Saturday, October 15, 2011

Morgantown Monster Cross, Day 1 (In which our hero misses the start, misses the finish, but still does okay)

I raced Morgantown Monster Cross last year. Heather and I drove down, got lost, and ended up getting to the race five minutes before I was supposed to start. I started at the very back of the pack but still ended up placing 13th of 35 riders. Not too bad, all things considered.

This year, things were going to be different. I registered for the Mens 3/4 race. Start time was 1:15, so we hit the road for Morgantown at about 10:00. Didn't get lost. Got there sometime around noon. Plenty of time. I got registered, got ready, rode around the park a little bit (there was still a race underway, so I couldn't do a pre-race lap yet), and waited to hear that the course was open.

Word finally came. I got on the course along with a number of other 3/4s and started riding. I did not check to see what time it was (<--foreshadowing). I was making my way around, and I thought to myself, "This loop feels longer than last year. It's taking me forever to get around this thing. I wonder what time it is."

At that point, I was within view of the starting area. I could see everyone all lined up. I heard cowbells. I saw everyone take off. The race had just started, and I wasn't even there! Meanwhile, I should have been in the second row, based on early registration (and my 9th place finish at Kickoff Cross two weeks earlier).

I made a beeline across the field and got to the starting area so that I could try to catch up with the group. Apparently someone in the front of the group took a spill which slowed the whole group, which was pretty beneficial for me. I was able to catch up to the back of the pack without too much trouble.

Because I was so hell-bent on continuing my forward progress and passing as many people as I could, I never even noticed where the lap cards were. I kept completing laps, wondering when I'd find out if it was my last one. Heather cheered for me every time she saw me.

I finished another lap, and another guy flew past me. I thought it was odd that he was blowing so much energy with at least one lap to go (I still hadn't figured out where the cards were). Shortly after passing me, he slowed down again and I made my way past him easily. I kept going. But I didn't see anyone in front of me. And no one was behind me. I got to about 3/4ths of the way through the course to the big run-up and asked Rick Plowman, who happened to be hanging out there, "Is the race over and no one told me?"

He laughed and confirmed that that was indeed the case. Since I had already gone that far, I just finished the lap. Why not, right? I got back to the starting area and Heather asked me if I had missed the sign that said "Finish" the last time I went through. Yup. I missed it. It was also where the lap cards were being displayed. It also explained why the one guy sped up before we got there on that last lap. He overtook me at the finish and I didn't even know we were done. I still finished 12th, but if I'd had any idea where I was, I probably could've finished 11th. Hell, if I'd been in the second row like I was supposed to be when the race started, I might have done even better.

That's the way it goes, I guess. Unlike last year, this year's Monster Cross is a two day affair, so I have a chance to make up for it tomorrow. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Woo Hoo Hoo Speed: 51.5

Great ride this morning. I'm told that Coxcomb Hill Rd is one of the fastest descents around the Pittsburgh area. The 51.5 my Garmin recorded is certainly as fast as I think I've ever gone anywhere else.

I suppose that means I have bragging rights on this guy:

Yeah, buddy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

HBR Addendum

Some additional notes from the Hilly Billy Roubaix:
  • I Frankensteined a crankset from some parts I had laying around. I swapped the 36t ring from my Gossamer 'cross crankset with an extra 34t ring that wasn't being used. The result was a 46/34 coupled with my existing 11-28 cassette. I probably would have been fine with the 36t ring, but the 34t had to have helped at least a little. Having the 46 in front worked out well, too. I was able to make use of it a lot more frequently than I would have expected, but there was never a point where I was out of high gears. It's not like I'd have been going any faster with a 50t big ring, and sticking with the 46 meant that I didn't have to screw around with the front derailleur.
  • There were descents where I thought my knees would explode and my hands would fly off of my hoods. I've never done any downhill mountain biking, but I can only imagine what kind of punishment that entails.
  • Overall I finished 58th of 116 (not including DNFs). In the Men's Under 40, I was 26th of 50. I could have been 2nd among Clydesdales and 7th in Women's. Just saying.
  • My Blue CX6.5 probably weighs five or six pounds less than my Trek Portland. I think that probably helped this year, too.
  • The Blue got a bath yesterday. It's squeaky clean again. The only reminders of the HBR are a scuffed shift lever and a little notch taken out of that hood. I picked a line on one rutted road where the rut just ran into my line. Before I could come to a complete and stable stop I fell over. Oh well.
That's all I have for now.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hilly Billy Roubaix - The "Finished It This Year" Edition

Yesterday was the Hilly Billy Roubaix in Morgantown, WV. It's a 72 mile race on some stupidly nasty "roads" in northern West Virginia. Supposedly they're all recognized by the state as valid roads. I'm not too sure about the creek crossing, though...

I started last year, but threw in the towel at mile 40. At the time, I said there would be no way that I’d race in the 2011 event because it was just silly and I didn’t need to prove anything to myself or anyone else. But then Robbie talked about wanting to try it this year. And he wasn’t sure about how he’d get down there. Who was I to keep him from being able to race? If I could redeem myself for last year’s showing, so much the better.

Here are some things I took with me:
Here are the things I used:
  • Camelbak hydration pack with 72oz. bladder (filled with ice and electrolyte water)
For various reasons, none of the other items were necessary. From a technical standpoint, I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been able to avoid any kind of mechanical malfunctions. No flats, no broken parts, no nothing. Pretty amazing considering the number of people who flatted after the first hill of any consequence.

By "hill of any consequence", I'm referring to the first descent (of many) comprised of large, loose gravel. This was maybe three or four miles into the race. At that point, I was probably somewhere toward the back of the middle of the pack. I think I passed seven or eight people on the side of the road wrestling tires off of their wheels. I’m not sure if all of these people were running their tires too low or what. My tires (34x700c, incidentally) were at about 55 psi, but it’s probably also important to note that I weigh a little less than 125, so that may have still been more air than I really needed. Either way, I was flat-free on that hill and all of the others. Being a little guy has its advantages sometimes.

In regards to the nutrition situation, there were aid stations every twenty miles, and each one was well-stocked with water, Heed, Hammer gels, Raw bars, bananas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cookies, Little Debbies, pretzels and more. 1st class all the way. I never needed to dig in to my own personal stash because JR’s volunteers took such good care of all of the racers.

When I got to the second aid station at mile 40, I still felt great, unlike last year. There are at least two reasons for this:
  1. The weather. Last year, temps were in the mid-80’s all day and it was really sunny. Yesterday, highs were somewhere near 70 and it was cloudy the whole time. On a few occasions, rain seemed imminent, but that never happened. It was basically perfect.
  2. I’m in much better shape this year than last. I’m already about 1,500 miles above where I was at this time last year. Working from home for my last job was really nice, but I wasn’t able to get time on the bike like I have this year. 22+ miles every day for my commute makes a big difference.
I finished the whole thing in 5:41:39. I’m not sure where that put me in the standings. JR posted the top 20 and No.20 finished in 5:18. It’s conceivable that I might have finished in the top 40, but who knows. I hope that full results are posted later this week. Finishing 40th out of 120+ riders isn’t like winning or anything, but I’d still like to see how I did compared to everyone else.

Will I do it again next year? That’s a good question. Now that I’ve successfully completed it I don’t know if I’ll have as much motivation to consider it. If I thought I had any chance of actually winning (or even placing in the top ten), maybe I’d be more drawn to doing it again, but since there are very few categories (Mens <40, Mens >40, Womens, Single Speed, Clydesdale) that’s not going to happen. When the A, B and C racers are all in the same category, it’s going to take a lot of mechanicals from the top riders to give any of the lesser guys a chance. I say all of this now. I won’t be surprised if I end up doing it anyway.

Regardless of placement, I was really excited to finish and happy to have done so without feeling like I was going to pass out when I crossed the finish line. As much as I tried to convince myself last year that I wouldn’t try the HBR again, I’m glad that I went back and made it all the way through. It was nice to be around for the awards ceremony, and unlike last year, you actually had to finish to get your pint glass. I couldn’t leave without another pint glass.

Before I go, I have to give a huge thanks to JR Petsko, ABRA Racing, and all of the volunteers who helped make the event possible and run so smoothly. The whole course was well marked, volunteers were present at potentially confusing turns and held up car traffic so racers could continue without having to stop, and the aid stations were great.