Saturday, May 24, 2008

Escape (almost unhurt) from Granogue

This weekend started with a bang for me. I got home after working half a day on Friday to find the bronze medal I won at Greenbrier (Maryland State Championship) in the mail. So a big thank you to Jim Carlson and crew at Potomac Velo. This was my first award in quite a few years. Maybe since the Army Ten Miler in 1999? Anyway, I was quite happy.

Today's race was the Escape from Granogue MTB promoted by the Racing Group in honor of Andrew Mein led by Fatticus. This race was on the estate at Granogue in Montchanin. DE. About a two hour and fifteen minute ride from my house in Calvert county. I car pooled with Mike Thompson from southern Calvert. We left my house at around 5:15 a.m. and arrive at the race right around 7:30-ish, hence my 2:15 estimate. Driving into the estate and seeing portions of the course I thought it could be my day if there weren't too much technical stuff. But you know the old line, "looks can be deceiving."

Riding around for a warm-up after a super smooth registration and first visit to MR. PP seemed to confirm my belief that the course would not be too technical. At one point I saw the finish line and the hill leading up to it. A paved road, no less, but steep and somewhat lengthy but something I would look forward to on my laps. I forgot to mention that I was making my first foray into the Sport category. So far this year I have done only beginner races but the Beginner races at Granogue started at 1:00 p.m. whereas the Sport races started at 9:00 a.m. so the desire to get up early and get home at a fairly reasonable hour prevailed and both Mike and I raced Sport.

The start of the race was on the paved estate road and it was innocuous enough except for the number of participants and the top layer of slippery mud that was prevalent everywhere except on the paved parts. There were just too many folks on the course. The starts for the groups were staggered only by one minute so there were a large amount of people out on the course. It led to more walking than I can remember at any race in which I've participated. Oh, and my hopes were dashed rather quickly once we got about three miles into the course. I had one rather hilarious pseudo crash that I have to write about. I was going down a single track trail that was rather narrow and had a rocky drop-off. Just past the drop-off a off-camber root was sticking out into the trail. As I dropped down, my front tire got wedged into the aforementioned root. I perceived the danger and quickly bailed to the right so that I wouldn't endo. So my right foot clipped out and I tried to stand/push to unwedge my front wheel. But, remember that it was a drop-off and my momentum was down the hill. Well, my front wheel stayed wedged and my body continued down the hill while my left foot remained clipped in. I hopped over the bars and the bike endo'ed underneath me. I was feeling some serious pressure on my left calf and still my left foot stayed clipped in. At this point I lunged at a tree to stop from falling the rest of the way down the hill at which point my bike pirouetted off the root and ended up hanging by the rear wheel off a branch above my head in the tree with my left foot still clipped in. I can only imagine how funny that looked. I reached up and pulled my bike out of the tree, did a quick inspection and continued on.

There were quite a few hills at Granogue, some steep, some rocky, and some rocky and steep. I managed to walk up the steep and rocky ones both laps. There were also a couple of nasty spots that I didn't see anyone ride. One in particular was a drop-off onto a boulder off of which one had to drop again down into a creek bed and then climb back out over more rocks and boulders. I had one other comical crash. This one occurred at a wooden bridge that had some large rocks just before it. I had negotiated it fine on the first lap but on the second lap my front wheel slipped and I fell off to the right. My right arm dropped into the mud up to my elbow and my right foot went in half way up my calf. Sorry Fatticus, I didn't want to go swimming.

The second lap went much better than the first. Racers were more spread out so there was more room to enjoy and ride the course. There was one guy who was in my race that walked up a lot of the hills that seemed to push his bike in front of my, almost purposely, as I rode up to pass him. He got ahead of me probably during one of the three times I dropped my chain but I had a feeling I would see him again. Sure enough, as I approached the climb up to the finish line I was happy to see him walking up the last hill as I started riding up it. I was passing a lot of folks both walking and riding but he was the one I most wanted to pass. As I rode up the steepest part I saw that he was getting to where the hill levelled out some and I was afraid he would be able to get back on his bike and hold me off so I put my head down and went harder. I looked up to see him stopped on the hill right in front of me. He hadn't gotten going yet. So I swerved around him and as I passed him he let out a huge moan/grunt. I just kept going and after a few seconds I looked back to see if he was gaining on me at all. Well, he was out of the saddle sprinting as hard as he could but he wasn't gaining too fast. So I kept spinning steadily, looked back one more time and then gassed it. That was so satisfying!!

OK! Bottom line is, in my first Sport race I ended up 21 out of 26? overall in about 1:58. I am relatively unhurt except for a bruise on my left calf and another on my right knee. My bike was muddy and I lost my polar cadence sensor I think on the tree hanging endo but I have a spare so I'm not upset. All in all a good day and a good experience. But I think I will keep on racing Beginner, those Sport guys are just too fast for me!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Camp Hilbert #2 - updated

I feel like I am living Ground Hog Day. Every time I race it rains at least the day/evening/morning/during and Camp Hilbert was no exception. We actually lucked out with the weather since it didn't rain during the race, much, and the course was not excessively muddy. The promoter said the trails were perfect yesterday but, of course, it rained over night.

I was looking forward to this race because the last time I rode here I won my category without knowing it until I saw it in the results posted on the web. This time I was determined, if I had a good race, to know where I finished before I left. The race promoters were understanding enough to allow me to pick a prize today for my win in March. They were also smart enough to reroute the course in some areas that had standing water during the last race and they removed a section of trail making the course about a quarter mile shorter. Fact is, during the first race I crashed and head butted a tree in that section so that was good news. One more Kudo for the promoter, they had the results ready as soon as the last racer crossed the finish line for the morning session. Quite impressive!!

Today's race was pretty good from a number of vantage points. There were about twenty-five beginner men/beginner vet men 35+ lined up at the start. We were the fifth group to be sent off so, since there were two minute intervals between groups, we knew our time would be clock time minus ten. While waiting for the start, one guy came up to me and asked me where the beginner vet 35+ men were staging. I pointed at my feet. He said "good, I'll just hang with you." Not two minutes later, a guy came up to me and said, "I'm deaf and can't hear what he (starter, promoter) is saying, can you tell me where the beginner vet men 35+ are staging. Again, I pointed at my feet. I think he said "Good, I'll just stay with you." Popular guy I guess. Anyway, soon it was our turn and at the start I had a little difficulty clipping my right foot in so I didn't get to contend for the hole shot which was fine by me because my strategy is to attack the climbs and maintain a steady tempo both laps picking people off as I go. Hey, it worked well the first race. So I must have been tenth entering the single track and found the pace to be fairly fast but not too painful.

One guy who was following me asked to pass after about five minutes so I let him go by. There was one spot where there was a short steep rise of maybe three feet that had a big root at the top across 4/5th's of it. It was open on the left so everyone went there. First lap, a guy whose wheel I was on went up it, lost it, came to a complete stop with his foot down right in my way. I shot even farther left and bailed out and had to stop. Second lap, a similar thing happened except this time it was a sport woman and she had an enduro guy in front of her with me on her wheel. He lost it in front of her, put his foot down. She stopped right in my way but farther left than the guy before so I had two choices, completely bail/brake and walk up or try to go over the root. I decided let's go for it! I went for it, got my front wheel over threw my weight, doodads, and everything else I had forward but could not get my back wheel to join us. At this point I yelled "Shit!!!!" and bailed hard, decleated, and jumped backwards forgetting that there is a three foot drop off in that direction. I landed in the mud at the bottom spun around, ran up, grabbed my bike and started running, hopped on, clipped in and kept going. The sport woman apologized but it wasn't her fault. I just yelled because I knew I faced a good amount of risk of injury and wasn't blaming anyone. I touched my foot down one other time and that was because I almost missed one of the re-routes.

Somewhere close to the end of my first lap I came up on a guy who was running, pushing his bike. I recognized him as the first guy who came up to me at the start and asked me where we were staging. I saw him again at the finish waiting for the awards ceremony. It turns out he had hit a branch and broken his derailleur hanger so he finished the first lap on foot and borrowed a bike for the second lap. His name is Morgan Quinn and he raced at Twisted Tire a few weeks ago in the slop and beat me by a couple minutes. He also raced at the National Duathlon festival in the off-road category and did real well so chances are he would have finished ahead of me in this race if he didn't have the mechanical. I think the second guy who asked me about staging finished fourth, just ~1:20 behind me. Not bad for a deaf guy. Also, he beat me by about the same amount two weeks ago at Greenbrier.

So, the final score for me was two laps completed, three complete stops; two foot touch downs and one decleater that worked out well. I did bang my knee fairly well on the decleater and it hurts to touch so I just won't touch it. Its just a contusion after all. I finished in 1:15:39 which was eleven minutes better than my time in race#1. My lap splits were 37:49 for lap #1 and 37:50 for lap #2 so I'll have to work harder to make sure I don't go slower on the second lap next time. Granted, this course was one-half a mile shorter but still quite an improvement. I finished second in my category and third overall in all the beginners. I got to choose some more schwag and actually was there for the podium presentation. Cool!! I probably looked like a geek holding my water bottle but I was thirsty. The guy that got first this time was second to me in race #1. So it will be an all out dog fight in race #3 for the jersey for the series winner in our category. Good fun!! Great race!!!