Sunday, May 19, 2013

Glocester Grind: Bona Fide Beat-Down

Dirty legs but you've got some place to go?
 Just put pants on.
Where to begin...  the only part of this race experience that I feel is worth bragging about would have to  be my final lap.  I went a little hog-wild and managed to finish that lap in a significantly shorter amount of time than the first three; I know this because I was staring at my watch for most of the race, and Mike, who was timing my laps, missed my finish because he thought he'd have enough time to pee based on my previous laps.

Also, you may be wondering why I was staring at my watch rather than the perilous terrain that is the Glocester Grind...  I had somewhere to be (Skyler's singing club scheduled its performance for 2pm - I made it).

The one, the only, and the wicked hard core Karen Potter
There were four of us at the starting line.  That may seem like no big deal, but that was a stacked line.  Mo Bruno-Roy, Crystal Anthony, and Karen Potter surrounded me, and I knew it was going to be a challenge to hang with them because they are (1) super freakin' fast, (2) wicked powerful riders, and (3) experienced racers - seasoned to perfection.  I kept them in sight for as long as possible, but it was quickly apparent to me that my legs just didn't have pop or push.  Failure to do openers the day before a race is a sure-fire way to make your legs feel like they are made out of play-doh on race day.  Play-doh is fun - just not when your legs are made out of it.

Photo courtesy of Rob Paton
This was one of the cleaner mud holes.
Karen and Crystal were out of sight first, and I kept Mo in sight until somewhere in lap 2... then I lost her.  I knew I wasn't that far behind, but when you can't see anyone, it's much easier to forget that you're supposed to be racing.  Good thing I remembered to do that on lap 4.

I hear that there were a lot of flats, crashes, and busted derailleurs, but I was fortunate enough to finish with everything in working order.  It's been a few years since I've raced that course, and there have been some changes - it is running in the opposite directions now and there is a section of trail that goes straight through an area that has been clear-cut by loggers.  I enjoyed the heck out of the super bony terrain and all of the brutally technical rock gardens, but the mud holes suck.  My kit was almost spotless while my socks and shoes were completely caked with thick black muck. Yeah, it was the driest that course has ever been, and it was my kind of super techy course, but GEEEEEEEZ!  If I'd wanted a mud treatment for my feet, I'd have gone to the spa!  Just kidding; I don't "spa."

Anyhow, I guess I ended up finishing third because Crystal crashed pretty badly.  I'm not sure what the times were, and I don't know if there were prizes.  I finished the race at 1:18, and was on the road to Skyler's gig at 1:30.

Big thanks to EFTA for putting on such a killer race.  I'm happy to have survived and enjoyed it.  My bike is finally headed to DAS for what I like to call the "I keep my bike in the swamp when I'm not riding it tune-up." Make sure to check out the DAS Racing Blog to hear about Donnie D's adventure on the singlespeed today.
The mayor of DAS  himself - Donnie D

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Boneyard's Wrath: A Mud-Caked Bicycle and a Whole Lot of Hurting

The Meriden Motorcycle Club hosted its third Wrath of the Boneyard for the Root 66 Race Series this past Saturday.  The last two years had the race scheduled during the hottest part of July, and both years the pro ladies did just four laps like the rest of the Cat 1 field.  Obviously, this year's early-season timing made the problem of intense heat a less formidable possibility, and instead of thick steamy air and a "bone" dry course, we were gifted with a cool wet day and super slippery trails.

Unfortunately, a popular EFTA race on the same day was a big draw for a lot of racers, and the numbers at the boneyard were not as high as many would have liked. It's usually tough to get a big crowd there anyhow because the threat of brilliantly bony course usually deters some of the softer riders.  This year, the combined effect of wet and rocky would have probably kept some people in bed, but the turnout was still respectable despite all the loss of racers to the other race.  

From the first time I raced this course in 2011, this one has been one of my favorites.  The course is a smashing combination of brutally rocky shale-strewn trails, punchy as well as grinding climbs, fast twisty pine forest, and one humdinger or a rock garden (aka the boneyard) guaranteed to leave your shorts a little soiled.  Each 4.5 mile lap provides about 500 feet of climbing.  Check out my garmin connect link here to see what it looks like mapped out.  It's one of those races that can start out great and go to complete shit in a matter of seconds (think sidewall gashes and bent rims).  Fortunately, I've finished 3 years in a row. 

I was hesitant about pre-riding the course because I could tell it was pretty muddy, and the thought of getting my bike all gunked up before the actual start was a little daunting.  However, Jon Tarbox didn't have to do much to convince me to take a spin out there to see what the conditions were actually like, and I'm glad I did.  I was able to see where there was and was not any traction and pick myself some nice straight lines through the worst stuff.  Unfortunately, I still don't know any good line through the actual boneyard, but I gave it a good effort each time and did my best to monster truck what I could.  

Before the race went off, Chris Logan (Root 66 Race Series promoter and legend) told me that I could bump down to just 4 laps if I wanted to.  In years past, the hot weather has always made the pro women take the easy route because it was just too miserable out to be racing at that intensity for that amount of time.  One could easily argue that this time the course was too wet and dangerous, but knowing that I was the only one in the pro category, I decided I'd better earn my inevitable "first place" prize.  

Rather than start by myself, I lined up with the Cat 1 women (just like last year), and this gave me the added incentive of staying ahead of all of them which was no easy feat.  Tina Severson is coming out strong this season, and Stacey Barbossa completely kicked my butt back at the Hopbrook race.  I knew those two would be breathing down my neck, and for much of the first and part of the second laps, I could see them behind me.  I finally lost sight of them going into the third lap.  According to my calculations, if I had stopped at 4 laps (and yes, I was given that option as I came through to start my 5th lap), Stacey would have finished only a minute or so behind me.  Dang!  She's fast!  And here I was thinking she was a roadie...  Conversation with her prior to the race helped me to stand corrected. She's a great well-rounded cyclist!

My winner's wallet

Big thanks to Fabian Esponda who organized the race and laid out a fabulously fun course.  I'm looking forward to racing there again next year.  As always, the prizes were hefty and well worth the time it took me to clean my bike when I finally got around to it. 

I wish I had been bothered to have someone take a picture of me after I finished because that was an epic mess.  Luckily, I snapped a little montage of my bike when I got home as an example of what the course looked like when air dried onto every inch of my bike. Also, as luck would have it, as soon as I set about cleaning the plastered bits of forest off the drive-train, it started to thunder and pour.  I promptly tossed the whole mess into my greenhouse.  

Filthy McNasty
Always carry a bicycle pump in your car. 
Unfortunately, that hasty decision lead to my equally hasty decision to ride my singlespeed the next day at Nathan Hale.  That was horrifyingly painful, and I rode like a fledgling fresh out of the egg.  While that ride was also free of flat tires on the trail, my car in the parking lot was not so lucky.  I am fortunate enough to have friends who know how to plug a tire and are willing to take turns using a bicycle pump to inflate a car tire.

P.S. - The sweet video clips are courtesy of Brett Severson.    

Monday, May 6, 2013

EFTA's Battle at Burlingame: 6 laps on a Roller Coaster of a Race Track

photo by John Robertson

I know it's not a real word, but to swoop means to move with a sweeping motion so swoopy works to sum up this race.  Don't worry though, I won't leave it all to swoopy for the recap; I'll elaborate a bit (per usual).

Elite Ladies Start - by John Robertson
Coming into the race, it didn't look like Karen and I were going to have any competition besides each other.  However, Sue Lynch and Kate Lysakowski were at the starting line to round out a pleasantly competitive field.  With Karen as last year's reigning champ, my goal was to keep her in sight for as long as possible and finish within ten minutes of her.  I was assuming Sue would do her usual seek and destroy mission on me; by that I mean that she starts behind me and then slowly reels me in by chatting with me until she blows by me on the slightest of climbs, steadily pulling away from me never to be seen again.  As for Kate, she is an insanely strong rider who is on a pro road team this season and completely kills it a cyclocross.  With the swoopiness of this course, I figured it should be perfect for her.

Elite Ladies Start - by John Robertson
We started out pretty tame because there's a couple of feature within the first half mile that can ruin the entire race if you aren't careful: (1) a water trench with jagged rocks and only a tiny smooth spot to accommodate one bike at a time and (2) a gigantic log that you can't really go over at speed unless you are a superhero.  We hung together for the most part until we reached "the bridges."  These are a series of bridges interspersed with rocks and roots.  It's one of the two-ish technical sections on the course, and this is where the field started to break up.  I saw Karen gain some ground, and then at the next straight away, she took off, and I never saw her again.  Behind me, the sounds of Sue and Kate were getting more quiet by the second.  I had a couple scares when I looked back and saw a Union Velo jersey behind me, but the first was just Shawn as he lead the men's singlespeed group and the second fellow-garden newbie, Dave Fagnant.

Swooping along - by Mike Flynn
The race went by insanely fast.  We had agreed at the starting line to do 6 laps after being given the option to do 5 or 6.  At the end of lap 4, there was some confusion as to how many more laps I would be doing...  in that confusion, I went out on lap 5 as though it might be my last.  You can imagine my surprise as I came through the finish area to learn that I did in fact have another lap to go.  I laughed, rebooted my mindset for another lap, and pushed into it.  I was shocked that I felt so fantastic on that last lap, and it may have been my fastest.  30+ miles later (or more if you count the lap I did before the race to pre-ride it), I was feeling pretty good and excited to know that I finished in second,,, but where the heck did Sue and Kate go?  Unfortunately, I found out that they had both crashed.  Kate first - to the point where her handlebars were so twisted up that Sue stopped to help her unscrew some things and set her straight, and the Sue on a fast straightaway where a stick in the spokes caused an ejector seat-styled endo.  I didn't see her until it was podium time where she looked like a hot ball of pain with an ice pack on her face and blood peaking out from the bottoms of her capris.
Chatting w/ Mr. Watson - by John Robertson

The course itself was fast and dry.  I fell down hard on one of my last laps in the other technical section when my tire washed out on a loose area.  Fortunately, my bike and I were just fine, and I got right back into the race.  I saw a lot of people crash though.  There were a couple of sections where you had a slightly steep little downhill swoop with a rock or two or ten in the middle.  There were awkward options around them, or there was the straight line over the boulder route.  I learned a while back that straight is usually safest, so I went with that every lap.  For awhile, I had Andrew Watson of Watson Cycles riding behind me.  We were having a good time chatting about racing and things, but at some point I encouraged him to move along past me...  I was only on lap 3 or 4 at that point and knew I'd need to pace myself a bit; I felt like I was holding the guy back no matter how much he insisted that I was pacing him.  Had I known he was in second in his category, I would have told him to get lost a lot sooner!  Speaking of passing, that was one part about the course that was a challenge.  With so much fast singletrack, it was difficult to find a good opportunity to let others by - I did a lot of bushwhacking to make way for some fast dudes.

In all, it was a great day to be racing.  The race was put on by NBX, and other than DAS and my teammates, those NBX guys are my favorite crew.  I'm really glad that the course was mostly identical to last year's because I was able to compare my times.  Last year, I finished in 3:06:55.  This year, it was about 2:54:?  Additionally, I met my goal of being within ten minutes of Karen.  I believe her time was about 2:47 (wicked fast!!).

Next week there are two races to choose from in New England.  EFTA's Weeping Willow, and Root 66's Wrath of the Boneyard.  What's with all the Ws?  Anyhow, I'm going to the Boneyard.  The willow is not for me.  Here's hoping some more ladies will join me so I don't have to race against the boys.

I made my own GU concoction for this race.  Chia seeds and some other junk... tasted good, went down smooth (thanks to the natural gel coating of a wet chia seed), and kept me loaded with energy.  Two thumbs up.