Sunday, July 27, 2008

Cranky Monkey MTB Series Race #1 - Wakefield

Butthead Race - At least that is what I will have to call this race and I was the butthead. I signed up for the Sport 45+ category which started at 11:00 a.m. So I got up at a normal time and headed out from my house at 8:00. That put me at Wakefield just before 9:00 a.m. I registered and was taking my time getting ready. It was hot and humid so I didn't think I needed too much of a warm-up so at 10:30 all I had to do was put on my shoes and I was ready to roll. But being the butthead, I left my shoes in the garage. When I didn't see them in the car I knew exactly where they were. So, do I ride this race wearing my sandals? or do I try to find someone with an extra pair. I went t o the promoters and they hooked me up with a guy who said he would let me use his old shoes. They were the right size and had the correct cleats. They were in worse shape than my shoes by a long shot, but they had to be better than my sandals. Unfortunately, I had a very difficult time getting them to clip in. By the time I got them clipped in I had just enough time to get to the start where I hoped I could lean against a tree or a pole or something. No such luck, so I had to unclip my right foot. While we were baking waiting for the race to start I began to worry about how long it would take me to clip in the right foot especially since we had to climb a gravel road right away. Well, I fussed with the shoe and clip until well after we got into the singletrack which was at least more than a half a mile. I decided that I would have to try to ride so as not to unclip at all and I made the rest of the first lap until the very end where there was a rooty steep little bumpy spot where a guy in front of me bailed and I had to stop. It then took me about two miles to get clipped in again. I went about a mile and then crashed. Luckily it didn't take me too long to get the shoes into the pedals after that but I had trouble in the same spot as the first lap and then fussed with the right shoe for another half mile. The third lap was much like the first. I did well until that one spot and then lost it again. At that point I had maybe one hundred yards to go so I just went for it without trying to clip in. I have no idea where I finished in my category. I do know that the clock at the finish was at 1:46 and some change when I crossed so that my time was 1:43 and some change. I think if I had ridden the course before an had my shoes I could have easily been under 1:40. Maybe next time! The good news was that right after I finished and returned my borrowed shoes I got to the car and quickly packed up and left since a big thunderstorm was rolling in. Also, I did 18 miles in the heat and never felt tired or over done so I think things are headed in the right direction.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Battle at Burke Farm

Today I raced the Battle at Burke Farm MTB race. It is the seventh race of the 2008 Virginia Off Road Series. I raced the Beginner men 35+ category. There were eight racers in my category and I believe seven in the beginner men 34 and under category. The race was held in Culpeper, VA on the Burke Farm, hence the name. Konrad Heller, the race promoter who runs Fred Events and also promoted the Rappahannock Ridge Rumble (RRR), told me that the Burke Farm was not as difficult as RRR and less hilly. So, my goal for today's race was to ride fast and earn enough points to lock up the 2008 VORS beginner men's series. BTW I only needed 38 points to lock it up unless of course they have some silly rule that the last race counts double or something.

I decided to do what I did at RRR and get to the race early to pre-ride the course since I had never ridden there. I got to the venue at 7:50 and had to wait to register. A guy, Len Parker, who I parked next to was getting ready to do a pre-ride and asked if he could tag along with me since this was his very first MTB race. I said sure and we headed out for an easy pre-ride a little after 8:00 a.m. After maybe a half mile of open field trails we headed into the woods. There were rocks and roots and dips and creeks right from the start. There was one good rock garden on a descent that was somewhat tricky but not too bad. After about three and a half miles of singletrack trail we got back to the field trails for almost two miles to the finish. Len, who didn't have clip-in pedals struggled on all the climbs and then said that he had pulled a muscle in his back, so he told me to go on without him. I ended up finishing my pre-ride in about fifty minutes giving me an hour or so to chill waiting for the ten o'clock start. Len rolled in a few minutes behind me and decided to not race because his back was hurting.

The race started almost exactly at 10. That's when the under 34's went and we started a minute later. The start was on one of the field trails and they were fairly narrow for a race start. When it was our turn I went straight to the front in the middle and noticed that no one was moving up next to me. When Konrad said go, I took off and looked back quickly after abut .1 miles and saw no one close to me. I decided that I would not push too hard because an eighth place finish would suffice for the points so I didn't want to crash out and get nothing. It wasn't long before I started picking off the under 34's. I caught the last one after about fifteen minutes. After I got by him I just tried to ride hard and steady. Sure enough, I was the first to cross the finish line in about 37 minutes. The second place guy who was also 35+ was about three minutes behind me. So being first overall got 100 points in the VORS series and with one race to go my lead is 167 points. Mission accomplished! So instead of riding the Twisted Tire Fall Cup I may do the Tour de Canal, a weekend ride along the C&O canal trail from Cumberland to DC which is an Alzheimer's fund raiser.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yes, today July 6, 2008 was my 46th birthday. Unfortunately, a couple of the other competitors in the men's beginner vet 35+ at Camp Hilbert race #3 didn't get the memo and didn't let me win. I have to hand it to Dan Abernathy and Rick Duncan. They finished first and second in 1:10:27 and 1:10:28 respectively. I finished in third at 1:10:35, a mere eight seconds behind Dan.

The race turned out to be a sprint for 12 miles (2 six mile laps). We started on the entrance road to Camp Hilbert so that we wouldn't have to negotiate a 180 degree turn to enter the single track like we did in the first race. This was significant for a couple of reasons. First, the entrance road is flat and it is downhill to the singletrack entrance whereas from the other direction we climbed a short hill before descending to the U-turn. The other reason was that this morning I practiced the sprint start from the wrong location three times because I was determined to stay with the leaders instead of letting them go and then trying to catch them later. Anyway, the race start was an easier sprint and bomb downhill and I was able to enter the single track in fifth place. Not ideal, but not bad. I quickly picked off two of the guys in front of me and was hoping to catch Dan and Rick. I also had to pass quite a few of the other riders that started in front of us. One little guy, who had to be about eight or nine, bless him, was riding along with his Dad right behind him. As I came up on them I asked if I could pass and the Dad started to try to get his son to move to one side of the trail but the kid wouldn't do it. He stayed right in the middle of the trail. So I patiently asked to be let by again and again the boy ignored his father. At that point I said, "come on buddy, you gotta let me by." At this point his Dad moved off to the left and stopped so I shot to the right and tried to squeeze by in a really bad section of roots and lost it a little. Cut the dickens out of my leg right at my Achilles tendon area on my pedal but hopped quickly back on and rode away. I ended up crashing two more times on the first lap which cost me at least twenty seconds but finished the lap in around 35:30 or so.

I was determined to catch those guys so I just kept going as hard as I could on the second lap. There were fewer folks to pass so it made for a quicker lap. I kept seeing guys on the loop backs who I thought was Dan but I couldn't tell for sure. Then near the end I caught up to a guy who I thought could have been one of them but I wasn't sure. Whenever I would get close he would accelerate so I couldn't pass him. Then as we got to the dam I ran into a flotilla of riders and knew I wouldn't be able to get past all of them. I got past two or three and took a look on the loop back and thought I saw Dan just ahead in a really root section. I sprinted as hard as I could but could not get past the other guy. Than as I crossed the line I saw Dan bent over his bike totally spent. Rick came over and shook my hand and said nice race. I wish the race was three laps or one mile longer because I would have caught those guys and then we may have had some fun getting to the finish line. Such is racing!

I finished third in my category and was seventh overall beginner. Looking forward to the Battle at Burke Farm next week!