Friday, April 4, 2014

God's Country Report

The off-road season around here has started in earnest.  Plenty of events to satisfy most fat tire lovers.
The God's Country Fat Tire Festival got things started.  By the looks of the full transition off-road multi-sport could have a future. A record number of entries for the 12th annual event.  A small amount of snow fell the night before the big event but this did not stop most from coming out and taking on the challenge. 
I was actually very surprised at the turnout for the mornings off-road duathlon.  Last year we had snow before the MTB race and turnout was only about 30% of normal.   Runners are hard core.
The run course was changed up a little and routed separately to keep them off the bike course for the second run.  Basically it was 1 mile of single track and 1 mile of levee.  I would have liked 100% single track, but I think it worked out o.k.

Course conditions for the cycling legs were awesome for the all the short course racers.  Some said it was a little icy in sections.  I was very bummed that I could not race.  I love those type of conditions.  I just wish there were more events held during the winter and early spring, especially multi-sport events like off-road duathlon.  

 Art King enjoys the rewards of the day........A big Thank You to the Lawrence Mountain Bike Club and all the volunteers that came out the week prior to the event to help restore the trails. 

How I wanted to earn a bottle of champagne.  Duties prevented that, but plenty of others got to take home some cool awards.  I always struggle to try and come up with prizes/awards.  Hopefully those that did earn an award liked them. 
I did not think we would need sides on the tent, but mother nature proved me wrong once again.  It was very cold on race morning and having a heated area for signup was a life saver for our signup crew.  Thank you to Roger Harrison for the heat once again.

Hopefully no one needed to visit Cliff Jones and the Lawrence Mountain Bike Patrol on this day.

 The big winners of the day.  Renee Thierry won the overall long course in 2:25 and Tige Lamb back on top with a 1:55.

The second event of our fat tire festival was the mountain bike time trial.  After last years poor turnout for the traditional cross country race I was not even going to have a MTB race.  There was just not enough resources nor volunteers for a two day event.  I then thought of what type of event we could have after the duathlon.  The only two events that I could think of was a short track or time trial.  I decided on the TT mainly because I like racing against the clock and the other is we could crown the King and Queen of the Lawrence River trails.  Forget all the Strava crap, the "Race of Truth" is the only way to find out your best time. 
I only expected about 50 riders to signup for the TT.  To my disbelief we actually had 126 register.  Due to the snow in the morning, cold temps and some duathletes who decided they would not try to double up,  we ended up 99 finishers in the mountain bike time trial.  After some hard negotiation on my part we ended up with sending riders off in 30 second intervals.  Overall I think the format worked out well. 
The Kings and Queen of the Lawrence River Trails.  Garet Steinmetz laid down the fastest time of the day covering the entire 10 mile Lawrence River Trail system (with new sand section) in 35:24.  That is a super fast time my friends and is the new official record time on the LRT.  Jason Knight took second in 37:55 and Kent McNeil made the trip down from Nebraska pay off with third place in 38:00.  The Queen of the LRT is non other than Karen Brocket in a time of 47:25.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Collins Report - A Real Ass Kicker

Another season of off-road racing began yesterday with round #1 of the 2014 Forward Motion Hare Scrambles Series.  Location was Eagle Ranch in Collins, MO.  This course is tough.  Rocky as hell with several very steep climbs.  Rain/sleet the day before did not help conditions.  Crashes were common place. A quote from another rider describing the course "Did someone dynamite the first 4 miles of track, or was that just a sick gift from Mother Nature?"
This winter just never seems to end.  It was no different on Sunday.  Temps in the morning were in the 20's.  Poor Carolynn and Karry froze their butts off.  At least Jason, Christopher and I got to get our heart rates up and stayed warm while pre-riding the course.
For 2014 I moved up to the Vet Advanced 35+ class.  This class might be a little bit of a stretch for me but time will tell.  I might be a little old for the class and the pace is a lot faster than I might want to go.  In any event,  things got off to a great start with me grabbing my first holeshot of 2014.  I led for the first 2 miles including all the really rocky stuff.   The rocky slick sections gave me fits, but I tried to focus on taking good lines.  Sometimes taking the good line was not possible.  On the first lap at one of the steep rocky/rooty climbs the good line was taken by a fallen rider.  I took what I thought was the next best option - it was not.  Ended up going down hard.  It sucks crashing out, but doing it while leading hurts the worst.
Christopher moved up to the Sportsman class for 2014.   I actually was not going to let him race this year.  I told him at the beginning of the year that if he did not train and apply himself I was not going to let him race.  Racing is just too dangerous to not be at the top of your game.  He got a late start on training, but has done very well the past couple of weeks.  It showed on Sunday with a great start.

Jason will continue to ride in the Trail Rider class for 2014.  He used the power of the KX450 to his advantage at the start.  The big bore bike may have been a little disadvantage on such a rocky technical course.  Good thing he got the Recluse clutch like I suggested. 

After my little mishap I started to chase the pack down.  I was not really making much progress and any that I was making came to a stop at a steep rocky.  I think this hill is called Hank Hill.  It was a real bastard of a climb. Riders were crashed everywhere  Only a couple of good lines with large slick  covered rocks everywhere. I decided to follow another rider up the left hand side.  That turned out to be a very costly mistake.  He crashed and ended up sliding out into me as I tried to ride by.  I tried to get going again but all I did was spin my rear wheel in a foot deep crevices.  I tried everything I could think and even pulled my bike back and tried to ghost ride the bike up the hill.  After several minutes of trying to pull my 250 pound mud covered bike up the hill I resolved to give up. It was totally depressing watching rider after rider go by.   I was totally whipped and my arms were dead. I pulled my bike back down the hill a few feet with a plan of riding back down the hill.  I decided to try one last time to make it up.  This time I picked a new line to the far left.  Thank God for electric start.  I would have still been there if I would have had to use a kick starter.  I mustered up enough strentgh to make it to the top and proceed on. At this point my race was over. 
Christopher was having a much better race than I.  Above he is leading eventual 2nd place finisher Shawn Chappell.   I guess my little talk I had with him a couple of weeks ago really lit a fire under his ass.  He was riding very well during the first lap. 

Jason working his way through one of the creek crossings.  Most of the crossings had a rocky base, and two of them got really bad.  Some foot peg deep sections. Jason ended up doing very well and earned 5th place which is his best finish yet.  Looks like riding at Chadwick has paid off.

During the 2nd lap Christopher continued to ride well and actually caught and passed me.  That is correct.  I got beat by my son. Sure I had some mishaps, but most everyone did. When he passed me I was actually in shock.  Was he riding that well or was I just riding like a candy ass?  I picked up the pace and caught back up to him and sure enough he was passing other riders.  I followed him by a few of the riders, but then when we reached the start of lap 3 and returned to the really slick rocky sections of the course, he left me.  Straight up left me.
I finally found a good line up Hank Hill and when I reached it on lap 3 I saw that Christopher
had gotten stuck in about the same place that I did.  He was lucky because by then there were course workers helping everyone get up. Where the heck were those guys when I got stuck????  I was going to stop and help him, but decide to let him get up by himself.  I set off and actually started passing riders on the last lap.  The last 5 miles I rode well and it ended up being my fasted lap of the day. 
 Christopher tried hard to catch back up to me after his mishap on Hank Hill, but time ran out. He still beat me on overall adjusted time.  He finished in 1:59:49 and I came in 2:02:11.  I knew this time would come eventually, but not for several more years.  Basically I got my ass kicked by a kid that could hardly ride just two years ago.  What I would give to be 18 again....
After Christopher's crash his bike was down on power.  Turns out he bent his header pipe in 3 places. 

Last year Christopher started off the season with bloody blisters.  This year only a couple of small ones.
Karry Schupp make us all some post event snacks.  I needed something to console me after a horrible event and those peanut butter cream cupcakes did the trick.
Christopher took home 3rd place on the day.  A very good result in his first race as a Sportsman, especially on such a tough course. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

2014 CIRREM Report

My 2014 race season began yesterday with the annual CIRREM gravel race.  This 100K gravel road race has become very popular.  It usually sells out in a few minutes when registration opens.  Why is it so popular?  Why do people what to ride their bikes on hilly ass gravel roads that during this time of year can be frozen, slick as owl shit and so muddy that it take a small part of your sole to drag your bike up them?  The answer can be found below.

Truth be told I did not really want to make the 3 hour drive up to Cumming, Iowa for the race. My longest ride so far this year was only 45 miles and that was in friendly gravel grinding conditions. The area got a few inches of snow during the week.  Most of it was either packed down frozen or quickly becoming a muddy energy sapping nightmare. 

Bike setup and gear choice is always hard to do on days like this.  I wanted to ride my Single Speed, but the bottom bracket was all frozen up on it and needed replacing. Should I bring my old MTB with disc brakes?  Would I need the tire clearance?  How muddy was it going to get?  Would we get lucky and the temps stay cold enough to keep the ground frozen?  I decided to ride the Ritchey Swiss Cross.  I knew it was going to get a little muddy and wanted to test the bike in some adverse conditions.  I did not dream the conditions would deteriorate so much out on course. I am glad I rocked the Komando 700 x 32 tires instead of larger tires.  The added frame clearance helped. 
If you had a good pair of legs and could climb today your old challenge was how to deal with all the mud and spray.   The leaders were rocking the course. It was like they were just floating on top of the mud.

 Early on I got into a group with about 6 riders.   I tried to stay out of the wind as much as possible and save energy.  The problem with following riders was the mud spraying in your face.  My glasses were covered after the first hour.  I know first hand what damage gravel and dirt can do to eyes so I tried my best to keep them on. 

The check point offered a chance to refuel, fill up those empty water bottles and have a beer.  I want to know where the bacon is?  The Dakota 50 has bacon and bear.  Is that the best combination or what?
I arrived at the check point ready to call it a day.  My legs were already tired, I could not see out of my glasses due to the mud and my back was starting to hurt.  Carolynn said I was doing great and looked good.  I personally thought I looked liked hell.  I sure as heck felt like hell. 
I started to eat some and drank an entire water bottle. I had drank two full bottles and was started to get some leg cramps.  I cleaned out my frozen gears an and decided to keep going.  I knew if I quit I would be very disappointed with myself. How much worse could it get?

I rolled out from the check point with clean shifting bike, three water bottles and a new attitude. 
What does a wife do while her husband is suffering like dog?  Mine goes to sample the local Moon Shine.  Here I thought you were all worried about me.
Conditions really deteriorated especially on the hills where the sun shined on them.   The flats were really not bad.  Those bastard climbs were a different story. Trying to find the best line, one that would not cause your tires to sink down in the peanut butter mud, was very hard.  Usually it was best to ride in the wet mud.  If you got in sections that were drying out it collected on your wheels and you soon stopped rolling.  On some of the climbs I actually thought I was going to snap a chain.  

The last 25 miles I had no rear brakes.  This is not always a bad thing.  When you are flying down a frozen road the last thing you want to do is hit the brakes.  If I was with a group of riders I always made sure I was in the front if it was shaded which normally meant it would be frozen.  I lost the front brakes a few times but reached down with my water bottle and beat off the frozen mud off.  This worked to a degree.  Riders with disc brakes had the best set-up for sure.  If you had the legs to climb I think a single speed would have worked well also.  I only had three gears that would work anyways :-)

The last 10 miles was a suffer fest.  I started getting very cold and was out of water and food.  Not a good thing.  Not really much you can do other than keep pedaling.

I rolled into the finish line a happy to have finished.  I passed many riders that had given up or their  bikes had broken.  On one climb I bridged up to 3 riders who had just made it up the very muddy hill.  At the top they stopped and put their heads down on their hand bars.  I waved as I passed and wanted to say to keep going because if you stop you may just not get going again.  Endurance racing has a large mental part to it.  It is easy to quit.  That is one reason I felt so good about today.  I pushed past my current physical ability, powered through all that thick mud, used every muscle I had to make my bike keep rolling. Those last two miles worth it. Lately my mental attitude has not been the best.  Pushing past the pain and suffering through tough times does a lot for you. 
Results got posted.  Some interesting results.  I rolled into the first check point at 2:05. The last 2 times I participated in CIRREM I rolled that same check point in 2:05 and 2:08.  This year I lost over and hour on the back side of the course.  My best finish was 4:20.  This year it was 5:19.   Mostly due to conditions but it just shows how important conditioning is.  You can fake short events but once you get past the 3 hour range fitness really stands out.  Looks like I need some more saddle time.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Lost Athletic Goals

 After Saturday's Sweetlove Gravel Grinder I spent the rest of the weekend cleaning up the garage and getting our bikes ready for our trip to Bella Vista, AR.  I found a few old items including the below water bottles.  They reminded me of some of the crazy stuff I used to dream about doing.  Some I was fortunate to achieve but most lost.

The Western States Endurance Run. A 100 trail race in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  I somehow caught this trail running bug back in 1992. It was around the same time that I started doing all these insanely long rides and runs.  Not to mention a few Ironman Triathlons.  I worked my way up to 50 mile trail runs, but never did make it to Western States.  That is one goal I am glad I lost.  One thing I was never good at is running.  Then again most slow runners do make great Ultra marathon runners.

Over 30 years ago I had some big athletic goals.  I actually believed that I had the skills to become a professional motocross racers.  I did have some talent and was crazy enough as a young man, maybe too crazy and sustained some serious injuries. It took me many, many years to ride that fine line between going extremely fast and crashing.

I can remember racing with my brothers like it was yesterday. We all did some stupid insane stuff.  I am not talking about having race numbers #911 and #666.  What that heck were we thinking?

I wish I had pictures of some of the things we used to do as kids.  I found this gem when I had this great idea to become a dare devil. That was my big goal back in 1980. I failed at that.  No one wants to see a kid jump a Kubota tractor.
That is me in 4th position.  Keeping up front in a road race in Tampa, FL.  My road racing career was hit and miss.  I got into it really heavy for a few years.  Won a handful of races.  I think if I had stayed single I would have continued up through the ranks.
It is kind of sad to think of all the goals you have had over the years.  Most are never reached - with me they were lost to injuries, lack of support and some really bad luck (if I just had tubeless tires when I raced mountain bikes seriously).  Some goals kind of just faded away slowly.
 You keep trying to reach them but most of the time seem to painfully fall just short of reaching them.   The one thing that keeps me going is that every once in awhile you reach your goals. You have that perfect day. I am hoping in 2014 I can have a few of those days.

I only bring all this up because this may be my last year of racing.  Christopher is all grown up and has lost interest in riding all together.  Carolynn and Christopher have both competed with me over the years.  It has been one of the things we have done together.  Carolynn still really enjoys riding but racing not so much.  She would like to do a triathlon and maybe an adventure race but it would be more for a personal challenge.

Back to goals.  I really do not have many this year.  Many are just completion type goals.  For example I want to finish the Ouachita Challenge and I want to finish a tandem cycling tour with Carolynn.  If my summer goes well I may just line up for  season of cyclocross this year.  Next year in cross I will be racing with the 50+ guys.  Damn I feel really really old.  Maybe it is time to give all this racing stuff.  But then again they say your racing career starts over once you hit 50 :-)