Monday, June 05, 2006

A Birthday Race Report

Yesterday, June 4, 2006 was my 38th Birthday.

It was also the Massanutten Hoo Ha Bike race

This was the first race of my 2006 season. I was actually forgetting it was my birthday due to being busy with work and travel and focusing on the race.

As the first race of the season I was naturally concerned. The reality is that I never go hard enough in training. This past two weeks had seen very little saddle time as well (like 4 hrs this week). So there are always gremlins in my mind about handling, dead legs, etc...

Massanutten is one of those races that I place on a pedestal. In my years of coming here it has always been one of the biggest and baddest races in Virginia. The area is known for its over the top technical rock riding, and its cycling personalities. Harrisonburg has one of the most vibrant cycling scenes in the east anchored by magnetic personalities like Chris Scott, Thomas Jenkins, Mike Carpenter...

Rocks is all I can say. Tough rocks. Sissy rocks. Rocks who climb on rocks...
Buried baby heads. Stegosaurus scales, full flights of stair steps.. you get the picture.

The race always draws a big field, of the best riders around. For example, Jeremiah Bishop won, and Eatough and Sue Haywood would have been there but had other obligations.


Here was JB's bike
V brakes on the rear with a Power Tap hub and I think those are ESI silicon grips.

I usually end up finishing feeling like death. Usually it is held in August and the heat just bakes me. This year it was in June, and a cool day to boot thank god.

Interestingly enough I wasn't suffering from that paralyzing fearful nervousness that I tend to get before races. I was focused and concentrated but didn't have as much of the nauseous butterflies. I wonder if this new pop-psychology secret weapon I'm testing out had anything to do with it. More to come in several weeks on that.

I was a little sad to not be spending my birthday with my family. This isn't the best race to bring the family to. After the kids race they would be hanging out in a field for about 4 hours. It would have been cool though to have them cheer me on

My wife had bought me a new cycling duffel bag for my birthday. Perfect timing.
All packed up and rolling out at 7:15am for the run up 81. Upon arrival I immediately downed half a bottle of gatorade, and then suited up for warmup. I was so focused that I almost forgot to pin on my # until I saw some other people pinning on theirs.

With Ipod rocking out with some good punk I followed my warmup routine
5mins zone 2-3
5mins MSP
5mins Zone 2
5x1min on 1min off zone 5
5 min zone 2

Legs felt ok. Not great.

Finished off the rest of the bottle of Gatorade on the warmup. That is 56grams of carbs right before the start. Key!

Filled my pockets with the necessities
2 gel flasks, tools, bottle of gatorade, camel back, energy bar

and rolled to the start

Typical starting line banter. I didn't know anyone near me so didn't have to partake. The course had changed since the last time I'd been here so I was eavesdropping on some guys talking about the start and where the single track was

The Start and early race

The start was on a paved climb. No idea where the turn in for the single track was. We took off, and I immediately went out way to hard. The legs and heart said no sir, and I backed off only to be passed by several riders. Will I ever learn?

The first part of the race is a prologue loop that dumps out to double track fairly quickly. With my new MO in mind I didn't try to go too hard. Several times in the single track I wanted to go faster stuck behind some slower riders, but I was proud that I just followed along and didn't try to over do it yet.

Cost Benefit Analysis
Soon enough we hit some steep grinder climbs. Everyone was walking. I KNOW I can ride this stuff. My bike kicks ass on these kinds of climbs. Especially after my ride last Sat on Price's mountain I know that this stuff is rideable.

The first grunt had too much foot traffic and I had to walk. The second and third though I was able to thread the needle around the lemmings and clean both. TRACK PLEASE! RIDER! thankfully most people got out of the way to let me by.

It was in these moments that I realized how much of mountain bike racing is a cost/benefit analysis. How many matches do you burn in a given situation vs the benefit of passing people of making up ground/time? Cleaning these steep pitches put the hurt on my legs and heart. I'd have to recover on the top and get back into the sweet spot of sustainable power. The redline effort would surely haunt me later as the leg cramps set in. Yet here was a situation to pass 10 people in a shot.

On these two grunts I passed about 15 people. BAM! like you read about.

I was so stoked too when topping out on the climbs, that I was able to bring my heartrate and breathing down and grab a harder gear and continue on. The nightmare is grinding through something like that and then coming to a standstill on the top and having to let everyone you just passed by.

Here again the light bulb went on.

It is a fallacy that mountain bike racing is just a time trial at your Maximum Sustainable Power (MSP). Dave Morris said to me once that with the exception of extended climbs, mountain bike racing is a series of high output efforts, followed by inadequate recovery combined with sustainable power and periods of very low output on descents.

These grinder climbs were the perfect example. Redline, recover back to sustainable output. This was repeated time and time again. Technical section, trying to pass someone followed by a rhythm section or a downhill.

The training he's had me doing has simulated this well. And it really paid off.

The ridge
The single track dumps out to an old paved road. In August this is typically an oven. Thankfully it wasn't too bad today. This road is steep. I mean granny gear steep. When was the last time you road granny gear on a mountain bike on a paved road? Alone you can middle ring it, but in the middle of this race it is granny gear.

I forced myself to drink a bottle of water that was handed out and eat some of my energy bar. Several riders go by but the ridge was coming.

THE RIDGE! This is the feature that the Hoo Ha! is known for. I so wanted to ride more of it this year than in the past. I was able to a little bit, but the fatigue was setting in. I started to cramp a little. But it was comical. The cramps were nothing but a thang. PFFft! Whatever, where ya been? I just kept on riding. I think I haven't really developed any cramp mitigation as opposed to just developing some cramp tolerance.

Sections of this thing might be rideable. But at this point there was no way. Cost benefit time again. It just wasn't worth the tax on the legs, and the potential for crashing.

Some sections were just long flights of stairs. This is the one situation where being short and my bike's weight were liabilities.

In some sections I became a lemming and walked along with everyone else when I should have ridden.

It started to get dark. Ominously dark. Then it cooled down. In more than 15 years coming to this race I've never once been cold. I was getting chilly. Then it started to sprinkle. Then it started to really rain. Hard rain.

FLASH!! CRACK!! BOOM! Lightning, thunder. Ok, top of a ridge. In a thunderstorm. Hmm not the best place to be. Time to go. Thankfully the turn for the downhill came soon enough. Though this was a be careful what you wish for thing.

The downhill
Pouring rain storm. Already technical riding now became wet slick technical riding. Wet rocks and roots with a fresh coat of mud from all the previous riders. Thank god for disc brakes.

My recent diligence with skills work is really paying off. This was my first race since my lesson with Gene. The entire day I was riding very well, typically passing or catching up to everyone. I believe I was passed on a downhill one time.

On this downhill in the rain I came up on a rider and didn't have the guts to try and pass. I could hear another rider barrelling down behind me. Chain slapping the bike, making a huge ruckus. RIDER!! he screamed.

We had slowed up for a sharp right hand turn, almost a switchback. The flying rider screams "passing on the right". He passed at speed on the inside of this switchback with just a few inches between him and us. My mouth was agape in awe. The guy in front wasn't planning on letting him by and was pissed off at the pass. He was swearing his head off. God dam** moth** f*** that's how people get hurt, What is he racing for 8th place in sport. and on and on.

I'm saying to myself, dude if you'd just get out of my way so I can go faster.... And btw that was a sweet pass. THAT, was mountain biking.

Ugh, this downhill was getting old. Pure concentration required. A situation where going too slow is much more dangerous than going too fast. Too slow and the tires slip or get buried. Trying to keep the head up and just get to the bottom

Finally at the bottom it turns to double track, or rolling single track. It seems like you're almost there but at the Hoo Ha you are never ever almost there. It just doubles back, turns here, goes up there down here, and on and on. It was the perfect track for me though, Big ring or middle ring spin with some climbs but no steep grinders. Just light enough on the pedals to keep from cramping.

I was rocking. All day I'd had a few lines from some songs by Against Me! trying to maintain focus. Now I was practically singing out loud. I had goosebumps. I was flying. Reeling in some people. I know reading this BLOG it seems like I place too much emphasis on intervals, training and don't have enough fun. But let me tell you . I was having some serious fun.

Finally we were getting close. I let a guy by on the last climb wishing I hadn't. In the single track he slowed up but there wasn't anyone in my class nearby so I just let it ride through the finish. Huge smile plastered all over my face. Even 5 minutes after the smile was still there. Some guy said it must have been too easy with a smile like that!


Ok something wasn't right. I felt fine. No headache, no stomach ache, I didn't feel like curling up into the fetal position. The typical reaction to this is "did I go hard enough?" I'm finally realizing that getting the fastest time doesn't always mean riding into the dead zone.

After grabbing my recovery drink I tooled back to check the results. I've said before that the results will be what they will be, but who am I kidding, I know they matter.

3rd place Men's Vet Sport

I was soo stoked. Given the size of the field, the quality of the riders, and the difficulty of the course, I'd have to say this is my best race ever.

Being able to give good news to my wife and kids is always a plus. Especially after years of disappointing answers to the eternal "How'd you do?"

I got some more birthday presents too.

If you read this BLOG you know my addiction to Reese's.

What a great day. Now that it is over I can safely think how many close calls I had. It is so rocky that I can't imagine how I didn't slice a sidewall, or have any other mechanicals except for one dropped chain. Only stuffed the front wheel once not too bad. And on the wet downhill, I hit some off camber roots and was going to go down but HARD, but like my son says, my foot came out "superspeed" and I saved it.

Great start to the season, now I just want to maintain the momentum. With the exception of our Mexico trip and a few weeks of endurance riding, I've been putting in between 4-8hrs a week. I know a lot of those guys are putting in 12-20hrs in the saddle.

My family rocks!
My bike rocks!
Dave Morris rocks!


At 12:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is awesome Ashwine... Congratulations.

Seems funny to me, but I've been reading your blog for a couple years now... can't think of anyone more deserving. Keep it up.


At 4:37 PM, Anonymous Ryan said...

Very cool. As a frequent reader I have enjoyed hearing about your training. It has paid off for you. Sweet finish!


At 5:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I echo what those above wrote: Congrats, and you definately deserve it--way to go!!

At 8:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, as your sister, I can honestly say you blow me away!! What an inspiration, you are to your kids and the rest of the family!! You rock!! AR

At 12:41 AM, Blogger Rey said...

Excellent results, cool read is great when all the PAIN pays off. This weekend I¨m suppose to race but I know I¨m going to DIE. So I¨m living thru you right now, I even started to write on my blog.


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