Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Stone Temple 8 Race Report

Michelle and I loaded up the bikes, some gear, and the hounds and headed to Laramie early Friday morning and drove straight to Curt Gowdy State Park for a lap on the race course. I am not sure if it was being in the car for 7 hours, or being surprised by the technical nature of the trails, but our pre ride was lacking mojo. It felt as if we were off our bikes as much as we were on them. At least our youngest dog Kenai was having a blast as he got to join us on our pre ride. We were a little skeptical about racing on these trails and Michelle and I half-joked that it would be excellent cyclocross practice.

Note to self: When you are about to pin it for an hour, do some semblance of a warm-up. Doh! Somehow the morning got away from me and it was time to race before I knew it.

Ready, or not, go! I decided to be aggressive on the run and try to be one of the first to the bike for a change and it was cool to leave the staging area the third wheel back. Having done zero warm-up (dumb, dumb), I was seeing stars and feeling the burn within minutes as my HR shot through the roof and my technical skills were fading as my HR crept higher and higher. With my HR soaring above 180, and only 15 minutes into it, I had to back it off a notch and let a big group go by so I could compose myself and get back into a groove before the first really technical section of the course.

There is a section of the course called Mo’ Rocka’ (one of the best trail names ever) and you can imagine how it got its name. Race speed and adrenaline allowed me to ride most of the big granite ledges that I had expected to hike after Friday’s pre ride and all of a sudden I loved this trail! Woohoo! I was clearing ledge after ledge and the lap just flew by.

I tagged Michelle after Lap #1 and she was off for her first lap. Our plan was to go lap for lap and just see how it played out.
The best part about duo lap racin’ is that you can pin it for an hour with almost total disregard for your hydration and calorie intake and then come back to your pit area and make up for it quickly. This course was tough to eat & drink on so I was lucky to drink half a bottle per lap but I drank plenty and ate in between laps.

Michelle nearly caught me off guard with her blazing fast first lap in 1:02…I was expecting something around 1:10 from her…but I was ready to go when she rolled through the timing tent. With my new confidence that I could ride most of the tech features I was psyched for my second lap.

The overall field was limited to 99 racers and this kept the 8.5 mile course wide open for racing after the first lap. I focused on trying to catch the next rider in front of me, using them as rabbits, and this was my motivation throughout the rest of the race. My second lap was quite a bit faster than my first since I was starting to learn the course and was clearing all but a couple of the tech features.

Back at our pit after my second lap I was drinking more, eating more, and getting to know our neighbors Nathan Potter and Chris from Fine Edge Sports. I even broke out my Park DAG-1 and straightened a bent rear derailleur for them. Michelle’s homemade peanut butter chocolate chip bars were going down especially well. Yummm.

Before staging for my third lap I looked at the results…Holy Shit Balls! We are in 2nd place, 7 minutes out of 1st and only 2 minutes ahead of 3rd. Now I had a new motivation to stay pinned throughout the lap. Michelle’s lap times were very consistent so far and I knew I had to hold up my end of the deal.

My third lap was 30 seconds slower than my second so we were still on track when Michelle headed out for her third lap and our sixth overall.
Meanwhile back at the pit I was drinking more, eating more, and checking in with our pit crew…our two hounds who were quietly kickin’ it in the back of our truck. Everything seemed to be going smoothly and I was mentally charged up to unleash every ounce of pedaling fury I had in me on my last lap…and then Michelle rolled through the timing and said “you might have to do a hot lap”. What?!?! That wasn’t part of our plan. I calmly said “you need to get ready to go again” as I pedaled off but now I was conflicted. Do I go all out or so I save a little in case I really do have to do two in a row?

I quickly decided to stick to my plan and empty the tank since I was 99% sure that Michelle simply had a “low moment” during her third lap and would rally for one more lap and finish off the race. And we were still battling for a top three spot at this point.

My last lap went great, I felt fast, cleaned almost all of the obstacles, and when I rolled into the timing tent Michelle was there ready to rock. Nice! We tagged and I yelled some encouragement as she pedaled away for our 8th and final lap. Catching first place was a long shot but she still needed to have a solid lap to secure 2nd place…and she did. Michelle threw down another very solid lap and increased our lead over 3rd place. Woohoo, lap racin’ is fun!

Michelle faced her inner demons and rallied for a strong 8th and final lap for Team Byers

The social aspect of lap racing is an added bonus. We met some great people including Mark from Wilson, WY who was having a phenomenal solo race until a mechanical ended his day.

Huge thanks should go out to Rich Vincent for putting on another great race and for keeping it fun. In addition to offering great racing at a great value, Rich and the Laramie Enduro are one of the largest private donors to the trail program at Curt Gowdy State Park. As long as Rich is organizing races, I will continue to support them.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Stone Temple 8 Race - Quick Post

Michelle and I took 2nd in the Duo Coed Team category today with 8 laps total, each of us completeing four laps. It was a great battle all day for the top three spots in our cat and we ended up 9 minutes out of first and 8 minutes ahead of third in the end.

Duo lap racin' is fun, fun, fun!

More later afer we get back to Victor...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Last MTB Race of the 2009 season

Just because I said that I have taken a break from structured training for a few weeks doesn't mean I am not racing. Ha!

Michelle and I head to Laramie, WY in the morning to race the Stone Temple 8 held on the IMBA designed trails at Curt Gowdy State Park. We are racing the coed duo category and Michelle is riding as well as I have ever seen her ride so I better hold up my end of the deal. Our two 90 lb hounds will be our pit crew.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Busy not training

After the Park City Point to Point it was definitely time to take a break from the structured training I have been doing since the winter. I trained hard for the Su100 and then really just kept it going through the spring and summer. I wasn't burned out but I was probably right on the edge. However, there has been plenty going on to keep me busy "not" training.

First, I had to address my trusty Niner Air 9. I discovered two small cracks at the top of the seat stays just above the welds. A couple of emails to Niner Bikes and it looks like they are going to replace it with no trouble but it is a pain to strip it down, box it up, and then rebuild her up again. At least this didn't happen in the middle of race season since I ended up racing the Niner at every race this summer.

Air 9 parts in a box

Cyclocross season ramps up tonight with one of the biggest domestic races of the year, Cross Vegas. Our local races, the Victor Cross Series, start Oct 3rd and we can race cross locally through November. Our biggest race, Moose Cross, is Oct 17th & 18th this year so plan to be in Victor that weekend and bring your cowbell!

The cross bike is prepped and ready to rock

Cantilever brakes are not easy to dial in when you don't work on them all of the time

Getting the cross course in "race shape" is one of my responsibilities as one of the Victor Cross Series organizers and some construction in the park meant that we had to make some changes from last year.

Between the volunteer work day, the generosity of Valley Lumber in loaning us equipment, and JayP recently moving to Victor, we have made a ton of progress. The new course is longer, will have more grass, more direction changes, and is hard but fun.

When we started, this berm was just a mound of dirt covered in weeds

Exiting Barry's Bench forces you into a sharp 180 degree turn

Sunday, September 20, 2009

This post is worthless without pics

The Victor Cross course is looking good thanks to a couple of solid days out on the course with a backhoe and some dedicated volunteers. A huge thanks to JayP, now local to Victor, for his energy and ideas out on the cross course.

Word on the street is that a Wed night cross practice will happen this Wednesday in Victor on the new course.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Downhill Racing is hard!

Grand Targhee held their first downhill mountain bike race on Sat and I wanted to show my support so I showed up with a borrowed full-face helmet, some pads, and my Turner Sultan mounted with the fattest tires I own.

After the gnar, the downhill course finished up on the lower Cat-track at Targhee

After my first practice run on the 4" travel Sultan I decided that I might live longer if I rented a bike with more travel so I grabbed a Giant Reign X1 and took another run. Practice run #2 was better but I am not used to getting air with flat pedals and this almost resulted in a serious groin-to-stem collision. With ten minutes til' the start I ditched the flats, mounted my Time clipless to the Reign X, and took the lift to the top.

Downhill racing is violent...and addicting. I want to try it again and hopefully get a few more practice runs in next time. My triceps, wrists, and hands were still sore on Sunday. I don't think I was dead last but it was close. The experts were SO fast it blew me away.

First ride on the Ridge Trail

The riding on the Jackson side of Teton Pass is getting better all of the time. The new Ridge Trail is only partially complete but is already well worth riding and by this time next year it will be the best ride over there.

Park in Wilson, ride up Old Pass Rd, turn right on the Phillips Connector, take the first part of Arrow, turn right on the Ridge Trail, and finish with a spin back to the car on Fish Creek Rd.

Mike was our tour guide for the day

Michelle wasn't having any fun at all

Despite the carnage early in the ride, Michelle kept smilin'

The Ridge Trail is one of the rockiest trails we have and is great technical riding in spots

One of several great view spots

There are several engineered switchbacks like this one...incredible

The stone work on this remote section blew me away

Monday, September 7, 2009

Park City Point 2 Point Race Report

Team Fitzy ready to rock

The Park City Point 2 Point is my new favorite race. Period. Despite being humbled in Park City more often than not during races, it is my favorite place to ride and race. The combination of trails, race organization, racer support, and a great post-race scene made the PCP2P great from beginning to end and I will definitely be back in 2010. And don’t discount the distance because it is “only” 75 miles and not a full hund-o. 103 finishers, out of 168 starters, sums it up pretty well and relentless is the word that comes to mind when I think of this course.

I had a good race at the Park City Point to Point...but not a great race and it is gnawing at me because I really wanted to go as fast as I possibly could in my last long race of the season.

Why can’t I consciously eliminate the low moments that frequently haunt me early in endurance races? My low period came way too early (1:10:00 into the race) and definitely messed up my mojo for a while. During my funk I was getting passed frequently which only added to my funk. It was the kind of funk that had me coasting through sections instead of dropping cogs in the rear and accelerating where the course would allow. It was the kind of funk that allows negative thoughts to creep into your brain and rattle around in there like little poison gumballs.

"Suck it up you big pu$$y!" I said this out loud to myslef a couple of times just before Aid #1. The long climb following Aid #1 snapped me out of it and as I saw numerous riders strung out ahead of me I realized that despite my funk I was in the thick of it. The climb up Sunset + Alpine Slalom was tough, requiring the occasional dismount to clear large roots, but it didn’t last long and soon we were on top of Deer Valley getting ready to rip some of the best trail in the race. I was getting my mojo back as I descended Flagstaff Loop and Deer Camp and by the time I rolled into Aid #1 for the second time I was mentally back in the groove.

The climb up to 9,000’and Shadow Lake was long but I settled into it well and caught a few riders while really enjoying the forested trail around the lake prior to the brake pad-burning descent on Crecent Mine Grade into Park City. I was back to standing while climbing in the middle ring on the short climbs and dropping cogs anywhere I could on descents and it felt good.

The Park City aid station was welcome sight since I am familiar with a lot of the course from there to the Canyons. The 1,400’ climb up Spiro was in the back of my mind the whole race but I also knew that my reward was the familiar buffed goodness of the Mid Mountain Trail so I stayed on the gas the whole time and had a very solid climb. In my mind, I could “empty the tank” on the Mid Mountain Trail because the Canyons was at the end of it...but the organizers threw us a devilishly cruel twist. Instead of simply descending from Mid Mountain to the base area of the Canyons, they routed us around Rob's and then Rosebud, teased us with views of the Canyons, live music and crowd noise, and then sent us climbing again up and away from it all. Ugh. I knew it was coming but I wasn’t quite ready for how it would feel at the 9 hour mark and I was fading. We climbed Ambush and Short Swing, another 500’, to finally reach Holly’s downhill trail and our descent to glory. My time of 9:20:00 was good for 7th in the 40+ field which was the largest field of the race. I know I left at least 20 minutes out there but I am sure many racers can say the same thing.

It was bittersweet to see my Michelle at the finish when I got there because I knew it meant she had pulled out of the race early. I am so proud of her for lining up for this one and disappointed for her that she didn’t get to finish. A flat to her rear tire (her first flat ever and therefore her first time having to deal with one on her own) robbed her of valuable time and she missed the cutoff at Park City by five minutes. I think she’ll be back for revenge though.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Park City Point 2 Point Quick Post

Finished: 9:20:00 and placed 7th in the men's 40+ field

I would rate this race as one of the most demanding, punishing, and technically difficult races I have ever done. I think my piggy toes are the only body parts not sore this morning.

The race organizers nailed it in their first year. Great course, great organization, and a really great post-race scene at the Canyons. The added bonus was having Utah Palooza playing in the pavillion as we finished. The Metal Gods rocked!

More details later after the drive home...