2019 Winter Short Track – Singlespeed

I was curious if I was going to feel 100% after the Enchilada race, and somehow by Wednesday I was feeling good. Maybe I am a little more fit that I normally am this time of year? I kind of laid low this week and just did really one effort in the middle of the week. Thursday I disappeared for a little and worked on dialing in the A line at the ST course. It really isn’t anything difficult, but with 2:1 on the SS it is easily a make or break section of the course versus the longer, less gradual part.

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This is the entrance to the A line, you can go left or right after the small rock step up.

I must have rode this 7-8 times before I really understood how to attack it, and once I got it, I figured it for good.

It’s not pretty, but it works.

The real fun would start Saturday night, when it downpoured around midnight and I assume it would be a muddy mess.

Sunday comes around and I head over to scope out the course. The first half is slick, but the second half it looks like it never rained. Chalk it up to good trail building. I take one crack and it and it’s dry as a bone, sweet.

Warm up a little bit with everyone and I’m curious how this will all pan out. I know most of the contenders in the field, and we are all familiar with one another. For me, the first race of the season is always the one you want to win the most. Sure, the others count, but the first one is the one EVERYONE is amped up about.

We have a good start but as always, Rich is off like a ROCKET. Close the gap into the ST and just aim on not crashing. Not sure what is going on behind me, but I’m not to worried about it. Chat for a little with Rich and we both seem to be coasting on the downhill sections the same, hard to really go faster today. I’m curious how the A line plays out and I give Rich some room to make sure he doesn’t bobble and cause the Jenga blocks to fall. As I do I hear someone on my tail. By the time we get to the slight gravel incline back to the Start, I notice it’s Andy. Cool. It’s just us 3 at this point.

As we get closer to the little chicane into the parking lot, Rich is just finishing his sentence about “it would be cool if we could ride together the whole race” and something just clicks in my brain… “lets push the pace a little.” I come around the outside before the finish line and just spin 2:1 a notch above tempo, not really a huge effort or attack, but noticeable that someone will have to pick up on it. I figure if I push a good second lap at my pace, maybe it will hurt the two of them. As the road curls back on itself I see that they aren’t on my wheel anymore, but still in reach.

Thanks Boyd for the video of the coolest carpet berm’d section in CLT.

The race is really on the road for the SS. It’s impossible to go much faster today in the slick beginning of the lap. I hammer the road on lap 2 and notice the gap gets bigger here. Hmm, wonder if this will work out? Are the two of them content on letting me burn myself out? No time to figure it out now, just keep on the gas.

Around lap 5 I feel confident that all I have to do is not crash and I should be okay. I play it safer in sections of the single track and politely ask some of the lap traffic if it is cool to pass. All is going well.

On the second to last lap I’m behind a Masters 50+ rider who’s riding the A line, and I’m forced to run it. Which I did well surprisingly, even though the heckle crowd wasn’t having it.

The last lap I bobble the A line, but receive a nice friendly push from the heckle pit who applaud me for my efforts. I get to cruise the gravel back to the parking lot and end up winning the first short track race of the year.

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Andy was able t hold off Rich for second.

It was a strange day for sure. I’m curious if I pulled the ultimate attack at the right time, if I had the right gear for the day, if everyone else was undergeared, etc. It felt like everything just worked out too well for me today. I know Andy was undergeared and pretty sure Rich was too, which was interesting. The other good feel of the day the lap times we were pushing were on pace with the Super Sport category guys with gears, which is the other race I would do if the 1pm time slot doesn’t work, or if it’s a nice warm sunny day and the famalam wants to come out and support Dad.

I won a 6er of beer and passed it along to the guy who was in the right place at the right time, Jason Wilson. I kept the water bottle, cool Sierra Nevada bag and bottle opener.

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Is using a Sierra Nevada can coozie with a Coke sac relig?

Sunday is a long way away, and I’m sure it’s going to be a way different race for #2.

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The Whole Enchilada

Yes, the first race of 2019. I looked back at how the weeks before last years Enchilada race went, and it’s safe to say I’m much more fit than I was last year. Which got my kind of excited to tackle this event again.

The Whole Enchilada race is now 45 miles of pretty much all single track. Which is good and bad. Bad in the sense that no one has really been out riding MTBs due to the wet weather. Good in the sense that it isn’t mind numbing mileage.

They put in a couple of new trails in the beginning, otherwise we rode most of this already. I go back and forth on what to wear at 32 degrees and decide on bare legs and some other warm bits. Mostly because I wanna look cool. Meet up with Andy and roll the gravel start to get some blood flowing. I line up 2nd row like I did last year and know that I need to hit the beginning hard to stay with the boys.

We head out and as expected, it’s hot. Hot enough that I can hang on. Last year I barely made it to the ST with the lead group of 10 or so, this year I’m in the middle and not hurting too bad just yet. After about 12 minutes of a good CX paced effort, I’m slowly realizing I do not have that high-end kick just yet. Which is okay. I imagine others will fall off the hot pace at the front. I bleed 2-3 spots and fall off the pace, but pick up a couple other people behind me. I’m still in this shit.

The first to fall off the pace was Phillip Ford, a 15 year old kid who’s really lighting it up. I think we both had the same strategy, hit it hard and pray we can hold on. Another guy, Craig, is still on my wheel from the start. This is the race so far. We cross the road into the new trails and they are pretty sweet and flowy. I’m content riding with Phil, who’s really pushing it hard. I know that I need to stay with these wheels. Eventually I see Dung Le on his SS cruising up to us and finally making good on his gear and that annoying gravel section which must have sucked. He comes by me and latches on to Phil, and this sparks them to drill it. I know my limits in the woods, it’s so hard to press on and actually make up time. I just hope that they stay within striking distance. They open up a gap but me, Dung, Phil and Craig all link back up and recover from the hot start. We head into figure 8 and Dung Le spins away from us, never to be seen again.

I see Phil looking over his shoulder and still pressing in spots he shouldn’t. I try to tell him to relax and I’m not going to push him off the trail, but I don’t think it sits in. The three of us ride Academy and the Thread Trail. The whole time I’m telling myself not to waste any energy. Every time I can stay off the brakes or not sprint out of a corner, I do it. It’s my best SKY peloton impression. I know what effort I can do for a certain amount of time and I just stick with it. I just hope everyone comes back to me at some point. I think Phil bobbles a small section and I squeak around him. I just keep doing my thing and since we’re back in the heart of the WWC, I know the trails (so does everyone else around me I imagine) and I just do my thing.

Craig is still on my wheel and we start chatting through North Main and up the Carpet climb. Which is nice. We are still racing but nice to know the guys around you. I start thinking on when I can get rid of Craig, 16 miles into a 45 mile race. Before that, I hear Phil let out a F bomb and we ask if he is okay, and he says yes. I don’t think he has a mechanical, and I don’t think he crashed really hard, so we press on, jus the two of us.

We climb up Tower 93 and I grab some GU Chomps, and then drop the other half as they go into my pocket. Fail. I don’t see Phil back yet, so I just assume he’s gone. Climb Goat hill, which is one of the steeper techy climbs here and no issues with that. I decide that on the back side, double track section of Goat, I’m going to stand and see what Craig wants to do. It’s probably a 45 second effort on (what Strava says is 20% for a couple seconds or so) and I feel the burn. It’s a good burn, but I don’t open enough of a gap on Craig that it was worth it. He’s able to close down whatever advantage I had after the descent and on the flatter parts of the rest of South Main. Through Weight Station, Toilet Bowl, all without and problems or slip ups.

We come out of the Slalom downhill and I see Tyler climbing back up the other side. He looks like he’s cooked, but I know he is a super strong rider and maybe today is just not his day. Craig and I get a boost of energy and realize on the Lake Loop we are going to catch him. We close the gap and he waves me by and I state “Come on your faster than me” and he says “Not today!” He jumps on with us and we chat about all things bike racing for a while.

Next we jump into East Main, which is kind of the black hole of the WWC. It has defined features, but for the life of me, minus a couple of the climbs, I can’t find land marks to make me look forward to the end of the trail. It is a total east coast trail, which I love, but many others hate. Especially 30+ miles into a race and you are starting to hurt. To make things worse, they added more miles over here on trails called Elysium and Tributary, to make it even more of a mind fuck.

At some point I hear Craig as Tyler if his tire is looking flat, and he says yes, and it starts to go down. Craig is on his own and it is just the two of us. We chat a little more and while I know he says he’s spent, I know he’s just going to attack me at some point. Which he should, we are racing. I just try and stay smooth and use the least amount of energy I can to keep a steady pace, but not go into the red.

East Main ends without any other drama. I start to offer Tyler a rock paper scissors for our position, seeing if he would respect my efforts and make it fair, knowing that he is the stronger rider anyway. Before I can finish my sentence, he says “Nah, I’m just going to go for it”. Which I obviously have no answer for. I did my pacemaking and just like in the TDF, I can’t dig any deeper. There’s a little bit more trail ahead, which is fast and all that, but I know I have no chance at reeling him in with any sort of effort, so I just roll it in.

While it would have been nice to have some legs to have a better finish, I have to be pretty stoked to finish 11th out of  133 finishers. Craig rolls in 2 minutes after, which would have been interesting if he didn’t have any tire troubles.

I’m excited with my endurance fitness at this point, JRAing is still doing it’s thing and not making me turn into a slug. Last year the last part of this race was a complete disaster. Maybe your body just doesn’t forget how to go fast sometimes. I’d like to have some more pop in my legs, and maybe a couple of short track races the next couple of weeks, my body will remember how to do that.

WWC did a great job on version two of this race, aid stations, clearly marked transitions on the two way traffic, volunteers where they needed to be, all that jazz.

CAAD and MTB before the snow.

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Part of the River Bluff trail at RRT is slowly washing away. Steve is pulling it back in towards land, but some sections are kind of creepy. This is one of them.

img_7094This is a great way to start a ride, seeing this guy.

“Accidentally” bought this bike on eBay a couple weeks ago for $330. I figured, no way a complete bike would go for $330. Well, couple days later it was mine.

I had to take a before photo. It was from Michigan and the guy really didn’t clean it before hand, so it was mucky AF.

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Maybe it was worth $330, not too sure.

I stripped it down and a couple weeks later, I took it out for it’s first spin around the hood.

img_7158Man, I forgot how stiff a real road bike is. The only original parts from the before photo are the shifters and brakes.

Curious if it’s just grass is greener, or if I really really like this bike. Time will tell.

NCCX#10 – Salisbury

img_7050Prepping for a muddy CX race or disposing of dead bodies?

The last of the “local” CX races for me. Not used to only doing 3 events for a season, but it is the new normal. Long gone are the days of doing a 10+ race season.

Salisbury was less attrition and more power/tractor pulls that you could actually ride. Every foot of the course was technical. It was one of those courses that didn’t really have any lines, just trying to not fall down and take the path of least resistance. The start was in a field so we kind of just clipped in and instantly starting making mashed potatoes. Nothing too note worthy on lap one, except for riding some features for the first time and just figuring out “lines”.

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One of highlight was on the second lap, I was following a younger rider as he went into the pits. He transitioned so well that he got back on his bike right next to me, on the line I was on. Somehow, believe it or not, I was the one that didn’t take the heaviest hit of this blow. Sadly I never see kid again.

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The lines in the mud for the S/F were laughable; any attempt at a “sprint” finish would have looked silly. I kind of look skinny here, which I like 🙂

img_7086Thankfully it wasn’t too muddy where you were running every single straight section, you were able to pedal through 95% of this course.

Last lap, Three of us battling it out. Myself, Chris and Kyle  on the last lap (of 3, that’s how slow today was) and we were fighting for position in a running section. Chris is a bigger dude and we kind of had to follow his lead on the run because he took up most of the course, which is a great strategy in a section you don’t want to get passed in. I wanted to come around and be first into the techy off camber descent, but so did everyone else. Kyle led us in and you had to be patient, no forcing your will for a position on this thing. I can’t see around Chris as I go in third wheel, but I notice Kyle yard sale the descent which meant that Chris and I were battling for a spot. He tries to put a dig on me on the pavement which is my go to move, but on a course like today, you had to recover in those “easier” sections to lay down the hammer in the mud. Chris put a small gap on me and I figured if I pressed a little I could close the gap. Sadly, all pressing did was cause me to get off my game and make stupid mistakes. Every little bobble and effort NOT going straight meant seconds lost. Eventually I lose contact with Chris and focus on not giving up any more spots. Cross the line and hear that Chris was second, and I finished third. I’m usually pretty good at realizing where I am in a race, but it’s so difficult when you are focusing on every single pedal stroke.

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The 14 year old wins again. Chris’ racing age is 38, so he really could be his son.

img_7051Shot from the last race of the day. Pretty scenic for brown lines in the mud.

The only casualty of the race was an upper jockey wheel, which after the last two races we have, I think is pretty damn good. I would have loved some drier races since ripping turns at high speed is fun, but playing in the mud is nice too.

Harrisburg CX

Had to support the race down the street from me. Decided it would be best to ride to and from. Some days are best forgotten, and with the conditions of how hard this race were, it may be one of them. It was one of those classic “attrition” days and find a place to pedal instead of run was the name of the game.

Andy stuck around and took some flicks. I think this was the only area where you could actually pedal.img_6953
I missed my pedal but was able to make up time enough to see the front of the race, but I just couldn’t turn the pedals on this course, it felt like i was pedaling on velcro. It was a true tractor pull. I don’t even know if having an easier gear would have helped. img_6955
This probably would have been a spot where if it was dry you could ride, but what was not pictured was creek below that it crossed. I think this guy in front of me wiped out after this shot.

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I rode the SS to and from, and I thought this was going to be as muddy as it would get. I had enough down time to eat a sandwich, try and “recover” and enjoy some family time. Change some diapers, feed some kids, etc. Was a nice break.

With the Cat 3 race at 3:55, I pedaled out at 3:00 to get a scope of the course. I ASSUMED it would have dried out somewhat; WRONG. It just became peanut butter. Starting towards the back and almost running over a teenager who rubbed wheels with someone had me trying to make up time on a course that was not make up time friendly. Sure, tons of optional lines and such, but man, just one of those back of the cassette slogs. You wanted to ride sections but it was just as fast/slow to jog them. Oof. I worked my way up to 6-7th or so and had some good racing going on, but I never rode a section at all that others were riding and was too afraid to try now. It was a steep off camber section. I lost time on it every lap. Second to last lap I’m a complete mess, just can’t keep it together. I drop my chain and lose the group I was chasing, but I don’t think I was going catch anyone anyway. I held onto my spot and finished 12 of 23, but just keeping my bike together this race was a victory.img_6957This will just clean itself, right?

With only one race left of my “CX Season”, I’m curious how it will go. I enjoy a good hard muddy course, but I’d like to pedal and go jussssst a little bit faster. And you know I’m not going to start working on my running now.

My Personal Stoopid 50

This is slowly becoming my favorite ~1 hour drive ride from our house. My homie David was the only one who was interested in going out this time. Last time we did this was in the summer and with a river crossing, so this time we weren’t planning on getting wet and made a couple of changes. We parked at this ghetto hick-ish gas station called the El Dorado Outpost and rolled out at 730am, ~20 degrees in the search for some gravel. I added a couple tweaks to this loop this go around, searching for some new stuff. This was Davids first time on his CX/Gravel bike, so it was fun to break it in properly. I could recap the whole ride, but I think pictures do it more justice.

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From the top of Bells Grove Road

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The beginning of Chapel Hill Church Road

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The scenic part of Chapel Hill Church Road. It was like a magic gravel carpet ride.

img_6894This is the easier part of the jeep trail descent.

Towards the middle I thought how awesome this would be as a race course of some sort. The new sections we rode were amazing, had some extra steep climbs and killer views. The mix of gravel, road, climbing, jeep trail descent, you really are never on the right bike for part of it. Part of the gravel is fine for 28’s and road bikes, while part of it you were wishing you had 40mm tires. The jeep descent would be a lot more fun with a mountain bike and suspension, but is it long enough to actually make up time? I think my favorite bike rides are when you regret the bike you are currently on at the moment. That is when it turns into a real ride. Maybe one day we do a invitational ride and see how it would shake out. Or maybe not, I can just ride it and enjoy the scenery.