Thursday, July 30, 2009

MNSCS #6 Hillside Park

Sorry This will be the abbreviated version on what happened and to the point. Ok, for starters this was a great venue that Rich organized and he did a great job and remodeling the trails to accommodate a race of this caliber. They finally got the call ups in the right order this time and started from 1st instead of 10th. I lined up next to Brendan just like last race. I told myself that I would start out slower and work into it since that is what has been working best for me this year instead of trying to keep up with people I have no chance against (yet) and then paying for it at the end like in Redwing. Off the line I let up at the first corner down the dirt road and said for Brendan to go in front of me. We turned off the road and went up a short steep powerline trail for a couple hundred yards did a 180 turn and descended back down to the road. I didn't put in any huge efforts up the climb and i was a bit further back than I wanted to when we came back to the road. I saw Brendan and Jeff up ahead and they weren't going full gas so I put in an effort to get up further. Right before the entrance of the single track I saw Justin b-lining it for the hole shot. I let Sam in front of me to take TJ Woodruffs wheel, so we were sitting around 6 and 7th or so. Over the course of the first lap Luke Nelson and I broke off from Chris Fisher and Justin Rinehart with Sam, Jeff Hall, and Brendan up ahead of us. Luke was a good pacer and his tenacity was showing. He kept me going right at my threshold and kept me from getting complacent, he was the perfect lead man. At the end of the first lap TJ caught us after loosing air in his tire and having to put some air in it. After he passed, Luke sill tried to keep up but Tj put in some big efforts to pull a gap on us. Luke didn't want to let him get away that easily and I could tell he still thought he had a chance to reel him back in. through the course of the 2nd lap and into the 3rd and final, TJ maybe put in a maximum gap of about 15 sec. but began to loose it. I was watching Luke and seeing where he struggled and where I excelled and was trying to think of the best spot to attack. I noticed that he stood up alot on the climbs and pounded a big gear on his hard tail. I was taking advantage of the full suspension and was spinning a higher gear and using my momentum more efficiently. The trail system was split into 4 sections and sections 3 and 4 on the east side of the dirt road were the hilliest. We were gaining on TJ and were within 5-10 seconds when I made my move on Luke. I took the lead at the top of that powerline climb I talked about at the start because I knew he struggled through the rock garden at the bottom when we entered the single track the last 2 times. I had a better line than him and the full sus. helps alot through that kind of stuff. I took off after TJ and tried to get out of sight of Luke. In mtbing if you get out of sight of someone you can count on that other person having a tougher time mentally getting their body to put in the effort necessary to catch back up. TJ knew I was coming and and I knew he was putting in some strong efforts to try and hold me off. I was feeling good this time and I kept up with the positive waves. "It was a mother beautiful bridge" (Odd Ball- Kellies Hero's). Yes, I bridged the gap and was glued to his back wheel like day old oatmeal. No words were spoken the entire time. For 3/4 of a lap I was so motivated that I had caught TJ, this was a huge accomplishment for me even if he was having a bad day because I have never done this before. He was tough though and put in big surges on the straighter sections (if you could say there was a straight section in this course) so I couldn't get around easy. I knew it would come down to a finishing sprint. When the time did come I just slammed the gears put my head down and pedaled as hard as I could. He eeked me out by a bike length over the course of a 100 yard sprint but i was slowly gaining on him. Great race though. I loved the course. Thanks racers and volunteers, and Rich for another wonderful MNSCS.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Red Wing

Photo from Dana SchoppeIMG_8984

  Plenty of pain to go around today at Red Wing. A few major changes to the course this year. In years past we just went around one field for the prologue but this year they added another field before entering the first single track section. In years past they also just had one of the 2 major climbs in the area to go up, this year we had to climb both of them. They also added a steep section at the end of the lap before the finish to add insult to injury. There was a few more little sections of new stuff that was in there as well. IMG_9008

Off the line I got on Brendan's wheel in second and stayed there. The prologue was extra long this year before going into the single track, but the pace Brendan set didn't seem over the top. I was a little reluctant going in in 2nd wheel because I didn't want to slow down Sam and Jack if Brendan built a gap. Surprisingly I did a good job staying with Brendan for the first half of the lap that is until we hit the hills. Sam Jack and Eric Thompson went around me when we hit the first major climb. I held my own and didn't let too big of a gap go out. After a downhill section and hill traverse we hit the "Stairway to Heaven" which is a super rocky and steep ascent. What makes this climb hard is the big rocks and lack of a "good" line up it. There is just no main line up the thing at the top when it kicks up and your forced to power over loose rock.

  IMG_9227All four were in sight still but that was it. Sam, Brendan, and Jack broke away leaving Eric and I to have our battle. After the first lap I was feeling it and I had to back it down for a while.The second lap Eric put a sizeable gap on me, about 1:32 at one point according to Floyd.


After I let myself recover for a bit I started feeling better and was being more efficient through the tight single track. There was a group chasing me that I marked going into the 2nd lap but they dropped back on the 3rd lap. Eric abandoned his chase for the leaders during lap 2 and I started gaining the time back. When I started the final lap I caught Eric in the open fields of the prologue and rode past him. The last thing I wanted was to have Eric with me for a sprint, so I tried to put as much time on him in the technical single track. Mid way through the lap and before all the climbs my legs were sending me signals, very bad signals. The cramping had begun. I dropped out of the big ring and tried to spin as much as I could. I was just praying that my legs would be able to make it up the climbs without Eric catching me. I made it up the first major climb albeit slowly but at least I wasn't on the side of the trail screaming in pain and my legs disabled. Tom Rinehart gave me half a bottle near the top which might have saved me from total lock up. I hit the stairway to heaven hard to get enough momentum to take me as far as I could. I rode the first 3/4 but didn't even attempt the tops steep kick up. I was running a hair thin line in having my calves and quads lock up but I made it. On my way over to the quarry descent I look behind me to see an expert rider I didn't recognize. When he came up I asked if he wanted to pass, "No your faster through the single track than me, I am just making my time on the climbs". "What's your name", I ask. "Adam Swank", he says. Ah, that explains it I think to myself. Adam is a pro xc skier I know he was on the Subaru team and don't know if he still is, all I know is those xc skiers have some crazy fitness. I descended into the quarry leading him but let him buy when we started to climb out since I had to run that one too.IMG_9500

I did hold off Eric in the end even running on damage control but still I was one hurting unit when I crossed the finish line in 5th overall with a time of 2:14 Brendan and the front trio creamed me. Brendan took the win and Sam in second and Jack in 3rd. Sam and Brendan were over 8 min ahead of me, that was kind of disappointing. I guess I can't complain since I'm going to school and working. My training will be more consistent after school is over in 2 weeks, AND we are planning a trip to Colorado early to mid August and I can work on my climbing there. Peace!

Photos courtesy of Bruce at

Monday, July 06, 2009

Chippewa Valley Firecracker


  Couldn't ask for nicer weather for this race. Mid 70's and dry air is not very common this time of year. A hand full of MN riders made it over for the race: Kyia Anderson, Todd McFaden, Jesse Rients, Jack Henkins, Eric Thompson, Paul Hanson, Berry Tungseth and Trent Warner to name a few. Sam and I both felt a bit lazy when we arrived, besides it was a holiday weekend and we were at a race. I have learned over the years however that this feeling is a good sign for both of us. Sam crashed out of this race the last time we did it at the start and the year before that I crashed out in the first 100 yards, so Sam's goal was to just get through the start and get away from sketchy riders.


IMG_3975 Eric Thompson showing how hard of a day its been. Sam and I just caught him on this hill. As you can see Eric is a good draft.

   Sam and I were sitting 2nd or 3rd row at the start and getting a bit nervous now. The start was a long drag race to the single track about a mile and a half down some double track and a service road. There were a few tight 90 degree corners where you'd go from all out to a crawl, back to full throttle. I stayed on the outside (lesson learned from when I crashed) and was not pushing it too hard to the first 90 degree corner. But sometimes something just clicks on when you see an opportunity. A lane opened up in front of me and I took it, next thing I know I'm making my way up the field. The worst thing was the dust. It reminded me of Ore-To-Shore where your stuck in a big line of riders and you can't see the riders or the trail in front of you. You just hope to God know body crashes in front of you or you don't hit a rock or rut off guard and spin your front tire out. I was doing pretty good and wasn't too worried about making drastic moves going into the singletrack which is important for everybody. I went in behind Berry Tungseth and Sam was right behind me. We were I'd guess around 15th or so. I used the first couple singletrack sections to ease into the race a bit and started to move up when the trail ducked out of the woods. Paul made a mistake and went off trail but got back in in front of me before a stream crossing. He let Sam and I by on the next open section which was a long double track section where I could slow roll a low gear which is always fun. I can't remember who else we passed, there are a lot of Wisconsin riders I don't know and the first lap was kind of a blur. Coming around on lap 2 in the open field section we could see a couple groups ahead that weren't too far off which is always a boost mentally. I remember a small gap between the groups and it must have been where Sagar and the Lelondes took off from the rest of the group. We caught Seth Lenss (I think that's who it was) and he stayed with us for a while and made some moves to try and get away but he fell off up a climb on the double track when we caught Jesse Rients I think. Its like taking a Gu for the brain seeing a rider being shelled and your gaining on them. Over the next couple laps, guys were getting shelled off the chase group, Seth and Jesse were  the first followed by Mike Phillips and Eric Thompson. Sam and I worked together the whole race. When I needed a break he would pull and vice versa. It was working out well. Having someone else with you also keeps you from being complacent. In no mans land sometimes I forget I'm racing, and I find myself going slower than I should. Anyway, we both were doing good in the singletrack which flowed really nice. I don't think I'm of singletrack ninja status yet but I'm close. I dinged a couple trees with my shoulder on the same spot but no crashes and we just stayed smooth and efficient. At the end of each lap there was this "Dr Jekle and Mr Hyde section which consisted of some tight 180 switchback berms down a descent into a huge rock quarry that you had to climb out of. Sam and I ran it each time not risking a flat tire from the sharp rocks and we can run pretty fast. Sam let me lead and I hate to say it but, he said he would let me win. I'm sure he could have rode away from me at some point during the race but it would have been hard for him and its not a MN series race so anyway, I can't end it w/o a sprint for the crowd so I gave it all my gears and came in 8th overall. We took 2nd and 3rd in the elite class since we decided not to take the pro license when they made the category changes this year. Neither of us wanted to cough up $150 for a license when payout is overall anyway. So there you have it. Great race on a great day. Thanks to Don and all the volunteers at WORS for making racing possible.  

P.S. I have to give special mention to Jack Hinkens. Sam and I were all done cleaning up and packed and decided to go get the water bottle stands down on the end of the course.Everything was over and the venue was starting to be taken down even, so we walked down there got the stands and as we were about to the car walking back Sam yells "Hey Eric look who's coming". Up out of Dr Jekle and Mr Hyde emerges Jack on his way to the finish. He was shot. I guess he had 2 flats and bonked but still wanted to finish even when he was the last one on the course, now that's the mountain biker attitude. He looked like he was going to fall asleep on his bike so we gave him a Gu with 2x caffeine and told him to get some water. It was a character building race for him. I'm sure this will be one of his survival stories he's going to tell years from now.