Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Track or Treat

The 6th annual Track or Treat alleycat went on over the weekend and it always feels good to get back to my street racing roots! Plus, I had to defend my win last year!

This race is put on by Jeff Frane and up until this year, was only for fixed gear bikes. He decided to up the ante and allow gears this year with a time penalty. There was also a penalty for lack of costumes. Each was 30 sec but seeing that the 50 racers looked dressed up and most fixed, I assume that everyone took off at the same time. Rules are grey when it comes to alleycats and there is nothing wrong with that. Like the Circle Jerks preach, Question Authority

The race started and ended at Peacock Groove, the birthing room for Eric Noren's amazing creations. At go time, I got pointed in the right direction and hit it with a mass of youngsters.I was rolling three deep until the first stop at a bar called Merlin's Rest. I got out of the place a bit slow and was about a block behind five speed demons. I got to chasing through some neighborhoods and onto the bike path into downtown. I was pulling some dude and I got to the point where I asked the little brother to take a turn. We traded a bit and made it to the next stop. I walked into Hubert's as the first were walking out. I asked them to stay and wait to see if any suckers were among the crew but they took off. I got out and I was a block and a half back. I hit my own route and made it to Elsie's Northeast. I rolled in and out and continued on my solo ride to the 19 Bar and then off to Bryant Lake Bowl. Each stop I always like to play it a bit calm and cool to the volunteers. No need to stress them out, plus i like to flash them a smile and thanks for taking the time. After BLB, it was a dash down the bike path back to Peacock Groove. Not a long race but it was a sprint. The winning route, which was on a fixie, is here which is similar but he hit the BLB second and rode the rest of the race opposite of me...for the most part. I think the dude I was initially pulling made it in third and I was somewhere around 8-10. Good times, great oldies.

Some photos are on the All City site including a shot of me skidding in my lame RuPaul Bunyan outfit...just couldn't find the right wig but channeled Babe the Blue Ox with the blue weave.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Green Acres CX

For the last few weeks, I have been struggling with getting amped for racing the bike. Me thinks me be burned out a bit. One of my favorite CX races, Theo Wirth, was the other week and when I woke up the morning of it, I was all moody and decided to bag it. I just didn't feel like racing and was fine with it despite knowing I would have snapped out of it once I got down there. I think I needed a weekend off and that set me up for racing with a new attitude for Saturday's CX race at Green Acres.

I woke up the morning of my birthday with muted excitement for racing. I was waffling and thought about not going but told myself to fuck off and got on the ball. My mom-in-law was in town and she needed to spectate her first bike race. I also wanted to race in the elite cat 1 and 2 studs for, outside of Tues Night Cross, the first time. I was not fearing the 60 minutes of racing but the climb was looming in my mind. The course is at a tubing hill and at one point you come around a turn and get to climbing. I did the race a couple years ago on a 42x16 fixed gear and ran up the beast each time. This time, my legs are a bit stronger and I was rolling on my standard 42x18, the fixie is retired from organized CX since they are not legal. There were a couple more additions that included a sandy run-up and a set of steps that some rode but I ran up each time. The latest and greatest was the addition of Minnesota's first flyover. What looked like a janky hack job on the first pictures online, turned out to be solid and a shit-ton-o-fun.

At staging I lined up in the back since I was just interested in rolling the legs out and not blowing my wad in the first few laps. On go, I was off with 30+ others and we went straight up the hill. The climb was a bit obstructed but nobody jumped off their bike so I was able to pace up it just fine. We then looped around a field and down a number of off-camber switch backs on the hill. A set of double barriers later and there were some twists and turns at the base of the hill and off to the sandy run up. Then on to some bumpy field turns, over the flyover, field, trail around a pond, up the stairs, through the swamp and up the hill again. Looking at the lap times, my fourth lap was my slowest. It was at that time that I started in on the beer hand-ups from the crowd at the sandy run up. The sandy run up became the highlight of the course. There was much yelling and ample brewhaha. Each time there after I had a tasty beverage. That made the rest of the race go and I was actually riding at an even pace. The legs felt good and I was listening for the bell lap to put in the final push. Halfway through my ninth lap, I heard the announcement of the race winners coming in. What?! No bell lap! I made some haste, had a Makers Mark shot on the run up and pedalled in wanting one more lap.

It was nice ending my first elite CX race with gas in the tank and the crowd at the run up were great. Yet another confirmation that beer trumps Heed and goo packets for a pick me up during a race. After succombing to the peer pressure on the run up, my lap times were fairly steady and improving! My ninth lap was 2 seconds slower than my third lap!! The course was awesome, the hill was cleared each time, I was able to race with teammates Matt and Spencer, the mom-in-law had a great time, the wife and kids enjoyed it, and I got renewed enthusiasm to do one more weekend of CX racing. In the end, I think a longer CX race is more my style since endurance racing is where I am most comfortable with setting a pace.

Friday, October 12, 2012

WEMS Championship at Levis-Trow

My fourth and the final race of the WEMS Series was the WEMS Championship held on October 6 at Levis-Trow. This race completes my goal of competing in the singlespeed category for the long races...long being 100 mile or 10 hours depending on the venue. I came into the race as the points leader and was stoked to ride the final race of the series.

I began the series with a race at Levis in June and from my race report, I had a rough time with the heat. This would definitely not be the case this time around since forecasted highs would be in the upper 40's. I made the early morning drive and showed up with enough time to register and get everything ready. The race was toned down and it would only be 6 laps with a distance of 11.5 miles per lap. Nice. Even better was the removal of a climb from the race held in June. The trails around the base of the mounds were basically the same but the climb up was one of the descents of the June race and then there was trail riding at the top for a bit.

At the sound of the shotgun, the race was off, about 6 heads got to hammering and I got to a moderate pace going in the chase group. I got to the front of it pretty quick since the singletrack approached fast. It was nice to keep my own rhythm when we got to the singletrack and I rode away from that group and ended up catching a couple of stragglers off the back of the front group after a few miles. There has been little rain this summer and it was apparent in the height of the roots all over the place. While some hid under a leafy blanket, many looked you in the eye each time you went through a particularly dense section and just laughed at ya. The worst were around miles 2 thru 5...or so. After about 5.5 miles, the climbing began. The incline was manageable on the 32x20 until a particularly sandy part at the top. Everytime, my rear wheel spun like the tasmanian devil...heck my toungue was probly out and I was gruntin and snortin too.

Made it through the first lap feeling fine and hit the second with gusto. A few miles in, I came across a couple orange clad hunters carrying large rifles. Here I am in my black and purple kit, just getting the fear of dodging bullets from a trigger happy hunter. Good thing I left the antler attachment for my helmet at home. I got to thinking that the quicker I get the race done, the better. I didn't stop at the end of the lap and at the sandy part of the climb of the next lap, I was caught by Charlie Farrow! He got into his books on tape driving to the race and over shot the exit. He got a late start and was on his second lap, while I was on my third. We rode together for a number of miles until the final climb up to the Northface. He was strong and rode away from me. I was feeling a bit of the fade and decided to just pace it out. I didn't stop and took on the fourth lap. The laps were getting a bit more difficult as seems to always be the case for me around the 50 mile mark. After the lap, I hit the car and took about 10 minutes to eat and get a bit of recovery time.

I waited for the two lap race to take off and then I followed after a couple minutes. When I started again, the legs were a bit tight and it took a bit for them to loosen up. I was dragging and was getting worried that Charlie would catch and pass me. At the end of the lap, I was stoked for the final lap. I don't know if it was the sound of gun fire about two miles in or that my second wind kicked in but I had a real good lap. I was thinking that I have ridden my bike through sketchy areas of Chicago and NYC, but I was not afraid of getting shot like I was riding thru the woods of Wisco. I ended up finishing up the 70+ miles in 7:37. That was good enough for fourth finisher overall, top singlespeed of the day and series winner for single speed.

The day ended with awards, and a raffle of a bunch of stuff. As stated before, if you like riding singletrack and race in a low key environment, give a go at one of the WEMS races. Good times, great oldies.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Metal CX - St. Cloud

The first CX race of the Minnesota Cyclocross Rider of the Year (CRY) in the newly created Singlespeed category was held this weekend in St Cloud. The singlespeed category races with the Master 35+ (cat 3/4), Master 45+, Master 55+ and Women 123 who start 2 minutes before the rest of us. I've been wondering if I should try to compete in it and deal with some of the scheduling conflicts it creates with family time. I wanted to do well and was looking forward to the race but I knew there were others who wanted it more than me.

The day started with an awesome weather report of upper 70's and sunny...not so awesome for CX racing but perfect for just about everything else. The hour drive went fast and I was happy to be a passenger for it. I hadn't done the race before so time was spent talking about the course description. The race is held in a park next to the Mississippi river which is filled with oak trees and a few pines. Really nice place to have a race or BBQ or whatever. The start/finish was held on the higher ground of the park and the course weaved it's way through trees and around some tennis courts. It then descended off camber down to river level and onto an asphalt path. The asphalt hammered to a small incline and to a set of double barriers. From there, you ended up going downhill over a woodchip filled low point of a parabola and up to a quick turn. Downhill the hill again to a wide hairpin turn taken with speed on an ascent and back through the low point and up to the top of the park again. A short recovery section weaving through the trees and then a straight descent to another fun, high speed, wide hairpin turn on an ascent. Speed could be maintained and a quick approach to a single barrier at the bottom of an ascent lead to a run up. A quick hop on the bike, an off-camber descent shot you to a sketchy turn and to another barrier at the bottom of an ascent. Another run up and then a quick turn to the start/finish line. Whew!

Based on the previous race times, it was figured that 8 laps would be covered in the 45 minute race. At staging, there looked to be only 6 other singles...not a big turnout but maybe because we were an hour away from MPLS/St Paul. At go time, I got to beating cheeks and ended up on 6th wheel or so for the first tight turn. The ground was dry and firm so the energy was not being drained excessively. There wasn't too much position change in front of me until right before the descent. A couple geared heads and a single passed me and got to hammering on that asphalt path. I got passed by a few more gears and then it was up and over the first set of barriers. I was still in the lead group but I was acting as the caboose. Up and down the little valley we rode and the first run up went well. At the second one, most chose to hop on their bikes and grunt up a steep, little incline shortly after the barrier. I elected to run up and save the grunt work on the single. It pretty much ended in a wash timewise with those that rode it but I like to think my legs appreciated the cross training. As the second lap went on, I watched the lead group ride away and I was caught in between them and the chase. I rode like that for a lap and while upping and downing through the parabola on then next lap, I was caught and passed by the chase made up of a couple gears and another single. Not long after the next lap began, I got passed by another single...I was going in the wrong direction!

I was riding solo and started to lap a few people but it was the middle of the race and I was feeling the hurt and fighting deamons in the head that always ask, "Why and WTF are you doing?" I pulled out my only defense and that was to get in my own pace and ride my own race. I did that for a bit and I was feeling better for the last few laps. I ended up catching and passing the single, who passed me a couple laps back, at the start of the last lap. I upped the pace and rode away. Passed a few more heads and ended up 3rd place single and 13th overall...room for improvement.
At the end, my mouth was drier than the Sahara and I resolved to carry water in any race with the temp over 60. The course was fun and hills were more than challenging. While I don't believe I am in the running for winning the CRY, I do believe i can podium more throughout the season. One thing I need to work on is to not start the race so heated. Pace the start and give it more toward the end. Closing the race well will likely lead to greater dividends in the end. I guess it really depends on the course and the field. Stay tuned race fans...