Wednesday, May 26, 2010

WEMS Series #1 12 Hours of Northern Kettles

"Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't, either way you're right"
~Henry Ford

The first race of the 2010 WEMS Series begins in the Northern Kettles outside of Fond Du Lac and not in Green Bay as the schedule may dictate.  Due to the "weather" (or lack there of)  the Stump Farm 12 was rescheduled and changed to a different date and format in which I am still planning on attending and still intending to bring the pain to the best of my ability. 

The 12 Hours of Northern Kettles had a challenging wet course that only got better as the hours passed by and we were warned that it would be slick but that was not at all to be a joke.  We had a different start format this year running up a pretty steep gravel hill to get to our bikes.  My goal was to get to my bike at a comfortable but uptempo pace and hold my own from there.   You see, I normally have issues during the first couple of races during the season with trying to complete all of my laps without taking a break.  Typically I would take one here an there for around 10 to 15 minutes to take inventory on my body and my gear to make sure all was okay.  At this point I didn't have a clue what to expect as my lap times were by feel since my garmin had no juice out of the fact that I never charged it and I also ran out of Infinit Nutrition while mixing my bottles.  As far as I knew, I would be in survival mode from the time Mr. Nigh yelled GO!

I settled in right behind Cale and let a couple of rabbits go ahead knowing full well that I was in it to retain a fast yet obtainable pace.  Now I didn't have any support and neither did Tim so I really didn't care to check on my progress until the last few laps, but more on that later so really my focus was on being consistent and not overdoing it.  The first lap felt slow and was.  Same can be said for laps two and three.  Lap four I felt a crap-ton better despite the fact that I crashed late in the lap on an off-camber downhill. 

I stopped only a few times to get new bottles filled full of Infinit and to apply chamois butter and the occasional Baer back & body pills to help me out with the bumpy course.  I knew that this course was going to eat me up due to the fact that every time I had to apply more chamois butter the pain almost made me vomit.  Granted I know this isn't something you all need to hear, but it is one of those things that you may never know you may have to deal with during a race like this as if it were some sort of a law where you need to expect the unexpected.  So I continue on towards the halfway point and now I know this is the best I've done this early on in the season.  Usually, I sit down for awhile as previously mentioned, but this time I haven't considered doing any sort of rest other than restocking on fluids.  I was quite happy with my progress and still to this point I didn't have a clue whether I was in last place or in first place as I have been riding by myself not getting passed by any solos at any point since this morning.  

So somewhere around the nine to ten hour range I finally decide to check and in an effort to not slow me down I picked a lap I needed more liquids and rode past the timing area straight to the cabin and noticed I was in second.  I can't lie here, I was a little shocked all I did was rode how I felt and didn't rest as that was my only choice since I did not have a clock, gps, odometer and so on.

My focus then shifted toward attack mode to keep the distance more if not the same to third place and see what I can do to reel in Eki.  Well now that I've seen the stats I know I couldn't have caught him at the pace I was riding, but I wasn't too far off and with it being this early in the year I would have some hard workouts to get me to that level or better later on so I needed to maintain and really without thinking into it, that's what I ended up doing anyway.  So I came around for lap 14 and looked at the clock for a little bit running some simple grade school math (which after ten hours can be challenging) and with some praise from the crowd I embarked on my 15th lap and hammered home what I felt and thought would be a hot lap.  I was pretty gassed at that point and hoped I had something left other than this annoying cough that recently developed.

I came in at 7:44 with roughly 16 minutes to spare 15 laps and around 100 miles with Tim (former teammate and fellow Salsa rider) coming in 8 minutes later wrapping up his 16th lap.  I gotta say he is always a great competitor and I enjoy racing against him.  Wish him all the best at the Dirty Kanza.

Next up is the WORS Trek Big Ring Classic here in Wausau.  The Rhinelander race was a strategic disaster and will hope to bring a better performance to my home course.  I know my strengths and weaknesses and hopefully my body will forget about the weaknesses I have for about 2 hours next Sunday.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

WORS #1 Iola Bump & Jump

The opening race of the 2010 race season for me has come and gone. I am about 90% happy with how things turned out as I knew I wasn’t going to contend for the win I just really wanted to sustain a hard effort for a long as I could and turn the screws as I went along hopefully within 8-10 minutes back of the winner, but that did not happen.

The pre-ride on Saturday gave an early indication of what to expect in regards to the number of riders hitting the course on Sunday and I am glad I got there before the start of the sport race as I had one of the last remaining spots in the parking lot. Around 850 racers toed the line that day and I also heard that 70 Elite riders had a series plate already in addition, over 100 Elite men were to toe the line at the start of the Belgioso Pro/Cat1 series.

I found out early on and reflected hours later that my best races, and races I’ve won were because of start position and placing before the trail tightens up. I know it’s common knowledge, but year after year I get either a terrible start or get stuck behind some slower traffic while the leaders smoothly ride away.

My first race of the year was no different. I picked a bad place to start and got caught up in a mess and watched all of my friends speed off in joy and glee to the first right hand corner going up to the ski jump and again another mess in the little sand box at the top. At this point I got shuffled back quite a bit and spent a good deal of the first lap trying to see if I could gain what I’ve lost and really the only thing I lost on the first lap was a lot of energy. The second lap was not any different, but the third lap I could see a large group of people including Jesse and Nate along with about 3 or 4 more guys and as I drop down into the second half of the 3rd lap I end up losing my second full bottle. Not cool, I had to stop on the start of the 4th lap to get whatever I could and Paul was able to help a brother out.

The fourth and fifth laps were kind of a blur as I was pretty mad at this point and my lower back was killing me. I did catch a couple more riders and had Nate in my sights until a stick got caught in his spokes and wouldn’t be able to see him again for the remainder of the race. I rolled in towards the bottom of the results page and 19 minutes back of Tristan, but cut 10 minutes off my 2008 elite time and gained 5 minutes on the winner so that was the encouraging part of the day.

10 things I’ve learned….

1. Earn the call up and pick a more strategic place to start. Not just any place will do. Look for the line of fast racers in the best position to maneuver the first series of corners and obstacles this can make a difference between a top 20 or bottom 5.

2. Kill the lower back issue and get a riser bar already. (done)

3. Have an extra bottle waiting just in case.

4. Racing is fun, but you can have fun and be aggressive at the same time.

5. I’m not pro, this is a hobby. Train by yourself and ride with your friends

6. I have to be more aggressive on the starts. I’ve put in the time and the effort to compete it’s a matter of just shutting up and doing it.

7. I have been racing for about 6 years…I still have room to improve on technical riding skills.

8. Remember, everybody out there is in just about the same amount of pain. What am I going to do about it?

9. Who cares about how many hours you spend on the bike. Quality trumps quantity.

10. The conditions are never going to be perfect and races don’t always go as planned. Just keep pedaling circles and let the smile on your face do the talking.

This weekend is the WEMS series opener in Green Bay at the Stump Farm 12 and without a doubt will be going 12 solo again. Rain and snow in the forecast with temps around 50 at best with rain the night before will make things interesting. This is going to be a tough early season test for equipment setup, the mind, and keeping on a regimen in regards to nutrition is always tough as we tend not to ingest as much as we should because of the rain and cold. History would show that these are typically conditions found at the Underdown WEMS race and I’ve usually had good luck there when healthy, so this should be right up my alley. Race report to follow after I thaw out from racing in these conditions.