Monday, June 07, 2004

Tour of Canaan and Grand Beach Race Reports

Yes, the tour of Canaan. Okay, not a race I actually participated in, nor even a race that involved official FGBC representation. But my good friend Alex Hawkins from North Carolina did this epic mtb stage race this weekend. And there is even a FGBC connection, in virtue of his being singned up to do the 24 hours of Adrenalin race at Canmore last year with our sister club, Tinker Creek Cycle. But that was before he tore up his ACL. In any case, read on below, as you get a taste of what a bike club might involve if it were actually about biking.

In terms of more direct FGBC involvement, Unger and I raced at Grand Beach on Sunday, taking 7th and 5th respectively in the solid Master Sport 30+ class. As for myself, a distinct pattern is beginning to emerge: lose ground in the rocks and roots, pick it back up on the climbs and flat sections. Unfortunately, the few technical sections coupled with a bad start still left me a few minutes back of the leaders. And it doesn't look good from here on in, as this was easily the least technical of any of the mtb races we'll be doing this year.

The tour of canaan was crazy. you have to check out the format for the race at granny gear productions. so much to tell, where to start. i did win my division, and for this race that was 35-44 rather than 40-49. unfortunatly, there were not that many entrants, so winning hte overall was not much of an accomplishment (although living to tell about it was). But Sunday's 4-stage race was part of a larger WV points series, and thus a bigger turnout, and i won that as well. Despite the victory, I did not feel confident about anything all weekend, but rather felt so in over my head the entire time. i both loved it and hated it at various points in the weekend. the terrain and the riders there were so hard core it was unbelievable. i am so beat up right now (huge bruise on left foot instep, chainring gash on right shin, random scrapes from thorn bushes all over legs, deep bruise on lower left thigh, bruised right hip, bruised left ribs that make coughing and various other everyday activities painful) and exhausted. Chris, i have to say that the terrain (tons of loose rocks - especially on the downhills -, way too much mud, and slick roots) makes me want a more thorough investigation of the trans rockies route before considering such a venture. i spent so much time off of my bike - either falling off on hte downhills, pushing it up the inridable (b/c either too steep, too muddy, too rocky or too rooty) climbs, or carrying it over the unridable obstacles on the flats - i do not think i would want to do a weeklong ride of that nature. i like to be on my bike when i ride my bike. having said that, i was able to ride so much more downhill by the end of the second day and on the third day just from having been forced to learn how over the course of the weekend. In that respect it was like an intensive mtn bike camp. i am definatly a better rider now than last week. still, some mud and rock sections are just unridable, and WV seems to have more than its share of such, and i don't enjoy those. The first day was a splash of cold water in the face. there i was with my norba racerboy setup and, boom, they throw is into the muddiest, rootiest, gnarliest terrain. my tires were slipping, spinning and sinking. i fell into a mud bog that went up to my hip, and got smoked by the local singlespeeder (hardtail) on the downhill. (that was a pattern that would repeat itself throughout the weekend) after a 45 min rest its off for more. as it turned out, i held my own on the climbs, and the second race climbed for the first 6 miles. one fun part about the weekend was getting to know and mixing it up with the expert riders - though i usually lost touch with them on the descents. as we turned downhill in what was essentially a dry rocky river bed i could not believe this was a) considered a mtn bike trail and b) considered appropriate for a race! At teh end I heard one of the women say she loved that stretch. there are some crazy people riding mtn bikes in WV. I did not fall on that b/c i did not attempt to ride it, and only looked on in disbelief as another rider bounced past me. later, after some more climbing straight up a ski slope, on a downhill section that actually resembled a trail i endoed, driving my head into the ground and spinning onto my back. for a brief second i was thinking that that fall was not as bad as it could have been when i was suddenly jerked away from that thought by the impact of the bike on my chest (hence the rib injury). i forgot to mention - it is cold and wet and i am underdressed for the duration of this day. well, the rest of the way down was hell, as i was so psyched out and in pain. at the ski lodge where we finish for lunch i am stunned to hear everyone going on about what a great ride that was. also i'm shivering. the third ride of the day is mercifully rock free, except for a 1/2 mile downhill after just one mile whhen the singlespeeder buzzes past me, causing me to dismount in an uncontrolled, but upright manner, stepping awkwardly on a rock (hence the instep bruise). one day, 3 1/2 hours of racing, time for a hot bath and a nice group dinner at which i got to know a couple of the other riders.Doing several stages in one day is interesting - it gives you just enough rest to go out full speed again in the next stage, thus maximizing your suffering.

ok, i better be briefer on the next days. suffice it to say i had to do some reevaluating before the next days. my rim brakes were killing me on the wet and muddy downhills - so i rode my tracer for saturday's downill stages. I also had some pretty beefy tires and low seat setting - and i have to say it was almost fun. a 1.4 mile downhill that took me 15 min. on my new bike in an earlier stage took only 9 min on hte tracer. admittedly, i was becoming more proficient as well. we also did a giant slalom that was a blast.

for sunday's epic, 5 stage, 44 mile tour all over the area (various trails and railroad beds from one town to the next) i was back on hte spider but with bigger tires and a shorter stem - which proved to be a good setup. one early stage was a 10 mile uphill up a steep railway grade (although steep for a train is still not that steep - but no letting up the whole way) it was like a mass time trial - i think charlie would have been fascinated by it. because the terrain was so predictable you could just pick a gear and go, pushing yourself as much or not as you like. i tried to hand with some of hte experts, and did so for 18 min. at 18 min i discovered that i can only maintain 182 bpm (about 93-4%) for that long. i simply could not continue at that pace past that point. but remarkably, 178 was fine. and sitting in at 178 i was not losing more than 40 yards to these other guys, but no way could i have closed the gap. then at 30 min i began having difficulty maintaining 178 and found that i needed to drop to 175-6, except for occasional bursts (like the need to stand up for a while to prevent any long term damage to the nerves to my penis - that was an ongoing internal debate in my head - stand up to get some feeling back or just hold out till the end of the ride?) i finished in 47 min. about 2 min back from the guys i initialy set out with, 4 min back from a lead group - and then there was this guy, maybe 22yrs, a pro with trek from colorado who is gearing up for snowshoe next week - he finished in 37 min. During the last 20 min of the last stage on sun (which was the end of 3 days for me) i was simply in survival mode. i was burning through those gu packs in less than an hour and was simply trying to return in one piece. it was brutal. it was all i could do to keep from cramping, falling, sitting. it felt good to be done. would i do it again? no way by myself. if someone else wanted to go, maybe.

my eyes have been opened to a different segment of hte mtn bike community that i was not really so aware of. these guys scoff at teh norba weenies who ride such smooth and easy courses - road biking on dirt. and yet, they are not just outlaw freeriders. these guys are racers, but of a different breed. it made me think of the eco challenge. i'm not sure if that's for me though.

in the tub at the end of the first day i was thinking of turning to road biking - maybe too old for this mtn stuff, etc. not road racing (also brutal with its crashes) but centuries, etc. but at the end i am still on the mtn bike.

Lastly, I hearby officially pronounce my knee fully healed.

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