Monday, November 24, 2008

2008 Season Closer: SRC Annual Southridge Challenge

2008 was our first real year of racing and training. It has been a long year, especially considering that our training for Vision Quest ’08 started long before the New Year! We attended a lot of races, met lots of new people, trained our butts off (literally and figuratively), and stood on more than our fair share of podiums. I will try to pull together a nice year in review post with lots of pictures at a later date.

Since Southridge is our “home” track, and our racing year started there, it seemed appropriate that we punctuate the end of the year with a race there. In typical SRC fashion the XC race takes place Saturday morning, SuperD races in the afternoon at the same time as DH practice, then on Sunday the DH race goes down.

Racing XC and DH is a quite challenging for me. During my XC race in the morning I am always pedaling past my friends pushing their DH bikes up the hill for their first practice runs. Then after the XC race they hold the raffle and awards during the time that DH practice is officially open, so there are minor scheduling conflicts. At the same time it is hard to get fired up about DH practice after racing XC, a big part of me just wants to sit down with my feet up and rest after all that effort!

Saturday morning we showed up early and plenty of time to warm up. I cruised around and chatted with other racers and spectators. One of my favorite things about the races is the smack talk that occurs between friends on the line right before the start. It is awesome to shrug off the nervousness that goes along with waiting for your start with some humor amongst friendly competitors!

Before I knew it we were off. My AG was called to the line with two groups in front of us so we were not on the front row. I took it really easy off the start and shadowed Ryan whom kicked my butt all spring. We kept a pretty easy pace and picked off a few slower riders before the asphalt climb. Once on the asphalt I decided to stand up and get my climb on since I have been doing so much training out of the saddle on the road bike. I can fairly say that I surprised myself by rocketing up the hill and feeling pretty fresh at the top! I had taken the lead of my AG and then settled into a nice pace passing lots of slower riders, all of whom were very courteous. Toward the end of the first lap I passed Allison, I wish she had some fast women out there to help push her.

On the second lap I spun up the asphalt instead of standing as there was nobody near me. On the first descent I pushed a bit too hard going through a corner and crashed, twisting my bars. During my efforts to straighten my bars I managed to get a nice brake rotor tattoo on the inside of my right calf. I did get passed by a rider from the next AG up, the same guy that I was chasing at Mt. SAC, and I was glad to have someone to chase and challenge me. I crossed the line in first with a time of 1:18, a very fast time especially considering the conditions of the course.

After the race I suited up for DH and jumped into the shuttle line. Unfortunately the shuttles were running extremely slow. By the time I got to the front of the line it looked like I was going to miss the XC awards. I told Allison to go in my place. I missed the XC awards, but such is the life of a multi-discipline rider! I didn’t get as much practice as I might of liked on Saturday, but the course was pretty easy so I wasn’t too worried.

Saturday night we went to dinner with Denmo and the gang before going back to Casa de Denmo for some much deserved shut eye.

Sunday we were back at the venue good and early and I was on the first shuttle truck to the top. My first run was awesome! I was flying down the course until a sandy and loose left hand turn where I pushed wide (this turn would later come back to haunt me!). I got a couple more practice runs but in the process had the chain jump from the chain guide and get twisted! DARN! I scrounged an extra chain from a fellow racer and decided to try and put a bigger front chain ring on while I was working on the bike. Further frustration ensued when I found that none of the 36 or 38 tooth chain rings I had would fit the Race Face cranks on Allison’s bike!! In the end I put the bike back together with the very weak 32T chain ring, a new chain, and a newly adjusted chain guide. As soon as I finished wrenching it was time to head up on the shuttle for my race run.

My DH race run felt really good until I hit that same loose left hander that caught me off guard on my first practice run of the day. I pushed hard on the front end and it let go sending me into the dirt. In the process I slammed the bar into the ground causing it to twist. I jumped up and rode a little ways with the bars VERY crooked before stopping, jumping off, and straightening them (being careful not to burn my leg again!). I jumped back on the bike and finished off my run as quickly as I could. I crossed the line in 13th place with a time of 3:08.

After my race run I went up to cheer for my friends and fellow racers. It is great to see so many of them riding so well. I am proud of their improvements this year

I had a great race weekend and have come to terms with the fact that I won’t be spending much time on the podium next year racing in Expert XC and DH. I am very much looking forward to the challenge of trying to keep up with the fast guys. I also hope that I find a good group of fellow Expert racers that I can joke with at the start line. I will miss my racing buddies that stay in Sport, but will hopefully see them all taking podium spots next year!

On a non-racing related topic: I am excited to be taking a trip to Bootleg Canyon with a few friends for Thanksgiving weekend. I am glad that we won’t have to break the piggy bank to pay for fuel for the trip… this photo was taken Sunday on our way home.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Three years ago my wife said I was getting a little fat, in an attempt to help get some fitness into our lives we went out and purchased an '05 Specialized Stumpjumper Expert for her, and an '05 Specialized Enduro Expert for me. Lots of people probably said we were crazy for spending so much on bikes. From my perspective it seemed that it would help motivate us, no way were we going to waste all that money and not ride our bikes. How much did I underestimate us!? (or for that matter how much we would eventually spend on bikes!)

I bought the Stumpjumper for the wife because I felt that it would give her a nice quality ride, maybe make the transition from couch potato to mountain biker a bit easier. The Enduro was a nice burly bike, and since I was such a burly guy it seemed appropriate.

Allison seemed to like climbing, but had no confidence descending. The first few time she rode down this fire road she walked it, she slowly graduated to tripod down it...

I on the other hand had no problem descending and liked to get my tires off the ground. I was lucky when my fat carcass didn't cause a crater!

What a difference three years makes eh?

Allison is now not only an incredibly fast XC and Endurance racer, but she hucks with the best of them.

With 60+ lbs. gone off my frame I get up the hills a bit faster, but my love for going downhill and getting some air under my tires hasn't changed at all!

It would be impossible for me to put a price on the improvements in health and life that both of us have made. Really that is what it is all about. Riding my bike, with my wife, enjoying life to it's fullest because you never know when it might come to a screeching halt. I am sure glad I didn't put all that money in a savings account, because a savings account won't buy you anything when all is said and done.

Monday, November 17, 2008

2 Legit to Quit

Last week was super hectic.

Wife's birthday, prepping bikes, life, work, everything. Late in the week the frenetic pace and some horrible demons were wreaking havoc on my poor wife's psyche. She had completely convinced herself that she was not prepared for the 12hrs of Temecula. True her bike was not in the best shape, something I remedied some time just before midnight on Friday night, and the previous week consisted of too little training and too much bad eating... not to mention the fact that we hadn't done a training ride longer than a couple of hours since I don't know when...

Despite all these things I knew one thing, she has the best fitness she has ever had. She is stronger, leaner, and faster than ever before. Could she go hard for 12hours, we didn't know.

Now we do!

Lap 1, minus the prologue, was 58 minutes and she had a major race on her hands! Siren Mary (of Tour Divide fame, she rode 3000 miles in June!) was leading the pack of three with Shalyn Gates and Allison right on her wheel. Allison turned lap after lap after lap right around 1 hour in length and Shalyn held a 5-10 minute lead the whole day, a lead that had unfortunately developed when Allison crashed twice on Lap 2. I don't know what happened to Mary but she wasn't with the leaders. It was amazing to watch the two of them. Neither was giving up. Allison kept telling me that there was no way that they could maintain this pace, but they did.

Lap 7 was where the race turned for us. Shalyn stopped to change clothes and Allison left the pits ahead of her. Shalyn was unable to bridge the gap and they never got close on the course that I know of. After 8 laps Allison begged me to find out if she had to do 10, I told her that they were definitely on pace for 10 before she left for Lap 9. The meeting of the men then ensued, I asked Jason if they were doing 10 and he said they were. It was a huge gamble for me to send the shell shocked Allison out on the 10th lap, we didn't know how far back Shalyn was. I joked with others that if Shalyn didn't go out for 10, I would ride out on course and have Allison pull the plug. Shalyn left for lap 10 with around an hour and a half till the cutoff.

I can't imagine how hard it must have been for both of them to go out after nearly 11 hours of very fast paced racing and suffer up the climbs, it was hard for me to watch.

Allison finished her 10th lap with around 15 minutes to spare, Shalyn came in with about 4 minutes to spare. Awe inspiring!

The top three Pro Solo Men had completed 11 laps.

In any case, these girls are legit! They are fast and strong and they don't friggin quit!

Since I am a photo whore and just got some photos of me from our trip to Utah (courtesy of Liz), I figured I would post them up to add some color to this post. I was riding my Intense Socom out at Gooseberry Mesa (not the best bike for that ride, but it was all I had)... Good times!

A couple of steep rollers...

And me showing the girls how to climb a steep ass rock on a 40+ lbs DH bike with a 36T chainring and a road cassette...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What a day!

We took the day off for Allison’s birthday. It is after all a national holiday!

It was great to meet up with some other folks that we haven’t ridden with in a while and ride some trails we hadn’t ridden since right before the big fires a year ago. All the damage from the fire crews, and some damage from the fires, really changed the face of that area dramatically. The ride was good and the company was great.

After the ride we hit up The Path, REI, and a local Temecula restaurant for dinner.

Special Note to Allison: Happy birthday, you make everything in life better!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tomorrow, tomorrow,

A day off, tomorrow! (great now I will have Annie tunes stuck in my head all day)

A huge HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my favorite riding partner in the whole world! She turns 28 tomorrow and we will be out riding in the dirt to celebrate.

This weekend was pretty good! Saturday we rode a new route on the road bikes. We have named this route after the steeper than hell (25%) grade in the middle, Los Gatos. We rode the route “backwards” so that we were descending Los Gatos, but I fully intend to ride it the other way in the very near future. It is almost like mountain biking when you find a road route that is so hard you don’t know if you can “clean” it! How cool is that!?!?! The route itself is 28 miles and took us almost 2 hrs at a pretty mellow pace.

After this early morning ride we headed over to the motocross track in Lake Elsinore. My good friend Brian was racing his quad and we went over there to cheer him on. After his race one of his first comments to me was, “So when do you get one?” I have to admit that all motorsports have a certain allure for me, I am certain it has something to do with the fact that I am such an engiNERD, but I won’t be getting one any time soon. I simply don’t have the time or money to put toward a new hobby, but more importantly a move like that would precipitate another decline in my physical fitness. I really do struggle with being a fat ass, I am not sure introducing another “lazy” sport would help me with that. It was however awesome to cheer for my friend and see him kicking some ass, way to go Brian!!!!

Saturday night we drove out to the desert (Palm Desert) and had a great dinner with cake at Allison’s mom’s place.

Sunday was a pretty cool ride. We got up early and fought a driving headwind all the way to Palm Springs. The wind was positively brutal! The coolest part was on the way back we were hardly pedaling and going FAST! Lots of fun!

Friday, November 7, 2008

I don’t do politics…

So I am super glad that this whole election thing is over. I will be way more glad when the lemmings and sheeple stop talking about “change” at work and everywhere else. The second law of Thermodynamics guarantees that things will change. Funny thing is, things will change, but they won’t get better!

Since this is my blog I will talk about what I want, riding bikes. Unfortunately I can’t seem to do enough of that lately. Since the race last weekend I spent two days in the gym (Monday and Tuesday), one day was a nice lunch ride (Wednesday), and last night was the usual night time dirt fest.

Spending time in the gym is a touchy subject for me. Since I was in high school I have spent tons of time in the gym lifting. My primary source of exercise for years was lifting. Unfortunately my body tends to build muscle fast, and I have been working on cutting weight not adding it. In order to try to make sure I don’t add unnecessary bulk I have stayed off the weights. I have a really hard time with this, I really like to lift. But it is all for the best. So my workouts in the gym consist of: the stationary bike, the treadmill, dips, pull-ups, abdominal work, and stretching. Pretty weak stuff, and it probably makes me look like a ninny, but going fast on my bike is a higher priority right now.

Last night’s ride was pretty awesome. I felt really good on the climb and pushed myself hard. The weather was great and the sunset was really pretty thanks to the Santa Ana winds. My light kept moving though, need to tighten the screws on it, and it was keeping me from really hanging it out on the descents.

On one of the single track sections I was pedaling through a corner and caught my inside pedal on a stump. I was going fast and crashed, but was relatively unharmed. My poor left grip didn’t fare so well and needs to be replaced.

I am also really having a hard time with my pedals lately. I guess my Crank Brothers Ti Eggbeaters are worn out. Even with new cleats, I am having issues losing pedals on both my road bike and my XC bike. I have accidentally pulled my foot free during sprints and hard climbs on the road bike, and last night my foot came free while I was in the air on a really steep descent nearly causing a crash. I think I am going to try out some Shimano pedals. We don’t ride/race much in the mud so I think the Shimano’s are probably a good choice.

It was also pretty cool to spend some time during the ride to talk to EC about his race this weekend. He is feverishly preparing for this event. Hopefully he gets some momentum and some much needed assistance with getting the bike park up and running.

So looking forward…

I hope to ride the trainer for a while tonight. Exciting stuff eh? The wife and I will be doing some good miles on the road bike this weekend. Should be all flat stuff, so nothing really exciting, but spending time on the bike with the wife is a good thing. Even better though is that we are taking the day off on Tuesday to do a nice big ride in the dirt. Allison gets to pick the location since it is her birthday, but I for one am looking forward to a nice long ride in the dirt. Since her training for the 2009 race season has already started the pace will be really slow. We will see how this whole ride slow to race fast thing works out…

Monday, November 3, 2008

Mt SAC Fat Tire Classic

Near the end of last year Allison and I were figuring out that we wanted to try out the whole XC race thing. We had completed the Warrior’s Society Counting Coup in the spring but that event was decidedly un-race like. In the fall we raced at Bonelli and Mt. SAC. These races were extremely hard for us and marked yet another transition in our lives.

I had dropped a bunch of weight (approximately 30-40lbs) in the two years prior to these first XC races. I felt like I had really turned my health around. I could go out and ride my bike 30 miles in the mountains and be pretty comfortable, but I wasn’t fast. Although DH racing is maybe something that fits my physique better, XC racing is where Allison feels she can excel at so our rides turned from slow group rides to long training rides. This year we raced lots. We spent lots of time on our road bikes. There were very few group rides. We got faster, leaner, and more fit than ever before. Personally the best way I have to quantify this change is a further 20lbs weight reduction.

Sunday marked the first day that I had the opportunity to race for a second time at an annual race/venue. Bonelli would have been the first, but you can read about that here. My first attempt at Mt. SAC was a good experience, but was very painful. On the third and final lap my legs cramped up horribly. The steep HAB really hurt, with tears flowing from my eyes, groaning and writhing in pain, I somehow held on to a podium spot.

This time around was much different.

It was raining in the morning during warm up. My tires caked up horribly with mud and my bike was rolling like the brakes were on. I wore my glasses in the hopes that they would help keep stuff out of my eyes, but it was very hard to see out of them with the rain drops and mud on them. This was going to be fun!

I was still warming up when most of the people lined up at the start so I worked my way through the crowd to the second row. At the start I pedaled fast and moved toward the front. On the first climb there were three of us at the front, I passed everyone and was first down the first descent. My plan worked out well and going onto the first single track I was first in my AG, and in second for Sport Men. The rain and muddy conditions made things slick, and I wound up sliding out on a painted section of concrete. The guy in the lead started pulling away and would be out of sight before the end of the first lap. I ditched my glasses on a climb and regretted it horribly on the next descent when some cow crap got kicked up into my eye!

I am pretty sure the rain stopped some time during the first or early on the second lap. From that point on the course got gradually better and better for traction and rolling resistance.

On the second lap I picked up some weeds in my RD/cassette that forced me to stop and extract them. It was very disheartening to have to stop and fix my bike, seeing the lead I worked hard for destroyed as people were passing me. Once rolling again I put my head down and tried hard to resume the pace I was on before. I wound up riding much of the rest of race with a fast racer one AG above mine. I was very accustomed to him passing me in XC races at Fontana like I was standing still, and was shocked that we were so evenly matched at this race. We chatted a little during the race and it was great to have someone to work with out there.

On the third and final lap I once again had to stop and pull a weed out of my RD/cassette, and in nearly the same location. I have to figure out why my bike is such a weed magnet! This time it was not as bad though and I didn’t lose as much time. I did have some twinges of cramps in my calves during the last lap but was able to work through it.

I placed first in my AG! I was bummed about the primitive timing methods and do not have any idea where my overall time was compared to other racers. All they had was finishing order for each AG. I had a great time after the race cheering for some people that I know racing beginner! Next race, Fontana!