Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Webster Crit 2009

Next time I have a choice between a road race and a mountain bike "race", I'll pick the mountain bike "race"...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

St. Joe

This past weekend saw us back at the sight of last year's season opening bog fest, St. Joe state park. Having sucked my will to live the previous year, I was hoping for a bit of redemption on a course that had a lot of potential in the absence of the sponge like conditions from last year. For 2009, we were treated to soaring temperatures and humidity for more of a blast furnace experience than the energy sucking moisture that last year's edition brought. However, I felt I had some decent legs and had been riding well lately, so expectations were higher than normal.

Pirtle showed up for his annual reminder to everyone in town of his impenetrable superiority and as such, the start was ballistic. I missed my pedal for a couple strokes and slotted in around seventh place in line. Once again, the heads of state moved off the front immediately and a chase of four established with Wes pulling Scooter, myself and Drew. A couple miles in, I came around Scooter and sat on Wes. I was feeling really good and comfortable as we slowly broke off on our own as elder statesman John Matthews moved through on his way to a win in the 35+ expert class. After he passed, I moved back behind Wes until a brief split in the trail where I decided to move ahead. I tried to tap a high, but somewhat conservative rhythm up the long exposed pressure cooker climb before taking the descent as fast as possible. At the end of the lap, I had around twenty seconds on Wes and was sitting in fourth place feeling stronger than I ever have in a mountain bike race.

Unfortunately, a mile into my second lap, the oppressive heat brought forth a throbbing, disorientating headache and I began to fall apart. Eventually, after being passed by Wes, I pulled over and stood next to my bike trying to get it togther. I felt horrible and began slowly walking toward the bike path that would take me back to the car and out of the race. Somehow, the thought of actually quitting and having to tell people I quit because the race was too hard got to me and I decided to get back on my bike and try to finish out the lap so I would avoid the dreaded DNF. I still felt like shit but soft pedalled along until about halfway through the lap when I started to come around. I was picking up speed and feeling a bit more human when, as I cornered through some loose rock, I burped a tire. It was about three miles from the finish, so I thought I could ride the 7 psi in and call it a day. I babied the corners and the dips until Christopher caught me and I went down through the next corner. This removed the rest of the air from my tire so I got up, fixed it, got passed by Hafner, remounted and immediately caught a large stick in my rear triangle which catapulted me down a very steep hill. Not my day.

Eventually, I finished seventh. Not exactly what I'd hoped for, but I learned some things and will certainly be better prepared for the heat next time. Hopefully, I can avoid the meltdown and hopefully take advantage of what I think is some pretty decent fitness hanging around somewhere in my body. We'll see what Indiana brings in a couple weeks.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rhett's Run 2009

It's been a long time since the last time I raced a mountain bike and despite some crits and ill fated attempts at road racing, 2009 has been marked by far less activity than last season. Rhett's Run had been a goal of mine at the start of the year but with a lack of XC races in my legs, I had to reevaluate my expectations. I had been training well the last few weeks, but with no races as a gauge, it was difficult to guess what was to come.

The day started with a few downpours, making the course slippery and shitty for the first wave of racers, some of whom opted to bow out due to the seemingly endless string of mud races this year. By the time we were set to go at 12:30, the course had dried substantially and now offered far more tack than slide. I lined up on the front next to people I knew would be leaving me behind almost immediately. I figured I might as well try to get a good starting position and hope for the best as the race wore on. When the whistle sounded, I made it into the woods in around sixth and was feeling good even though the express train was already slipping off the front.
The first descent was a blast as always but as we made a hard right to begin climbing, I lost my front wheel on a slick water bar and went down, losing two places in the process. I quickly worked around one of the riders who passed to jump on Bierman's wheel. For two laps, I sat on or five feet behind his wheel and was feeling good as he has shredded me in years past. Improvement, I was thinking.

As the race wore one, the older wave of experts started passing us and each one would slot between me and Wes for a while, disrupting my rhythm and establishing a gap between our wheels. Eventually, I rider between us bobbled and chose to run the steep loose climb, forcing me to do the same and allowing Wes some breathing room. The run up redlined me far deeeper than riding it had done the previous lap and I took a couple minutes to recover as Wes slipped away.

I rode the rest of the race by myself, picking off lapped riders from other classes and getting passed by people way faster than myself. All in all I felt good and rode consistently to the finish where I believe I took 8th. Not the podium of the last two years, but with a far deeper field, I have to be satisfied. This year is about closing the gap between myself and the top guys in my class and despite this being only race #2 of the year, I think I might be on the way to doing that. I'm a long way off from the best in the state, but it certainly gives me motivation to see how far I can take this for the forseeable future. Hopefully it will stop raining someday and we can get the season going in full swing. On to St. Joe in a couple weeks and then my first crack at a DINO race on July 5th. Here we go...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009