Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Staying Calm



I put the last post on FB because a friend of mine doesn't know how to find this without FB.  He said he lives vicariously through my stories and was missing them.  I do have that going for me.

Speaking of FB, I understand all the mental crap that goes with "liking" and getting "likes" on posts.  It's weak to crave the attention of others, I get it.  Some (a very few) really care about the actual activity.  It's just that it's almost required to let your "friends" know how things went.  I like to look at race results and hear race stories, even if it's just in print.  Our sport (mountain biking) has such few participants that you can't talk about it around the water cooler at the office so I guess social media is the next best thing.


No Plan

So I'm off any kind of training plan for a few weeks.  It makes me nervous that I lack direction but it's good for me in the long run.  I have really enjoyed riding without any type of prescription.  I'll use this time in the gym to work on my weak leg and some other things I was afraid of doing for fear it would effect my races.

Learned

One of the things I am taking away from my Nats experience is that I can do more than I'm doing. That there is still some (quite a bit actually) room for improvement.  I may be limited on the mental side of the sport but I believe I can ramp up the physical side some more without getting hurt or worse, burned out.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Nats

Mountain Bike Nationals 2017, Snowshoe West Virginia.  We were there.  But I almost wasn't in the race.

The first section I walked
After we  arrived Monday evening Blake and I unloaded the bikes and headed out for a sight in lap.  Somehow we got separated and I ended up by myself.  He had ridden this exact same course in the snow back in October and had repeatedly assured me it was "not as hard as Red Bug".  And like a fool I believed him.

After a fun downhill and a steep short climb I hit the "Fingers" section (see above).  I was okay until it started going downhill and got slick.  Off the bike I came and started walking.

Some more steep climbs and a tricky off camber brought me to the uphill rock section.  This put me off the bike again and really knocked the wind out of my sails.  I was hungry, tired from the drive, and more than a little aggravated.  When I finally made it back to the condo I was convinced I had ruined my vacation.  There was no way I was gonna race that on Thursday.  Blake said we would do another lap tomorrow and he'd try to talk me off the ledge I'd crawled out on.



The second section I walked

Tuesday and Things Start to Look Better

Funny how roles reverse themselves.  Blake talked me through every section and I gained a big dose of confidence.  I didn't clean all of it but I realized I could manage it.  Then about 2 in the afternoon a thunderstorm hit the mountain and the small amount of confidence I had gained started to slip away.




The approach to the uphill rock section


Wednesday, the Day Before the Race

Fortunately amature practice was scheduled for late in the day so some of the water had time to run off.  Still, the Fingers section was like a greased downhill, I managed to ride it but it wasn't pretty.  The rock section was much more slippery and forced me off quicker than it had the day before.  I struggled to maintain a good attitude.





Race Day

I finally got my head right (or as right as my head can get) and decided to just have a good time.  After all, I was at nationals and riding in the mountains.  Even though I had a front row call up I lined up in the back of the 15 rider field and just rode to finish.

Not only was I out done skill wise, these guys were strong.  It did give me hope when 15 60-64 year olds can go that hard.  I got 13th and was glad to finish.  It was like nothing I had ever ridden.


You can't even tell this is a hill
I was able to hang with a small group until the last of 3 laps when I slipped down in the dreaded Fingers section.  I managed to follow that up with another small crash in the uphill rock garden. 

Anyhoo , I got beat pretty bad.  My season of racing base class distances didn't help prepare me for sport class times in this race.  We don't have anything that even remotely resembles this type of terrain around here, nor did we face something like this in either the SERC or GSC.  The longest off road climb I train on is not even 1/3 the length of one of the climbs on this track.  In the end I am glad I went and very glad I lined up to race.  Snowshoe is a neat resort and we all enjoyed the week there.  Blake ended up outside the top 10 in his class.  He did make the USAC highlight reel on Instagram with his rock garden endo.  Watching the pros race was a lesson in smooth.

After my race I said I wasn't coming back next year.  Just a couple of days later I was considering riding it again.  

THE CRASH is still in the back of my mind.  I unclip before I really need to in technical terrain.  In fact I do it without thinking about it, even though I'm telling myself not to.  I know I need to practice skills if I'm going to do these types of races.  On the upside there are a lot of guys (and girls) my age or older who are doing the work and are able to compete at this level, so there is room for improvement.

Whats Next?

So, the 2018 GSC/SERC schedule is out.  Should I enter the 50+ sport to build my skills or defend the 60+ championship?  I plan to race 3 rounds of the FSC starting with Tallahassee in September.  I'll enter the 60+ there since those guys schooled me last year.  

I haven't ridden the MTB since I got back.  Just can't get into it in this heat.  I'll give it another couple of days then start back on a base type plan.  I have a lot of work to do.



Thursday, July 13, 2017

Almost There



SERC and GSC are in the books.  I never thought I'd be able to finish the GSC yet alone the SERC when it all started on that rainy cold March weekend.  My leg power was still down as was my confidence from THE CRASH.  Even though it had been 18 months earlier it was still in my head.


Still is, just not as often.



My decision to enter the 60+ base class has been thoroughly mulled over.  Yes I won both series, even overcoming a 15 point deficit in SERC due to missing the second round (I won't make that mistake again).  I did enjoy the shortened race time and it was better for rehabbing my leg.  I would have had better races in the 50+ base but I didn't know that back in March.  I hope to do the series again in 2018.   Which class will I contest?  Lets see what life looks like at 62 and then decide.

I enjoyed almost all of the courses.  The Bergers put on a professional event.  I met good people and we had a good group from Tally going.  It didn't hurt that we had good weather at almost all the races.
The Kid got into it so it was a real treat to spend time as a family again.  I realize the times we will get to do this kind of stuff are coming to an end so I enjoy it even more.  The fact that Lovely Wife likes to go is like icing on a cake.  It's beyond me why she likes it so.

Forward

My leg hurts now more than it has in months.  I guess Utah followed by the short track and then the XC race (with all the climbing) may have put me in pain.  I hope it gets better before:

Nationals

A week from this Thursday I will line up for my first MTB XC national (unless it's flooding then I may chicken out).  I've done the work so I'm as ready as I'll ever be.  My leg is has me concerned but there's not much I can do about it at this point.  I will admit to not being very pumped about the race.  I got up for the GSC/SERC and that was my "A" race for the year.  Maybe I'll get my head right once I ride the track.  One things for sure it will be an experience.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Utah

A spur of the moment decision.  Very unlike me.  The Bergs had planned to go and invited me along, not sure CB actually meant for me to go though.  So I booked last minute plane tickets and got a hotel in Park City.  CB very  generously lent me a bag to fly my bike out there.  This caused me quite a bit of angst as renting was more expensive but flying my race bike halfway across the country had me nervous.  In the end I bagged it up.

On My Own

I wanted (needed) a me-only trip.  It had been 11 years since I'd been somewhere by myself.  So I left The Kid (much sadness on his part) and Lovely Wife at home.  Just having to only look after yourself after being responsible for others is like a trip back in time.  Just get myself around, eat, and ride my bike.  Simple.

Leaving Thursday

CB's son, Captain Jack (CJ) accompanied us as we loaded the bikes and bags onto the Delta baggage platform in the muggy Florida morning.  I was bouncing off the walls but the Bergs were more reserved.  They (of course) had first class tickets all the way out and back while I sat in the back with the common folk.  CB handed out hand wipes to ward off the germs we were sure to collect on the plane or in the airport, this would become important later.  Both flights were uneventful.  After landing in SLC we drug our bike bags and luggage to the rental truck and headed to PC.  We rode by my hotel in search of the condo the Bergs had rented.  Then we did it again, then again, then again.  Finally finding the rental agency and locating the keys we returned to the condo.  Their room was on the 3rd of 3 floors, no elevator, and no air conditioning.  Said CB "this is less than optimal".  My hotel room was perfect (when I finally got there) and I settled in to unpack my bike.

Ride Thursday Evening

CB wasn't feeling well so I rolled out alone and lost.  Not having a map or having any idea where to go I meandered around till I found a trail on the mountain and headed up.  I bumped into a group ride of what must have been 50 people.  I regret I didn't tag along but I was very unsure of where it might end up so I just went back to the hotel.  I hit the local grocery store which was, conveniently, located next to me for chips and beer, then to the state liquor store for some whiskey, I was ready.

The Only Day All Three of Us Would Ride, Friday

I located Wasatch Bagel just a couple of blocks from me.  This would be my favorite way to start the morning.  Food was great as was the atmosphere.  The owners were mad Mexicans and reminded me of the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld but it was worth it.  47 degrees and 20% humidity, I put on arm warmers and headed to the condo.


CJ had down loaded Trailforks and was prepared to guide us so I followed he and CB up the mountain.  If I had been on my own I'd have gone by the local bike shop for a map.  As it turned out I downloaded Trailforks later in the week (by necessity) and it worked great.

The altitude and the grade quickly put me in granny gear.  The trail was amazing, perfectly maintained, the switchbacks were doable with no ugly surprises.  In fact all the popular intermediate trails were well cared for.  The dirt was grippy even though conditions were very dry.  CB was complaining of a headache but he soldiered on.  As we headed down the mountain the first trails were full flow.  Much happiness was had.  Then CJ ventured onto some stuff that required me to dismount and do some hike a bike.  Full XC carbon fiber shoes don't make for the best hiking over loose rocks down a steep grade.  Still a great day on the bike.  I was exhausted when I got back to the hotel.  So I showered, poured a drink, and climbed into bed.

View from my room

Saturday and the Bug First Hits

CB caught it early Saturday morning.  "As sick as I've ever been in my life" he tells me when I call to find out where they are.  Damn.  So I meet CJ and we proceed to do lift runs down the mountain.  I've never ridden downhill that much.  It was almost relaxing riding back up the lift.  My legs didn't get real tired but my arms and shoulders did.   Plus it was mentally tiring covering the terrain faster than I usually do.  At the end of the day we were both tuckered out.   I headed back to the hotel and got cleaned up for the free concert.  







Sunday Alone?

CJ caught the bug early in the morning.  What bad luck.  It was going to be a lonely ride by myself.

At my favorite restaurant I was perusing FB and noticed a friend of mine was posting from Park City.  I IM'd and we set up a ride for the day.  No lifts today, we earned all our turns.  One of the best days ever on the bike.  Thanks Ted.



I had dinner with Ted and his wife at a saloon in PC to end a perfect day (for me at least).  I was paranoid I would catch the bug and froze every time my stomach rumbled.

Monday, the Last Day on The Mountain

Both the Bergs were still down.  Again, what rotten luck.  I did a little solo ride up the mountain and took my time, enjoying the views and trying to soak it all in.  Then shopping for prizes for Lovely Wife and The Kid.  Lunch was at another saloon which didn't allow anyone under 21 in the door.  No kids, no babies, nice.  After a couple of beers with lunch I went back and packed the bike up, took a dip in the pool (just to say I did it), and walked over to the grocery store for a deli sandwich, coke, and some ice cream.

Tuesday the 4th of July, The End

The flight back was uneventful.  The Bergs were quiet and I refrained from talking about my rides, we rode to the airport in silence.

Would I go back?  Oh hell yes.  For riding MTB it was perfect.  At least perfect for me and that's all that really counts.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Creeping Along

No race this past weekend.  My grass at the house is knee high so it may have been a good time to stay home.  Still went to Jax Saturday to see my mom so I got my interstate time in anyway.  Funny how going to a race the drive doesn't seem so bad but a trip like that?  Not so much fun.

So I attempted to get my training scheduled for Saturday in on Friday.  Not really the same thing as I was still tired from Thursday but it's fun to ride on Fridays, good way to end the week.  I still think I could do more training without getting into trouble.


Sunday was a group ride on MTBs through town and down to trails on the south side.  The "ride" quickly turned into a race once we hit the single track (at least for me).  It's fun to go that hard, I miss group MTB rides, gets me into uncomfortable pretty quick.  Pizza and brews followed.  I went home and took a nap.   Then attacked the yard, that was way harder than any ride.

SERC and GSC

Points are up.  I'm in first in GSC and two points out of first in SERC.  With a Saturday short track the day before the Helen XC race I'll have two opportunities to reel him in.  Sadly there's only the two of us in the 60+ class still eligible for year end awards.  When you get this age it becomes a little more difficult to stay healthy for a whole series.


That brings me to a topic I've been dwelling on since the first race in Macon.  Yes, once again, it's the subject of my choice of race class.  There seems to be a general consensus that I may be cherry picking the 60+ base class.  I'll admit the competition has not been the level I enjoyed in Florida.  It looks like the 50+ base would have been a fun group to race with but I didn't know that back in March.  It's funny, most of the people who are sharing their opinion haven't raced a series in years.

Look, I'm doing the work.  Training between 8-11 hours per week.  When talking to the other riders in my class I get the distinct impression they're not putting in any where near that kind of time.  I'm sure when I get to Nationals I'll run into 60+ guys who have been racing expert class for years.  I just don't know of any around here.


Anyhoo, I'm going to (hopefully) collect my trophies and swag for winning the championship(s).  I'll hang the plaques in my study and in the years to come I'll look back and remember what a great time I had; CHERRY PICKING THE 60+ BASE CLASS!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Best Race in a While

SERC make up and GSC #4 (?).  Acworth Ga., short track (ST)Saturday pm with the cross country (XC) Sunday am.

Racing two weekends in a row, you'd think it would get old, but I found myself looking forward to this past weekend.  It was a family affair again, I'm so glad The Kid still enjoys going with the old people.  We left Beautiful Downtown Havana early so we could stop by Atlanta Cycling to cash in our $150.00 worth of gift cards, prizes from our (so far) successful series.  We arrived at the venue in time to make a practice lap of the XC course and a lap of the ST.  The XC trail was tight and bumpy, lots of roots with a couple of rock features to keep you on your toes.  The ST was mostly two track with a section of tight single track thrown in.  Both pretty fun.

Short Track


The yellow wave went off first in the ST.  The Kid had a good ride with first in his class.  I lined up with the rest of the white wave.  Some kids and younger girls were lined up on the front row, I have no idea why.  I led the wave until the single track where I let a couple go by me.  My class competition was way behind me.  I had a great race with the 50+ base guys, out sprinting one of them for 4 overall.  ST's are fun.  I won my class and put another point up on my rival (DD).  No rain was forecast for Sunday, which is a first time in the last two races.

Chili's

Dinner was at our regular race restaurant, Chili's.   We haven't had a bad meal at one yet.  Beer was cold, chips were salty.  I just don't know why people take babies and small children into the bar section of a restaurant.  Of course they surround my table.

Race Day

The Kid went off at 9:30.  He got a good start and was running in the top 3 on the first lap.  He cramped on the last lap but still managed to get 3rd in a field sprint of 5.  IMHO a respectable result in the 19-39 cat 2.  He didn't seem pleased but I don't think he has much to complain about.  I'm super proud of his commitment to racing bikes, I just want him to ENJOY THE PROCESS.


The 60+ class went off at 11:30.  We had 7 lined up, which meant there were a couple of new faces.  I got the holeshot and led going into the woods with one of the new guys rubbing my back wheel on every corner.  I offered to let him by but he declined, it was then I figured out he was a local and knew the trail very well.  After we pulled away from the rest he confirmed it.  I let him by when I pulled over and faked having trouble getting my bottle out.  Once he was in the front the pace slowed enough I could rest.  In the open field at the start/finish I was able to draft him, I stayed on his wheel until we hit the long open straight to the finish.  I coughed loudly to cover my downshift, stood up, and out sprinted him.  What a feeling.  You would have thought I'd won a national.  Damn I was pumped.


Anyhoo, DD finished 5th I think.  I'm not sure what this does to the points in SERC.  I needed 6 to tie him.  We'll see.  In the GSC this should give me the series, provided I finish Helen.  We got $80 worth of gift cards to Atlanta Cycling, so guess where we stopped on the way home.



I can't believe the two series are almost over.  From racing Macon in the snow to burning up in Atlanta it's been an experience.  I really thought I'd have trouble doing well, even in the base class.  I've worked hard trying to get my fitness back after THE CRASH and it's starting to pay off.   I've enjoyed every event and even grown to like the traveling (maybe not the trip home on Sunday).  Not having to do the extra lap in the sport class makes a difference on Monday.  Base class is fun!


I go into the last round in Helen one point down on DD in the SERC series and in the lead in the GSC.  There's another ST on Saturday before the XC on Sunday.  I have a pretty good shot at winning both.  

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Bump and Whine

Bump and Grind mountain bike race at Oak Mountain State Park near Birmingham Al.  This past weekend.  It was, well, different.

Normally Gone Riding promotes the races in this series but they only scored this one.  The local club did everything else.  And it showed.  Let me explain.

We arrived Saturday at 1 pm.  Parking was weird with half the paved lot roped off for no apparent reason.  We set up in a soggy ditch across the road and set out to find sign up.  We being The Lovely Wife, The Kid, and myself.

At sign up I was informed I needed to choose between Cat 2 or Cat 3 for the race.  Now for the series I am in Cat 3, which was only running 9 miles, as opposed to Cat 2 which was going the whole 21 miles.  No laps, just one big loop.  Hmmmmm.  The forecast called for strong thunderstorms that night and on into the next day.  So I could take a chance and ride the 21 miles or play it safe for the points and go 9.  Again, weird.  They told me I had till in the morning to decide.

Practice Lap

"Where do we pick up the 21 mile loop?" I asked.

"Well you go down here to Froggy Back and climb up Mr. Toad, then take a left on Pretty Pony" the guy from BUMP told me.

"Huh?"

So we rode up a road for a mile, figured that wasn't right, went back to ask again, got the same BS, found a rider who showed us what he thought was the trail, and promptly ran into BL and EP coming back from being lost.

I finally found the 9 mile loop while The Kid went to ride the whole 21.  I decided to just do the 9, which turned out to be a smart move.

Race Day


Muggy, cloudy, with rain in the area, but not raining when we got to the race.  My class started with the 50+ at 9:00.  It was actually sunny and the conditions were perfect.  I started out in front but got passed on the 1 mile road climb.  With both the guys in my class way off the back I politely let the 5 50+ guys go into the single track ahead of me.  I really don't know what I was thinking as they were scoring us separate.  Needless to say the last 3 were slower than me, so it took some time to get around them.  My bad.  I finished right behind second place in 50+, BL caught and passed me, sigh.

I won the 60+, my competition for SERC didn't show up so it worked like it was supposed to.  The Kid lined up for his race with 17 others.  As soon as the whistle blew it started to rain and it rained for 2 hours.

Bump didn't call for podiums, at least not that BL and I heard, so we missed them.  They gave us our medals and a gift card, but still, it was not well organized.


The Kid had a great race for second.  I was sooooo glad I had run the morning race.  Since THE CRASH I'm intimidated by slick trail.


All in all not a bad weekend.  The Kid was pumped with his performance, especially under those conditions.  They finally did his podium at 3:15 and we hit the road, getting home around 9:30.  I am once again thankful to be able to do these races.  We go again this coming weekend.  I am smiling.