Friday, April 25, 2008

My Cohutta 100

This year, for some insane reason, I have convinced myself that I will be an endurance racer. At 6' 185 lbs I am not what you would call of a climbers build. But what the heck, as my daddy told me nothing of worth comes easy. So with that thought I saddled up my texas wagon and made a path for South East TN, and the Cohutta Wilderness.

Fortunately I have some good friends spread across TN, and it was good to reunite with the YahZoo crew. The drive east, from Dallas to Chatanooga was uneventful. Filled with miles and miles of road. A friend from dallas was along for the ride. He would be contesting the 65 mile ride, and to the date had not ridden further than 20 miles offroad. Thus his challenge was substantial.

So I guess I will begin on the morning of the race, and continue through the day.

We woke up at 5:00 am est.... so 4:00 for foster and I UGH! On top of this it began raining about 2:30 a.m., was doing so when we woke. We ate packed and hit the road for the event. We arrive at the Ocoee whitewater center, and I start my pre-race prep. I get my cooler out and give it to Mel Black. Mel fed her husband Will and I at the aid stations. So I guess, like Will, I am DQ'ed. Cooler handed off time to get in character.

I pull my gear out, and begin to get ready. It's then that I notice I do not have any gloves, beyond my winter gloves***farkin A*** oh well looks like they will have to do. I get all my stuff on the bike and in the pockets and tell foster where to put the keys *(in thoughts that he would be back before me). And I head up to the start.

I arrive to a group of riders going thought the rider meeting, and end up jawing a bit with my buddy Sharp from Nashville. It's all good raining a bit, but hey it's a race. I am ready to go and waiting on the word when the guy next to me asks if I am in the 100. Startled I answer... well YES, he then proceeds to tell me that they left 15 mins ago. FUUUUUUDDDDGGGE!!!!

SO in a brief panic I break out of the group, and make my own start. Up the road climb I trudge, on my own in pursuit of my race. Yes this was my own dumbass fault... But, no need to panic I have all day to work this out. I catch a few riders at the top of the road climb right before we enter the single-track. But then the "on your left dance" begins. Into the first single-track section, I realize I am the ass end of a long Conga line, and my goal is to be on the point. I start the process of passing as many as I can, and as politely as possible. 98% of the racers were great and very easy to get around. Normal exchange: "do you mind If I jump by you?" ..... answer " sure no problem" then give me the side their choice. Followed by the appropriate: "hey thanks alot and have a great race." This was to be repeated till the end of the single-track, but with a few exceptions. I catch a new group of racers...about 20 or so, and I am on the tail end. I ask the guy in front of me: "do you mind If I jump by?" he replies smugly: "are you going to pass us all.." and I say: " Well.. that is the goal!"
Anyhow the late start coupled with the passing has me taxed a bit more than I should be cranking. I am into the 2nd coming into the 3rd hour, and spending a bit to much time in the red zon. I know that I should slow down, and ride now for what is coming. But the pressure is on, and being the good Pavlov's dog I am .... A bell was rung so I must CHASE.

The normal problems of SS'ing these events holds true. Climbing in the single-track with geared riders is a problem. Especially when you have not gotten a good start, and are forced to ride with some slower riders. Basically you get backed up in the hills. Not to fret just more passing, and trying to settle into a groove.

I exit the Single-track and set my mind to the task at hand. I know that before me lies the brunt of the race in the form of a long fire road section, that will be full of climbing. Funny but under a task you tend to ignore your surroundings and press on. I hardly noticed the rain, with exceptions of the errant puddle I would hit. I was focused and it was time to go to work. That being said this is where I first encounter the "F*&% THIS S*#% MONSTER."

The "F*&% THIS SH*#% MONSTER" is the ugly thoughts that enter from the back of your mind and push to the front. Compelling you to ask yourself what in the hell are you doing? Why are you doing it.... etc. These thoughts always come for me in the first third of a race. I expected his arrival and planned for his demise. He would talk and I would not listen... He would scream I would not listen. He put barbs in my back ... I push on. I have worked to hard to listen to his hollow chants. I would not want to become him... I push on. An hour of doubt passes and I now Own this demon.. I PUSH ON

The ground out there settles water far better than our beloved TeJaS soil. So it was not so bad, and in some way it set the tone for an epic ride.

I knew from the course profile that I was heading into the bulk of climbing. It would begin around the late 20's and continue on till about mile 55. To think about the duration would only serve to slow me down. Concentrate on what is before you now, and don't worry about what is to come. I kept telling myself I have been prepping for this, and I will be fine. That being said I knew I had been pushing harder than I should, so I backed down a bit. Focusing on what lay ahead.

The climbing on the roads was substantial, and almost humorous. I have climbed like this before and I was mentally prepared for long climbs, with false summits. A lesson to learn is don't place your hopes in the summit till you fell it start to go downhill. So often you will round a corner and think this is it. Only to have your hopes dashed by a switchback up ...allowing you views of riders that are 50-100' above you and up the road. So I settled in my groove and began taking apart the middle of the course.

Climbing is, and always will be, the realm of the "skinny kid." I really do not mind climbing that much at all. In fact there are times I embrace it and actually enjoy it. But I make no pretenses of my abilities. I AM NOT A CLIMBER...Too big to be one, and I only muck up the waters when things go vertical. While this might be the case, I do feel that I am stubborn enough to push where my abilities lack. Thus I pushed.... and kept pushing. The bulk of the climbing on the 100 mile course was as I said btw 20's - 55 mile mark. With several false summits, that afforded you brief downhill respites.

We all know that a SS has three speeds. Standing, sitting, and *(the less popular) walking. I choose the standing and sitting, and occasionally I had to resort to walking. I climbed about 97% and did walk at times. I would make my decision to walk knowing that the effort I would expend would cost me late in the game. Thus I swallowed the pride and walked a bit.

While in the middle of the course I kept trading off places with 4 other riders. They were all on geared bikes and I would cat and mouse them for quite a ways. This continued to the 55 mile mark when the big descent began. But prior to the descent in a brief flat spot on the climbing the guy next me shouted and stopped. Startled, I stopped with him.... and he pointed out the Black Bear down the hill. We both stood there a few min's and watched the little guy bumble around. I looked at the guy and said: " cool bear... but momma must be around.." He agreed we both clipped in and off we went.

I knew when I was getting close to the mid 50's that there was a big downhill coming. The downhill would lead to a flat section with some rolling climbs. Then to a good steep climb, then the last single-track. At any chance I could, I would make up time on the descents. Once the big one came I let it all hang out and hit the jets. I was using up all the road, which was a bit risky when several times I would encounter cars coming up hill at us. The road bed was somewhat gravel making the big corners and bit of a trick at high speed. But that kept me focused and in the game. I had a job to do... I was in the zone for most of the descent till I came around one corner and got into the deep gravel on the outside of the corner. Now here I am in a jam. To my left was a long steep slope that would not do me well ...and falling to save it a this speed was not an option. So I used the body English and rode the razor's edge to a stop. Leaving behind me a long track .... and a good pucker factor. I did not pause long.... I had a job to do.

I hit the flats.... and as suspected the 4 geared horsemen catch up and pass me... FUG! I push on. The flat's pass quickly and I catch my first 65mile rider... surprised I push on, and I think Where's my buddy foster? Not 5 mins after I pass my first I look up the road to see a guy in all black pressing on. As I approach I see my bud, fighting the good fight and winning. I ask him " how you doing?" surprisingly and with a smile "he says great/outstanding or something like that. I then tell him to keep it up that it's all worth it in the end. As I pass him and press on I am inspired. I dig in a bit more and the end is grasp.

To those of you that know me well, you would understand that I am the most barn sour horse you could ride with. When I can feel the end, something kicks in gear and I find that extra bit of punch. This race was no different, with exception of the let down.

I have not talked about my feeds but here his a brief synopsis. I pass through the first aid station, onto the second. There Mel Black gave me two bottles and some food. I pressed on and was going to see her at the other aid stations. But since Will was out killing the course she was forced to keep pace with him. So I just used what they offered, which was ample, and made my own way.

Now the let down. The last aid station was right as you left the fire roads, and entered the final single-track. I pull in fast and make no waste of time there, as I did not in the others. I fill my two bottles and eat part of a pbj. All the while the lady was telling me 12 more miles all Single-track all down hill. Now ...I do not believe in the fairy godmother nor do I trust gnomes. Thus I was not putting stock in what anyone told me about the course. Especially when it was too good to be true. But for fug's sake lady.... make it a little close to the truth. It was not 2 min's from leaving the station did I not find myself on single-track. but it's uphill.

Now most would think the single-track would be the best part, but this late in the game you just want off the course. But being inspired by the promise of the end, I dug in and got into my reserves. I cleaned all the climbs passing riders on the way. I flowed the single-track with an intent focus.... and finally when it dumped me out onto concrete I was ecstatic. Crossing the OCOEE near the power plant ...then hanging that right to the parking lot was such a relief. I hit the parking lot to the shouts of the TN crew, who mostly contested the 65, there drinking beer and I make my way to the line. I cross the line and smile.

In light of the events that place a shadow on the weekend I did have a good time, and I am proud of my effort. Somewhere out on the course I hit 46mph, and I am sure I was grinning. I was happy to see I was only not moving for 7.5 mins of my 9:17 total ride time. I stayed in motion and pressed on. I got to see my friend hit a monumental achievement of finishing the 65 in 11:45. I see his perserverance as an incredible achievement, and it was good to share that with him. And most of all I reminded myself that I am alive and healthy, and for that I am thankful.

Thanks for your time,

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Spring 08 Tour de Trash is set

Looks like we are a go on May 11 for the 6th edition of the ABC Rides. Team Soulcraft will have an open invite to all cyclists to help clean up I-Street as we do twice a year now since 2005.

We are also getting great support from other organizations with similar interests in getting our cherished backroads cleaned up. To name a few,  53x11 Coffee has generously donated water bottles and coffee packs while Sonoma County grant authors are very involved with our progress as part of their "Keep Sonoma Clean" program.

Norcal Velo also continues to support the "Tour de Trash" be covering the northern portion of the county. Claire House from the Norcal Velo Women's Team is doing a litter pickup B-Ride on May 4 from the shop and Jonathan Lee is covering longer distance and larger dumping today by way of GPS donated by REI Santa Rosa.

Hope to see you on one of the rides. Check out Tour de Trash for all the details.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Master and The Grasshopper

That's George Hope on the left and Daniel Boyes. George is the most elder of Team Soulcraft while young Daniel holds down the other end. They both live just south of us in the little coastal hamlet of Inverness. Apparently there's something in the water out there because George and Daniel have been crushing as of late. George won the County Line in Santa Cruz as well as the Solo Vet category at the Boggs 8hr (2nd Solo overall). Daniel has posted 4 top ten placings in the Nor-Cal High School Mountain Bike League and took 1st at the last round at Fort Ord, Monterey. When Daniel returned to Monterey for the Sea Otter, he promptly took the under-18 Expert title. What makes it all that much cooler for us is that these guys are on the team because they're good people and they represent what Soulcraft is all about: Laid back and kick-ass.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Fontana, CA NORBA National

It has been since cross season since my last post. Here is the update, I've just started racing again, and it feels great. Not racing for a few months really makes you miss it. Over spring break I traveled out the Fontana California for the first norba national event. Let me tell you rolling into southern california smog after leaving rocky mountain fresh air was a bit disapointing. Regardless of the nasty smog and monotonous stores and homes, the races weekend was pretty good. I saw pretty good because the xc didn't go as planned. I was sitting in on the break away pack at the end of the first lap feeling strong. I decided to attack heading out on the second lap, but to no avail. My chain broke as I passed the second place racer. What a bummer; I fixed the chain and passed about ten guys before it broke again. I took the walk of shame back to the expo area, got a new chain and prepared for the race sunday. Sunday I got my revenge! I felt very confident going into the race. Quickly the break formed with three others and I. I lead out for a few laps then sat in on the wheel of the guy who won the xc race the day before. The last lap I attacked him up the four cross course, establishing a small lead and rode it into the finish to victory. I will continue to train and do races out in colorado, then head back to california for a couple weeks in may to compete in the norba number three. If anyone out there know of some magic chain that cant break pass on the info. Hope everyone on the team is doing well and is racing strong, see you in may.