Monday, June 7, 2010
Stage 1: TT
Matt Griswold has been very nice to loan me his time trial bike until July, since he'll be busy learning to doctor things. Someone I know helped me get set-up, and with a bit of practice I was ready to go. The course was relatively flat 8 mile out and back with a couple small kickers.
I'd give you a play-by-play, but it was pretty cut and dry. I stayed in my aero-bars the whole time, passed some people ahead of me, and got that done. After retiring to Camp David for a spell, I returned to find I got 5th with a time of 18:14. However, 1st place was in the low 17's (ie, FAST) and I knew it would be tough to make up that time.
Stage 2: Circuit Race
A lot of KOM and spring points were up for grabs, and I thought I would get some. Maybe a little too soon. I broke early on with a BH guy, who then left me out to dry 1 mile before the first KOM sprint. I ended up getting caught but still got 3rd, though I was fried by lap three when a 6 man break went up the road (hint: the points went out 6 places). The rider in the GC jersey was still in the pack, so I figured he'd be a bit interested in pulling the break back, but no such luck. The pack was super disorganized at the front, and according to break-ee Nick Mashburn, the break was the same. I spent a lot of time working at the front for nothing, while the aforementioned BH team spent a lot of time blocking for a team-mate that wasn't up the road. Oh well. I hung in for a ST finish.
The gang and I, plus Mashburn and 4th place GC and overall fast-kid-from-New-York James Ruhl went into Winsted for some pizza and beer. I think it cost 50 dollars to feed 6 of us (plus two pitchers). Good spot, considering we picked it out based on their neon signs in the window. Embrocation rolled in while we were ending our residency, though they had red wine and were probably talking about race strategy instead of dirt-bikes. Afterwards, we marveled at some of the automatic weapons in the neighboring gun shop (sawed off shot-gun on sale? Get me the paperwork!) A visit to the local grocery with the local meth-heads and we were on our way.
Stage 3: Really long road race
After a night at Camp David, this time with blankets and pillows, I felt fresh enough for another go. Oh yeah, this road race was 91 miles long, so that's pretty long. And just like on Saturday, I got worked.
After some pre-race chat with Nicholas, we both decided that it would be advantageous to get in or initiate the break. He had the sprinters jersey and we were 5th and 6th respectively in the GC. And definitely not let the GC or fast New York guy in the break. So, we worked a bit at the front, and countered some moves, and found our attempts neutralized by BH and Kisenna almost all the time. By mile 33 I was a bit disheartened and realized I had spent too much effort covering moves, and worked at sitting in. Newly minted Cat 3 Matt Casserly spent a while up at the front of the pack also, doing his work, and showed that his upgrade was well earned.
At the first feed zone, the sprinter's jersey went up the road and was never seen again. Nick was a bit bummed.
Midway through, I was definitely just hanging in, and looking to see what happened. At some point, Ruhl came across the rear end of my bike with his front wheel and broke 4 Ksyrium spokes on my quick release. Fortunately, he showed up not too long after with a neutral wheel and got in the break.
Oh yeah, that break that I said he shouldn't get in? Well, not only he but the yellow jersey made it in as well, and they disappeared ahead for a bit. And by a bit, I mean forever. They dangled off the front as the pack seemed confused, and having spent too much time at the front already, my legs couldn't really respond. BH and Kisenna blocked most efforts to bridge, though Kisenna's rider got popped near the end.
A little bit after that, we were coming down the "dangerous road surface into a metal bridge," only to be met by officials and local law enforcement yelling at us to dismount and walk across the bridge while at least one person from the Pro 1/2 race got loaded into an ambulance on a back-board. Conditions were definitely wet at this point and I was a bit relieved to not navigate that obstacle, though the scene was gruesome and I hope everyone is OK. The break was clearly gone at this point and I stayed with it until the very end to sprint for another Same Time finish.
Some were not so lucky, as many of the turns had no marshals and were easy to miss (like the final turn onto Sandybrook Rd.) Matt Casserly finished before us, somehow, leading to a DNF. A lot of people suffered the same fate, I found out.
In any case, my TT held me in for a 7th place GC overall, and at least I won back my entry fee (though it's coming via PayPal..) I'm just happy to have finished this race and to realize that I might not be doing so bad at this Cat 3 thing after all.
Hard to pass up a chance to ride my cross bike even in the summer. The Ronde, and the Gravel Grinder were both fun, but I didn't pin a number on for either of those so this is something different altogether. After reading the name of the race I couldn't pass it up.
What went right:
The weather held out. After some overnight and early showers, there was a break in the rain long enough to ride around on some fire roads for an hour.
I actually felt good on the bike. I wasn't sure how this was going to go. I haven't raced off the road since the second day of NBX in December, but I didn't totally forget how to drive my bike. Lined up in the second row and wasn't sure how it would go. I looked around and everybody seemed pretty calm, but i was totally a ball of nerves. i was really worried that I was going to do something stupid like crash and take out the whole field. Thankfully the body remembers how this racing thing goes.
Starter says "GO" and my heart rate almost immediately is pegged and I'm sitting third wheel. I stay third wheel through the first corner, and the first "selection" is made. A group of six hammers right off the front; eventual winner Eric Marro (BOB-Goodale's), Carl Ring (NHCC - Seven Cycles), Justin Ziemba (HUP), Chip baker(HUP), David King(CCB) and myself. It looks like Eric is turning over a 50t at about 78rpm, and I'm thinking that I might have bitten off more than I can chew. I'm spinning like a madman shifting through gears trying to find one that my legs like with little success.
A couple of turns in Justin and David pass on the left, and the front four start to gap me. I turn myself inside out trying to hold on, but there is no way that I can sustain the pace, and I start to drift. A quick look over my shoulder as I pass the lap point and I see no one behind. The next 2 laps are ridden by myself praying to god that I'm not falling back, and never seeing the leaders. On the fourth lap I start to lap some of the sport riders that are on mountain bikes.
Final lap and there are lots of lapped riders on the course. I move left to pass a couple of them and hear the awful dull ping of rim hitting rock, only slightly muffled by tube and tire. Crap. Cross fingers and hope it's the rear, if its the rear I'll just ride it out. Start to turn left and it's definitely the front tire. I packed a couple of co2s and tubers into my jersey thinking that I might run into this problem. I pull off the quickest tire change that I've ever done, and manage only to lose one place as Mr. Baker rolls by while I'm putting my wheel back on.
What went wrong:
The aforementioned flat.
What did I learn:
Run tubeless or tubulars for cross, or don't ride into rocks.
I know Ive been posting daily about this race, saturating an already saturated internet with run on sentences, half formed thoughts and haphazard discharges of rage. Now that Im home, peering out of the pain cave like a new kitten, sitting in a coffee place in Allston watching disheveled hipsters mumble their orders to hungover baristas, Ill try to get an overall point-by-point "race report" together.
1. Organization: Top notch. Mike and Ray had transports, logistics, checkpoints and course markers (even the ones I didnt pay attention to) in place seamlessly and consistently. Our starts ran on time or (if, say, someone forgot a shoe back at the camp) very close to on time. And in that one special case, all the rest of the days events were juggled accordingly. My one nit to be picked here would be what could best be described as "reinforcement arrows" - maybe on those long stretches of road when you are constantly looking for oncoming traffic at 35 miles an hour. A few extra yellow markers on the trees would go a long way for peace of mind.
2. Quality/ variety of terrain, stage length etc: Again, top notch. You dont spend a bunch of money and drive (or fly) hours and hours to do an xc race you can do in your local woods. Regardless of what you ride, there was a day for you. I may not have loved the "road stage", but I am glad they put it in there - even if I was stuffed too deep in the hurt locker to enjoy the scenery, when I did peer out I was impressed by the beauty and scope of the course they laid out for us. I have never raced anything like the "mini xc" stage, either (neither had anyone else, apparently) and that was a blast. The overall theme of the terrain was "technical", but that meant enough different things for different days you never got tired of any of it (ok, maybe the climbing... Im having nightmarish flashbacks about pushing chain up hill). A word of caution, however: Respect this race - Its hard. Really hard. I started training for it in February and was still wrecked after a few days. Sign up early, get a plan together and stick to it. By day 3 you will thank me.
3. Food (the "meal package"): Decent. Food quality varied day to day - normally this wouldnt matter, but with a few hard days of racing (and the associated goo, potions, gels and protein powders in your system) some of those without the GI tract of a tiger shark (thank you, years of eating poorly!) got a little squirty. It wasnt bad food, it was camp food. If you have a weak gut, bring some Activia or Pepto Bismol or just go shopping at the beginning of the week. An especially nice touch were the desserts that the organizers parents made - that was cool.
4. Staff: Outstanding. Literally every person involved, for volunteers to motorcycle drivers to cooks to camp personnel were awesome in every possible way. How good were they? They had every sore, ruined and physically dilapidated bike racer on their feet and cheering for them at the farewell dinner.
5. Lodging (Welcome to Camp Rimjorb): Good. I stayed at Rimmey cabin. It was decent, if spartan, bunk lodging. There was a full kitchen and a mostly functional (if a little underpowered) toilet inside. It was dry, though, and the beds were clean. My only worry would be if the event grows and they try to stuff 30 people and their equipment in there. Theres room for 20, tops (25 if the "scoutmasters quarters" arent colonized by the French). If the cabin itself wasnt glamorous, I still wouldnt trade the experience of living with those folks for a week for anything. That was one of the best aspects of Transylvania - we all hung out on the porch after races, heckling one another and telling stories. Group lodging is definitely the way to go.
6. Facilities: There were showers, both individual and prison-style (sharpen up those toothbrush handles, kids) and a pool (with enough chlorine to blonde-out my ball hair) and these were the two most important locations at camp. The pool was invaluable for cooling off the legs after beating on them for hours on end, and the showers were ideal for getting attacked by Mark Weirs dangly bits (the dreaded "cows tongue"). Internet was available at the registration lodge and (intermittently) at the mess hall. Laundry was a bit more tricky - the Race Bible (blessed be) said to go to this truck stop place, but it only had ONE washer. The camp was about a half hour outside State College so if you need anything, make friends with someone who drove out and you can forage for whatever you need.
6. Overall Value (Was all that grundle-pounding worth it?): Well, I signed up for this race because it was (kind of) close and (relatively) cheap. These guys put on an event that felt put together well beyond the price of admission. For a journeyman bike racer, without comped entry fees and sponsors to fly you from race to race, this is the one to shoot for. Its hard, has a quality field (you dont see world champion stripes at all the races back home, do you?) and the payout (if you are fit and crazy enough - just ask local boy Brandon "the dragon" Draugelis) is very good.
So there it is, the inaugural Transylvania Epic 7 Day Stage Race in six bullet points. If you have skipped all the "words" and "reading" and came down to this last bit hoping for a picture, I leave you with this: Get fit and sign up (not necessarily in that order). You will not regret it.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
If only he had been there, whispering in my ear, as I followed Garth "Hash Apples" Posner about a mile the wrong way off the course.
Not that it would have mattered much. Maybe. At this point in a 7 day race its hard to add up would haves and could haves and come up with meaningful measurements of time. Because at some point - I think about 2 days ago - distance and time began to grow apart, forcing the need for a third variable "s" (suffering) to calculate velocity. And by this time, I was even worse at math than usual.
We lined up for the final stage in two distinct groups: business in the front, and party at the rear. I was hoping to party, in the rear or otherwise, but Cushionbury had already punched in and was looking ready to make me play chase-a-bike with him for the next two and a half hours. And he did. sort of.
Today was my worst start in a week of some pretty piss-poor starts. I was FULL_GAS, sucking wind and drooling all over my handlebar while Cush (mouth closed, his beady eyes filled with hate) powered by me. Unacceptable. I know - Ill fix it by digging a little deeper. Sure. Ive been widening the walls of the pain cave all week. Whats a little more?
And thats when my cave started to fill with water.
Now drowning in the hole I had dug for myself, I let Cush out on a long leash. Jake "Man, Do I Ever Love This 8 Mile Long Hill" Davidson came up on me and we worked our way through the singletrack. With me following too close and him climbing too well, that worked out awesome. He ended up bobbling a bit through a turn and I came through riding like an angry, retarded monkey trying like hell to get 'Berry back in sight.
Around now I should tell you, dear readers, that I am still using the same wheel that I started the week with. You know, the one I fixed last night with a pipe wrench and a Buck knife? Yeah, that one. The one that is going to get a Viking funeral when I get home. There was almost zero tension on the non-drive side, just to get it kind of round. To give you an idea of just how sweet riding that wheel was, every hard turn resulted in the tire stalling out on the frame.
And I was in constant mortal terror of flatting.
So I had to ride well over my limit, smoothly. No problem. Ride smoothly, over my limit AND watch where I was going? Well, two out of three aint bad.
I caught Garth and used him like a lanky rabbit with dreadlocks, following him and closing the gap down. I was starting to emerge from my now-flooded pain cave, feeling a little batter and more willing to get a concerted chase going. Garth took a left onto a road, and I followed. there was someone WAY down the street, I assumed it was Cushionbury and floored it. About a mile into flooring it, Mike Kuhn roared by in a minivan screaming "YOU ARE GOING THE WRONG WAY".
It was as though God Himself just kicked me in the nuts.
We all (I think there were 4 of us) turned around sheepishly and pedaled back to the trailhead, got back on course and began somewhat ruefully riding up the singletrack. Garth was crushed, he had lost his GC overall and was (understandably) in pretty dim spirits. I was perhaps more used to having a rain cloud follow me around and tried to get back into the race, slowly bailing out the cave so that I could crawl back inside for another hour or so.
The trails were actually pretty cool: it was some of the TT loop from the first day, all very local to the camp, all very soggy from the rain we had last night. The climb was abysmal, at least for me. Hearing some of the pros later describe it as "not that bad" or "easy to get into a rhythm on" made me want to put a powertap hub in a sock and beat them with it. Or maybe just train harder for next time.
The good news: no flats, mechanicals (if you start with a broken wheel, you cant break it... right?) or serious crashes.
The (kind of) bad news: as expected, Mike Cushionforthepushinbury beat me. Its cool, though - hes a good sport and was a fun dude to hang out with this week. Actually, all the racers here (except for Buffalo Bill) were pretty awesome. They are a fine bunch, and I wouldnt mind getting my ass handed to me (again) by any of them.
(Via Tammy's facebook, Hannah and I ruin our bike tans while Hannah makes a sand creature. Lori & Taylor's legs also featured)
After our dip and drying off, we headed back to Boston through the Canadian forest fire smog drifting across the city and had an impromptu BBQ on my porch that included the beach crew as well as Ryan, who had just gotten off work, and Caitlin. We busted out the mini grill and stuffed ourselves on watermelon, corn, and (veggie) burgers in true Memorial Day fashion and then finished up with a tasty pie courtesy of Hannah. Yum.
After a great start to the week, things got a bit more hectic between work, a Statistics exam, crappy weather and Ryan getting side-swiped by a cab, which lead to an ER visit for some x-rays (it was a hit & run but he took down the license plate # and cab company as the guy drove off and he got away with bruising, some scrapes and a mildly sprained wrist). Luckily he was feeling better in time for our new Concord+ loop yesterday, which involves getting to Concord and taking 62 to 225W, stopping at Fern's Country Store for tasty hoagies, and continuing on to 110 and then 119 back to Concord. Last week we did that route and stopped at Kimball Farm for the largest "small" ice cream cone I had ever encountered. It was tasty, but this week we were feeling too full from Fern's sandwiches to stop for ice cream and continued on our way. The sky was looking more grim and the chances of stopping on the way home for a swim at Walden Pond were looking slimmer and slimmer. Jagged lightening started ripping across the sky and as we hit West Concord big, pounding rain droplets started to hit us. Given the temp and humidity it was pleasantly refreshing and we took an easy, wet ride back in. Unfortunately, even when the thunder and lightening stopped I still couldn't talk Ryan into stopping at Walden for a quick dip.
This morning I headed out for another wet road ride with Lori and Ryan W. and we did a Newton/Wellesley area loop. As I was riding along I started to feel a looseness with my left foot but initially attributed it to puddles sloshing around in my soaked shoes. As we turned off of Quinobequin Road and started the steep climb up Varick to Ridge Rd, I asked Lori if we could stop after the climb as by this time the feeling of float was worse and I was pretty sure my cleat was really loose. I stood up as I crested the top of the hill, my foot increasingly flopping around on the pedal stroke, and then sat down again to coast up to the stop sign ahead. As I did so I felt my foot release and looked down in an attempt to watch and see where the screws of my cleat fell out, as I was sure that was what had happened. I was surprised to instead see my crank arm dangling from my foot! Luckily it gave just after the climb and not when I was standing up grinding. It ended up that the crank cap had broken and the bolts had backed themselves out. We put my crank arm back on and tightened the screws but it started working itself out again a few blocks down. Ryan W. gave it a solid whack and re-tightened the screws that had already loosened and we managed to have an uneventful ride from Beacon back in.
So all in all, I've been riding as much as I can and really enjoying hanging out and riding with the team. Despite the recent weather my bike tan has been improving (although I'll never be able to beat Ryan in our tan line competition - he usually rides afternoons while I do early am stuff and he browns faster than anyone I know!) and I'm looking forward to more races, my solo attempt at the 24 hours of Great Glen and, as always, 'Cross season!
(Gritty and dirty legs after this mornings rain ride BUT with appreciable tan lines!)
Friday, June 4, 2010
We got to another remote start at about 10am for an 11 o'clock rollout. I spun around, fiddled with my tire pressure (does it feel low? didnt I just fill it?) for an hour, and got in line. I was not thrilled about an 8 mile climb, but I was told the descent would be worth every grassy, horrible mile of it. We started out pretty slow, and the pace gradually rose over the first few miles. My goal was to NOT blow myself up by following the leaders, but the pace rose so slowly I was in the red before I realized I was gorping like a landed fish.
Out the back I went, and got picked up by the Weir-wagon. Then I got dropped by that train and picked up by another. Jesus, this was going poorly. I dug in, held on and sucked wind up the remaining interminable miles to the top. My climbing partner told me to get into the singletrack first, as it was "terrifying". ok. Thing was, he beat me up the climb and dove on in anyway.
Sweet merciful crap, he was right. I was bouncing off trees and bulldozing my way through some of the craziest downhill sections I have ever seen at a race. I hit my pedal on a rock, unclipped, then stopped myself dead with a tree. Peeling myself off, I took a few breaths. Now for it, old man.
I am a better bike handler when my heartrate is under 200, it seems. After that hellish climb (and 5 days of killing myself on a bike), I was spent. Thankfully that nice tree brought me to my senses. The rest of the downhill was awesome. super tricky, very steep at times and in every way unforgiving. I felt great after a few minutes of that. (Well, I did go over my bars once through this ridiculous rock-waterfall thing)
I started catching the climbers. These trails were hellish - and next year, Im bringing some more people down to see it. East coasters should be able to slay this stuff. I got Garth on the ridge - that guy is awesome: and has years of racing experience under that nappy hair of his. He let me by with an encouraging word and I moved up. I kind of wanted Plews and Festa. Bad. I was ripping through these sections like someone with skills had taken over my bike, and I was having a blast.
Thup thup thup thup thup
Balls. Really? I get off, change the tube, and wouldnt you know: the valve stem is ALREADY busted. The motorcycle guy (I think he was there to watch out for safety) was really nice and incredibly sympathetic, but I now had about 15 miles of riding on a flat to get through. I say "about" because my computer had failed at about mile 9.
All creation mocks me.
I started my long slog to the finish. Have you ever ridden a flat? Like, REALLY ridden a flat? Its just like riding a bike, except there is a midget whos job it is to smack your back wheel with a shovel every time you try to turn. I kept my head, though: amazingly, I wasnt pissed, or freaking out about the mountains of time I was losing... I just kept riding. These trails, like I said, are very technical. If you would like to experience what I did today, I recommend staying awake for 6 days and riding Lynn woods.
Miraculously I didnt crash. I slid out on the off-camber stuff, but stayed upright and intact throughout. My race became "hey can I ride that with a flat tire" or "if I live through this, I am going to Switzerland and kicking every single employee at DT Swiss in the nuts". A course official took pity on me and got me a tube, but my tire was so shredded at this point it blew through the sidewall tears at the end of about a mile.
I dont know how I did today, nor do I particularly care. Mike Kuhn was super nice at the end; everyone at the race seems to understand that I have been cursed by an old Gypsy woman that I wronged in another life, and are also very supportive (I can forgive them for occasionally flashing the Sign To Ward Off The Evil Eye). I will be getting a new wheelset upon my arrival home: I am open to suggestions. My only condition is that is does not come pre-cursed.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
I missed the race meeting last night - I was out doing laundry for some fellow rim-jobbers (we are staying at Camp Rimmey, so...) and looking all over Amish country for a cell phone charger, so I had literally no idea what was happening this morning. I woke up, panicked, brought my bike down to the transport, ran to breakfast, figured out I was driving my own ass down to the start, ran back to watch my bike disappear down the road, lost the brake pads I was going to install, jumped in the car, followed Colt and Tim from Cyclingdirt, literally willed my car not to run out of gas (no service stations: not much call for petrol among people who still use horses, apparently), arrived at the rollout sputtering on fumes and signed in.
The start was 8 miles away. Uphill. Ok, I exaggerate: it WAS 8 miles, but it was only MOSTLY uphill. We rode over in a group, and a haggard one we must have looked: 80 sunburned and squirrly mountain bikers entirely fried from almost a weeks worth of racing. It was cool, though - Jerimiah Bishop and a few of the other pros wandered around in the group talking to everyone, and the organizers were there as well, asking how things were going and how we were. These guys seem really dedicated to hosting a quality event, and have remained accessible from the very beginning. Good job, guys.
So the start was fast, uphill, and I had a dreadful time. I fought my way through traffic, and when I broke clear Cannondale Garth blew by me so fast I was actually confused for a second. I chased hard, and caught him on the descent, just in time for him to get caught in a rut and go ass over teakettle a foot off my wheel. I postponed disaster there and got around him to the left. I say "postponed" and not "avoided". Getting around him meant getting stuck in the mate of the rut that took Garth down. I was absolutely flying at this point - I was in "holy crap I dont have to pedal" mode - and tried to hold my line through the 5 inch deep groove hidden in the grass. I didnt. I crashed out all over the place, landing with my handlebar between my stomach and the ground.
It felt like someone took a core sample out of my liver. I was doubled over in pain for a second, got up, shook out and got back to chasing Garth (and all the other people that passed me). My side was bad news. I had trouble stretching out my arm all the way, and limped across the line to check out the damage. The bar didnt break the skin, as I had feared. I had a good sized strawberry and an equally impressive lump, but no blood. It felt like I was kicked by a mule, though.
We rolled out to start 2. Riding along at a nice, easy pace. My spirits were low, and I was less than enthusiastic about more fireroad climbing, but there were 3 more of these things - shake it off, pansy. This start was downhill on a gravel road to a hard right turn. Jesus, were they trying to kill us? Actually, the field minded itself well (something the organizers clearly foresaw): no crashes into the turn, and racing began in earnest once we hit the singletrack. I had another lousy start, tucked in behind Rebecca and Selene with Mike Festa, everyone yelled a bunch, I got through and... holy shit these trails were fun! Super technical, rocky, turny - finally, something Im good at. I floored it through to the end.
The next two went much the same way: bad starts, brutal descents. But I was getting better at this. I caught Plews, and chased the WTB train all the way to the station. Those guys ride through rocks like human wrecking balls, and I got to dodge rocks the size of my fist spinning by my face at 30 miles an hour. It was like racing at Lynn Woods. Only down.
On my last run, there was a bit of drama as I caught Evan: Ben (WTB) dropped me like I was tied to a tree, came up on Evan, had some words, and snuck by. I had caught Plews as well, and he seemed very displeased by this. We were both screaming down the descent, and I tried to pass, but he was having none of it. I went into the woods a bit, then backed off. I came in right behind him.
Today was good, despite narrowly avoiding catastrophe. my best-yet finish (11th? after 4 races - I think I actually broke the top ten in one of them!)
The best part: I was riding a flat half the way down in the last heat.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Todays stage was a "remote start" and dear lord they werent kidding. We drove halfway through the Dairyland of the Lost before pulling into the race area. Around this time I realized that I had left my helmet on the roof of my car. I will pause here so that you can get in a good forehead slap. Luckily, Mike (one of the organizers) was nice enough to let me soggy up his Sweep R for a few hours. Then we waited a bit for Greg and Rebecca to find some shoes, which also made me feel better about leaving my helmet (leaving stuff behind is pro, if you were wondering) and got underway.
My start today was awful. All I wanted was a front seat to the Ben and Mark show, but I had nothing on the first climb (please refer to climbing guideline 2, and completely ignore 1). It was too steep, too early (literally right away) and I was in bad position regardless. In the end, all this climb did was get the skinny climbers into the singletrack ahead of the big guys.
Which today, for once, was a terrible idea.
The trails at this place were incredible. It was like a vast pumptrack, mile upon mile of dips, berms, tight turns, doubles and some (terrifying) gap jumps. I hit the woods and was immediately in traffic. I was in a long train of some of the climbers that got pooped out the back of the Weir-wagon. Man, I wanted to see that show. I moved up somehow (there is no way I can adequately describe the tightness and trickyness of these trails - it was like a roller coaster without any sort of harness that would occasionally slap you in the head with a tree) and settled into no mans land.
And there I would stay, with Mike Festa dangling like fuzzy dice from a rear view mirror about 15 seconds ahead.
All of a sudden Moeshler was right up on me. Wait, what? how was he behind me? That isnt where he goes. This was some ways in, maybe 11 miles, and all of a sudden I was feeling pretty good about myself. And then he came around.
The class: Bike Handling 101
The Professor: Jason "did he seriously just pedal through that?" Moeschler
I got to watch his lines for a bit, drifted back on the descents, caught back up on the climbs - I didnt want to piss him off by sucking his wheel the whole time, but it was pretty eye opening watching him fly through blind turns with nary a brake tap to be heard.
This lasted awhile, but there was no way I was holding his pace. He pulled away after a few more miles, and I got to watch him pass Festa (who was still just ahead, though it looks like festa came around again). About this time I kind of forgot I was racing. The trails were so awesome, I was just happy to pump through them, airing out on the odd kicker, washing out on a berm that stopped being a berm halfway through a turn...
Sometime around now I decided to be a hero (I had forgotten rule number 1). Im not really contesting the (best of the rest) gc anymore - losing an hour on the first stage and having to peel my bloody feet off the blanket every morning decided that - so I decided to have some fun. These trails have huge doubles, so big that most folks were just pumping them. In fact, during the presentation last night we were specifically instructed NOT to try jumping them (unless, as they printed out on the race meeting projection, your name was Weir). I was by myself, I felt pretty good, whats the worst that could happen?
Well, jump number one went poorly. How poorly? Lets just say that my radio name is Casey Case'em. Ok, plenty of doubles out here... Are you ready for round two?
Neither was I. Having come up short and cased one 15 foot gap jump, I overcompressed and completely overshot the landing on my next attempt, resulting in a 25 mile an hour nose manual that somehow did not end my life. Thinking that the third time would be the charm, I avoided any further airtime.
The rest of the race was just me riding, and that isnt very much fun to read about. I did get the better of Garth (Cannondale factory team) in a sprint; that was pretty cool - though I feel like I was on the receiving end of a "let the wookie win" strategy and he could have cooked me if he wanted to.
These trails are legendary. Silmarillion legendary. Hobbits live there. Its like russell mills on crack: turny, flowy, all that hippy highposter mountain biker stuff you read about in magazines and get all pissed because you dont live near it crap. It does exist. Its just in central Pennsylvania. You can still get pissed because it isnt close, but I think everyone should come out here and ride it.
This post is all over the place, sorry - Im doing laundry, stuffing my face with ice cream and trying to get some recovery in. I think I was 12th or 13th today, and the GC stayed the same. Im holding my own here, but there is still a long way to go. And thanks everyone for your comments and texts. I have super limited internet access, so im not putting up links or pictures or anything - but I will soon.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
My feet were (are) in rough shape, and I tried taping them. Rebecca (Rusch) found this completely unacceptable and broke out the most comprehensive kit of tapes, bandages, gauze and some other first aid effects I could not even identify. She gave me these amazing fake skin blister cover things and some very robust tape to cover them with. That was very awesome of her. Feet wrapped up like a Japanese teenager, I rode over to the start house.
The beginning of the race was a "neutral" climb up sand hill road, "neutral" clearly meaning "go as fast as the pace car". By the end of the neutral section, we had established a lead group of 20 or so riders. I was, surprisingly, in this group. Through the singletrack and up another climb, I actually moved up a bunch of places and was riding with a Cannondale factory team rider. Holy crap, Im 8 spots behind Jeramiah and not totally dying. There was another fast descent, and I passed the Cannondale guy.
And thats where my plan started to unravel.
Mike (or was it Ray) yelled "Mike, you have a flat!!" I was about to yell "quit messing with me, ya jerk" when I discovered that there was in fact no kind and loving god AND my tire was indeed flat. Wow. Everyone got to pass me again, but at least this time I flatted right next to a bunch of the organizers who were really nice about helping me fix it. This time the culprit was a thorn I must have picked up when I was trying to be a hero on that descent. Nice.
Another 40 mile time trial.
And the climbing! Jesus H. Floyd Mayweather Christ such climbing. I knew there was exactly zero chance of catching back up to the leaders, but my real goal of the day was to make up time from yesterday. So I climbed in one gear bigger than I wanted, and descended like a damn fool. I was drifting through corners on open roads hoping that there wouldnt be a pickup truck filled with rednecks approaching at 50 miles an hour. That was the funny part though - I swear we climbed more than we descended today. Like we were racing inside an MC Escher painting, the road went up, and up, then turned right, then went up, and up; I was literally swearing at the gravel - insulting its color, size and distribution on the trail (though toward the end of the race, the swearing had devolved into completely inarticulate yelling).
I was passing folks quickly at first: very moralizing. After about 25 minutes of balls-out chasing I came upon (or perhaps created, Im too fried to remember) a group of fellow stragglers. We made a decent attempt at a paceline, but (again surprisingly) I dropped them on the climb. I was chasing one Alec Petro, who spurned our invitation to get on the Transylvania Pain Train. He dangled just out of reach for literally 30 miles, sometimes closer, sometimes farther away; he finished just before me. Sometime around now I passed a horse and buggy.
I did, however, pick up Selene Yeager, who is an absolute monster on the climbs. She had at least 10 minutes on the nest best female racer at this point, and was consolidating what was going to be a commanding stage win. She took my wheel on the descent (I have no idea why, lord knows I wouldnt trust me flying around blind corners at 40 miles an hour) and we pulled into "the fisherman" or whatever they are calling Hell in this part of Pennsylvania.
Now dont get me wrong, I really liked the trail. But it did play a dirty trick on me. A very dirty trick.
There was this big log. And I can generally jump over big logs. This particular big log had a smaller, much more... hidden log behind it, exactly where my bunny hop should have resolved. My front wheel hit that second log at full speed and I planted my face directly into the ground about 2 feet behind it.
Now, I know my mountain bike readers will know what a "yardsale" is, but I will take a moment for the non-bike lurkers. A true yardsale happens when you lose some, most or all of your gear when you crash. This was a yardsale of legendary proportions: I literally lost the food out of my pockets. Thing is, I had just lawn-darted into the unmerciful Pennsylvania dirt (well, soil with rocks) and was able to think only of heaping abuse on the offending log.
Selene came around me, wisely choosing NOT to hop over that turd of a log, must have seen me looking like Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer (think inappropriate blackface) and told me to take a minute to get myself together. I didnt listen. I got back on my bike and followed, leaving my food, CO2 and MY GOD DAMN NICE GLASSES sitting on the trail. The glasses I will likely miss later, the food I most certainly missed sooner.
I hacked my way through the rest of that trail, riding shamefully - but riding. I pulled through the "fisherman" cut up, soggy and only halfway to the end.
At this point, there were some flat spots and I was able to "hammer", if indeed thats what trying to barely turn over too big a gear means. I picked off a few more guys in no-mans-land, thought I got lost, stopped, waited until I saw someone crest the hill and floored it up ANOTHER climb. I was unsure when I stopped racing the Transylvania Epic and started racing the Giro, but I was sure in my crash-addled brain that Basso was up the road and it was my job to chase him down.
As anyone that knows me can tell, I do not consider myself a climber. But today (and yesterday) I discovered that I can indeed climb, if certain conditions are met:
1. I need a reason - I wanted to catch Weir. I figured that he would be so pissed about all the fireroad climbs he would scorch the very earth with the fury of his Billy Mays beard. And that would probably take valuable time.
2. They need to be a relatively even grade - none of this 7%/ 18% crap.
3. I need to make my own pace - I do not follow accelerations, I chase with the relentless certainty of a zombie hunting human flesh.
4. The roads (trails) need to be in miserable shape - Maybe not a condition, but it helps.
I got to the last aid station, a mere 10 miles to the finish. "All fireroads from here on out" they said. I got a bottle, drank a coke, and took off. Notice I did not grab any food. I had a bunch of that in my pockets, right?
What they did not say at the aid station was that there was another 2000 feet of climbing in those 10 miles. And dear god, they were NOT all fireroads. I discovered my food problem about a mile (downhill) from the checkpoint. And I wouldnt have climbed back up that at gunpoint.
Climb, boy. The last 10 miles took an hour and fifteen minutes (with an average race speed [excluding flat-change time] of 13.4mph, this was horrible) and my belly started to do that thing bellies do when they are unhappy about what you put (or in this case do not put) into them: gurgle, gurgle, CRAMP, gurgle CRAMP etc. The climbing was really starting to get out of hand. I was hurting, and badly.
I came up on someone in a WTB kit. Holy crap, did I get Weir? Turns out it was Ben, and he was dying harder than I was on that greasy-ass climb. We werent racing any more, though. We were surviving. I pushed up what had become a stream, and managed to turn my pedals enough to get to the end, two minutes down on Weir and four down on Moeschler. 12th on the day, 14th overall. Not bad, considering I had a mechanical and a pretty spectacular crash.