Monday, June 30, 2014

Another Great One to Remember - Boomer XC 2014

I have said it to a few folks already, but this is by far the overall fastest, deepest, and evenly stacked group of guys I have raced with in the Expert 30-39 in the few years I have raced in this class. And Bloomer XC was another example of how tight the racing has been.

Right from the whistle, the blows started. Andy F, and Mike T, went off the front like rockets. A group of Aryn, Jon-Dub9, Robert P, Stephan Z, and a few other began the chase! I was already in the red zone, and felt like I was fighting my bike to hang onto the group. By the time the 2nd lap started, We had caught Andy, and were down to a select group containing Aryn, Stephan, Andy and Myself. We had a good gap to the remaining folks in the class. Knowing the Mike T was just ahead of us, and the podium was not going to be 6 deep, the attacks started. Aryn lit the fuse on the first few, then Stephan. Both would carve the single track like a butcher, and slowly begin to distance themselves from me. I was able to bridge the gap each time in the flats. This continue lap after lap. By the end of the 3rd lap, Stephan was able to get a gap in the confusion of a crash. Aryn and I gave chase and this was enough to ride Andy off our wheels. At the start of the 4th lap, we knew we had at least 2 in front of us to chase down and we could see them both.

At the start finish, I surged up the small grassy climb and into the single track. I was ready to light a few matches and see what happen. I soon realized that I forced a gap on Aryn. I continued to try and chase down the leaders but could not tell if I was gaining. I was still making sure that the gap I formed from Aryn was sticking. I would punch the hills, mange the bike through the single track and bury myself on the flats. This worked. In the end, I never made it back to 1st or 2nd, but I was able to round out the podium for 3rd.

What a hard race. We all stuck together, tested each others strengths and weakness, and never gave up. This is the way racing should be, a

nd I can't wait until the next round.

Congrats to Mike, Stephan, Aryn, and Andy for well earned podium spots in a very tough race.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Comfort Zone - LBJ 100

This past weekend I pushed myself into uncomfortable territory. I did my first every 100 mile mountain bike race at the Lumberjack 100. And for extra punishment, I did it on my single speed.

Since I been racing, long endurance races have been my Achilles heal. I have toyed around with the idea of doing this race in the past, but for most of the past few years, I never really thought I would be able to complete it. But with this year being the 10th anniversary of the race, the course running backwards, 90 % of the course being single track, 9,000 ft of climbing overall, super cool t-shirts and pint glasses I just had to have, I felt there was no better time than this year to do it.

Brad Lako, Joe Sidel and I jumped in the Jeep and head up to Manistee for the long weekend of good times and memories. We got the cabin and it was pissing rain. This was a good thing, and the course would be in stellar shape the next day. We did our pre-ride, had a few beers and chilled until the next morning.

5 AM came quick! But with the pre-race jitters, we were up and at'em. The start was cool, crisp and damp. Just about perfect racing temps. We kitted up and marched to the paved start line. At the start, we rolled down the road and good clip. I soon got shelled out the back, because I could not spin fast enough to keep up. This would be my big mistake of the race. I soon found myself behind about 200 people in the single track on a 5+ mile conga line up the first big climbs. This was not good especially being on the single speed. I had to track stand my way up the hills and very slow speeds. Once the traffic started to thin, I was finally able to move along and settle into my pace.

This was the first time I had been on the outer trails of Big M and I have to say they were amazing! Some of the best trail riding I have even done in Michigan. This was a key factor of my race, and the constant awesome views of the forest, and fast flowing trail kept me stimulated for the entire race.

At the end of the first lap, I was feeling really good. I took a quick break and was off. I was not happy with my lap time, but there was not much I could do with all the beginning traffic. But now the course was wide open, and I went at the rest of the race a little harder. I was now steadily picking off riders one by one. I kept getting behind geared riders almost every climb. This would slow me a bit, but would get around when I could. I was still feeling good and keeping to my pace. The flat 2 track sections were really hard for me, as I would spin out and lose my time that I was gaining. But I was here to finish and not win, so I just managed my efforts and used it as a opportunity to rest my hands and eat solid food.

At the half way point of the 2nd lap, I was surprised to see Joe Sidel at the aid station. He said "hey John", I looked up and almost took out a tree. I stopped and asked what happened? he then told me about his brake issue taking him out of the hunt, and then about him helping his team make Mike F. fix his chain and some other guys chain as well. He said he was about to DNF, but then decided he would just finish it out with me. Joe Deserves the karma award for the weekend for sure.

Joe and I were now together and discussed everything under the sun! But we kept and good pace for the rest of the lap. At the start of the 3rd lap, we slammed a coke, took on some more bottles, and pushed ahead. Joe helped me to keep pushing the pace. We continued to pick off more riders. The entire time I was surprised at how well my legs felt especially on every climb. Soon into the last lap, we hit the 1st 2 track section. We were in a small group of riders, and were trying to sit into to draft the geared guys as much as possible. Then I saw the guy in front of me kick up a small down tree with branches and all. I came right at me like a missile, and got lodged between my chain stay and spokes. It completely locked up my wheel and I came to instant stop. It took me at least 5 mins to pull it out of my frame! Ugh! Nothing was broken thank God, and Joe came back to stick with me. We pushed together through the rest of the lap. Joe pulled away at the end to bring back one single speeder that was dangling in front of us. But I just stayed in my zone and pushed as hard as I could to the end. I came across the line at 8:31. I was a half hour off my my goal time, but I finished and I didn't cramp! In the end, I had a lot to be happy about for the day. I finished something that was way out of my comfort zone, and I got to hang out with great friends at one of the best events in the state!

Congrats on Brad on his top 10 SS class and top 30 overall result!
Thanks again to Joe for coaching me through the race.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Addison Oaks XC

After figuring out my seat post has been slipping on my race bike, and getting back into a consistent training routine, things felt like they were finally clicking on the bike again.

The race at Addison Oaks last week went much better for me that the previous 2 Tailwind races. It started out very fast as usual, and a group of 10 or more of us stuck wheel to wheel for the entire first lap. Then Mitch for Twin Six clipped a bar going full tilt early in the 2nd lap. He wedged between 2 trees, and clogged up the course. The let the 4 guys in front of him get away. Jessy Gould and I finally made it through first and lit a match to try and catch back on. Half way through the lap we caught Stephan Z. We worked together and finally were able to see the lead group just ahead. By now, we had dropped the remaining guys in our class. I hit the grass for the 3rd lap and did not look back. Soon I was away from Jessy and Stephan, and was closing in on the leaders. But in the process, Mike T. made a move that broke up the group ahead containing Andy F, and Jon Dub-9. This must had caused the gap to grow again, because I could see them from time to time but never pulled back the final seconds in the last lap. However, the legs felt good and had plenty of punch until the very end.

Great racing by everyone in the class. It great to finally line up with 20+ equally fast guys week after week.

Next stop Lumberjack 100... This is going to be interesting.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Stony Marathon XC

Here we are again. the Stony Creek Marathon. The race that more people either misjudge, or over estimate each year than any other race in the state of Michigan. Including me. This year was no different. I have often heard for many very strong elite and expert racers over the years that this race is harder than Lumberjack. So I guess I will get my chance to find that out in a few weeks.

As for this Stony chapter, some mistakes, bad luck, life, and general piss poor frame of mind heading into the race, resulted in a DNF. After 40 miles, of feeling like my knee caps were going to blow out my legs, and not having much fun. I decided to just pull the plug and live to fight another day.

So back at it. Topping off fitness, and getting back on my routine. See you all in a few weeks.