Sunday, June 29, 2008

Change of Plans

All year I had been planning on travelling back home to Western New York to participate in the Raccoon Rally. A cycling event held in Allegany State Park this weekend, June 28-29, 2008. I did both the road race and the MTB race in last year's event and even though I sucked in the road race, I finished fourth in the MTB race (beginner). So I was determined to head back up there and at least podium this year. Enter VORS. The Virginia Off-Road Series is a year-long points competition at the various levels of the sport. I am participating in the beginner series and after the Xterra Urban Assault on June 14 I moved into first place in the competition. So instead of travelling to Western New York I decided to stay home and defend my lead in the VORS by participating in the Rappahannock Ridge Rumble today in Fredericksburg, VA.

For we beginners, it was advertised as one 9-mile lap starting at either 9:00 or 10:00 depending on which web site you believed. I decided just to get there early and maybe do a one lap pre-ride if the later start time proved true. I got to the gate on Wicklow Drive at around 7:25 a.m. and the gate was locked. No problem, I just hung out until someone showed up. At 7:49 a truck towing a trailer full of port-a-johns showed up so I knew the gate would be open soon. I registered, got my things together and took off on a pre-ride at around 8:30. I really took it easy on the pre-ride just scoping out the course and where the technical challenges were located. At one point, early on, there was a ramp to the right of a tree and a rooty curve downhill as the optional route or maybe it was the other way around. Well, I had ridden over what seemed to be a similar ramp at Rosaryville so a the last second I chose ramp. Bad choice, I wasn't ready to pull up on the wheel or jump when I hit the end of the ramp so my front wheel dropped and I end-o'ed and landed on my back. Another feature of the course is a long tunnel under I-95 along the ridge. It has about one-half inch of water running through it and has a layer of pebbles. Did I mention it was long? Other than missing a turn for the beginner course and the end-o the pre-ride went well. I got back at 9:25, toweled off, changed gloves (Did I mention it was hot?) and tried to chill out a little before the race.

The race got started right at 10:00. Since there were just about twelve total beginners they sent us all off at once. There was about a half-mile long gravel road to start and I ended up fifth entering the single track. My cadence was about 130 yet I couldn't close the gap at all and I had shifted all the way into my smallest cog. Finally I noticed my chain had slipped into the small crank. I shifted it back to the middle ring and then I was fine. I passed one of the four in front of me on the climb up to the ridge and then passed Ludek Kolesa, a guy who has been at a few of my races this year at the top of the ridge. I knew I was in third and was hoping to catch one or maybe both of the others, Going through the tunnel was nice because at race speed the water flew up onto your back and cooled you off. After the tunnel there was a dangerous side-hill part of the trail that I was a liitle sketchy with in the pre-ride but I was more worried with finding the last turn for the beginners. It was the one I missed on the pre-ride. Anyway, I wasn't paying enough attention to the trail and my left wheel went too low and dropped off the course and I flew headfirst into a log that was placed there to keep people from doing what I did (it was too small). After my head hit my shoulder smashed it pretty good, but I didn't feel the shoulder too much because my head hurt. After the head cleared I saw the torn skin on the shoulder but by then I was almost finished. Sure enough, within a minute I was back at the road and crossing the finish line. I ended up first in the beginner men 35+ and third overall beginner. I got to choose first from the schwag table (some Hammer Gel and a flask) and there was pork barbeque and a couple kegs of Blue and Grey brew on tap. What's not to like?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Xterra MTB Urban Assault

This weekend I decided to head back to where it all started for me in MTB. Three or four years ago I did an adventure race in Richmond with a couple of guys my friend works/worked with and had to borrow one of my co-workers bikes for the MTB part. Although I think the courses will be much different since I am doing the beginner men 40+ race which is only about 8 miles. The family came with me for this trip. We went down to Richmond last night and spent the night in the Fairfield Inn by Marriott. It had an indoor pool, need I say more? The race organizers also advertised a "kid zone" so I thought the kid's might enjoy themselves. My kids really enjoyed the kid's zone! There was an obstacle course, a tall cargo net, a small cargo net, and a tree climb using repelling gear all set up in the shade so it was relatively cool. Richmond's news channel 8 actually interviewed both of my children after they did the tree climb but I missed it because I was racing. We didn't hang around to watch the local news either.

The race was scheduled to start at 11:00 a.m. under the bridge on Belle Island. The kid zone and most other activities were taking place at Brown's Island) They started us in waves and the sport women went first so we 40+ men were in the fourth wave, i.e. three minutes after the first wave. To be honest I didn't do much of a pre-ride because I was already warmed up, i.e. it was hot/humid. So at the start there were seven of us. At first I dropped back and when I saw that I was going to be last heading in to the single track I burst past at least one guy. Then, on a little climb on a bridge crossing the James from Belle Island to the south side I passed three more guys in my race. Heading down the fire road to the 42nd street stairs I passed at least two more folks and caught up to a third who let me past on the stairs.

After the stairs we took the Buttermilk Trail to the Nichols Bridge. The Buttermilk Trail had a good amount of rocks as well as some twisty short climbs. Not my cup of tea but no crashes save for a couple of clip outs. On the Nichols Bridge I noticed something was up with my front wheel. It was really out of true because my front brakes were rocking side to side like the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes kick line with every rotation of the wheel . It didn't seem to be slowing me down so I just rode on. After crossing the bridge to the North Bank trail and fire road I was much happier because there were fewer rocks although on one climb, up to Kansas Ave, I unclipped and had to run up. It didn't cost me much because the guy I was chasing was still in sight at the top. In fact, I passed him before we rode one block on Kansas Ave. I also caught and passed another guy before we got back to the trails on Texas Ave. From there it was mostly tame trails and fire roads. I was looking forward to it opening up to put some distance between me and the guys I had just passed. As I approached the line I looked back and didn't see anyone in sight. So I looked up at the clock and saw 44:06 as I approached. After I crossed the line I looked at my watch and it read 40:12 so I thought that maybe there was a two minute gap somewhere in the waves. No biggie! Then when the results were posted I saw the winning time 40:16 which I thought was about right and looked over and saw Chris Ekland. They had me finishing at 41:19. I went ahead and left without saying anything but it sure seemed weird. I passed so many folks and we only had seven in my wave so I guess I must have never seen the guy who won.

I am happy to report though that I was the fifth overall beginner so I should get 64 points for the Virginia Off-Road Series which will put me in 1st place, at least for a week or two!!