Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pontiac Lake XC, the count down begins!

What a great day for racing and on one of the best trails in the state. When I think of XC mountain bike racing, this is the place I think about. It has it all! Fast, technical, lots of climbing and lots for down hills. You place high on the podium hear and you earned it. Over the past several week however, it has been very dry and the trail has seen a lot of traffic so it had become very loose. Thank God for the rain last night to tighten everything up and and it super fast.

Going into this race Adam Naish and I were dead tied in points for the best 5 out of 8 races in the Tailwind USAC XC Michigan State Championship series. So unless less one of us took 2nd place today, the series is going to come down to a who beats who in the last race of the series at Stony Creek on Sept 7th. So lets talk more about today.

It was hot. I made sure to hydrate well in the days before and right up to the start. We took off and immediately, Adam jumped on my wheel and stayed there almost to the end. (I guess it was paybacks from Fort Custer) But it was Ok. I felt good and was up for the challenge. We set a good pace for both of our laps. And with about 3 miles to go, Adam decided to put the hammer down. I jumped on his wheel and hung on. Adam had his legs today and was setting a blistering pace. This was the only time I think my heart rate actually spiked and stayed spiked! Another rider from an older class got into the mix and separated us until the last climb. This is not where I wanted to be. Adam sprinted up the last climb, and I was stuff behind the other guy and could not attack. By the time I got off the hill and onto the fast double track, Adam had already been in his big ring and was about 100 yrds ahead. I knew the last 1/2 mile or so was all grass and figured that this would be my only chance to catch him. I tried to dig deep and when I looked up to the finish, there was Adam about 30 feet in front of me. He took 2nd I took 3rd.

But not all is lost, The series will still come down to who beats who (As far as I can tell based on what I read in the rules) and I actually beat some personal beat times at PLRA. The fastest time I ever did in 1 lap was 46 mins. I did that in last years XC race. Today my 1st lap was 45 and change. Last year I ran a 46 and 50 min lap for the race and this year I ran a 45 and 46. So if I look at my overall improvement -- I kicked some ass! At least my own.

So I have 2 weeks to prepare for Stony Creek. Time to heal, time to train. I am looking forward to this race and I feel my chances are good. So let the final show down begin!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Show Down at Fort Custer TT

Well this race was not part of my schedule this year. You see it fell on the same day as my daughters birthday. BTW, she turned 3! Happy Birthday Makenna. But after the Stony Creek TT, I was behind 1st place by just 2 points. So the series would have come down to a who beat who duke-em out final! So I convinced the wife that this was important, and really wanted to race if possible. I actually think she understood and was very supportive and kept encouraging me to do well. So before I get to far into my story. I owe both my wife and daughter big! Thank you both very much and I love you!

Going into this race as mentioned above, I had to beat Adam to win the overall series title of Michigan MTB Time Trial Champion for Sport men 30-34. And let me tell you I was ready. I had a goal, and a plan. My fitness is back on form and my results over Adam in the last 2 races was what I used for motivation. One thing about TT's is, you go as fast as you can and don't look back! Any pause or hesitation could cost you the race. I learned a little about that at the Brighton Stage race this year. But this TT was different. All I had to do is beat Adam within 1st through 4th place to beat him by 1 point in the series. So as I was lining up and my number was called, Adam lined up next to me. NO WAY! Not only do I need to beat him. We are going into this thing side by side for the final show down. Does racing get any better than this? So the stage is set, plan in place, and now the carrot will be with me in plain sight for the entire race. One thing that keeps sticking in my head that my good friend Ayrn told me, "Sometimes you have to give up the yellow jersey to defend it" kept sticking with me for this race. And that is the approach I used. I was not trying to win first place for the race, but rather win the overall series by beating 1 person. And this is how it happened...

The whistle blew and we were off. I took the hole shot for about the 1st mile and then Adam pulled ahead of me in the double track and into the trenches. This is where I needed to be. Let him do the work. This was the first part of my plan. 2nd wait for him to make a mistake. And 3rd, stay with him til the final sprint and then attack on the uphill grass to the finish. Back to the race, I sat on his tail for several miles sticking with his cadence. No problems so far, then in Grannies garden, he came out of his pedals on a climb which forced me off my bike. He started to pull away but I put in a big effort and caught back up. I rode his tail until he unclipped again on a rooty climb near the small lake I jumped out in front and pulled for about 3-4 miles. This is where I needed to be because I knew that there were a few technical up hill grinders that needed to go through clean. Because If I were to make a mistake, it would have been my race. As we approached the last few miles, Adam tired to launch a attack around me on a climb. I was surprised that he was being this aggressive and we actually were bumping handle bars fighting up the climb. Then I thought, "stick with the plan" and let him take back over the lead. I followed for a little longer and we came upon another hill. He mis-shifted and popped a few gears. I then attacked and never looked back. Come to find out, he said he dropped his chain and could not catch back up. I pushed as hard as I could as Brian my team mate kept talking to me. I had a small bobble in the last mile from the loose sand that almost sent me over the handlebars, but I was able to save it. As I came out of the single track, turned onto the last long stretch of grass, I just kept the legs spinning and burning. Making sure I did not give him a chance to catch me. I crossed the line and looked back. He was no where in sight. I just won the Time trial championship for my age and class! For the race I finished 3rd and Adam Finished 5th.

On another note. I did not race Single Speed this day, but I did end up capturing 3rd overall for Sport/beg Single speed class. Not bad considering I only raced 3 of the 5 races this year.

Finally, Some of my other team mates had big days in the race and overall series awards. Winning overall series awards in their classes were Brian Crook and Stan Cristy. Also, winning 3rd overall was Don Miller. Way to go guys. And Brain took his first sport class win. Keep it up Brain. This will be one of many for you.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"I'm Back!"-- The Big M Report

That's right I am back. Fully recovered from all the physical, nutritional, and mental BS that I have been bending every one's ear about (You all know how you are and thank you very much for listening to me and helping me out). But it is awesome to feel strong on the bike again! Especially heading into the last few MTB races for the year. My last event was this past Sunday for the USAC Tailwind XC race #6 at Big M in the beautiful Manistee National Forest. This is a wide open trail deep in the woods with plenty of false flat climbing, fast down hills, and plenty of what West coast Michigan is known for -- sand!

I have been feeling a lot better since Ruby and was ready to fly for the race. The weather was absolutely beautiful - finally, and the trail was in the best shape I have ever seen it in the past 3 years. We lined up with the 19-29 year olds. And when the whistle blew, I shot out and started in about 4th position. Most of the young guys started peeling off about 2 miles. Then Brain (team mate) pulled up front and pushed a fast pace for me that blew the field apart. Brian suffered a flat in the beginning of the 2nd lap, so I continued to push on. Each lap I felt stronger and stronger. I kept talking to myself and made sure I stayed hydrated. I have not felt this good in a race since Bloomer. In fact when I crossed the line, I felt like I never even rode my bike. I was not only happy with the 1st place finish that was much needed to stay in the hunt for the overall series title, but I finished in 1:22. This was 4 mins fast then the previous year and my lap times were consistent.

So as mentioned before, there is only a few more MTB races left and they are all important. The TT series is up for grabs and will finish at Fort Custer State Park. This is my style of single track and I had the race of my life last year in the mud and on the single speed so I am mentally ready for this one. I just got to get there... That is another story. And in the USAC XC series, there are 2 more races with the overall title up for grabs. The first race is at Pontiac Lake, which I consider this to be my favorite course in the state. And Stony Creek which is sometimes my home away from home. So it looks like there is still a lot of fun on the bike in my future!

Before I go, I want to give Stan Cristy some dues. Stan took 1st in his class Sunday also. He probably had his best race of the year. It was inspiring to here his story on the way home. Knowing that he is a true beginner and knowing how hard he has worked this year to get where he is at, lets me know that we can achieve anything if we continue to strive for it. Thanks Stan for making me better!