Tuesday, May 22, 2012

NUE #2 Silly moe's Revenge

Google maps had Mountain View Arkansas clocked out at a 15hr drive from Oxford Michigan. It was going to take quite an effort to get there and back for round 2 of the National Ultra Endurance Series. This would be my first effort at the Syllamoe’s course, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d never been to Arkansas, and it’s one of those places only a mountain bike race would bring you to.

The course is very technical and layered with big sharp rocks and gravel. I was a little off the pace heading up the opening dirt road climb, but I figured I would be able to bridge back up once we got into the singletrack. But of course, shortly after we entered the singletrack, I was hit with flat tire #1. Normally the Nano’s hold up pretty well for me and have proven to be a solid choice even on courses like the W101, but this course definitely requires something a little more beefy. It took a little while to fix it. I found myself struggling with the age old debate of a quick blast of C02 and let the stans do the work, or opt for the full on tube change. I chose the latter, and ended up wasting an entire 40 gram canister. Luckily, Dan K dropped me a fresh C02 and I went to work.

So I’m back to rolling down the trail and I’m steadily picking up spots. To be honest, I wasn’t really riding the techy trails all that well. I felt slow, and a little apprehensive about crashing, so I just sort of took my time and picked my way through the brush. Coming down a short descent, it happened again. Flat #2. This time I was stranded with no tube or C02. Luckily with a little begging, I was able to track down a pump, then a few riders later, another tube. I went to work again and got it fixed. Thanks to those who donated for the cause!

OK, so now I’ve lost so much time, that it’s just turned into the principal of finishing this dam thing. I’m rolling along and about to get to aid#5 when it happens again. Flat#3. Holy hell! I have a tube, a pair of C02’s, and a multi-tool. This time I’m getting mid-evil on this thing. I yanked out the flat tube and bit out the valve stem like some sort of possessed flesh eating monster. I peeled open the tube all the way around. Then I took my new tube and wrapped it inside the carcass of the old tube. Voila! Flat fixed for good.

The rest of my race was just me bouncing off more rocks just waiting for the finish line to present itself, but I got through it. Then as I was sitting in my folding chair drinking my recovery drink, the front tire flatted again. How ironic. It was just one of those races that made me want to quit racing mountain bikes. It made me feel stupid, like I am wasting my time with all this. 14hrs of driving to a Podunk town in the middle of nowhere, silly course, mechanicals… all we needed was a thunderstorm and it would have made it a complete mountain bike experience. But for every 3 bad races, there’s one good one, and that’s what keeps us coming back.

I had a lot of time to reflect on the drive home, and tried to focus on the positives, rather than the negatives. At least I didn’t hurt myself, it was still a good training effort, we got to see the Ozarks… etc. I thought about other sports, and other athletes, who go through the same kind of struggles. I thought about how fortunate I am to able to compete at such a high level, and how lucky I am to truly experience my passion. No, it’s not stupid, it’s not a waste of time, it’s what I love to do, it’s what gets me out of bed on a Monday morning, and after a bad race, it’s important to keep reminding myself of that. I’ll still keep having my special moments on the bike that we all chase after week in and week out, but it just wasn’t in the cards this past weekend. With that being said, I hope to see you all at NUE round #3 in Ohio, right there with me chasing that perfect race. Happy thoughts.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cohutta 100 2012

This was a race I was looking forward to all winter long. I was anxious to get back into the 100 mile racing after the big accident at the season finale last year. I put in a lot of work into the off season and I felt ready to go. With Jeremiah Bishop, Justin Lindine, Christian Tanguy, and host of other super strong dudes, I knew this was going to be a tough race, and it was. The new version of the course was epic with over 13,000ft of climbing and added singltrack. I was glad I chose the full suspension bike. My new policy is 100 miles = full suspension… period.

The start was furious right off the gun. We ripped up the opening road climb with a 35 mph bar banging scrum into the singletrack. I tried to be as aggressive as possible without killing anybody, which netted me a top 10 place into the bottleneck. The pace was fast through the singletrack and I worked my way up to the front in the open sections. Later, it was Justin Lindine who pushed the pace on the trail. I hung on for dear life and managed to stay with the lead pack out onto the fire roads where the pace backed off substantially.

The pack grew and grew all the way up to aid 3 at mile 37. I grabbed my bottles and quickly bridged up to the others who had rolled thru the aid station. The pace seemed tame, so I decided to go out on an attack of my own and try to split the group. I soon found myself all alone. The legs were feeling good, so I kept the attack rolling, however, the group chased and quickly brought me back before we reached the top of Patato Patch Mt. Jeremiah put in a dig after aid 4 and split the group a little more before aid 5. Bishop looked really strong.

Rolling into the South loop singletrack, Christian Tanguy pushed the pace and I started to feel my early efforts, but I hung tough and didn’t let Jeremiah and Tanguy get too far. Once back out onto the fire rds, it was down to just the 3 of us as we approached the back side of Potato Patch Mt. I had to let Christian and Jeremiah go as soon as the road turned up. I didn’t seem to have that same snappy power I had the first time up Potato Patch. Lesson learned. Tanguy and Bishop motored away.

I drove on, but the relentless slopes just didn’t seem to give any sort of break. I could see Kevin Carter gaining on me, and soon he caught and passed me. He still looked strong. I had no answer, but to just suffer the best I could to the top. You would turn the corner only to see more upward slope. It was demoralizing. On the descent I chased like crazy. I seemed to have recovered, and was back to putting down the power. I knew Kevin probably wasn’t too far up the road, so that kept me motivated to chase as hard as possible.

Heading through the last aid station, I heard Kevin was close. I buried my head and pushed hard. Next thing I know I’m in some guys front yard and dogs are barking at me. Doh! I turned around, then found myself in another persons front yard with kids in a swimming pool. Double Doh! I finally got myself back onto the course not knowing if anyone had passed me or not. All that hard chasing on the descent was for not. It took the wind out of sails, but I pushed on. The fatigue was really starting to creep in on the final singletrack. My hands and arms were sore. I was happy to see that finish line. 4th! Good nobody passed me during my detour.

It felt great getting back out there on the trails. I love these events. Well I should say I love the first 60 miles of these events. It’s those last 40 that make me question why I do these things. Congrats to everyone who finished, and to those who finished on the podium. If every race is going to be this competitive, it’s going to be a hard season of racing. But it’s that kind of challenge that makes it fun. See you at Syllamo’s!