Monday, September 9, 2013

Design Physics Conquers the Hill

Husband and wife duo Tom and Sonya Richeson represented Design Physics p/b Endorphin Fitness this past Saturday at the “Conquer the Hill” race at Miller School ofAlbemarle.  I was curious about the course, as this was the first year the school had put on a race on the trails that the school had made themselves.  The school is in a beautiful area in Charlottesville VA. 
Before the race I had checked the preregistered women in my Cat 2 field.  I didn’t know about the others, but one woman I had raced against for the first time two weeks prior at the Battle of Burke Farm.  She had beaten me in a 16 mile race by 12 minutes.  Hmmm…wasn’t looking too good.  Plus, she was literally half my age, I could have been her mother.

The start line was interesting, this was the first time Tom and I had ever been at a start line together- they had combined the cat 2 women, single speed, and men’s 50 plus category for the start.  I told him I would let him get in front of me before the woods, hah hah.  I was thinking, what if my handlebar hooked his during the start and I caused him to go down, that would not be a good situation!  But the start went well.  Really well.  There was a long gradual downhill in grass to the “hole-shot” into the woods, Tom was first into the hole-shot, and I was the fourth person into the hole-shot and the first woman.  As we started on the single track, I could hear a girl right behind me and I knew it was “fast girl” (who I now know as Sarah Twiford).  After a mile or so the trail opened up and a long climb started, and as expected she passed me like I was standing still, so I was now fifth overall, but further in the climb I was able to pass the large single-speeder guy that I had “drafted” on from the start line to get into the woods quickly, so was back in 4th position overall.

I know most of my team seems to be doing those mega endurance 100 mile races lately, but if you ever get a chance to race here in the future I strongly suggest you guys try it- the trails were incredible- mostly super tight single track, lots of corners, rollers, banks, off-camber trails, and some small pump-track areas…it just flowed smooth as butter, so nice, so fast…and some good climbing.  If you like fast cornering you will love this track.  There is a video of the course here at 4X speed. 
Towards the end of the first lap I saw “fast girl” on the side of the trail, fixing a flat.  The emotional part of my brain felt bad that she had a flat, and bad that I might do well because of that, but the logical part of my brain was doing the math- so if she had beat me in a 16 mile race by 12 minutes, and this was a 12 mile race, if all else were equal she would beat me in this race by 9 minutes…could she fix a flat in 9 minutes?  I still had to boogie, I couldn’t take any chances.

By the end of the third lap, no on had passed me male or female, I had won the cat 2 women’s race!  Then at the finish I found out Tom had won his race too.  “Fast girl” was able to fix her flat and still place third, so that was good too.  Perfect weather, perfect trail conditions, sweet trail and great family results, we couldn’t ask for a better day.


Here are some links to pictures from during the race:

Sonya just warming up, hence the smile. 
Tom cornering, very focused.
Sonya going over a log, note the tense face (I hold my breath going over obstacles!), compared to a picture of Tom nice and relaxed going over the same log.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

SM 100: One of Those Days

Have you ever had one of those days? Not the bad kind that you may be thinking of, but the really good kind that doesn’t come along very often. This is the first 100 miler that I ever had “one of those days”. Everything fell right into place, my nutrition was spot on and my spirits remained high throughout. On many training rides with team member Joe Fish, he often talks about how good he feels deep into these races, I can say I have never experienced this until this past weekend at the Shenandoah Mountain 100.

 The course had a re-route within the first 10 miles or so where a fire road climb was replaced by a singletrack climb (Festival Trail) that dropped onto a nice bit of ridge (Narrowback) followed by an awesome new downhill (Tillman West). There was much discussion leading up to the event exactly how the course would go, but I got some inside information prior to several pre-rides that these would be the trails used. Luckily, this intel was spot on and certainly made me feel more comfortable during the race. The pace was high during the undulating fire road that is the start of the course; no doubt this was in part due to the bottleneck that was sure to develop on this new singletrack climb. This new section is so awesome that is was worth the extra mileage and time it adds to the course, thanks to SVBC for making this possible.

 The pace seemed to let up once the group reached Tillman, we all settled into a pace line knowing Lynn was quickly approaching. I was in a group containing many of the usual suspects, many times I have pace lined with this group including Gordon Wadsworth and Eric Schofield. We kept a decent pace till hitting the base of Lynn; this is where things really started to split up. The wet rocks/roots made this climb a bit more difficult than normal. I walked more during the race then I have in any training ride this year. After descending Wolf, we all once again looked for a pace line for the long road section that lay ahead. The pace line was much thinner this time, but I was still able to catch a group which enabled a good pace into Aid #2.

 I pulled out of Aid #2 solo, which would become the theme for much of the rest of the day. Hanky came and went, Joe caught me near the top and we descended Dowells together. That is such an awesome downhill and I was really starting to feel good. Joe was having some gear issues so stopped at Aid 3 for a quick adjustment, so I soldiered on to 250 solo. I was able to hook up with another rider and we pace lined through a rain storm to the base of Road Hollow. Luckily the rain subsided by the time we hit the climb. My goal up Road Hollow was to stay on the bike as much as possible which proved to be difficult with the wet roots and rocks that line the singletrack. Once we hit the Braley descent I bombed past the other rider I had been following and was into Aid 4 before I knew it.

At this point, I was feeling great, even grinning from ear to ear as I set off to tackle the Death Climb. My spirits were the highest they had been, made even better by the awesome volunteers. I’m unsure how Chris Scott does it, but whatever he is doing to lure these volunteers year after year is an incredible feat. They really do make the race for all participants!! I was off to tackle the Death Climb.

The Death Climb came and went; this is a part of the race that I think everyone tries to forget. Coming down Chestnut is always an adventure. Luckily the rain from earlier didn’t dampen the trails too much and left the trail tacky and fast. Nearing the end of the descent, I lost focus and went down at a high rate of speed. A quick survey of me and my bike and I determined that all was well and continued on. When I made it to Aid 6, the volunteers (who were once again awesome!) told me I was in the top 15. I was shocked, I felt great but I had never been close to this position this late in a NUE race. This boost gave me the energy needed to crush the remaining climb. I finished in 15th place with a time of 8:14, besting my last SM 100 time by 45 minutes despite the longer course. I have worked closely with Michael Harlow from Endorphin Fitness all year and we have tracked my fitness gains, but I had never even imagined this kind of performance was possible. This is the first year that I have strictly followed a training plan, as you can see it paid off for me.

Once again, Design Physics had an awesome team presence at the SM. Despite the longer course, many team members rocked out solid times and several PRs.

David Reid: 8:14
Joe Fish: 8:28
Frank Yeager: 9:22
Jim Fisher 10:03
Jeff Plassman: 10:06
Tom Haines: 10:19
Dennis Throckmorton: 11:09
Paul Leeger 11:57
Dave Hardisky: 12:49

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Return to PA and Looking for Redemption

I had a bad race at the Wilderness 101 last year due to illness. I woke up not feeling well and never really got over it. I was looking for some redemption on my return trip this season.

Joe and I rode up to Coburn and arrived in plenty of time for a nice pre-ride to spin the tight legs and generally stretch out. Arriving early also meant we had our choice of camping spots. Having a hammock this is always a concern since there are only but so many trees available. We luckily ended up in the same exact spot as last year with a good view of the entire park, not too far away from the port-o-potties in case you had to go in the middle of the night, but far enough away to avoid the stench. The night was uneventful with an early bedtime as usual. The park was fairly quiet which is always nice. 

Before long, Chris was ringing the gong signifying it was time to wake up. The normal routine of trying to get down as much breakfast as possible and checking to make sure everything on your bike is perfect was underway. Soon, we were toeing the line and waiting for the rolling start. I couldn’t help but appreciate the calm of this start, exactly the opposite of the XC races that have composed most of my schedule so far this season.

The first climb is always a big sort out and this year was no different. The climb is on some nice, wide fire roads and lasts about 20 minutes. I got dropped from the lead group but was able to catch back on with the help of the small chase group on the fast decent that followed. The first 50 miles of this course is mainly gravel with some climbs, mostly on the shorter side. I got into a good group and we seemed to be making quick work of the fire roads. I found myself feeling great after the first 50 miles as the course suited me with mainly big ring climbing.

The second 50 is where the race really starts. I dropped at mile 40 last year so the rest of the course was all new to me. I completed much of the final 50 miles solo which made it just a touch more difficult. The tough climb out of Aid 3 was just too much and the small group I had been riding with split up. The second half of the course contained the vast majority of the singletrack. The rocks of PA start to show their teeth a bit with the accumulation of singletrack descents really starting to hurt. The rocky singletrack featured in this race is really nice, State College is lucky to have such awesome trails. I was glad to be rolling on my Industry Nine wheels, the 96 points of engagement really help to get through technical rock gardens. The final descent, known as Panther Run, at around mile 95 is brutal. My Scott Spark performed very well through these rocky descents by my hands were still killing me by this point in the race and it was hard to squeeze the brakes. After this descent comes the “Fisherman’s Path”, which is really more of a hiking path through a small boulder field. I was ready to get back on the bike and really push it to the finish after this hike-a-bike. 

Overall I’m pretty happy with my results. After a disappointment last weekend, I’m glad to have finally pulled it together. With the focus of my season thus far being on shorter, XC races, I wasn’t sure how my body would react to an effort lasting 8+ hours. A huge thanks to Michael Harlow and Endorphin Fitness for providing the plan that helped me during this race. I’m very glad I went back to seek some redemption on this course. 

It was a good time with great friends Joe, Jeff, and Tom. The entire team finished within the top 50, pretty impressive considering this was Tom’s first 100 miler. Joe had some mechanical issues but still managed to finish 16th, I was 23rd, and Jeff posted a huge improvement over last year with his 24th place finish. Tom just made the top 50 with a 48th place. Great job guys, now keep it up as the SM is only a few short weeks away.

Link to a cool video from DirtwireTV:

Photos courtesy of Bob Popovich and Jeff Plassman. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

2013 National Championship at Bear Creek Resort

The thought of going to The National Championship was thrown around in the late fall of last year during the CX National Championship.  It sounded like a cool idea, and maybe I could qualify and participate which sounded like an even better idea.  Problem was that I hadn’t completed a Cat 1 race since upgrading a few years ago, so there was work to do for sure.  Either way, this race (along with several qualifiers) made it to my race calendar for this season.  I was even able to coax Joe in to believing this was a good idea.
Over the last several months I have heard how technically difficult the course at Bear Creek was.  In fact, I bought my Scott Spark, my first full suspension mountain bike, with this race in mind.  The insane number of engadgement points of the Industry Nine wheels helped quite a bit as well.  I had planned to make a trip to pre-ride the course, it never worked out.  Joe and I got to the resort on Friday early enough to make a loop before dinner.  All the reports were correct, this course was very difficult.  Rock gardens connected by short climbs left few areas to recover.   The resort had all the amenities and turned out to be a perfect place to stay.   Bear Creek would be an awesome place to come and trail ride on, still uncertain how great the trails are to race on.

On race morning, Joe decided he wasn’t feeling it and would be sitting this one out.  Can’t say I didn’t envy his decision a bit as I knew the tough task that lay ahead.  The race started like all other XC races, fast.   My field was deep with 43 racers, far more then I’m used to.  With the top 15 getting called up to the line, the rest of us were left to fight for the back of the line.  This meant some hard efforts to pass the slower riders up the first climb so we were not hindered too much on the descents that lay ahead.  My goal was to take it easy on the first lap hoping I would be able to make it up on the final lap when the traffic on the trail would be less.  I found myself not able to hang with the faster riders on the last mile or so of the laps which contained the most technical rocks.  I would gain several places at the beginning of the lap that contained climbs and dryer rock gardens only to be passed right back on these technical rock features.  Something I need to work on for sure. 
The race did not go as planned for me.  I could feel myself getting weaker at the end of the second lap.  I feel I missed my nutrition as I needed more water and something to eat as I entered the third and final lap.  I paused at the top of the climb on the last lap to grab some extra water from the aid station, but it was too late.  I have never cramped during a race as I’m always particular about my nutrition.  I pulled off the trail nearing the end of my final lap for a minute to stretch as I got some cramps in my hamstring.  After some easy spinning, the cramps subsided and I was back to riding.  I went down near the end of the final lap pretty hard just to add further insult from the trail.  I was concerned I had broken my collar bone or shoulder after the fall; turned out to be just some scrapes and bruises luckily.  I was completely spent at the end of the race.  Dehydration set in and I was having trouble seeing straight.  Hardest XC race I have ever had, no doubt about it.

Even with a bad race, the experience of Nationals was worth the trip.  After the Cat 1 races, we had time to eat lunch and climb back into the woods to watch the pro women and men’s races.  The crowds were electrifying! 

Huge thanks to Eric Schofield (who rocked a 3rd in his field!).  He helped both Joe and I with accommodations.  Also hope that Levi Thornton (from Fredricksburg) heals quickly.  I watched him crash right into a tree during the beginning of the first lap.  I stopped with him after seeing this till emergency personnel came, but it certainly changed my race into a less aggressive effort.

Monday, June 10, 2013

25th Annual Massanutten Hoo Ha

What a historic race celebrating its 25th year of existence.  I have wanted to do this race for a couple years now and it just never worked out.  Finally, this season the XXC fit right into my training plan.  I have never ridden any of these trails so was curious about what was in store for me.
The morning started early with a 4:15am alarm.  Before long I was out of the house and on the road to meet Donna Miller to carpool from Richmond to Massanutten for the race start.  With the forecasted rain on Saturday night, I was glad we had opted not to camp the night before.  We arrived in plenty of time so everything worked out well.  We got registered and found a small group to warm up with and check out some of the trails and see what this week’s rains had done to the course.  They were damp, with some mud on the fire roads.  Unfortunately, I noticed some major tension in my headset, not a good sign of things to come!  I raced back to the car to try and alleviate the tension before the race start, but had no luck.
Before long we were all lined up and the race was off.  The lead group quickly settled and I found myself in the lead group of 10 or so.  I felt good through the opening fire road sections but realized my headset would be a big issue.  I was swerving from side to side as I fought to keep the bike straight.  Not good with all the rocky climbs and descents I knew laid ahead of me.  After the first 30 minutes or so, I think we really started to get into the meat of the course.  Stupid steep climbs would be the norm for the day.  I was disappointed to find so many hike a bike sections.  I know I’m not the strongest person out there and I’m sure others could climb some sections I was forced to walk, but having an XXC course where dismounting and walking is the norm just isn’t very fun for anybody. 
The rock gardens did not disappoint.  They were plentiful to say the least and the rain had left many of these rocks a bit slick.  It was extremely challenging for me when combined with the tension of my front end (which only got worse during the race).  I was really fighting my bike now and often found myself walking rock gardens which I would have normally blown through, very frustrating feeling to say the least.   I wrecked a few times and went over the bars on the ridge line, far from my normal riding style.  One bright point was the Schwalbe Racing Ralphs.  These tires rocked in the poor conditions we faced!  I’m glad I decided to switch to these tires this week.
After we finished the GW loop and returned to the park and at about three hours into the race for me, we joined back into the XC course.  The conditions were far tamer here, but I decided it just wasn’t safe for me to continue.  While reflecting a day later, I’m glad I made this decision.  Your bike really has to be working 100% correctly in order to complete one of these events, and I felt mine was dangerous with the lacking control in the front end.  So for me the race was really just a good workout with some nice climbs plus some good technical riding which are often times hard to find.  All in all, a decent training day out in the mountains but I can say I have no interest in returning to this race after the stupid long hike a bike sections.
Teamates Tom Haines and Todd Green both hung on to finish the course.  Congrats guys, you both rock!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mohican 100 Mile MTB Race in Loudonville Ohio – June 1, 2013

I’ll spare you all the details, but it would suffice to say that Jeff and I both faced some big obstacles before we even mounted our bikes for this race!  I had to deal with inexperience riding wet trails, and some nagging knee issues that would hound me all day.  Jeff had to deal with lack of sleep caused by a rough night with a migraine and stomach issues.  Come game time though, we had a lot to be happy for – the glory of a meal appropriate to precede such an endeavor, suddenly improved weather, and a well-marked and well-supported ride through cavernous forests and beautiful rolling farm land!  So, we both sucked it up, and hit the paved start with hundreds of other stupids riding either a 100-mile or 100-kilometer race depending on their preference.  Folks in both races, and of all levels of competence, went off with no particular structure – which was very chaotic!  Avoiding the numerous crashes in the first mile was yet another thing I could consider going well for me that morning.

The field spread out pretty quickly on a steep road climb before the course eventually delivered us to the 25 miles of trail riding that would come next.  My position was good heading into the trails, but I was riding very tentatively on the wet singletrack.  Content with keeping myself from, “eating crap,” I gave up a lot of position over these 25 miles.  Jeff passed me at about mile 7 and would never be seen again.  At the end of the 25 miles, the trail alternated for a while between soupy horse trail and muddy hiking trail before turning us out onto the remainder of the course – about 70 miles of a mix of scenic road, gravel, doubletrack and singletrack.  At this point, I was pretty tense from a lot of cautious riding, and a little disgruntled by a number of sections that were not ride-able or generally ridiculous to be routed through.  My knee was really irritating me, I was on track to take 11+ hours (way too long) to finish, and I started seriously considering either quitting or taking the fork around mile 45 where the 100-kilometer race separates from the 100-mile race.

Once I was out of the first trail section, my pace and overall vibe rapidly improved, and I found myself re-gaining position as quickly as I lost it in the first quarter of the race.  I figured then that I probably wouldn’t quit altogether, but I still considered sparing my knee anything more than 100 kilometers of riding.

About mile 45, I approached the fork that separated the two races.  In a couple seconds of thought, I found it just as easy to opt for 100 miles as it would have been to opt for 100 kilometers.  I am really happy I made that choice since the rest of the course wasn’t terribly taxing at all.  I continued to improve my pace, and was motivated by the scenery, the weather, and the prospect of a sub-9-hour finish.  The course sent me over at least one narrow suspension bridge, a covered road bridge complete with horse-drawn buggy inside, and past numerous spectators and farm folk doing their thing – including one teenage Amish girl operating a gas powered weed whacker!

The last five miles navigated backward through some of the first singletrack in the course.  Conditions at this point were ideal, but I was too smoked to bomb through.  Although I slowed down at that point, I still finished 26th with a time under 9 hours.  I was delighted to see that Jeff also chose to persist through the race, and had finished about 15 minutes before me with a 20th place position!  In 16 100-milers, this was Jeff’s fastest.  We spent a while enjoying the post-race festivities before filling our growlers and heading back to our hotel in great spirits.

The next day, we woke up stiff and sore, and drove home in spotty weather.  Fortunately, rain had not hit the area around Douthat State Park in Virginia – which allowed us to take our creaky bikes for a not-too-hard and not-too-easy spin up and down some great trails in that park.  Bonus for me, since I had never rode there and had a blast rocking down some fast descents to make up for holding back so much the day before!  As we got back on the road, we felt refreshed by our ride.  Rain soon resumed, and we reflected on how much we ultimately lucked out over this weekend.

Great times!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Design Physics Dons Road Wheels and Takes Wintergreen!

Four teammates from Design Physics did the Wintergreen Hill Climb State Championships May 4th; myself (racing for River City Women’s Racing for road), Tom Richeson (racing for Virginia Beach Velo for road), Frank Yeager, and Joe Fish.  All four placed in the state!!

I don’t know why they call it the Hill Climb State Championships, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind who has ridden it that climbing Wintergreen is climbing a mountain.  It’s rated a cat 1 climb, 6.7 miles, with parts of the climb a 14% leg-burning gradient (some argue more).

Tom Richeson:  2nd 45-54, 38:36.884; Silver medal
Frank Yeager:  2nd cat 4, 38:42.216; Silver medal
Joe Fish:  1st cat 5, 38:09.685; (technically they don’t give out medals for men’s cat 5, however he is still a champion!)
Sonya Richeson:  2nd cat 3, 54:18.146; Silver medal

Our team manager Jason was also there, supporting his daughter Mason Hopkins who was racing for Tradewinds Racing, she also got a medal; gold, 1st junior age 10-14.

 (Notice that Joe is smiling, I think that means he didn't work hard enough.)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

2013 Cohutta 100 - addendum to Jeff's post

I'll skip a full-on blog post, but will add a few notable items to Jeff's summary:
  • Lack of smiles in Jeff's photos make more sense in light of the following quote uttered about the time those photos were taken: "I want to ride fast so this will be over as soon as possible."  I don't remember which of us said that, but I'm pretty sure we were both on exactly the same page.
  • Until about mile 35, I was thinking, "I feel great and everything is going awesome!  I may make a sweet time on this!"  At about that time, I noticed my fork was flat and my thinking turned into, "I wonder if it's safe to finish on this fork."  I ended up riding through with an extra degree of caution on a rigid (and short) fork.  You might think this would bother me - but only a few guys go to these races with realistic aspirations of crazy fast times.  The healthy outlook for everyone else is, "I'll get through this the best/fastest I can given whatever crazy crap that luck (will) throw at me."  Finishing is a demonstration of character in which you happen to be riding a bicycle.  And so I am settled with how this worked out.
  • There were exactly 180 pre-registered for open men, and exactly 90 finish times recorded for this field.  No idea how the other 90 break out between DNS and DNF.   I finished 28th in 10:14.
  • I thought it was great to get a sweet pre-ride the day before where Jeff and I saw the best single track on the course in fantastic sunny weather.  The views were very different on race day, but as Jeff mentioned, beautiful nonetheless.
  • One of the things I love about riding a lot is eating huge amounts of great food.  The places we ate in Asheville, NC and in Blue Ridge, GA definitely did not disappoint!
  • When I got home, I got unpacked and cleaned up everything except the rock I took off my roof.  I am pretty sure there is a fossilized bike inside.  I am not looking forward to chipping it out and assessing damage!
  • I can't wait for Mohican in June!

2013 Cohutta 100

Frank and I ate breakfast and downed coffee as we looked out the window at pouring rain about 5:30am on race day. I sure was glad to be in a hotel and not camping.

There was an impressive display of innovation as Frank birthed himself through the bottom of a trash bag that would serve as his rain vest under his jersey. I noticed his keen use of the drawstrings as a waist belt for the improvised rain vest.

The rain poured steadily as we loaded the bikes up and seemed to wash away any hope that the day would be better than forecasted.

We got geared up and ready to roll with all the other racers that decided to toe the line despite the grim conditions. Sure, it was 50 and light rain, but up on those mountain gravel roads, the temps would be closer to 40 with rain and wind chill. We checked our preparaions twice. Rain vest, extra gloves, shoe covers (essential), bottles, food to last till aid 1 or 2, ….etc.

A quick warm up through the parking lot and I saw a few of the faces I usually see. I said hey to Kevin Carter and then ran into Garth Prosser. I did not see the other 10 to 15 folks I usually see. Lots of folks not here, or lost to me in the pre-race buzz.

Soon we were off to a surprisingly civil start. It was about to become a long 10 hour plus race in on/off rain. I stayed close to the front of the group that split off from the pro peleton up the 1st major road climb. We entered the single track and kept a good pace through the rain soaked trails.

Frank had taken off with the main group and I chased with the second group. I managed to catch Frank in the last few sections of the single track in the beginning of the race and we rode together on for a while. It’s always nice to be rolling through a hundred with a team mate.

From there on we assaulted a seemingly unending series of gravel climbs that took us to the lollipop section of the out and back course. The mountain scenery was quite nice at elevation. Many great views of the north Georgia mountains painted in green mixed with neon green highlights from new spring leaves nestled in cotton balls of fog and cloud.

Frank was out ahead of me as I plunged into this section that I dubbed “green hell” last year. Nothing like dropping thousands of feet to ride a trail so muddy my glasses became useless, only to have to claw my way back up in one hellacious climb. And so it was done.

Re-tracing the extensive fire road back towards the finish gave me ample time to reflect on how cold it was up on a mountain in the cold rain. It had been a little while since I could feel my thumbs. Soon, a long double track descent yielded to a trail that was extremely muddy, like a river of peanut butter and poo. Joy… Very exhausting to ride through.  Luckily a deep stream crossing at the end washed my wheels and drivetrain clean. That was great!

I downed cliff shots like jello shooters at the next aid and started the return trip. Soon I was glad to be riding mostly down back towards the finish. The only drawback was the cold draining my body heat. Then I got some pretty bad cramps in my belly… slowed me down a bit as I rolled the final sections of gravel.

I was completely spent when I reached the last six miles of water logged single track and nursed it home for a time of 10:54 ( about 43 mins slower than last year). The pro’s finished in 8:00 hours (~60 mins slower than last year).

I was glad to have finished a tough race in tough conditions, and also glad it was not raining worse than it had. Wow, what a tough way to kick off my 2013 NUE season.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Stagg Creek Shakedown

This was my first race at Poor Farm in a long time.  I've always had a love hate relationship with these trails.  This years course seems to have been designed with purely evil intentions based on the multitude of super steep, loose, and rooty climbs. 

I was racing the Cat 2 Open race which originally had a start time of noon, but was changed to 9 am the day before the race.  At this point I wasn't sure if I would be able to make it since I had to rearrange my family plans for the day.  I had planned on going out to pre-ride the course, but there were too many kids birthday parties in the way and I ran out of time.  With my participation in question I abandoned my usual pre-race dinner routine and ate too much Mexican food washed down by some good IPAs.

Later that evening I was able to get the family situation straightened out thanks to the help of my wife, some friends, and my in-laws.  With the race now on in the morning I focused on trying to get to bed early since I rarely get enough sleep.

I made it out of the house around 8 and arrived at Poor Farm Park about 20 minutes later.  Once I got there I found out that the race start had been moved back to 10am.  I was a little annoyed since I could have gotten a bit more sleep and probably would have eaten a more substantial breakfast.  I was surprised though to get the #1 number plate.  I'm not sure if I got it due to alphabetical order or my current 1st place series ranking that was attained due to consistant mediocrity and to well timed absences by some stronger racers.  Either way I figured that if I'm going to rock the #1 plate I better try to ride like I should have it.

Since I now had over an hour to kill before the race start I decided I would pre-ride a lap and see what the course was all about.  The trails started fast and flowy, but soon became a continuous up and down roller coaster with sharp turns that made you slow down to a crawl and then accelerate hard to get back up to speed over and over again.  Near the end you did get rewarded by a fast flowing section again.  Since climbing in not really in my skill set I was a bit worried, but determined to ride hard and try to make a break in the flats before getting to the climbs.

I got to the starting line and didn't recognize anyone that was starting with me.  All of the usual suspects were missing.  Could this be an opportunity to grab my elusive first race win?  I was prepared to blast off the line and get the hole shot using David Reids advice of "If you want it you gotta go for it".  When the starter said go I powered down on my pedal and my bike answered with an awful metallic crunch.  I looked down with panic to see my chain completely twisted and jammed on the outside of my big ring as the rest of the field went sprinting away.  I've had puzzling chain dropping issues all year, but on the first pedal stroke, really?  I quickly tried to yank my chain out, but it really looked like it was done.  Someone ran over and reminded me to stay relaxed and helped me get it unstuck and I finally got to start my race about a minute after everyone else.  I immediately noticed that something was wrong because my chain skipped every time it came through the derailleur.  I decided to ignore it the best I could and focus on chasing down the others.  As soon as I hit the first rooty section in the woods my chain dropped again, but I was able to ride it back up onto the ring without stopping.  I decided that I had to stick with the little ring only. Some quote about winning races in the corners popped into my head so I charged through the flats really pushing the corners to the highest of my abilities.  Pretty soon another racer appeared in front of me.  I pushed hard up a shallow gravel climb and got past him at the top.  I kept up my pace and soon came across another racer in the distance.  I chased him down and soon came upon the first steep climb.  It came right after a fast downhill toward the stream and went right back up after a 180 degree turn.  I had identified this climb as a hike-a-bike during my pre-ride so I dismounted at the bottom and ran up.  At the top I found another racer who was already gassed and let me go past.  At this point I reminded myself that there was still plenty of time and told myself to stay calm and steady.  I kept up a steady pace and once again saw another racer through the woods which motivated me to keep pushing harder.  Every time I found another one I put an imaginary target on their back and attacked.  About 3/4 through the first lap I came up on a racer at the top of a climb.  I rode his wheel a bit and sprinted past him on a short straight away.  As I went by I asked him if he knew how many were in front of him.  He said, " no one"!  Had I really caught everyone?  I wasn't sure if it was correct or not.  I wasn't sure exactly how many were at the start.  I assumed there were more and put the hammer down during the final flat section to put some distance between me and the last racer I passed.  When I crossed the start finish line at the end of the first lap I looked back and saw him just leaving the woods.

                                                                    (End of 1st Lap)

  I had a good gap and sprinted the best I could with my skipping chain to try and put more time in between us.  When I came across the guys that were directing the beginners to the other trail section I asked them how many were in front of me.  They replied, "No one" and I had to ask them if they were serious.  I've never been in this position this late in a race and I didn't want to let it go.  I kept picturing my chain breaking on me shortly before my first win or someone coming back to catch me since I'm famous for fading hard at the end.  I adjusted my race plan to ride any flats really hard and to "recover" on the climbs by spinning up them in my easiest gear.  As I started to get tired I began overbraking the turns and really got worried that I would get caught.  Near the end of the lap I saw some riders in the woods somewhere behind me.  I couldn't tell who it was (turned out to be some racers warming up for the noon start time) and picked up the pace even though I was pretty spent.  I momentarily lost my concentration and clipped a tree with my handle bar and did a superman over the top that ended in a good slide on my forearm and hip.  A little dazed I jumped back up and gave all I had left for the final mile or so to avoid the chasers that I thought were lurking right behind me.

I ended up having almost a 4 minute gap over 2nd place.  I know that I wouldn't have won if some of the other racers from my group had been there, but I'll take it.  The gift card will pay for a new chain.  :)  I'm happy to get my first win and will now train harder to make sure I do it again soon! 

                                                                    (Finish Line)

The rest of the team also had a good showing.  Our team should continue to lead the VAMTBS series!

David Reid  - 1st Cat 1 35+
Erik Bleecher - 1st Cat 2 Open
Tom Richeson - 2nd Masters
Sonya Richeson - 3rd - Women Cat 2