Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Kentucky Racer Rampage and the Nats form...

I must say that this season has been a blast so far. I've had some serious results, been enjoying the hell out of riding my bike and feel like I'm getting kinda fast. It seems like a distant memory but I remember telling MJ on our Jan 1 ride at Castlewood in 14 degree temps that I was concerned with the transition from 12 hour racing to XC racing. With the exception of having one bad race in WI, which really wasn't that bad but came at a time when I was really hungry for a confidence builder, I have achieved all of my goals up to this point. Right now I'm taking a little break and reading calendars to figure out what I am going to shoot for next and reluctant to pull the plug when I seem to keep getting stronger, but pulling the plug too late would be the end of a good season. A serious national ranking has to make you feel like you are doing something right...

I had some bad luck and got food poisoning the week before Nationals, so I couldn't really tell if I was peaking the way I had planned. After two really big wins for me, Trumans Big Love at Landahl and the DINO AMBC Race at Muscatatuck, I wasn't sure if the legs came around too soon. I stuck to the plan and started to taper two weeks before Nationals and focus on keeping my weight down. Everything was going great until the Monday before the race when I woke up and started to get violently ill. I dropped from 154 to 150 in a two days and had a complete loss of appetite for the rest of the week. By Thursday morning I realized that there was no way I was going to even finish if I couldn't hammer home some calories. Usually I am going deep with the whole carbo load thing going into a big event, as my friend Tosh once told me "carbo loading is like peaking, you can only really do it a couple times a season." In a nutshell, I had a great race in VT but wasn't running at 100%. My master plan was to come back from Nats and still have race form for the Midwest Fat Tire event.

I was really excited to go race at Rock Bridge and was hoping that I could collect some points and feel out the form, but 6" of rain forced me to take drastic measures.
Keeven was the only one I could convince to wake up first thing on Sunday and head down Kentucky with me. I told him to get to my house at 4:30 a.m and saw the lights from the war wagon in the driveway at 4:29. My boy and I are much alike. We were headed down to Lake Barkley Kentucky for the Racer Rampage. Pirtle and MJ told me it was a totally rad, pretty technical course with super duper balls climbing. It was.

We lined up with about 6 other experts which was kinda a bummer. There was another race in Louisville and a DINO race and I chose the one with the best course thinking that people would show up, but they all showed up at the other races. A couple Wood and Wave guys were there, including Steve Wilson who has beat me in the past, so I punched it hard to get the hole shot. I was surprised to see that gap I opened up by the time I hit the trail and even more surprised to see that Keeven (racing 2 laps as a SS but with the experts as his competitors must have heard he was coming and stayed in bed) was making chase with a 36x20!!! I hit the hills and kept thinking that he was going to ride up next to me but was really focused and the pedals were turning themselves over. We had only pre-rode the first hill and I had no idea what the rest of the 8 mile loop was like.

I found myself killing the big ring in the saddle, flying through trail I had never seen and crushing the power climbs out of the saddle shifting down as I crested them. I don't know if I have ever ridden this well before. The occasional glance over my shoulder revealed that I was out of sight. It's one thing to push yourself to new limits with people nipping at your heels or when chasing the white toothed pocket rocket, but I didn't have any motivation like that, just the legs I had been trying to build all season.

The last section of trail before dumping you back out in the starting field was a hard pack dirt downhill with bermed corners and some structure to keep you on your toes. At one point I considered that I had no idea what was around the next turn and what might happen if I made a minor mistake, but the tire pressure was right and I had this stuff on speed dial. "I got her faaahking numbah, how you like them apples!" I came through the field, picked up a bottle, went around it and was back in the single-track with no one in sight. I had a big lead.

The first half of the lap was the challenging part, with some mega hills, but I found myself going up them with ease. I can't say what would have happened on the 3rd lap, but coming from a guy who usually is picking people off at 1:45 in the longer races, I don't think I would have slowed down. I had really good legs, it was coming so freakin' easy and the focus was intense. I wasn't thinking about anything other than pushing my bike to go as fast as I ever have. In retrospect, what I had been planning all season was coming together in such a fashion that I never would have imagined.

I cleared the first half of the course and was pretty stoked and let my mind wander to the sick descent that was to come as I weaved along the top of the ridge. I remember leaning into a turn and kicking the pedals to power out of it when I heard the hiss. I figured the top secret Stan's Race Day Sealant would work it's magic but it wasn't to be, so I stopped. There was a pretty 13 mm slit in the sidewall and the Stans was trying really hard so I gave it some Big Air and turned it on it's side... No luck. I kept expecting someone to come up on me as I changed the tube but they didn't. My luck with tubes remained unchanged as the air rushed out of the cracked rubber where the valve meets the tube. I have carried this tube in my pocket for every training ride and race this season and it was cracked. Game over. Keeven passed next, on his way to dominating the rest of the experts and then a Wood and Wave rider a couple minutes later.

I had a really nice walk down to the car. It was a nice day and the park was really beautiful. Somewhere along the way I realized how awesome this year has been and then it occurred to me that I blew a lead and any chances of paying for the 8 hour drive and wasn't even sweating it. Weird. Having built some confidence, I find that my anxiety is way lower and I am racing better.

The promoter told me I beat Pirtles course record, but he was wrong and I was off by 15 seconds or so, either way, that's a huge confidence builder for me as well. I knew I was feeling good but without some numbers that doesn't mean anything when the field is small. Keeven destroyed the other experts by minutes after his two laps, and I'm sure he could have done another one.

I have to say that my fitness definitely peaked and I am feeling good about things. I am really pleased that I have figured out a little more about myself and am looking at the rest of the season and setting some new goals.

You all have two days to get to DQ to try the most kickass blizzard of the month, The Thin Mint, which totally erased all thoughts of not winning.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

4th Place at Nationals!

Not too shabby. I got a call up for being the 3rd highest National ranked rider in attendance which made me feel super pro.

It was an incredibly hard race. I was in the front 3 for the first lap but my second lap found me back close to 10 spots... I was in a serious funk. I drank TWO Cheerpacks towards the end of the lap and started to focus. I battled back and started to lay down some serious emotion driven heat and pick people off. The 5th place guy and myself were killing each other, passing other riders in the super technical, greasy downhill and I opened up a little gap on the very last section and held him off.

Congrats to Andy Messer from IN on a great 2cd place finish! Also, congrats to Doug Long for bringing a National Champ Jersey back to Missouri!

Full report soon, I'm going to drink some margaritas!

Adam Craig can floss like you have never seen before. You really have no idea how fast that guy goes, it was truly amazing to watch. # 2 for him!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mt Snow

Feeling better today. Roy Orbison was bringing the heat on the scenic route 2 from Boston to Vermont. I knew I was feeling better when I started to get goosebumps singing along to my boy Roy and wanting to rip peoples legs off. Weird combo. But like ninja kitties kicking me in the teeth it was getting me all fired up.

Tom Albert and I rode a couple laps and I must say this place is a real mountain bike course, not watered down in any way. Up for 1.5 miles and then down some super tech... no rest areas any where, seriously. I'm a little concerned about the climbing which is a little over the top. It's got some serious loose steep ups; picture the climbs up to the picnic table at Chubb but make it 4X's longer and then stack them one after another with just a brief cross section of super technical, rocky singletrack linking them together. By my second lap I felt like I was floating through the technical stuff really well on the OIZ. The legs seemed to be feeling good and today I felt pretty normal and got some calories down without too much effort.

I ran into JHK, Treefarm and the LaLonde brothers and chatted about pro stuff. JHK had a photo shoot going on so he narrowly avoided getting dropped by some of St Louis's finest. Treefarm was asking me what kind of gearing he should be running for CX this year and the LaLonde brothers were telling me they were thinking about getting geared OIZs after reading about how great a bike it is on my blog. On a more serious, note it is going to be awesome to see how they stack up to the big boys here. Should be sick to see and I'm glad I'm here for there first big trip to the pro ranks out of Wisco. JHK seemed to give Tom and I a dirty look as we pre-rode the course in the right direction and interrupted his photo shoot that was going the wrong way. He was pretty tan, hopefully he put as much time in prepping for Nats as getting ready for the photo shoot!

After we rode Tom and I went over to the Luna/Orbea van and I was welcomed with open arms. I guess having multiple $5K Orbeas is a free pass onto the bus? It was really weird but before Chloe went on to win the U23 Jersey her and Georgia Gould offered to rub our legs down on the team van, which was really nice of them to say the least. It was a happy ending to the day.

Jen and I are going to hook up with Tom and Sandy over at Stratton Mountain for some dinner to avoid the crowds and then I'm going to get a couple fast laps in tomorrow a.m before watching my buddy Grahm (a Mesa Junior Expert rider from KC) tear it up!

More tomorrow

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

not awesome

thanks to everyone who has called me to wish me well, i really appreciate it. i am sitting here at my folks house outiside of beantown and feeling about 80%. the big problem is i don't have any appetite whatsoever and i'm struggling to eat, never mind think about carbo loading.

for those of you that don't know, which is most of you, i picked up some kind of food poisoning on sat night at sage. jen, the two folks we went out to eat with and a bunch of other folks called the restaurant to say they had the same thing going on. i woke up monday morning and puked for awhile and then spent the rest of the day with bowel problems. yesterday i was feeling better, but could barely eat, and we're talking mama b's home cooking here. it sucks.

i did a little trail riding yesterday and then again today on the horse trails around my folks house. the trails are a lot shorter than they were when my brother and i were flossing them on bmx bikes back in the day. i found some cool 4 wheeler trails that were pretty rough, but mt snow isn't going to be paved either. i felt ok, but even after trying to do some intensity this morning my heartrate wouldn't go up so i left it in the tank airing on the side being over rested.

i am heading up to Mt Snow with Jen tomorrow and am concentrating on good thoughts and just going on with things as normal. i'm stoked to be able to get some laps in tomorrow and then again of friday and it makes me worry less about not feeling great on the bike today. ironically, this incident is taking my mind of pre-race anxiety, so i've got that going for me.

i've been doing everything i can in preparation for this race since December, and i have to say it sucks to have something like this come up, but like Phil Collins I'm going against all odds. we'll not really related in any way, but it's a kickass song.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Here we go.

The anxiety has definitely set in, some of that is good, some bad, but for me it's just the way it is. I'm pretty optimistic. I kind of glossed over the fact that I won a big race last weekend, straight up, expert overall. I have never won an AMBC race, never mind a DINO series one. Somewhere in the shuffle I guess I was thinking of the next big thing without taking the time to enjoy accomplishing big goals along the way. My confidence improved when I heard myself tell someone that I had won the equivalent of an NRC event of mountain biking and I have taken a couple days to enjoy it.

Jen and I went out to Sage in Benton Park last night with our friends Pete and Donna Rothschild. It was a younger hipster type of joint, and REALLY freakin loud, but the food was spot on. I had a espresso rubbed New York Strip steak that was perfect. Everything else was A+ and we had a great time. Good to get the mind off of things.

I was on the way to the dirt crits telling my mom about winning last weekend and making plans for Vermont. I didn't think twice when I told her I got out of work early to go do a training race. I didn't think otherwise until I heard TK grunting to get the hole shot only to see Rico open it up and Chris Ploch run over a strip of course markers to get on his wheel. I went into the woods about 5th and realized that I had someone two guys in front of me, who was strong, but clearly couldn't ride a mtb as he brake checked on every turn and forced us to sprint out of them. I was poised to jump him and the 360* rider in front of me as we went through the creek, but the 360* rider pulled a bonehead move and tried to pass Alferman through the narrow climb out of the creek and blew out his tire forcing the rest of us to stop. I chased kitty balls for exactly 18 minutes and was within 50 meters of TK and Rico at one point but a couple attacks later and I realized that these guys were here to race, not train. I had gone pretty deep and have to openly admit that if I had been in the front group I would have suffered through it to have a decent finish, but I was not psyched about what had happened and there was no need to slay myself the week before my A priority event for a 5th place finish. I freely admit that it was a beat city move.

Today I went out to the Wood and did some hill repeats. After the first one the legs were really coming around as I pushed the 38 tooth ring up Lone Wolf backwards a couple times. Intensity in ten cities and lots of rest is the name of the game this week. I had a great day talking with Keeven and his buddy Chris about tri gear and ran into TK and the Ghisallo picnic as well as my buddy Ryan Wolk.

Today in my training diary I put a 10 for overall.

Listen to some Public Enemy and eat your blueberries!

Tonight I am resisting the DQ Blizzard of the month, thin mint cookie, and it sucks.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

DINO AMBC @ Muscatauck, IN.

E.P. can dominate at will.

Zach, Drew, EP and myself headed to the DINO AMBC race this weekend at Muscatatuck State Park in Indiana. The weather the week prior was iffy and when we rolled into the park and saw that dense fog and wet pavement we could tell it was going to be slick. There was a pretty decent turnout and quite a few very heavy hitters that EP was kind enough to point out. After ironing out some tire pressure and rubbing rotor issues and a little bit of a pre-ride we were ready to go.

I got the Elite upgrade for this race due to my top three finish at it last year, and lined up on the front row. I would guess there were about 20 in the elite wave and then another 50 in the expert class. They start the two groups one minute apart but score it as an overall so the Pro/Semi/Expert Elite was basically just a preferred start for me. I finished 13th overall in this race last year, 3rd in my class and my goal was for a top 10 finish and to beat Andy Messer from Indiana. I'm an in the closet blog a holic and like to know who my competition is so when I recognized the name on the registration list from Nationals I figured he should be coming onto form and would be a good target.

EP jumped everyone at the start and I managed to catch onto the third wheel of the train going up the right side. There was another train coming up the left side as there was a patch of trees in the middle. I was third or fourth going into the woods and knew it was going to be a long day when EP turned on the afterburners up the first climb and had a gap on the field in less than a 1/2 mile of racing. He calls it the St. Louis start, which is pretty much equivalent to a kick in the teeth. I was struggling a little bit to recover on the first lap and started to think that maybe I should have rested a little bit more, but I put my head down and kept going. I settled into 7 or 8th and and yo-yo'ed and was sitting on someones wheel trying to get some rhythm going and recover from the start when a guy came up from behind me and insisted on going around me only to sit on the same wheel... They weren't riding well technically and it was really my only mistake of the day not to go around them sooner. I rested up and on the first big climb at the start of the second lap I went by both of them and dropped them pretty hard and never saw them again.

The rest of the race was pretty good, but I can't say too much about it. I started to pick some guys off and then I caught up with Kenda/KHS rider, Brad Nelson, and we started to battle. Neither of us were laying down super heat attacks but were steadily turning the screws on each other for the rest of the race. I had Anthony Slowinski in my sights for quite some time but lost him somewhere around the end of lap 4. On lap 4/5 I passed up Brad and started to close in on Andy Messer and he let me pass without giving up much of a fight at the top of a climb so I was guessing he wasn't going to chase hard and just started to think about riding smart for the rest of the lap and save some juice for the end.

Going into the last lap I knew I had a decent enough lead but the climbing was so taxing I couldn't let up or not consider that cramping could ruin a good finish. I kept working on the fluids and started to buzz a little bit from the Rooster Booster... Coming down of two pouches of that after a race is no fun, but I am at the point where my body starts to crave it and responds like a match to a bucket of gasoline. I hammered out the last lap and came across the line to EP, Zach and Drew watching the clock to see if I accomplished my main goal of not letting EP beat me by more than 8 minutes... He beat me by 5.

Zach tore it up again and finished first in his age group and beat all but one of the locals that had the preferred start which is pretty awesome. Drew was out in the lead after one lap when he had some bad luck that ruined his day which sucks. EP proved to himself and some of the fastest dudes in the Midwest that when he decides to come to your town, he's coming to party down.

I am more than pleased with my form right now. I wasn't exactly primed and ready to go for this race and suffered through a lot of it, but I was the first expert overall, accomplished all my goals for this race and feel like I am still getting stronger. It's amazing to me that after a half of a season of focusing on XC racing I have made the gains that I have and know that I have been airing on the side of caution and still have plenty of room for growth. These last two races have given me the kind of confidence I need, at exactly the right time going into the main event. Wish me luck!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Russell the Muscle Laying down the heat at Masters Nationals!

Congratulations to my teammate, mentor and good friend Russ Murphy for bringing home the hardware from the Masters Nationals Criterium this weekend in Louisville, KY. Russ, the master tactician, played his cards just right and had his biggest result ever, a bronze at Masters Nationals.

I can't tell you how impressed I am with this result and am very proud to tell you about it. Nice job Russ!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

not selling my stock in 26'ers

After the debacle at the KC Cup race I decided I needed to spend quite a bit more time riding off road. While swapping back and forth between new bikes I slowly was gaining some sick confidence as the handling skills became razor sharp... I was having fun on the Alma all last week and have to admit that I was a little apprehensive when I saddled up on the OIZ for a couple hours at the Wood today... In the back of my head I wondered if I truly liked the big wheels better and the OIZ would collect dust. Man, what was I thinking. This bike is crazy fast and still is the ideal race bike for 75% of the stuff I do. Pirtle, you're right, chump. I can say I am stoked to be able to choose between these two sweet bikes as there are definitely times for both. The big difference for me is the ability to sit down and hammer through the rough stuff with the cush and float over the technical stuff. I'm glad to see that I'm riding well and must admit I am a little apprehensive about the descents at Mount Snow, but I tend to go down faster than your average bear so I'm not sweating it too much.

Small wheel turn by the fire and rod
Big wheel turn by the grace of God
Everytime that wheel turn round
bound to cover just a little more ground

The wheel is turning
and you can't slow down
You can't let go
and you can't hold on
You can't go back
and you can't stand still
If the thunder don't get you
then the lightning will

Won't you try just a little bit harder
Couldn't you try just a little bit more?
Won't you try just a little bit harder?
Couldn't you try just a little bit more?

Hello old friend

I spent countless hours in rain, snow and freezing cold this winter building my base on this bike and then put it in the basement. After deciding that I was only going to race on dirt and selling off all my road equipment I decided it would be good to get this ready for CX and to commute on... I love this bike. It needed a FULL overhaul and the BB and headset were barely turning. After a little love it's ready to go. Euro bend bars, TRP carbon brakes, Cosmic Carbone SL's, super-pro Concor Light saddle and Full DA 10. That's a 50t big ring, but I'm going even more super pro and putting a 46 on there as well as some Dugast Rhinos...

The legs started to feel normal again this morning... I was playing with fire all last week, increasing the work load one last time until I start to taper for Nats... Hopefully I have some legs for this weekend at the DINO AMBC race, it's going to be a fast one... I kept telling myself to train through it but didn't realize my legs were still going to feel like rubber yesterday. Switching back and fourth between two new bikes and one I haven't ridden in a couple months will make some muscles react as well. I think I'm getting them pretty close at this point though.

I'm going to go see how the OIZ feels today. I really want to ride the ALMA at Muscatatuck, but in the back of my head think that since it's my last race before NATS I should race on the bike I'm going to race on there. The course would be pretty well suited for the big wheels though...

I ordered up a BlackSpire 38 tooth chain ring for the Alma. I'm going to run a 38/28 or 26 2x9 on my XTR cranks. I'm thinking about maybe putting a 40 or 42 on the OIZ as well... It's hard to pry those purdy XTR rings off though, especially when they shift so well.

Eat lots of BEETS and Blueberries. They are good for you.