9/14/09

Weekend Racing Shuffle...

My original plan for the weekend was to drive down on Saturday morning to race in the Psycowpath Branched Oak Race outside of Lincoln, Nebraska and then race in Des Moines on Sunday. However, the Psycowpath race was postponed due to rain until the alternative day (Sunday). Rats!

We had the two IMBCS mountain bike Time Trial races scheduled on Sunday in Des Moines. The Center TT at 9 a.m. and the Sycamore TT scheduled for 2 p.m. which meant I couldn't be in two places (Des Moines and Lincoln) at the same time. One option was to race the 9 a.m. TT and then head over to Lincoln for the 2 p.m. Psycowpath race. I quickly calculated that option and realized it wouldn't work for me because I had to attend a recital at 7 p.m. on the Simpson campus as well as hold a meeting with The Marriage of Figaro opera cast and chorus following that recital. Even if I had hopped right in the car after the Lincoln race and drove like a maniac back to Indianola, I would not have been able to make it back in time. So option two was simply to stick with scratching the Psycowpath race and participate in both of the IMBCS TT's.

Since my rear triangle broke at the last Psycowpath race outside of Norfolk, the JET 9 was out for the races this weekend. Believe it or not, Niner Bikes issued a safety recall of the JET 9 on Friday giving me 3 options:

Option 1 (Available until October 31st)

I want to keep riding and use this opportunity to grow the quiver - Purchase a different NINER frame at an extreme discount. Ride your new bike while you wait to receive your free replacement Jet 9 frame. In the long run, you end up with two bikes at a really good price.

Special Discount Pricing:

R.I.P. 9 $800 (discount of $999)
ONE 9/S.I.R. 9 $300 (discount of $549)
AIR 9/ M.C.R. 9 $300 (discount of $499)
E.M.D. 9 $150 (discount of $349)

Option 2

I would rather own a R.I.P. 9 - Make the permanent switch to a R.I.P. 9 at no charge. No replacement Jet 9 frame will be shipped.

Option 3

I have the patience of a saint. I can wait. - Receive a $150 gift certificate towards Niner gear while you wait to receive your free replacement Jet 9 frame.


I am trying to figure out which of the options to take.

In the meantime, I decided to race the same bike I used last year for the Center Trails TT - my Sugar 293 outfitted in XC race configuration:

Sugar2009

There are lots of roots on the Center Trails and the 4" travel race bike lets me stay seated and hammer over them all. My Dos will not quite let me do that without a lot of flinching and wincing with back jolts. I got up way too late Sunday morning and had to rush up to the 9 a.m. race. I had pre-registered online, so knew I had a spot. I arrived at the registration table to pick up my number at 8:58 and was informed that after a couple of early riders that had to take off (Cam and Julie who were headed to the Psycowpath race in Lincoln), I was next in line. I begged that since I had just rolled out of bed for a later slot, so they changed my number from 201 to 242 which gave me 42 more minutes to prepare. Thanks guys!

I had swapped out the rear tire from the Crow to another Karma 1.9 and was running air pressure 23 psi front/24 psi rear. Each rider took off in 1 minute increments and we were to do 2 laps. So there were first lap and second lap riders out on the trail. I big ringed it off the line and headed down the pavement and was going so fast I barely made the turn up to the pavement path climb. After mashing up that climb and realizing my heart rate was way too high to sustain that tempo, I settled in behind a Rassy's rider in front of me by about 20 yards who was on his 2nd lap. It didn't seem too long into the first 1/2 of the lap that I passed the rider who had started in front of me. Not long after, the guy who started behind me passed me carving some very smooth turns. He was the only rider that passed me. I made my way through the two laps pretty happy with my bike handling and kept pushing myself at a steady rate.

The BB height on the Sugar with the smaller volume tires was not as high as I needed with my 180mm crankarms. I kept getting some strikes here and there and one strike on a rock had my right foot come unclipped. I lost count, but I passed about 3 or 4 riders on lap one and also during lap 2. I had a better flow going in lap 2 and had settled into a pace I could sustain. I only had a slight hold up on the switchback going down into the creek crossing area where I had to wait a second or two for the rider in front of me. I passed him on the last climb before sprinting it to the finish line. No idea yet on what my time or finishing place was for my category. I packed up the bike and headed home for some lunch and to do some scheduling for the next 2 weeks of opera rehearsals.

After lunch, I headed up to Johnston for the Sycamore TT. Getting up off the couch, I felt the stiffness in my legs from the morning's effort. So I knew the afternoon TT would be a tad painful and maybe not as fast for me as the morning. The afternoon TT was a rescheduled race from June or July (I can't remember which) due to rain at that time. The decision was made to just hold both TT's on the same day. 2 for the price of 1 was the motto. I hydrated with whatever I could drink and popped a few Sportlegs in hopes the leg stiffness would subside. I pre-rode about 1/2 of the trail for a warm-up and realized it was big ring all the way with no climbs and actually a very short distance (everyone claimed it would be 12 minutes or so). This trail was filled with ruts from ATV's or whatever drives back in there along the river. There was one low overhanging fallen tree that would require me to lay flat on the bike and duck to get under it alive. And there was a little bit of sand as well as some corners that were going to be all about nerve, will and skill.

I had a more cadenced start off the line than in the morning and built my head of steam in the big ring a little slower to not torque my heart too high, too fast. My pre-ride had been at a much slower speed, so at the TT speed the corners were much more trying on my mind and body than I was expecting. The center of the trail was flat and surrounded by ruts on either side. There were some deep muddy ruts that looked like they would never dry out in the shade of the forest. I tried to keep it in the center part of the trail and tried keeping the gas on at all times. I don't think flat riding is my specialty and it kind of equalizes the playing field as no climbing prowess or descending skills can shine. And my legs were begging for mercy. I worked the gears to keep me on the edge, but not to take me too far over the edge. After I passed the 1/2 way point where I had finished my warm-up, I got a little tentative on a couple of the blind turns because I didn't know what was around the corner or on the other side. Just when I finally felt like I had the motor and the legs revved up and going like I wanted - I saw the finish line. So I sprinted to the end and slammed on the brakes to keep from going straight into the river.

Photo courtesy of Angy Snoop:

Sycamore TT 2

Pizza and beer for all in the woods as we stood around and socialized waiting for the results. The 2nd half of numbers that started (233 and up) and their times (the group I was in since I was 242) had their times all messed up and the crew was busy trying to figure it all out. I'm not sure they got it all worked out and apologized to all of us. So I don't know my place or time for this TT either - yet. Oh well, I got a pair of socks from the Schwag box. As I was riding back north to the car on the trail, I slipped off the center section of trail into a rut and both my front and rear tubeless converted tires burped big time with the accompanying loud sound of a tire burp. The front went all the way down to about 8-10 psi and the rear was about 15 psi according to my gauge back at the car. I rode very slowly and actually made it on those low tire pressures. No way I was going to walk back! ;-) Amazing that with all of the roots and rocks I hit at high speed all day long there were no burps. Yet a slow speed drop into a 5 inch rut burped both of my tires. Hmmmmmmmm...... Better that it happened then instead of during one of the races, that's for sure. I forgot to attach my can of Big Air to the seatpost had I needed a shot of air. My bad. Regardless, I think my tire pressure for that volume of tire was a tad too low. The lower volume tires need to be run with a bit higher pressure than the larger volume tires I usually use.

I'll update my finish times and placing once I find out.

9/8/09

MNSCS #9 - Laddies Loppet Race Report

Tara, Alexa and I loaded up the car Saturday morning and headed north at 10 am to Detroit Lakes, Minnesota where we spent Labor Day weekend at The Lodge on Lake Detroit. It was a nice way to combine a late summer getaway weekend with a mountain bike race. Zack was being the support team on Saturday and Sunday for his friend Jake Leigh who was racing solo at the Boone 24 Hour race. By 6 p.m. it felt like we had been driving for a long, long time when finally the sign said Detroit Lakes 7 miles and we shouted for joy!!!

We checked into the Lodge and unpacked our stuff in the room. We headed out to watch the sunset which was stunningly beautiful as it set over the lake. Afer a nice walleye dinner up the street at a local restaurant, we hit the sack. Sunday morning, we had a nice breakfast at the Lodge and then headed up the road for 25 minutes to the Maplelag Resort for the day's XC race. I got registered and headed out for a 30 - 40 minute warm up. The air pressure in my tires felt perfect. In spite of that, I checked it with my gauge and decided to add about 2 psi in each tire for "safety's sake". That was a decision that didn't hurt me in the race, but I would have been better off not adding that air. With no chance for a pre-ride, I was riding blind not knowing what to expect. All the pictures I had seen and the description I read made it sound like most of the race would be on XC ski trails. And it had been suggested to me by the race director that a hard tail mountain bike would be more beneficial on this course than my full suspension. At least that's what he told me he would race if he were out there racing on the course. I should have stuck to my plan as I had the full suspension all packed up in the car back in Iowa before I changed my mind!!!

I saw Julie Vardaman who told me the course was full of roots and had lots of challenging singletrack. Julie said it reminded her of Seven Oaks at Boone. Wow! That wasn't what I was expecting. I was thinking XC ski trails with smooth conditions and lots of big ring grinding. No problem. I did a quick mental adjust and went to get my fluids and a gel pack. Instead of the usual starting wave of CAT 2 40-44 and 45-49 year olds getting their own wave like most of the other MNSCS races, the announcer said my wave would be all those who were 49 and younger. This meant a larger group on the line than usual. Being that the weekend was a stage race, there were call ups for the top placers in Saturday's stage races as well as the series leaders. I ended up standing near the back again as everything was sorted out for the starting line. Here I was hanging around waiting for our wave to finish getting assembled...

Waiting4Start

GameFaceWait

We had our 11 a.m. start with everyone hammering in their big rings as we took off full throttle on the XC ski doubletrack. I started moving ahead through the doubletrack section knocking my head and my shoulder into low lying branches. And, as usual, once we got to the first singletrack section it was like road construction on the interstate. We actually stopped and had to wait what seemed like 20 seconds before we could get into the singletrack. It was not a tough section of track, but the slinky effect really amazes me as we all lined up tire to tire and crept through that opening section of singletrack. Lots of shouts of "guys, come on - let's go" which always makes me smile because if they looked ahead and thought about it, they would see that there were 30 riders tire to tire in front of them with no where to go.

Each doubletrack section after that, I stomped on the pedals to pass several other riders to work my way out of the traffic jam. Then we came down the hill to a section lined with spectators called the lakeside drops. Short and steep drops down to the lake's edge with short and steep climbs right back up the slope. It was a fun section for sure...

ClimbingLakeside

The singletrack was filled with roots and rocks - and of course lined with potential handlebar and shoulder eating trees. There was not a moment that you could relax as you were always focusing on your line and negotiating something. Much of it required muscling the front end and wheel over and around obstacles. The legs were working hard with all of the climbing. I think I found one flatter and buff singletrack section where you could actually hammer and go full bore for about 100 yards before it turned up and into the roots and switchbacks again. The rest of the singletrack was fun, but quite a chore. 3 guys had been on my tail for the latter 1/2 of lap one. Nearing the end of the final singletrack section, I caught my handlebar on a small tree and failed to keep it on the trail. The 3 zoomed around me and after I got going again, I just couldn't catch back up with them.

Lap 2 found me out there nearly all alone with a couple of guys not far behind me. I would occasionally pass somebody who was pulled over to the side with a mechanical. I settled into my own pace and ground out all of the climbing making sure to pick good lines through the roots and rocks. I attacked one of the long doubletrack climbs and the course marshal cheered me on telling me I had just opened up a nice gap on 2 guys behind me. I headed into the next singletrack section and a few minutes later dropped my chain to the inside in a poorly timed shift. I hopped off the bike and, of course, was all thumbs trying to get the chain back on. It took an eternity and here came the 2 guys behind me who went by. After my thumbs got the chain on, I started flailing trying to catch up. My front wheel was bouncing all over the place and seemed to have no sense of direction. Finally I told myself to relax and just find a rhythm and balance that I could sustain. I simply could not close the gap on the 2 that had just passed me. One was even in my age category and it hurt to have lost that position. I hammered it home as best I could with what I had left and crossed the line with tongue hanging out and feeling - as well as looking - SPENT. My neck hurt from all the pounding, bumps and most likely tension.

Done

Spent

In spite of the chain drop and handlebar/tree union, I managed to have my best placing yet in a MNSCS race. My 4 previous finishes included two 8th place finishes, a 9th and a 10th place. I crossed the line in 6th at Maplelag with 4 of the 5 top finishers in my category being the usual suspects (all are leading the state series). I didn't recognize the guy in 5th who passed me when my chain dropped. Regardless, I was happy with the result and headed out for a cool down ride on the gravel road. I got changed, loaded up the bike and ate a little bit before the Elite/Pro field took off. I snapped a few shots of Cam in the heat of battle before heading back to Detroit Lakes. Congrats to both Cam and Julie for their results in the 2 day stage race.

Here's a shot of Cam mastering the lakeside drop section...

CamLakesideDrop

My daughter and I headed into the cold lake for a swim. Man, it was chilly in that water!! Then I stretched out on one of the sun bathing chairs on the beach and pretty much slept for an hour while Tara went on a bike ride all the way around the lake. We got cleaned up and went to Zorba's for pizza and then came back to the Lodge where we started a fire in the fire pit, watched the sunset and made s'mores. Alexa was more interested in starting her marshmallows on fire, but we had fun. We went to bed and got up very early on Labor Day to hit the road by 6:30. The girls wanted to stop at the outlet malls near St. Cloud for a couple of hours. They shopped, I hung out at Dunn Brothers Coffee reading the paper, drinking coffee and watching ESPN. They came back to the car when their 2 hours were up with quite a few goodies they snagged during the big Labor Day sales. I think their palms were sweaty in anticipation of the shopping as we pulled into the parking lot and they were just as giddy as we were leaving. '-]

Another long drive home (both Alexa and Tara drove for a while) to pick up the dogs from the kennel, get Alexa to Cross Country practice at 7 p.m., make dinner, unpack and unwind from the final summer weekend. It was a nice weekend trip and now it is back to work....