Sunday, August 27, 2006

Race Simulation: Rowdy Dawg

John and I did a race simulation on the Rowdy Dawg Course. He had an awesome idea to take our time gap from last year and stagger the start. So he had a monkey on his back in the form of me chasing him down, and I had a rabbit to chase. It was such a blast.

The Rowdy Dawg is a tough tough course. The sport course is a lollipop, out singletrack, a loop, back the same way. Expert loop is the same but two laps of the loop. You can ride out here all your life and have no problems, but try racing it and it will eat you up. People come from out of town and poo-poo it because it doesn't have any big features like the long climbs of Douthat, or the technical ridges like Dragon's Back or Massanutten. They change their tune by the end of the race, and most say it is one of the hardest courses.

I was on the hardtail today and was a little worried. There is a ton of trail chatter out here, rocks, roots, that just pound you.

But it rode really well. The biggest problems were my hands and lower back, but for the most part I was stoked. Today I felt nimble and light on the wheels.

John started and I gave him 20 minutes before chasing. Unlike a real race, I didn't have the crazy energy of the starting line, and that feeling that I'm going way to slow because I'm off the back. Here it was find the sweet spot as soon as possible and be consistent.

It was awesome. Just riding consistent. Good tempo. It's wrong to say a time trial, because the only steady state sections are extended climbs. But I tried hard to stay within my limit on the flats, so I could go into the red for short periods on the short climbs and technical sections. On long climbs I tried to start in an easier gear than necessary and grab harder gears towards the top and after topping out.

So so different from the last time I raced here where I'd gone out way to fast on the start and felt like I was going backwards on the many technical sections that I know can be ridden strong.

The first part was really loose. Sandy. The hardtail has an 80mm fork while the dually has a 100mm. The 100 makes for a longer wheelbase and better high speed cornering. It took a while to get my front end under control as I was trying to muscle it too much. Almost washed out several times into the trees.

The course goes down a gravel road and jumps onto the Trillium trails. Here it starts to get rockier. Again just trying to hold it together and ride consistently. It was really fun to have someone to chase. One mantra was 'he's right around the corner...he's right around the corner." Everyone I'd pass I'd ask...did..(pant) pant) with...a...yellow (pant pant) helmet?

I felt bad a few times cause I knew some riders but didn't hang out to chit chat. Racer boy mode.

The gap trails are meat grinders. Partially buried rocks

If you hit these one iota too slow, your wheels get sucked down into each crevice. The leadout work I've been doing has been key for these types of sections cause I could increase my cadence to hold speed through here, and then not be totally blown on the other side.

37minutes to the start of the lollipop loop (3 way intersection)

The loop includes the Beast down hill. The bottom looks like this

My hands were killing me. Not sure if it was because of the V brakes (vs discs) the 80mm fork (vs 100mm) or the lack of rear suspension. I think it was the brakes.

This downhill is always potential for full on carnage, it's better to make it down in one piece that try to gain a lot of time.

55 minutes for the loop

Now the way back on the Gap trails. I passed a large group at the top of a steep grunt. They were hanging out and gave me some intel that they'd seen John. I started to get on it then. Two of them with full suspension jumped on my tail. This section was very rocky.
Behind me it sounded like a machine gun. Ga-GAGGAga--gAg-a-g...Rattle, clank...Like they were right on my wheel which they were. Of course I tried to go faster, and was getting tired and too close to being on the edge. On a smooth section I threw down a short sprint and gapped them huge. But man, that was just pure stupidity and chip on shoulder riding. Cause it took me over the sweet spot in a big way. They caught up on the next rocky section and I decided to let them by so I could calm down and get back to the plan.

At the beginning I was riding with my head. Now I was riding with heart. Go go goo. catch 'em if you can. Right around the corner, right around the corner. I was making mistakes in handling, almost washing out several times. Didn't seem to be bonking but the legs could cramp at any instant though were holding strong.

Finally that corner came and I saw him walking up a steep grunt. He'd bonked, like white spots bonking. John gave me a good push on steepest section which helped a lot. I 'thought' we were right near the finish and that was the last steep hill...WRONG. This trail gets longer and longer every time I ride it. More and more where was the end. But I was hossing it. Felt strong. A couple of times I actually stood up and honked out of the saddle. Maintaining momentum and shooting up and over. an expert man. This is the stuff that I've visualized about and rarely if ever have ridden like. This was slightly short lived though as the final sections were on vapors. Made it to the gravel road and just tried to get to the finish line. John rolled in a few minutes later.

36:20 from the 3 way. This direction is easier that going out but I also had 1.5hrs under my belt. So I was really happy.
2:08 total. The route we ran had the Royale trail on it that wasn't in the race last year, so that added on a few minutes. So call it maybe 2:05 for the same course last year.

Last year I did it in 2:15. Stoked. Nutrition wise things seemed to go good. 2 bottles of Heed.
At the end I felt strong. Not totally over the edge. I'm quite fond of this pacing strategy now. Screw those crazy starts. And worrying about position from the get go. Just ride my own ride. Works much better. Stay in control. Have the gas to ride the grunters/steeps. Ride the tech sections like you own em. Crest climbs with enough juice to grab a harder gear. Recover back to the sweet spot. repeat.

I am hopeful that the dually will make it slightly faster over the long haul.

But alas, here is the rub. Now that I'm a big time expert, I need to do 2 laps of the loop. Okaaaayy... That'll be at least another 50 minutes-1hr. So now we are talking 3hrs+ given everything going according to plan.

You know what the top experts did it in last year?

1 2:24:07 Justin Thomas
2 2:35:25 Todd Reighly
3 2:45:02 Chris Pohowsky
4 2:46:36 Justin Riddle

That's the goal, right there. It's good to have goals you know. I'm very happy with my riding right now. Better than last year. One step at a time. Put one foot in front of the other and soon you'll be walking out the door.


At 2:16 PM, Blogger Warren Schimizzi said...

Man, if you didn't stop to take all of those pictures, you'd have done it 15 minutes faster!

When is the Rowdy Dawg this year anyway?

At 4:50 PM, Blogger ashwinearl said...

October 15th
Check back here for more details. It will be really low key grass roots.

At 5:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 15th? Really? I thought it was the 8th!!
Great ride today. I'm still cooked.

At 7:45 AM, Blogger Jeff Kerkove said...

Waaaaaaay sweet singletrack!


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