Wednesday, September 30, 2009
While my competition was still enjoying the misery of cross racing, I made my way to neutral support. I got hooked up with a new cable, housing, and a barrel adjuster. Ripping. After that I went to my car and took the slicks off my training wheels, and mounted up a pair of Mud2s. I gave Colin back his (stupid) wheels, and was good to go. Well, except I was still really pissed.
Enter The Shed Brewery and Restaurant. Pretty much the best eating and drinking establishment in Vermont. I love this place and find and excuse to go there each time I pass through Vermont. Some of you might think that going out to a bar is bad race prep, and you would probably be right, but ... shut up. My anger subsided. I slept good Saturday night.
My goal for the weekend was to earn a decent call-up for Gloucester. To further motivate myself, I intentionally missed registering for Gloucester, I figured that would light an ample size fire under my ass, providing the necessary motivation to train and race hard. This plan was aborted when I checked the confirmed riders list an hour after registration opened, and found it was already dangerously close to the limit. So I registered, but I was in the triple digits, so was looking at about a 15th row start if I didn't take care of business in Vermont.
Well, business did not get taken care of on day one. I would be in serious trouble if I didn't finish in the top 25 on day two.
Monday, September 28, 2009
My relationship with cross has always been one of convenience. I wanted (needed) to race my bike, and there were only cross races on the schedule. It worked out well. I was happy, cross was happy. I never really gave cross much thought. I figured it was just a good way to delay the fattening; you know, when the bike collects dust and the holiday cheese comes by the pile.
But this year was different. I decided I would try. I switched to a more cross specific training schedule around mid-august. I actually started to think about cross a little before the mountain bike schedule petered out. I took the plunge and bought a set of tubulars. I was seriously serious about being serious.
Problems started to arise when mountain biking caught me making googly eyes at cross. no. wait.
Let's try that again. Problems started to arise when I found out my sweet new wheels would not be operational for the first weekend of Verge races. I had already made the mental switch over to tubulars, I couldn't go back to clinchers. Clinchers are for losers who aren't serious enough to get some tubies. And I was serious. seriously.
Enter Colin. (I'm not linking to his blog, just hit the back button a few times, you'll find it). Since we are no longer mountain bike teammates, but rather cross teammates, we don't try to ruin each other's races to make our own results look a little better. Colin let my borrow his tubulars, he's swell.
Vermont. Day one. Lap one. I go from about 6 rows back to about 6 wheels (not pairs, individual wheels) back in the first 45 seconds. I'm racing tubulars, they're doing the work, I'm just along for the ride. This marks the first time I ever get a glimpse of what the front of a verge race looks like. Tubulars dude, tubulars.
Next thing I know, I'm laying in a bush. What the?!? I pull myself out of the bush and hop back on the bike, I'm immediately down again, and getting trampled by the 90+ strong field of hungry Cat3 racers. I manage to make it into the long grass, to relative safety. I look at my back wheel, and the tire is wedged between the rim and my chainstay.
huh. tubulars? I race cross for three years on clinchers, and have one flat (Gloucester Day 1, 2008). I race tubulars for three minutes and roll the bitch off the rim. What am I supposed to think this week when the shop calls me up and tells me my sweet tubulars I ordered are ready to go?
(Had to make this quick, I apologize if it's a bit disjointed. Any yes, I know I need to get a camera.)
Friday, September 25, 2009
Since this is cyclocross in New England, the race actually started about a month ago, when registration opened up. I missed the boat on this one. I was on BikeReg to register for the Norcross Scurry (I believe) when I noticed Green Mountain Cyclocross Weekend listed. I promptly shat my pants. My cyclocross season was over, and it hadn't even started. Literally.
OK so I'm being a bit melodramatic. It's been said that clicking refresh on BikeReg, waiting to be one of the first to register for Verge races (B men at least) is worth three weeks of intervals. Well, I missed the boat to registration, good news I had more than three weeks before the race started, so I started with the intervals.
Who knows how many days registration was open before I found it. I know I'm somewhere in the 50s, so after last years sandbaggers are called up, I should be starting about 6 rows back. Good thing that's the only starting position I've ever known. Don't want to try new things on race day, specially new things like a decent starting position.
Half-broken half-borrowed bike, sore knee, getting over a cold, my trainer broke, first cyclocross race of the season, and it's too far away. wah.
There, I think I covered everything. Time to go pack the car.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Then there are the promoters that put on a race and treat any sort of criticism or feedback as an insult. These are the worst kind of promoters, the kind that think they are god's gift to cycling because they put on a race and regardless of what they actually did, you need to kiss their ass. These are the people that will attack you if your feedback is anything but praise.
Then there are the promoters that put on a race, and ask for feedback with the intention of putting on better race next year. At the Darkhorse 40, one of the best promoted races I've ever been a part of, I was asked more than once by the promoter what I thought. Did you like the course? How was the BBQ? Did you get a beer? I'm sure the other 400+ other people there felt that Mike legitimately cared about their race experience. That's no coincidence, Mike did care. As he stated as he threw swag out to anyone who took a DNF, he wanted to make sure everyone went home happy.
So you can imagine my excitement when I received and email from the Landmine promoter that was sent to all racers with the intention of collecting feedback to make next year's race better. If Mark asked for my feedback in person instead of via email, it would have been hard to resist the urge to hug him. He is truly a promoter of the highest class.
I typed up my responses immediately, and they will serve as my race report. Remember, it's the new squirt gun show, quantity, not quality. I will continue to turn any bike related email I type into a blog entry. Enjoy.
Is there a section of the course that should be removed?
Yes, A mile or two after the first feed zone, there was a sharp righthand turn that immediately went down a size-able dropoff into a pool of standing water. Not sure exactly what was going on under that water, but it seemed like there was a front wheel sized ditch lurking. I crashed hard here, and around 60% of the racers I talked to at the finish crashed here as well.
Also, I'm not a fan of the long parts of the course where you are riding alongside oncoming racers. These parts are typically on the long paved straight aways, which are perfect for passing, but it's dangerous to pass with racers coming at you.
Tell us which section of the course you hope we'll never change.
I liked one of the new parts, shortly after the section I described above. There was a lot of turning and going up and over bumps. It was slow speed, smooth and technical. Kind of felt like you were on a rollercoaster. It seemed new, but I typically have a hard time remembering specific parts of race courses, so maybe it was there last year and I don't remember it.
Also, in the opening couple of miles, there was a downhill section that had berms on the turns. I don't remember the berms in the past. Me likey downhill berms.
Did you preride the course? How much of it? Was the map up early enough to preride?
Did not preride.
Did you get lost? Where?
Yes, yes, and yes. Got lost big time going through the campground. Got lost again about 5 miles later when the trail spit out on the road and I missed the arrow dictating which direction to go on the road.
Was course congestion an issue? Were you able to pass when needed?
Passing is part of mountain bike racing. Not an issue at landmine.
Do you like the course length? Was there sufficient variety of trail?
Right now, I liked the course length. While racing, I wanted it to end sooner, but this is how I feel about every race. Don't change the length.
If we had sufficient course before the first bottleneck would you like to have a mass start of you category? Or should it still be just your class?
The mass start should always be avoided when possible, specially at popular races like landmine.
Was timing sufficient? Was there an error in your timing?
Were directions to the start clear?
Did the scheduling of everything, from registration, to the start, to the finish, work for you?
Was the food offered after the race good and reasonably priced?
Anything in particular you want to see on the website before the race?
Trail conditions? But that's just because I tend to over-think tire choice.
Would you enjoy a post-ride party that includes a live band? Are you a rider who is just going to go home regardless of the post-ride activities?
If you can party after the race, you didn't race hard enough. I prefer a mellow post race atmosphere.
Would you like to see family activities other than the kids’ race and the bouncy house?
No opinion, I'm not the target audience for family related activities or questions.
If you have done the race in prior years, was there something you liked that we may have done in previous years?
No t-shirts in my size! ARGH. The tshirt design was awesome too. My 2007 landmine tshirt is still one of my favorites. I was bummed out to see you didn't have any of this years badass design in my size. I have learned my lesson though: Buy the shirt before the race, not after.
Did online registration go smoothly?
Did your registration process go smoothly on ride day?
No, why was pre-reg the only desk with a line, shouldn't it be the opposite?
Was the race a good value?
What class/category did you race at Landmine?
Cat 1 30-39.
If you didn’t, would you ever race the marathon race? If you did, why?
I haven't, mainly because I want series points and train and race exclusively 2-hour XC races. Marathons aren't my strength or focus. However, if landmine was only a marathon, with no shorter option, I Would happily race the marathon.
Have you ever done a race longer than 40 miles?
Yup, Darkhorse 40. (does that negate my last answer?)
How many other races did you do this year?
Ummmmm. 16 i think. Around there. Tons, probably too many.
How far did you travel to race landmine?
Were you here to race, or here to ride?
I wanted that damn golden bike.
What was the driving factor that motivated you to do this race?
(just now realized I didn't answer this question in the original email. not sure why, probably just overlooked it while looking for the part where I could suggest wrong way signs.)Other comments?
Yup. You need to put up "Wrong Way" signs after intersections. Wrong turns are going to happen, it's nice to know immediately that you have made a wrong turn, instead of riding for a few minutes hoping to see an arrow, and finally realizing you are way off course. EFTA races have a simple X sign as their wrong way indicator, they are the same size as the arrows, and they can save the day. It's hard to catch every single arrow of a 25 mile course that turns as much as landmine. If you put up wrong way indicators, it makes wrong turns a non-issue. I like to race at races, this year landmine felt like half race, half orienteering; I put as much effort into staying on course(unsuccessfully) as I did into going fast. I like races where all my effort is put into going fast.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Yeah, 132. That number used to never make it into double digits. I've got 80 emails I need to get too as well since I've only been reading ones directly related to cyclocross. It's September, priorities my man, priorities.So what does this all mean for you? Well, I'm proud to announce the new squirt gun show, increased quantity, decreased quality; the recipie for blog success!
(7 minutes to type this bitch out, new record.)
(what? spellchek doesn't recognize "cyclocross?" scarecrows? that's your suggestion?)
Sunday, September 6, 2009
The week before.
I was riding at Blue Hills with Thom, Will and Greg the Leg. It was one of those rides where everyone will swear they were the slowest one there. Fast company, lots of climbing, hurting. We stopped at one point and the topic of weekend plans came up. Someone mentioned that the Norcross Scurry was on Saturday as opposed to the traditional Sunday race day. This was news to me. Since it was Thursday, two days before the race, I would typically be resting. Instead I was in the middle of an uphill hammerfest. Worst rest day ever, my race prep got off to a horrible start.
The night before.
It was going to rain, that much was certain. I took a pretty lazy approach to prepping for this race. Right before I went to bed, the sky opened up. I headed to the basement and swapped out my front tire. I have been racing on the tire we affectionately refer to as the "knobless wonder" for the last month, but this was the last tire I wanted to run if it was going to be wet. I have numerous (4) mud specific tires, and I love the traction and control I have when I run them. Problem is, they don't hold air. I raced with them once and flatted (still won though). I trained with them twice and rolled them off the rim both times. Greg the Leg had this same tire on his bike during our Blue Hills ride, and it burped air a few times, once right in front of me, while riding a straight line, on an off camber, dry trail.
I threw on a slightly more aggressive front tire, and kept the same tire I've been using for the last few dry races on the back (Kenda Karma, no link required). I knew neither of these tires would be any good in the mud, but I was confident they could get me to the finish without any failures.
Woke up. Pouring rain. Took the dog for a walk and the entire park was flooded. Baseball fields had turned into ponds overnight. Had some breakfast, hopped in the car and turned on the windshield wipers.
As I drove through the rain, my excitement started to build. As I've said before, I don't like 90 degree sunny days. I hate the beach. I like temperatures in the 60s, and rain is nice. I may hate riding on heavily eroded trails, but I like riding in mud. I love riding in the rain, but as a NEMBA, and IMBA member, I follow the Rules of the Trail, which usually means not riding trails in the rain. But since the Rules of the Trail don't apply to race courses, today was going to be a treat. The more the rain came down, the more excited I got.
Since I rested the day before, a solid warm up was going to be necessary. I planned on getting to the venue two hours early to give myself time to recon the course and get nice and loose. Problem was, the directions posted by the promoter on Bikereg.com were wrong, and I got lost. I showed up with enough time to register and check out the first mile of the course. Turns out I was going in the wrong direction and actually preview the finish, not the start. Either way, my short preride confirmed two of my suspicions, 1) I would be riding with mud in my eyes for the entire race, and 2) I did not have the right tires.
Get to the racin' already!
Tweet! And off we go. The start is fast. This confuses me. It's wet and slippery, why is everyone sprinting into the first corner? When we get to that first corner, more than a few tires are sliding instead of rolling, mine included. I figure I should let everyone who wants to sprint into slippery corners go ahead, I'll play it safe towards the back. This pattern of letting those who are actually trying go ahead of me repeats itself over and over. It's not long before I realize that mentally, I am pretty far from wanting to race. It's cold, which I love. Rain is coming down like the hammer of the gods, which I love. The trails are really fun, with lots of singletrack, which I love. I was having a ton of fun, why ruin it by trying to actually race when I don't have the correct mindset or equipment?
At this point in the mountain bike season, I have meet or exceeded all the goals I set for myself back in March. I'm satisfied with my 2009 season, I have nothing left to prove. I only have one goal left; start cyclocross season healthy and hungry. Hungry as in wanting to tear the legs off every Cat3 in New England. The problem is I have been racing a ton lately. I had a stretch of something like 8 races in 9 weeks. That will dull your racing edge, and your hunger. Combine that with the treacherous conditions, and the goal of starting cross season healthy and hungry was in serious jeopardy.
Back to the race.
I flipped the switch from "race" to "ride." I detoured through the center of every puddle I could find, why? because riding through huge puddles is fun. I stopped to take a leak three times, even though I didn't even drink half of what I had planned. I started letting people pass in bunches. First, all the Pro/Open guys, then wave after wave of Cat1 racers. I don't think I got a single "Thank you" when I pulled off the trail and put a foot down to let someone pass. Everyone was absolutely miserable. This made me that much more satisfied with my decision to ride for fun. I had the Scorpions song "Rock You Like A Hurricane" stuck in my head. Problem is, I only know 8 words (well 6 words, 2 letters) of that song. "Here I am! Rock you like a hurricane!" Over and over as the rain fell more and more. Pretty sweet actually.
On the third lap, I was convinced that Thom, with mud tires front and rear, a singlespeed on a messy course with little climbing, and a lower than normal gear; was going to take the win. I slowed down and kept one eye looking backwards, waiting for him to come up behind me. I had big plans, plans involving getting off the bike and doing my best cheerleader dance. It didn't happen, so I rode slower. Still didn't happen, at this point I figured if I hadn't been lapped yet, they must have called the race after three laps. I was wrong.
As I mentioned before, I don't usually ride off-road in the rain. This is because it promotes trail erosion. Well, I discovered that it also promotes bike erosion.
At the end of the first lap, I had no rear shifting. I put the chain on the big cog (the only one it would stay on without skipping), and relied on the front derailleur, effectively making my bike a triple speed.
At the end of the second lap, I had no rear brake. I stopped to assess the situation and couldn't see the pads through the thick layer of mud covering my bike, but did notice a bunch of metal shavings sprinkled around the area of the rear brake. "Eh, whatever," I though. I got spare pads and a spare rotor at home, I'll ride it out.
At the end of the third lap, I had no front brake. This was probably because I stopped using the rear and relied exclusively on the front. On my way through the start/finish, Jill asked me if I wanted to ride out the fourth lap, and I replied "sure, why not." I'm not going to wreck my bike for three laps just to take a DNF. At that point all the Cat2 racers had been staged, so I had to weave through all of them before I could start my final lap.
It should go without saying, but after a few hours of racing in a downpour, the trails are going to turn to mud. By the forth lap, the course was a mess. Most of it was fresh cut to begin with, so it was soft and loamy, which doesn't mix well with water. It probably took me an hour to finish the final lap on my brake-less, triple speed bike. I had the luxury of Cat2 riders coming up behind me, so I could pace off of them. Problem was when we got to one of the growing numbers of unrideable sections, they would take off running and I would walk leisurely, then wait for another Cat2 to ride with.
After about three hours of riding, while not eating or drinking nearly enough, I started to feel a bonk coming on. I started crashing a little more often, bars were traveled over, knees were bloodied. At one point I sat down on a large rock, had a gel, finished my bottle, collected myself, then got back on the bike and finished strong.
3:33:50. Longest race ever! Over an hour off the podium. No line at the bike wash though.