Monday, September 25, 2006

Vermont 50

Looking back on the race it turned out to be a fairly good day. During the race I was in bad knee & lower back pains, splitting headache, f'd up saddle and seriously considered DNFing at the next aid station. My determination pulled me through (partway because I started feeling some extra strength around mile 40) and I finished the race.

It all began when I got home from work on Friday. Maybe I should say it all began about a week ago when I crashed. Thanks to that crash my ankles were sore and my right side was all bruised with very sore muscles regardless of how much I rested. I noticed some muscle fatigue early into my ride this past wednesday night but shrugged it off. Friday after work my left knee was bothering me (think it was the tendons on the back of my knee that felt tight). Saturday morning my knee still didn't feel 100%.

Got a lazy start to the day Saturday after a great night's sleep and eventually arrived at Ascutney resort around 5pm. Picked up my number. Said hi to Troy Michaud and his friends (rode w/ them at Kingdom trails a few weeks earlier). Shortly thereafter Bryan Budd arrived (my camp-mate and good friend from Maine). Pondered the course profile for a bit. Got the campsite set-up and then realized there was something wrong with my bike.

Thursday I switched the rear cog on my SS over to a 17tooth from the 16tooth. Somehow I got it to work w/ the current chain length. Had to realign the rear disc brake (red flag I somehow ignored). Well, Saturday evening I came to the realization that the chain was too short for the 32x17 gear ratio and my rear wheel was not centered in the drop-outs. Had to add 1 link to the chain the ghetto way (ghetto = reusing the pre-existing link rather than a master link). This resulted in a high probability of chain failure during the race. Then I realigned the rear disc brake. Got that all squared away right before it got dark and crossed my fingers the chain would hold up.

Weather was unusually warm and humid (lower 60s at night and probably mid 70s during the day). I'm used to getting up at 4am the day of this race in mid 30deg temperatures. I figured the warm air was a sign of good things to come, even with the forcast of rain. Little did I realize the high levels of humidity would contribute to my headache during the race (the water vapor was approaching the saturation rate aka: on the verge of rain).

2am Sunday. Stupid m-fr in the tent about 50ft away from us was snoring louder than Jason in his armchair in his W. Hartford days. I seriously had no idea how this guy was breathing for he was so loud and congested. I wanted to kick down his tent in an effort to wake him up. Even after I put my earplugs in it took me nearly another hour to fall back asleep.

4:30am Sunday. Rise and shine. Had some oatmeal and an apple. Arrived at the start shortly after 5am with plenty of time to change and ride around for a bit to warm up. I lathered up my knees and lower back with warm-up creme in hopes to help loosen the muscles up. Also did some stretching and eased into a warm-up ride back and forth on the road. Felt pretty good.

6am. line-up at the start for the 6:15 start. 6:15... gun goes off and we're on our way. I had a good start and was way up front drafting the geared riders and pedaling my brains out just to keep pace on the first couple of flat miles. A few short miles into the race I was singled out alongside two other SSrs. One of which was Independent Fabrication's own Thom Parsons (hmm. didn't realize he was here. chit. he's a fast rider. I've got no chance against him). Had a few words with Tom while we were pondering where the first climb was so we can get back into the group.

The first climb I was with Thom for a bit but he quickly dropped me. I was left to suffer on my own. This is where things started going downhill (unfortunately not literally). Those sore muscles on my right side were sapping every bit of strength out of me as I struggled up the hill. I also realized the climbs, being shorter in length than the ones in the 100milers, were much steeper. Now my choice of a 32x17 was coming back to haunt me. Where's that 18tooth gear?

I regained some position on the descent thanks to my daredevil descending skills (aka: laying on the toptube in a super aero tuck holding on for dear life in the turns as my fingers were no where near my brake levers). Then the next climb... fell off the back yet again. Hmm. I see a reaccuring theme here.

Probably around mile 15 I had enough and got off the bike to assess my saddle position. Every muscle in both legs hurt which was a sign of saddle position error. Damn. This thing is nose up again. WTF? I just replaced the saddle clamps within the seatpost. A quick readjustment and it was level again and I was off. Wow. Much better. I had strength again and could climb decently. Somewhere in here Troy passed me like I was standing still. I originally wanted to keep him in my sights but quickly realized I couldn't keep his pace.

Got to the top of Garvin Hill at mile 20 and was feeling okay. Realized I'm 2hours in. Hmm. Right on track for finishing in 5hours. This continued on to mile 30 where I was then 3hours in. Mentally I'm feeling pretty good but that is slowly degrading seeing as my lower back was acting up and my legs were just lacking pure strength to turn the SS cranks. I kept eating more beef jerky and held up on the energy gels but rather favored more accelerade and electrolyte pills. Remarkably my stomach felt fine.

The weather was on/off foggy and very humid. There were parts where I saw the sun peek out but for the most part it was a muggy autumn day.

From mile 30 to 40 it was all up and down but on some awesome singletrack. I tore it up with my technical skills and wound up catching quite a few people. Meanwhile my legs were on the verge of cramping and actually did one or two times while dismounting to run around a tight switchback. Got to the aid station at mile 39 and refilled my two waterbottles with more heed (camelbag was full of accelerade) and ate some backed potato slices. I was now around 4hours 20mins into the race. Uh oh. I'm falling off pace but there is nothing I can do about it. I kept an eye on the clock but rode within my ability given how my body felt.

Meanwhile, the past 10 miles of singletrack involved me inadvertantly duking it out with this other SSr I've seen at the 100mile races. He was on a rigid Ti Independent Fabrications and would drop me on the climbs but I'd catch back up to him on the singletrack and/or descents (he wasn't the greatest in the tight, wet, rooty singletrack). This lasted all through mile 45ish. The downhill there was awesome and even included some really big banked turns (bigger than the one at Case we ride all the time). It spit us out at onto the road only to ride through someone's backyard (we rode through over 90 privately owned properties) enroute to a grueling 3 to 4 mile climb partway up Mt. Ascutney. This climb is where that guy on the IF disappeared for I was very slow going up.

Once up the mountain the trail started traversing. I gave it everything I had left on that climb even with my legs cramping and the traverse was an amazing thing to see. That meant I had an insane downhill on what was probably a blue ski slope to the finish. Lost my waterbottles on that descent but kept on going. Flew over this roller catching quite a bit of air and then rolled into the finish line.

Awesome! I finished. I can't believe I actually finished. I felt like such chit for the vast majority of the race I was enthusiastic to finish. Upon finishing I felt this huge relief. Predominately because it was over. Caught up to that guy on the ti IF as I was waiting in line to wash the bike. Turns out he was running a 32x19 (I was on a 32x17) hence why he was able to power away from me on the climbs. It was, effectively, easier for him to climb for his cadence was up wheras I was turning over the pedals at a cadence one would think is stop-motion photography. Mental note for next year: try an easier gear for you'll only get dropped in the beginning but can make it up on the climbs later on in the race.

Stopped to talk with Thom on my way back to the car. He wound up finishing 2nd SS around 4hr 53mins (1st SSr was 3rd overall at 4hrs 40mins). He said he was feeling pretty good the whole time. Said he rode with Troy for a bit but Troy would lose him on the technical sections (mental note: Thom is strong but not the best technical rider... as he also pointed out when explaining the times he was following Tim Dougherty in the Mohican 100 in Ohio). Troy wound up finishing 5th SS in a little over 5hours (heard he's nursing broken ribs from earlier in the season).

On the way back to my car the rain came. The wind picked up and the rain came down in buckets. Bryan had 3 miles to go at this point. He came in around 30mins behind me. Said he felt good for the most part but crashed on some wet leaves in a turn. It bent his der. hanger so he had to stop and replace it (Yeah, he was carrying an extra hanger in his camelbag. Talk about being prepared.).

Looking back, and knowing the results, it turns out I did fairly well despite how chitty I felt the entire time. Finished in 5hours 50mins. 15th SS and 148th overall (out of close to 800 total riders). The kicker is in the time splits relative to the other SSrs. 10mins faster would have netted me around 9th SS. Thats how close the finishes were back where I was. The top 5 SS finishers were spread across 30mins (which I guess isn't that big). Official results are up on the website Vermont 50.

Hmm. Better training and preparation (ie: no crashes leading up to the race) should result in a top 10 SS finish next year.


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