Saturday, October 22, 2005

All-A-Muchy 50k

30miles through Allamuchy NJ. It was fun, painful and downright death at times. Picture a 30mile race through Case Mt. in CT or Mount A. in ME without ever doubling back on itself. That is what Allamuchy was like. Rock gardens galore coupled with 12 straight days of rain equals one tough race. I'm sure once things dry the place begs for a nice epic all day ride.

I decided to subject myself to a lot of pain and race my singlespeed (besides, I broke a few things on the Scapel last weekend at Ringwood). The race began with a Le-Mans start running about 40yards up a grassy knoll. Tim and I got to our bikes together. We then joined everyone else in a nice line as we flew down the gravel/dirt road past our cars and the registration table. Tim, his Cannondale teammate Brandon, 'Fast Eddie' (local NJ pro) lead the group and I was back in 8th or 10th. About a mile in we hung a left and began the long arduous climb up the mountain. It was a good couple miles before we got to the top. Eddie, Brandon and Tim put the hammer down and took off. I just tried to survive with my steep gear ratio (32x16) and lower back in throbbing pain. Three quarters up I lost traction and had to run a bit. This other singlespeeder passed me and I never saw him again until the finish. I should have had his 33x18 gear ratio.

Got to the top and kept chugging along. The first 15 miles felt like forever and I was riding like a pussy. The rock gardens ate me alive and I had no traction through the mud. I kept sliding as I went over the down trees and lost my bike on two slippery rock faces. My low gear ratio made it difficult to pedal through the puddles and the ground was so wet it felt like glue. I was cursing everything; the trail, the bike, the water, the rocks. I didn't want to be there. Somehow, after about two hours of hell, I got to the aide station at mile 15. Had some soda and m&ms. Spent probably about a minute or two there. The volunteers kept saying "The next 15 are even tougher". I looked at my chain and lack of derailleurs and thought "Fuck. I'm going to die."

The next five miles were mostly up hill and chock full of... yup, you guessed it... rocks. That destroyed my momentum and I wound up running a lot. It took me nearly an hour. Somewhere in there I came across this one rider with a Santa Cruz SuperLight. He was cheering me on as I muscled up this short climb and then he realized I was on a singlespeed. "Way to go. Way to go. God Damn. A Fucking singlespeed?" It was pretty funny. That was the reaction I got from just about everyone, riders and spectators/volunteers.

By mile 20 things started clicking and I was actually riding smart, and fast. Kept sipping the Camelbag and was popping an energy gel about every 30mins or so. The trail also got a bit easier. Less rocks and more trail to actually pedal through. I was around 13th or 14th place overall by then. Where I could, I pedaled hard and actually started to have fun. I think it also helped that I had ten miles to go. No one passed me again. As the finish line approached we wound up coming down the switchbacks and the climb from the beginning of the race. I passed a guy on the side of the trail screaming in pain as his legs were cramping. My biceps were cramping but I somehow was able to alleviate any issues with my last few energy gels. My legs felt great.

The last few miles were such a tease 'cause you could see and hear the road we parked near but we still had to go back and forth two times along the road before we got to the finish. I came around one turn into some mud and my front tire just stopped short and somehow I saved myself from going over the 'bars.. The wheel was in mud up to the hub. I was cursing.. Knew I was so close yet I'm still encountering mud and now my disc brakes didn't work anymore thanks to rapid wear with the sludge (alleviated once I re-adjust the cables).

Agh ha! Finish line in sight and after some high cadence pedaling I was done! I quickly got out of the disgusting wet shorts and put some dry warm clothes on. In the end Eddie took 1st (around 3hrs 15mins), Tim 2nd, Brandon 3rd and I finished 12th (4hrs 7mins) out of 100 or so racers. I'm stoked. It was tough but I did well and didn't have any mechanicals!

So that marks the end of my racing season. I still can't believe how it turned out. First year racing Expert and I've been on the podium a few times. I'm excited and eager for next season. Now that I've spent about a week off the bike I think I'm going to go for a ride tomorrow and kick myself to go to the gym two nights a week and slowly ramp up the base miles throughout the winter. Oh yea, Gotta go snowboarding too.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Ringwood Number 2

Ringwood number two... We brought our snorkels and managed to stay afloat. The trails were full of deep puddles and newfound rivers but not as bad as I anticipated. Guess anything is good compared to my 24hour race a few years ago (7+inches or rain in 20hrs). The rain held out so we didn't have to worry about anything falling out of the sky.

Rudzik had a great showing in the beginner class (1lap) mustering a 10 to 12mile loop as opposed to the required 7mile loop. Needless to say everyone passed him on the correct course but he had a great time and got a nice ride out of it. Great training for the ms tour's 100miler this coming Sunday. Rudzik went on to provide Tim and I water bottles during our race. And a mighty fine job he did.

Tim brought the singlespeed and competed against a fairly competitive semi-pro and pro field (3laps). He dominated on the singletrack but was passed on the fireroads. Felt good considering he wasn't feeling well last weekend and dislocated his shoulder back in June. Wound up finishing 5th while his Cannondale teammate took 2nd right behind "Fast Eddie". Fast Eddie set a blistering 1hr 30min time for three laps.

I was one of 6 in the Expert 19-29 (3laps). Had a great start. One guy took off and I grabbed onto his wheel. A mile or so down the trail I was like "this is a good pace. I'm not going full bore. think I'll sit here and open up an attack on lap two to go for the win." A mile later I turned around and there was no one to be seen. Great. Opened up a huge gap and now fight for 1st. Three quarters through the first lap we're flying down a doubletrack descent and all of a sudden "pfssst". F u ck! my rear tubeless tire just let go. Pulled the valve stem out, put a tube in and pumped it up with my two c02 cartridges. By the time I was filling it up with the 2nd cartridge people started trickling by. It seemed like an eternity. I didn't realize we were that far ahead.

Got back on and now was in the chase to get back to 2nd place. Caught 3rd as I finished the 1st lap and about halfway through the 2nd lap I caught what was now 2nd place. Pulled past him as we finished the 2nd lap. His bewildered reaction was "Didn't you flat?". Then I went onto lead the 3rd lap with him right on my wheel. That was after I grabbed my last water bottle with my left arm as Rudzik was on the right side of me. He thinks it was an accident waiting to happen but it seemed to go smoothly to me. As we came to the descent I flatted on I put the hammer down hoping to open up a gap, hold and take 2nd place. I did pull away but by the time I started climbing the switchback singletrack he caught back up to me. By now my legs were cramping (again) and I had no gas left. He felt good and took off. I was left to run up the hill and do my best to get through the rest of the terrain.

Finished 3rd (2hrs and 2mins) about a minute behind 2nd. He was strong and I was exhausted from playing catch-up. So, it was well deserved. I think 1st was around 8 minutes ahead of us. Don't know what happened to the tire. The bead was still sealed when I pulled it off so I'm guessing a rock sliced something. I'll take a look at it tomorrow. Time to sleep. Enjoy!

Monday, October 03, 2005

2nd place

Last race of the 2005 CT Points Series. I was determined to do well.

It was a short 5mile loop in and around the Brialee campground in northeast CT. We had to do 4 laps (20miles) and the pros had to do 5 laps (25miles). During my warmup I rode the first mile or so of the course and realized how rooty it was. As a result I let out some air pressure in my tires and front & rear shocks. I was racing my geared bike this time.

We roll up the start line and at first there were only 3 of us. After a few more minutes 3 more came and we had 6 people in the Expert 19-29 y/o class. The semi-pro / pro class went 2minutes ahead of us. Then us, then 30-39 and then 40+ and then the women (all Expert class).

I had a shitty start falling into last place as we flew across the parkinglot into the woods. After the first two turns the guy infront of me took the good line through a turn and I was stuck with the shitty line and smacked my shoulder on a tree. Shortly thereafter the trail came out onto one of the campsite roads for a few hundred feet. Here I put the hammer down to pass as many people as I could before we tucked back into the singletrack in the woods. I moved up to 4th place and was hanging on 3rd place's wheel desperately trying to pass but had no room to. Finally an opening and I took off to clinch 3rd place halfway through lap one.

Now the game was to haul ass and open up a gap while closing the gap of the two infront of me. I did this through the completion(sp?) of lap 2. I could see 2nd place every now and then 'cause the trail wound back up on itself at times. Nowhere could I see 1st. That told me I was around a minute or so behind 2nd. Partway through lap 3 one of the 30-39 y/os passed me and said no one was anywhere close to being behind me. My knees were getting a bit sore but I tried my best to muscle through it.

Lap 4 showed its signs. My pace slowed down a little bit but I still was able to hold on and had it in me that I wasn't going to catch 2nd place and was going to hold 3rd. 3rd is great because I have yet to finish 3rd in the Expert class (started this season in this class).

Finished the race within 2 minutes behind the guy in front of me. I then went off and pedaled a cooldown with him around the campsite. He went on to tell me that first place flatted on lap 2 and dropped out of the race which bumped all of us up on position. Said that 1st place was an easy 5minutes ahead of him.

Not bad! 2nd place finish. I'm pretty stoked. Won some cash.

Got Ringwood NJ this weekend. I finished 4th there last month and am hoping for a podium finish.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Vermont 50

Last year I thought a 50 mtb mile race was long until I did a few 25-30 mile mtb races this past year and my training rides increased to 3+ hours at a time. The 2005 Vermont 50 was looking promising.

I opted to leave the geared bike at home and race on the singlespeed. There is something about that bike I find intriguing. The pain of grinding up a hill? the simplicity of the bike? the fact that it is a hardtail versus my full suspension geared bike? Dunno, but its definitely something. I went with a 32x18 gear ratio as opposed to my typical ratio of 32x16 to help with some of the climbs. The course is predominately double track and fire roads
which lends well to setting a nice pace on a SS.

Woke up at 4am on Sunday to get ready. It was around 39degrees out and I did not want to get out of my sleeping bag. Shivering uncontrollably I made it to the start and we were off at 6:15. It was a good start. I was somewhere in the top 50 of the Expert field drafting the geared riders as we flew down the road and dirt roads for the first 10 or so miles. By mile 20 I had my rhythm and was setting a good pace for myself while munching on a bag of beef jerky and chex mix. Shortly beyond the 25mile aid station something happened. My chain was suddenly too long and kept falling off on bumpy terrain. WTF? This is a brand new chain and shouldn't stretch that much. My chain tension adjustment lies within the eccentric bottom bracket which allows me to use vertical dropouts and run a rear disk brake so I was essentially fucked seeing as I didn't have the tools to remove a crankarm
and readjust the bb.

It wasn't that bad so I shrugged it off and kept going. By the 37mile checkpoint I was still setting a pretty good time for myself. It took me around 4hours to get there which meant all things being equal I could have finished in under 5hours with a good working bike. By mile 40 the chain stretched out so far that I didn't have to take the rear wheel off to put it
back on. The chain then fell off on a narly descent. Oh well, keep on going as gravity is on my side here. That was a mistake. The chain was flying around smacking the wheel, chainstays and my pedals. That wound up putting a huge twist in the chain (see previous blog entry). Now the chain fell off anytime I was riding (pedaling, coasting, etc). I was so
close to the finish I couldn't DNF.

Running was my option. I ran with the bike through some amazing singletrack from mile 40 to around 46. So many slower riders were passing me that I got frustrated and hopped back on the bike. The rest of the race were some roads and the Ascutney ski resort trails. Despite me becoming extremely frustrated and the many times the chain fell off in the last 3 miles I crossed the finish line with the chain dragging on the ground behind me.

Finished in 6hrs 6min, 20th place for the singlespeed class and 250ish overall. Still shaved 3 minutes off my time from last year but came in well beyond my goal of a sub 5hour race. If I had no chain issues I would have finished 5th in the singlespeed class and top 50 overall.

Oh well. You win some and you lose some. The good news is I proved to myself I am competitive in longer races and that I can do well in the Wilderness 101 and Darkhorse 40 next year.

Until then. Enjoy your weekend!