Saturday, October 20, 2012

Shiner's Run Point to Point

The 2nd annual P2P race took place on some of my favorite trails: the IMBA Epic trails at Kerr Scott Dam.  It included Dark Mountain, OVT, Shiner's Run and Warrior Creek. With dry trails, warm sunshine and a better marked trail, my goal was to beat 3 hours for the 37 mile course.  There was no age groups for the expert class, so I would be taking on the best of the best.  

My class rolled off first.  This race being, pretty much just a kinda-long cross country race, I knew I'd have to go hard early.  So we hammered the switch back climbs up ovt that lead us to the Burn course on Dark Mountain.  I'd been riding my 26" FS bike here and I had forgotten how much a hard tail bounced around.  The loose leaves and my fast rolling tires made it a little treacherous.  I ended up trading places with another on a FS bike that would pass me on the descents, then I would re-pass on the climbs.  Eventually I would get away and roll down the final sweet dark mountain descent. 

Next was ovt and shinr's run, which really suited me and my hard tail much better.  There isn't much climbing, but it's fast, flowy, and bermed.  The hills that are there can be sprinted over.  It's really quite fun.  I could ride it all day.

Ovt ends at bandits roost campground where there is an aid station that I blow thru and head out on the open road for 3 miles of solo time trialling.  There are 2 riders up the road that I wasn't able to catch until the biggest climb of the day on the smooth, paved roads of warrior creek campground.  This was followed by a 40+ MPH descent (and an omigosh corner) that lead to a short section of trail that looked like it hadn't been ridden since this race last year. With a thick covering of leaves it was hard to discern what was trail.  I actually had a hard time getting enough grip to climb some of the short, steep hills.  By now the riders I passed on the big climb have nearly caught me again, but this section ends and it's on to old familiar warrior creek trail goodness.

It felt good to be able to go full gas again, and I hammer up some switch back climbs.  We are diverted through some campground roads, but then it's back to warrior creek business as usual.  There are mile markers set-up for each of the 12 mile loops and I'm counting them down as I'm pushing myself to try to catch other riders.  I can't help but smile as I descend the cork screw, and flew through the air on the various jumps and throw the bike into the banked corners.  I even clear the rock gardens with no issues.

After mile marker 11 goes by and I pop out of the single track, a volunteer directs me up a hill to the finish.  It's a long, hard, climb with no one to catch ahead of me.  Still, it only seemed right to finish strong.  I cross the ine at 2:50 with a bug or two in my teeth.

I would only be 7th on the day, but I put forth my best effort.  What ese could I do on such a beautiful day on such great trails in God's amazing creation?

Tomorrow it's off to try my hand at some cyclocross racing.  And my mtb?  It's going to make the transition to a rigid single speed.

See you on the trails!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

6 Hours of Moore's Springs

Ok, so doing two 6 hour races in two days may not have been the best plan, but I'm a sucker for 2-fer weekend.  I'd never been to Moore's Springs before and I had heard great things about the trail system.  Plus, the race was a fund raiser for the trails.  I couldn't resist.

I packed enough supplies to be able to race up to 7 laps, but my plan was to run a couple of laps and see how I felt.  I knew I wouldn't be able hammer after yesterday's race, but I knew I could at least run endurance pace for a while.

By the 10:00am start time it was already starting to warm up nicely.  I wasn't terribly excited about the LeMans start, so I just walked to my bike.  I did do a cyclocross mount and still managed to get ahead of quite a few folks.  I was definitely feeling the effects of yesterday's race though.  Not knowing the trails, I decided to follow some other racers around for a while.  It's not going well.  I'm not smooth, and I'm struggling to ride some of the tight switch backs and rocky sections.

I decide to ride my own pace on lap #2 and things really pick up.  The legs feel better and riding the rocks and switch backs is much better.  By lap #3 I'm starting to get really dialed in on the descents.  They are super fast with just enough turns, rocks, trees and switchbacks thrown in to keep you on your toes.

By this time my new plan was to do 5 laps, but having completed lap #3 in under 3 hours I decided to draw the line at 6 laps.  The trail is super fun and the laps go by fast.  By the time I get to lap 6, I'm pretty well fatigued.  After climbing the last, long, straight climb it was a welcome sight to see the final, fast descent to the finish.

I finished at 5:12 while running 2nd in open men, however the 3rd place racer made the cut-off time to do a 7th lap.  Which he did, overtaking me for 2nd.  Still a nice, hard fought podium finish to cap off a great weekend of racing.

I have one more MTB race this year: The Shiner's Run Point to Point race on the trails at Kerr Scott Dam.  Hard to believer the 2012 season has come and gone so rapidly.  Up next: Cyclocross!

See you on the trails!   ...though it may be on a CX bike. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

6 Hour Grind on the Greenway

The Grind on the Greenway was the 3rd in a series of 3 races in the Turn and Burn Endurance series.  I had a good points lead in the 40+ category, so my plan was to play it conservatively.

The race start went well and I quickly slotted into 2nd place in my class.  A lot of people drilled it pretty hard from the start.  I held to my plan.  I found myself leading the 40+ class when the leader flatted.  I decided to focus on just riding my pace.

Near the end of lap 2, my front tire goes soft in the high speed double track section.  It was pretty sketchy for a while, but I hung on to ride back to the pits.  By then it was completely flat.  I had my spare bike already prepared, so a quick shout to pit support/son and I was on bike #2.

The switch from a 29'er hardtail to a 26" full suspension was pretty big.  I had been struggling with the front derailleur dropping the chain onto the small ring on the first bike.  It was nice not to have to worry about that.  The extra suspension was nice on bike #2, plus the knobbier tires were more forgiving in the sand.  However, the smaller wheels didn't rollover the bigger roots nearly as nice.

I had to work the bike more, which was probably good skills practice.  While it requires more work and concentration, it made the laps fly by.  At lap 6 I am still on my pace to do 8 laps, with about 10 minutes to spare.  At lap #7 it's clear that I can run 8 laps, but I may have enough of a lead that I don't have to.  I back up the pace just a little.  That way I have the energy to run lap #8 if I have to and if I see 2nd place catching me, then I KNOW I will have to run lap 8.

I cross the finish line at the end of lap 7 with 7 minutes to spare before the last lap cut off time.  My pit support says that 2nd place isn't going to make the cut-off time to do another lap.  So I wait patiently on the sideline ...just in case.

Finally, the final lap announcement is made.  Being first in my class to complete 7 laps, I take first place.  3 minutes later 2nd place rolls through.  A solid effort.

I got the check for the Turn and Burn series title in 40+.  Sweet.

A cool morning turned into a warm, sunny afternoon.  It felt good to race my bike, then relax with family and friends.  I am continually humbled by all the blessings I am able to enjoy.  It is truly by the grace of God.

See you on the trails!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Iron Cross X

Iron Cross
   The forecast for Iron Cross X was for cold temps and plenty of rain.  Conditions I usually excel in.  I think I actually ride faster in the rain.  I wasn't too thrilled about the 42 degree part for the start of the race, though.  It was gonna be tough to dress appropriately. The more clothes you wear, the more rain you can soak up.

   However, I woke up (before my alarm - always a good sign), looked out my Carlisle, PA hotel window to find the parking lots were dry.  Perhaps the course wouldn't be a muddy mess - at least for the start.  I loaded up the car.  No rain.  Drove to Pine Grove Furnace State Park (well, the wife drove but I didn't wanna give the wrong impression by saying that I rode to the park).  No rain.  Registration, bike prep, warm-up, pre-race meeting.  No rain.

  So we started the race (with a bit of confusion as to where and which direction the start actually was) with very overcast skys.  I actually got a call up for series overall rankings but couldn't find the front of the field to take advantage.  Turns out it didn't matter much.

   It was a mass start, so 300 riders all roll off at the same time.  I wanted to make my way to the front because I didn't want to get trapped behind a lot of slower riders thru the "death spiral" and the other traditional CX parts at the start.  I never did see a death spiral.  We did a small loop through the state park - including a sandy beach, and then onto the road and fire roads.

  There were KOM/QOM awards atop the first climb.  It must have been a pretty big deal because the lead group drilled it from the start.  I was having a hard time keeping up.  The pace never let up.  I was feeling overdressed with a long sleeve jersey, gore outer shell and knee warmers but felt that it would pay off when the rains came.  I checked my heat rate and it verified the feeling that I was pegged trying to keep up.  I decide to pedal along at my own pace until the terrain and climate suit me better.

   I typically don't get real good starts in these longer races and therefore I usually spend the day passing other riders as I work my way toward the front.  Maybe not the best strategy, but it's motivational.  So I was feeling a bit disconcerted as riders were occasionally passing me on some of the climbs on the road.  I decide to ride with a pace line.  It goes well, but it feels slower because I'm doing less work to go the same speed.  On a sharp right corner a rider goes down hard on the wet pavement.  It's all I can do to avoid running over him.  The side knobs on CX tires don't bite into cold, wet asphalt.

   The last part of the climb to the KOM is gravel road and I notice I'm pulling away from those around me.  When we hit the first rocky descent it's game on - I'm in my element.   I've got 40c knobby tires and I'm not afraid to use them.  From here we go to wigwam (I think) - a ridiculously steep run up that requires shear determination to keep putting one foot in front of the other to keep making progress.  I'm too tired to go on, but I feel like if I stop I won't be able to start again.  So I keep plodding along and actually pick up a few spots through this (literal) climb.
   At the top is a power line climb, complete with loose, big rocks that aren't easily navigated by bike or by foot.  At the end of the power line is aid station 2, where my wife is waiting for me.  It is my one planned stop.  I decide to drop my jacket.  The rain hasn't come and all the hiking and climbing is making me pretty warm.
   A chilly descent followed.  It's a blast on these gravel roads.  They are usually pretty smooth, so if you are careful to avoid the rocks and potholes you can spend quite a bit of time at 40+ mph.  Of course descending means more climbing, but the climbs aren't super steep and the miles click off rapidly.  Just before aid station 3 (or maybe it was 4?) there is fresh gravel.  The bike sinks in and it's difficult to find the traction to pedal through.  It also makes descending quite hairy.  The bike would start bouncing and bucking over the rippled  gravel and it would want to take the bike in every direction but straight.  But this section is short and it was back onto fast, smooth gravel road.
   With the miles winding down we are directed on to some single track.  It was miles of fast, flowy single track.  The only thing slowing me down is the fear of flattig on the few rocks that are on the trail.  I never realized they had this many miles of smooth single track in all of PA.  We never seem to ride on them at Trans-Sylvania...
   The trail does get more gnarly at the end.  It becomes double track.  I think every tree that has ever fallen in Michaux Forest fell across this trail.  There is endless bunny hopping of downed trees.  My arms are actually getting tired from pulling up on the bars to clear the trees.  One of them I didn't clear and I end up over the bars. 
   Then I get to the last run-up.  Well it's actually rideable with the right gear and motivation.  I didn't have quite enough of one or the other and I hike the bottom, but I hop back on to ride the last half.  It's ridiculously steep and it's all I can do to keep telling my legs to keep the cranks turning over.  It's not real technical, but it makes up for that with severe steepness.  At the top is "Larry's Tavern" and he's open for business - handing out beer to all takers.  I pass and prepare to drill the last couple of road miles to the finish.
   I learned never to let up because I got out-sprinted to the finish by a rider who I had been towing along the last road section.  Oh well, I had a good finishing time somewhere around 4:15/4:20.  Good enough for 7th in 40+.  Garth Prosser and Gerry Pflug would take the top 2 spots in my class.

   It never did rain until the 6+ hour drive (ride) back to statesville.

   My congratulations to all the finishers on this cold day.  It was a great event and I look forward to racing Iron Cross XI in 2013.

Sees you on the trail!