Monday, August 22, 2011

Rim Nordic Series Finale

My mountain bike season seems to be lasting forever.  I have however had a very successful year, so maybe I should embrace the concept and stretch this "season" into infinity!

Saturday night I resigned to giving up on racing Sunday.  It didn't look like it was going to be worth it to make the drive up to Rim Nordic with Allison praying to the porcelain god and a night that didn't promise much sleep.  On Sunday morning however Allison rallied (at least on the outside) and talked me into heading out.  She seemed fine till it was almost time to leave when all of a sudden she was lying on the floor moaning.  At this point I had enough momentum that I was going to head out solo, but moments before I rolled from the garage she climbed into the car.  I knew she wouldn't be racing, but at least I wasn't going to roll one Mann short!

Warming up I didn't feel great.  It felt like maybe the altitude was getting to me, or was I feeling the effects of Saturday?  I just didn't have much to give, and when I did put in an effort it seemed lame.  Due to not feeling great, I spent some time chatting.  One of the guys in my AG was harassing me about moving to Pro.  I laughed as I rolled away.  I am not the top dog in the area, and the top amateur times at Fontana, Bonelli, or Big Bear are significantly faster than mine, not to mention the fact that I don't think I even had a top fifteen or twenty Amateur time at Nationals.  I have no desire to get pulled from my favorite races just to appease some dudes that can't dedicate to solid training or nutrition.  Deal with it.  I want to finish my favorite races like Bonelli and Fontana, not get pulled early.  Just like you, I am a working dude and I pay to play.  I give up lots of stuff to train with my wife (who does have high aspirations).  Train harder, eat right, and kick my ass.  :)  That said, Allison has declared that if I post the top Amateur time at Bonelli or Fontana that she will apply for my upgrade for me.  It would be quite a feat to pick up 4 or 5 minutes on my races this year.

The race itself went better than expected.  I sat on Griffith's wheel off the start.  I didn't want to go solo but noticed that he was looking really sketchy.  I don't think his 1.5" wide cyclocross-ish tires were helping him out any!  When we looped back near the feed zone I knew that a technical climb was coming up and I wanted a clean track so I went around.  I sat up a bit once I was clear of the challenging section but nobody seemed to have followed so I went into solo TT / seek and destroy mode.  I did my best to stay focused but had noticed a deeper than usual Pro field and didn't think I could pull a top five time to meet my goal for the day.  I had a couple of bobbles on lap two and got hung up for a while on a descent losing precious seconds.  On the last lap I went around a corner and it felt like my front tire rolled on the rim.  NO!!!!!  Not another flat!!!  I kept testing it as the lap went on and it was definitely going down, so now my whole goal was to milk it to the finish.  As I traversed the fire road up top I spotted Garnet ahead and hoped to pass him.  Unfortunately my front tire kept me from descending at speed, I was having to brake into corners way too much to keep the front tire on the rim.  I crossed the line and my front tire was almost immediately flat.  There was a sidewall puncture that was large enough that all my Stan's Sealant had drained.  It had lasted just long enough for me to take the win in my AG and meet my goal of a top five time!  (4th overall)

So I can add another series title winning the Rim Nordic Series.  I also contributed heavily to the 2nd place team finish for Sho Air behind the huge Bear Valley Bikes team.  Another successful page written in a very successful year.

Looking forward, cyclocross season is starting to look really intimidating.  There are just so many races, so much driving, and so little time between the end of cyclocross and the beginning of MTB season.  It will for sure make for an interesting adventure!  In the mean time we have a couple weekends to enjoy some good riding.  I look forward to it!!!!  BRAAAAAP.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Big Saturdays

I have to apologize in advance for the lack of pictures.  I wrote this quickly to capture some memories.  If you want pictures check out  I know, I suck.  :)

100 miler

I don't like using the term Century for riding 100 miles.  I guess technically I only wound up riding 98 miles or something like that (not really sure, my Garmin was having issues) so even saying "100 miler" is a misnomer.

Due to training OCD Allison rarely disembarks from her regularly scheduled diet of 3-4 hour rides on the weekends.  At the same time she likes to do silly things like pedal a bike for 100 miles in a day.  These notions are at odds with each other and when given some freedom to operate "off plan" our adventures wind up leaning to the extreme.  Thus a plan was hatched to do a big ride with a few friends on the wonderful California coast.  Allison posted up on Facebook and the rough idea was to start at Jeffe's house in Laguna Niguel and ride to Panikins in Leucadia and back.  Steph and Dan jumped in on the idea, Jeffe planned to join for part of the ride, and a Sho-Air racer Jose piled on.

We all rolled out and had a very civil pace.  Around the halfway point Jeffe announced that he was going to have Renee meet him at Panikins which meant he was going for 50, Steph and Dan then jumped on that plan to shuttle back and save some energy for their Sunday activities.  As we rolled through some traffic on Camp Pendelton a woman in a car frantically waved and was yelling "Thats Allison Mann!!!".  It turned out to be Heidi who we had met the previous weekend at Rim Nordic, but it was great to joke with Jose that my wife is a cycling celebrity and this sort of thing happens all the time.  Panikins was amazing as usual.  I probably ate too much food and we definitely spent more time hanging out than was ideal but it was really very enjoyable!

When the reduced group started to roll north I joked with Jose that he was going to have to tow Allison and I back up the coast.  I am not sure if something was lost in translation there, but he then proceeded to repeatedly and brutally drop both of us.  I kept making excuses for myself, "Oh I will just wait for Allison."  In reality I didn't feel all that bad but Jose (a CAT2 MTB racer) was really handing me my ass.  I will admit that it stung.  I made a pact with myself, from this point forward I will never internalize any comments about me being a sandbagger.  I will also never again entertain the idea of moving to the Elite ranks.  Next year with the new competition moving up from 30-34 AG, I will not likely see the top step of a podium so I doubt I will have to field any sort of criticism, but if I do it will be met with laughter.  I will do my best but racing is just a distraction, the real reason I ride is to not be a fatty!!!

Anyway we eventually neared our destination in Laguna Niguel and Allison announced that she was going to ride more to ensure she had 100 miles.  I dismissed this notion as lunacy and rode straight to Jeffe's dropping off Jose near his car on the way.  It was a good long ride with great weather and riding partners.  Can't beat coastal riding in the summer!  After the ride we ate too much, drank too much, and generally did all the stuff we are forbidden from doing during racing season.  Silly bike racers!

Sunday I felt like total crap.  Three of us struggled to ride to Kean and then proceeded to eat too much again.  On the trip back home Allison and I decided that we needed to burn some more calories.  A plan was hatched to go trail running at Santa Rosa Plateau.  I have to admit that I am really enjoying the trail running!  Maybe it will help me close that 4+ minute gap to the truly fast CAT1 racers that I will line up with next year...

Our week went okay.  Training got sort of side tracked with picking up the new CruX race bikes.  As with the 100 miler, our excitement over the new bikes and lack of restraint led to me suggesting a ridiculous route for Saturday.  The thought process went something like this:  Allison wants to ride the Palomar Double (up South Grade, down East Grade, 180 turn, up East Grade, down South Grade), we had new CX bikes that seemed to be begging for some adventure, Google Maps showed some inviting looking truck trails all over Palomar that we had never ridden before, "Lets do a Palomar Dirt Double!"  Yes there is definitely something wrong with this picture.

The ride went great though.  It was big, it was hard, and afterwards I was tired and sore all over!  It would likely not have been a very big deal to ride that route on the mountain bikes, but on a CX bike with tall gearing it was a challenge.  Descending the 4500 feet back to the car after 6 hours in the saddle with cantilever brakes was interesting.  It was a good thing I had gone into total silly mode.  I was BRAAAPing and screaming out my own version of the "Double Rainbow" video of Youtube fame.  Allison wasn't having any fun at all, but I didn't let it get to me.  I would feel bad if she had some sort of injury from a dumb idea of mine, I guess I overestimate her toughness sometimes.  I get a little over zealous, but it was going to be our last weekend of freedom.

Next weekend we go back into race mode and stay there pretty much until this time next year when mountain bike season ends.  We get far too few weekends a year free from "the plan" and next year we might not even get that WHEN Allison makes the selection for Worlds.  I am not complaining, it is a fabulous ride to be on!

See you at the Rim Nordic finals this weekend.  I should be claiming my second series title of the year.  Gotta enjoy it while I can, Marco and Ty will be taking all the big victories next year!  :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Rim Nordic Stage Race and Camping Extravaganza

Allison and I decided very last minute (Friday night after work) to drive up to Rim Nordic and camp out for the stage race.  I am not sure what prompted this.  Camping lately has been a big thing.  Saving fuel and money is another motivator.  Maybe by going camping in the local mountains we felt that we could remedy the malady that seems to have stricken us as soon as we left the big mountains of Colorado.  In any case, it was very much a spontaneous action!

We packed up the Black Max and arrived in the Rim Nordic parking lot around 10:30pm.  I was overjoyed to find that we were now camping for the weekend next to our team mates Brandon Gritters and Ted Willard!  This definitely was to make the weekend at least 1000 times better!  Anyway we set up our tent and were lulled to sleep by the seemingly continuous road noise as cars sped their way up and down the highway.  Thank goodness for wax earplugs!

Saturday's activities started early and it was likely a big mistake that we didn't eat early enough to fully digest before the Hillclimb competition.  It was tough though to figure out nutrition as we were to race up the hill, wait around for a while, and then race back down the hill in the SuperD.  Expecting delays and not wanting to carry much up the hill in the race I wanted to get my standard race breakfast in my belly!


At the gun everyone sort of eased onto the gas.  The pace was not too hard across the rolling fire road at first.  The pack lined out pretty quickly though and I think I was in the top 4 or 5 when we started to gain elevation.  Romolo was up on the front and Brandon was also in front of me.  Not too far up the climb Brandon put in an attack and Romolo followed.  I was already on the rivet so I figured I would go ahead and just hold my current pace and try not to blow up.  Not long after their attack Mike came by me flying up the hill.  I watched as Mike passed Romolo and then Brandon on his way to setting the fastest time up the hill.  I held onto my spot narrowly beating Ely.  So fourth overall for the Hill Climb, third of the CAT1's (excluding Romolo), I won my age group but that was meaningless as I was the only one!


After the Hill Climb I was absolutely cross eyed.  My stomach was trying to eject it's contents and I fought hard to keep my breakfast down.  I wish I had felt better as it seemed that all the racers were having a good time chatting but my internal struggles kept me from really joining in.


Eventually we were called up to start the SuperD.  By this time I was finally feeling like I would win, I wasn't going to regurgitate my oats!  The SuperD wasn't very challenging but it did have some climbs and some very fast corners.  I felt like I did okay.  I wound up fourth overall again, first of the CAT1's.  This was a decent result especially considering how blown I felt after the Hill Climb!

Longer Pause:

After the SuperD it seemed the name of the game was rest.  We all sort of lounged around and tried to recover from the short hard efforts in preparation for yet another full frontal assault on our anaerobic systems. I was stoked to have my hammock!

Dirt Crit:

My body was so reluctant to get back into motion.  After a 10 minute all out Hill Climb, then the 5 minute sprint for SuperD and the full body shut down that followed, trying to warm up was mentally taxing!  We all lined up though and I knew that Brandon would be the guy to follow if I could manage it.  Off the start one of the Williams phenoms exploded from the line and gapped the field.  Behind him there was some shuffling on the first couple of laps as Ted Willard and Anton Petrov worked the front and then faded a bit.  When the initial flurry of attacks was over it looked like Casey was going to take the win as he was mostly out of sight.  Brandon and Mike had a gap over me in fourth.  I was doing what I could to try to close, but it seemed that they were just out of reach.  At about the mid race point Brandon attacked brutally and left Mike alone in third.  I held the throttle open and watched as Brandon bridged up to Casey and Mike faded just enough for me to catch him.  With four laps to go I was on Mikes wheel and sitting in fourth.  I played some strategy as I didn't think I could bridge to Casey and Brandon, I sat on for two laps.  With two laps to go I attacked and passed Mike on the descent.  I figured if he countered I would have time to re-evaluate.  I guess he was pretty blown though as I took third without being challenged.

So not a bad showing on the first day of the stage race.  Even though I had "won" everything, the way I see it I was sitting in about second place overall not counting the Elite men.  Had we raced the Dirt Crit with them I would have factored them into my overall ranking.  My own personal rankings after day 1 put Brandon Gritters in the lead with me in second, Mike in a very close third, and then Ted and Anton behind him.

Post Race:

Much beer and wine consumption.  A swim in Big Bear Lake.  Consumption of Mann meat.  Ice cream indulgence.  Scrabble while being viciously and repeatedly #mounted by Bounce.  Sweet sleep came much too late and before I knew it I was waking up to the sound of rain pelting our tent...

Sunday XC Race:

I have done well in adverse conditions.  The rain was coming down pretty good.  I had to dig ditches around our pit area to divert the rivers of water and drain the Gritters Reservoir.  It was really tough to motivate myself to get into race mode.  I was cold and wet.  Reluctantly I finally put on my kit and started to spin around some.  I watched Allison's start and then tried to keep moving/warm for the next 40 mins.  Finally it was time for us to line up and take off.  We had a fairly small group that started in our wave.  From the gun Brandon led out with me and Ted in tow.  Jason Rusnak had made the trip up to race in the rain and he commented on the first climb that the pace was really quite nice.  When we neared the top of the climb Ted had fallen back quite a ways but was the only other rider in sight between Brandon and I.  I suggested we wait for him and have the three of us work together.  Brandon seemed to agree and let up some.  As soon as Ted caught on I took the pace making and the three of us bombed the descent together.  The first lap was more like a fun group ride than XC racing with the three Rock N' Road riders smiling in the rain.

Near the end of that lap Brandon took over the front and I asked if we were going to start racing.  He replied that he was getting cold so I grabbed his wheel and figured we were going to do some serious battling.  The three of us went through the Start/Finish together and as soon as we turned onto the single track climb I was bracing for the attack and, to my complete dismay, Brandon said "Screw this, have fun Ted." and turned around.  I wasn't expecting that!  Since I really wasn't racing with anyone else I decided to wait for Ted and have some fun.  I wasn't going all that hard but it seemed that my pace was too much for Ted to hang on so about halfway through the second lap I decided to turn on the afterburners and see how fast I could finish and get out of the cold and wet.

The rest of the second lap and most of the third was pretty uneventful.  I was on the gas.  Caught and passed four or five other riders including Anton who had started in the wave ahead of us.  On the descent I was pinned and thinking about warming up.  I never felt a rock strike or anything, but as I turned the corner at the bottom I felt the rear tire get squishy.  SHIT!  I tried to milk it but it wasn't holding.  Not too far down the road I stopped and hit it with my CO2.  I spun the wheel and shook it in the hopes that the Stans would seal it before jumping back on.  In the mean time Anton and at least one other rider that I had passed in the last 1.5 laps passed me back.  It wasn't long before the tire was flat again, it was leaking down really fast.  I didn't have any more air so I just rode her in flat.  Near the end of the lap, riding a flat tire, Rusnak passed me.  I wound up second in my wave, first for my AG and 8th overall.  Not bad considering the circumstances.


Even though the race results show me winning my AG for all the races on the weekend, I figure Mike took the title for the Stage Race.  He won the Hill Climb, and beat my XC time handily (we weren't racing heads up, but that sounds like an excuse!).  By my figures I put myself in second, but only because Brandon DNF'd.  That isn't too bad, but it isn't all that great so I figure I have some work to do before the next race!  I hope to put myself in the top 5 at the next one and bring home some money.  It was a great weekend and we definitely had a blast!  I don't think it would have been nearly as fun without our fellow campers.  Thanks to everyone that made my weekend great!

See you at the next race or out there training!

Monday, August 1, 2011

What a ride! Vacation/Nationals Mann style. Continued Again and again!

I wanted to capture the overwhelming afterglow of Crested Butte while it was still fresh.  While I could still close my eyes and hear the Slate River rushing past our camp, easily conjure images of the breathtaking display of delicate and colorful wildflowers.  Unfortunately that task was too much and just didn't happen with work and daily life.  I left off with our arrival in Crested Butte but the crescendo for this piece was still a few days out.

Day 8 Wednesday July 20, 2011

After filling our bellies with such treats as Izzy's and Camp 4 we set about finding a campsite.  I think when you return to a place after having a really great time you sort of try to "re-live" that experience so Allison and I had our hearts sort of set on camping on the other side of Gothic.  Waking to the sunrise as it illuminates the granite formations that frame that glacial valley is an image that I have clung to since our last stay there.  For some reason I remembered the road being much better than it was.  I quickly found that the road came uncomfortably close to exceeding the off road performance envelope of our heavily laden TDI.

Some road weary frustration surfaced as we found the only available campsite in Gothic to be one that the TDI was not capable of getting in and out of.  I was worried that with the condition of the road, however few, trips to town and back would possibly be an insurmountable challenge for the car if we got some rain.  Let me tell you now, we expected rain.  I don't think we had previously spent a day in CB that it didn't rain.  We had factored this into our decision.  Rain would not deter us, but we didn't have the truck.

Allison set to work on her beloved iPhone to search for more camping while the little diesel clattered back towards town with it's tail between its legs.  The fruit of her labor, though we didn't at first realize it, was a discovery the magnitude of which is only paralleled by things like the invention of Maple Syrup.  Slate River supposedly had some campsites.  This road is in much better condition, though unfortunately a bit more heavily traveled, and we found what turned out to be a stellar camp site about 7 miles up the valley.

After setting up camp Allison coerced me into riding.  My fatigue level put me somewhere around the "Princess Bride" status of "mostly dead" but that didn't stop us and we rode Snodgrass from Washington Gulch up and back.

Can you feel the magic of this place by looking at this photo too?

I purchased a hammock at the local outfitter to take our camping experience to the next level.  Allison doubted it would get used as my frenetic pace rarely has me spend more than a few seconds at rest.  She was kind enough to test out my setup for me.

Once nestled into our little stand of pine trees above the rocky gorge of the Slate River we settled into what I would consider the ultimate rythm, EAT SLEEP RIDE, the passage of days is marked not by days of the week but by trail names.

Day 9 Deer Creek Summer 2011

We hadn't previously ridden this route because Allison feared it was too big.  After having done the route I can assure you that the 403-401 route we had done previously felt bigger.  In any case we started the day with Allison's oats and then rode down Slate River Rd, climbed up towards the ski resort, jumped onto Upper Trail, continued onto Upper Upper dropping onto Brush Creek Rd.  A left at this point took us out to the start of Deer Creek Trail and from there climbed and then descended on typically outstanding high alpine Crested Butte single track and finally popped out in the Rocky Mountain Laboratory of Gothic.  A left on Gothic Rd. and we dropped back into Crested Butte.

That summary is so sterile!  It doesn't capture any of the amazing views, the explosion of color that the wildflowers spread in every direction, the slight technical challenge when Allison's shifter fell off her bike, or my once typical flat tire experience.  It is futile though, text and pictures cannot really submerge one in the experience, flying down narrow one track through tight growths of aspens and then the assault of light and color as you burst from the trees into alpine meadows with fast flowing perfect trail lined by wild flowers.  Still images are like a drop of dew to satisfy the thirst of a desert wanderer...  brutally insufficient.

One happy Mann.

After the ride we stopped in at the local grocer for some camp supplies.

I felt the pain of our little TDI as my rear suspension was strained heavily by the ride back to camp.

Day 10 401 Summer 2011

There was discussion of making this day an "easier" day.  Funny how things change over the years, this trail has gone from the very limit of what we could possibly do in a day to what would equate to a rest day now.  401 is however one of the iconic trails in Crested Butte and I am glad to say that we have ridden it every time we have visited.  The combination of altitude, perfect high alpine single track, vistas of Gothic below and the Maroon Bells, collaborate together in a symphony of the most beautiful kind.

We started the day with a feast of an egg scramble complete with BACON and because we wanted to shower afterwards at the hostel we parked the car at the Snodgrass Trailhead above Crested Butte.  The ride was magnificent.

Our hunger for mountains and trails was satisfied for the day and we dined at the Teocalli Tamale, brewed at Brick Oven Pizza, and desserted at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.  Rest day success?  I don't really know if that is the case, but I can assure you it was a day for the memory banks!

Day 11 Tony's Trail Upper Upper 409B 405 406? Reno Divide Flag Creek Bear Creek Deadman's Gulch Summer 2011

I am not sure we need to go past the title of this day to convey the overwhelming nature.  It was to be our last day in Crested Butte.  If history tells us anything we may not return for several years.  When confronted with an impending famine I think we try to compensate by gorging ourselves.  Everything about this day resonates this theme, from breakfast all the way through the route selection, and then post ride activity, right up to our reluctant departure.

After rising early and packing camp we headed to Izzy's for one last delish breakfast.  It was epic.

I would soon regret my over-indulgence.  I have not experienced climbing quite as labored as the first few climbs this day in a long, long time.  Climbing was certainly the theme though as we went straight up 409B.  I think Allison celebrated a little when she climbed past me on multiple occasions, take it when you can get it!  409B would make a really fun descent, it was a tortuous ascent.  We had some navigational issues though and after a bit of high alpine riding we dropped toward Cement Creek far earlier than planned on trails that had us both off our bikes multiple times.

Steeper and harder than it looks with major penalty for error...

We got back on track though as we climbed up to Reno Divide.

Then we feasted on what is some of the best stuff there is.

There are no pictures of the Deadman's Gulch descent.  There are reasons for this!

We ran out of water at the top of the last climb.  Our internal fuel tanks were also on empty, but they don't get filled quite as easily as filling bottles and hydration bladders at Cement Creek Campground.  The headwind on the ride back to town was taxing.

Once back we feasted yet again.  The Last Steep tried to fill our bellies but didn't keep us from one last trip to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory before hitting the road.

We bid farewell to our beloved Butte and began the all too long journey home.

We made it as far as Green River, crashed (figuratively speaking) for the night, then finished the drive home.  Suddenly days of the week mattered again.  We finished the drive home late on Sunday.  The pain of going back to the grind of daily life accompanied the return of days being called by days of the week instead of trail names...

Till our next adventure.  Be well.  See you on the trails!