Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Darkhorse 40 Race Report

A passing suggestion at Great Glen morphed into an idea that was executed. I'd never heard of the Darkhorse 40, but I decided last minute to change my Windham plans and roll on down to the Newburgh, NY area for some endurance racing. Getting to stay at my parents house in New Jersey was a definite plus, and highly influenced my decision. No lodging fees, plenty of food, and a guaranteed good nights sleep were also key to success.

The race format for the DH40 seemed pretty awesome, too, with a chance of winning some serious prize money. The organizer promised fully stocked feed stations plus BBQ.

Out of the ten-mile loop, ninety something percent of the trails were promised to be single-track. This was very true.

Almost four-hundred riders were herded into the start area, where a man with a megaphone issued instructions heard by maybe half the racers. Boston area rider Colin R and I both lined up in the Expert 16-29 group, which started with several other groups. We went out fast, I held on for a bit, but settled in and had a few riders go ahead. I started overtaking some of the singlespeed riders who had started ahead of us, and there was definitely some traffic on the trail (to be expected). I felt squirrely as hell, and ended up taking a few pounds out of my tires near the end of the first lap.

The second lap was mostly clean until I had an epic crash, one of those clip-your-pinky-on-tree-whilst-turning-cum-jacknife situations, and fell on my shoulder. I recovered, but was a bit shook up. I also stopped twice to fix my ever sliding seatpost, something that might lead to knee pain over the course of a 40 mile mountain bike race.

During the last two laps I had settled in, I wasn't feeling anaerobic, but I was passing tons of people on the course. I took some additional water on laps three and four from the on course feed station; it was fucking hot and the sun was unrelenting.

Lap four I got stuck behind a few lower category riders on a decent, and under braking pegged my rear wheel on one of the bridges. FLAT. Totally lame. It was fine, I fixed in in 5 minutes, was back out on the trail.

I sprinted to the line, and ended up with a 4th place finish. I managed to finish a hair under four hours, with 3:58 and change, not bad considering all of my on-course fuck-ups.

The race itself was amazing. Such a fun course. Allegedly it was more technical than last years 20 mile loops. The short climbs and technical descents, plus twisty turny stuff, made for a very challenging experience.

Everything went well except for the results. Considering that I finished at around 1pm, and riders began to get pulled around 2:30pm, I think it is reasonable to be a bit upset that results were not posted until 5:15pm or so. I figured an event 7 years running that was pre-registration only would have been a bit more together in this department. Getting home at 10:30pm was a bit much. I probably should have left earlier, but after an hour or so you almost don't want to waste that valuable time you spent waiting. Oh well. Most of the racers were drunk and didn't seem to care for the results anyways (aside from the expert racers, who had a serious chance at some cash monies). Fourth didn't net anything anyways, so I probably should have left, but I hate those what-if's, you know?

Anyways, overall it was worthwhile, if not for this picture alone.

Friday, August 7, 2009

on the eve of great glen



ive got 10 pairs of socks, 7 sets of bib shorts, lights, a mostly functioning bike, some excellent teammates and a complete lack of regard for my own safety, comfort and well being. 24 hours of great glen tomorrow. lets see what happens.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

final track omnium

i've been going up to the track as often as possible this year on tuesdays, weather permitting (which, to be fair, the weather hasn't really permitted very often). one of my goals was to do well overall in the annual omnium series. for the omnium, there's one race night a month with two events that count toward omni points. the first four places get points - 5,3,2,1 respectively. i went into the last omni with 15 points, 2 first place finishes, a second and a third. i felt pretty good, no one was terribly close to me in points and the omni events that night were match sprints and miss & out. seeing as how match sprints are my personal favorite, i was looking forward to the evening.

evening starts with the usual warm-up scratch race. at two to go, greta makes a move and i get right on her. neither of us tried particularly hard as there was a lot of racing left that evening, but i got past her and felt fine. next came the flying 200's to seed for the match sprints. ryan did great, he had one of the top qualifiers out of all the racers. i blew it and had a pretty bad start - i didn't dive at the right spot, and just didn't get up to speed quickly enough. it was ok though, katherine won the first round of 3-up match sprints between her, greta, and cait and then i went against eun young for the first round. i was able to stay behind and to the side of her, boxing her in and watching her to see if she made a move. on the final backstretch i picked up speed and stayed just ahead of her. it was a little close but i did what i wanted - i wasn't out of breath from the first round and ready to work hard in the final. greta won the repacharge, so it was going to be me, katherine, and greta. i knew that katherine is a strong rider but that she doesn't get up to speed as quickly as greta and i, so i figured she would be the one to make the first move. i also knew that if greta hung out in the back she could make a quick jump that would be hard to catch up to, so i hung a little off of katherine's wheel with greta below me. going into turn 4 with the bell ringing for the last lap, it all went sour. katherine jumped, greta was below me and got on katherine's wheel, and i had no choice but to ride the longer distance just outside of the sprint lane and try to pass them. katherine got ahead and i was gaining on greta, but she got me right over the line in what tony and dick deemed "the closest sprint we've ever seen at the NEV". due to darkness, they postponed the miss & out till the following week.

while loading up the bikes (and being eaten to death by blood-thirsty new hampshire mosquitos) i got to thinking. i worked hard on the match sprint, couldn't get past anyone, and my legs didn't hurt. i didn't feel like i was spinning, but i decided a harder gear might be in order.

so to the present: scratch race went well. again, greta broke at 2 to go, i jumped on her wheel, passed her, and tried to take it easy. felt the harder gear, but not in a hurty way, and came out ahead. miss & out went ok, i drank a little too much water and felt sloshy, which almost led me to not push when it was down to three. i tucked in, though, and stayed ahead of katherine. it came down to me and greta, a lap after katherine got pulled we had 2 to go and greta (thankfully) eased the pace a little bit. i sat on her wheel, feeling the heavier gear and still a little sloshy from the water i had drank. i didn't want to risk chasing down her move, so i made the jump coming out of turn 4 with the bell ringing. i opened up a good gap out of turn 2, and realized that i had eased up and she was gaining on me on the backstretch. i held in, finished about a bike length ahead, and promptly contemplated regurigating all of the water i had drank on the infield of the track.

i felt better the rest of the night: we did keirin races, and i got right on the motorcycle. with one lap to go and the motorcycle pulled off, i took a quick look back to see where everyone was. annnd saw no one. i sat up, confused, as i came across the start. tony was yelling, "DO IT PROUD ANYWAY, LAUREN! DO IT PROUD!" so i stood up and sprinted hard for the last lap. then i jumped in the men's c keirin, using ryan's bike (i had lent him mine b/c we significantly increased his gearing, and it was a little rough for the keirin race). i held second wheel, stayed in for 4 laps and pulled off going into the last two because i wasn't feeling comfortable on ryan's set-up. like a jerk, i left a gap for ryan to make up but he gapped it and came by to get first place. they did another women's keirin, and again got first wheel on the motorpace. the other women stayed on the wheel better, with katherine trying to come around eun young to chase me down. i kept up the pace and finished half a wheel ahead.

i finished out the night with a handicap race for c's and women, getting fifth in that. i felt like i was getting punched repeatedly in the side, so called it quits after that. after, of course, pillaging a kid's bmx bike and taking a go on the new (AWESOME) race track they've been building, and taking finch for a run.

i felt better than i had in a while. the higher gear made me feel like i was working hard but getting the speed i wanted, which i liked. ryan ended up first place for the cat d omnium, and will now be racing in the C's. i got first for the intermediate women's omni, and am aiming to race B's/advanced women next year.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

hodges village dam/ mass state championships

after pats peak and harding hill i needed a bit of a break. i took about a week off (well, not really - i still went on a few mellow rides...) and just tried to recover. back on the bike, i felt like i was pedaling through peanut butter - i was unceremoniously dropped on climbs i can generally hold my own on, and more tired than usual even though i was sleeping more than 5 hours a night. i was a bit scared of overtraining - of pushing myself to where i would need weeks, not days, to recover. i had thought about not doing this race because i was concerned about a dismal showing (if my legs felt anything like they did on our road ride the other day, i am fairly certain i would have just lifted up the course tape, scurried to the car and blown a hole in the dam to erase any evidence of my failure) and a convenient scheduling conflict would have allowed me to back out without any loss of face. unfortunately, greg preempted any possible act of cowardice and graciously offered to work for me. so it was off to the races.

i got there at around noon (thank shiny baby jesus for an afternoon start time) after eating breakfast at around ten. this will be important later. i ran into mr. michael mckittrik, stalwart of the cambridge team, and we went on a bit of a warmup/ course recon/ great sweet crap what the hell is a "floating bridge" ride. fun was had, other riders minimally inconvenienced, and we were back to the line in time to start.

the first part of the course...
was pretty rocky. not lynn woods yardsale rocky, but enough to make line choice and line of sight important. which made the fact that i got run off the trail by some guy that inexplicably thought the race course went somehow THROUGH the course tape on the left instead of straight ahead up the climb with all the arrows on it all the more frustrating. (i dont really blame the guy - we were all in wheel to wheel elbow heaven at that point). this set me back a bit, and forced me into the technical section behind a few riders - making line of sight difficult and allowing a substantial gap to form between me and the leader. i manage to get clear of the bunch, but the dude up front wasnt giving ground at all. it took quite an effort to bridge up to him - i found out later that he is, with good reason, the series leader - and we approach...

apparently, the race organizers had played a bit too much super mario bros as kids. im not sure how else they could have dreamed up a course like this. after a fairly typical bit of technical new england single and double track, the trail dumped you into a forced dismount/ leap across a water-filled gap to a teeter-tottering bridge covered in water. the only thing missing were cannonballs and those fish things jumping out from the water. so i channeled my inner luigi and jumped across, tried not to fall to a watery grave, and make it up the muddy remount intact. at this point leader guy (i will check for his name when the results are up) and i are trading places. the next few sections are little swoopy ups and downs - lots of fun to do this as fast as possible. things were looking up until we reach...

i am in the lead coming up to a stretch of water across the trail. i thought it was odd that there were a bunch of people taking pictures at such a random place on the course. no big deal, i drop a gear and prepare to drill it through a few inches of water. after the bridge of death, i should have known better. i began to worry when the water reached my bottom bracket, but didnt really start to panic until the lowers of my fork had disappeared. i slog through the lake of (actually pretty refreshing) despair, look behind me, and there is points leader guy back on my wheel. at this point, im beginning to wonder if we are actually going to have to fight velociraptors or find a lost stone idol before the end of this race. which brings us to...

well, that was a lie. i did have to fight like hell to pass people though. it was very annoying to push like hell to get a gap only to have to wait while an out of contention racer wont let you by. listen, dude - we started 2 minutes after you, if we come barreling down the trail, please yield. you are not going to win that bag of clif bars either way. anyway, toward the end of the first lap, i managed to put some distance into the points leader and came through the feed zone. caitlin said i was doing well.

the second lap i was on my own - i had passed the lone leader of the previous age group, and just kept up a rhythm. toward the end of the lap, i lost my bottle on one of the many (very) fast doubletrack sections. toward the end of the second lap, i started to feel weird, something i attributed to losing my bottle and not being able to take water. after the feed zone, when i was provided another bottle, it became apparent that this was not the case.

i did. like a distant, wonderful dream. tasty eggs, equal parts tasty and burnt home fries. the thing is, i did NOT remember lunch. now, a quarter of the way through the last lap, my body was beginning to remind me. not gently, like leaving a note on the bathroom mirror. not even passive aggressively, like leaving a note on a sink full of unwashed dishes. it was reminding me by branding the words "YOU WILL EAT BEFORE YOU RIDE" into my legs with each pedalstroke. i started to lose focus, bouncing off trees on turns and sliding out on roots. i could feel the field closing in - i was going to lose the race because i was a jackass and didnt have the presence of mind to stick a gu in my jersey pocket.

after several small heart attacks, i did it. i pulled through the finish literally unable to raise an arm fully over my head. i limped over to the car, and ate 3 cheeseburgers, a bottle of endurox, a builder bar, two bottles of gatorade and one can of coke. i won though, and had a pretty decent time despite my last lap. i won a saddle of possible usefulness and received a state championship medal that does not say state championship on it. mikittrick is within a few points of the overall series lead (good luck dude!), natalia won the womens race, and our own claire took third place. she also let me use a pair of gloves, as i was a dolt and brought 2 rights and no left.

please, please, please give me my upgrade.