Monday, May 11, 2009

O-Cup (Albion Hills) Race Report

The first alarm clock (yes, I set more than one this time) went off at 5:50 AM which I turned off, rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. The second alarm clock went off at 5:55 AM. I was awake and a few minutes later I was out the door, with breakfast in hand, and into my two hour drive to Albion Hills to take part in my first O-Cup race in about five years.

I arrived with a little over and hour or so to get registered, kitted up and go get a warm up in. My goal was to get a good warm up in before the race, which I never seem to be able to do. I generally do longer races where a thorough warm up isn’t as necessary when you riding long distances or a long time. I tend to take a long time to get the legs feeling good and considering I had been off the bike all week (recovery) and was unable to get out on Saturday for a pre-ride, I was very intentional about getting the legs moving. I ran into Mari and Eva doing some hill repeats – very nice to see Mari again and meeting Eva for a second time.

God love my mother-in law, she's the best. Every time I come for a visit (especially when she knows I have a race or will be doing some riding) she make me a pan of brownies. No matter how I object and say that I am getting fat, she makes them and I break down and get into them. I wasn't in the door five minutes when I started in on these. I can justify anything when it comes to food: "It was a long drive. I probably burned a ton of calories just sitting there holding onto the steering wheel and pushing the gas. I also have a race in two days - should probably start carb loading." Meh.

After some farting around the single speeds got staged behind the masters sport men 40-49 (I believe), which suited me fine as I my game plan was to use them as carrots to chase down. At least that was my game plan. I started out in second row and managed to hold my place to the top of the first climb where I tried to recover and push my lungs back into my chest. Right from the gun you had to be on the gas red lining it just to keep up – there were no lolligaggers in the single speed division.

Muddy brown brownies . . . perhaps some foreshadowing to my race?
Maybe a bit more, "I'll really be able to use these calories during the race."

At the top of the first climb I got passed by a few riders then was able to hold onto the race leaders for the first two or so thirds of lap one, dangling off the back dangerously close to losing sight of them. The first two thirds of the course was surprisingly in good condition considering all the rain that fell during the week and the night before. I was feeling optimistic about the rest of the course . . . . until the first muddy hill climb.

Going . . . .

This climb is a regular in the 24 hr races – kind of long and drawn out double track – it seemed longer and more drawn out today. It looked as though a stampede of cows had already gone through the half-foot deep mud, thicker than brownie batter (mmmmmmm, brownie batter . . . .) – no lines to ride anywhere, even on the sides. Once at the bottom you had to dismount and run/walk up it. I saw no one ride it in any of my three times up it. At the top of the climb it flattened out for a wee bit but continued to be very muddy and riding was difficult. Mashing on a single speed only caused you to spin out with no grip from mud packed tires. After it leveled off it descended down with a hard right onto more double track going by a couple swampy sections. On the down my race changed from “barely hanging in” & “I may still have a chance to keep this respectable” to survival.

. . . . going . . . .

With my tires completely packed up with mud, I had no traction and had to use my braking skills (or lack thereof) and some interesting body English to keep myself upright. Towards the top, where I first began to pick up speed I thought someone was passing me when I noticed out of the corner of my eye a wheel coming up beside me . . . . then I recognized it to be mine. While in a two wheel drift I managed to stay up right and avoid taking a swim in the mud (it was deep enough to be buried) but slid into the woods. I managed to pull myself out of the trees, remount the bike and get going again. In my haste to not lose sight of the ss riders ahead of me, it happened again, only on the other side of the track. I managed to wrap myself and the bike around a tree quite thoroughly this time and took a bit of convincing to get free and back on course. I managed somehow to get to the bottom of the hill and struggled to get the bike moving on the muddy double track. No gription, nothing. I managed to make it into a puddle which helped wash off some of the mud that allowed me to pedal in vain to the bottom of another deep, peanut butter like mud climb. No one was riding this either.

. . . . gone.

I looked up the long climb and saw none of the riders I had been within eyeshot of. What was worse, the next field of riders who started behind us were catching me. Fugg.

If I suffer from one thing as a mtn bike racer, well I suffer from a lot of weaknesses, but my biggest downfall is my mental ability to get over set backs. The worse experience I had of it was out in BC on day five after taking a 1000 foot descent down a bitch of a hill on the wrong trail.

That ain't icing.

For me, being mentally defeated seems to transfer to a physical defeat as well, sucking the energy, momentum and confidence. I’ve been in battles with riders in the past where as soon as you put some distance on them and get out of their sight, they seem to stop coming. I guess that’s what happened to me.

For the rest of the race I went into survival mode. My first instinct was to bail on the race and pull out for some “mechanical” issue. More than once I wished I had flatted or snapped my chain when I was suffering. But what a waste it would have been – driving all the way, paying the race fees, training, blah, blah, blah. Just ride dude!

Still, not as bad as this race.

I managed to turn my frown upside down. Why was I here? For fun. Well, let’s get to it and have some fun. After the unknowns of the first lap were over I settled into a pace that wasn’t punishing and tried to find some flow. The parts of the single track that allowed for the mud to clear the tires were fun as hell – it was nice to ride a couple new trails that I had never ridden before at Albion. But I was still very hesitant whenever it got a bit greasy as I had no confidence in my tires.

For my last two, of three laps, I rode the best I could and pushed the bike through the mud where I had to. Towards my third lap I managed to start reeling in some guys that had passed me and was beginning to feel good physically. I’m not an O-Cup racer. These are sprint races, I just start feeling good an hour and a half in. I'm all about a battle of attrition; wearing you down and keeping a steady pace throughout.

Sun baked mud and crank - bon apetite.

So, my result? I came in second . . . . second last.
Nice. See for yourself.

I stole this (without permission or consent) from a poster over on in the Eastern Canada forum. Thanks very much - post a comment so that I can give you credit for capturing me suffering. I don't remember when or where this was taken during the race.

There were guys that I raced against that I am evenly matched or even faster than who did well. I don't know what happened. I'd like to be able to list a bunch of reasons for doing so poorly, but I don't really have any. I was coming off a recovery/rest week, so I should have been flying. The only thing I can think of is I should have gotten out during the week for some light riding and recovery stuff. Would it made that big of a difference? I was also properly fed - did you see the brownies above?? Delicious!

The only other thing that I can think of that could have caused me some issue is this:

I had hit my rear wheel fairly hard on a root in the first quarter of the race, but hadn't noticed anything other than the odd creak from then on. I attributed the creaking to the mud and silt in the drive train. It wasn't until I was back at my mother-in laws washing the bike down did I noticed the friction in the crank. I took it for a ride after noticing it and you could really feel the crank seizing on each turn and I had to consciously force it to turn over. I am wondering if the hit to the rear wheel cause the axle to slide back in the drop out, causing more tension on the wheel? Haven't pulled it apart yet and am hoping for no damage. More to come.

Best part of the whole day was returning to my Jeannie Beanie's place to spend the rest of Mother's Day with Chrissie and The Peanut.

No matter how discouraged I was with my race, seeing Elsa made it all better.


The Vegan Vagabond said...

beautiful pics of Chris and Elsa. wow!

Three things:
1. you don't train for o-cups
2. ss has very competitive riders
3. oh my god your crank

Way to persevere under ass conditions!

Sandro said...

I think with a crank in that condition you performed well. This race has been a good training for your body and mind (never quit).
Btw I like the noise of your hub.


Anonymous said...

Thanks daddy . . . I miss you!
Your peanut

Anonymous said...

The worse experience I had of it was out in BC on day five after taking a 1000 foot descent down a bitch of a hill on the wrong trail

-- did the same! many of times on that race!!!
Then climb up and up and up ...

Win some you loose some.
The best part of it all - coming home to the young ones.

That's a cutie pie you have there!

Don't mess up like me, take advantage of the moment... they are only young that way for a little while.
Then they get old and want nothing to do with you ... the teenage years.
That's when I'll get back into racing...

jvk said...

The stolen picture was taken by me. Credit is not necessary. They are posted, as this blog is, for sharing. Please enjoy.

It was taken about 500m from the start/finish, in the singletrack section beside the parking lot, on the first lap.


the original big ring said...

Thanks Jeff - much appreciated. You got some great shots out there.


the original big ring said...

Hey Sandro, do you have a blog I can link to?