Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tall Oak Challenge 6 Hour

I'm going to be up near Columbia over labor day weekend so I've decided I'd do the 6 hour race near Jeff City on Saturday (September 5th) while I'm there.  It's tagged as "The grinder at binder" so I'm expecting a good time.  I'll ride solo so I'm kind of going into it with the expectation of being a good base building ride.  We'll see how that works out.

Here's a map of the course (linked from the event site):
Looks pretty good.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Superlift ORV Park - Hot Springs AR

With all the MTBing I've been doing lately I haven't had any chances to go out four-wheeling in a while.  But back in June I was able to go down to Hot Springs AR for a weekend and wheel at the Superlift ORV park.  It was amazing.  The trails weren't necessarily any more difficult than the hard ones out at SMORR, but they were MUCH longer.  Here are the videos of some of the runs.

Makes me miss it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cyclewerx Crankfest/MWFTS race update

The results have been posted for the race. See them here.

There were some impressive times in all classes and it seems I didn't do very well overall, but I did a little math on my lap times and I'm pretty happy with them:

  1. 16:21
  2. 16:25
  3. 16:51
  4. 16:33
  5. 16:37
  6. 16:32
I remember struggling on the 3rd lap; I wasn't doing (or feeling) very well and was getting frustrated with myself and contemplated giving up the racing and just taking it easy and enjoying the ride but I think the slower time allowed me to recover a little so I could get my drive back and push the last 3 laps. I've never considered myself a quitter but when I get exhausted the mind games start. Once when I was younger and running a 5k race I was in third chasing down the guy in second when we came to a steep hill; the last one of the race. I charged up the hill trying to overtake the other runner but he sped up and held me off. When we crested the hill he had about a 2 second lead. I was so freaking tired and it was like a switch flipped in my head and I said to myself "third place isn't that bad" and we both coasted to the finish. I guess everyone has that switch, and I've got a lot to learn about racing, I just hate that I'm ever willing to give up.

UPDATE: Someone posted a link to pictures of the race on the forum. Here's the link to the album. Here's some of me at the start (in 3rd, #975):

Here's a good picture of the course:

Here's a picture of the best cheering section (those guys were having more fun than anyone):

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cyclewerx Crankfest/MWFTS race recap

Yesterday was the Cyclewerx Crankfest mountain bike race (#10 in the Midwest Fat Tire series). The race was held at Klaus Park in Jackson/Cape Girardeau MO which is right next to I-55. It was an interesting day.

It began with an alarm ringing at 5:30 (yes, that's AM) which is never a good way to start a day. Jessie, Chris (sport 29-under riders) and I rode up together and the 4 hours and 30 minute drive didn't seem that far. We arrived as the beginner and marathon classes were starting their races at 11. This gave us enough time to register and pre-ride the course before our races started at 12:30.

The most surprising thing about the park/race course was how much trail they were able to squeeze into such a relatively small space. It was a 3 mile trail and there were no crossovers or overlaps but there were tons of tight turns and short power climbs. It was really cool because there were lots of trees at the park so almost the entire course was shaded but there was virtually no undergrowth, so as you were riding you'd see lots of people on other parts of the course. It was great for spectators too because they could see so much of the race.

When the race started I tried to stay near the lead. I pulled into the single-track in third with Rock in the lead. I pushed it pretty hard and stayed within sight of the leaders for most of the first lap but by the second lap they were beginning to pull away and I was passed by a few people in my class. I'm not sure what my problem was exactly, but I was putting out a lot of effort and still wasn't able to keep up. I think the turns were what was killing me; I was slowing down too much and then having to work too hard to get back up to speed out of the turn. With a course like that where there are so many turns it really starts to add up. The funny thing is I don't think I needed to slow down as much as I did because I never felt my tires slip and never felt out of control, I just couldn't keep off the brakes. That's something I really need to work on.

My favorite part of the trail was a section that crisscrossed a large ditch where there were big berms on either side which guided you through the turns. It just kept going back and fourth. The only downside was that it was right after the longest climb of the course so when I got to it I was pretty winded and wasn't able to go into it with as much speed as I would have liked. I've never ridden anything like that and it was a lot of fun.

I haven't seen my individual lap times yet but I think I stayed pretty consistent throughout the race. I did a total of 6 laps in about 1:39 and on the last few laps I was able to catch and pass everyone that had passed me so I finished in the same position I was in when the race started; third.

On my last lap about halfway through I was lapped by a very fast overall winner Chris Ploch. He went by me at the bottom of a fairly long switchback climb and I tried to keep up with him for a little while. I kept him within sight until we got to the top of the hill and then he took off. A little while later I was lapped by 3 other experts that were riding together. Again I tried to keep up with them and was able to for about 10 seconds and they pulled away. I just couldn't hold their pace and it wasn't even on an uphill section. I'm going to be racing against those guys next year. I'll have to work my ass off this winter....

Rock Wamsley won my class with a time of 1:33 something and Ryan Winkler (a local) took second. There was a pretty good turnout for the race with lots of people that I haven't seen before. There were about 20 people in my class alone. After the race I talked to a guy that lives in the area and rides the course a lot. He spent most of the race ahead of me and I wasn't able to catch him until the 5th lap or so. I don't know if it was his first race or not but he thought the strangest part of racing was passing, where the passer (faster rider) has to go off track into the thick stuff to make the pass and how that would slow you down where you had to go twice as hard to get around the other rider. It sucks but I have to say that passing someone beats getting passed any day.

The after race get-together was pretty cool. There was free food, free beer (for those that like that sort of thing) and a great atmosphere. For my third place finish I got a t-shirt and medal (see below).

We hung around for a while then started the odyssey back to springtown. We followed Garmins recommendation for the fastest trip which strangely wasn't the way it lead us there. It involved a lot of winding 2 lane roads that would have been a blast on my motorcycle but not so much fun in the CRV. We stopped along the way for dinner at a nice little Mexican restaurant where I ordered the largest burrito on the menu. After I finished it I wished I'd ordered a smaller one.

When we got home around 9 o'clock I was exhausted; I slept better last night than I have in a long time.

The next race in the series is on September 12th at Castlewood. I've decided I'm going to do that race instead of the 12 hour race at Sac River. I just don't want to miss out on the MWFTS points. I'll be up near Columbia over Labor Day weekend so hopefully I'll get to ride some of the cool trails in the area.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Red Fang - Prehistoric Dog

Awesome song:

Midwest Fat Tire Series - Cape Girardeau

The next race in the Midwest Fat Tire Series is this weekend in Cape Girardeau.  Here's a link to the event page.  It's being held at Klaus Park which is just off I-55.  There's some good information about the course on the stlbiking forum.  Here's a picture of the course that someone on the forum uploaded to Garmin Connect:

It looks pretty tight.

I'm really looking forward to the race and I hope will all the rain the area's been having the course will be in good shape.  I rode for a couple hours at Busiek on Sunday and felt really good on the hills.  Hopefully I'll do well this weekend.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Race Dilemma

I was worried this would happen.  The date for the 2009 Sac River 12 hour good time race has been announced.  It's Sept 12th, the same day as the Midwest Fat Tire Series Castlewood ICCC race.

I rode solo in the Sac River race last year and had a great time.  I've been looking forward to the race all year; plus it's on my home turf so it deserves my support.  But the Fat Tire races have also been great and I've got a chance at a top 3 finish in the overall standings at the end of the season if I finish well in the rest of the races.  After the Spanish Lake race I'm in third overall behind JP and Rock.  I think I could miss one race and still be eligible for the end of year awards, but I need all the points I can get.

Another thing to consider is if I ride in the Sac race I'll need to pick up another (expensive) battery for my light because I don't want a repeat of last year where I run out of juice 45 minutes before the end.

I know the calender is packed this time of the year with a race somewhere every weekend, but I wish they could have pushed the date back to mid October or even done it on Labor Day weekend.

Oh well, I've got plenty of time to mull this over, and there's no bad decision, it just sucks to have to make a choice....

Monday, August 10, 2009

Midwest Fat Tire Series - Spanish Lake Recap

Today was race #9 in the Midwest Fat Tire Series at Spanish Lake in north county near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. I spent the weekend in St. Louis so was able to pre-ride the course Saturday morning. I knew the laps were going to go by quickly because it took only 22 minutes to ride the course and I wasn't riding very hard at all. Most of the trails were wide, some of them on old jeep trails but there was one section of singletrack that I was worried about. It was very tight and twisty with lots of trees right next to the trail. I just didn't see how that part could be ridden at anything other than a snails pace.

A few of the other riders from Springfield came and stayed at the house in St. Louis Saturday night so they wouldn't have to get up so early and make the drive on race day. It was cool having them over and once the dogs settled down it was a good evening.

I made it to Spanish lake this morning prior to the beginner/marathon race and took my time getting registered and warming up. I really like it when I don't have to rush around trying to get ready to ride. All the usual suspects were there including Jeff, Rock, Zdenek (who I didn't realize was racing in the single speed class until after the race) and JP. I talked to Rock before the race and he sold his Santa Cruz Blur last week and was racing on a 10+ y/o hard-tail. He was hoping it would work out but I know I wouldn't want to go from my full suspension Stumpjumper back to a hard-tail. Going in I didn't have any idea how it would play out but I knew that the course played to my strengths without any steep hill climbs so I hoped I would do well.

When the race started I wasn't anywhere near the front of the pack. There weren't as many people as there was at Castlewood last week, but I think I was 6th or 7th after the sprint to the first section of single track. Rock and Jeff were in front and I was hoping they wouldn't get too far ahead where I wouldn't be able to make up the time. During the first lap on one of the turns on a grassy field I rolled my rear tire a little and it burped some air. Luckily it didn't go flat but it was feeling pretty squishy. My time for that lap was 18:19. When I rode past my girlfriend after the first lap I asked her to go get my pump. The second lap when pretty well, I was passing lots of people (including Jeff who didn't seem to try to stay with me) and feeling pretty good so rode right past the pump because I wasn't having any problems with the tire and didn't want to lose any ground I had gained. Plus I had Rock in my sights and didn't want to lose him. My time after the second lap was 36:25. Then on the third lap there was a really fast downhill section on a gravel road followed by a gradual uphill before turning into single track. On the downhill I jumped to my highest gear and built up as much speed as I could then when I started going uphill I just kept it in the same gear and stood up and tried to keep my momentum as much as possible. Rock had down shifted and I came up on him at a really good pace and passed him before the single track started. Then I just rode as hard as I could because I didn't want him hanging on my tail. The effort winded me quite a bit but it worked out because I was able to put some distance between us. I didn't realize it at the time but I had moved into first place.

Then on that lap in the tight singletrack I was worried about I was going too fast and on a turn I rolled over on my rear tire which changed my direction and I slammed my handlebars into a tree (which then caused me to slam my head into the tree). I didn't hurt myself but the impact twisted my rear brake lever and rear shifter where I couldn't reach the brake lever unless I stood up. That made the rest of the lap kind of hairy and when I got back around to the pump I put about 40 psi in the rear tire and was able to twist the brake lever back to it's regular position. Luckily I only had to stop for 40 seconds or so and Rock didn't catch me. The time after the third lap was 56:37. My fourth lap was great. After the breather at the pump I felt really good and rode really hard. On that lap I passed Zdenek and figured I was in first. The time after the fourth lap was 16:20. Then at the start of my fifth and final lap my toe caught a root and it flipped me. I hit my knee really hard on something and it immediately started swelling. I thought I had also broke a spoke because the entire lap I could hear a tick-tick-tick. It turned out to be the little spoke magnet for my computer, it somehow got twisted sideways. My knee was starting to get stiff but I just kept on pedaling and it didn't really hurt and I was able to finished the lap pretty strong.

My final time for the five laps was 1:36:16. My splits were 18:19, 18:06, 20:12, 19:43 and 19:56. Here's a link to the final results.

Overall I'm pretty happy with the win. I think the heat got to a lot of people and for some reason it didn't bother me very much. After the race I felt pretty good but I've got to stop crashing so much.

Next up is the Cape Race in Cape Girardeau, MO on 8/23. That's two weeks away so hopefully I'll be able to recover from the last 3 weeks of racing and ride rested and hungry. I hear it's a pretty flat course so here's hoping.....

EDIT: I forgot to post the gratuitous money shot of the medal.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

MWFTS - Spanish Lake

The next race in the Midwest Fat Tire series is race #9 at Spanish Lake on Sunday, August 9. I'm not sure what to think of this one. The course below (linked from official site) has a length of 4.14 miles; that's a short course.

I've never been there but I plan to pre-ride the course the day before the race. I haven't found very many reviews of the trails online but here are a couple quotes:

Spanish Lake offers an extreme variety of riding trails. From extremely tight single track to the wide-open maintenance roads, Spanish Lake has it all. It offers something for everyone and all skill levels. It is also a single speeders dream, with not many challenging climbs. I would review it as the Castlewood, minus the Cardiac type hills, of North St. Louis County. --from
This park offers a little of Castlewood & Cliff Caves all in one. You'll find rolling hills between the mature trees, some downhills and climbs to boot. A lot of guys will swear it's not too difficult but it'll challenge almost anyone but the best. --from
Without knowing the hill situation I'm going to guess the laps will take 20 minutes tops; that would make for a 5 lap race. I think I'm going to ditch the camelbak for this one and just use bottles. It's always such a relief when I drop it off so it makes me wonder why I wear it in the first place.

I'm looking forward to Sunday, the weather should be good and on the hills during last nights ride at Sac River I felt like I found another gear. Hopefully it sticks around.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Midwest Fat Tire Series - Castlewood Challenge

Victory at last! :)

This weekend was the rain delayed National City Castlewood Challenge mountain bike race at Castlewood state park in Ballwin Mo. The conditions were great with the sun shining and fairly low humidity.

Before the race I didn't know what to expect as far as competition. At the starting line I didn't see any of the guys that had beaten me in the previous races, but the were a ton of riders, 20 in my class. I felt good since i knew the trails and I figured the laps would take about 30 minutes so i hoped to get in 4 laps. When we took off I was in second when we got to the hill climb and passed the first guy pretty quickly. Before I got up the first hill I caught up to some of the guys from the previous class and started my trend for the day; work to catch the guy in front of me. I guess that's the good thing about large races, there's always someone in sight. I passed a bunch of people on the first lap and finished it in 28:27. On the second lap it was more of the same, going from rider to rider. I definitely need to get better on my hill climbs, but I think I'm improving. The course was laid out where we had one long climb followed by lots of fast sections, another shorter climb then a creek crossing and flat track to the finish. This allowed plenty of recovery between hills and made for a fast race.

The time after my second lap was 57:44. When I finished the lap I traded my camelbak for a bottle and the camelbak was still half full. I rode the rest of the race with that bottle. Maybe I should have drank more but I just didn't think about it. The third lap was fun, I started jumping stuff and felt really good on the bike. I was getting some pretty good air on the ledge before the creek crossing and felt like I was flying on the flats. I finished the third lap just under the cutoff at 1:26:39. On my final lap I got behind an expert open rider and stayed with him most of the lap, I think his name was Chris (no, not THAT Chris). He has been racing for a couple years and was forced to move up from sport the previous year because he was doing well in a lot of races. On the last hill he was struggling so I passed him and made a sprint to the finish. My final time was 1:57:06. My splits were pretty consistent at 28:27, 29:17, 28:55 and 30:27. The best part was that I wasn't passed the entire race. I was the only rider in my class that did 4 laps which is also pretty cool.

Here's a link to the final results. I got a gold medal for my efforts (pictured) and now I'm really stoked about the Spanish Lake race next weekend.

I know Rock and Jeff will be there so I'll have to ride really well to stay on the podium, but I'm starting to think I'm capable of it. I'm going to do some hill work this week and then try to take advantage of the 2 week break after Spanish Lake to recover a little.

The DRJ Racing folks put on a top notch event. My thanks go to them for their effort. There were a couple of injuries during the race and the road crossings were a little tricky but with the huge turnout in riders, spectators and people visiting the park everything went very well.

Update: DRJ Racing took lots of photos of the race, here's a link to their set. Below are a couple of the pictures of me.