Sunday, March 24, 2013

Love Valley Roubaix

It would be hard to describe the 1st annual Love Valley Roubaix without using the term "epic".  ...but I will try.

The race started in the wild west town of Love Valley, NC (no cars allowed).  The weather man called for a cold, rainy day and he did not disappoint.  There were several early abandons (as in: never made it to the race or decided not to even start).  The remaining brave (intrepid?  naive?) rolled off promptly at 9:00am in a light rain and about 40 deg temps. ...and dropping.

I had not pre-ridden the course, and had a rude awakening as my 25c wide road slicks just kinda sank in the rain-soaked unpaved roads we started off in.  And rode 60% of the race in.  It was energy sapping and de-motivating at times, but a lesson learned.  As a result, I was quickly dropped from the lead group.  Just to add another complication, I can't seem to get the front derailleur to coax the chain off of the big ring.  When it finally does rattle off the big and onto the small chain ring on a rapid descent, I decide to leave it there for the duration.

After being dropped from the lead group I was left to ride solo, which is the way I prefer to do long climbs anyway.  Aside from being soft, the unpaved sections were really quite amazing.  Quite a bit steeper than I was expecting.  I could have used some lower gearing, but I was feeling OK and really pushing to try to regain contact with the lead group.  The rain has let up a bit at this point, and I consider dropping a rain layer at the upcoming aid station where my wife is patiently waiting.

When I do reach the aid station that is most of the way up Brush Mountain, I just grab a bottle my wife hands off and continue on without stopping.  A wise decision because soon the rain picks up.  That, coupled with the fast descent down Brushy Mountain made me glad for every layer I had on.

For the paved descent down Brushy Mountain and the trek on Hwy 115 I was glad for my tire choice, but was really missing my big ring.  It was tempting to try the upshift, but I know there is a LOT more steep climbing to come.  So I (barely) resist the temptation to shift up and pretend I'm on an undergeared CX bike and press on through the fog.  ...and rain.  ...and sleet.  Smiling.

At the 30 mile aid station, my wife is there to meet me (from under a canopy), offers food and encouragement and sends me on my way in short order.  By now my feet are starting to get numb.  My hands have been numb, then started to feel Ok, but are now going numb again.  Soon after begining the final big climb just after the aid station, I begin to catch another rider.  I reel him in and drop him on the climb, but he regains contact on the descent.  I'm really missing my big ring.  But only for a short while.  The road turns sharply uphill and I dig deep and push the pace hard - pulling away from the other rider.  Solo again.

These are roads I'm familiar with, so I know what's ahead for a little while.  I push past my comfort zone knowing that the climb will eventually end and I can recover on the descent.  I thought.

The pavement ends.  More soft, energy robbing roads.  It really slows my pace to where the descending is not as easy as I anticipated and I end up pedaling more than expected.  My fingers have now become so numb that it is really difficult to push the SRAM double tap lever far enough to shift down on the rear cogs.  Sometimes I have to pull the lever with my left hand.  My legs have become soaked through my leg warmers and my feet and lower legs are numb as well.  I keep trying to work my toes and fingers to keep blood flowing.

And then it happened.  At some point it always does when I'm in a difficult endurance race.  At some point I knew that I would finish.  Even if I have to walk.  I smile.  And push the pace past my comfort zone again.  I am going to finish.

On the final corner leading back into Love Valley, I pass another rider.  I feel a little out of place rolling through the wild west town on my carbon steed.  But that's the only thing I feel at this point.  The clock ticks off 3:17:something as I cross the line in 5th place.  A hard days work.  The epic (woops) conditions only make the finish that much sweeter.

Maybe it's the struggles that make things worthwhile? 

A big thanks to my wife for braving the rain and cold to patiently wait for me and then have everything ready for me at the finish to warm up.  And a big thanks to Blue Mountain Revival for putting on a well run, well staffed, well marked, super sweet course!

See you on the trails!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Killer 3

The Killer 3 MTB trails in Poinsett Park, just outside of Sumter, SC were host to the season opening Southern Classic MTB series.  It was another chilly race start but, I gotta say I'm getting used to dressing appropriately by now!

The Quarq power meter in my new 29'er hard tail was out for warranty, and rather than race it without the power reading I decided it would be fun to try my hand against the single speeders.

Probably due to complaints about the 14 mile course last year (3 laps for CAT 1), the course was shortened to 7 miles (4 laps for CAT 1).  I thought that would mean less ├╝ber-flat endless fire road.  Unfortunately it didn't. Which left me WAY spun out for a significant amount of the course.

The Single Speed class rolled out after every age group of CAT 1, every age group of CAT 2 and a Women's class. Which meant the fast SS'ers would be in traffic all day.  I got a reasonable start, but a few riders (I wasn't sure how many) rolled off the front while I worked thru the pack I was in.  Much of the trails were tight and twisty with limited passing, causing riders to try creative passes in the woods.

The long, flat, fire road section near the end of the lap.  I spun as fast as I could control - spinning like mad then tucking and coasting when there was a slight downhill.  Repeat.  I passed several geared CAT 2 racers.  Some of them passed me back just before the single track and I had to pass them back again.  No Single Speeders in sight.

Lap 2 was largely a repeat of lap 1.  I'm still digging.  Still no Single Speeders in sight.  I start to envision the possibility that I may be leading until I pass a cat 2 rider who knows me and says that he thinks I'm 5th or 6th.  Oh well.  Hammer on.  I do.

By lap 3 I'm determined to catch someone without a derailleur.  Which I manage to do about 1/2 way through the lap.  Then, near the end of the lap, I see a rider ahead that I am slowly reeling in.  He's standing on every climb of significance - a sure sign he's on one gear.  There is a slight climb before the loooong fire road section. He's a bigger rider, so my chances don't look good against him in the sprint.  Instead of just following along behind him I decide to blow by him as fast as I can with the hopes that he doesn't notice I'm SS or is too tired to give chase.  I drill it and never look back.  I was going full gas, but eventually I can hear him behind me.  Near the end of this section there are a couple of short downhills.  Enough for him to put in a big effort and pull ahead of me.  He's apparently geared more appropriately than me and I cannot spin any faster.  I rolled in several seconds after he did.  ...and then I did another lap.  Because I wanted to.

Turns out I had been racing for 2nd, So I was pleased to wind up 3rd and on the podium.  A great way to start the season!

It was great to see a lot of the friends I hadn't been able to see in a few months and catch up on their training, season plans and goals and check out a lot of their new bikes.

See you on the trails!