Sunday, November 8, 2015

Coldwater Enduro Race Report

The only time I had ridden at Coldwater had been in August of 2012, when the first 11 miles of trail had just been built.  At that time, I wasn't all that impressed.  It felt like a never ending downhill pump track followed by a relentless climb up a series of loose, short, and steep little grunts that all looked the same.

After the memories of that trip had faded and with many more miles of new trail built, I decided to give the mountain another chance.  And what better way to experience it than at the hands of the 3rd Coast Enduro Series.  So after packing up after the Cahaba 50, I drove up Saturday night, set up camp, and slept beneath the hum of the power lines.  I opted out of the night enduro, but heard the next day that it was scarily fun!

I chose to see it as my lucky number.

After a solid night's sleep and a much more laid back morning, I pedaled off to the top of Talledega to the first stage.  I took it super easy on the transition, as my legs were barking after the previous day's effort.  Along the way I met some new friends, including Kayley Burdine, who was trying out this "new to her" enduro thing.

Talledega ... think wide open and fast!

Stage 1:  Talledega --> Trillium --> OHV trail --> Tortoise --> Hare. Everyone was just milling around at the top; no one but me, seemed eager to get started.  Finally "Mama Bear" yelled at the men to get their heads out of their a$$es and GO!  After a few fast dudes went, I hopped in line.  Attempting to go from 0 to 60 in less than 5 seconds hurt!  With legs screaming, I flew down the double track and hopped onto some sweet flowing single track.  Traction was better than I thought and I did not have to use the stoppers much.  The OHV trail reminded me of fall line Pisgah trail; no need to pedal here, it was all about finding the fastest line and not being bucked off by the large baby heads.  Tortoise and Hare were super flowy with a few tight switchbacks which had me going from 60 to 0 quickly.  Two dudes were riding up; they were lucky I came upon them during one of the tight turns or I would have been the bowling ball and they the pins!  Other than the long delay of stopping my transponder at the end of the run, I felt pretty good about it.

Stage 2:  New Trail --> Jump Trail.  This one was quite pedaly and I felt like a slug.  I also completely boofed the rock garden!  Being in too hard a gear, I had to dismount and run it.  That was costly!  In a couple spots with no confirmation taping, I slowed a couple times, wondering if I had missed a turn.  I thought this one was a short one and when it seemed to go on and on, I began to have doubts.  Finally I saw the white SRAM tape that indicated the finish was near.  I clocked out, mentally kicking myself for the mistakes.

Transition to Stage 3

Stage 3:  Talledega --> OHV trail --> Goldilocks.  Heading South on Talledega the left hand turn came up quickly.  Fortunately for me, but unfortunate for Eric, I had seen him go the wrong way down the double track and so knew to go left.  Later I heard that a couple others did the same as Eric. Goldilocks was fun.  The downhill pump track feeling that I hated 3 years ago I now thoroughly enjoyed!  I opted to roll all of them due to my tired legs and loose over hardpack conditions, but given a fresh body and hero dirt, I could see how it would be "oh so fun!" to send it!

Stage 4:  Bomb Dog Bypass --> Bombdog.  By far the funnest!  And, being 3 hours into the race, my legs were finally warmed up.  Feeling the flow, this run felt the best.  The trail rolled well, the corners were sweeping, and not much pedaling involved.  I tried to conserve every bit of momentum possible, concentrating on all the skills I had learned during the two skills camps I had taken this year. I felt really good about this run.

After pedaling back up to the Start/Finish area, it would now be a waiting game.  At least this time, I wasn't the first one done.  While waiting, I was able to clean up, eat, and break down my campsite. Finally the times were posted.  I was first.  Kayley came in second, but only because her mistakes were more costly than mine.

Ladies with mad skilz (but directionally challenged)!

I am glad I gave Coldwater a second chance.  I need to get back and explore the rest with fresh legs.

Thanks to Brent and Shelly for another nice event and cash payout!  I am looking forward to Cranksgiving.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Cahaba 50 Race Report

Not really excited about camping out at the venue, but not wanting to pay upwards of $150-$200 for a one night hotel stay, I chose the lesser of two evils.  The Talledega 500 was this weekend as well and the hotels decided to cash in on it.

Thankful for mild conditions.

After a restless night of sleep, in which I determined my sleeping pad to be unacceptable for future camping trips, I rolled out of my tent, prepared some coffee by headlamp, and enjoyed the 60 + degreee temps.

Knowing there was the potential of a $100 bill awaiting me at mile 9.5, I had a good deep warm up. The race crowd was quite small and I was able to settle in the second row for the start.  A fast start had me spun out of my 30T chain ring on the flats.  I was still able to jump in the single track in the top 20 with Laureen breathing down my wheel. The trails were super loose and my speeds were, for once, not governed by my barking legs, but by my skills.  As I finished up the first sections of single track and popped out onto the Red Road climb, I no longer heard Laureen behind me.  With the pressure off, I settled into a pace I could hopefully sustain for the remainder of the race.

The ringing cowbell signaled the top of the KOM/QOM.  With John calling me out as the QOM winner, I took the next two miles along the ridge to recover and ready myself for Jeckyll and Hyde. Fall was definitely in the air and I breathed in the crisp fresh smell of fallen leaves.  A couple guys caught up to me as my heart rate was coming off my hummingbird high.  No worries, I caught back up to them along the technical Hyde section.  Happy for all 4 inches of travel, my Niner floated over the rocks, which had apparently grown in the past year.

Traction at last!

Hyde seemed effortless, but Jeckyll, on the other hand, had my legs burning with lactic on the short climbs.  I suppose the XC pace during the first 10 miles of the race had caught up to me.  With 35 miles still left to race, I needed to recover quickly in order to finish strong. Making myself eat and drink, I also spun a high cadence to try to flush my legs.  I also tried to ride efficient, using gravity and technique to roll pump track parts of the trail.

Popping out onto Pea Vine Road, my legs felt better.  The 3 mile climb back up the mountain on the paved road was not as suffery as I expected it to be.  Hitting the green-red connector over to Blood Rock, I was back in race mode.  This trail was really sketchy and I almost swapped ends a couple times.  The 20 or so yards leading up to the rocky drop on Blood Rock was by far the hardest section of the whole course.  The two tight switchbacks were littered with loose baby-head rocks that did their best to take the front wheel out from under me.  Blood Rock was the driest and easiest it has ever been.  And no one in my way this year ... small victory!

Caution = Fun!  Photo credit:  John Karrasch

Flying down the rest of this trail, I tried to make up precious time I had lost when my legs were hangry (heavy and angry).  Crossing Pea Vine Road, the volunteers let me know I had 4 to go.  I tried pushing it a little bit climbing up Johnson's Mountain.  I was going to have to stop and refill my CamelBak and did not know if Laureen was going to stop at the pits.  Finally cresting the top, I enjoyed dropping back down to the remaining 2 flattish miles to the Start/Finish area.  Rolling through the pits, my first lap was 2:09.  With 40 seconds of pit time, I was off for the second lap.

The first 10 miles was a grunty sufferfest.  Definintely much slower this time, I was running on fumes towards the top.  Rolling the ridge for the second time, I kept telling myself just one more climb (although there were several more).  Hoping to trick my legs into submission, it seemed to work.  Jeckyll and Hyde flew by and seemed easier this time.  The "last climb" up Peavine was a manageable grind.

The flow of Jeckyll

For the remainder of the course, I felt like I was on autopilot.  Going on muscle memory, I went as hard as I could on Foreplay and Rattlesnake Ridge.  Watching my speedo, I knew that this lap was going to be alot slower and so was trying to minimize the difference.  I rolled through the finish line with a time of 4:26, the second lap being almost 6 minutes slower.

Laureen finished a close second and Tiffany third.  It had been several years since I had seen and raced Laureen.  We spent some time catching up with each other.  She is truly a great competitor and humble person.  And ... I got to meet her mechanic, "full-face" Kenny of JRA fame.

In the presence of bike knowledge awesome-ness!

I want to thank Kenny for working his arse off to make Chainbuster Racing what it is today.  Eddie Freyer has some big footsteps to fill, but am confident he will be able to get it done.  Looking forward to scheduling some of his races in 2016!

And with that, I broke down my campsite and drove up the road to race the 3rd Coast Enduro Series at Coldwater on Sunday.  But not looking forward to that damn sleeping pad!  Now I understand what Zeke means when he says his hips ache at night if he has to sleep on his side.