Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Getting it Done

Huge congrats are in order for friend and teammate Zach Brace as he rode to the win in the 12 hour solo men's category at this past weekend's Rapture in Misery. Zach's dedication to acheiving his goals has been mighty impressive the last couple years and I for one would not bet against him repeating at this year's Burning at the Bluff.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Spanish Lake

This past weekend's race returned to Spanish Lake, home of many a local mountain and cross races over the years. While not neccessarily a trail that anyone would chose to ride for recreation, we seem to have at least one race there every year and with this year calling for temps in the high nineties and heat indicies of over one hundred, it promised to be a long grind inside of an angry blast furnace. Having experienced serious heat induced setbacks this season, I spent all of Saturday and Sunday morning hydrating in the hopes that my St. Joe implosion would not repeat itself.

A preride of the course showed some improvement over years past with new singletrack sections at enough regular intervals to keep it interesting and provide the feel of a legitimate mountain bike race. The gravel jeep tracks remained, but they didn't feel quite so dominant this year.

The race began with a decent start, putting me in fifth through the snaking tightness before the first section of gravel. Once onto the double track, I moved around Jay and Brice while Wes and Hafner came around me. A bit of a reshuffling, but still in fifth for the long grind. Scott used his road skills to set off in pursuit of the lead and we would not see him until the finish. With Ploch already well clear, it was now a four way battle for third. Hafner took off after Scott as Wes, Drew Black and I stuck together for the remainder of the first lap.

Going into the second lap, Drew punched it on the first gravel section and gapped Wes and me in the process. I think we both figured it was a bit early in the race to chase and we figured the brutal heat would eventually take its toll. Wes and I caught Hafner right before the second section of singletrack and passed him when we got onto the next section of gravel. Drew had gained a pretty good gap at this point and I was happy for a teamate to be fighting for the podium.

Going into the third lap, I took over from Wes and pulled for the lap. I tried to up the tempo a bit to see if a gap would open, which was likely my undoing. If ever I got a couple seconds, Wes would close it handily and I completed the lap feeling the effects of my effort. Right at that point, one of the 35+ experts passed us and Wes jumped on his wheel. Having pushed a little too hard in the preceding lap, I was unable to follow and had to let the wheel go.

The fourth lap was pure suffering. I just tried to keep it as close to the edge physically as I could, hoping to come around for the last lap. Coming through the start finish to start the final lap, I had Drew in my sights and was hoping to make it up to him before the finish. Throughout the lap I yo yo'ed and dangled at about five seconds, incapable of making the final push to make contact. I was sure I was close to blowing and I was wary of digging any deeper. The heat was weighing on me and I eventually finished fifth, roughly ten seconds off Drew and a minute behind Wes. I'm happy with the result as I kept it together in the heat and did reasonalby well on a course that doesn't suit me. I have a lot of things that I'm personally satisfied with that happened in the race, all of which point to a decent amount of improvement over this season. I have every intention of upping my game next year and hopefully see even more improvement in 2010. For now, it's time for a little rest and then the build up to cross. There may be another MTB race or two before the year's out, but my mind is now focused on cyclocross. It's been a decent ride this MTB season and I hope I can roll the momentum into the fall and into next year. Wish me luck...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rockbridge and Castlewood

It's been a good couple weeks for dirt racing in Missouri and all the thoughts of early season washout and frustration seem to have dissapated. With two fantastic races at unbelievable courses and another coming this weekend, the ball seems to finally be rolling... even if it is just in time for cross preparations to begin.

Last weekend was the Show Me State games at Rockbridge park in Columbia. I had never ridden this particular venue, but all reports said that it was superior to Rhett's Run, which had thus far been my favorite course. The trail proved to been a ridiculous good time with mile after mile of screaming twisting descents and tight river bottom good times. Save for an extended drag through a field, this was by far the best course yet. My race went well, hanging onto a three man chase behind the leaders for the first lap. I felt good and was reasonably confident of my ability to hang on, but when Scott took a long pull through the field, a gap opened to me and I spent the rest of the lap chasing. After nearly avoiding disaster on a high speed bench cut descent, I opted to settle into my rhythm and try to stay consistent. I have often had the problem of burning myself out on the first lap and I was conscious to try and manage that issue. It worked and i finished with consistent lap times and in fifth for the expert open field. My goal of a top five had been accomplished and I had closed the gap to my competion further.

The following week at Castlewood marked the first time I had raced XC at the park since '05. Despite countless early morning rides at the venue, all the races over the last few years have been on Saturdays while I was wrenching away at the shop. Regardless, I was happy to get a chance to race at Castlewood and anxious to see if the fitness was still on the upswing. The race went well although the seemingly endless climbing was quite brutal in the waning laps. I stuck with my competion for half the race and a moment of weakness on the third climb of Grotpeter saw me lose the wheel. I tried to stay consistent and go as deep as I could without exploding so I would have a bit left for the last lap. After downing the rocket fuel through the start finish, I felt renewed and finished the race strong in sixth place, fourteen seconds back from fifth. I have to feel that improvement has been acheived this year even if my place in the pecking order remained consistent throught the season. I started the year with such a deficit to the top guys that I can only focus on myself and hopefully trimming down the gap to the leaders. I know that I accomplished that and despite some early season hiccups, I can look forward to further improvement next year if I step up my dedication and remain focused. I feel like I belong in the expert class and I am anxious to see how far I can take it.

Next week is Spanish Lake, which is as close to a road race as we get on mountain bike, so I plan on gearing up the El Mariachi and seeing what happens. It's the exact opposite of my type of course, but the racing's been fun lately, so I might as well keep on it. After that, it will probably be a bit of down time and then the long build to my one goal of the season. It's going to be a good last half of '09, I think...