Not many events get me excited now-a-days. Partially because my time is limited and partially because I have lost interest in racing. That leaves what races I do attend being events that are special in some form or another. The Ronde is just plain fun no matter how you look at it. A bunch of goofy singlespeeders terrorizing 'cross riders? Yes please. Singlespeed-A-Palooza and the [former] Darkhorse 40? Those are also fun yet extremely challenging events. The fun overcomes the pain you feel whilst out on course. Why? They know how to put on a fun event. The Wilderness 101? That was my first 100miler I ever did and, well it seems that this year our Ronde 'band' is getting back together and we're all going to the 101. Might as well throw my hat back in the ring to ride ALL DAY LONG (as Ramponi would say).
So, yes, here we go. This year's SSPalooza through my eyes. Earlier this year my intentions were to ride out to Stewart NY like I did last year. While I know that this year is my 'transition year' due to injuries and all, my mind still feels like I can do things like I did last year. I took a stab at riding to the Ronde. That was a challenge yet worked better than anticipated. Shortly after that I had a heart attack (it was actually a pulled muscle in my chest). That all drove me to deciding to catch a car ride to NY this year.
Recovering from the pulled muscle in my chest I also revisited my full suspension singlespeed project. This was a project I started before I injuried myself yet have not really spoken about.
TeamDicky pink I9 wheels. Looks like SSPalooza will be done on a full suspension singlespeed this year. To add more to the fun factor.
Maggs picked me up Saturday morning and we high-tailed it to NY. The plan was to do a full lap of the course and then hang out and drink beer. 'Wildman Willy' was a few hours behind us. So was Mandy. George was in spirit. Maggs's friend Donny from PA joined us and we got down to business and went for a ride. With my chest feeling better I felt comfortable enough to ride hard on Sunday. My legs told me otherwise as I began turning that 36x17 up Ridge Road. Throughout the ride I also found a slice in the sidwall of my tire so I either had to buy a new tire or repair this one before the race.
While out there Darkhorse George asked me to take a look at his course markings and let him know areas that need improvement.
After the ride I upgraded to a 36x18 and also threw some more Stan's in my rear tire. I then volunteered to go back out and help add more markings to the course. Armed with a local that knew the trails inside and out as well as a huge roll of blue Shimano course tape, we were off to go fix three locations I spotted. Mainly fireroad spinning with some short trail sections to ride over to the areas that needed work. The new gear felt much better. Somehow the tire was holding air so I figured we're all good. Somewhere around 35 miles ridden for the day.
All that blue tape you saw out there,
By this time I got an email from 'Wildman Willy' stating he's bringing T-Hom ParSSons with him. Mandy also emailed me saying she was able to grab some Heady Topper from the cannery in Waterbury VT before leaving town. Oh boy, now we are going to have a party!
We surprised Darkhorse George with his own 4-pack of Heady Topper in hopes to make his day. Ginger also arrived (and brought a tire for me but I declined to swap tires for some stupid reason). We also then went to get kicked out of Applebees. We pretty much did for as we were paying for our food the fire alarm went off.
Comfort Inn for sleeping. Yeah, no hammock in 32F weather this year.
The next morning was race day. Trying to get moving.
I heard a quote today that seems very fitting to my experience at SSPalooza.
or something along those lines. The start was fast and the road was very dusty. I got out up with the front guys sitting right on 'Wildman Willy's rear wheel. The first pitch on Ridge Road I immediately knew what kind of day I was having....
I started moving backwards and my legs had no gas. I settled into whatever pace I could sustain on this incline. As soon as things leveled out I was able to crank the pedals up to a high cadence and start picking people off again. Next incline? Slid back to some slow pace. Decline to the intersection of Weed Road. Right turn down Weed Road and then a quick right onto Major Mike. Passed more people.
Major Mike? The first trail segment maybe 5 miles into the 24 mile race. First turn the bike felt very wishy washy. Rear tire was low on air.
I pulled over again and watched the entire Open Pro field (mens & womens) and most of the Sport field pass me as I took my time putting a tube into the rear wheel. Now the plan was slow down and have fun and enjoy the full suspension singlespeed. My intentions all along but my start was quicker than I wanted and I fell into the trap of riding faster than I wanted.
Sometime later I was back on the bike and now sitting on people's wheels with my brakes locked up because I wanted to ride the trails faster than the people I was surrounded with. For the next few miles I could do nothing but ride my brakes, rub tires and not pass anyone as the trail was so narrow. I did manage to find one or two locations to pass people. Mainly down trees that the trail went around and I went straight and bunny hopped the trees. That only gained me one or two places.
Now things were not fun for me. I was being forced to ride slower than I wanted as I was the caboose of a 20+ people conga line through the woods. Not even worth it to try and pass anyone and piss anyone off so I just had to grit my teeth and wait until we got back out onto Weed Road. Pass 20-30 more people on Weed Road and then get stuck behind the next conga line on this sweet tight trail segment that brought us back to Weed Road.
Back onto Weed Road and up the climb to the top of the Orchard / bottom of Major Mike. Passed a few more people and now I was in a place where I had some distance so I wasn't riding on someone's wheel and could enjoy the trail. Now things got fun again.
I found myself able to spin a high cadence with little difficulty on the flats but the steep climbs in the beginning I had nothing on. Guess this is a by-product of my recovery and winter training. I spent the winter doing some strength and agility work for my ankle and then did 250m sprints on rollers as my LBS. I still need to work on high intensity stuff like accelerations and what-not. In time.
After coming around the beaver pond I stopped for some beer and water. Realized I was 2 gels in and half a bottle of water. It was an interesting observation but nothing I took action on.
I was feeling good. Riding hard (as I was on the chase the entire race) but at a point where I was able to sustain a constant pace and still have some fun rallying the trails. I got to the point on singletrack where I gave up passing people and just rode. This bothered some as I was sitting on their wheel but I didn't care. I was enjoying the ride.
My plan was to give it everything once I turned onto Scofield Ln and marched towards the finish. I knew the full suspension would soak up all of those bumps and I'd just float down the hill to the finish line. It worked. I had a few people in the Open Pro class catch up to me on the false flat climb to the peak of Scofield Ln but I then put over half a minute on them coming down the short descent thanks to the big wheels and the big bike.
Finished in about 2 hours flat. Good enough for 70th place in the Open Pro class out of over 100 people. Far from last year's top 10 finish but I had fun, tried some new things and felt good despite the recovery winter thanks to last fall's injuries.
results are here
Eyes were crusted over with dirt thanks to such a dry dusty day. Times were so much faster than last year thanks to the dryness we are calling Spring 2013. Winning XC time was 1hr 37mins. Top 10 rounded out at 1hr 44mins. Whatever, I had fun and that is all that matters.
Wow, such an awesome weekend riding bikes with friends and seeing such awesome people I don't get so see too often. Especially with some of them moving from CT and VT out to CO. I wish them save moves and the best in the next chapter of their lives.
Supposedly we get to do this again next year. You can count me back. All five SSPalooza's have been so much fun and get more enjoyable by the year.