Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Two Ways to Bearscat

Why do people do this ? I have no idea, there is a point at every endurance race I've done where I think to myself I should not sign up for a race like this again. Sure enough though, as soon as they are over I can't wait for the next one. Yesterday's race was much more brutal than last year's. The course was awesome and Black Bear put on an awesome event, but the conditions were rugged. So it goes.

Day started off beautiful. Slightly cool, sunny, and seemingly perfect for a race. Endurance races always seem more low key before hand, I love the vibe. People aren't as "in the zone" warming up and things seem more laid back than other formats. The game plan was to go self supported for the race. With the 2 laps I would only stop at my cooler on the lap turn to swap out supplies. That meant carrying 2 bottles of Gu Brew on the bike and 1 bottle of water on my back. For foods I went with Gu Chomps and Gels. I got my shit together and just rolled around until the meeting.

I was a little late to lineup so I was towards the back. I've done enough of these to know your either out front or stuck in the caravan that ends up forming as the trails bottleneck the field. I wasn't planning on going out hard, but as the horn blow the pace wasn't too hot so I was able to work my way through the crowd and get through some traffic early. I settle in line as things start to gum up. Coming up to first section that bobbles people up (the right hand turn into a muddy/armored section) there is a long line of people seemingly happy to wait their turn to get through. I decide to be a bit aggressive and just ride around everyone. I probably passed about 20 people here. Similar story at the rock bridge, people were fumbling around so I just shouldered the bike and jogged my way through advancing a few places.

To my surprise, traffic was pretty much non-existent after the bridge. It was also very apparent early on that this was going to be a slick and muddy race. My feet were completely soaked through within the first few miles. For the first lap I found myself riding on and off with the same 2 guys, we chatted on and off trading spots repeatedly. We would fall out of contact then end up crossing paths again. Having contact with other racers helped to keep things moving along. I tried to race smart, I didn't bother killing myself grinding though stuff, and opted to walk some short sections if I thought it would be more efficient. I was able to clean most everything I decided to ride, only getting hung up a few times. Overall I thought my first lap was really uneventful. I thought I paced solidly and felt good. I reach the road for the lap turn. I'm pedalling along all dumb and happy, then BAM!, I almost get knocked off my bike. Without warning, my legs cramped up so bad I almost ate it. I think to myself its way to early for this, as I spin the rest of the way to my cooler. Swap out my supplies, pound a can of coke, and off I go.

As I head back into the woods I look at my Garmin and see that my first lap was 3 hours. Wow. I wasn't expecting any stellar results but was hoping to be a bit quicker than that, I now knew that I was in for a really long day. The conditions were just a killer on keeping any speed up and I was battling to keep the cramps away. The trails were greasy, rocks were slick, and the fire roads didn't offer much relief as they were bombed out with deep mud and bike swallowing bodies of water.

I somehow managed to keep things steady on the second lap. I was definitley feeling fatigued, spinning up the short punchy climbs that rather than attacking them, and not being able to keep my speed as high through the flats like I was on the first lap. I did an ok job eating and drinking the first lap, but I don't think I ate enough and was now paying for it. At some point the skys starting looking pretty ominous, and thunder could be heard. Sure enough, it began raining on and off, and did so for much of the second lap. I didn't really mind the rain, I was already soaked so it didn't matter much.

The first half of the lap went quickly, but I found myself bordering on zombie mode after passing the aid station. The aid station to finish seemed to go on forever. I was mostly by myself at this point, but got some mental relief by being joined by Mitch for a brief spell, and then Liong a bit later. I was happy to only be passed by those two and one other rider between the aid station and finish. After what seems like an eternity, I finally hit the pavement again, and even though no one is near me, I make what I think is a strong finish. There are alot of friendly faces along the road cheering me on down the home stretch, which was awsome. As I cross the line, its 6 hours and 23 minutes since I started. Good enough for 37th out of 109 starters.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Iggy Does the Bearscat

Me and Kirt role into Wawayanda at about 7:45 am, for those keeping score at home this is my 9th race this year. They park us along the road heading toward the beach area. This makes for a very convenient pit as you make the turn of the lap. Not having to drag my 500 lb. cooler two miles up the road made me very happy. Also it gives you the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, when you're done your race and changing out of your bib shorts you can stand there bare assed and cheer other racers on at the same time.

The warm up is more about trying to calm the jitters before the race then about getting the legs ready to tear into the single track. We are gonna be on our bikes for over 5 hrs. After some race instruction by Jeff we line up by category and start the 50.

The open men go off first and then us 45+ guys start 5 minutes behind them. Me and teammate Clapper stay together with the plan to keep it dialed back at tempo on the flats and fire road climbs but push a little in the tech stuff to flow through the rocks. This worked until about pickle were the course began to get gummed up with guys off there bikes. With Clapper behind me I was riding aggressively yelling UP UP as I approached people fumbling through rocky sections. UP UP is my nice way of saying get out of my way and it seemed to work. I made it through pickle and rattlesnake cleanly but when I looked back Clapper was not with me any longer.

Kris Weber became my riding partner up rattlesnake, he made an Aerosmith reference when he mumbled rattlesnake shake. At the time I just heard him say Aerosmith rattlesnake. Aerosmith Chip Away at the Stone would have been more accurate at wayway. For the record Mama Kin is my favorite Aerosmith song. Ok lets move on.

So me and Weber are trading places back and forth for like the next 10 miles. Coming into sitting bear I decide to thrown it down, its so much fun bombing down into it in this direction. I've done this section enough times to know the lines but still dab in a few spots. Coming out of sitting bear and heading toward the aid station I put a gap on Weber and a few others that I was riding with. These guys find me again on the climb up red, my chain popped off when I downshifted and they pedalled by me.

I put the chain back on the ring and continue the climb up red behind Weber and crew. At the top I decide to pull out ahead and bomb the downhill, another section I know well and feel confident with carrying speed. As I take off Kris stays right behind me all the way to the bottom and as we make the hard right to the punchy climb I hear Weber yell from behind me have a good race Chris I'm out. But at first I didn't know what the hell he said. After I continued on and realized he wasn't behind me my brain pieced together Weber's message. After the race he told me he double flatted, bummer.

Alone again I roll the rest of the way solo and finally come to the start finish. The last few miles of the lap seem to drag on forever, its always more fun when you're riding with someone. At the start of the next lapped I rolled along with one of the VTC/Bike tech guys, I didn't get his name. But it made the time go quicker and we pushed a good tempo pace to keep from lagging on the second lap. We stayed together until the climb up to lookout, at the top my VTC friend was not in sight so I bombed down and headed toward pickle.

This time this section hurt more, I didn't have the energy to power through the tech stuff and had to dial it back. Pickle then the climb up rattlesnake took a lot more effort then the 1st lap. Despite the fatigue I felt no cramps and was still passing people along the way.

There were sections on the course that I saw no one for awhile and I would panic until I saw an arrow indicating that I am was going the right way. Occasionally I encouterd hikers that seemed befuddled. One woman asked me inquisitively as I rode by Is this the end ? Not knowing what to say I shot back just as inquisitivley of the world?

Finally I caught up to someone in team colors, Santalucia. 26er is a real good technical rider but his tank was running low and I ended up passing him. As encoragement he gave me a heart felt fuck you as I passed. This seemed to work, passing 26er made me feel good. He also told me Kirt was about 1 or 2 minutes up the trail and he didn't think there were many 45+ guys up ahead. Suddenly there seemed like light at the end of the tunnel.

So with thoughts of placing well in 45+ in my head I continued on through fisherman's with renewed vigor. Coming out of the turn I hit the gas and my chain just went clunk. I looked down and saw my derailleur dragging on the ground and in and instant my strong finish was smashed. Game over.

I walked out to the fire road and wished 26er luck as he passed me and I stood there with my useless bike. I took note of the time and waited for the next 45+ guy to come through so I would be able to reference myself with his finish. Clapper rolled by me 9 minutes later, which was good enough for him to get 4th place at the finish line.

So I guess I would have finished 4th if I didn't break my derailleur, but I guess a lot of other guys who had mechanicals could have also said the same thing. oh well. The funny thing is with very little endurance training this year I was pretty much putting in the same finish I had as last year, 4th place. The thing that helped me this year was I felt a lot more comfortable in the tech stuff. I really enjoy the big 25mile laps as well, it feels like your going on an adventure when you start the lap. I wish they had this race again in the fall, it sucks that I have to wait until next year to do this again.

Congrats Clapper