Sunday, September 11, 2005

Race Report #3 VA Derailer series Lynchburg

Went up to Lynchburg today with John. (Sam sorry I didn't call to see if you wanted to go!) This was race #3 in the Virginia Derailer series. It was held at Peaksview park in Lynchburg. You gotta hand it to Lynchburg, that is a nice park. And whoever designed and built those trails did an amazing job of cramming like 8 miles or pure single track into like one square mile.

Definitely the best course so far of this series. #1 at Rocky Mount was more up/down. Which actually suited my strengths more, #2 was pure tight single track, but had too many little whoop-dee-dos. This course was some of the funnest track I'd seen. Everything was rideable, and there were some whoop sections but not to big not too little. Lots of spectators, and Tacos afterwards. One spectator on the course said "Hey do you have a BLOG". Why yes, yes I do. If you are reading, leave a comment, along with the spammer that will probably leave a comment on his show girls site.

While there were some sweet bikes and hardcore racers there, the coolest things I saw at the race were some novice racers. This one older woman on a regular basic Trek/Fisher/Giant/Schwinn/Haro/etc.. mountain bike raced this one and I've seen her at the other ones. Just by appearances this is the kind of person you'd expect to see working in the garden or going to the craft store on Sunday morning. Instead she is racing on the dirt on some twisty single track with the big boys.

Or this other guy who I'd seen at the Carvin's Cove time trial and who I told would get addicted to racing. He too has been to every one of these races. All 200+ pounds of him on another basic rig. He brought his kids for the kids race this time. Again, by appearances alone you'd expect to see him on the couch with beers and chips on Sunday afternoon, instead of racing, and then eating beer and chips.

Somehow I just couldn't see these people going to a citizen's road bike race with Tshirts/shorts and getting the kind of warm welcome that mountain bike racing offers. One of the great things of mountain bike racing is that it is as much YOU vs the COURSE as it is YOU vs other racers. Everyone is hurting, from pro to novice.

And Tim from Blue Collar MTB did his first mountain bike race. You can totally tell he's hooked. After the race he was telling me his war stories how he should have raced harder to get in front of some of the pack....

I had the rigid BREW out for the race as my disc wheelset is out of commission. It was the first time offroad with it since Rocky Mount. I raised the bar as much as the steer tube would allow, and ran Stan's No Tubes at 30psi front/rear to give me some cush.
Note the bell, mis-matched grips and the $6 front 8speed shifter


My warmup consisted of riding on the trails for a few mins. Just to get the feel again of it on dirt. Turns out this was an almost perfect bike for this course. Incredible acceleration out of the turns. A little more cush up front would have been nice, and a little on the rear to keep the trail chatter from going to the my back too, but for the most part I had no problems.

Plus being one of the only if not the only person on a rigid bike gives me 2 things.
1) Respec'. got the 'nod' from several people for running the rigid
2) A built in excuse for not doing better.

The start, as usual with this Race Series was pure sketch. We started down this paved bike path.
(NOT the actual path just for illustration)

They started experts then 2 mins then ALL sports. Now I know how hard those guys worked to promote a race, and it is easy to throw rocks afterwards, but PLEASE if you are going to start people on a flat confined path and then send them up granny gear single file onyl track PLEASE stage them by ages as well a class. So instead of 20+ crazies at a bottle neck you've got 10.

So we are flying down this bike path. The hum of knobbies on pavement (One of my favorite sounds btw) loud. Guys are rubbing wheels, front tires are dropping off the pavement onto the grass. Very lucky no one went down. I was able to thread the needle and move up to the front 15 or so. The rigid hardtail excels on bike path environments.

Then turn on to some grass and up this pretty steep/loose pitch to the main single track. Total bottle neck. And then some dudes just come flying into the bottle neck. Um brakes, maybe?

(Note: there was a great photography outfit there taking pictures. !!)Stone Blue productions To see pictures from the race go to their ONLINE PROOFING. Hope they don't mind me posting some from the proof sheet?)


Walk up this get on and start hammering. Single file only please. It took a long time to string out and slowly move up. It is a tough mentally to do these. You have to be concentrated ALL the time.

Look at that focus, EYES of STEEL.

In order to not wrap around a tree and in order to stick with the guys up ahead. It is so easy to get into lemming mode and just follow, but it is SO hard to pass someone and go into the red, and then recover but then not let them by you again.

I was trying to no push the legs too hard. Middle ring worked the best because I could spin a super high cadence out of turns/corners and get back up to speed. Going in with a higher gear would have forced me to push hard to get out of the turns, and every time I do that it is burning one more match that eventually leads to muscle cramps.

2 good things I noticed. If it was straight at all for any length of time I could get onto my gear and catch up to someone. And if it was uphill at all I was on their tail immediately.

Standing up out of the turns was just not an option for my legs. One of the keys to racing is to know you strengths and weaknesses and race your strengths. Accelerating via higher cadence worked much better for me than pushing harder. Think spin faster NOT push harder.

Coming out of the trees onto the bike path for the second lap I was with some other Sports. I let them go while I gulped down some Gel. Man, this bike path section seem to have gotten A LOT longer. There were lots of spectators by the entrance back into the trail. Tent, loudspeaker, etc. Everyone was walking it. I had to ride it, there was an audience. I rode it and could here people cheering. But as soon as I got partway, I am thinking what am I doing!!! My legs are going to blow.

But I rode it all, and when I got to the top the walkers were already on there bikes and hammering while I had to recover. But it became the same thing as the 1st lap. Just hang on. NOOOOO time to relax at all. Several times people were on my tail letting me pull them and I asked if they wanted by. Please just come by me and then get out of site and then let me relax. I should have just let them come around when they asked and kept up my pace as best I could. But I just wanted a break.

We hit this hard climb in the middle of the course and people were walking again, and I had a good head of steam and plowed the climb, Again maybe a mistake but I gapped some guys really good. Now it was a matter of just keeping the legs going. I knew the cramps would come if I tried to push big gears. So I spun smaller gears the best I could.

Ran out of water in my camel bak with about 20mins to go. I actually dumped some out b4 the start because I always seem to have a ton of water left over from races. Dumped too much this time. Finally I came out of the trees onto the path. I looked back and didn't see anyone else. thank God, now can I please just roll in w/o having to worry about anyone. No such luck, turn around and see two guys pace lining up to me. moving FAST.

I tried to get on it some more but there was no way I'd hold them off. Now comes the moment of truth. Will they just blow by me or can I hang on the end.

It was awesome, I was able to tuck in the line. There was one Senior sport and a vet sport second. It was really cool, the promoters wrote everyone's age/class on their calves:

So you could easily who was in your class and who wasn't. So I was on the back of this 3 person train humming down the bike path that again got longer than the last time. And was able to recover in the draft, and at the end came around the vet sport. Rarely do I ever have sprint finish.

Final placing was 5th. 4th place had gotten second the race before. There are just some fast guys in this class. I just hope that when/if they come to Brush Mountain that they get eaten up by the course.

Every race is an chance to learn more about yourself and what works/doesn't work. For me, I am learning that it is pushing the big gears that fatigues my legs to the point of cramping. Today was great. I didn't cramp, but I could have if I wanted to to. Meaning I was going hard but not so hard that I went over the line. If I'd have cramped I'd have lost 2-3 spots for sure.

The key for me was to spin a lower gear cumulatively through the course and limit those times when I push a big gear to selective points that will provide big gains.

Racing is just like childbirth. As soon as it is over you forgot how painful it was and are ready to do it again. (Though I've already got two and I'm NOT doing that again


At 1:14 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

Hey Ashwin, I wanted to leave some kudos for this great write up, I really enjoyed it! I have been mountain biking since roughly the beginning of the VA Derailer series (that's right, a FULL three *months* of bike experience :-) and I googled onto your blog after the Waid race in Franklin County. I have been a regular reader ever since. It is a great resource for me because I am not only an "MW/2C, FTJ, NGT'er", but I also ride in the same areas, and I really like the local perspective.

The race yesterday was fun, the course was great. I have to say the kid races at Waid were better organized and more fun for the kids (actual trails, instead of making the kids ride a circle in a field). I also liked that the Waid folks gave the kids T-shirts and numbers for their bikes, that was a nice touch for the kids. But heck, even paying adults didn't get shirts in Lynchburg... I'll have to make a shirt that says "I payed $25 to race in Lynchburg and all I got was a lousy Raspberry Gel" to wear in next years race :-)

I had a great time overall, and was really happy with the event (Tshirts notwithstanding). One quick story from the race. I ride in the novice class since this is my second race, and frankly one loop is challenging enough for me. So I get off to a good start, hang in line for a while, and then start passing people. Everything is going great, and I am now actually riding by a couple of people in Sport division (this makes me feel accomplished :-) So anyways, we are climbing up a longish hill with some curvy switchbacks (Tombstone trail I think?) when I hear someone behind me start passing people (there were maybe three people behind me between 10-20 yards back). So I am thinking OK, this guy is coming on pretty fast, so I scoot over to the right side of trail to let him by. When he actually catches up to me and gets ready to pass we are at a point where there are two trees on either side of the trail, and he says "whoa, not yet", but he has such a head of steam going, that he *pushes* me up the hill to clear the way. Now, I am no small dude (about 200 lbs), but this guy actually gave me a solid, hand on the back, push UP a hill! When he passed me, I noticed the "E" on his leg, and realized I was getting LAPPED by an Expert rider! I was blown away, and he was gone in about 15 seconds... I could no longer see him ahead. Now this totally impressed me, because the dude was huge (maybe 6'1, 210??; a giant orange blur really), and he had to be flying around the course. At this point I was on target to finish in around 50-52 minutes (before I threw my chain and lost a few minutes untangling the mess), I realize this is not all that fast, but man, I was not expecting to get lapped!!

Anyways, great blog, thanks for all the good writing, and keep up the good work!



At 1:43 PM, Blogger ashwinearl said...

I got lapped by the same guy. Did you see the 40 on his leg? That is my goal. To be that fast.

I am not sure if he was lapping us or if he'd gotten a flat and was catching back up or what. I'll have to see the final results.


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