Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Gravel Grovel 2015


After yesterday I no longer have to say that my fastest times for the Gravel Grovel were done on a SS. After trying for the last few years to finish in less than 5 hours, I finally succeeded this year finishing in 4:53. I know that last week I figured out that I actually did finish under the 5 hour mark in 2010, but I am still no sure how that could have happened. I was on my SS and I didn't think I was very fast back then, but one thing with a SS is that you are forced to be consistent with your speed so hard telling.

I worked pretty hard this year to be in the best condition I have been in awhile to improve my chances for a good finish time. I was feeling pretty good about it a few months ago, but as the time was getting closer I was not so sure anymore. The two scouting trips I made up there did not help me feel better about the condition of my legs. I rode well both times, but I just was not climbing very fast either time and there are plenty climbing sections that can make a big difference. Even the Wednesday night ride this week the legs were feeling heavy and I was struggling climbing. Maybe I was just expecting too much, but I still felt like I was not climbing very fast and the legs were hurting.

The weather leading up to the race was not very favorable. It rained most of the day Friday and as far as I could tell, most of the day Saturday too. It was supposed to be a high of 47 degrees, so I figured it would be cold too. I knew the trail sections would be interesting to say the least. There were probably going to be some road sections that could be just as bad.

Getting ready that morning it felt warmer than I expected. This made it very hard to decide what to wear. It was going to be muddy and wet for sure, but not sure how cold it really will be. The parking lot was pretty soft and the rain was pretty steady. The conditions were not very good for me to put in a good time, but I was in for the ride no matter what happened.

Soon enough I found myself at the starting line and after a few announcements we were off. It didn't take long before the water was spraying all over the place. The pace did not seem too fast, but I know I tend to go a little faster than I should at the start. I kept moving around trying to find wheels to follow with out putting in too much effort. I found myself being surrounded by some people that I should not be trying to keep up with. I found some other wheels to ride with and took a little off of the pace. It was going to be a long day and no need to blow up before the first climb.

The paved climb in the middle of no where came up soon enough. I actually didn't do to bad on it and Strava says it was a PR for that section. The next several miles I found myself riding around the same few riders. They would get me on the climbs and I would bomb past them on the down hills. Soon we were heading in to Combs road. After the last ride there, I knew this section would be tough. There were several riders with bike issues in this section.

I was not riding too bad in this section. I was riding a lot of parts that people were having issues with. The creek crossings were deep and plenty of mud to go around. I had a few gears that started to grind pretty good when I was using them. I just tried to pick one that was not making noise and went that speed because I didn't need to rip the rear derailleur off that early in the race. I was very thankful that the easiest gear in the back was one of the few that were working. I felt like I could have gone faster in a few spots, but I didn't want to risk using those gears in that kind of situation. I made it up to the last little pitch on the climb and the chain was really making some noise. I didn't want to, but I decided that I should walk the last section and save my bike. The down hill section was quite interesting as my brakes were not working all that well. Just enough to slow me down if I really needed it.

In all I actually thought that Combs road would have been even worse. Don't get me wrong, it was not that great, but I am pretty sure I have seen it in worse conditions. The next section of road started off pretty good, but right after the bridge crossing it got a lot softer and more standing water. I just tried to pick good lines and keep the pace moving with out crashing or breaking the bike. I was not doing too bad on the climb right up to a spot that the back wheel spun out on a rock or something. I walked a little bit and then hopped back on. I did not climb it anywhere close to the speed that I could have, but I just had to do what I could. The next section to the road was spend crossing back and forth on the trail just trying to take the best lines.

The road section moved along pretty good. It was nice to have one of the People's Brewing guys to ride with. We chatted a little and took some turns drafting off each other. It was nice riding on the road, but it would not last long. I started up the Nebo Ridge climb just trying to pick a line that I could keep traction. I didn't do too bad, but did spin out on one part. Other than that I rode everything and made pretty good time considering everything. I even cruised down the down hills better than before. Maybe because the brakes were not really working anymore. I did have a few times that I thought I might go down, but thankfully I never did.

The next road section I just tried to put it in a big gear and cruise with out using too much energy to hold that speed. The legs tend to feel a little better after I can spin them out for a little bit. I knew what was coming up ahead and needed all the hills I could find. I tried to take in some food and water so I had all the energy needed to climb the next few hills. Mt. Baldy hurt pretty bad. I kept moving, but no where near my fastest time. I passed the rest stop at the top and prepared to bomb down the hill. I knew this was a place I could let it all hang out and gain some time.

The next hill didn't hurt as bad as Mt. Baldy, but I was still moving way to slow. Somewhere in this section I looked at how many miles I had in and how much time I had left to be able to finish in under 5 hours. Apparently my math was not the best, but I figured that there would be no way to be able to meet my goal. I just figured I would keep riding and get back as soon as I could.

I was hurting pretty good for the next several miles. I think the self realization that I was not going to reach my goal and the fact that it had been a while since I could feel my feet started some bad thoughts. At one point I even thought of a short cut to get me back to the car. After trail 21 I just kept moving. Charles was there and cheered me on. That was very uplifting and helped me get past this next loop. Near the top of the hill I thought that I could take the left and the car would be not too far away. Then I figured if I took the energy to climb this silly hill, I better not quit and head back. I did lose traction and had to walk the last few feet of the climb. After I started going again I glanced back and thought I saw the green jacket of my team mate Alex.

I figured he would soon catch me on this next section. He has been a lot stronger than me and I figured he would have caught me long before now. I didn't see anyone for a while and figured maybe I was just seeing things. I went a little too fast on the down hill section back to where trail 21 comes out, but thankfully I could keep the bike upright and rolling good. I didn't waste any time at the intersection and rolled on by. At this point not only could I not feel my feet, I could not feel my hands. Those fast down hill sections were good for getting back sooner, but they were also a heck of a lot colder than the climbs.

I struggled on the trail 12 section. There are a lot of dips and things that were hard for me to ride. I had to walk a few more sections and the other sections that I was riding was pretty sketchy. I thought I heard a few people behind me so I just kept trying to move the best I could. Toward the end of this section Alex did catch me. He yelled at me to give me a hard time. I was pretty out of it at that point and was just going to move over for him and almost wrecked. I know that is not what he was trying to do, but that is what almost happened.

I followed him to the end of the trail section. I was feeling pretty bad at that point and before I got out of the woods I figured I might as well go ahead and answer natures call. I needed to go for quite a while at that point and figured why not stop since I was not going to hit the 5 hour mark. I have never gone in my kit as I rode, but with the amount of rain and mud this was the day that I really thought about it. Alex was eating some Doritos when I came up and then he proceeded to feed me a few hand fulls so he would not eat them all and I emptied the bag.

We took off both hurting pretty bad. That next climb really hurt. I was so ready for the next turn and then the one after that. The church could not have came too soon. I tried to ride with Alex for his section, but we would yo-yo back and forth depending if we were climbing or descending. We hit a big hill and I pulled away from him. I tried to wait on him a few times, but I was just really ready to be done and the pedals were just turning what ever pace they wanted to go. Shortly after that I noticed a rider up ahead. That helped me find a little more motivation to reel him in. I did just that and promptly dropped him. I just kept moving as fast and smooth as I could. I was starting to feel a little better. It must have been those Doritos that gave me that extra little power.

I was in my big ring and rolling pretty good. I was very happy when I saw the church and took that corner. I guess I could really smell the finish line there and the legs were working really good. I have no idea how fast I was moving since my computer had been covered by mud since mile 6. There was another two more riders that I reeled in and passed in this section. Near the end the legs were screaming, but I knew the end was near and kept pushing. I thought I could hear one of those riders coming up behind me, but it turns out that it was probably just my imagination.

I was so relieved when I could see the horse camp through the trees. Then I remembered that I still needed to cross one more creek. I tried to pick a good line and just went for it. I knew it was deep and was not good for my bike, but after what I just put it through it could not be that much worse for it. It felt like the water was up to my knees as I rolled in the middle. I almost messed up on the other side as I saw a big rock under the water and barely negotiated around it and climbed the last hill to cross the finish.

I was drained and just leaned on my bars resting. I figured Alex should have been right behind me. After waiting a minute I asked one of the photographers what time it was. He said 5 till 3. It took a minute for that to sink in and then I was like wait...umm...what?? If we started right at 10, then 3 o'clock would be the 5 hour mark. This means that I finished in under 5 hours. I was not sure what to think at that point. I could not have been happier at that moment. I could not wait any longer as I could not feel most of my body and headed back to the cabin. It was so awesome to have the whole People's brewing group hanging out there waiting for me and cheering as I rolled up. I never expected that and was one of the best moments of the weekend. Even when other people were staying in the cabin with me, no one hung out waiting for me.

I cleaned myself up and changed clothes. They headed over to the dining hall to eat and pick up there first and second place awards for the single speed class. Then I made it in to the hall and picked up my plate of food and did not even sit down and my name was called out for a door prize.

I ended up finishing with 4:53 and in 41st place overall. 12th place in the masters class. Not too bad with there being 120 finishers and over 150 people signed up. This is by far the highest finish that I have ever had. Most years I didn't finish under the top 100 overall. Granted the turn out was down some because of the weather, but I am still pretty happy with it. It is pretty hard to believe that I could actually finish under my goal with the conditions that we had to ride in. It makes me wonder just how fast I could have finished it if was on the dry side. It leads me to believe that with a little more work I could finish somewhere near that 4:30 range. Now I guess I have something to shoot for next year. I will have to decide what bike I plan on riding. I know there are sections that I can ride faster on my mtb, but not sure if I can maintain the speed on the sections that my cross bike excels. I do know that my hands hurt really bad today from trying to hold on to those bars. I am sure my hands would not hurt as bad if I was holding on to a flat bar. I guess I have 363 days to figure that out.

I would like to thank Brian and the team at Dino for putting this event on. I think they did a great job this year and if Sub 9 was not going to be there, I am very glad that they decided to keep this thing moving. I also want to thank Phil @ Adventures Recreation, with out them I would not have had the gear to keep me as warm and comfortable as I was and a bike that was not flawless, but held on in some crazy conditions to get me to the finish line. I need to thank Honey Stinger and Tailwind Nutrition for helping me keep my body fueled up and hydrated. I also need to thank Stan's No Tubes for some awesome wheels and tubeless fluid. There were several sections out there that I thought I destroyed a wheel or would have at least had a flat. Neither of those things happened and I had no reason to stop.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cross posting

I am putting this here so if anyone was actually interested they would not miss a post. I might be moving back to WordPress but not sure yet. Only if it is easier to post to the new team page from there. Thanks for putting up with the hassles.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

2014 Season - more of a false negative than a season

Is it possible to write about the season and it is just the end of August? Well, I guess so since most of the races are done for the year. It is hard to say the year has been a disappointment, but in some cases it really has been. The biggest thing that was not good was the amount of time I have rode my mtb this year. I have not raced too many times and that is almost the only times that I have been on my mtb. Not that I didn't want to, but I guess I didn't want to bad enough. I had planned on doing more races, but like I stated earlier, this was the year of conflicts. So many things overlapped and I could not be everywhere.

Other times I could do what I wanted, but the weather did not work out. It has been such a crazy year that I am not sure I even know how many races I did or how many time I rode in the woods. The only thing I am sure about is that it was not very many. I would say it is fairly to say that I have only rode my mtb with fat tires 5 times this year. I know the good mountain biking season is still coming so I hope to do a little better on this number. One of the downers to the year was the fact that I didn't make a single KPS race. I really do enjoy racing the Kentucky series and like a lot of the people, but it just didn't work out.

The year was not a complete loss as I have put in a lot of miles. Probably the most that I have ever done in a year. The only down fall with this is that it has all been done on the road bike. The road bike is not all bad and I did have a lot of fun. It sure helps having a group of people that you enjoy riding with. If I was heading out by myself all year, I would have never done it. That is obvious by the fact that I should have rode today, but just didn't have the motivation. The other good thing about all the road miles is that it is an easy way to put in some good hours on the seat with little worries about driving to the trail head, muddy trails or ticks. I also had some minor success with some crit races again this year. I did the burning Quad and had so much fun that I ended up doing the New Albany crit the next weekend. I really enjoyed them and hope to get a few more of those put on the schedule. I know that just makes even more things over lap.

The real shocker of the year was the amount of weight I lost putting in the rides that I did do. I just wonder what I would do if I ever put in the effort to really try and train. I just might be able to get fast. When I was still putting the miles in, I was getting pretty fast. I missed the last Southern 5 and Dino race of the season. I was really looking forward to seeing how well I would do with all the miles in my legs. I know I could not believe how I rode at Ferdinand and I was not real consistent with the miles at that time or climbing well at all.

The problem is that I am sure that it all goes away quicker than you gain it. I just hope it comes back quickly. The last couple of weeks I have not put in many miles at all. Work has been even more stressful than the rest of the year and with school starting, soccer practice and games, the schedule has been pretty full. It is now getting dark earlier, so it will be harder to put in those long rides. The other option would be to finally hit up those night rides that I have wanted to do all year.

I really need to get back on the wagon and try to step it up even more that I was. The weight it up a little and I hope to be able to put in my best Gravel Grove to date. I am not sure what bike I will ride, but I will be there no matter what. I have done it every year so far and it is one of my favorite races to do. I would like to work out a cross bike to give that a try since I have done it on a SS several times and a mtb the other times. I would really love to put in a sub 5 hour ride. I know I can do it if I put in the effort. Averaging 13 mph does not sound too crazy to me. Maybe if I ride my SS it might not be so easy, but I know people that do it.

I will probably end up riding the niner with my rigid fork and the 44c tires that I picked up another gravel race. If I end up getting a new mtb for next year, I plan on turning the niner in to a monster cross bike. I really think I could excel at those races and if I put in the effort I could have a lot of fun. It is not as much fun when I am out of shape and it takes way too long to finish. It is more of a death march that a race.

Just to restate just how crazy the year has been and how much I am not doing even though I have put some hours in on the bike. My SS has had a flat tire since a ride in the back yard in the snow. I don't think it was even this year. I know it is easy to fix the tire, but I need to also change the brakes and I don't know how to bleed disc brakes. That has put a damper in getting it rolling. My old mtb needs to have a lot of work done to it so that my wife can ride it. Most of the work is not that hard, but I need to actually work on it to do it. The Surly 1x1 is sort of ready, but the last time I tried to hop on it, I noticed that the brakes were messed up. I think I stole the brakes off of it and traded them for the new pair of hydraulic brakes that I plan on putting on the SS. Now my new road bike needs to be torn down and cleaned up since the cranks are starting to creek I am sure it was from the crit race in the rain.

So, hard to say the year was a negative year. It was just not what I normally think of a year being. I can only hope to combine this year and what I really wanted this year to be and end up with something in the middle. This would get me in great shape, loose weight, race crits and be able to compete in the mtb races that I do race. I would love to be fighting for a podium spot some day. Another thing that would improve is the fact that I would actually put more posts together. I have had several rides that I wanted to put a post together on or different topics that I wanted to make comments on, but just didn't have the time or energy to make it work and then the thought passed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Albany Crit - The NAC

Well, I guess I had enough fun last weekend at the Burning Quad that I found myself signed up for another crit race over the weekend. This was was in New Albany and the layout was different than what I have done before. With out the hill, I was not sure how the pace would go. The other issue was that we had a ton of rain on Saturday night and there was a chance for rain on Sunday. Thankfully I pre-registered and also had a passenger to share the ride down with me. If it was not for those two things, I probably would have just stayed home. I am nervous enough about crashing in a crit race and didn't need to add to the issue with all the rain.

It was not raining when we left and had a little hope that maybe it would miss us and everything would stay dry. They were working on clearing and drying the course when we got there, but shorty after the canopy was set up, the rain decided to come down and it was coming down pretty hard for a little bit. This held up the start since they didn't get the start/finish set up as quickly. I was fine with that since the rain let up and looked like it might have been done for a while. The second race was cheap enough and like a fool, I signed up for two races again. I secretly figured that if the weather got too bad, I would just do the first race and be done with it.

I took some warm up laps and tried to find all the spots to keep an eye out for and where the slick spots might be. I didn't feel like I warmed up as good as I needed to and hoped it was enough. Soon enough thee race started and we were off. There was some accelerations on a couple straights that I tried to not get too excited about. When I was tapping the brakes at the end of the straight anyway. I had the same plan to try and stay as protected as I could for most of the race. There was a good head wind on a few sections and figured to try and use as little energy as possible. This worked out pretty well for most of the race. I felt like I was riding a smart race. I was getting worried about where I was in the pack and made a move forward in some corners. I ended up a little farther than I wanted and in 3rd place, but the rain was starting to come down again and as we rolled past the start/finish they said 2 laps to go. They were cutting the race short for the rain and I believe some lightning was in the area.

Right as the guy in the front pulled off, the guy in second made a jump. It looked like a good jump and one that was going to stick. I was a second late in making my decision, but tried to jump on his wheel. I was gaining some ground, but the right hand corner in the middle was tricky and I was not ready when I got there. I ended up taking the corner way wide as I was worried about sliding out and was going too fast for where I was. I thought for sure that I was going to wipe out. Some how I held on and got back on the gas, but this let too big of a gap open up and I could not make the connection. At this point my heart rate was out the roof from almost wrecking and trying to bridge the gap. My legs lost power and I sat up and waited for the pack. As they came by, I jumped in the middle and tried to minimize my losses. I held my own and made a good effort at the end, but could only manage to finish in 9th place. Not bad for another pack finish, but not where I could have been.

I feel like I made the right decision, but it was just a little late. I could have just stayed where I was and hoped to sprint for second, but I would have been in the front of the pack and not where I would have wanted to be hard telling where I would have ended up. Even though I am not happy with the result, I am happy with the thought. Can't win if you don't take any risks.

Blowing myself up in the cat 5 race was not good for my chances in the 4/5 race. I didn't even want to get on the line the way my legs felt but I already paid and you just never know. The pace at the start was pretty fast. There were some good accelerations out of the corners. I was feeling pretty good for the first few laps but then the legs started to go. I just could not keep up with the surges and eventually fell off. It was way quicker than last week and I was not too happy about it. I did see a rider up ahead of me and I tried to catch up to him. After a few laps of not gaining ground I decided to pull the plug. 

I could have stayed out there but I would have just been in the way when the pack came around. I had nothing left to prove for the day. I think I need to keep it to one race for a while. The thing I need to decide is if I want to do the Cat 5 race or the 4/5 race where it is safer, but also faster. I think the crit season is winding down, so I have till next year to figure that out.

Even though I didn't fair too well in the 4/5 race I will say that my teammates looked really good. They did a lot of work up front and made a good move late in the race, but it didn't hold up. I hope to get my legs in a little better shape to help them out better next time. It is just hard to believe the I am doing some crit races and actually looking forward to some more. I just don't want to turn into a full time roadie. I know I am still a mountain biker at heart, it just depends on timing and conflicts as to what I can do more often. This year just turns out to be road riding.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Burning Quad

Sorry I have been slacking around here. Time has been tight and I am trying to do more riding in that free time than typing. This was my second year to head down to the Burning Quad. Last year was my first ever crit race after saying that I would never do one. Well, needless to say I had enough fun that I headed back again this year. I was hoping that I was a little smarter and in a little better shape this year and had high hopes to do a lot better. Last year I jumped on front for the Cat 5 race too long and ended up getting dropped from the pack. I spend a lot of energy trying to catch up for awhile and eventually slowing down to a smarter speed. I also raced the 4/5 race and didn't do too bad for a little while, but the first race had my legs worn out and I got dropped from that race too. So, it was not a far stretch to think that I could do better this year.

Before the race I was not that hyped up about it and I was not sure why. We got the pit set up and got everything ready before heading out for a few warm up laps. That is one of the things I like the most about having the first race is the course is open before the race and I can get a good feel of the corners and what things to watch out for all while warming up. Soon enough I found myself at the starting line waiting for the race to start. And we were off. I settled in near the front half and find a good place in the pack to hang out. Just as the race started, I thought it might have ended. The second corner that is a 180 degree corner, the guy right in front of me grabbed some front brake and washed out the front wheel. Down he went and some how I made it around him. It sounded like there was several caught up in the crash or at least held up. I was thinking it would be a good time to pick the speed up ad see if the few guys up front could pull away. The guy in the lead was not thinking that way and we went slow enough that everyone hopped back on.

That was probably the right thing to do. I would not have had the legs to do what was needed to really make a difference anyway. From here on out it seemed to be fairly tame. Some corners were taken way too slow, but I didn't let it get me to jump on the front. The climb out of the boat ramp was a lot slower than I remembered from last year too. This was a very good thing and I felt like the legs were feeling really strong. I stayed smart and didn't use any extra energy for the remainder of the race. I was feeling pretty good and started to think I might have a go for a podium spot. Being smart and the fact that I could make almost any move that I needed to in the pack around the 180 corner and in the parking garage section. As long as everyone kept taking the corners that slow, getting where I wanted to be was not too difficult.

But, then came the last lap. For some reason the climb up from the boat ramp had my legs hurting more and my heart rate was way too high. Maybe it was just getting pumped up about the finish. This had my legs not feeling as strong and with the heart rate elevated, it did't leave a lot of room for more power. I held on to my placing, but could not make the moves that I wanted in the parking garage. As I took the last right hand corner on to the last straight, there was a guy on the inside. He pushed me farther out around the corner than I had planned and this kept me from getting on the gas as quickly as I wanted to. I made my jump and gave it all I had, but came up about a foot short of the guy in front of me.

I felt good about my race, but, a little disappointed about not being any stronger at the end. I really felt like I did what I needed to allow me to get up closer to the front at the end. Oh well, I really can't complain since the goal was to do better than last year. I rode a lot smarter and finished with the pack. Not much to complain about there. Now the second race might have be a different story. I was worried since I drained my legs at the end of the Cat 5 race. I was talked in to racing two races last year and did was not that bad, but I didn't finish with the pack. That made a big difference in how I felt this year.

I didn't expect to hold on very long, but since I paid already I figured I might as well line up. I was thinking that I might only make it 2 laps when we came by the start finish line for the first lap and the bell rang for a preem. Somehow I managed to hang on to the back and after that lap, the pace slowed down. I did manage to hang on for 20 minutes or so before the boat ramp was too much for my legs and out the back I was. I still rode pretty well, but no match for the pack. They eventually did catch me and lapped me with about 2 laps to go.

Overall I am very happy with how I raced. I finished 8th in the Cat 5 race and placed 23rd in the 4/5 race. It was a lot of fun and I stayed upright. That is the main thing that I worry about with crit racing. If I keep racing it is only a matter of time before I hit the pavement. I can only hope that it is not too bad. I will say that this was another race that 40lb Sledge Hammer put on a good race. Be it road or mtb, it is always a good time and run smoothly. I suggest that you give them a chance and head out to a race. I know I plan on being at the next one if I can make it.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Southern 5 Ferdinand race

Sorry this is so late. I actually thought I had posted something already. That is what I get for thinking. Ferdinand is my closest trail and one that I have rode since the beginning of my mtb life. I should have had a huge advantage, but to be honest I had not been there all year and not sure when I was last there. Even so, it seems that my years of riding there did help me over the people that had never been there, but not sure that was enough. I have been getting miles in, but where I am not as strong as I want would be climbing and how long it takes for me to warm up. This trail is not good for either of these issues.

I wanted to get out and see how well I was climbing the week before the race, but the rain and some other commitments kept that from happening. I had a good idea of what I was in for and none of it was what I would call painless. The intermediate race was to do 2 laps. I normally don't do two laps. Most of the time it is one lap or one and a part of another one. I knew the second lap was going to be painful for a lot of people. I was just hoping that my miles would pay off for the second lap and maybe I could catch some racers. 

The start was different than anything I had seen before. The section to come in for the lap was too, but I am not complaining about skipping the section where you cross the creek and climb the washed out section of trail. However I would have been upset if I did make it out the week before since my plan was to do some trail work on that climb when I was there. It still needs to get fixed and I probably will do that some day, but most regulars just go across the dam and climb from there. The race was starting real close to the first climb. I was happy to see they chose to take the fire lane around and not the steep climb. Either would have worked, but with my slow warm up, the big climb would have not done me so well. 

I took off as easy as I could with out going too slow. I knew it was going to be a long day and as humid as it was when we started would not be helping the situation. As the climb was going up, I sat on the guys wheel in front of me. He was going a little slower than I thought I should be, but I was not sure if the adrenalin was running high. The racer behind me made the pass on the climb and I figured what the heck and went with him. We cruised up the rest of the climb and made our way down the trail I was hurting, but not as bad as I thought I would and held the wheel in front of me. We were rolling good, but as we climbed Foxey the pace was slower than it had been. I was not worried about it when climbing, but when it didn't pick up at the top, I made the pass and bombed down the fire lane section. This is where the trail knowledge helped me as I knew I should be able to let it rip in this section. I just hoped nothing washed out too much to give me any surprises.

The first guy I passed near the start had caught back up and passed me somewhere near the Fire Tower trail. I stayed with him for the rest of that section and tried to draft as much as I could on the road section. I was not feeling too bad and wanted to stay with him. He offered to let me by, but I knew I was not ready to be in front. I tried to share my knowledge with him as much as I could for the sections that I knew could be an issue. He was fast and I felt it was the right thing to do. The other benefit was that I didn't want him to go down in front of me and take me out too.

I stayed close for the rest of the first lap. As we climbed up to the camp ground where the start was, this was a section of trail that was just put in for this race. I rode it once that morning and knew it was steep, but didn't think it was that bad. I did climb it with out a problem, but it would have done me a lot better if I would have dropped down in to the small ring up front. Powering up the climb in too big of a gear took a toll on my legs. This let the rider in front of me pull away on the first climb up to the singletrack. I was hoping to recover along the top and catch him again, but it didn't happen. The rest of the loop I tried to recover as much as I could, but still keep moving at a good pace.

Once I was out on fire lane 7 and farther, I was wearing down badly. I was trying to not slow down too much and found myself looking over my shoulder a lot. I thought I heard someone behind me several times, but I did't see anyone. That place is good for making you hear the ghost bikers behind you. Every time I ride out there I think I hear someone behind me. I pushed it hard and kept my fingers crossed. Late in the loop before I rode down past the house, there was a rider in front of me. It gave me a little more energy and I could catch and pass him. I let loose on the last down hill and hammered to the finish. I don't know if that other guy was even in my class, but I at least felt better that I passed him.

My results don't seem like I really had that great of a race, but I am very happy with how I rode. I was much stronger than I had been and way better than I thought I would be. I just was not fast as I needed to be. The group of racers that did show up were fast and I was not that far off the pace. I needed to improve about 12 minutes to be up with the leader. That is not too bad for most of the races and even more so for a trail this hard. So, maybe there is hope yet.

This was just my 3rd ride in the woods for the year. I really need to get out there more, but I can see that all the rode miles are helping too. With the schedule getting a little less full, I need to find a way to work in both types of riding in to the week. I also know a few things that would really help me improve but I just need to actually work on it. The year is going by fast, so I hope to get there before it is too late.

I want to thank 40 lb Sledgehammer productions for putting on the Southern Five race series. It is great to see the racing scene building again. I just hope it continues to grow and not get too over saturated and hurt each other for attendance. I don't know if the Dino race at Logansport kept too many people from attending this race, but I am sure the the Louisville Triple crown kept several Kentucky racers from attending. It would be great if at least those two race series would work together and build a bigger and better race series than what the Dino series is. Or even better yet, work with Brian to make all three series benefit. There is a catch 22 to the race thing. There are a lot of people that won't come out and race when the turn outs are down, but if they don't come out the turn outs will be down. Kind of the chicken or the egg thing.

It would be great to get some races that I don't have to drive all weekend to go race and get the kind of turn outs and competition that the Tennessee series pulls in. I know the potential is there. Maybe some day it will be like it used to be. Come on out and join in on the fun.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Southern 5 - French Lick

The second round of the Southern 5 series made a stop at the wonderful trails in French Lick. I knew I could not pass up this race, but I was not as excited as I should be. I have had a lot of things going on and I was not riding as strong as I need to be. The night before I ended up staying up later than I need to if I am going to be fully rested. That morning I was not in a big hurry to leave the house and ended up leaving later than I originally planned. This is where it was a good thing the trail was close to home.

I got there with plenty of time to get signed in and get ready for the race. I rode around some, but it was too late to really get warmed up the way I would have liked. I checked out the starting area since this race was starting in a different area and I was not sure how the starting chute was going to flow. It turns out it didn't go too bad. I took off pretty close to the front and the entrance to the trail went smooth.

I was not riding too bad, but then again the start was more down hill than up. I actually could have gone faster, but not with the guy in front of me. I was not too worried about getting around just yet, but maybe I should have been. Not too much later I had a stick jump up and get caught up in my stomach and chest. Soon enough it fell away and I was not hurt. Then in a few feet I had a stick stuck in my back wheel. I hoped it would come out, but after a little bit I figured I better stop before something gets messed up.

It didn't take me that long to pull the stick out of the back wheel, but long enough for a few guys to get by me. I jumped back on and took off trying to build up my speed that I had before. There were a few other guys catching up to me and didn't want to get passed by anyone else. This worked pretty good for a little bit, but when the main trail branched off to the outer loop, I had a little bit of trouble on the inclines.

This was not a shock since that is where my troubles have been. I kept moving as good as I could while trying to keep my heart rate under control. I could not ride the next section as good as I needed to and a couple more racers got past. I started to feel better on the down hill sections and I could make up some ground on the guys in front of me. I ended up passing a couple here and there.

The climb up from the platform went pretty well. I was moving better than I thought and soon enough I was rolling back down hill. This time around the sections that were my worst the lap before, I took precautions to make sure they were not as bad as the first lap. Overall this plan worked and I could climb some sections better than the first lap. I also kept making some good time on the down hill and hoped to catch some more racers and keep the ones behind be that are already back there.

I ended up keeping most of the racers behind me, but could not catch any more. I had some good back and forth racing with a few guys. This was a lot of fun since I was not up front and in the action. I am happy with how I did overall. I wish I could get my heart rate under control and climb better. One thing that I think I can say is that I realized over the last two races that I can ride a bike fairly well. I made up all of my time on the down hills in the last two races. I know I am not as fast as everyone, but I can not complain at all at how fast I can coast. Now if I could only get some climbing legs I might actually be a threat. Now that would be a good change, but I don't see it happening just yet. I can only hope to get somewhere by the end of the year.

I would like the 40 Lb Sledgehammer team for putting on such a great race. It is refreshing to see a series trying to make it in southern Indiana. The turn out was not as big as I thought, but still not too bad. I really thought there would be some more people from Louisville area show up and even more from a little north. One thing that might have played a part was the face that the Dino race at Logansport was the next day. I know a few of the racers made the trip up there to race even after racing this race. One thing I would like to see is this series and the Kentucky MTB series join together to make both series have some more races and share the racers.

If you are looking to a nice race series in southern Indiana that has plenty of prizes there is no need to look any farther. I know I will be at the next race if there is anything I can do about it.