Photo Cred

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hey, There's The Beef!

The Stats:
  • 25 miles
  • ~3400' of elevation gain
  • 2nd-place overall (1st Singlespeed, but we didn't have our own division.)
  • 2:06 to the finish

Finally, a race that felt like I could race!  After my DNF at Pierre's Hole and a lackluster performance in New Hampshire my confidence was pretty low heading into the Park City Point2Point this coming weekend.  I mean, I love competing in these long races, but if I'm unable to really compete for some reason then why bother?

Enter the Teton pASS Kicker: 25 miles of amazing singletrack racing.

Well, maybe 20 miles of amazing singletrack racing with 2.5 miles of pavement at the start and again at the finish.  More on that later.  I managed to get close to the front for the start this time.  (Not terribly difficult with only 40 or so racers.)  So, after the pack spin up Fish Creek Road to the trailhead the singletrack was just fast and fun--not fighting to pass other racers who I'd stuck myself behind.

I rode with fellow Fitzgerald's Bicycles teammate Gabe Klamer for the first half of the climb up Philips Ridge.  (On the team he's known as Fiddee Cent--how do I get a nickname?)  Gabe is riding super strong this year, and was actually able to carry on a conversation as he led me up the Ridge singletrack.  Or, he was able to carry on his half of a conversation; I mostly just grunted.

About halfway up Philips Ridge I started feeling a bit spunky so I squeaked past Gabe on a short stretch of doubletrack, washed out on a switchback but recovered myself, and rode the rest of the climb in the front with Gabe as my shadow the whole way.  Then we romped through the Ridge Trail-to-Arrow Trail stretch at the top.  Rolling, winding, rocks here and there--ease off the brakes and let 'er rip.  Muy bueno.

My high point of the race was riding through the Aid Station at the halfway point (run by Sarah--thanks!) and seeing Ben Aufderheide (the machine) about 50 yards ahead.  I had been pushing the pace with the knowledge that Gabe was somewhere right behind me, but seeing Ben there gave me a short-lived extra bit of gas in my legs. Ben has been winning just about everything he's entered this year, and I've never even seen the back of his jersey.  So to be within striking distance at the top of the big climb was shocking, but pretty exciting!

And that was the last I saw of him.  Whether or not he even realized I was there is unknown, but he disappeared up the trail and my legs chose to temper the pace.

I managed to put a small gap on Gabe in the Arrow switchbacks, which helped me feel better about staying ahead of his full-suspension ride on the Philips Canyon descent.  I've been warned for years about how rough and technical the Canyon is (I had never ridden it until the race.)  Whatever!  I had a blast!  Sure, there are some technical, steep, rocky sections but they're all rideable and the rest is just roaring fast and way smoother than the Ridge trail.  There are even a few log-rides over the creek to get the adrenaline pumping that extra bit.  (They're all optional, but faster than the wet-crossing options.  Sick.)

The singletrack ended with me having held my lead on Gabe and about 90 seconds back from Ben, according to some friendly spectators.  I've been working this season on my mountain-bike-aero-bars-time-trial (MTB TT) position for pavement racing just like the 2.5 miles to the finish-line.  I don't actually have aero-bars on my mountain bike, but the position makes a huge difference in my ability to spin/coast on smooth terrain.  As I don't have an option to "shift up" on the singlespeed, and I fully spin out at around 20mph, being aerodynamic is key.

Somewhat more aerodynamic in the MTB TT position.  Gabe's just chilling in his big ring.

Regardless, Gabe calmly rode up next to me after about a mile on the pavement and without anybody threatening from behind we spun in together.  He graciously sent me through the finish ahead of him, with some justification about me having ridden the mountain bike portion of the race ahead of him so it wouldn't be honorable to take the second-place finish away from me on account of my lack of a derailleur.  What a guy!

Stoked at the finish!

We ended up 2:30 back from Ben, which felt pretty good given his performance this season.

Fitzy teammate (and my neighbor) Dan Abraham raced on his singlespeed too.

With the exception of the pavement at the beginning and end of the course, this was a high-quality singlespeed race.  Hell, I would rate it as a SICK new race all around.  What a freaking blast!  Great climbing, fun romping through the woods, and a ripping descent, all on phenomenal trails.  Damn.  Some of the most fun I've had racing all season.  It was pretty fun to just open it up and go all out for a couple of hours without having to worry about saving some energy in the tank for 5 hours later.  Might have to add a few cross-country races to the calendar next year.

And now I have some confidence heading into the P2P this weekend--I actually CAN race!  Now if I can just keep my focus on having fun down there, and riding my own race...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Where's The Beef?

The Stats:
  • 100 miles
  • ~10,000' of elevation gain
  • 3rd-place singlespeed
  • 19th-place overall
  • 8:41:19 to the finish

"Where were you out there?"

It's a fair question.  Several singlespeeders posed it to me after the race, and I've been asking myself the same thing ever since.

I mean, my brain knew I was supposed to be racing.  I had awesome accommodations...

...I was well-rested and well-fed, my race-prep was thorough, and after reassembling my bike it was mostly riding well.

(I made the mistake of going for a new chain without checking the wear on my chainring--not a great match, but other than making a racket it seemed to be pedaling fine.)

It was a beautiful morning at the start line, with a heavy dew in the fields and clear skies overhead.

So why was my body riding like I was out for a Sunday spin?  The race started with 20 miles of mostly fast-spinning roads and rail-trails.  Right off I could see Gerry Pflug and a crew of singlespeeders racing off ahead of me, but my legs just weren't interested in bridging the gap forward to them.  Try and try again, and I just kept dropping back.  I mean, after blowing up at Pierre's Hole I was planning to temper my pace in the early part of the race, but this was ridiculous.

It was so bad that after the race Gerry told me he thought I had missed the start!  Crap.  Ultimately I ended up in a pack of slightly slower riders, figuring that I could ride efficiently until the climbing started and then kick it up.

Then the comedy of errors began.

On a twisty singletrack, just after passing the pack on an uphill, I caught a pedal on a rock and went over the handlebars.  My waterbottle flew out of its bottle cage and the whole pack passed me back while I was pulling myself together.  Then a half-mile later I realized that my Cateye had gotten jacked-up in the fall so I stopped to fix that.  (I've come to rely on knowing my distance on the course to help anticipate aid stations/obstacles/the finish, and figure out when to push it.)

On a stretch of dirt road soon after that I reached back to pull my electrolyte pills out of my jersey pocket and managed to open the cap as I got them out, spilling the contents across the course behind me.  Sweet.

Didn't bother to stop and pick them up.

I caught and passed the pack on the next climb, but my waterbottle exited its cage again in a rocky section at the bottom of the following descent, and they passed me back while I retrieved it.  I lost a bit more time handing another rider a CO2 cartridge for his flat tire, but that seemed worth it.

On the next climb I was able to pass most of the pack again.  And then they passed me back when I missed a course marker and rode 100 yards off-course before correcting.  What the hell?

At this point I was pretty confident that I was well off the back of the singlespeed field, but I was also pissed off and fed up with the back-and-forth with the pack I had been in so I slapped myself around a bit and gave my legs a good talking-to about how we were 30 miles into a 100-mile race and they had better figure their shit out NOW!

And then everything got better.  My body woke up and I was able to charge into the course, cranking hard up climbs and keeping the pace strong--no compromises.  

I attacked the next hill, passed the pack and a few more riders for good measure, and that was finally the last I saw of them.

For the rest of the race, the hardest part was not having Erica there to support me and keep me informed about where I was relative to the rest of the racers.  It was a long stretch of riding solo, with only the music flowing into my right ear for company.  I kept telling myself, "100 miles is a damn long race; anything can happen in the next 50/30/15 miles.  Focus forward, pull them back in."  So that's what I did, to a point.

My body's resurgence to racing corresponded to the course becoming more interesting; we made it out of the bulk of the road riding and into the fun stuff: challenging East Coast singletrack--super twisty, lots of rocks and roots, little in the way of a view forward in the course--interspersed with fast doubletrack stretches.  Some mud bogs thrown in there as well, and a 40-yard long pond across the course that turned out to be thigh-deep.  (I chose to carry my bike over my head after riding until the water came up over my bottom bracket.)

I may have been back in the field, but damn I was having fun.

I caught up to Matt Ferrari just after the trip through the base area (where the 100K course ended and we headed out for another abbrievated lap.)  He was suffering, and just wanted to finish his 30th(!) 100 miler.  Now that's impressive.  He told me I had 3 guys ahead of me, including Gerry (with whom I had hoped to be competitive) but said he hadn't seen them in a pretty long time.

Honestly, the second lap pretty much flew by.  I felt like I was riding strong, and fluidly.  It wasn't long before I was passing 100K riders nearing the end of their race, which psyched me up but also made it a little weird figuring out if the rider I was reeling in was a 100-mile singlespeeder or not.  Coming into the last 5 miles I put in a big finishing push--gave it everything I had to see if I could pull into the top 3--and with a mile left it finally happened.  I rolled up behind Patrick Blair and he glanced back and said, "Please don't tell me you're a singlespeeder."  I wish I had replied with something witty or pleasant, but all I could muster was a grunt and a request to get by--not the smoothest greeting I've ever made in a race.

And that was that.  I spun my tired legs as fast as they could go, rear end bouncing up and down in the saddle, across the grassy ball field to the finish and a barely-squeaked-out spot on the podium.  (Actually, the podium went 5-deep in this race, but the 3rd-place finish will be more helpful than 4th in the series standings.)

I will readily admit that I was disappointed with my performance.  My trip to New Hampshire centered around the hope to compete well with Gerry and whoever else was leading the race, but it just wasn't my day.

To put a more positive spin on the race I'm trying to see it as good training for the Park City Point2Point on September 1st.  (Racing is the best training after all.)  Hopefully the Hampshire 100 worked to shake my body back into racing form and I will compete like I want to in my final NUE race of the season!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Big Weekend

And it begins!  Actually, it began with the Young Dubliners playing the Thursday's closing night of Music On Main--so rad.  I remember seeing these guys 10 years ago, and they still rock the house.  Even Erica loved them!  It probably helped that I was actually dancing, but she claimed to dig the electrified Irish music.  It was the biggest crowd I've seen at Music On Main, and these guys kept the crowd stirred up; bouncing up and down, violin-guitar duels--so fun.

So that was a pretty sweet kick-off to my weekend of adventure.

And now I'm in New Hampshire!  Crazy!  3 flights and a rental car, picking up my bike at FedEx, driving around in the dark trying to find Nils' parents' house on a rural dirt road outside of Hopkinton. Ultimately, despite an address snafu I was falling asleep in a comfy bed before 11pm.

Arriving in the dark didn't allow me to appreciate New Hampshire--this place is beautiful!  Humid, yes, but cool forested terrain and quaint towns connected by rolling state highways.  The Eddy's house is a cute passive-solar home.  Unfortunately they're out of town so I won't get to meet them, but that means that I have the house to myself.  I so appreciate the opportunity to stay someplace comfortable where I can cook my own meals and do my thing.

And now it's race-prep time--filling bottles and Camelbak bladders, unboxing my bike and building it up, checking in for the race, hopefully getting a short ride in at the race venue.  Big pasta feed tonight, and early to bed before racing hard tomorrow!

Friday, August 10, 2012


Holy shit!

So, I was super disappointed after dropping out of the Pierre's Hole 100 as a result of the diarrhea fiasco.  I felt better physically after sleeping away the rest of the weekend (and going to see The Dark Knight Rises with Erica on Sunday afternoon,) but taking myself out of contention for the NUE Series singlespeed competition really bummed me out.

And then this arrived in my inbox:

You better ride even faster than that in the Hampshire 100 if you are going to beat Gerry Flug!

Yup, that's right.....YOU ARE GOING TO NEW HAMPSHIRE!!!! 

We know how disappointed you were about Pierre's Hole so we want to help you get to another race!   All the details are taken care of, including lodging at Nils' parents house just 30 miles from the race.   All you have to do is get on a plane and pack your bike shoes.  (Oh, and minor have to pack up your bike for UPS but I'll fill you in on all the specifics).

Keep eating have a big race ahead of you!  We love you and are so proud of you.
Erica, Tom, Sheri, and Nils!  (And Mary and Blue too).

What???  I mean, I was there when our friend Amanda mentioned that the NUE had added a race in New Hampshire this year that would fit into my schedule, but I figured there was no way that it was going to happen.


I clearly underestimated Erica's appreciation for my drive to race, and her conniving motivation to make it happen for me!  And my parents and Nils and Mary...  Damn, how can I thank them enough???

So how did I celebrate my return to series competition?  I went to work.

No, that was BEFORE I celebrated by going for a smokin' hot ride on Teton Pass.  (Not that I was all that fast; it was just really hot and smoky.  There's a big fire burning outside of Stanley, and we're right in the path of its plume.)  What better way to prepare for a race with relatively little climbing than to ride the steepest grade around?

Now I'm all a-quiver with anticipation about this whole thing.  I've never flown anywhere to race my bike.  Hell, I haven't been east of the Mississippi since a family reunion on Cape Cod when I was 13.  (23 years ago!)  So many logistics zipping around my brain.  Fortunately Erica has taken care of the really hard ones.  What a wife!

Apparently I just have to ship my bike and pack my shoes and it will all be awesome.

Live free or die...

Sunday, August 5, 2012


DNF at the Pierre’s Hole 100 this weekend.  Turns out that battling a recurring diarrhea-producing illness of mysterious origin for the week prior to the race doesn’t lend itself to pedaling a bicycle at high speed for 9 or 10 hours.  That sucked.

I felt okay for the first lap (Pierre’s Hole is a 4-lap course originating from Grand Targhee,) and was able to push a decent pace.  My body definitely felt a bit fatigued pedaling up the stiffer climbs—I just didn’t have much pop—but I figured that everything would wake up after a couple of hours of riding.  I rode much of the lap with singlespeeder Trevor Rockwell, trading the lead back and forth, a couple of minutes ahead of Gerry Pflug.   As we rode through the arch to start Lap 2 my goal of finishing under the 9:45 belt buckle cut-off looked like it was going to be within reach.

Rolling through Aid 1 just behind Trevor.
Photo: Sarah Hamilton

I opened up a bit of lead on Trevor through the middle of Lap 2, but once I got out to Rick’s Basin for the final few miles of the lap both Trevor and Gerry blew by me on the climb up Quakie Ridge.  They were riding really strong, and I just had nothing.  I kept grinding to the top, thinking that I might recover on the descent, but climbing back out of Rick’s Basin after riding down from Quakie was no better.  Lead-filled legs, and an overly-fatigued back and shoulders.

Trevor and Gerry had opened up a 6-minute lead on me by the time I got through the arch at the end of Lap 2, and I felt awful.  I got off my bike at the Aid Station and sat down in the dirt, trying to figure out how to pull my shit together.  Erica was volunteering at the Aid with the Fitzgerald’s crew, so I had a full team offering me every variety of food/drink that I could want, and an ice pack on the back of my neck.  Potato chips and water were the only thing that sounded good—interesting what seems palatable in that situation.  I ate a bit and rested in the shade for a couple of minutes while Jay P cleaned my chain and Erica packed a bag of chips for me to carry into Lap 3.

It was clear at this point that I would be no competition for Trevor or Gerry—I just wanted to finish the race.  Rolling into Lap 3 felt a little more lively, but things fell apart before long.  I had pretty much lost steam by the time I got out to Lightning Loop (maybe 2 miles into the lap,) and was fully cooked by the time I started the Colter’s Escape-Mill Creek descent.

This was the first time I’ve ever been too fatigued to race downhill.  Everything from my neck to my ankles just ached, and though I usually love this descent, bouncing down the rocky singletrack crushed me.  I gritted my teeth and slowly finished to Teton Canyon, and figured that if I couldn’t recover a bit on the spin to Aid 2 halfway up the road climb then I would call it.

No go.  It was all I could do to stay on the bike and keep pedaling slowly up the road climb. (It’s normally an easy spin—good opportunity to re-fuel and relax.)  Troy and Mitch handed me a Coke when I collapsed into a chair at the Aid, and that was it.  Big thanks to Mitch for driving me back up to Targhee, where I handed in my timing chip and ended my race.

It was really hard to bail out of my local race, especially when my season has been going so well.  An even bigger bummer is that this DNF takes me out of the running for the NUE Series title; had I done well at Pierre’s I would have had a fighting chance to win it.

After a nap, a small dinner, and a 12-hour night’s sleep I’m trying to focus forward on getting myself back into form for the Park CityPoint 2 Point on September 1st.  Lots of rest, some quality riding, and trying to gain back the 5 pounds I lost to last week’s diarrhea…

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Oh, Poop.

So, the WYDAHO Rendezvous Mountain Bike Festival last weekend was awesome!  Fitzgerald's Bicycles kicked it off with a party on Friday night, complete with a smoking DJ and the 50/50 BMX boys going HUGE on Main Street.  Unreal.  (Scott got permission from the City of Victor to shut down the southbound lane of Hwy 33/Main Street for the evening--so killer.)

On Saturday I went on a "group" ride with Fitzy teammate Dan Abraham up Mill Creek and around a portion of the Pierre's Hole 100 course.  It's all in really great condition right now, and Julia (our one festival rider) swore she had a great time despite the interminable uphills.  (More about that later.)

Rick's Basin is gorgeous this time of year.  Dan and Julia make the long climb out.

Julia descends into Mill Creek

Peaked Sports hosted a party on Saturday night with what is now my favorite local band ripping guitar licks and Jeff Lenosky throwing trials stunts on Little Ave.  (Dick got permission from the City of Driggs to shut down the first block of Little Ave for the evening.  What's up with these municipalities coming out in support of cycling events?)

Nikki rips down upper Red Creek.

Sunday morning was a group ride with Jason Berning (this time with a real group) on the Spooky-Red Creek-Corral Creek loop.  Just as good as I remembered.  And the jungle-schwacking section down Red Creek wasn't so bad!

Chris prepares to get wet.

Jason climbs out of the jungle.

What a weekend.  I even got out for a solo ride up Pole Canyon on Sunday evening.  Damn.

Monday was back to work, but the real fun started around 4:30 in the afternoon.  My stomach started to get tumbly sometime after lunch (which is unusual for me--I typically have an iron gut), and once I got back to the shop the first wave of diarrhea struck.  Then another about 15 minutes later.  No shit, I was on the pot over ten times between 4:30 and bedtime.

Other than drinking as much liquid as possible and eating a light, bland dinner, there wasn't much I could do besides try to distract myself with terrible cinema.

Even Thor couldn't hold my attention.  Crap.  And more crap.

Anyway, lots of sleep and a good dinner last night resulted in general feelings of health this morning.  Which brings me to an email waiting in my inbox this from Pierre's Hole 100 race director Troy Barry.  He included a brief updated course description:

Now, this being my local NUE Series race, I have a definite soft spot for it, despite the course being fantastically hard.  But they've outdone themselves this year:

If math still works, that translates to 20,000'+ of climbing over 100 miles!  What the f#*k?!  17,000' felt like a lot last year, and was by far the most in the series.  Damn, this is going to hurt...

Not that I'm complaining.  I love this race.  It might be a bit more difficult to get the 9:30 belt buckle this year.

At least the diarrhea's gone.

***Update: Apparently the PH100 crew had a squirrelly GPS that errantly registered 5067' of climbing; actual climbing will be more like 3800' per lap.  Phew!