Monday, September 28, 2009

raccoon township 'cross

I have to qualify this post by saying that racing 'cross on a fixed gear is so much frigging fun. It really is. I had a blast. If you've ever ridden an old cruiser with a coaster brake and locked it up around a turn, you'll understand why I enjoyed it so much.

The course at Raccoon Township Park yesterday was very well laid out. Laps were about two miles long, plenty of turns, one dirt (mud after the first lap) section, and multiple off camber corners. There were only two places per lap that forced a dismount; one set of barriers, and one muddy set of log steps.

We had a solid day of rain on Saturday and through Sunday morning, so I knew it was going to get muddy. I rolled into the race early enough to take some practice laps, and the course was already soggy. I knew that it would probably be a better idea to race my mountain bike, but I really wanted to do a race on the Poo Poo Thunder II, and since I'm already out of the running for the month of mud overall, (I missed the first race because of Coopers Rock) I figured I might as well do it.

From Drop Box
The race started without much warning, and I got caught in the back. I spent the first flat section futzing with my watch and trying to get the timer to start. That was probably a mistake. Oh wells.
From Drop Box

For half of the first lap, we stayed in a pretty tight pack. But around the first set of muddy steps, things started to thin out and I became a little more comfortable.
From Drop Box


From Drop Box
I had to lock the back wheel up and skid down this muddy slope. I'm pleased to say that I made it without crashing everytime.
video




From Drop Box
(this pour soul was not so lucky)

The only way for me to slow down was to skid my back wheel. I would lock it up into and around a corner, sprint out, skid at the next corner, and so on. For the first 4 laps, it was fine. But when I came in for that 4th one and saw that there were still 4 more to go, I could have died. The course was becoming muddier, and it was taking more concentration (when I had less to give) to keep my bike upright.

All the skid/sprinting was taking its toll on me. Eventually I stopped skidding through the corners and started to just peddle slowly through them, which was certainly slower.

Before long my goal shifted from having a good finish to not getting lapped by the leaders.

When I crossed the line and started my last lap, I saw the lead pack a few turns behind me.
From Drop Box

From Drop Box
(I made it over the barriers every lap but one. On the forth or fifth time I was so tired that I skidded right into it. Running into the barrier is not the most effective way to cross it.)

I really started to push again, and I finished the lap with a few minutes to spare.
From Drop Box

I skidded across the line totally spent. Cross' really is hard. And I was not expecting the race to take over an hour. I figured that I finished very well into the back of the pack. But I was still going to call the day a success, because I didn't crash, I didn't touch my front brake, and I beat a few people.

I was cleaning up the Thunder and getting ready to pack it into the Grumbler when one of the volunteers came by and handed me a single speed third place envelope. "Huh? I was third?" I said in astonishment.
"Yep. Did you think you were lapped?"
"No definitely did not get lapped."
"Well then congrats." he said

I have no idea how I came in third, but hells, I'll take it. Yesterday was a good day. The next cross race is next weekend at Grove City, and I'll be on the fixed thunder again. Can't wait.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I really don't have the time to write anything worthwhile today (not that I ever write anything worthwhile), so I've decided to take the opportunity to dazzle the world with pictures of the Poo Poo Thunder II's new pajamas:
From Drop Box
From Drop Box
From Drop Box
Are checkered deep V's a practical cross racing wheel set? Not even a little bit. But they were on sale. And they sure look fast.


1 year o racing

As race courses go, the Coopers Rock XC was one of the best I've ever ridden. It had a perfect combination of challenging technical trail and smooth fast stuff. But the quality that really stood out to me was the room to pass. I never felt like there was a section of the race that I was not able to get around another rider. Typically, the WVMBA courses are so tight that I've had to follow behind other guys for miles. Gunnar and crew did a great job planning out the course. (he has been racing longer than I've been alive. so I guess he knows a good course from a bad one at this point)

When Gunnar called me up to the podium to collect my envelope of goodies, he introduced me as being "Not historically a good technical rider." (gasp!) I beg to differ. I am definitely faster on a rock strewn chunky trail than a buff one. I crash more on smooth twisty courses than I do in rock gardens. Furthermore, I have no history. I can't be historically bad at something when I've only been doing it for a year.

On that note, the championship race was 1 year to the day that I started racing.
From mountain cycle
My first race at Bavington 1 year ago. Total and complete mediocrity. I'm pretty sure that the guy in front of me on the redline with spoke cards stomped me at that race.

From mountain cycle

From 2009 Racing Season
Finishing my first WVMBA race at Big Bear. I totally shocked myself with a forth place.


From knobby meats - montana miller
Standing in line at the bike wash at Mountwood. Second race of the season, and I took second.


From 2009 Racing Season
I was fifth at the creek to peak. Somehow I was ok with that.


From 2009 Racing Season
Rolling into the aid station at the Stoopid 50. I learned a lot about the importance of eating and suspension in an endurance race that day. My last race on the rigid fork.


From Drop Box
WV State Champs. The first race on a suspension fork was awful. My worst finish of the year. 7th.


From Drop Box
Rolling along dirty and tired at the Wilderness 101. There's definitely more hundies in my future.


From Drop Box
Cruising down the gnar filled downhill at the Black Bear. I was totally pleased with a 3rd place.



From Drop Box
My first race in a pro bikes jersey at Roaring Run. I woln't discuss this one. Still haven't looked at the results.


From Drop Box
And finally, the end (kind of) of a long season. Finishing the WVMBA series as the 3rd SS. Hopefully I'll improve at the same rate in the next year. That would be cool.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Coopers Rock XC and WVMBA Final

The Coopers Rock XC was the final race in a long WVMBA season. At the beginning of the year when I lined up for the start of the Big Bear Classic, I never would have imagined that I would do so many races in the coming months, and that I would be ranked 4th in the SS class going into the championship.

From Drop Box
After asserting that single speeders were the domestitques of the expert class, Benji and Johnathan Martin went out in the front of the pack. The first climb on the road was very, very long. I stayed on Mr. Martin's wheel, and the Dread Pirate Roberts hung right beside me. It was novel to have a little pack of single speeds leading the race.

Near the top of the hill the rest of the field swallowed us up. I was more than happy to just hang in the middle of the pack and wait until we hit the single track. When we had almost crested the hill, Mike "vagina's are cool" Cordaro blasted off to the front of the pack and beyond. No one chased, but when the road turned downhill, he was immediately overtaken.

After almost 15 minutes of road riding, we made a sharp left into some wide double track, and started to actually race. The trail was all downhill and bone dry. Tan dust floated off the path with every passing tire. I was still on Martin's wheel, and convinced myself that this was the perfect place to be so early in the race. We looped around and recrossed the road before continuing on the trail.

We were still heading downhill when I started feeling bumps hitting my rim. 'Oh for godsake. This better not be happening.' But it was. When I went around a corner and my back tire squirmed, I knew I was going to have to stop. I hopped off the bike and started trying to tear my saddle bag open. Rider after rider blew by me as I screwed on the Co2 and put a shot of it in the faltering tire. Air hissed out of a little hole, but I was able to get the Stan's to seal it.

Before the flat, I was riding in a comfortable spot, in a safe place. Now I had to absolutely hammer to make up time. Within five minutes I had caught up to Johnathan, Don, and Chris McGill going up a chunky climb. We crossed a little stream, and I felt the back go soft again.

I stopped and put more Co2 in the tire, and discovered that I had left the valve open last time. I cursed myself and shouldered my bike to run up the chunks. There was no way I was going to let a 4th or 5th overall slip away because my tire wouldn't hold air (or because i was to dumb to screw a presta valve shut.)

The course turned down a road then back on to the single track. I caught up to Mike "vagina's are cool" Cordaro, and glimpsed Benji ahead in the distance. The path was super smooth and fast at this point in the race. Mike went for it and pedaled away. I worked my way up to Benji and went by him on a little climb. We stormed down a smooth hill. When I got to the bottom I was greeted with a sharp, flat turn on pea gravel. I crashed (gracefully). Benji did not, and he passed me.

I caught back up to him, and we rode together for a while. After a few miles, we reentered the woods and hit the first of the technical trails. I hung on his wheel until we hit a steep climb, and then I rode/ran by. Again I caught Mike, and again he stepped on the gas and pulled away from me.

The course wound through a grove of low hanging rhododendrons. I have no idea how the taller guys got through there. I was ducking, and I still almost took my head off. I rode between two cliffs that were slowly narrowing down. At the end of the cliffs there was a rocky set of steps to climb up.

Benji was right behind me when the trail took a downward turn. "I'm gonna go ahead of ya now montana" he said. "Go for it" I replied and let him by. I assume that we were on rock city(and I assumed wrong. apparently the part before this was rock city. this was the suburbs), because the rocks were everywhere. The trail took the shape of a U with the middle dipped down and the sides higher. The big embedded rocks were blanketed by a layer of baseball sized chunks. Benji was soon out of sight. I haven't a clue how he bombs down a trail that fast, but I'm envious.

I flew off one ledge and landed on the sharp upper edge of the U and heard a loud metallic snapping noise. I was hoping to hell that I didn't just snap a spoke, but when I looked at my back wheel it was still true, so I rode on. The trail became steeper and rockier (if thats possible) and I slowed down a little. I knew that the long climb up Ridge Trail was approaching, so I figured it was worth it to go a few mph slower down the hill, and make it in one piece.

Ridge Tr. (maybe the suburb of rock city was actually ridge trail. who knows) was the one section of the course I had pre-ridden, so I knew what to expect when I got there. It was a super ledgy and steep uphill rock garden. I jumped off my bike, shouldered it, and started running. Before long I passed Mike "vagina's are cool," and in a few hundred more feet I caught Benji. At the top I jumped back on and rode away back down the hill. I turned onto the steepest climb of the day, and started grinding up. In the distance, I glimpsed the Dread Pirate Roberts walking up the hill. "You can get him!" the guy behind me shouted. I laughed and said "Well I can try."

I was closing in on him, but he reached the top first and jumped back on his bike. I kept up the chase through the rhododendrons and parallel cliffs. Before we hit Rock City (not the real rock city) again, I stopped one more time to put air in my tire. Then I descended. I was hot on the Dread Pirate's trail, and no one caught me on the downhill this time.

At the bottom I got off to run up Ridge Trail again. I was passing sport guys at this point and I frantically asked everyone I passed "How long ago did the guy in the cannondale jersey go by?" Answers ranged from 2 minutes ago to 200 hundred meters ago (Now that I think about it, that's really about the same distance. But 200m seemed a lot shorter at the time.)

I still hadn't caught another glimpse of the Dread Pirate when I turned up the last climb. The finish was just ahead, but I had to climb the whole way back up the ridge first. It hurt. Like hell. The trail was chunky and steep, and I was tired.
Witness the pain:
From Drop Box

I crossed the line in second place. I was stoked. But when single speeder after single speeder rolled in, and there was no Chris McGill, I became more excited. I might have beaten him by enough places to move up in the overall.

From Drop Box
Hurray for my most awkward podium picture ever! (And I have no idea why Betsy's face is taking up more than half of this photo. Or why she has whiskey growing out of the top left of her head. Guess I need to hire a new photographer.)

They tallied up the overall series points, and lo! With my performance that day, I finished 3rd overall. I'm pretty damn happy with that.

From Drop Box
(Just to clarify, from left to right: Benji in 2nd blending in and not being very podiumy, me in 3rd, the Dread Pirate Roberts atop the mighty cooler in 1st, and Chris McGill in 4th)

Don had a solid race and sured up a 5th place overall in the pro/expert class:
From Drop Box


And Christina Buerkle (far left in black, not Gunnar) pulled down a 2nd for the day and 3rd overall for the expert women:
From Drop Box
The WVMBA has been a blast this year. I think I started my racing career off right. I can't wait to start next season with a little bit of experience.

But now its Month of Mud time.

Friday, September 18, 2009

the 09 farmhand xc

The Bob Evan's Farmhand XC was indeed on a farm, and right across the street from a Bob Evans. As we rolled up to the parking road I remarked on how flat it was out in Ohio land. I hoped the course would have at least a couple of hills.

After taking an emergency pee break behind a pile of hay bales, I lined up with the small bunch of experts. I had been looking around all morning, and had yet to see another single speed. In an attempt to make a giant ass of myself I exclaimed "Hey! This is gonna be an easy win!"

Then I saw another single speeder shuffle up to the line. Whoops.

Just as in the previous race, the start was massively unfriendly to the gearless minority. I got into my lame single speed aero tuck position and spun as fast as I could.

Off the line I jumped onto Gunnar's wheel, and held on for approximately 20 seconds. Guys passed me in regular intervals as I struggled to keep pace on the disgustingly dusty and painfully flat gravel road. Thoughts of miners and black lung flitted through my mind as I choked on the dust.

I hit the single track with about 10 riders in front of me. The first section of trail was freshly cut into the side of a steep hill, with approximately 7 inches of rideable surface, and 10 inches of collapsing crust on the downhill side. It was treacherous.

For the first few minutes, I was trapped behind some small human who was having a lot of trouble on the turns. I was itching to pass. (when I'm trying to pass somebody on a twisty course, its proof that they're going slow. I freely admit that I can ride dry dirt and hairpin turns about as well as I can ride a bucking narwhal's horn 1500 feet under water.)

Finally the small human messed up on a climbing switchback and I took the opportunity to hop off my bike and run around him. I tried to work up a nice rhythm through the turns, but I felt disoriented without any jagged rocks under my tires. Thankfully there were climbs, so I did have the opportunity to pass a few people.

I was happy with the way I was ridding, and having a good time. The other SS man was nowhere to be seen. 'Yup' I thought, 'I'll just cruise on in to the finish in first and collect my free sausage'

Then I saw the other single speeder. And then he passed me. I had a race on my paws.

I tried to match him move for move through the twists, but he was much smoother than me. The climbs were short and steep, and he just seemed to carry his momentum right up them, while I struggled to push over the top.

At last we hit a longer climb, and he slowed down. I got off my bike and ran up the hill to catch him. I remounted in front and really put the hammer down in an attempt to get away.

I didn't see him again until I finished the first lap. I was going through the sketchy(er) section of fresh cut trail, when he appeared on my wheel again. I groaned inwardly. We approached a section of very very tight and steep switchbacks.

Since I had failed to clean the section on the first lap, I decided to give it another go on the second. I stood up, cranked my bars way over, and started to muscle around the 170 degree corner, and I promptly ate dirt. The other SS guy passed me. I spend the better part of 50 feet of trail trying to get back on my bike. By that time he had buzzed away down the course and left me dusty and well, just dusty. I was covered in dust.

I tried to re-catch the guy, but I never did. I later found out that he was riding 650b wheels, so its not really my fault that he was faster. I was just another victim of the magical wheel size built for wizards, and people who need a bike that's halfway between functional and archaic.

The rest of the race was fun, and I worked on my vision looking through the turns. Near the end of the race I glanced Don behind me. Earlier in the year at the tour de lake, he beat me in a sprint to the finish line. There was no way I was going to let that happen again. I went as fast as my little legs would pedal me, and when I exited the woods I opened it up into a full on sprint to stay ahead of the villain. I succeeded.

A few minutes later I turned in my meal ticket and collected my sausage and three cookies (i had to smile and ask real nice for the second cookie. the third one I stole.) Yum.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

tour de strongland race repor

The race at roaring run was really nothing to write home about. There was no SS class, so I had to try to race against the fast geared guys. It was a hard course to race, and I did alright. (by 'alright' I of course me that I was solidly mediocre.)
From Drop Box

The race started on a two or three mile long dirt road that spilled out onto the rail trail. It was perfectly flat, and I was spinning my brains out trying to keep up with the big ring endowed racers.

By the time I hit the first section of single track I had fallen way behind the leaders and was firmly planted in the bunch up zone.
From Drop Box

And we certainly did bunch up. I ran around the guys who had dismounted their cycles and tried to make up a little time.

In less than 400 meters I found myself splashing across the stream. The water was not too deep, but it was still enough to soak the monkey socks and shoes. I crossed the bridge to come back to the original bank, and was promptly routed through the stream again. This time the water was hub deep and totally soaked me. My wet brakes were squealing for the rest of the race.
From Drop Box
Two stream crossings before we even hit the real race course. That's intense.

From Drop Box
The rest of the race looked like this. (well, kind of. the trail wasn't red and featureless, but you get the idea.) It was very tight and twisty with a couple small steep climbs. There were plenty of rocks, and four small wooden bridges to cross. I got a flat at the beginning of the second lap, and wasted about five minutes trying to get the Stan's to seal it. After the flat I took the rest of the race easy because I was racing again the next day and I didn't want to toast my legs.

Somewhere around the second orange x on my highly accurate map a tree reached out and grabbed Tim Carson. It pulled him to the ground, tacoed his wheel and made a boo boo on his elbow. Four bees then proceeded to evacuate their nest and sting him. At least my race didn't go like that.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

the de butte

This past weekend was my debut as an officially official ProBikes rider.
From Drop Box
It went ok.

On Saturday, the Tour de Stongland was packed with fast guys. I had originally thought that I had a good chance of pulling down a high place since I knew the course, but I didn't take into account that I did not know the course at race speed. I need to start training faster.

Halfway through the second lap I flatted. I futzed around with the tire and by the time I got the Stan's to seal it I had been passed three times, so I just decided to take the rest of the lap easy and save my legs for the Bob Evans race on Sunday. I finished at the bottom of the top third (10th out of 35ish I think.) There were only two single speeds at the race, and no SS class.

On Sunday I headed out to the Farmhand XC race with Don. It was indeed on a farm, and the people running it looked like they needed a hand. (hehe. I'm so lame.)

Anyway, registration took a long time, and putting the results up on pieces of duct tape took longer. But I did get a free sausage after the race, and the course was super fun.

Only one other single speeder showed up, and of course, he beat me. So I got series points for a second, but I came in last. The course was totally different from the big rock gardens that I'm comfortable racing on. It was perfectly smooth, bone dry, and very tight and twisty. Needless to say, I was having trouble. I held off the other SS for the first lap and most of the way into the second, but on one particularly sharp climbing switchback, I ate it.

After that crash, I'm not sure if he sped up or I slowed down, but he put 4 minutes on me in the space of 7 miles. Meh.

But I did beat Don in a sprint to the finish. That always feels good.

I'll be going into the Championship race at Coopers Rocks next Sunday tied for 5th place. Fortunately, I've heard that Coopers is very similar to Big Bear, which is very similar to Laural Mountain. Large embedded rocks and long climbs abound. (I hope)

So I'm going to head up to the mountain right now and practice my rock riding. I'll put more detailed race reports up tomorrow.

And I did win my imaginary dirty little two-stage stage race. Oh yes sweet Victory! Since the organizer of the dirty little stage race had no prizes, I'm asking my readers to send me presents as a consolation. Wool socks are always appreciated. I'll expect them by Friday.

Friday, September 11, 2009

dammit grumbler

I got off work a little early yesterday, and was heading down to Apollo to ride the course and refresh my memory. Since I had to replace the water pump, thermostat, hoses, and radiator, the Grumbler has been flawless. No overheating, and no complaints. And I it should have been flawless. Everything related to the cooling system was brand new.

I paid my $1.25 for the privilege of using a hiway for 10 miles, (that's an absurd toll. I'm sorry but it is.) and continued on my way. I had been grumbling for about an hour. Suddenly the idiot light came on and informed me that the grumbler had overheated. I pulled off the road immediately and killed the engine.

With the hood popped, I walked around to see what was wrong. Before I even looked at the engine, I could hear the coolant boiling.

Sure enough, it was boiling, and the overflow bottle was packed full of the antifreeze. I stuck my head under the hood and poked around. Not finding anything out of the ordinary, I stepped back to think. Not 30 seconds more than I had stepped away, something exploded in a hiss of boiling antifreeze and steam. A gallon of the stuff blew up all over everything.

I pulled the brackets off the radiator, thinking that one of the hoses I couldn't see had sprung a leak. Instead I was greeted by a three inch crack right down the side of the radiator. The thing had literally exploded.

I hate cheap plastic garbage. There were no more than 500 miles on that stupid thing. NAPA autosharts better take it back.

Just another reason why cars suck. I ride to school, but work is still to far away to bike commute (45 hilly miles one way. I've tried it. It's hard.) So at this point, I'm still grumbler dependant. Somebody else in town better have a radiator that doesn't blow up.

From Drop Box
(Yup. There's my problem. J.B.water weld is holding the split together. I can't even say how much of that stuff I've used in the last couple of months. I should hit them up for a sponsorship.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

the dirty little stage race

I'll be racing twice this weekend.

On Saturday, the dirt side of the Tour de Strongland kicks off early in the AM. This race has been on my to do list for three years, but because of XC running obligations, I've never been able to make it. The course is a fantastical tight loop with numerous rock gardens, tight switchbacks, and high wooden bridges.

In contrast to every other race I've entered, I actually know the course. It's one of my favorite riding areas and I have ridden it many times. Hells, I've ridden the thing in the snow:

From Apollo

From Apollo

Since I actually know the lines at roaring run, I'm thinking that I might be able to pull down a nice place. There's no single speed class in this one, but the course should be SS friendly enough that I can stay with the geared guys.

On Sunday it's off to WVMBA #14, the Bob Evans Farmhand Race. This is the last chance I have to score points before the series championship. I'm sitting in 5th place right now, so if I do well this week, and have a good race at the champs, I could move up to 4th. Maybe. Hopefuly.

So I'm going to race both races. They shall be combined into the first annual dirty little stage race. Points from both finishes will tallied up at the end of the weekend to determine the winner.

As I am the sole entrant, I'm claiming an early victory.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

De poo pooing the thunder

I love the Poo Poo Thunder II, but I've always hated the color:
From Drop Box
Beef Gravy Brown sounds great in marketing copy, but in real life the brown is not so gravy. It's too subdued. Too lame. Too ugly. To be honest, it looks like shit.

Finally I decided to take the ax to the color.
From Drop Box

...or maybe not

From Drop Box
That's a stupid expression anyway. Striking the Poo Poo Thunder II with a sharp wood chopping implement would not be beneficial in any way. In fact, I can say with a fair degree of certainty that swinging a tool of such destructive power into my bicycle would render it un-ridable.

Anyway, the Thunder II is now disassembled, sanded, and ready to go to the painters.

From Drop Box
Mm mm. Acid green. My favorite. I'm thinking about doing the green with some dark blue or orange accents. Makes me want to hit things with an ax.
Per the earlier grand master plan, the lady bearious accompanied me to the 7 Springs 24 hour to spectate.
From Drop Box
This is a large white tent. There are people under. One has a broken arm, and a girl to the far right appears to be levitating. Am I blowing your mind yet?

From Drop Box
Some anonymous guy tops out on the big climb. From what I've been able to gather, the 12 mile loop was mostly downhill, then shot straight up a ski slope at the end. Yum.

My real reason for going to the springs was a possible spot on the Pro Bikes Pittsburgh team. I talked to a few of the guys, and had speaks with the owner, and everything seems like its good to go. Needless to say, Hells yeah!
From Drop Box
(This is not the pro bikes team. But I did find it interesting that the owner of this bicycle chose to locate his warm up trainer so close to the port-a-potty. Was he just really nervous before the race? Or were his muscles somehow powered by the smell of human excrement? I may never know.)

Friday, September 4, 2009

I just got an email back from Chris Scott. I have a spot in the SM100 if I want it. But I I'm going to decline for a few reasons:

-This weekend is going to be a crazy at work because of labor day and the mountain music festival. The Trib says that 14,000 people are expected. I'm not sure how accurate that is, but Ohiopyle is not a large capacity town. I could probably get off for the race, but I would feel like a major meat for bailing on such a busy day.

-I want to go up to the Seven Springs 24 hour and meet the guys from Pro Bikes, because I might have a spot on the team next year (ooh I do a hope so.)

-The lady bear and I want to go out for Chinese.

-College is expensive, and I really don't have $200 plus traveling expenses to blow (yikes!)

-But mostly, there's no way that two days is enough time to mentally prepare myself for a hundie. Thems is big races. I was getting myself ready for the Wilderness 101 and learning the course almost a month in advance (and I still got lost). I would basically be going into Shenandoah blind. I'll just look forward to doing it in the future when I'm a little bit faster.

Off to Seven Springs it is. It's weird to think, but it was exactly this time last year at Springs that I found a flyer for the month of mud. As I watched the exhausted racers wobble across the line on Sunday, I decided that it was something I wanted to do.

A few weeks later I went to the first MOM race at Bavington State Gamelands. I jumped right into the SS open class, finished 12th out of 20 on the 8 mile time trial course, and crashed three or four times (Bavington isn't even a technical race.) I did the other three races in the series and finished each one with similar results.

I feel like I've been racing for longer than 11 months. I've still never entered a beginner, sport, or junior race. But I have done hard XC races, a 50, and a 100. I've improved so much over the past months, and I can't wait to see where future seasons take me.

So I'll be back at the Springs, again just spectating. (I could have been racing for Pro Bikes if I would have had some contact info on this rag. Whoops. Fixed that one.) But I'll be watching with a completely different perspective. This time I'll actually know how the guys feel when they're pounding out laps. Last year I was an XC runner, and this year I'm a mountain biker.

I have to say, I'm really happy with how far I've come in a year. At the 2009 month of mud I'll be going for podium spots. In 08' I was just trying to survive. That in itself says something.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

bearlony!

This is the last day of the Bear recapping. I do swear it.

The Black Bear was a really was a great course. I loved the leg burning ascents and the cojones testing downhills. I rode well, but I was defiantly holding a little in reserve on the technical sections. The “scariest mountain bike race in the world” mantra was in my head the whole time, and it probably did slow me down. I had no desire to crash and break myself.

The course was definitely one that merited a pre-ride. Learning the lines would have made the difference between a second and third place for me. Next year I think I’ll try to head out the day before and get all the corners and rocky sections nailed down. There is a $200 prize for breaking the two hour mark, and I would only have to shave 27 minutes off my time. From the comfort of my cushy chair a 20% improvement seems like a reasonable goal

While I loved the course, loved the t-shirts, and loved the race, I was a little perturbed with the way awards were presented. I know that prizes aren’t the reason we race, and I don’t like to bitch, but I’m going to bitch anyway (mostly just because I’m bitter about not getting the snazzy green ergons on the prize table.)

Cash awards only went to the Expert Men and Expert Women. Everyone else went to the prize table. That’s fine. Not every race can pay gearless fools and old men. The order to the prize table went 1st place SS, then 1st place in every subsequent class.

The first place beginner, who rode half the distance, trained less, and spent less on equipment, went to choose a prize before the 2nd place Single Speeder. That really is not fair. Experts should go to the table first, then sport classes, then the beginners. There should be a benefit to racing at a higher level, and some motivation to move up a class.

Then the awards went down the line again until looping back to the 3rd place SS

Or so I thought. 3rd (me) was skipped because there were only six guys in the class. That sucks, but at the time I thought it was understandable, until the promoter hit the Sport Vet class. He started to go down through the places: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th?!

7th I say! Who goes 7 deep? There were only 16 riders. To only go two deep in SS and Expert Vet, and seven deep in a sport class is just craziness.

I rode 10k farther than the Sport guys, and I finished the 40k in the same amount of time the 7th place sport vet finished 30k. I may be crazy, but I think I worked harder. Purely from a reward based standpoint, why not enter the sport class, win, and get the pick of the table? I did finally go to the table and while I do love my "strap on tool sleeve", with a third place in an expert class, I feel like I shouldn’t be the last one to pick a prize.

From Drop Box
(Honestly, what injury is that little strap going to prevent? I'd love to email lezyne and find out.)

I think awards should be based on finishing time. Take the top three from each class, regardless of how many were in a class, line them up in order of time, and call them up. So if the 3nd place Vet finished before the 1st place SS, the Vet gets to pick first. The guys who did the long course (experts) pick first, the medium length race goes second (sport), and the beginners should go last and get what ever is left over. When they get faster and move up a class, they can have a pick of the good stuff.

Or the promoter could just throw all the crap on the ground and tell people to pick up a stick and fight each other for it. I feel like that would be fairer than the way it was done.

I'll still be back next year, because the race rocked, but I hope they get that prize thing straightened out.

I finally started on my requisite 10 hours of trail maintenance for the WVMBA series. 1 hour down, 9 to go. Woot.

From Drop Box
(this trail was way weedier before it saw the wrath of my machete)

Anyhoo, I was seriously thinking about doing the SM100 this weekend, but it seems that the race has filled up. I’m on the waiting list, and my fingers are crossed, but assuming it doesn’t work out, I may just go heckle riders at the Seven Springs 24 hour.

The cowbell is a ready.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

black bear 40k: part duex

(Go to part one before you skip to part duex. The whole thing will make more sense. I promise)

We were hiking up a super steep rooty section, and a rider came by spinning his granny ring and climbing like his tires had fingers. “Yeah! Get it get it!” we shouted, and by some miracle, the guy cleaned the section. I was thoroughly impressed.

Another piece of single track flew by, and I was feeling less than stellar. I got over to the side and let Don speed by, as he was pinning the turns. Finally I hit the long anticipated Black Bear downhill. Rocks were everywhere. Big, big, sharp, pointy rocks. My brain couldn’t process the information my eyes were sending it, so I just got my ass behind the saddle and hoped for the best. As usual, having my seat anterior to my posterior pulled me through. I dropped off rock after rock, but managed to stay in control and alive.

(the black bear downhill. it looks worse in person)

Again I ascended, and at the top turned onto pine ridge trail. I had heard the promoter say before the race that this was the hardest descent of the day, but at the moment I had no idea why. I flew by a sign that exclaimed “SSS (very scary.)” I rolled onto the top of a rock, and suddenly the trail disappeared. I almost shit my pants.

“Holy Shit!” I exclaimed as I grabbed two fist full’s of brakes. There was a four plus foot drop inches from my front wheel. “You got it!” yelled a woman 10 feet below the level of my head. I got my butt back, stuck my tongue out (I’m guessing I did that so I could bite it off if I crashed) and proceeded not to think. I rolled the drop, and honestly, I have no idea how. Somehow I avoided what should have been a spectacular endo, and laughed delightedly that I had cheated certain mangling. I felt like a loon.

More switchbacked descending followed, and I must say I’ve made some big improvements in that area. There’s no way that I would have made a single one of those sharp turns at the beginning of the season.

We hit the bottom and Brad from Bikeman informed me that we had one climb, one descent, and one big hike a bike left. He then told me that he thought his rib was broken and was finding it hard to breathe. I acted on his first bit of information and tried to catch Aaron for the third time. I got him on the up hill, but when we hit the down he pulled out of sight again. It wasn’t quite fair. I did hard work to catch him, and he got the pleasure of passing me on the fun sections. A mighty harrumph to that.

I hit the hike a bike and Brad was close behind. “Hey you found the hike a bike!” he exclaimed. “No shit.” I thought to myself. We trudged up the incredibly steep incline. “I always thought this would be the worst place to get attacked by bees.” Brad chirped “You’re a sitting duck. You can’t go down, and you can’t run up” I laughed. He had a point. Or I think he had a point. It seemed relevant at the time.

We went down a swoopy down hill and spilled out on to the road. “Whoohoo! Almos there!” shouted a large man with suspenders wearing a beard. We rode up a steep climb, and then rolled back down to a stream.

I pedaled along the stream and at last the finish line appeared. I rolled across and jumped off my bike. I was beat.

From Drop Box

black bear 40k: part one + deux

edit: this be both parts now

(I’m starting to get carried away with these race reports. Understanding the short attention span of the average reader, I’m going to break it up over two days. So there will be more talk about races and less bs-ing about new tires and training rides. That’s a good thing right? Nobody wants to hear me cry over a punctured rubber.)

The Black Bear is billed as the hardest race in the WVMBA series. The race t-shirt (which was awesome) claims it is the “scariest mountain bike race in the world.” Not having ridden every mountain bike race in the world, I can’t attest to that, but it is a pretty damn scary course, from both an elevated heart rate and technical ridiculousness standpoint.

The experts started 1 hour before the other classes. We were to ride two loops, the first one small, and the second larger. We lined up on the far bank of a creek. “Is this all the experts that came this year?” the promoter questioned, “they must be too afraid of the Bear...”

When the starter gave the go ahead, we splashed across in a fury of clicking gears and straining chains. Don from Pro Bikes had given me a little bit of info about the course, so I wasn’t overly surprised when we began a 3-ish mile climb on the opposite bank.

The field started up the steep fire road at a fast clip, but before long was strung out in single file. Every few hundred feet the road would level out, giving a moment’s reprieve before turning again turning skyward, steeper than before. I alternated standing and mashing in the saddle in an attempt to keep my legs from exploding in the first 10 minutes of the race. I was a little behind the lead pack, but before long I caught up to Rob Loehr, the SS leader.

He was off his bike hiking, and taking the cue, I dismounted and tried to recover while walking up the pebbled road. A string of 3 geared riders started to spin by me, so I took a deep breath and began to run. Within a few feet, I caught them and remounted my bike in one lightning fast motion. I put my head down blasted the rest of the way up the hill at a space-time continuum bending 4 miles per hour.

Somewhere before the top I caught Rob, and I was the first SS into the single track. The trails were fast, dry and smooth. It was vaguely reminiscent of the riding at Raystown Lake. I was still a little lightheaded from the effort on the first climb, so at that point I wasn’t exactly carving the best corners.

Eventually I heard someone ask to get around me, and being the upstanding gentleman I am, I obliged. Unfortunately, it was Mr. Robert (who will henceforth be referred to as the Dread Pirate Roberts. but not the original one.) ‘Dammit’ I muttered, ‘I have to quit letting people in my class have the pass like that...’ The Dread Pirate Roberts rolled away as I made a feeble attempt at chasing him.

Don was riding close behind me and giving some trips about the up coming trail features, which up to that point were not to numerous. Then we hit the first of six (I think) downhills. The trail dropped.

Roots and loose dirt filled my vision as I struggled to maintain control of my bike. I took the wrong line around a switchback and locked up both wheels in an attempt to stay on the trail. I failed, and started sliding down the hill. Pulling my feet out of the pedals and digging in my heels, I finally arrested my sliding. Don took the correct line and shot by me down the hill. I hopped back on and completed the descent. The trail spilled out onto a paved road. I tried to stay on Don’s wheel across the bottom. We hit another gravel climb. The gravel was deep and energy zapping. The Bear was starting to remind me of a miniature Wilderness 101 with its steep road climbs followed by steeper singletrack declines.

The next downhill was similar to the first with loose chunk and roots a plenty. We climbed up another hill and completed the first lap (I think. The details got real fuzzy at that point. Oxygen deprivation. The legs are more important than the brain anyway right?)

At some point we climbed up a short-ish grade, and I proceeded to make a wrong turn. I didn’t realize my error until I saw two riders that were behind me go the opposite direction. I think it was at that point that Aron passed me, and I dropped into third place. I cursed, smacked myself in the helmet, and turned back.

The guys had dismounted their bikes, and I did the same and proceeded to hike around. If there were any “hike while pushing a bicycle that racers are forbidden to mount at any time” races, I would absolutely kill. Maybe I need to get into burro racing.
From Drop Box
We were hiking up a super steep rooty section, and a rider came by spinning his granny ring and climbing like his tires had fingers. “Yeah! Get it get it!” we shouted, and by some miracle, the guy cleaned the section. I was thoroughly impressed.

Another piece of single track flew by, and I was feeling less than stellar. I got over to the side and let Don speed by, as he was pinning the turns. Finally I hit the long anticipated Black Bear downhill. Rocks were everywhere. Big, big, sharp, pointy rocks. My brain couldn’t process the information my eyes were sending it, so I just got my ass behind the saddle and hoped for the best. As usual, having my seat anterior to my posterior pulled me through. I dropped off rock after rock, but managed to stay in control and alive.

(the black bear downhill. it looks worse in person)

Again I ascended, and at the top turned onto pine ridge trail. I had heard the promoter say before the race that this was the hardest descent of the day, but at the moment I had no idea why. I flew by a sign that exclaimed “SSS (very scary.)” I rolled onto the top of a rock, and suddenly the trail disappeared. I almost shit my pants.

“Holy Shit!” I exclaimed as I grabbed two fist full’s of brakes. There was a four plus foot drop inches from my front wheel. “You got it!” yelled a woman 10 feet below the level of my head. I got my butt back, stuck my tongue out (I’m guessing I did that so I could bite it off if I crashed) and proceeded not to think. I rolled the drop, and honestly, I have no idea how. Somehow I avoided what should have been a spectacular endo, and laughed delightedly that I had cheated certain mangling. I felt like a loon.

More switchbacked descending followed, and I must say I’ve made some big improvements in that area. There’s no way that I would have made a single one of those sharp turns at the beginning of the season.

We hit the bottom and Brad from Bikeman informed me that we had one climb, one descent, and one big hike a bike left. He then told me that he thought his rib was broken and was finding it hard to breathe. I acted on his first bit of information and tried to catch Aaron for the third time. I got him on the up hill, but when we hit the down he pulled out of sight again. It wasn’t quite fair. I did hard work to catch him, and he got the pleasure of passing me on the fun sections. A mighty harrumph to that.

I hit the hike a bike and Brad was close behind. “Hey you found the hike a bike!” he exclaimed. “No shit.” I thought to myself. We trudged up the incredibly steep incline. “I always thought this would be the worst place to get attacked by bees.” Brad chirped “You’re a sitting duck. You can’t go down, and you can’t run up” I laughed. He had a point. Or I think he had a point. It seemed relevant at the time.

We went down a swoopy down hill and spilled out on to the road. “Whoohoo! Almos there!” shouted a large man with suspenders wearing a beard. We rode up a steep climb, and then rolled back down to a stream.

I pedaled along the stream and at last the finish line appeared. I rolled across and jumped off my bike. I was beat.

From Drop Box