Monday, July 22, 2013

Utah's MTB Nationals Recap - Cat 1 35-39


And we're back.

Life has been pretty ridiculous lately, so much so that I forgot to recap my Lewis Morris race....So lets get that out of the way was hot, I had a good lap in a half, then I over heated and melted down in spectacular fashion...I made it to the finish line at walking speed. The usual result in the heat.

So moving on. Once the heat arrives, its time for retirement. But this year since the nationals were at Bear Creek and I just so happened to qualify for them last year, I figured it was a good excuse to extend the season a wee bit longer. I mentioned my desire to be able to throw down for this race to Mr Myagi....He was not pleased, but he never seems to run out of cars that need waxing...So back to work. After Lewis Morris I pretty much have had 1 or 2 quality training rides where I walked away feeling happy with my performance. The heat combined with hard efforts just does not work for me. Same results...good for an hour or so, then I begin to overheat, get dizzy, black out, cramp, shit the bed. So while my body might not be in May form, the Nationals course seems right up my alley.

I had never been to bear creek PA before outside of wedding, but yRob once told me the they built this course just for me...Which I assumed he meant, crazy technical and completely flat. He was correct about the technical bit, but unfortunately bear creek is about as flat as a ski hill....which it just so happens to be. Tad bit of climbing, like 1000' every 6.5 mile lap. Last week Kirt and I decided to head out for a pre-ride and have a look for ourselves. The course lived up to yRobs description....pretty sure it is one of the most challenging XC courses I have ever raced in terms of rocks and technical bits. It bascily goes like this....Climb for 20 straight minutes, then descend for 10, climb again for 5, then descend for another 10min. I gave this course a rating of "goddam fantastic" Maybe the best xc course I have done. The climbing involves many rocky sections, switchbacks, roots and only short fire road stretches. Its about as pleasant as riding a bike up a ski hill gets. The descending...thats where it gets awesome. Its brutal rocky hell that reminds me alot of jungle, but more technical. Great stuff!

So after 3 laps, I felt much better about this race. It may be July and I'm burnt out, but I'm 100% confident that I can ride this course at a speed that will keep me in the game. Plus of the 42 racers in my cat 1 class, there only only a handful from this area. Many are from all over the country and I think that will most certainly work in my favor.

Finally, the preface....

Since the race is at 8am and the drive is 2ish hrs, I decided to get a hotel and stay nearby. Paul and I drove out on Friday and decided to stop in and check out the scene. I run into many of my fellow racers from the area...we are all pretty stoked about the how tough this course is, but not about the fact that its 119 degrees in the shade.

So after wiping out the Hampton Inn buffet, Paul wiped out dunkin donuts, then we made our way over. We met Kirt who thankfully decided to spectate, feed me bottle and help out.

After some warm up, I make my way to the line. The crowd is staggering....

42 guys just in my 35-39 class and then there are at least 25-50 in every other group. Sadly, I have not earned enough points for a call up, so I proceed to line up tail end charlie. This sucks, but its going to be a long race, so I figure it will be ok in the end. I make it the first 100 yards clean and avoid any pile ups, but the leaders are just blazing away. Its not always a bad thing if you are like me and subject to overheating....I have killed myself several times trying to match a sprint out of gate. So I just try to keep the bike upright and make my way through the crowd. Its quite a spectacle I must say. It rained the night before, so everything was greasy, people were riding in every possible direction. I have never tested my ability to track stand so much in a race. So I make the first few switch backs and get a look up the mountain.....Its depressing how far back I am now. Ah well, too late to worry about it. I just keep driving though the pack. Thankfully I'm quite certain that the guys I was with were not locals...They seemed to always pick the bad line, leaving the good line open for me to pass. I look down at 13min in and see the leaders coming out of the woods on a different part of the course. I marked the time and figure out that in less than 20min, they now have 3min on me. Its depressing, but whatever, ill just hope to be there in the end.

Near the top of the mountain on lap 1 I catch up to Steve mancuso. This is good since steve is a great ambulance driver and moves people out the way. I decided to stay with him and try to burn too many matches on the first lap. Pace was good and with Steve's help we were making steady progress cutting through the piles of bodies all over the place. Its very difficult to pass on the last half of this course, so many people off the trail, blowing lines, the really technical bits, I'm basically just standing there waiting. But despite all of the bodies, I will say that most guys were pretty good about moving over and letting me pass in a timely fashion. Something new and unexpected was the massive crowds of spectators cheering in the tough sections...So awesome, it was a first for me. People calling out my name and cheering me on...Loved every second of it.

I cruise though on lap 1 already feeling the heat and the effort. I find Kirt in the sea of hundreds of people feeding riders and grab a bottle that is ice cold. I dont ever do this, im usually 100% camelback now....I have to say, the bottles do have a few nice advantages when its blazing hot. Not carrying the weight, extra cooling on your back, and downing something ice cold was awesome.

Lap 2

Im still with Steve more or less and still trying to make my way through a mass of people. There is great uphill run in this part of the course that is about 100yards of rocks, covered in mud on a decent gradient. It was a good spectator spot...I see a few guys already walking it and as I approach and spectator yells to me "just run it man"...I erupt in laughter...."RUN IT???" It lit a fire under me and I plowed though this section like it was pavement. I passed Steve here and just try to find a comfortable pace for the next 20min of uphill. Im feeling the heat now, the dizziness is starting to creep up and im definitely losing steam. At the top I finally have a little bit of daylight on the downhill and I take full advantage. For the first part of the decent i drill it and try to make up as much time as I can. Works great, but at the switchbacks I again ran into a massive dogpile and have to more or less stop. I noticed there was a guy yelling at everyone from behind me to move....he was yelling as if someone had set him on fire....He finally makes it around me, then crashes. On one of the off camber turns I noticed someone walking...I called out "rider up" as i approached...I then hit a root that introduced my face to the dirt in a fraction of a second...I poped up and told the walker "rider down" ...We had a good laugh before I rode off. Somewhere in here Lombardo passed me and the timing could not have been better. I really made a point to try and stay with John and keep the pace up. John gives me the pro tip of opening my jersey...Normally this isnt something i would do to the rest of the world, but its hot, fuck it. People run away screaming, but man did it feel nice.

1speed got a shot of me in the switchbacks

Finish lap 2 in about the same time as lap 1, Kirt again finds me and delivers me a bottle and I try to imagine how im going to get up this mountain one last time. After the first pitch I start thinking about how I took my small ring off Ted (my Scalpel) and replaced it with one 38T single ring....good idea dick head. Im still moving, but myself and everyone around me were all pretty whipped and fighting the heat. Thankfully at two locations on this climb were stations that had cups of ice cold water....I took the opportunity to drown myself and it was amazing how effective it was. At the top finally I tried to prep my brain for what would be one last decent...this time with more daylight than the first two laps. Its good and bad...good in that nobody is holding me up, bad in that im dizzy as hell and riding over my head. I hit the crowd of spectators near the tricky spots and it was a shot in arm. I take it that many people were not making these since they being screaming at me when I cleared both of them...Not sure..but man it was a real highlight in my time of XC racing. So awesome. All of the pain of this race was worth it for that few min of people yelling at me, really cool.

For the rest of the lap I try to keep John in sight and stay as clean as possible. the cramps are biting hard and im really cooked. Finally make it to the finish line in longest mountain bike race of 2013.

Kirt and Paul find me to let me know that I was in the top 10 somewhere which was great news...In the end, i was 8th in my group. I believe it was 42 or so starters, 28 finishers. I think I passed 100 people with flat tires. I would have really loved a top 5, but in the end im pretty happy with the day. Maybe with a better start I could have made up the couple of minutes that would have gotten me there, or maybe I would just blown up sooner, who knows. But it was a great race. Course was fantastic, well organized, competition was top notch and the spectators really took this race to another level of awesome. I would do it again next week.

Very special thanks to my man Kirt for driving to PA at 5am and making sure that I had a cold bottle of water every lap...this was absolutely key to my race. Thanks again buddy!

Also would like to send a shot out to Mr Myagi for keeping me going and in the best form I can expect for July. Its a shitty job but he always keeps me on track. If he had come to the race, I would have dumped a gatorade cooler on his head. And this really goes for my whole team. I'm fortunate to ride with some great people who all support me.

And that's most likely a wrap to 2013 mountain bike racing season...I may do another race or two, but anything else is just for fun. Ok, where's my cross bike?