Posts filed under ‘Racing’
Each year for the past 10+ years, Bill Seitz and his GSMR team have put on an excellent “kick-off-the-year” training series up in a rural valley near Gadsden at the Camp Sumataunga. I signed up to race all three races, but I forgot about a church program Analise and Josiah were going to be in for the 2nd race. I won the first race in a tight field sprint after numerous attacks from me and plenty of other riders all failed to produce a lasting break. Will Hibberts took the second race this year from a race-long break including Mark, Jacob Tubbs, and a few other strong guys that ended up setting the new course record fastest lap time. In the last race, Mark Fisher, AJ Meyer, and I got into a late race break with just one 10 mile lap left to go before the finishing climb. Then on the finishing climb (as you can see in the video below), Mark dropped me and AJ like a rock to win on the Chandler Mountain climb. I ended up holding on for 2nd with AJ just behind in third.
CHANDLER MOUNTAIN FINISHING CLIMB Dist: 1.00 mi (0:07:01) Climbing: 607 ft Min Avg Max DFPM Pow 0 348.5 602 W Aero 0 15.2 74 W Speed 5.3 8.6 14.9 mi/h Elev 136 467 745 ft Slope 0.2 11.03 18.4 % Caden 45 64.7 92 rpm HR 156 182.5 189 bpm NP:367W IF:1.24 TSS:18 VI:1.04 3/3/2013 4:43 PM 35 degF; 990 mbar
1st place overall! Thomas Turner dropped me about halfway up the first climb, but I ended up catching him again just before the start of the final descent (35 miles later) before he dropped me again on the descent. He had a good 20 second lead by the bottom of the descent, but I was able to catch him again on the steep rollers back on the road. I attacked on the last steep hill, got a small separation, and then drilled it as hard as I could on the final drag back to the winery. It was just enough so that I could make it through the winery and still hold onto win!
Annotated heartrate/elevation/speed plot (click to enlarge)
Heartrate zone/time/avg speed summary
Strava course segment comparison
The heartrate/elevation/speed data above pretty much tells the race, but here is how the race played out with as many details as I can remember. It was cold at the start with temps hovering around freezing and expected to stay there all day. By the top of the first climb, there was fresh snow (just light dusting) on the dirt road with some ice and slush in some of the ditches alongside the road. One glimpse towards the top of Springer Mountain, and you could see all the trees dusted with snow and shining bright white. At about that same time, it started to snow again — just some light flakes but enough to make it epic.
But back to the start — the opening cyclocross course was more difficult this year with some slick sections that seemed to slow everybody down. Some mud and a little bit of ruts made the opening cyclocross course tricky, only Thomas Turner (Jamis) was able to ride the run-up, but even then his rear wheel was slipping so he wasn’t able to get away from the rest of us who were running. Leaving the winery, we were straight into a stiff headwind and I was able to chase onto a group of about 15-20 riders including: Thomas, Garth Prosser, Gerry Pflug (racing singlespeed this year), Michael Simonson, Jerry DuFour, James Monk, and maybe 10 other guys. I looked back just before we made the left turn off of Hightower about 3 miles into the race, and there was a second larger group of maybe 20-30 riders only a few seconds back. Once we made that left, though, Thomas drilled it and I knew that there was no worry about the second group catching back up to ours. Thomas stayed on the front the entire time with Michael, Garth, and I taking turns trying to hold his wheel through the steep rollers.
Pretty soon there was just five of us left at the front: Thomas, Garth, Michael Simonson, Jerry Dufour (from Birmingham!), and me. This probably would have been the Top 5 for the race, but Jerry double flatted. Thomas set a brutal pace whittling the group down to just me, Jerry, and Michael. Then about halfway up the climb, Thomas hit one of the steep sections hard, and in short succession Jerry, Michael, and I all came off. This made for a lonely race because we didn’t come off at the same time (maybe spaced a couple minutes apart?). I quickly lost sight of Thomas, and he had 3 minutes by the top of the climb (time split from the aid station volunteers).
Snow, ice, and mud across the top of Springer Mountain made for a tentative descent — even though the descent itself was mostly dry. I started to feel better by the Cooper Gap climb and settled into a good rhythm on the climb, which basically consisted of hard tempo on the flatter sections and then standing up and drilling the steep sections. Fortunately, it was smooth enough that I could lock out the front suspension and torque on the bars pretty good to aid the standing up sections. The farther I got up the climb, the more I was realizing that there wasn’t anybody catching me. So this gave me a lot of motivation to push it hard to the top of the climb. Going through the aid station, I drilled it again through the rollers and still felt good through the next rollers, where I have felt pretty bad in previous years.
Then at the bottom of the first steep step of the descent (see heartrate/elevation plot), I flew into the next steep climb and could see Thomas about 3/4 of the way up it — maybe less than a minute ahead!!! I drilled it up this climb and nearly blew myself up in the process as my legs were screaming by the top. Fortunately, there was a long downhill before the next steep roller, and I settled into a more reasonable rhythm on this second climb and caught Thomas at the very top. Even on his cross bike (with me on my mountain bike), he dropped me on the long descent and had a good 15-20 second lead by the time we hit the pavement. I was able to catch him again on one of the last rollers before the sharp turn, narrow road, and steep paved climb. I attacked on the steep climb knowing that I would need a good lead going into the winery if I was to have any shot at winning. I got a little bit of separation, but he was still right there (only a few seconds back) as I turned onto Hightower.
I had been psyching myself up to try and ride the final run-up, but there was a car that got in my way driving slowly down to the run-up so I didn’t have any momentum and decided to just run up it. By the top, Thomas still hadn’t reached the bottom so I felt much better about my chances to hold on. Still, I kept expecting him to come flying by at any moment so I didn’t let up until all the way up the final steep grassy climb across the ditch and then onto the pavement for the last tenth of a mile to the line! So happy to win Southern Cross … that also makes for a nice odd mathematical progression of 5th in 2011, 3rd in 2012, and 1st in 2013!
So I mainly just wanted to upload a video of my kids in their first ski race yesterday, but I thought I would compare and contrast cross-country skiing and cycling as part of the post. First, the video:
Josiah is the boy taking off running without any ski poles. Analise is skiing next to my wife at the back. One of the things that my wife and I connected on when we first met each other back in 2001 was the similarities between her cross-country ski racing and my bike racing. Kristine first started to ski when she was only 2 or 3 years old. And she would ride in a backpack with her father skiing even earlier than that. Through elementary, middle, and high school, Kristine ski raced in the winter eventually earning a full scholarship to the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay to ski collegiately. I didn’t start bike racing until high school and college, but I dove right into it so that I experienced many of the same things she did: from the travel with a small group of guys usually to a very rural area, parking in fields (snow covered fields for her), and then taking your body to the limit racing against others. Also, the training – most skiers run or bike in the off-season to maintain the aerobic fitness required to excel in the sport. Up here in Wisconsin, many serious bike racers (Greg Lemond for example) switch to cross country skiing and ski racing to maintain aerobic fitness for biking when it finally thaws out late into spring. In Alabama, I’m fortunate to be able to ride year-round. Part of the adventure of biking for me is the ability to travel from point to point and explore new places so much more efficiently than if you were running. Skiing has the same allure because you are able to travel through the woods and explore trails much more efficiently than snow shoeing.
As far as the racing goes, I’d compare the ski racing more to mountain bike racing or cyclocross racing on non-technical courses with more of a notion of “getting the hole shot” and pushing yourself mostly alone or chasing one or two skiers just up the trail without as much drafting as in road racing. Still, there is a drafting component particularly at the elite end of the sport where the speeds are much closer to 20mph than 10mph, and there tend to be large groups of skiers able to maintain the same speed throughout the race. The tactics are different because of this, but you still see skiers attack each other and change pace to try to drop the others. Cross-country skiing at the winter olympics is by far my favorite winter sport to watch … not the least because of the way the skiers push themselves to the absolute limit. In any close cross country ski race finish, the skiers will fall over as soon as they cross the line because there is not enough energy left in their muscles to support their body weight. Cyclists push themselves similarly to that extreme, but because we aren’t standing up we can usually manage to keep the bike upright as it coasts to a stop. Although in one close finish this past year, three of us sprinting at the end of the 105 mile Rouge Roubaix race all fell over on the side of the road into a grassy yard … completely spent, utterly exhausted, but also undefinably happy – and we were only sprinting for 2nd place!
Of course, I buck the trend a bit when I visit from Alabama … bringing my mountain bike and enduring the cold weather for a week in some truly epic rides rather than cross country skiing. Today I’m traveling point to point to Heartwood cabins where Kristine and I had our wedding reception back in the summer of 2003. We’re going to spend a few days up there so Kristine and her dad can do some good cross-country skiing on the trails up there … while the kids enjoy ice skating, sledding, and a little bit of skiing. I’ve got a three hour ride planned to get there today, and then a couple four to five hour rides planned for the next couple days taking me through the snow mobile capital of this area (Danbury, WI), and across the St Croix into Minnesota. Heartwood looks completely different in the winter covered in snow, but that’s the beauty of the northwoods – each of the seasons up here transforms the land into a completely different amazing world.
The 2012 Bamacross series finale was held today at the historic Sloss Furnace abandoned steel mill. The course was epic for water, rain, mud, and location. I’m sure there will be some good pics up on facebook that people will post. I’m going to try to link to a couple of them here on this blog in the next day or two. The atmosphere at the race was just amazing — people grilling out under the highway underpass, music pumped up, people banging loudly on steel drums next to the course, cowbells ringing, people cheering, people heckling, people having lots of fun.
The course was just amazing … located right next to the abandoned steel mill, plus the start/finish stretch underneath the highway, plus active trains and train whistles on all three sides of the course during the race, and then the puddle lakes in the central part of the course and the muddy river that formed on the back stretch of the course from an inch of rain that started this morning and never let up through all the races. I did the race on my hard tail 29er running low pressure hoping to get some extra grip out of the wide tires. But in the mud, those wide tires just skidded across the top of the mud rather than digging into it.
In any case, I probably still would have finished DFL even if I had borrowed a cross bike. I started the race with old brake pads that needed replacing. So by the end of the second lap, I had no brake pads left at all … seriously no braking at all! Fortunately, the mud was thick enough that in most places you could just stop pedaling and the bike would slow down quick enough to make the turn. Still, there was a couple places where I had to unclip and dig my heel into the ground to slow down enough to make the turn.
Lots of mud – underneath the bridge next to the historic steel mill. (Click to zoom out and enlarge. Note that is not the bike I used in the background. Also, that is my backpack on the ground for the commute there and back.)
It was a really fun experience, especially since I got to cheer on all the other racers who lapped me (everyone from both the 1/2 field and the 3 field which started a couple minutes behind us). Afterwards, Craig Tamburello (Brick Alley) helped me a ton by switching out brake pads from Alan Barton’s dad’s mountain bike so I could safely ride home. Thanks tons Craig and Alan!! Here’s a picture of Alan riding through one of the lakes on the course:
What a fun experience, the atmosphere and the people are great. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the skills to corner in the mud, but I definitely want to try it again next year. A couple updates from this morning … I forgot to post my heartrate data (see below), and also Paul Roberts got some great pics from the race including one of my friend (and former teammate) Jacob Tubbs with Scott Staubach in the background in a pivotal part of the Masters 35+ race with them eventually taking 1st and 2nd.
I started this post earlier in the year when I decided to update my racing results dating all the way back to my first mountain bike race in 1993. My latest foray into mountain bike racing (winning the Chain Buster Battle at Oak Mountain 9 hour race on Saturday) has had me reminiscing into how I first got into mountain biking back in high school in 1993 so I thought I would go ahead and wrap up this post. Most of it centers around Oak Mountain. In fact, if you go back even earlier to the late 80s, my dad and I used to do road biking on a 10 speed (eventually 12 speed) with down tube shifters at Oak Mountain. We’d park outside the park at the info center and then ride in through the front entrance. I’d always start out fast and ride off ahead of him and his work friends, but then even before we made it to the golf course I’d be tired so my dad had to ride with me slowly the rest of the way to the spillway in the back of the park and then back to the car. Probably a couple hours for the 15 mile ride.
Fast forward to 1993 – my junior year of high school, and two of my friends on the math team (Steve Montgomery and Jeff King) were into mountain biking. Steve said his dad had a mountain bike I could borrow, so the three of us set off to Oak Mountain one day after school in two cars. We parked Steve’s Bronco II at the picnic area parking lot and then piled into Jeff’s jeep and hauled ass up the Peavine Falls road (seriously don’t know how we didn’t roll that jeep) up to the overlook area near the end of the red trail. We took off up the red trail and then turned left into the BUMP downhill. I don’t remember my first experience with blood rock, but I assume we walked it. We flew down the trail past what is now the berm (I don’t think there was a berm back then) to the twisty section of the downhill, popped out onto Peavine Road followed it for a tenth of a mile or so to reach the Johnson’s Mountain climb. It started out with a tricky entrance with a short log bridge over a small creek crossing, and then the super steep trail with the rubber run-off protectors across the trail every few feet. I eventually could clear all that on a good day, but I definitely walked it that first time up.
From the top of the steep section, you had a nice pine-straw covered straight gradual climb until a couple twists at the steeper section near the very top of Johnson’s Mountain (super fast coming back the other way) at the park boundary. Then you came down through some tight small trees, small logs turns entering the rocky bumpy section (where I would sheer a seatpost off in a ride the next year) that is now the opening climb for Johnson’s Mountain (when coming from picnic area parking lot). My first big wreck was on the downhill after the giant log (the log is long gone and replaced with some rock steps now) where there are some wood trail run-off protectors now. There were no wood steps back then (unless we were going so fast through there I forgot about them), just a fast downhill with me going right off the side of the steep hill falling halfway down to the creek at a high rate of speed.
Then it was up the shallow switchbacks and the fast straight section (now called Foreplay) across the horse trail intersection into the long set of twisty turns (now called Mr. Toads) through the picnic area parking lot down to Steve’s Bronco II for the shuttle back up to the top. I think that was it that first day out, but eventually we got into good enough shape to not need the shuttle any more, and we would just start out in the parking lot head up the climb to the red trail, turn around at the top and then come all the way back down adding on the lower section of singletrack by the paddleboats. This section was an out/back trail that wasn’t finished. We would ride it through to the end and then just keep riding a ways through the woods before turning around and heading back up. After buying my first mountain bike from James at River Oaks Cycles in Hoover (the Mongoose Alta shown in the top pic), I made this trip pretty much an every day after school experience. The lower section of trail was finished shortly after all this began so eventually I started to park at the old boy scout road just past the golf course where the lower trail section ended. I would ride from there all the way up to the Bump trail, turn around and ride back.
By April of 1993, I raced my first mountain bike race — the Cumberland Classic in Sewanee, TN — where I finished 6th in the juniors and 25th in the beginners (our fields were combined). There was more than 100 people in the race (IT WAS HUGE!!!) and I still remember starting and climbing out of a gravel parking lot area, racing across some huge field by a barn or something, and then a double track road before making the left into the singletrack. Whenever I think of “hole shot”, I still have this mental image of the gravel hill, followed by a wide open field leading to a double track leading to a lefthand turn onto singletrack overlooking a valley far below that made me think I was in an airplane (which I had never been in before). Later in the year, during the start of my senior year I would see a flyer for the Bull’s Gap time trial and race that as my second race (see pic below), following that up with two more mountain bike races (the Maddog Mountain Bike Race in Springville, Alabama and the Suck Creek Classic up in Chattanooga, TN).
Eventually, I’m going to link these pictures onto my results page, but in the interim, I’ve included a gallery of pictures that I scanned in from 1993-1998. If you are wondering how I could remember these results from way back then, I still have my “bike racing photo journal” (see pic below) that I kept which included a description of the race, the number of people in the race, my result in the race, as well as two or three 35mm snapshots. When I started college at Clemson, I kept track of everything in a Microsoft Access database (see other pic below).