Monday, October 17, 2011

A Great Team Makes for a Great Race

A few days of reflecting on this past weekends big race leaves several memories that I must talk about. I personally feel the solo SS class win comes in at the bottom of the list.
The best parts of the event are the fact that Sherry came back from her ACL surgery to race for 9 laps (85ish miles) on a SS, win the event, and not even be sore the day after. WTH?? I hurt all over, heck even my eyelids are sore.
Second, Megan our 16 year old daughter. Poor girl doesn't even ride bikes but for her to get her drivers license we asked her to go out there and ride till she could ride no more, and dang it she did! She ended up with 5 laps(48ish miles) on a SS. all I can say is WOW!! My first race was the Cowbell in 2009 were I crawled 4 laps(32 miles), laid down in the grass and watched buzzards circle overhead. If this Tree Shaker would have been my first race I would have got chicked by my daughter!! now that good stuff! All I can say is she is a trooper, and now I hope she realizes what physical and mental ability she posses. DAD IS VERY PROUD!! now if I could only get her to do her chores.
The Third best thing about this race and even the Cackalacky Cup race a few weeks ago is how freaking awesome my teammates and friends are. Baker, Chris W, Traci, Jon, Cricket, Eric, BC, Mudd, Kellie, Joel, Joe and everyone else that gives moral support for these races. You guys are what makes mountain biking so great! Nothing beats coming in to the pit and you have someone there trying to take care of the things you need. food, water, time splits, and overall metal support, BC even offered his beer. Baker and Eric riding a lap with me at my darkest, most tired moments really give me a boost. Thanks Guys!!

Now for race stuff. I have learned it really helps to go into a race telling yourself your going to win, no matter how bad it hurts. I started planning for this race 3-4 weeks ago and the Cackalacky Cup was a training race for this one. The Tree Shaker has always been a tall mountain for me to accomplish and truthfully I was thinking next year was going to be my better chance to shine. Up until the Cackalacky race I have never been able to "race" an event beyond 3 hours. Cramps have always played a large part of my day. It seems to be if I race hard I will be cramping after 1.5hours, race moderate after 3 hours. My latest race where this happened was the River's Egde 50 miler. I went out about 80% effort and bammmm! 3 hours I was pedaling like a stiff legged penguin, then Spent the next 1.5 hours surviving. Somehow finishing a distant 3rd on shear will power but knowingly if I could beat the cramps I could do so much better.
Going into the Cackalacky event I thought I would attempt a slightly easier pace more like a 70-75% effort so I would be able to last 8+ hours, well this plan worked. Any time my heart rate went above 155-160 I backed it off to the 140 range, and wow what a difference. Now I really don't know what my max HT is but I do know anything above 170 and my internal temp. starts heading to overheat zone. Maybe this is why I really like riding in cold weather.

Now back to the tree Shaker, since competition was rather thin I didn't have to focus on many guys. Ross has been in the Tree Shaker and a rather reliable top 3 finisher in pretty much every race he enters so I know he would be to one to beat. Going by last year lap times and several of this years races he tends to be a pretty constant guy. I really don't think he gets tired. He pace doesn't vary much from beginning to end and in some races he's withing seconds every lap. He has never been a rocket off the front in the starts but his strong point is his ability to maintain speed through out the race while the faster guys crack and he rolls on by. My game plan if I could call it that was to ride his wheel on the first lap, hoping his first lap pace played nice with my sub 155 heart rate goal. All while talking to him and grazing his wheel periodically to remind him I was back there. I noticed I could climb in my zone with him but he tended to brake a little more then I would in the corners and the downhill so this weakness become my advantage. I figured If I got away from him I could add a little time in the corners and down hills.
At the end Of the first lap, he pitted but I planned on 2 laps before I needed to pit so I used this time to put some distant between us. Well it was short lived, on the first flat section of the trail a hot rod team guy decided to play lumberjack and try to pass me in the woods, unfortunately for him a 1 1/2" sapling got in his way and promptly dismounted him is a marvelous fashion. Well the tree was strong enough to toss the guy like a bag of rock in a french Trebuchet, then whip back and bi-otch slap me to China. It knock my light off my handlebar, twisted my helmet, and left a stinger on my arm I will never forget. It was bad enough to just stop and do a self assessment, count my finger and my teeth. well I was standing there getting the feeling back in my arm I figured I would do a trail side bladder drain. I surly though Ross would come roaring by but strangely he never did. Well I hoped back on my bike an took off, Sticking with my strategy I attacked the curves and down hill while saving my legs on the ups. At the end of the long red clay climb I looked back and didn't see my competition anywhere. By now I was a little confused, He surely should have caught me by this point, but he hadn't. I though to myself, maybe my strategy is working. well for 8 laps I kept doing the same, keeping the heart rate low and attacking the fast stuff. On Lap 9 former Tree Shaker Champ "Hot Rod", Eric Haggerty popped out onto the course to ride a lap with me and told me Ross had tossed in the towel??? what my main competition has once again bailed? dang it!! I was really wanting to win a straight up race against a endurance legend. Oh Well, Eric talk to me about what I wanted to do and I said keep riding so we rode a lap at good pace, nothing amazing but about as good as it could be seeing that I was over 90miles in. Once we reached the pit area I was pretty drained, maybe because I knew at that time I had won and mentally I was getting tired. After a 1 min 30sec pit I headed back out for lap 10 with Another Tree Shaker Champ The "Shake and Bake" Chris Baker. At this point I felt and looked like a half eating gummy bear. Every hill hurt and my heart rate was around 120 but there was just no energy to be found. Chris talked me through the lap and in the Pit Chris W was giving me food and some mental motivation. BC offered me a beer(I wanted it bad but my stomach said no). I left the pit for lap 11 and about half way through It was like someone replaced my batteries, my power started to come back and the stomach issue went away. I was starting to feel great again. By the 3/4 way mark I felt like I did on lap 3-6. After blasting through the rest of the course I raced up on Sherry and the now 2nd place SS guy Eric Green, 2 laps down. At this point I decided my day was done, he had no chance to catch me and I had nothing to prove by stacking more laps in, so I decided to ride my 12th lap with Sherry and make sure her flaky light worked the whole trail. It was nice and easy victory lap, Eric" flat pedal" Green rode behind us the whole way and we all 3 crossed the finish line together.

I do have to give it to the guy he did great, he ran a 34x19 gear, ouch! rigid fork, ouch! I think it was pretty good to get 10 laps with that combo. Not long after we finished, Markley Anderson our other pit mate and Tour Divide finisher came in to take the first place Solo Men's geared class win. Anyone who attempts Tour Divide and finishes it is pretty amazing in my book. i hope to learn more from this amazing athlete.
Well that's about it for this write up. I hope it doesn't have to many Gastonia education grammatical errors and it makes sense. I may do the point to point race at Kerr Scott in a few weeks but sitting more on the finished for the year side of the fence. Got a lot of non-biking stuff I gotta get done.


  1. Word. The Georges rock!

  2. You sir, are my hero. It was great to see you rocking it out there.

  3. Thanks guys for everything. You're a bunch of fine riders and it was a pleasure to ride along with you out there.