Thursday, June 13, 2013

Pat's Peak XC MTB Race 2013

With gallons of rain getting dumped on New England and the threat of a very muddy race course, many racers chose to stay home on Sunday June 9th rather than destroy their bikes with grit and grime. The only DAS racer to drive up to Henniker NH for the MTB Festival at Pat's Peak was myself (Liz A), and while I enjoyed the heck out of that course, I think many people made a good decision to stay out of the woods.

I decided to ride part of the course before the start to see what I had ahead of me.  I think I made it about 1.5 miles before I cut out of the woods and back down the mountain.  In that short distance, I'd already coated my drivetrain in gunk, washed out in a mudpit onto my side, and gotten off to walk through unrideable muddy climb sections.  Knowing that I'd be doing enough of that come race time, I thought it best to cut my losses.  My biggest concern was the descent because I knew how technical it was and how wet it could be on the driest day.

courtesy of Pat's Peak 
The only other pro/open racer was Hattie Freye (super fast and wicked good tech rider from Maine), and the Cat 1 women had a whopping total of 3 racers.  I took the hole shot, and Hattie and I set out for our 3 laps racing within sight of one another for a couple of miles.  I was a complete mess on that first lap - walking sections that I could have easily been riding, but I managed to pull ahead with all of the climbing.  I threw that all away when I got to the downhill.  I was walking way too many sections that I should have been riding, and with less than a mile to go to the start/finish area, Hattie had caught and gone by me.  Our friendly exchange included me telling her to go ahead by me and her telling me she was sure I'd pass her back on the climbs.  Mentally, I was completely enraged at myself for undoing all of the work I'd done on that first lap.

Over the next two laps, I not only regained the lead, but I pushed myself hard enough to gain 4 and a half minutes over Hattie.  It all came down to getting out of my own head and just riding my damn bike. The downhill was just as awesome as I remembered it being and not nearly as difficult as I was making it out to be...  I just had to put a little bit of trust in my bike (cautious trust... it was slippery out there).  It was a well-earned win.  It feels good knowing that my fitness has improved enough to be able to gain back lost time and then some.  I'm looking forward to the next few races!

Domnarski Farm XC MTB Race 2013

photo by M. Domnarski - Cat 1 and 2 staging
Better late than never with this team update.

Sunday June 2 was a hot day for racing, but that didn't stop the DAS ladies from lining up for what is almost always a very muddy race at Domnarski Farm.  The course starts on race promoter Matt Domnarski's family farm and winds its way into local forest areas on rocky fire-roads and through sections of singletrack that inevitably include water crossings on narrow wobbly bridges.  This is the sort of course that requires handling skills, climbing agility, and the opportunity to pre-ride it a couple of days before the race so that you know where the deep parts of the puddles are.  If you aren't careful, you could go for a swim in any number of mud-holes mid-race.

The beginner (cat 3) racers enjoyed an abbreviated race loop that avoided some of the more technical sections of the course and cut out about 5 miles while the sport and expert/elite racers (cat 2 and 1 respectively) raced on a 10 mile course - cat 2 doing 1 lap and cat 1 doing 2.  Both Tracy and Liz lined up to do 2 laps on the 10 mile course.   Knowing that it was going to be a hot day, everyone was talking about going out easy to avoid overheating.

Here's how the race went for Tracy:

So glad I decided to race!

I have been having second thoughts about racing and honestly sometimes getting on the bike is often a chore. Of course after I am on the bike I am having fun, but getting there has been more difficult this season. I certainly have not been training like I was last year, when I would schedule everything; my entire season was planned out. Don’t get me wrong, I have still been training and riding; I am just not as methodical about it. Anyway, I'm so glad I raced Domnarski’s farm; I really enjoy this course. It has a lot of climbing, plenty of mud, some technical areas, and some power sections. Each lap has over 1200 feet of climbing and doing 2 laps yeah, that’s a workout. 

photo by M. Domnarski
Considering the humid weather I decided not to wear my knee brace, this being the first time riding my mtb without it, I was a little bit nervous. The knee brace tends to slide down my leg in the warm weather and I did not want to chance throwing it in the woods to be lost forever. I took precautions however, I kinisiotaped the heck out my knee and wore my trusty old knee pads. This actually felt pretty good, oh yeah, mental block overcome.

At the start I lined up with the rest of the Cat 1 women in the back as usual; I need to work on my positioning. This course starts right off climbing and climbing and more climbing... then we hit some atv/jeep trails where it is hammer time. In the middle of these trails however, are some very large and deep mud puddles, some of these puddles could swallow a bike and a rider. I fortunately did not get submerged in muddy water like some but got just wet enough to cool off. Then I think we headed into the woods for some technicalish (that’s not a real word, but you know what I mean) single track. Then you guessed it - more climbing, I believe we are at 5 mile by now. After this climb a bit more single track and on to climb up the power lines, here we are out in the sun but, we get a nice breeze. After the power lines it is the bridge of reasonable absurdity and then the hill where the tree of death is, since I am technically inept I walk these areas. Then we are home free with jeep/atv roads and descents. I think my chronological order of the course is correct, but I could be wrong. Anyhow, it is a great course and I am glad I raced; I felt good & had fun.

Liz's take on the race:

I lined up with only two other women, but that meant nothing as far as competition goes because both of those women are fast and skilled racers:  Joanne Grogan and Ellen Noble.  Knowing that Ellen had won the Winding Trails race earlier in the season against a bunch of fast gals, I figured that if I could keep her in my sight, I'd be doing well.  At the start, I ended up in 3rd position, and Ellen was gradually pulling away from Joanne and I, so as soon as we hit double track, I made a pass (accidentally poking poor Joanne with my bar end - sorry!) and took off after Ellen.  I kept her in site through the climb, and on towards the start of singletrack.  That's where I lost site of her - either due to the nature of the trail or due to the my taking it easy in the heat. 

The first lap went by uneventfully.  I came through for the second lap knowing that I was only about a minute down from Ellen, and set off after her on a mission to catch up.  As I came to "halfway hill," I noticed another rider just ahead on the climb and quickly recognized Ellen's pink socks.  I was immediately pumped and had to mentally check myself because I didn't want my excitement to cause me to do something stupid.  Well, as luck would have it, I was hammering the tiny section of singletrack that precedes the heinous power-line climb when I slammed my rear wheel into a log or something near it and burped half of the air out of my rear tire.  I didn't realize I'd lost air until I'd completed the climb (I'm pretty sure it was leaking air all the way up), and then I had to make the decision whether I should stop and air up or keep going and hope for the best.  At this point, I'd gained some serious ground and I was right on Ellen's tail.  Here's the dilemma: I had my CO2 pump in the bag under my saddle.  Getting that out would have been a debacle in itself never mind getting air into my tire without getting flustered.  So I did what any silly fool would do, and I rode that wiggly tire for the remaining few miles.  I managed to keep up with Ellen, and I was actually ready to pass her a couple of times, but I was nervous about that tire, so on some of the more burly descents, I kindly told her to take the lead.  

photo by M. Domnarski - Sprint Finish
It's tough to say what would have happened if I'd put air in that tire, but what did happen is this:  I was right on her rear wheel through the final descent.  As we came into the finishing stretch, we both sprinted to the finish, and I was left in her dust on my squishy tire finishing one second behind her.  It was an awesome finish - fun and friendly competition on a fun and challenging course!  

Tracy ended up taking 4th in women's cat 1 35+, and Liz crossed the line in 2nd place for the Pro/Cat 1 Open Women.  Here're the official results.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wrath of the Boneyard 2013

Since I'm the only DAS racer who raced this weekend, I think I'm allowed to take the easy route and just post a link to my personal blog so you can get an in depth idea of what the race course was like.

In summary, it was me against a number of 35+ Cat 1 women with them doing 4 laps and me doing 5.  I managed to stay ahead of them for the four and complete my fifth about about the same pace that I'd been going the whole time.  Based on how my legs felt on that last lap, I would have expected that lap to be about 10 minutes slower.  It was a tough race - just under three hours of super rugged and uber slippery terrain.

Something I didn't mention in my blog...  I've been working with a chia seed based home-made energy gel.  I am having trouble finding the right delivery system.  I tried a squeeze bottle made for gels, and the seeds just wouldn't slide through, so I ended up removing the cap and racing with an open bottle in my jersey pocket.  As one can imagine, in a muddy race this is probably not the most sanitary option.  Somehow, it did not spill in my pocket, and I had plenty of calories to keep me moving.  If anyone can think of a better dispensary system, feel free to let me know.
-Liz A

Monday, May 6, 2013

Team DAS Does Battle at Burlingame

EFTA’s Battle at Burlingame is the first race in the NECS (New England Championship Series), and was sponsored by NBX.  Located in Charlestown, RI at Burlingame State Park Campground, the course offered extremely fast and buffed out singletrack with two key technical sections, loose sandy corners, and a couple short but steep rocky descents that were just enough to keep racers in check of their speed. Those who weren’t careful were destined to kiss the ground.  

The morning was chilly, but by the time our crew was racing at 11:30 it was comfortable enough to race in a t-shirt and shorts.  From the starting line, the groups lined up by category from elite to singlespeed and on to the rest of the expert racers by age groups.  The start on a portion of pavement just off to the side of where we would go through on consecutive laps; this worked well because it avoided sending us immediately into trees at the start.  
Starting line - Elite Women - courtesy of John Robertson

It seems that even with some minor crashes, everyone had a fantastic time, and all were able to push themselves beyond their comfort zones to new levels of achievement.  Racing in the expert women’s category, here is Tracy’s race experience:
Tracy aka T-rock - rockin' the 29er - by John Robertson

“Battle of Burlingame was more like blunder at Burlingame for me. This being my first 27.5 mtb ride, never mind race, in a few years made me wonder if I could even finish. I felt like I was rested up for this race; however, my head just wasn’t in it. I have been having a difficult time this year being mentally prepared for most races, and this one was by far the worst. I never felt like I got in the racing zone or found a flow. I made many, many, stupid mistakes including going off course and crashing. 

“The course was mostly single track with some wide open areas, as well as sections of bridges and a technical ridge. I find single track and of course technical areas difficult - especially when faster riders are coming up behind me. I found myself to be a blundering idiot losing any skill I had and would often slow down riding through the brush or stop completely to let them by. Fortunately or not, Bo has so graciously volunteered to ride behind me to let me get use to this on training days. Hmmmm not so sure this would be a good idea. I wouldn’t want to get too irritated and scream at him, especially since I lack direction and he is faster than me. 

“Anyway, we raced 5 laps that have meshed together into one big confusion in my mind. I only remember some small highlights like vomiting in my mouth, trying to jump over a rather large log and biting the dust, and that stupid dirt hill that I couldn’t make up. Really that dirt hill shouldn’t have been that difficult. 

“Overall it was a good day; I got to race my bike with a bunch of wicked cool peeps. I also have to say that all the faster riders passing me were great; they were very appreciative and encouraging. You have got to love mountain biking!!!”

Steve-O - smooth riding - by John R.
Steve O represented in the open singlespeed category alongside a mixed lot of racers with all different combinations of gearing that allowed them to either suffer the entire 27.5 miles with a tough gear setup or spin like mad with an ‘easier’ setup, and whatever gearing they had to begin with was what they had the entire race.  Here’s Steve’s recap:

“The Battle at Burlingame is a fun, FAST course... it's got several long wide-open flat sections that wind in and out of the campsites at Burlingame State Park. RV campsites are not very techy, generally speaking. The climbs are not long nor steep either, since this venue is almost at the beach. And the terrain that links it all together is very flowy. To break things up, they are almost forced to throw in a few sharp 90-degree corners right at the bottom of some fast-rolling downhill sections.
Ah, but then, you've got the interesting bits: The Bridges, and The Ridges. The Bridges (aka “"The Bridges of Burlingame" that actually have their own Strava segment) are a series of AMC-built plank bridges crossing a swampy area of the park. The bridges are slippery-when-wet, but we had a lovely dry day. The bridges are also diabolical, dry or wet. Transitions from one to the next are rocky, bony, rooty, and seem designed specifically to trip up a mountain bike. And then we've got The Ridges. Really the only classic New England-style tech section on the whole 5.5-mile loop, The Ridges climb, well, up a ridge of course. The trail is always going either up or down and always going around a sharp corner at the same time, and the terrain features rocks right where you'd otherwise like to put your wheel.

“This race course is a good one for gears. Mostly because you can go really fast on those flat sections if you've got some gears. However, with my geared bike down for frame repairs, I brought a knife to a gunfight: a borrowed Specialized Rockhopper SS rigid running my preferred light gear, a 32-20. Kind of useless in the fast sections, but what I love about this gear is that I can ride out pretty much anything, and once those painful laps 4 and 5 come around, it's luxurious to be able to pedal up those inclines, as slight as they may be.

“I briefly debated registering in SS Open versus running the SS alongside the geared bikes in Expert Masters. I was thinking it didn't really matter all that much; I'd be bringing a certain disadvantage into either class. SS Open got the nod. I was a bit surprised that they lined us up right behind the Pro Women. That meant all the Expert classes would be running right behind us and filtering through us during the race. And that's how it turned out. I got to say hello to a whole bunch of riding buddies as they passed me at various points during the race. The first three laps were fast and furious, keeping other SS competitors in sight most of the time. In typical fashion, laps 4 and 5 were a cramping, painful death-march. Once the quads cramped up and checked out, I found all sorts of new muscle groups to pedal with. By the end I think I was using just my toes. That's the beauty of Single Speed... your body is your gearing.

“I can't complain about my result: 2:20:39 was a full four minutes faster than last year running a geared bike, although the course was wetter last year too. I am pretty happy with 6th out of 13 starters, one tick ahead of dead midpack. Reviewing results, I had a nice chat with Finn Maguire who took 2nd, who pointed out to me that the 7-minute gap from first (Shawn Mottram) to second was bigger than the gap between the next FIVE places. So I finished fifth in the second group, or something like that. Hey, I'm happy.”

Add caption
John Y was one of those guys who raced up alongside of Steve in that crazy class of singlespeeders (not to be confused with what Liz A refers to in her comments as having class).  His first race back in awhile, he decided to make it count by rocking the 26 inch wheels and going with one speed for the 27.5 miles:

“Well, the race went (fortunately) as I had intended as a good long training day and (unfortunately) as I expected results wise...I made a mid-week decision to break out of my comfort zone and move up to the expert class which would have been hard enough for me but I decided to go singlespeed. I had a good time except for the death march of a last lap but I achieved my goal of riding as hard as I could and finishing. I did come in last (there were 2 DNF) by 14 minutes to the 11th place guy. While I wasn't surprised to come in last I was surprised at how much slower I was than the rest of the group as a whole. I have a decision to make, I'd like to keep racing in the expert class as I like the longer races but clearly I'm not at all competitive. I'll take it race by race and just keep working hard at it.”

 Lining up with a small group of elite women, Liz A got to do a 6th lap to make for a total of 33 miles.  She was back and forth about racing her singlespeed for this race, but was glad to have chosen gears. 
Liz - CHEESE! - by John Robertson
Here’s her story:

“While I am tempted to cut and paste the play by play of the race from my personal blog, I will avoid taking the easy way out this week and attempt to replay the race with an alternative spin...

“Lining up with the elite women, I was delighted to see that in addition to Karen P. (the only other elite woman besides myself to prereg), Kate L. and Sue L. had both shown up. Sure, it’s fun to know that you’re guaranteed a podium when only two or three women show up to the start, but that pretty much defeats the purpose of racing besides the aspect of beating previous PRs and pushing yourself past your own limits; racing is much more exciting when you have a bunch of really good competition.  Coming off of last week’s SSAP, I hadn’t really gotten to ride much during the week because I’m in the thick of finals, but I felt good knowing that my legs had felt strong the previous weekend. 

“I arrived to Burlingame with plenty of time to set up and warm up, and I joined Mr. Loize and Mr. Beaupre for a leisurely lap around the course.  It was almost entirely as I had remembered it from last year - a freakin’ speed-racer bonanza with berms and a couple of slow-ya-down tech sections.  After attempting to line up without my race number, I still managed to arrive at the start line with plenty of time to spare.  Knowing that the race started off with a funnel into a drainage ditch full of rocks resembling crocodile teeth, the elite ladies kept the start respectable by easing our way through there and on up to the first big log before actually starting to race one another.  That’s the cool thing about racing with classy gals - we don’t feel the need to pummel one another in the first 30 seconds of the race.  I hear some of the men’s categories were not as classy... however, they had many more racers than us; it’s probably easier to have class when your group is small.

“I raced a solid race, and I definitely picked up speed on my last two laps. Hoping to finish in under three hours, I was questionable about whether or not I’d do it at the halfway point because I was finishing my laps in just under 30 minutes.  However, laps 5 and 6 were an all out effort, and that reflected in a finishing time of 2:54 for 33 miles.  I’ve definitely improved over last year: I finished 12 minutes faster, felt really strong the entire three hours, and finished in second place despite a crash and some seriously sloppy moments out there.   I’m truly looking forward to being able to get out an train on a more regular basis now that school is coming to a close.”

The team will be racing next weekend at one race or another... some at the Boneyard and some at the Weeping Willow.  See you somewhere.  

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

SSAP 2013 aka Singlespeed-A-Palooza; aka The Social Gala of the 2013 Season

aka Singlespeed-A-Palooza; aka The Social Gala of the 2013 Season

Nothing but singlespeeds
With an eclectic group of racers from some of our favorite local teams (Expo Wheelman, NBX, and Bikeman), DAS racers Donnie D and Liz A headed out Saturday afternoon to Montgomery, NY for a 9 am start at Dark Horse Cycles' Singlespeed-A-Palooza.  Jesse, Melissa, and Alby were perfect accomplices for this road trip, and the entire experience was a gut-busting good time.  

This being Donnie's first race in awhile, he was excited to be back at it.  Here's how the race went for him:  

"As I shaved my face to make some chops I pondered the last time I raced singlespeed, The best I could come up with was Sea Otter around 04’. This time however it would be the first time riding a 29er and the first time riding my new Kona Unit.  Since I was not going to break any records I chose to race it stock right out of the box. I built her up on Friday, threw on some King Cages, a Topeak bag with essentials and called it good. I also thought it was a long time since I loaded up into a car with fellow racers and drove more than a couple hours to camp. 

The line for the beer
"My goal was to not come in last and hang on to my friend Oliver’s wheel as long as possible. On the trip over there were some similarities to previous mentioned trips but this time things were different as well.  For starters I’m way less serious about racing now so my mind was not filled with things like tire choice, tire pressure, sleep, the start, etc. I did however focus on staying hydrated, so I popped open another first for me, a Heady Topper Double IPA from VT. 

"We arrived at the host shop, Dark Horse Cycles, and set up camp on the property. My set up was easy, Thermarest and bag under the stars. I knew that nutrition and hydration was the only way I was going to survive this race, so I immediately started eating and drinking water as soon as I woke. 

"The beginning of the race was typical - complete with a pile up which I narrowly avoided. I was careful not to blow up and settled in on the climb.  Oliver made quick work of the field and moved to the front. Myself I stayed back to keep an eye on the competition. As the race developed I was most impressed with the trail system, fast flowing well designed, perfect for a singlespeed. 

"By mile 10 I was getting used to the bike and the 29 inch wheels.  I was most impressed with the traction I was getting in the corners. The bike was smooth over the tech sections and ran flawlessly. By mile 15 at the water feed I thought for a second about skipping it but came to my senses.  I dumped my half full bottles and grabbed one full one with Heed. I watched with no reaction 6 or so riders go by. I chugged 2 beers and off I went. Total down time 2 minutes. Back in the saddle and 10 miles to go my legs definitely started to feel the work that had been done. 

"I settled in again and ticked off the miles; with no computer and no idea when or where the end was, I took my last GU and hoped for the best. It turned out it was not far, and it was over. Yup just like that it was over. Post race beers, food and good times were had by all. Overall I had a great time with some cool peeps. Oliver came in first and I came in several positions after him. See you at the next race where I’ll be the one letting you pass and chugging beers."

Alby King of Bikeman with our group cooler

Here is Liz's account of the race (taken word for word from her blog, so if you've already read that, skip ahead):

"The race started out on a dirt road which was ideal because if you know anything about singlespeeds, you'll know that one gear means it takes awhile to create a decent gap in a crowd of over one-hundred. The open women started with the open men, and the sport men, fat bikes, and sport women were staggered at two minute intervals behind us.  When the start was called, it was a mad scrabble of clipping in and furiously spinning because much of the first section of road was a descent.  As the dust began to clear and the lead group of men started to pull away, I could see that the road was changing to an incline; I could also see one of the other women that I was up against.  As the incline leveled off, we were all going pretty steady, and it wasn't until the next incline that I decided to try to make a move past her.  I'd intended to go all out in the beginning so I could put some distance and some humans between myself and the other girls before we hit the woods; this seemed to work because I never saw another woman racing during the entire 24 miles.  I didn't know it until I saw her come through, but Melissa was just a couple minutes behind me and was trying to chase me down the entire way as she was catching glimpses of me throughout the race.  
NBX's Melissa and Expo Wheelmen's Jesse

"During most of the race, I was riding with one guy who seemed to be pretty well matched to my pace (after a good chunk of the race, we finally introduced ourselves), and it wasn't until I started popping on a couple of climbs towards the middle-end that I really encouraged him to just go on past me.  I still managed to keep him in sight the rest of the way and somehow got my mojo back after only a few tough little climbs.  Having no idea where I stood the entire race, it was tough to know what I should be doing or where I should be putting out effort.  I never bothered to throw a GPS on the bike, and I've never ridden there before. Also, I don't wear a heart-rate monitor, so my only measure of capacity was the way my legs felt on hard efforts and the time it took for me to recover after one of those efforts. Aside from the fact that I just kept telling myself to go harder, I had no way of knowing where I stood except that I was keeping a good enough pace for people to tell me, "I think you're the first woman rider."  Every time I heard that, I was like, "Cool, but where are they!?" It's tough not knowing!  Fortunately, I did a good job of whispering sweet nothings into my own ears during the race; that's the benefit of being your own coach - you can bring your coach with you during your race, and they won't leave your side (and if they do, there are ways to push the demons out and bring the coach back).  I told myself that I had it in my legs to go hard, and when I felt like my legs were done, I told myself to eat a GU and GO HARDER!  It worked.  In the last section of downhill, one of the open men (who had gotten held up with a flat tire at some point in the race) came up behind me and told me that we were almost done.  I think he said something like, "this is the last section... let it roll and have fun."  And so I did!  I rolled through the timing tent in just under two hours which is probably the fastest I've ever finished a 20+ mile race. 
First ever podium beer buzz 

Why does this picture matter?  Because this is what your pocket might look like after a race-full of mechanicals.
"As it turns out, I was the first woman, and Melissa finished less than two minutes behind me as the second woman.  We were stoked to be on the podium together, and Dark Horse Cycles hooked us up with some hefty prizes - cash, limited edition budweisers, and really unique trophies.  A lot of our buddies did well too.  Alby King finished in eighth (men's open), Donnie D in 15th (men's sport NJ and first race in a long time), and Jesse finished the race after having 3 flats, a bottle-cage debacle, and two beers to take the edge off.  Our friendOliver finished first in his category (sport men NJ)." 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Winding Trails 2013 - Tracy represents!

Racing Winding trails without my team mates but never feeling alone


"I of course missed my DAS team mates; however, when you mountain bike race it doesn’t matter what team your jersey says; we are all one big team. Big is right! The woman’s fields are ever-growing which is awesome. When I compared how many combined category woman raced this year as to last year there were 20 more racers. This is fantastic; every year the woman’s fields are growing. Soon we will be catching up with the men's fields. 

My race didn’t start until 1:30pm which was nice since I didn’t have to rush around to get to the race venue early. It was also a bit chilly out, so waiting until it warmed up a bit was okay by me. I got to the race at the start of the Cat 2 women’s race, and I got to cheer on some of my friends I haven’t seen in a while. I cheered and chatted for a while then I figured I better start getting ready and warming up for my race. 

During my warm up my brakes where squeaking which was annoying. I possibly got something on the brake pads while cleaning my bike. Also I dropped my chain, I haven’t dropped my chain since my last race, but I never adjusted it. Not wanting to mess with anything right before a race I figured I would just stay in the big ring. This should not be a problem since there wasn’t a lot of climbing at this venue, and this proved to be true. Two lessons learned here: (1) no more cleaning the bike and (2) things just do not go away on their own (make the adjustments long before the race). 

Now for the race recap: Lap 1, I felt like I was going to die. Lap 2, I may not die but it hurts bad. Lap 3, settling in a bit. Lap 4, don’t care just going to enjoy my last lap. Overall the race was great. It wasn’t very technical, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard."

Great job Tracy!  Thanks for representing DAS in Farmington, CT at the second root 66 race of the season.  The next race of the 66 series is the Wrath of the Boneyard in Meriden, CT, but that race coincides with an EFTA race up in Ipswich, MA.  We may have some racers at both races.  In addition, EFTA has it's Battle of Burlingame race coming up on May 5th, and many of the DAS racers are planning to attend.  As of right now, the forecast looks great; see you out there!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

DAS Ladies Represent at Hop Brook Dam

Middlebury, CT - April 7, 2013

It was a chilly morning as we arrived at the park, and constant wind gusts left everyone in a bit worried about over-dressing vs under-dressing for the race.  Unlike a casual mountain bike ride, during a race, it's not really the best idea to be stopping in the middle of the trail to pull off a layer of clothing.  Not to mention, most of us race with the bare minimum of gear, so there'd be no place to put those layers.  Sure, some pros can remove a jacket, fold it, and put it in their pocket while racing uphill past you, but none of us DAS ladies have become versed in the art of circus stunts.  I think we all eventually went with short sleeves.  With the amount of climbing per lap, it was probably a good idea; we were generating some serious heat in those climbs.  

Left to right... Liz A, Tracy, and Liz B. Pre-Race

So, here's how the day went for Liz, Tracy, and Liz...

Liz Bove:

I think I went into the race with the right mindset: This is going to be a long race, so don't go out too hard, pace yourself.
Then we started. I didn't feel like I was pushing too hard. I saw that I was the 6th woman going into the first section of single track, but I felt strong. I didn't think I was pushing too hard. I passed a few riders and made the mistake of thinking 'hey I'm doing better than I expected. Maybe I can do well today and not just hope to finish.' Silly me. That course was a beat down and I realized too late that I did not have the endurance to stay at the pace I was riding or with the women I was competing against.

The first two laps went well. Most of the third lap I still felt strong. Then, as I crossed the road to the final section of that lap, I felt it. I was fading. Fast. Cathy passed me on the pavement and offered words of encouragement. Not far behind her was Vicki, who caught me early into the 4th lap. She was soon out of sight. Next was Haley. Now this was probably the funniest (read: embarrassing) moment. I can only imagine how I looked to her as I was spinning with empty legs up a gravel climb, going so slowly that I simply fell over sideways due to lack of inertia! That's right. I tipped over. I didn't crash. I didn't miscalculate a tech section. Nope. I. Tipped. Over.
From that point on I was praying for it to end. The granniest of granny gears allowed me to limp my way through the final lap. That was the worst bonk I've ever experienced.
So, after being mad at myself for a day, I've decided to think about the positives:

I was able to ride the entire course. That horrible climb? I actually made it up that on my third lap! I didn't do it any other lap, but that was a big deal for me.
I also rode 21 miles. I've only ever ridden more than 20 miles on a mountain bike once before this race. It wasn't pretty for the last 5 miles, but I did it.
I finished 5th out of 9. That was much better than I expected for my first CAT 1 race.
And most importantly--With the start of race season, I'm reminded that mountain bikers are freaking awesome people. Every woman I raced with was super friendly and generous with their words of encouragement.


Last year, Hop Brook was my first ever MTB race, and looking back to that day my goal was the same. Keep the bike upright. Mission pretty much accomplished; I may have stumbled a little but did not have to pull myself off the ground, or better yet, no one else had to pick me up off the ground. Well, as usual my start was awful; I think I started up the single track hill about 3rd from the back. I then made a stupid mistake going over the first log obstacle which cost me some time and then the field was gone. I proceeded to push along but, started to feel pretty defeated early on in the first lap, questioning if I was going to be able to finish. I also dropped my chain during the first lap which only made me feel more defeated. At this point I possibly may have dropped the F bomb!!! Ok I did drop the F bomb. Somewhere during my first lap, yes my first lap, several of the men’s pro racers passed me. I continued on to my second lap feeling like I cannot quit that is just so wrong. My third and forth lap were a blur of feeling ok I can do this and feeling like oh no another climb am I going to have to walk up this. Well I did not have to walk up any of the climbs, well... except for the one steep one which I have never made up anyway. Overall it was a great day with great people; I truly love the camaraderie in mountain bike racing. Everyone is so encouraging and friendly. I am also pretty psyched that I did not give in to the little demon in my head telling me to quit, and as a bonus I didn’t puke. Can’t wait to do it again.

Liz Allen:

Going into this race, I felt pretty good.  I knew I was up against some really talented competition, but I also knew that I'd been working pretty hard training indoors all winter, so I wouldn't be at my worst.  Compared to cyclocross season, where I was lucky if I had time to ride once or twice during the week in between race weekends, I was in great shape.  What I've noticed between the KOB TT and Hop Brook is that my legs are strong and fantastic when I need to keep a strong steady pace going...  However, when it comes time to put out a hard effort, follow someone faster, or move out of my comfort zone, I just can't seem to do anything about it.  That's what happened on Sunday.  

I rode a good steady pace the whole time, pedaled over almost everything smoothly, and somehow felt okay on lap 4.  However, when it came down to my time and the times of my competitors, it's obvious that I have a lot of work to do.  My time this year was 3 minutes slower than last year, and there were two Cat 1 women with faster times than me.  So, my fourth place finish in the open category is really more like 6th.  It's hard to not be disappointed with myself, but looking towards the future, I have some road riding and hills planned.  I'm looking forward to some more challenges this season.  At the next race, I may even race in the men's open singlespeed category.  Watch out, boys.  

Next on the race schedule is the Fat Tire Classic at Winding Trails on April, 21.  This is a fun venue for first-time racers because the course is generally forgiving, and there aren't many steep or long climbs or descents.  It's also a great place to bring the kids because there are park facilities.  See you there!