Sunday, April 26, 2009

Greenbrier AMBC XC Challenge

Greenbrier 2007 was my very first MTB race. I remember it well. I entered the beginner men's 40-49 race. It was cool and damp. I remember doing a lot of walking because there was one fairly steep climb with logs to go up and over and another really rocky climb. I also remember riding the campground descent with a white knuckle grip and being thankful I only had to do one lap. I recall I finished seventh out of 19 and was happy.

Greenbrier 2008 was one of many MTB races in which I would participate in that year. I remember it well. I entered the beginner men's 40-49 race. It was stormy the morning of the race but the storms had passed by race time. The first races of the day were very wet. I remember walking more than I thought I should because of the one fairly steep climb with logs to go up and over and the other really rocky climb. I also remember that the campground descent wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was the year before and I recall being thankful that I only had to to one lap. I also remember I was about 3 1/2 minutes faster than my time from 2007 and that I finished seventh again.

Enter Greenbrier 2009, my fifth MTB race this year. I entered the men's cat. 2 45-49 race along with ~25 other racers. The weather was uncharacteristically hot, humid, and sunny with not a lot of rain in the days leading up to the race making for a fast course. I predicted the race would start fast and it was as I entered the woods in last place. I believe I was in last place right up to the point after the stream crossing where you hit the first climb. That is where I started overtaking some folks. Then we hit the steep climb and there were a lot of folks walking, which was expected, because it is steep with logs to go up and over. So I walked up to the middle point where I got back on a rode to the top. I then proceeded to get to and ride up the rocky climb I had never successfully ridden up before. Then I hit the campground descent and did not have any issues so I finished the first lap in ~35, about three minutes faster than last year's one lap, except I had two more to do. This is not as onerous as it seems because I was feeling very good. I skipped the feed zone and entered the woods for my second lap. Near the end of the descent with the logs a man was giving warning of a crashed rider ahead and to keep left. As I rode by slowly, there was a guy that had crashed and was being attended to by a volunteer. I sure hope he was OK and my thoughts go out to him because it looked like he could have been seriously injured. Anyway, I got across the stream and up to the steep climb where I rode almost all the way to the top except for the very last log where I spun out on a rock. Of course I thought I would ride all the way up it on my last lap. I did make it up the rocky climb a second time, however, riding down the campground descent I got a rear tire flat about 2/3's of the way down and since I wasn't carrying a spare, my race was over. I was walking with the bike rolling and the tire and tube popped off and was binding on the frame so I had to carry the bike. I was disappointed with another DNF although there were a large number of other racers who had flats out there. I had a nice conversation with a lady spectator who was walking with me to the finish area, so it was not all bad. I had one little fall that was inconsequential and my shoulder held up excellently so I am not disappointed. Maybe next year!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

GamJams Reviews: Floor Pumps

The floor pump I use is a Lemond brand floor pump. It has a digital display and a dual valve head for both presta or schrader. I remember seeing it at Tar-Jay in 2003 or so. It was $49.99 and my wife picked it up for me as a b-day gift and I remember being apprehensive about her buying it because I thought it cost too much. It has held up well for six years or more. I don't think it is available on the market today. I should take a picture of it to show you all what it looks like but that won't happen before the publishing deadline so you'll have to take my word for it. It is a good quality pump!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bike Line Fair Hill XC Race Report

The Bike Line Fair Hill Spring XC Mid-Atlantic Super Series Opening XC Race was held in Elkton, MD this past Sunday, April 19, 2009. It was a great weather day, thus a great day for racing. Over 400 folks had pre-registered for the races so there were going to be some crowded trails. The course description stated that the course was mostly non-technical with very few climbs and not many roots. The description was accurate. It was a fast course! There was a fire road climb to start followed by a long FR descent to a wide stream crossing and a short climb where the single track began. The single track was very fast flowing with just a few roots here and there and some field and stream crossings.

There were 23 pre-registered for the Sport Male Masters I race for men 45-49. We were about the sixth or seventh group to take off in two-minute intervals starting at 10:30. I was hoping to finish in the top of half of my race given that there are so many fast guys in this area and age group. One thing that was interesting is there were no body markings. The organizers wrote your category on your number on the lower right side which was good to see where to stand at the start but not so good for seeing if you were racing against someone on the course. The race timing was done by Prolog Timing Systems so we wore chips on our ankles. Anyway, after the start I was working hard and felt that I was in the middle of the pack. I was passing some folks on the uphill parts and they would pass me back on the down hills and field crossings. At the end of the first lap I was feeling good and felt that I could maintain the pace I had been riding.

On the second lap I was passing a few folks and had a conversation with a guy who was trying to talk me into getting a 29er. So things were going well and I caught and passed a guy I saw at the start just before a field crossing. So when I get to the field I decide to have a drink so I reach down for my waterbottle with my left hand leaving my right hand on the handlebars. This is important because this is the side with my injured shoulder. So I take a drink and I'm leaning forward to place my waterbottle back into the cage when I veered off the trail about six inches and hit a little rut. Since my body weight was shifted forward I started to pitch in that direction. Since I knew I didn't want to endo I threw my weight back hoping that my backside would hit the seat. It did but on the very back end so instead of catching myself I slipped off the back of the seat and laid out completely. At least my pedals unclipped and I landed on my left buttock so no harm was done. I looked around quickly to see if anyone had seen me crash on a totally flat field crossing piece of trail but there was no one in sight. I got going fairly quickly only to find that I had no front brakes (the cable clip had popped off in my crash) so I had to stop again to re-attach the cable. I got hung up in one rooty section near the end of the race but it was just a foot touch down. The rest of the race after that was fairly unremarkable.

I saw in the results today that I was 14th out of 33. I was happy with the result and happy that my shoulder seems to be getting better every day even after hiking out and hitting the deck.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Camp Hilbert #1 Race Report

While all you roadies were out there in Walkersville dancing in the wind, we MTB'ers were enjoying a beautiful day down in Maidens, VA at Camp Hilbert. After all the rain on Friday, one would think that any trail would be too muddy to ride on but this was just not the case at Camp Hilbert. The trails were perfect except for one 30-40' section about halfway through the course. There was a large amount of water and mud there but you could not ask for a trail in better shape than the rest of the course. That being said, I was racing in the Sport Master 45+ race which was starting at 12:10. I was the only geezer signed up for this race on Bikereg for the longest time but at the very end I believe there were seven of us pre-registered. When I checked in today it looked like there were about 10 folks on the list including race day registrations. I was liking my chances for the win when I was the only one signed up but as folks joined in my chances were getting pretty slim. Especially when one of the guys raced with me at Blue Ridge School who was ~4 minutes ahead of me after the first lap. I am sure he would have finished farther ahead of me if I hadn't DNF'd with my shoulder injury. Speaking of my injury, I was feeling quite uneasy about the shoulder for a couple of reasons. Obviously I didn't want to crash and further injure it and I was worried about being able to lift the front wheel in the few technical parts of Camp Hilbert.

Anyway, at the start, the Sport Masters 45+ men were the second to the last group scheduled to start. While we were lining up there were only four of us and two Clydesdale ready to start behind us. Mark, the promoter, asked the Clydesdales if they wanted to start with us and they said yes so there were six of us on the line. Of course, I'm thinking I like my chances of being on the podium because all I have to do is finish ahead of one of these other three guys. I didn't think I had a chance against the guy who was thrashing me at BRS but I knew nothing about the other two so I thought maybe. My chances dropped pretty quickly after the start when all three of the other guys in my race and the two Clydesdales took off leaving me in sixth place. Now I'm not the fastest starter needless to say. My strength is my stamina. I know I can throw out three pretty much equal laps and I won't fade much at the end. The trick is to stay close enough to pass someone before the end. BTW, I tested the shoulder in my pre-ride popping some wheels and it was good so the shoulder was not the problem. So the guy in fifth place is the guy that was thrashing me two weeks at BRS so I thinking top three is probably not going to happen this week, but maybe fourth? So I decided I would try to keep him in my sight and see if he could hold his pace. The first lap I did fairly well in this regard. He was about fifty feet ahead of me the entire lap. I was getting closer to him on the climbs but he would power away from me on the descents. Camp Hilbert doesn't have anything really steep or long in the way of climbs and descents. It is mostly fast, a true power course. Early in the first lap, I came up on a female enduro rider and asked her very politely if I could pass. I think I said "I would like to pass, please, if you don't mind" or something like She said sure and then proceeded to stay right in the middle of the trail. I stayed patient and surveyed the trail ahead and then said "How about just after that big tree on the left?" She went off on me yelling something about that she knows I want to pass, etc. Right after the tree I accelerated and went by her on the left as she did not slow down at all or move over at all. As I went by her I said "You don't have to get upset, I was only trying to tell you when and where." To which she replied, "I've been out here since 9:30." I was thinking that if racing your bike for two and a half hours is going to turn you into the wicked witch of the west maybe you should consider the XC race instead, but of course I didn't say anything.

Right at the end of the first lap I clipped out on a rooted climb and lost sight of the guy I was hoping to keep in sight. That was when I thought, I guess its fourth but I was hoping to press harder and get him in sight again. I was encountering and passing a lot of the Sport 35-45 folks who started two minutes ahead of us so that was making it harder to catch up. I kept looking ahead but didn't see the guy I was looking for. In the last quarter of the lap I saw him in the distance. He was in an area that I had gotten real close to him on the first lap so that gave me the incentive to push harder. I was hoping to get close and take my chances on the last lap. He was riding up the same rooted climb that I had unclipped on in the first lap as I reached the bottom. I saw him clip out just as I got to his wheel. He said, "I'm sorry" as I hopped off my bike and starting running up the hill past him. I told him "it's OK" but I could tell he was in a world of hurt. So I hopped back on my bike and tried to create as big a gap as possible. As I crossed the finish line I looked back and he was about one hundred fifty feet behind me. I was thinking that the only way I wouldn't finish third is if I crashed or had a mechanical. But I rode a clean third lap and was cautious where I needed to be. So I finished in third place. Not long after I crossed the line the awards were being handed out. I won a $15 gift certificate to 3Sports.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

GamJams Reviews: Bike Racks

There are a few different types of bike racks that I own. I have two Xport roof-type fork mounts that I can attach to any roof rack. I use these occasionally, especially when we take a family vacation/trip and the luggage goes in the back of the car. I like these because they are quick and convenient and I haven't had any problems or issues using them.

I also have a hitch-type Xport Slipstream 3-bike dual-receiver rack that I also use on occasion. The occasions are the same as the one above and I tend to use this one when I need to carry more than two bikes. I like this rack also, it is heavy-duty and works well.

I have a couple other racks that I don't use anymore either because they are old and broken or I much less convenient than the two I currently use. The most common bike transport I use is to simply remove the front wheel and stick the bike in the back of my car. This is the most convenient method I have found but is only usable when you don't have luggage. More than one bike can be carried in this manner by simply folding down one of the back seats. That is all!