Tuesday, April 25, 2006
A couple months ago, an email from Speed Racer Todd Reighley went out on the RCO listserve asking if any racer-types would like to travel to the Richmond, VA area on April 23rd to race in the annual Poor Farm Spring Cup. "Why not!", I thought and sent out a note that we'd go. Skip was in too. Months go by, winter training turns to spring training turns to April - and before ya know it, the time for the race arrives.
The plan is drawn; we will secure a hotel, drive out there Saturday to pre-ride, race Sunday then head back to Roanoke. April showers arrived Saturday morning in a big way. We loaded up the trusty Jeepster, packed in Moe, Pookie, Skip and myself, then away to the Richmond suberb of Ashland we go. We watched the rain get heavier through the day and had to abandon our plans to pre-ride the course. We kept ourselves occupied by fashioning fenders from empty Propel fitness water bottles and changing tyres. Watched a little playoff hockey and visited the local Applebees. We re-planned our pre-ride for 7am to see if the mud would be as bad as we thought, and to get at least a little familiar with the Poor Farm course. Question: Why is it that the loudest people in the hotel are always in the room right next to yours when you are trying to get a good nights shut-eye before a race?
Sunday arrives with all of the force of a leaky squirt gun; drizzle and/or fog and 50-something degrees. That nice cold mud oughtta feel great! The pre-ride reveals better conditions than anticipated. The course reveals more climbing than anticipated. The first half looks to be flat, fun and fast. The second half is definitely not. This is Richmond! Where did they get these hills? Nothing like Roanoke, don't misunderstand me. But the folks who laid out these trails made full use of the one hill they found. Half way up, back down, repeat. About 6 1/2 miles per lap. 3 laps for single speeders, 4 for the Pro/Experts. "This should be fun.", my mind chimed in. My body had other plans.
As we're finishing the inspection of the course, we watch the Enduro class start their epic. This open class races for five hours straight. Whoever completes the most laps in five hours wins. Yee Haa.
Ron and Todd arrive from Roanoke. Todd presents me with a team jersey, and I dawn the Team El Toreo colors for the first time. Four starters for our squad: Todd Reighley and Ron Glowczynski are racing Pro/Expert, Skip Huffman and I are on our Rigs racing Single Speed. The staging begins and the Pro/Ex guys separate themselves from their bike for the Le Mans start. Once the horn sounds the guys sprint for the bikes, hop on and go. Todd and Ron look strong as they disappear into the woods.
All of us in the gearless group are next. The sprint is fast, but the pace is good once we hit the singletrack. I don't feel like I'm going hard at all. No one is catching up from behind, and I'm right on the wheel of about four guys. No room to pass. I deside to sit in and just keep pace. I know I can sprint uphill on my singlespeed. I've done it before and I'm looking forward to the hilly section to pass some folks and maybe make them think twice about chasing. The group I'm following isn't speeding up and I can see the bunch that Skippy is in ahead pulling away. The first three miles goes quickly. We arrive at the first rooty uphill section, and I decide to go for it. The little red light on my dashboard comes on telling me that my legs don't want to go. What the hell? Where are my legs? I try again, but they just don't work. This isn't good. I guess the Nyquil and Dayquil of the past week aren't the best fuel for racing....and so it goes. I finished, but I was soooo close to quitting. But, I DON'T QUIT. 14th out of 20.
Skip faired much better. I could see it in his eyes ever since he bought his Rig. He was ready to kick it on the singlespeed, and that's just what he did. He is a powerful rider, and SS will be good to him. He hammered his way to 2nd place. I hope he decides to race SS all season. We will push each other all season if we're racing the same class.
Todd smoked the competition and ended up 2nd on the Pro/Ex podium, second only to Trek pro Todd Helmick. Superb!
Ron also did extremly well finishing 6th in Pro/Ex. He raced against the younger gents. If he had racer Expert 35+, he would have won.
All in all, Poor Farm was fun. The course is very challenging and was fast, even with some very muddy sections. Lots of roots to toss you out-of-control into the trees (been there, done that), and some treacherous gullys to swallow you and your bike if you're not careful. Remember the Enduro guys from earlier? During my second lap, I was coming up behind a fella racing the 5 hour epic when he toppled head-first into one of these gullies. I thought he broke his neck. It looked bad. He was about 20 feet in front of me when his front wheel caught a root and sent him over the edge. He landed hard about 10 feet below the trail and didn't move. I ran down ASAP to make sure he wasn't going to need some medical attention. A couple Sport guys were right on my tail and helped him back up to the trail. After a few minutes he was insisted he was OK and made his way back to his bike. At that point I wasn't too worried about losing a few minutes to make sure this dude wasn't hurt. I saw him a again a few minutes later when I could look back at the trail behind me as it switched back on itself. I sure hope he's OK. I never did see him at the finish. I asked if anyone had to be helped out, but no neck or back injuries where reported. All the best to ya, whoever you were.
So, two out of four on the podium. Viva Team El Toreo!
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Then I wake up in the middle of the night Monday feeling the funk flowing through my innards. Time to bust out the drugs and kick it before it kicks me. Two days and nights of Nyquil and Dayquil...I feel quite a bit better, but not quite 100%.
I rode for an hour today to make sure my bike and I were on the same page, and everything felt good. Legs feel fresh. Tires, brakes, overall set-up is ready to roll.
One more night of drug induced semi-coma and I should be able to kick the funk.
Tomorrow night is the weekly Explore Park ride which I won't ride very hard, but enough to wake my legs up. Lots of sleep Friday and Saturday nights, then off to the race Sunday.
Funk or no funk, I will race on. I would much prefer racing without the funk.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Skip and I have ridden together alot this past year. I have incessently heaped praise upon my Gary Fisher Rig and how it's the favorite mountain bike I've ever owned. It's simple, strong, and cool looking. Now Skippy has a Rig too. He will be fast on this thing, I guarantee it!
Check out his blog for details:
Saturday, April 08, 2006
With that in mind, we all arrived for the weekly Thursday Night Explore Park ride with expectations of finishing with daylight to spare, then Murphy showed up with his law.
First to fall prey was Chris' rear tire. We all thought it may have been just a slow, annoying leak. Out came the pump, in went some volume, and on we rode. Less than 20 minutes later, Chris was heading for the car. It was a flat that wasn't getting any fixin'. He had enough.
On we rode again. This time, Murphy aimed at Paul's stomach. A trip to Burger King prior to our ride, and perhaps a touch of a flu bug forced him to call it quits a bit early as well. I have to admit it; we were going at a pretty fast pace. We hadn't ridden these trails more than once or twice in the daylight for over six months and it was nice to let 'er rip. Ron and Skip already have some races in their legs this year, and I've been putting in lots of hours getting ready for my first. Sometimes we just forget to pace ourselves.
On to the Expert Loop we went. Down along the mighty Roanoke River, and then back up the ridge to our favorite natural technical spots. The first is a scary roll off of a large rock - while going downhill. The second is a creek crossing with a sudden and difficult grunt over a large root outcropping. We all made several attempts at the rock and creek crossing - burning a bit more daylight - then headed on up the trail.
Once on the ridge, I caught a thorn in my front tire and heard the hiss every time the tire rotated. Then I realized I didn't put my seat pack on the bike. Once again, I have proven I'm part idiot. I begged a tube from Skip (did I mention I'm really glad Skip bought a 29er) and fixed the flat as daylight began to noticeably diminish.
I'm not worried about losing daylight and getting lost or stuck in the woods. Explore is a small park, and we've all ridden the trails hundreds of times. Besides, Ron brought his light and was planning on riding home from the park.
What I worry about as the ride leader is running out of daylight and having someone hit a rock or a root and break their collarbone or ankle. Stranger things have happened.
No worries though, I get my flat changed at dusk, leaving lots of time and light for us all to reach the parking lot.
Not 2 minutes after happy thoughts of getting out safely before dark cross my mind, Skip gets a flat...and his only tube (29er remember) is on my front wheel. Great, someone's gonna do a header in the dark and fracture their tibia or fibia because I forgot to bring a tube. I really am an idiot.
"Someone told me that you can stretch a 26 inch tube onto a 29er in a pinch", he says. It works. Three of us are stretching and pulling and prying at it, but it goes on, and it works. Now I feel a little better about taking Skips only 29er tube. I still feel like an idiot for not bringing mine. "No worries, Rock on". Thanks Skip. I owe you one for not killing me.
Just as darkness falls, we reach the parking lot- safely. The first daylight savings time Thursday evening ride ends in the dark. How fitting. But hey, all's well that ends well.
Friday, April 07, 2006
Sunday, April 02, 2006
Chris is really losing it, and I say good for him! Weight, that is. On our weekly Thursday-nighter, he told the group that if he loses one more pound he will weigh less than he has in 15 years. Way to go Chris!
Chris could race. Chris should race. I know he would do well. Everyone in our Thursday night group has seen first hand that his riding has improved over the winter. Again, way to go Chris!
Brian is also a loser. (Shown here skillfully maneuvering a Muck Truck along a particularly sketchy narrow section of the new Four Gorge Trail) He's not talking much about his new lesser-self, but we can all tell he's closer to his fighting weight by the way he's been sticking with the pack on Thursday nights. We've been riding faster as a group, and he's been right there.
Good job, fellas!