Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Butts Park's Revenge MTB Race Report - 9.28.2008
I guess the first thing I should mention is that I decided to race this one on my singlespeed. That makes the second time I've raced it now. The first time was in March at the Baton Rouge Battle. Various reasons led me to race it, but probably the biggest was the fact that it is just such a fun bike to ride. Most would agree that Butts Park is the "right" singlespeed course. I guessed that a 34/16 gearing would be about right, and headed for Clinton, MS.
We pre-rode the trail Saturday afternoon, and it was in perfect condition. I had a blast and was slightly surprised by that because I didn't remember enjoying the trail as much last year. I wasn't sure about my gearing choice after the pre-ride because I thought it might get a little tough towards the end of a four lap race. Then I pretended that a race day endorphin surge would be there to help me turn the pedals, and ignore the reality that I would be hurting after four laps of that gear.
My final question was whether to race in the Singlespeed or Sport class. Both were appealing to me, but I figured that since I have raced all the other races this year in Sport, I should continue with that. However, it does make you question your sanity to be on the starting line with only one gear when most of your peers are racing with multiple gears.
On the starting line for only the second time with a heart-rate monitor, I sat amused as my HR went up as the minutes until start went down. I'm sure seeing Eric Spina's face on the line helped this escalation. I remembered that this guy raced very well in Oxford and that he was a fast roadie just getting started racing mountain bikes. The last guy fitting this description was Keith Moore from Florida who you'll certainly hear more from next year. The first lap began with a short sprint to a gap that opened to a nice long section of doubletrack. I think I went through the gap in about third or fourth place. I remember seeing Mobile Velo colors and then focusing that into Kevin Suggs and Tagg Rogers. I thought I'd try real hard to blow up right off the starting line and decided to go ahead and try to get around them before the singletrack began. I made it around and hit the trail in first place.
I'd say most of the first lap was spent with me thinking that I was going way too hard to continue the pace for four full laps. During the lap, I caught what I think was the entire 19-29 Sport class racing together in a tight line. Luckily the timing was perfect and I didn't get snagged trying to pass them. They were cool and allowed an easy and safe pass. The problem was that I passed them just in time to start a long straight section. Again, I am on a singlepeed so I am worried that I'd be seeing them all passing me right back. With a cadence probably matching my HR, I kept them behind me until the tight trail began again and I could relax back in its safety.
At the end of my first lap, I noticed a group of what I figured were the Sport 19-29 class and maybe a few of the 30-39 racers following only a hundred yards or so behind me. It was going to be hard to keep them behind me for three more full laps, but I was certainly going to try. I had to balance settling down from the crazy fast start and holding onto my lead.
At the end of my uneventful second lap, I noticed that I had increased my lead on the chase group. I also noticed that my legs were feeling the effects of my gearing choice and first two laps. This was not good at all! Halfway through the race, and my legs feel like they might cramp any second.
Sure enough, about two-thirds of the way through my third lap, cramps found me. Man, these things are harder to shake than the horseflies in Clear Springs when they catch you! Even better than the cramps was seeing that Eric Spina had closed the gap and was again about a couple of hundred yards behind me as we were starting our fourth and final lap.
I had to race another whole lap with cramping legs and a loosening grip on my first place podium spot. I remember at one point, probably after one of the "climbs" while my legs were screaming profanities at me, about what I would say to Eric as he passed me during our final lap. Then, I remembered thinking about how hard I had ridden for those first three laps and that I had to do whatever I could to keep my place. I focused on that alone for my final lap. What I noticed was that I couldn't produce the same power with my cramping legs, but I could maintain a very high cadence without hurting too bad. One problem. . . NO GEARS! I started working the course and trying to use its topography to my advantage. I tried to gain back the time I lost slowing on the climbs and accelerating slower out of turns back when the trail allowed the high cadence spinning. I also reminded myself that Eric's legs might have been feeling exactly like mine.
In the end, I won first place with only an 18 second margin and a true belief that I had just finished one of my hardest races ever. Special thanks go out to Eric for the push. Does an average HR of 3 beats per SECOND mean anything?
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Just wanted to remind everyone that there are several fall rides being offered over the next few weeks. Forget your hurricane woes for a little while and join one or all of these rides. For more information, see www.batonrougebikeclub.com Thanks.
Baton Rouge Bike Club Fall Century
Sunday, October 12th, 2008
West Feliciana Sports Park, St. Francisville, LA
Ride lengths of 25, 50, 62, and 100 miles.
Registration begins at 7:00 am, first riders take off at 8:00 am
BRBC will provide to participants on the day of the ride:
lunch (11:00 am til 3:30 pm), full SAG support, maps, road markings, pre-ride announcements, and rest stops with port-a-potties, snacks, water, and sport drinks. Fee is $30 if pre-registered, $35 the day of the ride. Fee includes a one year membership in the Baton Rouge Bike Club. All riders pre-registered by September 26th will receive a BRBC Fall Century t-shirt. For more information, contact Chris Lemoine at 225-242-7833, email@example.com or any of the BRBC Board Members.
Tour de Tangipahoa
17th annual Tour de Tangipahoa, September 20th, Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. 30-mile and 62-mile events. Includes t-shirt, drinks, and meal. For more information see http://Kiwanis.i-55.com/tour.html
Crescent City Cyclists Century Ride Sunday, September 28th, 2008 Stewarts Seafood & Steak House Cucumber Corner - the corner at LA 16 & LA 450, Franklinton, LA Ride lengths of 25, 50, 63, and 100 miles. Ride starts at 7:30 am, registration begins at 7:15 am. For more information, click link below to go to the Crescent City Cyclists website http://groups.google.com/group/crescentcitycyclists/
Parrot Head Ride
13th Annual Parrot Head Bike Ride for Our Environment
Saturday, October 4th, Mary Ann Brown Nature Preserve in St. Francisville www.brphc.org
Louisiana MS 150 Ride
Saturday and Sunday, October 4th and 5th. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is dedicated to ending the devastating effects of MS. They simultaneously fund research for a cure while also helping people who currently live with MS lead more fulfilling lives. Ride starts Saturday, Oct. 4th in Hammond, LA, and goes north 75 miles to McComb, MS. Spend the night at Percy Quinn State Park and ride the 75 miles back to Hammond on Sunday, Oct. 5th. For more information, go to the Louisiana MS website at MSLouisiana.org
Tour du Rouge
Ride supports American Red Cross Chapters along the Gulf Coast from Houston to New Orleans. Dates: October 18-23. Ride starts in Houston and ends in New Orleans. See www.tourdurouge.org
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
We just made it back from an eight day pop-up vacation that Hurricane Gustav helped us plan. We were packed and ready to leave for the first race of the Texas Fall series the Friday before Gustav came ashore when we started second guessing our decision to drive west of here. Visions of driving the opposite direction of the contraflow plans, heading face-first into a hurricane, and trying to find a hotel room in East Texas while caught in limbo definitely helped me decide that we should at least think again about going to this race. Having family near a great bike trail, being already packed (bike included), and the need for dry trails and good weather pulled us east instead, and we decided to spend our Labor Day weekend in Alabama.
We spent a very relaxing weekend at my dad's overeating and not much else, then decided that Labor Day should be spent doing just the opposite of labor. I headed off to The Swayback Bridge Trail in Wetumpka, AL for a great ride with a guy who I'd met at my disaster of a race in GA a few weeks earlier. Lucky for me, this guy was not only a local, but a fast local. I had a great, hard ride at Swayback, and a much-needed distraction from the weather channel. I also got a chance to play with my new Garmin GPS/HR Monitor. Of course, I don't know what the numbers mean yet, but I'm heading in that direction of study and hope to use this new tool to get a little faster.
After leaving AL mid-week, we made a short stop in BR to access our damage. We were lucky I suppose. A fence and lots of limbs down in our yard, a damaged commercial door at my shop, and a total loss of all smoothie ingredients at our Smoothie King from the long power outage were all that we had to deal with. From what I've seen and heard, we got off easy.
Hoping to avoid gas lines, traffic, a hot house, and generator noise, we decided that we would head to Oxford, MS a day earlier than originally planned for the 5th race of the South Central Regional Championship Series. I've looked forward to this race pretty much since I left it last year. The trail is absolutely incredible to race, and the town has some really great restaurants. Good trails and good food. What else to you need? Good beer? It's there too. Good coffee (NOT Starbucks!)? Got it in Oxford. Good football? Well, some things can't be duplicated outside of Tiger Stadium.
Friday morning, I headed off to ride my favorite trail of last year's series in the Clear Creek Recreation Area on Sardis Lake. Part of my fond recollection of that race came from the trail itself, and the other part came from the epiphany I had while racing it that I was actually competent enough to race with the guys I was racing with. I didn't win there last year, or even make it on the podium, but I felt good and I felt fast, and had I not broken a chain, I think it would have been my first podium away from the home trail.
My ride went well with the exception of a(nother) broken spoke on the I-9 Ultralights. These wheels are amazingly light, stiff and have instantaneous engagement. They also don't appear to be very durable under my destructive body. I've broken spokes, and have had to have them trued multiple times. In their defence, they are also meant to be a race set, but I just can't make myself ride my Mavic hubs anymore when the I-9s feel so darn good. I guess it is time for a new race wheel-set, maybe something a little less delicate this time.
Early Saturday, after an enormous breakfast at Big Bad Breakfast, I got a call from Oxford Bicycle Company to inform me that my wheel repair was complete. Wow! That leaves time for a ride! I first had to clean and lube this machine since I was racing the next day and was full of nervous energy. (And my wife was taking my daughter dress shopping. No thanks.) When they returned, I headed off for more Clear Creek. I usually wouldn't ride so much before a race, but did I mention that I really like this trail?
Sunday, race day, my nerves awoke before I did, but I really think that they may finally be easing up a bit. I think it has a lot to do with me finally establishing somewhat of a routine for race morning. I got to the race venue a little later than I normally would have liked, but I was able to squeeze in what I had to believe was a good enough warm-up. Time to race!
Looking around the at the starting line, I missed the Mobile Velo jerseys and my new-found competition, Keith Moore from Florida. In their absence was many faces that I don't normally see. I just colored them in my mind competition, and tried to focus on what I wanted to do. 3-2-1, go! I had a great start, getting clipped in very fast, and was sprinting towards the single-track in first place. I don't normally want, or like, the hole-shot, but I actually wanted that at this race because I had a secondary goal. I wanted to beat last year's course record of 47 min, 35 sec. I didn't do it. I think my fastest lap was around 49 minutes, but I don't know the official lap times.
My first lap went very well. I was able to maintain my first place start, even though the second and third place finishers stayed close for a while. (Of course, in my mind, they were still right behind me as I neared the finish line two laps later.) I swear, every time I heard brake noise, I thought they were closing in on me. Dig deep, I kept reminding myself.
The second lap only differed from the first in that my legs began to scream at me on every slight incline. By the time I actually made it across the finish line, cramps were close, but stayed just enough back to allow me to ride hard to the finish.
Woo Hoo! First place! I did my little sandbagger dance afterwards, causing my legs to cross the border into Cramp-land, and then watched to see who would follow my lead across the finish.
I can't wait until next year!