bail on a KT ride Saturday due to -19 degree temps with some silly wind chill values.  I really wanted to get a bit more time on the fat bike before my next race Thurs so when I woke up Sunday and temps were reasonable and the rain was still en route I decided to make a stab at FFD.

Luckily Franklin seems to have reached a critical mass of winter trail users that has been consistently getting at least a subset of the trails packed out and perfect for fat biking within a week or so of fresh snow.  I'm getting better at layering at different winter temps and some of my new winter riding gear is making a world of difference.

Gina got me some Bar Mitts for Christmas and I think I can safely say that they (or something similar) are a MUST for winter riding.  Its like night and day.  Keeping my fingers warm seemed to be that impossible task that no matter what you tried it never seemed to pan out.  Now with the bar mitts I can wear a light glove in just about any temp and be completely fine.  And it only took me about 1/4 of one ride to get used to getting my hands in and out on the fly.  Couldn't be happier with them.

this was from several weeks ago. lots more snow now.

I also have several rides in on my new winter shoes the Louis Garneau LS-100 0 degree's.  Also a great purchase that makes a HUGE difference.  Its nice being able to clip in and ride like I'm used to.  My first few rides on the flats were not as bad as I thought they'd be but clipping in is always better.  My only warning on the LS-100's is they run small.  Half size up.  Mine are going to work and I don't feel like dealing with returning etc. but if I did I would get a half size larger.

I got a great 9+ mile ride in before the freezing mist started and then I hunkered down for what I thought would be a lazy Sunday / Monday avoiding the crappy local weather.  Then late Sunday I got a text from Jake.  Day care was staying open for MLK and he had a hall pass and an extra voucher to Jay and was looking for a wing man.  SIGN ME UP.

Most forecasts had called for Jay to get mostly snow and be just about the best place to be for down mountain shredding.  I figured it'd be a great last second get but I had no idea how ideally the entire day would set up...

I will preface this recap by saying this was, to date, the best post-college ski day I've had.  I specify post-college because our college years were far too jam packed with big days, travel to Europe etc. responsibilities were low so we got just about every big day there was.  And I've gotten plenty of big days post college but as life responsibilities increase there is more that goes into a 'big day' and most big days come with a price.  Horrific travel, home owner duties...all that good stuff.

So nowadays when I'm talking about the BEST ski day I'm talking a balance between gnar conditions at the mountain and 0 gnar life conditions and Monday was all of that.  A perfect storm of perfect old man considerations.  A zero stress drive.  Roads were completely fine on the way up, not death defying in the slightest.  Jay had gotten 8-10in of lighter than expected snow.  Temps were right around freezing with reasonable wind and it snowed just about all day.  Crowds were non existent, didn't wait in one significant lift line all day with most lifts being ski-on all day.  Despite the snow during the day the only road that needed attention was the access road.  After that it was stress free smooth sailing all the way home.  And when I got home I didn't have to shovel or rake my roof or do anything home owner related.  AND I GOT FIRST TRACKS IN ARGUABLY THE BEST GLADED RUN IN NEW ENGLAND.

one of the best single runs of my snow riding career

Still don't know how it happened. We didn't rush over there in the slightest but we found ourselves breaking trail on the hike up and over.  Coverage was good and the snow was deep.  It was a bit surreal.  This was a forgiving, go as fast as you want, waist deep in the troughs, face shot snorkel fest.  We couldn't help but laugh the whole way down.

later in the day and still SUPER DUPER

 I tried real hard to get Jake to ride this tree but he has kids to think about now

So yeah, I'll stop rubbing it in. It was good. Real good. After this weekend I'm realizing my current winter recreation status means I can almost completely ignore the weather.  No matter what it does I'll be able to either fat bike in decent conditions or ski in decent conditions.  I'M THE KING OF THE WORLD.