Monday, September 28, 2009

MWFTS - Greensfelder Race Recap

Sunday was race #12 in the Midwest Fat Tire Series.  It was promoted by DRJ Racing and was held at Greensfelder Park in Eureka MO. 

I was a little nervous about the trail conditions since it rained most of the day Saturday but the dogwood trail that was used for the race apparently drains very well and was in great shape on raceday.

I arrived at the park prior to the beginner/marathon start and watched most of that race from a nice shady spot near the start/finish line.  The leaders were turning laps around the 15 minute mark which is what I expected, so I figured I'd do 6 laps.

When it was time for our race they had us start with a long hill climb up a gravel road that fed into a connector trail that lead back to the Muckerman Shelter parking lot which was were the start/finish line was.

Rock Wamsley, one of the leading racers in my class, spoke to the MWFTS guys before the race about class starting order and convinced them to start us 30-39 sport guys before the 29 and under sport class.  They stagger the start times by a minute usually in the following order: All Expert, Sport Singlespeed, Sport 29-under, Sport 30-39, Sport 40-49 and then Sport 50+.    Then a few races ago the 40-49 guys got to go before the 29 and under group which put us behind both of them.  But if you look at the race results the 30-39 is the strongest sport class; which means we end up catching the 29 and under group about halfway through the first lap and have to pass them; which takes more effort and can effect the outcome of the race since you have to be in a good passing spot.  So for this race since my class is the only one where the winner of the series is still up in the air they decided to start us before the 29-under group.  Then at the starting line the 40-49 group said we should go before them since their series winner has already been determined (John Peiffer) so we started after the sport singlespeed class with pretty much clear sailing for the start of the race.  I came into the race with a 2 point lead in the series over Rock with 2 races left.  We both needed to win.

When the race started Rock got the hole shot and was in the lead at the top of the hill with me behind him and Matthew Crews hot on my heels:

I decided to wear my camelbak again for this race because I didn't have anyone to hand me bottles and the course was technical enough I figured there wouldn't be many places I could handle a bottle.  I did set up one bottle in the cup holder of my folding chair near the starting line that I figured I could switch to if the hydration pack was bothering me.  I have to say that after racing without it lately it did feel pretty heavy on my back.

About halfway into the first lap Rock was pulling away from me and I couldn't shake Mathew.  It seemed any time I was able to get a small gap between us he'd close it on the next hill.  It was starting to feel like I was going to be battling for 2nd, not 1st. 

The trail itself was awesome.  There were a few sections that were wet but it never got nasty and slick.  I'd say the trail comes close to the Rollercoaster trail at Castlewood on the fun scale, but it has quite a few rocks and roots that keep it from being as fast (for me) as Rollercoaster.  There were parts of the trail where I'd be flying along and would just have to pull up on the front wheel and hang on hoping I'd keep control as I bounced over whatever happened to be in my way.  There were lots of quick down/up sections, some nice jumps and only a few off-camber turns.  Most of the hills on the lap were fairly short and you could use momentum to get up them, but towards the end of the lap before reaching the gravel road there was a LONG winding hill that I saw turn many racers into hikers.  It was bad because when you reached the top of the hill on the trail you had to climb the hill where they started the race.

Here's a pic of Matthew and I finishing the first lap (on right side of pic):

During the second lap I still couldn't shake Matthew and I couldn't see Rock anymore.  I was going as fast as I could but he wasn't going anywhere.  Here are a couple pictures that were taken either on the first or second lap:

When we turned onto the gravel road near the end of the second lap Matthew passed me and started to pull away.  That left me in 3rd.  I didn't feel like I could go any faster so I just focused on keeping the pedal down and holding onto 3rd.

The next couple laps I passed a few people and felt like I was riding well but Rock and Matthew were nowhere to be seen.  They both wear "Hub" jerseys so a couple times I'd come up on another Hub rider thinking it was them but each time my hope was dashed.  At the end of the 4th lap I ditched my CamelBak:

On the 5th lap an expert rider that had flatted earlier pulled up behind me.  He said he didn't want to pass, that he was just finishing the race, but I was glad he was there because it gave me a little more motivation to ride harder.  Then about halfway through the 5th lap I saw Rock on the side of the trail fixing a flat.  The look on his face said it all; he was pissed and he was pumping on his hand pump like crazy.  That put me back in 2nd and gave me all the motivation I needed to go as hard as I could go.  For all I knew he was finishing up and was back on the trail chasing me down.  He had been riding much faster than me all day but I really wanted to hold him off and I only had 1.5 laps left.

Here I am somewhere on those last 2 laps:

On the last lap, about 3/4s of the way through I caught another glimpse of a Hub jersery ahead of me.  I didn't really think it was Matthew because of my earlier disappointments, but I figured I'd try to catch him and see.  He had 2 riders behind him and as we approached the hills I got a good look at him and it was Matthew!  As he started to climb the hills that lead to the gravel road he was going very slow, so I passed the 2nd rider behind him and fell in at his pace with one guy between us.  I don't think he knew I was there even though the guy I passed yelled out "there's the race for 2nd".  He was actually going slow enough on that last climb that I was able to use it as a breather and save my energy.  I didn't want to try to pass him there because the trail was pretty narrow and I didn't want him to know I was there.  Plus I was worried he'd be able to hold me off.  When we got to the top of the trail and turned onto the gravel road I locked out my front shock, switched to a hard gear, stood up and started hammering.  I was able to build up quite a bit of speed and I passed him pretty quickly.  I didn't look to see if he was chasing me; I just rode as hard as I could to the finish line.  Here's a picture of me pulling out onto the parking lot at the end of the race:

I couldn't believe it but I actually won!  Granted I got very lucky that Rock had the flat, but still, a win is a win.  Rock ended up finishing behind Matthew in 3rd, so that gives me a 6 point lead in the overall standings. 

I talked to Matthew and Rock after the race and Rock was pretty disappointed about the flat; it was his to win and he really wanted it.  Matthew said he was pretty exhausted on the last lap and didn't try to chase me up the hill. 

Here's a link to the final results for the race.  My overall time for the 6 laps was 1:34:06.  Here's my lap breakdown:
  1. 15:39 (was a bit longer with starting hill climb)
  2. 15.24
  3. 15:48
  4. 16:19
  5. 15:46
  6. 15:10
 Some of the best news for me was that I didn't wreck the entire race.  That's surprising considering how technical the course was and some of the speed I was carrying on the downhills but I only had one time where my front wheel started to wash out but I was able to recover and didn't have any other close calls.  Maybe that means I just need to push it harder...

Here's a picture of the podium and a close-up of the medal:

Now it all comes down to the last race in the series; Warsaw.  I can't wait.

If anybody is looking for more pictures of the race (or pictures that don't have me in them), here are the galleries I've found:
Thanks to DRJ Racing for putting on a great race and to Midwest Fat Tire series for everything they do to make it all happen.  I'm going to do everything I can to get more people from Springfield to participate next year.  I just can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Midwest Fat Tire Series - Greensfelder Classic

Sunday (9/27/2009) is the 12th race in the Midwest Fat Tire Series; the 2009 Greensfelder Classic at Greensfelder County Park in Eureka MO.

The race is going to be on the Dogwood trail on the west side of the park riding counter-clockwise.  Here's an excerpt of the GORC Greensfelder map of this trail:  

The start/finish is going to be at the Muckerman Shelter.  St. Louis has been getting a lot of rain lately but the Dogwood trail drains very well and from what I've read its in great shape and should be perfect on race day.

I've only ridden Greensfelder a few times and in my opinion Dogwood is the best trail at the park.  It's pretty narrow in most places and has lots of twists and turns along with several rocky sections that can be fairly technical.  When riding counter-clockwise there's only one extended uphill section but that part of the trail is wide enough that passing won't be a problem.

The laps are going to be short; like 15 minutes per lap.  There will be lots of passing and I imagine many riders will be lapped by the expert group.  The weather is supposed to be really nice with sunny skies and temps in the 70's.  The series is almost over and I'm looking forward to the last couple of races.  I hope there's a good turnout.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Council Bluff trail ride

With the Burnin' at the Bluff race next month and a break in my race schedule this weekend I decided to meet up with my Burnin' teammates (Stephen Venters and Zdnenek Palecek) for a ride at the site of the upcoming race; Council Bluff Lake near Potosi MO.   It was an epic day.

I invited Jesse (a regular at the Midwest Fat Tire Series events) along for the ride but he didn't commit until 10pm Saturday for the Sunday trip.  It rained all day Saturday and he wasn't looking forward to driving 3+ hours just to ride around in the mud.  I told him I'd been watching the radar and it didn't look like that area had gotten nearly as much rain so he took the plunge and we planned on leaving town by 9 am.  The plan was to meet Stephen and Zdnenk around noon and be on the trails by 1.

I'd never been to Council Bluff Lake before so I relied on Google Maps to find the place.  We took my girlfriends Honda CRV instead of my Jeep mainly because it handles much better on the Highway (doesn't struggle to maintain 70 mph) and gets 20+ mpg vs the jeeps 12.

For some reason Google doesn't mind gravel roads.  As we were driving down MO-8 between Berryman and Shirley the directions called for a right turn on Jinkerson Rd.  It wasn't a major intersection and we drove past it without even noticing it.  After a u-turn we were back on track but about a mile in Jinkerson turned from asphalt to gravel.  It was nice and wide though so it wasn't a big deal.  The directions then told us to turn left on an "unnamed road".  It was another we drove right past since the unnamed road was very steep, narrow and almost completely washed out.  It looked like lots of trails I've driven in my Jeep.  After another u-turn we took the unnamed road, somehow made it up the hill and Jessie commented that it was a good thing we weren't in his car and how do they expect the other races to be able to climb that hill.  I figured it was google just trying to save us some time and shrugged it off.  That road eventually lead us to an intersection where we turned back onto a paved road (MO-8 I believe) and I started feeling much better.  Then we turned onto another gravel road that was the worst one yet.  There were sections where the bike rack scraped the ground and I was having to get a run at some of the ruts to make it over them.   When we got to an area that was completely impassable I decided to turn around, retrace our path back to the last paved road and find another way there.  Luckily we were able to make it back to the road but unfortunately my iPhone didn't have cell service so I figured we were screwed.  I thought about giving up on Council Bluffs and going to ride the Berryman since we'd driven right past it earlier and I knew where it was.  Then we spotted a guy pulled off the road unloading a 4-wheeler and stopped to ask directions.  He pointed us in the right direction and about 10 miles later we pulled into the park.  As we were driving around looking for Stephen and Zdnenek we happened to drive past Stephen and together we headed down to the boat ramp where we found Zdnenek pulling off the trail having just completed a lap around the lake.  It was just after 12; we were right on time.

The day was starting to look much better.  The temperature was very nice and although there was lots of humidity it wasn't raining.  After talking about the course and what to expect we suited up for the ride we headed out with Zdnenek in the lead.  He rides a Specialized 29er singlespeed and flies on that thing.  When we reached the spot where the transition area will be for the race we'd only ridden about a mile (mostly uphill) and everyone but Zdnenek was already drenched in sweat and breathing very hard.  I was thinking it was going to be a long day.  After a couple minutes we headed back out to finish the lap.  The trail at Council Bluff goes around the lake and is about 12 miles long.  For most of it you are right next to the lake hugging the hillside, with lots of dips, lots of rocks and lots of exposed roots.  There are a few flat sections and a few long hill climbs but most of the time you are riding the curves of the coves and can't see much of the trail ahead of you.  There are lots of steep drops followed by steep climbs where you need all your momentum to make the top of the hill.  If you're in the wrong gear you hike-a-bike.  The hardest thing was being unfamiliar with the trail and not knowing what's ahead and trying to go fast.  It made for a nerve racking ride.  Before too long Zdnenek had pulled away from me and I had pulled away from Stephen and Jesse so I was just motoring along by myself, huffing and puffing and wondering what lay ahead.  Every once in a while Zdnenek would stop and wait for everyone to catch up and when we regrouped he'd take off again pulling away as he went.  I really liked the trail there.  There's never anywhere you can relax and turn on auto-pilot.  You have to pay attention and watch where you're going and know what gear you're in and what gear you'll need to be in for the next obstacle.

After crossing the dam which is near the end of the lap I stopped and waited for Stephen and Jesse.  The trail crosses over to a short section on a gravel road and then through a swimming area and I wasn't sure where to go.  From there on Stephen led most of the way since he's been to the park several times and knew where to go.  The first lap felt like it took forever but was actually only 1:24 of riding time.  When we made it back to the cars Zdnenek had changed into a dry shirt and looked like he'd been waiting for awhile.

He asked if we were ready for another lap.  Stephen and i said yes but Jesse said no.  After spending some time refilling our bottles and eating a bit and talking about the race Jesse was feeling better and decided to head back out.

On that lap I wanted to get a better idea of what to expect as far as lap times for the race so I took off in the lead and rode pretty hard.  After about 20 minutes I let Zdnenek pass me since I felt like I was running from him and not riding at a sustainable pace.  He pulled away and I just worked on learning the trail and finding the lines that would allow me to keep my feet off the trail.  That lap was much more fun than the first one and seemed much shorter.  About 2/3 of the way around the lake there's several sections where large rocks cover the trail.  You have to really work to get good lines and time your pedaling so you don't smack your feet on the rocks while still maintaining your forward momentum.  It's challenging and a lot of fun.  About a 1/2 mile from the end of the lap I met Zdnenek heading the other direction.  He was going to ride out and meet up with Stephen and Jesse.  I just kept going.

I finished that lap in about 1:14.  I know I could have done it faster but I figure that will be about my average on race day when fatigue starts setting in and the evening laps start.

I waited about 1/2 an hour for everyone else to make it back to the parking lot.  It turns out Stephen wrecked and banged his knee pretty hard at the beginning of the second lap.  His front wheel slipped out and he went down pretty hard.  After that he wrecked a few more times so they took it pretty easy.

By then it was getting late so we decided to call it a day.  After cleaning up and deciding on a name for our team (Zed's Dead) we mapped out a route home that would keep us on pavement.  It sounded pretty straight forward so we packed up and hit the road a little before 6.  Before long Jesse and I were starving and looking for some place to eat.  It took a while but when we pulled into Salem the first place we saw was a small Chinese restaurant so we stopped.  I ordered the pork lo mein with an egg roll and it was delicious.  I ate until I couldn't eat anymore and we headed out.  Turns out Salem is a pretty big town and if we had waited a few minutes more we would have had lots of options for dinner.  But we were hungry and the food was good so I didn't have any regrets.

After stopping for gas we headed out of town and about 30 minutes later I realized that we missed a turn that would have taken us to Rolla where we could take I-44 home.  We decided to soldier on.  Eventually we made it to Licking so we took 63 down to Willow Springs and headed east on 60 towards Springfield.  We pulled into town at 9:45.

All in all it was a pretty good day and I think Jesse is glad he came.  I'm looking forward to the race at Council Bluff, but I've got 2 more MWFTS races between now and then.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

2010 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR and Specialized Trail Crew

Over the last couple days since I heard about the Specialized Trail Crew contest I've been thinking about it a lot.  I made a post as an application to join said crew, but they'll have LOTS of people vying for the privilege which makes my chances of being selected pretty remote.  Still, the idea is intriguing and makes me giddy as a schoolgirl.  What I've been thinking about is basically twofold; the bike and the crew.

I'll start with the bike.  Although I'm not really in the market right now for a new bike, almost every day I scour the internet looking at the latest offerings from bike/component manufactures and running lots of "what if" scenarios through my head.   At the top of my wish list has been a 2010 S-Works Epic.  It's Spech's top of the line race bike and since I love racing I'd like to ride the best.  But if I were to acquire the epic I'd probably not ride it every day and save it for the races.  The majority of my time on a bike are spent on regular trail rides; not racing.  Not that the epic wouldn't excel as a daily rider, but truth be told, I like comfort on my regular rides and I'm not sure the suspension of the epic lends itself to comfort.  It's designed for speed.  Plus I'm pretty rough on my equipment (and my body) and I'd be worried about breaking my $8,800 investment.

The new Stumpjumper is a whole other animal.  It's designed to be more of a trail bike.  It's 140mm suspension would soak up everything I could throw at it and is probably more comfortable than my couch.  Plus it's front shock is adjustable and can be lowered to 115mm which is more in line with the epic and would make it more "race like".   The more I look at the new Stumpjumper the more it moves to the top of my list.  I'll never have a stable of high-end bikes.  I just can't afford that.  So I need to spend my money wisely and make my purchase fill as many needs as possible.  Basically I would need a bike that could comfortably take the abuse of my regular trail rides and help me go faster on race day.  Of everything I've read the new Stumpy fits that bill.

Now for the crew.  The idea of the Specialized Trail Crew is a good one.  Having a group of regular joes outfitted with the best Spech has to offer, out there spreading the word and giving them exposure is ground level marketing at it's finest.  The Crew members benefit from the great bike/gear and Specialized sponsored group rides and Specialized benefits by getting their stuff out in the public eye, having people like me lust over the idea of being in the Crew and probably spurring sales in their target market.

Speaking of their target market, who are they trying to reach.  Since the top of the line S-Works bikes are several thousand dollars, they have to be targeting people with the desire and cash to plunk down their hard earned bucks on a new bike.   Obviously the general public thinks spending that much on a "toy" is crazy.  Hell, the general public thinks the whole concept of mountain biking is crazy.  But the Crew has the potential to change some minds.  As I've said many times, I don't understand why mountain biking isn't more popular.  The way I see it the trails should be so overflowing with people.  Mountain biking offers the best of everything in an "outdoor" lifestyle.

It starts with fitness.  Regardless of how fast or how far you ride, getting out there on the trails requires physical effort.  The act of riding a mountain bike makes you healthier.  It pushes you to and makes you stronger.

Next is weight loss.  When you start getting into mountain biking you start thinking about weight.  Hills will do that to you.  The more you weigh the harder it is to climb so seriously start thinking of ways to get your weight down if for nothing else then to make the hill climbs that much easier.  Every time I start to overeat I think about riding my bike.  Then I stop eating.

Then you've got piece of mind.  When I go out for a run I sometimes find myself getting angry.  It's not at a specific thing really; just at things hindering me.  Maybe it's because running doesn't really require focus, it just requires you to keep going.  So my thoughts are all over the place thinking of all the ways I've been wronged or whatever.  I never get that feeling when I'm on the trails.  When I'm out in nature riding my bike I tend to focus on the task at hand much more.  I have to; otherwise I'll end up on the ground.  Sometimes I end a ride in pain (usually when I wasn't paying attention) but most of the time I finish refreshed.  It's a good feeling.

Also you've got the opportunity to test your abilities at the numerous mountain bike races held all over the country with classes for all skill levels.  Entry fees are low and many of them are like large parties where there happens to be a race going on.  You arrive with a few butterflies in your stomach and you leave with new friends and the satisfaction that you did all you could do that day.  Sometimes you even leave with some nice swag.

Finally you've got the fun factor.  I haven't found many activities that are more fun than mountain biking.  I like flying down hills on the descents, I like jumping logs, I like navigating tricky parts of the trail and sometimes I like climbing hills; especially when I'm in shape and full of power.  I like spending time with other mountain bikers.   They will bend over backward to help someone in need and I've just found that as a group they are great to be around.

If I was charged with picking the Crew I know exactly the type of people I'd choose.  I'd go after a mix of males and females (an underrepresented group on the trails), covering the various generations that are passionate about the sport and are willing/able to put themselves in the public eye and spread the gospel of the MTB'r lifestyle.  Sounds a lot like the criteria they laid out on the specializedriders website.  I guess the Crew is in good hands.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Specialized Trail Crew

Do I want a 2010 S-Works Stumpjumper FSR?  YES!

I've been riding and racing a 2008 Stumpy FSR Pro for almost 2 years and love it.  Here's a picture of my baby:


That bike rocks; it's proven to me time and time again that I am the weak link in our relationship, but it inspires me and gives me confidence to ride harder and farther and faster than I used to think I was capable of.

BUT, Specialized has taken the Stumpy in a new direction.  From what I've read there's a lot to love about the new design.  The bike is lighter yet has more travel and comes with a significant component upgrade.  Would I forsake my current bike for the new one?  I don't know.  I think I'd ride both.  Granted my old Rockhopper hasn't seen the trails since I got my Stumpjumper (other than when I take someone with me), but until I have a chance to ride the new one I don't know how it would handle the trails I often ride.  Which one would be better at Sac, Busiek, Chubb, or Castlewood?  I can't say.

I do know I'd race the new ride though.  Everything points to it being a screamer and I'd love to find out.

So, people of Specialized; if you're reading my humble blog please feel free to look around and check out my other posts.  Would I pimp the new Stumpy?  Yes.  Would there be anything wrong with that?  No.  Am I a tool?  Possibly.

I hope you pick me.

If anybody is confused by this post, see here for details.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

MWFTS - ICCC Castlewood Blue Ribbon Recap

Saturday was race #11 in the Midwest Fat Tire Series.  It took place on the back side of Castlewood State Park using the Cedar Bluff and Stinging Nettle trails.  Before the race I'd only ridden Stinging Nettle a few times and didn't even know Cedar Bluff existed.  Now I know.

I arrived at the race at 10:30 and pre-rode the course.  Cedar Bluff was definitely the more difficult part of the course.  It was rocky, had lots of roots and a couple pretty good hills.  The course started on the Stinging Nettle side with a nice wide trail to start with, then it went into a 4 foot tunnel under some railroad tracks to get to the Cedar Bluff trails.  Then after the Cedar Bluff lap before entering the tunnel to return to Stinging Nettle there was a "mandatory" dismount where there were some rocky steps.  The Stinging Nettle trail was winding but very flat and very fast.

I don't think it was a very spectator friendly event because we had to park about a half mile from the course and ride in on the Al Foster trail.  There were a few non-racing people there but not nearly as many as I've seen at other races.  The organizers set up a table at the finish line for water bottles which I utilized and think is a great idea; hopefully they keep that up.  Speaking of the organizers, they did a very good job overall.  Hopefully they'll promote more events in the future.

When the race started I was in the front row.  I had a small issue clipping in when we took off so I was the forth rider as we approached the single track.  Soon after the start the guy behind me called out to pass me on the left as we were riding about 20mph.  I didn't want to go off the trail into the grass and kill my momentum so I just moved over to the right side of the trail  The trail in that section was a few feet wide.  As he pulled up to pass me his handlebar hit mine and it caused him to lose control and go down.  He fell off his bike to the left of the trail and his front tire turned to the right and crossed into my path.  It happened very quickly and my instinct was to back off my seat and ride it out.  I ended up jumping his front wheel.  In hindsight I think I should have stopped to make sure he was okay, but I didn't; I kept going.  I spoke with the rider after the race.  He was scratched up from the fall and his front tire was a little wobbly but he said he rode back to the starting line, fixed his bike the best he could and rode the race.  He ended up in 5th place.  I apologized for my part in the wreck and feel pretty bad about it.  I don't know if he has any hard feelings about the incident but I didn't wreck him on purpose.  I've been in many wrecks myself and they aren't fun; especially when you hurt yourself or your bike, but that comes with the territory.  If you're going to race mountain bikes you're going to wreck.  Kudos to him for continuing the race and I hope he doesn't have to replace the front wheel.

The rest of the first lap was the hardest part of the race for me.  I don't know if I warmed up to early but the hills on the Cedar Bluff side seemed much harder than they should have been.  About halfway through the lap on the Cedar Bluff side I passed Rock Wamsley.  He was standing on the side of the trail working on his bike.  A little later I passed JP Brocket so I figured I was in second place.  When we got to the Stinging Nettle part of the course Rock came up behind me and we rode for awhile together.  We came up on a couple other riders and after a minute or so I saw some expert riders coming the other way on the trail yelling "You're going the wrong way!".  For some reason we kept going.....  Soon after I realized that I didn't recognize the trail from my pre-ride and called out I think we missed a turn but we still kept going.  I started hoping that we would pop out near the starting line somewhere.  When some more expert riders passed us going the other way I decided to turn around.  Rock and the others I was with kept going.  When I turned around I got in behind Wes Biermann, a good expert open rider.  I spent the rest of the race trying to stay on his wheel.  Turns out he had gotten a flat on the first lap which made him lose contact with the leaders and he went pretty far on the wrong turn.

When we made it back to where we missed the turn one of the organizers had shown up; I guess one of the early expert riders alerted them about the problem.  He was pointing riders in the right direction and replacing the tape.  I don't know who took the tape down but I saw a few non-race riders on the trail earlier in the lap and I guess they could have ridden through it not knowing we were counting on the tape being there.

The time for my first lap was 27:56.  The rest of the race was pretty smooth.  I lost contact with Wes a couple times but was able to reel him back in on the hills.  Staying on his wheel was really cool.  I was able to watch his lines and I think it pushed me on the downhills and flats.  I don't get to ride with better riders very often so I'm grateful he didn't try to drop me and let me tag along.

The times for my 2nd through 4th laps were: 26:20, 26:25 and 26:13.  That's pretty darn consistent!

There were a couple of people taking pictures during the race.  Here's the links to the sets:
Here's one of me going downhill.  I like how it's blurry; it feels that way.


Here's a picture of me on the first lap at the steps before entering the tunnel on the cedar bluff side.

Here's a good picture of the tunnel from the stinging nettle side.

This is a cool dip on the stinging nettle trail.

Here are 2 of me how I spent most of the race; chasing Wes.  I got some good air on that jump but there's no proof I guess.



On the last lap as we headed to the finish we passed Rock.  He was running alongside his bike.  I spoke with him after the race and he had quite a story.  The first time he stopped was because he dropped his chain, then he bent his rear derailleur but was able to continue riding.  Then he broke a spoke on his rear wheel and finally his chain broke.  He ran his bike a couple miles in order to finish the race and ended up in 8th.  I bet he thinks his new bike can't arrive soon enough.  I was able to finish in 2nd place about 3 1/2 minutes behind Justin Bowen the winner in the 30-39 sport class.  JP took third.  Here's a link to the results.

With Rock's mechanical issues it put's an interesting spin on who's going to win the overall series.  As it stands I'm in first with 130 points, JP is in second with 129 points and Rock is in third with 128 points.  There are 2 races left so it's anybody's game.  If Rock beats me both races then he'll win, if I can win one of them and finish within one place of Rock for the other I'll win.  JP has been struggling with his endurance lately but if he pulls it together he could wind up on top.  It's going to be interesting.....

The next MWFTS race is in 2 weeks at Greensfelder park next to 6 Flags in Eureka MO.  On the way home from St. Louis today I stopped at the park and rode the trails a little bit.  It's going to be a tough race.  If there are as many horses there as there were today it's going to be VERY tough.

Here's a picture of my 2nd place medal.  A cowbell. :)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

2009 Little Sac 12 Hour Good Time Race

This Saturday is the Little Sac 12 Hour Good Time Race. I rode at Little Sac this evening and they were marking the course for the event.  To my surprise it's largely the same one they used last year.  The only difference is a small section they added at the start of the race.

According to my bike computer, which isn't entirely accurate, the length of each lap is 5.8 miles.  I did 2 laps and they were both right around 35 minutes.  I rode solo in last years race and I'd let you know what my lap times were but I can't because they never posted the results to last years race

The hardest part of the course (at least for me last year) was a long gradual climb in the middle of the lap.  It's not steep but it wears on you over time.  Also the one section were I saw the most people pushing their bikes last year has had a new trail cut next to the old one so it's not as difficult to navigate.  It's a great single speed course, in fact if I remember correctly, the fastest lap last year was by a guy on a fully ridged single speed. 

For the most part the trails are in good shape and ready to race.  They did a good job preparing the park for the OMBA Caramba race a couple months ago and the trails they used are still great.  The few that weren't used for that race could use a little cutting back but I'm sure that will be done before Saturday.

We had some rain today and there's more in the forecast but Little Sac drains pretty well and other than a few low lying spots mud won't be a problem.   But be prepared for it just in case.  Also keep in mind that Little Sac has the most thorns per square mile west of the Mississippi (citation needed) so either go Tubeless or carry a few patch kits.

Unfortunately I won't be at this year's race, I'll be racing at Castlewood in a MWFTS event.   I wish everyone good luck and I look forward to seeing the results (yeah, right!).

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tall Oak Challenge 6 Hour recap

Saturday was the Tall Oak Challenge 6 hour mountain bike race at Binder Park in Jefferson City. It was a Midwest Fat Tire Series event that was promoted by Team Red Wheel.

I arrived about an hour before the race started and was really surprised by how many people showed up.  There were tons of vehicles and canopies all over and even though it was pretty wet from a nice morning shower everyone seemed to be in a good mood and looking forward to the race.  There were 36 people in the Men's Solo class so most of the people were competing on either 2 or 3 man teams.  I really didn't have any expectation of how I'd do in the race but I was hoping for a top 10 finish.

We started LeMans style with a nice downhill run to our bikes before we quickly got into the singletrack.  As a solo rider I wasn't worried about being near the front.  I stayed in the middle of the pack and we bunched up and had to stop several times on the first lap.  I thought of it like a warm up lap and tried to learn the trail.  A few people around me got upset over the slow pace of that first lap which I can understand but it was going to be a long day and I wasn't concerned. 

The laps were just under 7 miles but they felt much longer.  There were lots of twists and turns, short uphills, a couple extended downhill sections, a few open field trails and even some cool bridges.

On the second lap the pack thinned out quite a bit.  I fell in behind Jeff YieIding and he pulled me for the lap and made it go by very quickly.  It was probably my favorite lap of the race.  Later in the day as I finished a lap and was out of water Jeff gave me a bottle of gatorade/water.  I don't know what flavor it was and it didn't taste very good but I was grateful for the help.  I was lucky that I had a pit crew to help me between laps.  I drank a bottle of something every lap, ate several GU and clif bars and it would have been much harder if I'd been there on my own.  Minus the one mixup (thanks again Jeff) I was taken care of and able to just focus on riding.   Here's a picture of one of my pit stops.  

After about 3 hours the riding started to wear on me.  I still felt pretty good but my pace was dropping.  It's strange because I was recovering fine on the downhill sections and didn't feel like I had any less power, but the longer I rode the quicker the power would fade.  Early in the day on the longer/rougher hills I'd stay in the same gear and muscle my way up.   After about 3 hours I had to start dropping gears and on each lap I'd have to drop down a little earlier.  It was frustrating but there wasn't anything I could do.

At the 4 hour mark I just wanted the race to be over.  My whole body was tired and even on the downhills I couldn't relax and find a comfortable position.  Around that time on one of the hills where there were back to back rooty sections I came upon a few riders stopped on the trail.  I had someone behind me and I cleared the first section fine but on the second one my front and rear tire hit a root and my bike came to a stop.  I tried to pedal through it but I didn't have enough strength and I fell over.  I didn't unclip and my hands didn't come off my bars; I just flopped.  The guy behind me said "That sounded like it hurt".  It did hurt.  I hit my hip on something and I jammed the index finger on my left hand on my brake lever.  As I got up the other riders rode off and I tried to walk off the pain.  After a few seconds I got back on the bike and was able to ride without pain.  I couldn't really use my index finger for braking, but it wasn't too bad.

At that point I gave up trying to race anybody.  I didn't care if I passed anyone or if anyone passed me.  All I could think about was finishing the race.  I didn't worry about how fast I went, I just focused on riding and tried to block out the fatigue.  

Finishing the race was a great feeling.  I did 9 laps in 6 hours, 9 minutes and 21 seconds.  The solo winner did 11 laps in 6:32:24 and there were 4 people that did 10 laps.  My effort was good enough for 8th place so I met my goal of a top 10.  Here's my lap breakdown:
  1. 41:42
  2. 38:14
  3. 37:24
  4. 38:24
  5. 41:36
  6. 40:41
  7. 43:33
  8. 44:38
  9. 43:09
I guess I peaked on the 3rd lap and went downhill from there.  I'm glad I did the race but I definitely prefer the shorter xc races.  The promoters did a great job and the awards ceremony was pretty entertaining.  

My hip is still pretty sore from my wreck and I walk with a bit of a limp but I went for a ride today at Sac River and it didn't bother me at all so I should be ready for the ICCC Castlewood Race next weekend.  I'm looking forward to it. 

UPDATE:  If anyone is looking for pic's of the event, here's what I've found: