Tuesday, May 17, 2011

2011 Syllamo's Revenge race recap

I do quite a bit of racing and I usually put everything I have into each race, but for me there are 3 big races a year.  Races that I really look forward to and want to do well at.  They are the Ouachita Challenge, Syllamo's Revenge and the BT Epic.  They are all 50+ mile endurance races on some very tricky and challenging trails.  Of these races I've had my best result at Syllamo and this year I feel like I'm doing my best riding, so I entered this weekend's race with high excitement and expectations.

This year the Syllamo's Revenge was held alongside a new NUE Series event the Syllamo 125k.  They would be starting an hour ahead of us and racing the same course, but repeating a couple sections at the end in order to get the longer distance.  I had considered signing up for the longer race, but honestly, the 50 miles of SR are enough, and last year I didn't want to go any further.  I was a little uneasy how the earlier race would effect the trails for us, but everyone would be racing in the same elements so it really didn't make any difference.

The race is near Mountain View Arkansas and I planned on getting a cabin nearby but with 500+ people converging on the area the closest I could get (where dog's are allowed) was a room at a nice place in Calico Rock, the Cedar Rock Lodge.  It was about a 40 minute drive to the Blanchard Caverns Campground, the start/finish area of the race and very clean and affordable.

We made the drive to Calico Rock early Friday, and after checking in and unloading some stuff made the trip to Blanchard Springs Campground so I could pre-ride the first 5 miles of the course.  The ride was great, with mostly dry trails and I felt really good. 

Next we drove into Mountain View to pick up the race registration packet and then headed back to Calico Rock for some excellent pasta at Don Quixote's.  I had the seafood pasta and there was enough for two meals.

Saturday morning I was up at 4:30, ate a big bowl of oatmeal and drove to the race, getting there in time to watch the 125k race start at 7.  Then I rode up the long hill towards Blanchard Cavern to warm up my legs.  On the trip back down I noticed a strange wobble feeling in the lever for my rear brake.  It had a feeling like my rotor was bent and the lever was pulsating.  It had never done that before but I didn't think much of it.

I started the race on the front line and made it to the climb up blanchard road to the singletrack in pretty good shape.  I didn't go all out on the climb since my goal was just to enter the singletrack in the top 10.  In the following picture I'm the 3rd from the right:

A group of 5 broke away a little but were only 30 or so yards ahead.  Cale McAninch passed me and I reached the trail behind him around 6th place.  The pace on the trail was pretty good and on one of the rocky climbs that came after a sharp turn Cale, on a rigid singlespeed had to walk a bit so I passed and he got in behind me.  I got in a group behind 3 riders with Chris Renshaw and Noah Singer in the pack.  We got away from Cale for awhile as we cruised the fast flowing benchcut trail, but when we started some of the slick rocky descents Cale caught back up.  Overall I felt like we were riding faster than I had the previous year and I was definitely working but I was thinking I could maintain the pace for awhile.

About 10 miles into the race on a downhill I went to grab some brake and my rear brake lever went to the bar without slowing me down.  I tried pumping the lever but that didn't work, so I pulled over to see what was wrong.  Cale said that 90% of braking is the front wheel, which is true, but on slick muddy rocks, you need some rear brakes.  I fiddled with the various adjustments on my XX brakes but couldn't get them to work.  There simply wasn't any feeling at the lever, I could pull it to the bar without any resistance.

For the next 4 miles to the first checkpoint I did the best I could but had one crash were I went over the bars and hit my leg pretty hard on some rocks, and was passed by a couple people.  Here's a picture of me about a mile from the checkpoint:

When I got to the checkpoint I was really disappointed.  I'm not a great technical rider and I was really struggling on the downhills without a rear brake.  Plus the big downhills were still to come.  So I decided to call it a day and DNF the race.  I just didn't think I could do it without getting hurt.  Then, Jim Davis (the same Jim Davis that aired up my tire at Berryman a couple years ago) who was at the race supporting his wife Wendy (and everyone else), offered to let me (no told me to) ride his bike for the rest of the race.  I was hesitant but willing to give it a shot.  Then as he was setting the seat height for me he stripped the bolt on his seatpost collar.  I took it as a sign. 

I ended up hanging out at the aid station for awhile and it was pretty neat.  I've never been at one during a race for more than a few seconds.  The racers get a ton of support from friends, family, volunteers and total strangers.  You see a lot of emotion from total joy to fatigue induced suffering.  People battle mental and physical demons during these races, and they don't always win, but most of the time they do.

I ended up giving a ride back to Blanchard to RIM promoter Doug Long.  It was good getting to talk to him.  He has done all of the SR races and this was the first time he had to withdraw.  I could tell it wasn't an easy decision, but one he had to make.  He'll be back.

I'll be back as well.  I need to work on my downhill skills to have a chance to win these races, but I think I can get better.  Maybe riding the rough motorcycle trails at Chadwick would help.

The weekend wasn't a total loss, I got to eat some good food, see some great sights and talk to lots of great people.  The race didn't go as I'd hoped, but everything else did.

The pictures in this post were taken from THIS gallery.  There are hundreds of pictures from the race there.

Now I just need to get my bike fixed because I've got the Ozark Greenways Adventure race Saturday and 6 Hour Indian Camp Creek race Sunday.

2011 Greensfelder Challenge race recap

Last weekend (5/7) was the DRJ/GORC Greensfelder Challenge at Greensfelder county park near Eureka Mo.  It's part of the UFD East series and the proceeds from the race benefit GORC, the St. Louis trail building organization.  I've done the race the last couple of years and it's always a great event that brings out a lot of the St. Louis mountain bike racing community.

I had Syllamo's Revenge the next weekend, which is one of my biggest races of the year, so I entered this race with a goal of putting out a nice solid effort without breaking anything or injuring myself in the process.  

I signed up for the endurance class which is a race where you do as many laps as you can with a 3 hour cutoff.  If you start your last lap before the 3 hours you can finish that lap.  With a lap distance of just over 7 miles I figured it would be a 4 or 5 lap race.

At the starting line I was surprised how many people had signed up.  There are usually 9 or 10 that do the endurance class at series races, but there were over 25.  That's either a lot of people preparing for Syllamo's Revenge, or endurance racing is getting more popular.

The race started with a pretty fast pace and when we hit the trail I was sitting in 4th with Aaron Fader, Dan Miller and Jeremy Bock in front of me.  When we got to the first long rocky downhill I nearly wrecked so I backed off to get my bike under control and I lost the leaders.  But on the subsequent climb I was able to catch back up to Jeremy.  That repeated many times.  

The trail on the first lap was pretty good.  A little muddy but not bad.  On the second lap it was pretty bad.  The rocks and some of the climbs were slick and where there were leaves mixed with the mud it would get packed between the tire and chainstays.  But the sun was out and on each subsequent lap the trail was getting drier and drier.  

Here's a picture of me coming through the start/finish area:
On the second lap I saw Dan Miller on the side of the trail fixing a flat.  He had cut the sidewall on his rear tire in the rocks.  That put me in third.

There was one section of the trail with an uphill rock garden that I couldn't ride, so I had to push the bike for 20 yards or so.  On the third lap I caught up with Jeremy right before this section.  We both walked up the hill and as I jumped on my bike at the top I noticed my front tire was flat.  The bead was still on the rim and I couldn't see any stans leaking out so I figured I'd just burped it.  So instead of putting in a tube I just filled it with air using the CO2 canister I was carrying.  That allowed Jeremy to get away once again.

Then about 15 minutes later as I was making a hard turn I realized that my front tire was going flat again.  Upon inspection I found a small hole in the sidewall of the tire about a half inch from the tread.  I didn't have enough CO2 to fill a tube so I just aired the tire back up hoping it would get me to the start/finish area where I had several CO2's and tubes.  The thing is, I had a plug kit in my pocket that I bought for just this situation and it would have fixed the sidewall hole, but I've never used it before and I forgot all about it.

I limped to the end of the lap and on the final climb the tire was pretty spongy, but ride-able.  When I got to my table I put a tube in my tire and was passed by Jason Zoll and Mitch Johnson.  Now I was in fifth.  

The wasted time of airing my tire twice and putting a tube in meant there wasn't enough time for a fifth lap, so I headed out on my fourth and final lap with the goal of riding hard and having fun.  It was the best lap of the day.  The trails were in great shape and I was feeling good.  About halfway through I caught up with Mitch, and he let me by on a climb.  I rolled through the finish in fourth pretty satisfied with the day.

After the race I ate some delicious BBQ provided by GORC and got to talk with several people I hadn't seen in awhile.  Good times.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Toasty Waffles Training Race #1 recap

Yesterday was the first of a series of 4 training road races put on by St. Johns Cycling Team.  I don't own a road bike, have never really ridden one and of course have never done a road race, but with the encouragement of friends (*cough* Jesse!) decided to try one.

I was hooked up with a really nice road bike by my friends at A&B Cycle. The bike was a new Specialized Tarmac SL3 Expert Double. Here's a pic:

The race course was an 11 mile loop around fellows lake north of Springfield. To get used to riding the bike I decided to ride to the race venue with Jesse and Jared. It was only about a 20 minute ride and would also serve as a good warmup. There were 2 classes at the race, A would do 3 laps and B would do 2.  I decided to do the A race.  I'm obviously not on the same level as everyone else in that class, but my fitness is pretty good and I like to race against the best so figured what the heck.  I knew most of the people there since many of them also mountain bike, and I wanted to see what the draw is for road racing.

There looked to be about 20 or 25 riders in the class.  The start of the race was pretty casual.  We headed out in a clock-wise direction on the loop and the first section of road was straight with some small rolling hills.  We were riding in a large pack about 3 wide.  I was somewhere in the middle. 

After a few minutes the pace picked up a bit but and we went 2 wide.  After the first turn it became more of a pace-line with people pulling for a few seconds then dropping back into the line.  There was a lot of conversation going on and I was getting a lot of good advice from several people.  I took a few turns at the front and it was amazing the difference in the effort between being behind someone and being on the front.  It seemed like the whole idea was to conserve as much energy as possible.  Nobody would pull long enough to wear themselves out.  On the first big climb Peter broke away from the group and for some reason I started chasing him.  I got about halfway between him and the pack and once we crested the hill I was soon caught by the pack and Peter also fell back in. It was just wasted effort.  

I spent the rest of the first lap with the pack cycling through the pace-line.  It was funny because when I peeled off the front I would have to float alongside the whole line and get on the back because there where no gaps to rejoin.  At one point as I was near the back trying to get back to speed to rejoin the group I got a little push from Ryan McCormick (Skip) which got me going again.  The second lap was more of the same.  I felt pretty good and couldn't help wondering when things were going to break apart.  We were 1 big group of riders and I knew there were several people there that could ride away from us and not look back.

About halfway through the second lap there was a crash at the front of the line.  I didn't see it happen but heard a couple guys bumped wheels and went down.  Nobody was hurt and we all slowed down to let them catch back up.  Not long after I was at the front of the group riding next to Brad Huff when I jokingly said I could have ridden my mountain bike.  Big mistake.  He pulled away and soon everyone was passing me.  I was working pretty hard to pick up the pace and when Bud Hogan rode by he told me to keep it smooth.  But keeping it smooth didn't help.  I drifted off the back and despite my effort couldn't rejoin the group so I could rest a little in the draft.  I struggled as everyone slowly pulled away. 

At the end of the first lap a few people dropped out, and I saw that Skip had dropped off the main pack as well.  I worked to catch up to him and when I did we started taking turns pulling and were able to speed up a bit.  Then I noticed that Ryan Meschke had also fallen off and we soon caught up with him.  The 3 of us worked together for awhile but on the next big climb with Ryan leading the way we noticed that Skip was drifting back.  We kept going, rotating every 10 or 20 seconds.  

As we neared the end of the lap Ryan asked how we were going to finish.  I said I didn't care and he suggested we ride up the last big hill together which ends within sight of the finish and then sprint it out.  That sounded good so I agreed.  The last climb was pretty slow and I just tried to save energy.  At the top I said "Let's Go!" and took off.  Ryan fell in behind me.  Then about 30 yards from the finish he swung around but I had used up my energy and couldn't hold him off.  He passed me before the finish.  Rookie mistake.

After the race my legs were cooked.  Mainly my abductors and upper hamstrings.  I must not use those as much mountain biking.  I decided to catch a ride back to town with Lori instead of ride back with Jesse and Jared.  I'm glad I did the race.  It was a pretty big eye opener and I had a good time.  If I can secure another bike I'll be back.  

Here's my garmin data from the race.

I'm not sure who won the A race but Jared won the B race and will be sporting the yellow jersey next week. 

On a side note, the Tarmac is an amazing bike.  I rode it into work today and I'm going for a ride at lunch.  It's so much more efficient on the road than my epic.  Makes road riding seem fun.....