Photo Cred

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Who Knew the Jurassic Was This Rad?

The Stats:
  • ~20 miles
  • 3000' of climbing
  • 1st-Place Singlespeed, 1st-Place Overall
  • 1:38 to the finish
  • # of Wrecks: 1 (I took an opportunity to ride my bike straight into a Juniper Tree on the best descent of the race.  Oof.)


I mean, really.  Wow.

When did Lander, Wyoming join the world of kick-ass singletrack mountain biking?  Lander is renowned for easy-access sport-climbing, and I've known for years that it's a secret source of great road biking.  But I was pleasantly shocked this weekend by the awesome dirt riding that has been quietly developed by the cycling community over here in the last few years.  Really damn fun.

Lander Cycling put on the inaugural Jurassic Classic mountain bike race this weekend, showcasing its trail network at Johnny-Behind-the-Rocks.  As my buddy Evan put it, it's reminiscent of the riding in Durango--cool singletrack and doubletrack through Sage, Juniper, and Piñon Pines.  Just sandy enough to drift the corners, but rarely enough to really bog down.

And the race was sweet!  Just a great community event.  Lots of friends from when I was teaching for NOLS full-time, and a really cool vibe.  Like everybody was just excited to have an event on the local trails, and everybody was there to have a good time, stoked to see the 50+ riders turn out to race.  They were joking that there were probably more volunteers than racers.  Cool.

As a nice culmination to this season's efforts at not getting stuck in the pack at the start of my races, I took off from the line harder than usual and found myself leading!  After recovering from a momentary panic I embraced the lead and kept it in high gear.  (So to speak.  "High gear" is relative on a singlespeed.)  Evan was chomping at my heels for the first half of the race, but I was able to pull away on a sandy climb and rode the rest of it solo.

It was really fun to forget about conserving energy for the 4th or 7th hour of the race and just give 'er.  (As my Canadian friends like to say.)  My heartrate was way up above where I could let it go in a long race, but for a late-season 20-miler?  Forget about it.  Keep it pegged, and if it starts to hurt peg it harder.  What a great ride.

Erica was waiting for me at the finish with our new family member Rue (a rescued black lab/mystery mix with a cinnamon roll corkscrew tail.)  Kisses, hugs, and a cool full-circle feeling: 1st-place overall finishes in my first and last races of the season.

The awards ceremony was a pleasantly low-key wrap-up to the whole affair.  One-of-a-kind awards made with old cogs and chainrings, somebody's pre-teen daughter announcing through a megaphone, lots of laughter and ribbing.  And burgers and beer at 10am.

Really damn fun, indeed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chasing Mr. Smith

The Stats:

  • 54 Miles
  • ~6000' of climbing
  • 3rd-place Singlespeed
  • 4:20:25 to the finish
  • # of Wrecks: 2 (I've decided to start including a "wrecking" stat, as that seems to be part of any race for me.)

Relaxing in "camp" the night before the race.

Waking up the morning of the MTB Marathon National Championships was actually pretty nice--I was camped in the parking lot, so with a 9:30am start time I rolled out of the back of my truck at 7 and had a leisurely morning of methodically going through my race prep routine.  Pretty different than the morning of a 6am start.

The butterflies were raging when I pulled up to the line with Carey Smith and the rest of the lycra-clad, über-fast singlespeed crowd.  Once the whistle blew we cruised off the line, surprisingly taking it a bit easy up the brief opening climb, but that was not to last.  My goal for the race was to stick with Carey as long as possible to see if I could compete.  As it turned out we had a group of 6 or so who rode together for the first few miles, but after that it shrunk to Carey, Cody Peterson, Ryan Voss, and myself.

Somewhere around mile 6 I could feel that we were racing harder than I had ridden all season, and when I looked down I saw that my heart rate was pinned WAY higher than it had been all season.  So I faded off the pace, realizing that I needed to ease up if I was going to finish.  Ryan was apparently feeling the same thing, so the two of us ended up riding most of the first half of the race together.  He was even there to watch me launch over the handlebars upon stuffing my front wheel into a boulder-strewn dry creekbed-crossing.  That was exciting.

The riding between Bend and Mount Bachelor was once again unbelievable--this place rivals Moab as a mountain biking destination; the amount of ridiculous-quality singletrack that has been cut into the forest around here boggles the mind.  And the Marathon course was exquisitely laid-out to maximize the singletrack fun with little in the way of doubletrack connectors.  SO FUN!

Back to the story--I managed to open a gap ahead of Ryan shortly before the half-way point, but knew he would keep it from opening up too big so I couldn't let off the gas.  I kept it hot, pushing through every obstacle and passing the riders ahead as efficiently as possible.  (The passing game got to be kind of a pain; the way the race is structured every division goes off independently, with 3-minute intervals.  We were the 8th wave to start, so we were endlessly passing riders throughout the race.)  

The ride down to the bottom of the course was mind-blowing: full-speed descending through huge bermed corners, rolling whoop-dees, gaps, you name it, all on a hardtail race bike--sporty for sure, but oh-so-fun.  Then the climb back up was actually super fun as well--technical, rocky sections but overall relatively low-angle climbing so I could turn it over fairly fast.  I was definitely fending off some serious cramping but figured that with less than five miles left to an uphill finish it would be more fun to just accept that I was in for a half-hour of pain and keep charging.

Whoa, dirtboy.  You need a shower.

And then I cranked through the finish with a couple of geared riders and it was over!  Sure I had hoped to place better than 3rd, and hoped to beat 4:15, but I had so much fun racing this thing that it was hard to feel anything but stoked about it.  What a ride.

On the SS podium with Josh Krattiger, Carey Smith, Cody Peterson, and Ryan Voss. (L-R)

P.S.--Huge thanks go to my magical mother-in-law Acy for helping to make this trip happen.  You rock!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Quel Fiasco!

The Stats:
  • ~70 miles
  • ~14,000' of climbing
  • 3rd-place Singlespeed, 14th-place overall
  • 6:41:55 to the finish

Holy crap, what a saga.  Where to begin, where to begin?

At the beginning, I suppose.

The Park City Point2Point has a history of having the course markings jacked-up by local riders, so this year they decided to use spray chalk to mark the course.  Then it poured rain on Thursday night.  (It hasn't rained here since early June!)  So they went back out on Friday and re-marked the course with more chalk and some orange marking paint.

When I went to bed on Friday evening the moon was full and the stars were out; it looked promising for a gorgeous race day.  I woke up at 2:30 Saturday morning to lightning flashing and thunder rolling and rain falling on the roof.  Sweet.  I spent the next 2 hours listening to the storm sitting over us, and presumably pounding Park City too.

Dan and I drove up to Park City in driving rain at 5:15, and sat in the car at the Round Valley parking lot for an hour waiting to see how the weather would progress.  It all started to break up just before 7, so race director Jay held a meeting with all of us racers to decide what to do with the race.  The Round Valley loop was out--protecting the clay-based trails from getting trenched to destruction by 300+ racers.  We could postpone until Sunday to see if the weather was more promising.  Or we could go ahead and race with the understanding that if the lightning returned we would be pulled off the course.

We chose to race.

So sometime around 8:15 we cranked around a very abbreviated 2-track loop at Round Valley and onto absurdly rain-greasy pavement to get us onto the singletrack to Deer Valley.  (Multiple riders down on every pavement turn.)  Having a mile of pavement that early in the course was tough from a singlespeed perspective; I spun all I could but still got passed by a huge mass of geared riders, and then spent the next 6 miles of singletrack working on passing them all back.  Brutal.

Shortly after entering the singletrack Corey Larrabee locked onto my wheel and we ended up riding the first half of the course together.  (Corey's an SLC local who is well in the lead of the singlespeed division in the Utah race series.)  After my flat tire and missed turn at last year's race Corey and Mike Shane stood above me on the podium, so I was definitely motivated to race hard against him this year, and it was really fun!  So fast.

Riding through eerie fog at the top of Deer Valley I started feeling antsy and cranked up the pace, and all of a sudden I was alone and never saw Corey again.  The course started descending into the forest and I had a ball whipping around turns and romping it up.

Maybe 10 minutes later I caught up to Dax Massey in first, and rode with him until the descent into Park City.  I've been working on my downhilling this season, and feeling good about my speed, but when that downhill started Dax was gone!  I mean, where did this guy learn to ride that freaking fast?  It wasn't even something that happened gradually; he just disappeared.

And he was totally out of sight at the Park City aid station, so I knew I had some time to make up on the climb up to the Mid-Mountain Trail.  Surprisingly Dax came back into view about 10 minutes up from the aid, but I couldn't quite get onto his wheel.  I was closing on him while we climbed, but once the trail started going downhill on the traverse to The Canyons he was gone again.  I would close on the climbs, and he would disappear on the downs.  Shit!

My last hope was that I could catch him on the final nut-kicker climb above the finish at The Canyons, but he had put enough time up on me during the long descent from Mid-Mountain that I never saw him.

I felt like I put in a good performance at the P2P this year, gave it my all on the climbs and the descents, and ended up rolling in about 3 minutes behind Dax.  Maybe next year...

Unfortunately the saga was far from over; the race this year was super fun, and then really disappointing.  Jay came up at the finish and told us that we had cut a portion of the course.  I still have no idea when it happened, but apparently Dax and I were in a group of 7 or 8 guys that missed a hairpin turn.  The problem is that the course continued up the hill a little ways over so we didn't know we had missed anything and then we were following markings again.  More shit.

Sometimes you don't even see the kick coming until it lands square in your crotch; I certainly didn't.

Disappointed at the news, and confused about where we went wrong.

The upshot is that Shannon (the other race director) went out and rode the section we missed in 16 minutes, so he and Jay decided to add 15 minutes to our times and give us the finish.  That seemed like a bummer for Corey since it put him in 3rd-place just a few minutes back, and it's impossible to know how long it would have actually taken Dax and me to complete that portion of the course after 40 miles of riding.  So I pitched the idea of making it a 20-minute penalty to give Corey the win and Dax and myself 2nd and 3rd respectively.  I mean, Corey rode well and completed the entire course; Dax and I also rode well, but will never know our full-course race time.

Personally, the bigger bummer is that NUE Series rules dictate that any racer who doesn't complete the entire course is automatically declared a DNF for that race--no exceptions.  Thus, I am no longer a contender for the NUE singlespeed division; I needed to finish the P2P as my fourth race this season.  It's clear that Gerry is probably going to win the series again, but I thought I was a contender for second.

Most of the course was well-marked, but I've spoken with a number of people who missed that turn in their pre-ride and anticipated it being a problem, especially with the rest of the course continuing up the hill 30 meters away.  It just sucks to blow my series standing as a result--I'm definitely struggling with that outcome.

Chocolate milk starting to make things better...

Okay, now I can deal.

So I'm bummed.  But with 24 hours of reflection I can say that I loved this race.  The course is truly amazing, and the rain made the dirt wonderfully tacky and fast.  The competition was strong.  I just wish the day had wrapped up as well as I thought it had before I heard about our wrong turn.