Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Tip of the Cap and A Wag of My Finger

I’m stealing a page out of Colbert’s book for this one, but I must give a big tip of my cap to the one and only Heather Holmes. On Monday I learned that Holmes had been selected to represent the USofA at Marathon World Championships over in Austria. Harlan Price, Jeremiah Bishop, and Pua Sawicki also got the nod. This makes Holmes the first mountain biker to represent the US at World Championships who has also let me sleep on their floor. Not only is she a rippin mountain biker, but Holmes is one of the coolest folk around, and its good to see her finally get a proper nod from USA Cycling. This years Firecracker was her first attempt at a marathon style race, Holmes went out and killed it, taking fifth place. Harlan is also a quality guy who like so many racers has to balance a real job and riding. I remember last year back at Mount Snow when Dejay had taped up his recently broken thumb, right before he got ready to race Super D, that’s just badass.

The one aspect of the article, which I though sucked, was that Holmes, and the rest of the gang, had to pay their way to get to Worlds. This is probably because the powers that be over at USA Cycling have their heads shoved far up their collective asses. So I will now wag my finger at USA Cycling because they can’t seem to come up with some coin to send THEIR representatives to World Championships. Here’s an idea to come up with that money, stopping with all the age groups at Mountain Bike National Championships. In Granby on top of the standard Cat 1, 2, and 3, there were more age groups than I have fingers, toes, eyes, and elbows. Is there really a need to make the age groups in 5 year increments? Why not take a page out of the roadie book, and cut back on the age groups. Dejay and I determined there should be three age groups: hands off (under 18), legal (18 to 40), and old (over 40). If the proper criteria could be met I would also be in favor of a cougar class. With less age groups, USA Cycling doesn’t have to go buy so many jerseys and medals, and the awards ceremony won’t require three separate trips to the bathroom.

Holmes, racing it up back in May

Monday, July 27, 2009

Galena (PbS) Grinder

After logging around 4000 miles worth of driving for XC and Marathon Nationals, I was looking forward to the short trip down to Sun Valley for the Galena Grinder this past weekend. The Marathon event that they put on down there, has gained a decent reputation for being a challenging event with lots of climbing. To boot, back in the early days of mountain bike racing, the course was the site of a great Tomac vs. Overend battle. Anyway I headed down to Galena Friday afternoon, having been told that folks at the Galena Lodge open their doors and hearts to racers who come down to camp out for the weekend. Friday night consisted of some tasty food, a few beers, and chatting about the race with other folks who had come down for the race. Once the sun went down everyone went their separate ways to get some shuteye.

Race morning came with a chill, and it seemed like the sun was going to wait until the last possible moment to warm the valley. I went through the whole process of getting some food in my stomach, prepping the bike, and making sure I had all the food I wanted. A racers meeting for the marathon participants took place, where we got our instructions for the day. While all this was going on, I kept telling myself to not blow my legs up on the first lap, and too keep drinking not matter what. Finally the gun went off, and we were on our way. By the start of the first major climb I had moved up to the top singlespeed position, and would hold that position for the day. The course was a wonderful mix of both doubletrack and wonderful singletrack. Depending on who you asked, the 22.5 mile lap had anywhere from 3000 to 3500 feet of climbing, however while riding there was only one sustained climb, the rest of the climbing just kind of happened. The one main climb was an absolute bitch, that forced many racers off their bike cursing the steep gradient.

After the horrible climb, we were treated to one of the finest descents I have ridden in a long time. Tons of switchbacks, loose sand, throw in socks rocks, and the occasional set of roots combined to form a wonderful descents. The course even had large logs across the trail, which reminded me of the east coast riding that I grew up on. The rest of the course was also top notch, and the folks holding down the aid stations were great (one guy even offered me a beer and a cigarette), and spectators did a great job of keeping racers motivated as we headed out for the second lap. In the end I wound up taking the win in the singlespeed class, which was welcomed change after getting my as handed to me at my past two races. For the win, I walked away with another knobby tire necklace, some new Smith sunglasses, a package of coffee, and a green and white trucker hat with “BEER” printed across the front. I was told that this was a prize reserved for the singlespeed marathon winner, and that it was mine for the next year, until I came back to defend my title in 2010.

After everyone was finished chowing down on the delicious food from the Galena Lodge folks, a group of racers headed over the pass to Stanley in search of a music festival, some camping, and more mountain biking. Turned out the music festival cost a little too much money, so the new makeshift group of four mountain bikers I was a part of headed to a camping spot, where we started a fire, drank some beer, and ate marshmallows. Come Sunday morning, the group headed outside of Stanley to ride the Fisher creek trail, and once again after a long climb, we were treated to a phenomenal descent. As good as the descent was, it was followed by an even better climb, which was singletrack cutting through the trees, and the perfect gradient for a singlespeed. Once again following the climb, we were treated to a great descent, which unfortunately had to end once we got back to the parking lot. After some food in Stanley, the group was no more, and I followed the Salmon River home, trying to get ready for the Laramie Enduro this coming weekend.

Showing off my new "Beer" hat

Pit stop during Fisher Creek trail ride

The Fisher Creek trail cut through a burn from 2005

Monday, July 20, 2009

Surly Comes Up HUGE

It’s official SSMT has an official sponsor, the fine folks over at Surly Bikes have been kind enough to provide me with all sorts of swag and prizes for all who choose to compete. I cam home to a box full of hats, socks, tensioners, patches, and other assorted goodies. I had the pleasure to meet some of the fine folks who are part of the Minnesota Mafia back at the 2007 running of SSAZ, and they were nothing but a good time. Staying up late, sucking down booze, and listening to punk rock was the impression they left on me, and I’ve though the world of them since. Not only are these fine folks fun to be around, but the products they make are top notch. The one wool cycling cap I’ve had for the past two years is from Surly, and it has taken quite the beating, yet still shows little signs of wear. When I needed a new chainring or rear cog for my mountain bike, I order something from Surly because their products will last longer than a lot of the other products available. So with that, I send my thanks to Surly for their support of SSMT, I am in their debt for a while now.

The box of goodies from Surly raised my spirits after spending 14 hours in the car

And about that whole National Championship race I did this past weekend, all I have to say is that I had absolutely no bike handling skills, and rode like crap. Aside from that it was good to spend time with Montana Cycling Power-Couple, the Curry’s who offered me a couch to sleep on in their condo for the weekend. I wish there had been more time to check out some of the other trails in the area, as well as the trails which we drove by in the Northern Colorado/Southern Wyoming area we drove through. I must say, getting my ass handed to me, has given me some new sorts of motivation I haven’t had in a couple months. Hopefully I can get some legs back for Galena this weekend, and Laramie next weekend, and I must say the views in Colorado were spectacular.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Stuff and Ramblings

Its been a while since I've actually written anything realted to SSMT, so here it goes.  If you think you might be attending please shoot me an email ( to let me know so I might have some sort of idea as to what sort of number to be ready for.  There is a race blog produced by them Muleterro cats, click to check it out, and if you want do that whole online registration thing.  The good news is that all information on the flyer is not final, so things like total number of laps or start times could be altered.  If you just show up, its gonna run you 35 bucks, which in the grand scheme of things dont seem too bad, especially when you remember its a three part race.  Aside from that got nothing new to report, still trying to get some folks to throw food, boozes, and prizes my way, so we'll see what happens.  Feel free to email me with any questions you might have, I might even provide you with a training plan, which will involve plenty of these little red devils.

Time to figure out the rest of my plans for Nationals this coming weekend, and be pissed because the Cubs suck.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Firecracker 50 Report

            Marathon Nationals up in Breckenridge is officially in the books, so pop a squat, crack a beer, and hopefully enjoy the race report.  After spending Wednesday night catching up with Lafayette Jen in Red Lodge, I hit the road with a full cup of coffee.  Ten hours later I pulled in downtown Breckenridge, and met up with Fuzzy, Dejay, and Wicki.  We grabbed some food, and then headed to the campsite for some relaxing and altitude adjustment.  Friday morning, after taking our time to get ready, the gang minus Fuzzy headed to town to pre-ride some of the course.  Dejay was smart enough to park his recently purchased “Chester the Molester” van as close to a playground as possible.  Once we had changed into riding attire, we began our journey to scout some of the course. 

            We headed out up Boras Pass road, following Dejay who claimed to know the way to the final section of singletrack.  Not surprisingly he didn’t know which way to go, and we wound up climbing up some road, until it came to a dead end.  Nothing like an extra couple hundred feet of climbing at over 10,000 feet to get some feeling in the legs and lungs.  After getting some proper directions from a local, we found the singletrack, and climbed our way to the Sally Barber Mine.  The view was spectacular, as was the remnants of the old mine.  We took some time to chat it up with other racers who were also out to scout the course before beginning the descent back to town.  The singletrack was tight, and littered with rocks, reminding me of east coast trails, except we were descending at ridiculous speeds.  We got off the trails right as the rain started, then headed to town for eats, internet, and tennis watching.  From there it was off to registration, where we met up with Jake.  Before I had time to ask Jake how things had been going since SSAZ, he produced a case of Fat Tire for me, GOOD TIMES!  After registering we headed back to camp for grub, campfire, some new ring toss like game, and shut eye. 

            Race day came, and we headed to downtown, and the whole bumping into other racers and warm up jive began.  I took some time to catch up with Amanda, Holmes, Krista, and there was an Andy Schultz sighting.  Main street was chock full of folks to cheer us on, and a lovely volunteer led out each group when the time called.  The singlespeed folk left town, and during the neutral rollout we took him to high-five youngins who were out on the course.  The volunteer got out of the way and the race was on, I decided to get to the front for the first climb, because I still really have no idea how to race.  Somehow I managed to drop everyone without really killing myself and I was the first singlespeeder to hit the singletrack, at the end of the almost 6 mile climb.  Not enough can be said about how good the singletrack on the course was, tight, winding, and full of obstacles that required some handling skills.  I passed aid number 2 and began what was in my opinion the toughest part of the course, French Gulch.  Steep climbing that was too tough for my gear choice, resulting in me to spend some time pushing the bike, and letting two singlespeeders catch and pass me just before the finish of the climb.  Once the climb was done, we hit the singletrack, and that’s where my troubles began. 

            As I pedaled along the singletrack, sitting comfortably in third place my inner quads began to cramp.  What I first thought I could get through, was much worse and I was forced off the bike to try and work out the cramps by drinking fluids.  That’s basically what would happened 12 times from mile 13 to 30.  I would ride as far as I could before a cramp would force me off the bike, forcing me to stop until the cramp was gone.  As I started the Boras Pass climb for the second lap some guy who was supporting some other rider gave me some Endurolytes.  I swallowed four of those magic capsules, and drank about two and half bottles of water in less than 90 seconds.  I started up the climb and not only were my legs telling me they were ready to cramp, but all that new water was not agreeing with my stomach, so while I was stopped to work through a cramp, I leaned over the guard rail and threw up.  Once I got back on the climb, my legs started to feel better, and that would be the end of my cramps and vomiting. 

            With the cramps gone, I did what I could to try and move up as much as possible.  I figured I was probably riding somewhere around 15th place at this time, and I decided to try and focus on finishing, rather than my place.  Once I made it to the top of the climb at French Gulch, I knew I should be able to finish the race, due to all of the remaining climbs being gradual.  My legs began to feel normal again, and I got some new motivation when I saw Dejay ahead of me, and my original goal of beating him returned.  I passed him on some singletrack, then he passed me on a gnarly descent, which led to the final climb back to Sally Barber mine.  I passed him never looking back, and eventually passed another singlespeeder.  I began the final descent, and kept telling myself, “no cramps, no mistakes” wanting to keep whatever place I had just earned during the last climb.  I managed to keep my place, and when all was said and done I pulled out an 8th place for the race. 

I was bummed, think that if it hadn’t been for the cramping fiasco, I could have managed a top five, but at the same time I’m not gonna complain about a top ten at nationals.  The cramps were my own fault for not drinking enough before the race, and continuing to not drink enough for the first quarter of the race.  When I told Jake about what happened, he simply said, “Dude you gotta get some sport legs”, and Wicki could do nothing more than hang her head, and say “40 Hands” in a disappointing tone.  All I could do was tell them that it would be a long time before I made the same mistake, and that “this wont be my last rodeo”.  As far as the others who raced, I was stoked for Krista and Holmes who pulled off 4th and 5th respectively, bummed out for Amanda who was riding really well until she had mechanical issues.  I’m not sure what happened to Andy Schultz, but I didn’t see his name on the results sheet, but his teammate Colin managed to power his way on the podium.  So that was the Firecracker, good times were had by many, and it has made its way onto the list of race I will want to do in the future.  

Me from Sally Barber Mine, French Gulch road in the background

Dejay with what remains of Sally Barber mine behind him

Dejay and Wicki on Boras Pass road

Mountains to the west of Breckenridge from Boras Pass Road