Saturday, April 26, 2014

2014 Bone Bender Race Report

It took close to two weeks, but I believe I have finally recovered and healed up from this years Bone Bender Mountain Bike Challenge.  For me this years event was truly a challenge in more ways than one.  Luckily our crew came together as usual and pulled it off. 
Volunteers.  What can I say about them other than they are AWESOME.    We could not have done it with each and everyone of them. A special Thank you goes out to Heather Jordan, Tom Hall, Jennifer Lowe, Rob and Shari Brotherton, Jason and Karry Schupp, Michael Matthews, Tim Greene, Cliff Jones, Roger Harrison, Gerard Arantowicz, Jeff Arnaud, Don Martin, Rich Anderson, Doug Stone, Damian Almanza and of course are road guard angles who showed up on race to day morning and offered to help out.  We were really short on volunteers and they really helped.

As usual Carolynn and Christopher were a ton of help this year, but I do believe Christopher cost me more than he was worth.  He spent most of the day consuming donuts.  At last count he took down 8. I do not allow donuts in my household so I guess he took advantage of that fact.
I tried something different this year and changed the format of the Bone Bender to a distance event instead of timed.  I did this for a couple of reason but one of them was that we could submit a bid to USA Cycling for the Marathon Regional Championships.  If it was a success then maybe in another year we could bib for the Marathon National Championships.  I thought that would be very cool and something our local mountain bike racers could be proud of.  We ended up winning the bid and this years event was the 2014 South Central Regional Marathon Championships.  Cool huh?  We should get all the local racers to come out with a regional championship so close.  The truth was we got very little local support and it appeared no one even cared about the event being a regional championship.  Hell, some racers were surprised that they won a regional championship and a few did not even care.  This was actually very depressing and a total let down for me.  I know as a racer I would have been all over this event and would have been very proud to win one of those sweet regional championship medals.
One thing I was happy about was some good old friends showed up to take on the challenge of this years Bone Bender.  Eric Tiffany was one of them.  Riding a ridged single speed over that course was hard core.  I saw a few riders out there going full ridged and Eric was one of them.  I still remember Eric and I going to the Cohutta 100 and Firecracker 50 several years ago.  Good times.
A huge thanks to Cliff Jones.  He was our main bike patrol out on course.  Luckily this year we did not need much medical support.  We only had one injury that I knew of and that was mine :-)
Tim Greene pulled doubled duty over the weekend.  He helped mark the course on Friday evening and Saturday morning and raced in the Marathon class.  Tim did great and overcame a mechanical to take home top honors in his division.  Congratulations to Tim for winning the Cat 2 Male 50+ Regional Championship.  That is an honor and something to be proud of.

I actually put my kit on and was able to race.  I could not race the Marathon but I got to lineup for the popular cross country class.  We had one heck of a turnout for the short event.  Without the XC event the event would have been a loss.  I was exhausted even before the event started, but it was a nice distraction for me to be able to race.  I actually had some good legs and did very well taking home the win in the 40+ XC race.
My race was not without its problems.  I decided to pace myself over the first couple of miles of the course.  Once I hit the second section of white and the really technical parts I picked up the pace and started to move up.  I was about 4 place overall and closing in fast to the lead when I made a mistake and clipped a tree with my handlebars.  Before I knew it I was flipping down the trail, my bike (actually Christopher's Anthem 29er) was hitting me on my back and I was down for a few minutes trying to get myself going again.  I got passed by several riders.  I got rolling by my pace was very slow.  The backs of my legs were cramping and I had a little gash.  Finally after a few miles everything started working o.k. and I was able to catch back up enough to 1st place in the 40+ division.  A few minutes down from the overall, but I was happy to have finished strong.
My teammate and good friend Gerard also did great and earned 3rd place.  It was an honor to present Gerard with his award and to stand on the podium with him.
At the end of the day I was totally exhausted just like my friends from Nebraska. I am so thank full that those guys have supported the Bone Bender over the years. 

I am also thankful for all the riders who were able to come out and make this years Bone Bender.  I know moving the date caused hardship on some.  I do believe it was the best thing to do.  The weather on Saturday was awesome and the trails could not have been in better shape.  Thanks again to the Kansas Trails Council and Lawrence Mountain Bike Club for maintaining those great trails. Thanks to the Kansas State Park for allowing us to move the date up and for the use of the swim beach area including the showers and bathrooms.  A special thank you goes out to the camp host of the swim beach.  We called on him several times to help us out.

Until next year.....

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hell Week

It is over.  I kept telling myself last week that time will pass and before you know it all this will be behind you.  What the heck am I talking about?  My own personal Hell Week......
It all started  two Sundays ago at the 2014 Ouachita Challenge.  This was to be my first big objective of the year.  Training leading up to it was lacking to say the least.  My last long ride/race was CIRREM. That was a personal hell in itself mainly due to lack of fitness.  This years Ouachita Challenge would turn out to be one of the hardest events ever for me to finish.
I always enjoy going down to Oden, AR to ride in this the event.  We usually get several Cow Town members to join in the fun.  This year Tim Greene did the tour and Jeff, Gerard, Tige and myself did the race on Sunday.  Tim had perfect weather for Saturdays tour.  As  you can see by the jackets, Sundays weather  sucked - 43 degrees and on/off rain for most of the event.  For those who dressed for the cold/wet it really was not that bad.  For those who dressed for speed (and for the rain stopping) like myself we ended up suffering and feeling like a freezing wet dog who has been run over and left on the side of the road to slowly and painfully succumb to death.  

As with most off-road endurance cycling, the race starts with a mass rolling start. I decided to start easy and before I knew it was as at the back of the large field.  Pacing yourself is very important and today's race would be near 6 hours long for me so I was not very concerned.  The only negative to the type of race plan is usually at the first technical section of trail there is a long back up.
Besides getting rained on and freezing at the start the first challenge at this years Ouachita Challenge is Blow Out Mountain and all those hills and slick rocks.  This section of rocks above is really not that bad, but there are hillier sections that are out of this world.  I had the pleasure of catching up with a group of riders that included one of the top women.  This young girl actually tried to ride those rocks while I got off and walked.  I was amazed by her bike handling skills seeing her balance and bounce her way from one rock to the next was cool.  It was also slow and hard on tires - she would end up getting a flat later on down the trail. 
Speaking of flat tires.  On Big Brushy and Blow Out I actually started to feel good and warmed up some due to the effort.  I was rolling along good and passing lots of riders.  For awhile I rode with Doug Long and Todd Fridley but Doug had a small crash and a mechanical and Todd was taking it real easy on the those slick rocks.  I started riding in a bigger gear and picking up the pace towards the end of Blow Out.  On one rocky section I went to pass a rider who did not make the section.  There was an alternate line and took it just like I had dozens of other times today. This time my front tire slid off a rock and sliced the sidewall.  Not much to do at this point but try and fix it.  I was really upset for a few minutes especially watching all the riders who I had just passed and left them behind pass me back. 

This year there was a new rule that no personal aid was allowed.  You had to use drop bags.  This took a lot of the fun out of the event for Carolynn.  She usually rides around to each stop and gets to see the event take place and offer me support if needed.  Oh how I wish she was at one of the later stops when it started raining and my core temps drop so much and my hands were frozen that I could barely keep my hands on the grips.  Hopefully they will allow spectators on the course at future events and bring back the good ole Ouachita Challenge that I remember.

I actually felt good by the time we reached the drop off bag location.  It had stopped raining, my energy level was good and the patch was holding up well after I repaired my tire.  I had also made up time on the road section after Blow Out mountain by hooking up with 5 other riders and forming a nice pace line. One of my drop bags had a rain jacket in it.  I made a huge mistake in not taking that jacket.  Not one hour later my body started to break down bad and combined with the 43 degree temps and rain I started on a slow and painful journey of misery.
How these two ladies are smiling is beyond me.  Maybe women are just tougher than men in general. 

This is more like it.  These male riders are about to cave in and are looking for any excuse to stop. I personally only stopped at the aid stations and when I did stop it was only to grab a quick source of food and some Heed.

The last two hours I kept thinking of this moment.  My entire body was frozen, my hands stopped working and I was shivering on the bike.  I could not shift and had to use my palms to change gears due to my fingers being frozen.  I can not remember ever having frozen hands this bad. Every time I saw a car or passed aid stations I wanted to quit and get into a warm vehicle.  I can not tell you how happy I was to see the finish.  My time of 6:49 sucked ass, but at least I finished.
Check out the guy photobombing me....I do not look that bad, but I felt miserable and very, very cold.  I was so happy to get some hot coffee and a slice of pizza. Oh and a very special thanks to Tim Greene for washing my bike and helping Carolynn load it up in the truck after I finished.
My hell week continued with the realization that I still have not completed my taxes. Not normally a big deal in itself, but with a large project at work (upgrading our wireless network) that is taking all my time and the fact that the 6th Annual Bone Bender Mountain Bike Challenge was in 6 days I started to get really stretched thin and very stressed.
On Wednesday I had to make time to head over to Clinton to finalize the course and to recon a possible rain course because the long term forecast did not look to good.  It also became apparent that we only had a handful of volunteers to help.  It is hard to keep asking the same people to help but in the end that is what happened and thankfully most of them were able to help out.

To make matters even worse the USA Cycling Regional Awards had not arrived by midweek.  Turns out they were not even sent yet.  An oversight at USA Cycling.  Thank God for overnight delivery.
The stress of event promotion is hard enough, but for mountain bike events around here is twice as bad due to the fact that most events are not held if it rains.  I personally always try and have a rain course to use just in case and hold the events,with trail coordinator permission of course, come rain or snow.  The last time we had to change the date of Bone Bender was back in 2009.  Rain a few days before the event caused us to push the event date out a couple of weeks.  This year it was the complete opposite.  Weather leading up to the weekend was great. The course was in awesome shape.  The only thing was Sundays weather was supposed to be 100% rain with thunderstorms.  We had a lot of out of town riders signed up to participate.  Some as far away as Minnesota.  Heck one participant was even flying back from South Africa to make our event.  Talk about pressure.

On Thursday morning at 3:12 am I awoke with what I thought was a brilliant idea.  Let's move the event up a day to Saturday.  Sure some people might not be able to make it, but at least we would have an event in good weather and keep everyone safe.   I discussed with Heather and we decided to do it if we could.  I had sent emails during the wee hours of the morning to all parties requesting to move the event up.  The big if was if the Clinton Lake State Park and USA Cycling would allow it.  By afternoon all parties had responded with a Yes.

We offered a full refund to anyone who could not make it.  To my surprise only three out of town people could not make it.  The remaining 29 were all local riders.  Luckily we got a fair amount of race day entries and ended up with a little over 150 riders.   The lowest turnout in Bone Bender history and I believe is a sign that Mountain Bike racing around here is in serious trouble.  On a day with perfect conditions and trails that could not get any better we only get 150 riders and a large portion of those are from out of town.  I do not know the solution and I am beginning to think I might be part of the problem.  All I know is my Hell Weeks are over.   Looks like someone or some group needs to step up and  take over off-road racing in this area.  Other area events are getting over 200 riders per event so I know the demand is there. Hopefully this new group will also have a good base of volunteers/staff to run these events because I do know nothing happens by itself.  It may look easy, but a lot of hard work and hours go into promoting an event. 

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.