Sunday, January 17, 2010

Epic Cross = DNF

The writing on the wall was clear to me on Thursday, a muddy course on Sunday was going to kill me. After two days of shoveling and using a four wheeler with a blade on front we managed to clear a course on the undeveloped side of Tuleries plaza. Temperatures we rising all week long and an estimated six inches of snow melted on Wednesday leaving most of the course clear of snow, but causing other unforeseen issues.

The Clear areas became muddy and some of the areas refroze causing ruts, layers of ice and mud. On race day the weather was much colder then for casted (no surprise there), frozen areas became larger and muddy areas became rutted from previous riders. Crunchy ice and wheel sucking mud that slurped at your wheels as they rolled through it.

The start was muddy, soft and short with a slight bend to the Left hard right on the to bricks and then a full sprint to the hole shot. Like last race I got a good jump and managed to take fourth into the hole shot behind, Mark, Songer and Lucas. Taylor was on my wheel as we rounded the second slight curve on the inside track. During warm up I had gone wide finding firm ground and no ruts, he had taken the inside line. Unfortunately, I took the inside line during the race and lost my front wheel to the frozen ground. As Taylor rolled by I bantered "take the inside line it's fast, blah blah blah", he managed to lose focus long enough to laugh just a bit.

The course rolled on top of a large berm and then dropped back down for four arduous down and back loops that crossed a mine field of frozen mud, clumpy ice/snow, long stretches of thick ice, sand, mud and cavernous wheel swallowing ruts that beat you down physically and mentally. As we turned on to the first stretch I realized quickly my legs and lungs were not going to hold on to Taylors wheel so i backed it down a bit and road my own race through the four loops of hell. As we headed up the bike path I tried to recover and get some wind back, but another group of riders had caught me. As my legs tried to push the bike along with the new group I could feel the heart rate get above my comfort zone. After riding through the drop off and headed back toward the start finish line my heart rate spiked again when I rode through the sand. Lucas was there pushing his bike and for a brief moment I was beating him.

That did not last long, after logging my first lap he caught me just as I rounded the same corner i previously wrecked. Again I found myself trying to ride my own race through the down and backs, but each time through my legs were heavier and lungs searing. The mud forced me to use an exorbitant amount of energy just to get through it, let alone hold a wheel in front of me. Once again my heart rate was way above my comfort level and I rolled along the bike path at a modest pace.

At the end of the third lap my lungs and legs were cooked. Score table showed four laps to go, I tried to convince them that only two more would work. Nothing doing. On the berm I began my puking routine, the dry heaves soon became actual bile rising from my stomach and the end of my season. After 3 and 1/8th of a lap my heart rate went anaerobic and I walked off the course.

Can't really complain much, the previous weeks did not include riding my bike except for races. No nights on the trainer, nothing but Guinness and exercising my fingers on the remote. A neglected road bike with trainer attached sits begrudgingly outside on the patio.

The race still ended well for Slimen with Mark and Josh taking first and second. Overall a great year for me, and something to build on for next season.

War out


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Grote Prijs Race Recap

Grote Prijis is traditionally the last race of the year and offers some of the most diverse course conditions due to a spring seeping up in the Southwest corner. This year offered up even more challenge due to the layers of frozen snow sitting on top of the grass. In order to get the course race ready a Bob Cat had attempted to clear the course with some what of a success. With ten guys shoveling and my mini tiller we managed to clear areas of the course well enough to make it fast in places and crazy in others.
The start was single digit cold with a slight wind out of the West. Josh Taylor lead the group up a slight incline and made the right hand turn in to the hole shot followed by Lucas, Songer and myself. The off camber grass section split into two tracks with a nice flow of ice right across the tracks midway through. Songer and Taylor on the left line while Lucas and I took the right. The course turned left up a slight hill that had limited attention the day before. This small turn proved to be more formidable at race pace then expected. The deep snow formed ruts that would violently take hold of the front wheel and send racers deep into the virgin snow. Reports of people going head first over the handle bars and other carnage were relayed after the race.
Taylor easily made the turn and launched up the hill, while Songer and Lucas simultaneously went in to the snow. I split the two and easily followed Taylor up around the tree. A quick glance to the right noticed a long line of racers caring their bikes up the hill, kind of like the Hillary Step on Mount Everest. I was a few seconds off the pace set by Taylor, but was absolutely pushing it as much as possible. In most cases I would never have the opportunity to put time on Songer and Lucas, but this course limited their power and level of fitness allowing Taylor and I to get a huge lead. Taylor was fit, I wasn't. Beer, food and crappy weather has kept me off the bike most of the month yet we managed to put time on both of them
I caught back on Taylor's wheel close to the end of the first lap. We rolled across the finish line one-two well ahead of the pack. On the straight sections and road section I fell slightly off his wheel. Once we hit the snow again I caught back on for half a lap of so until I found myself of course and in the snow.
At the end of lap two Taylor was off the front while Songer was out of sight. Lucas and Mark were closing in fast.
My fitness was well below theirs, but I held out hope that my efforts on the flats could keep them at bay. Not so much. Headed up the slight hill Mark and Lucas rolled by right before the grass section. Mark got a nice gap on us and never looked back. Lucas and I traded places a few time for the next lap, fortunately he kept finding the deep snow.
Rolling through the finish line I was third behind Taylor and Mark with Lucas right behind my wheel. We rounded the corner and headed up another strait section along the building when he made a strong move on the inferior right line. Midway through the section he hit a rut that threw him in my wheel. I grabbed both brakes and avoided a major collision, but the momentum was gone. Struggling to change gears and get back up to speed I lost his wheel for good. Heading up the hill I glanced back looking for the inevitable chase from Songer. He was just rolling through the finish line while i was headed up the hill.
Bike handling skills were starting to fade and the sections I previously cleaned caused me to hit the snow hard. Songer was charging and I was fumbling with my chain. Helen Keller could have put the chain on faster. After the chain was on I rolled across the finish line once again ahead of him, but in trouble. Not sure what point he passed me, but knew I had nothing in the tank. Trying to keep his wheel would have sent my heart rate way passed red line.
On the second to last lap I lost my ability to shift the rear derailleur. The gear was stuck in the easiest one and my legs could not pedal fast enough. The next group of racers including Unrue, Hammontree and Eastlack were closing in. Unrue passed me heading into the grass section. The hill and flats were killing me only having two gears. I kept his wheel, trading places a few times and then getting another large gap. On the bell lap he had the lead going up the Hillary Step and miscued again. I got ahead for good. He got caught in lapped traffic and ended up snow bound with Hammontree letting Eastlack get around.
The rest of the lap was uneventfully, my shifter never responded no matter how many time I asked it to. My legs and lungs felt fine due to the technical aspects of the course. Many places were best to be steady and smooth rather then laying out powerful strokes. I rolled across the finish line in fifth place, little snot running down the nose, yet a big smile on my face. Some feelings of remorse crept through my mind afterward. If I would have road more, if I would have drank less, if I would have eaten less maybe I don't gain 7 pounds and maybe I hold on to a podium finish?

Fifth place was the best finish so far in this series. Mark took first, Lucas, Taylor, Songer then me.

After the race fellow Slimen team members sucked down a few beers and Dave Pitt bought 20 double cheese burgers for the team.
Classic Slimen Racing!

War Out