Sunday, September 28, 2008

30 Miles of Pain

Saturday I raced at a course I had never done before, one that a few of my friends had raced and they said it was fun. The Pine Haven trail is near Midland and the race is aptly titled "30 Miles of Pain Haven". It is a local affair that doesn't draw a big crowd but I've been to a few other races by the same promoter and the atmosphere is always good. Besides, when the after race nourishment is free pizza, chili and beer how can you not go?

A lot of the trail is very tight and twisty singletrack, not something that suits my ability. I have fun in it but I am not very fast in it. That causes me to work harder on the flats and hills to make up time. I've been working at improving but still have a ways to go.

The interesting thing about this race is that they have a mini one mile time trial before the XC portion of the race starts to determine your start order and how many seconds or minutes the guy(s) in front of you get. Part of the reason for this is to limit the amount of traffic entering the singletrack at one time since it is not very far from the start.

My TT time put me in a group with a racer from the Cycletherapy team comes into the shop alot. He and I are in different age groups but when we compare times at races we can literally be within a second or two of each other. I figured we could work together or push each other. I didn't know most of the other racers or even who was in my category. My age group was also expanded so that I was in a 42+ age instead of my normal 50+.

We started out fast, quickly catching the group that started 5 seconds before us. Once we got to a section of two track I accelerated to pass a few of the guys only to get passed back a little while later by one or two. We got into a long section of bumpy singletrack and I started to slow. I let my starting partner go ahead and he was able to pull away a little. But I caught him again on the open sections.

We spent most of the race in the same fashion, I would catch up only to lose time again in the tight sections. On the last lap he had more strength left than I did and ended up with a big enough lead that I couldn't catch him. I ended up 3rd in my class and actually won some money.

Although I didn't have as high a placing as I would like I was still satisfied with my overall performance. Having raced last weekend and also doing two hard training rides in the middle of the week I knew my legs would not be fresh. But the intent of this race was for the training aspect, plus to have some fun and not have any pressure to do well. Mission accomplished on all points.

Continuing the training philosophy, today I rode 50 miles at a moderate pace. Hard enough that I got the aerobic benefit but not too hard to over fatigue my legs. During the whole ride I kept telling myself that at the end I would stop and get doughnuts from the cider mill. It's amazing how that can motivate you to keep riding.

I've changed my training schedule over the last few weeks to better fit my work schedule. I have started to do more training in blocks, or back to back hard days. Then you have one or two days off or easy. Funny thing is that one of the newsgroups I subscribe to just had a coach's tip about the benefits of doing this type of scheduling. I think it seems to be working. I didn't feel as tired today as I thought I would after racing yesterday.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

One, nine or 27 gears - it's all good

A beautiful day brought out the biggest crowd in a long time at Addison and since it was now being run by the MMBA chapter as a benefit race, the larger turnout meant the chapter should clear close to $5-6,000. I spent part of yesterday helping to set up for the race and most of today helping as well.

For the race I had decided to race in my Expert age class on my Cannondale F29 1FG singlespeed bike. Most of this year the bike has been set up as a 1x9 for muddy races. But I was just treating this race as a training race since it was not of any real importance to me. But it's my home course and I'm one of the trail coordinators so I thought I should do it.

Knowing the course as well as I do has its advantages when running SS because you need all the momentum you can get to keep your speed up. There are only a couple of places at Addison where having multiple gears really helps. A couple of long straight sections can allow a geared bike to pull away.

We lined up eight deep for the start and when they said go the pace at which we started had me spinning like mad trying to stay with the leaders. I thought my legs and lungs were going to explode as we made our way up the first climb and I was in fourth, with a gap already back to fifth. I stayed with the front three for a while through the tight stuff but they pulled away on the open flat section.

I settled into as much of a rhythm as I could, hammering through the singletrack that I knew so well and trying not to lose too much time on the flats. Riding with only one gear forces you to attack hills and usually ride up some of them faster than if you were on a geared bike. it can also hurt more.

Later in the race I caught third place and slowly pulled away. I managed to extend my hold on third and stayed there to the finish. As much as I suffered I also had fun since it was not the same style of riding I had been doing most of the summer.

Now that the main XC season is basically over it's time to mix things up a bit. Next week is another 30 mile race at a venue I've never raced before so that should be fun and the week after I may do a cyclocross race. Something I haven't attempted in a few years. Then another cyclocross race or two and the Lake Orion XC race. The grand finale will be the Iceman but there may be another couple of 'cross races late in the year before taking some time off the bike. But before you know it our LOHS winter race will be just around the corner.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

That's a lot of rain

Like most areas of the Midwest, we were hit with a lot of rain this weekend. I think it has only stopped raining for about three of the last 48 hours or so. But we are fortunate compared to those along the gulf or even Illinois and Indiana that got more rain than we did. The rain certainly didn't help UM at the Notre Dame football game yesterday.

Rather than get wet I ended up putting the bike on the trainer for a two hour ride. After riding outside all summer it seemed hard to believe that two or three hour rides inside are common in the winter.

Today i took advantage of a lull in the rain to ride on the pavement for a while. Other than getting a flat tire the ride was uneventful and fortunately the rain stayed away until after I got home.

Next weekend is a race at Addison Oaks. The trails should be dried by then and I think I'll be racing on my SS but in my age class, just for fun. I may also try a cyclocross race or two in the coming weeks but I'll wait and see.

Photos from last week's race.

Preparing to hit a stretch of mud

In the mud

Happy that the race is almost over and things are drying up

It was worth it! State Champ!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

State Champ

Today was the last race of the USAC series and just like the first race, it started off in the mud. But this time it was from rain, not snow. The four laps of the Stony Creek XC course were projected to be fast but the early morning rain through the first two laps changed that.

There were nine in our class, which was surprisingly large given the weather. We took off and I assumed my now normal position in about fourth place, all of us running nose to tail. Once we got to the first section of singletrack I could sense the leader slowing a bit on the greasy conditions. One of the guys in front of me had a chain problem and I assumed third place.

We came out of the single track and the three of us began to pull away from the rest as I attempted to draft in the wet conditions. The large amount of muddy spray from the rider in front of me caused me to back off some to retain some vision.

As we were coming to the second singletrack section I made a move to pass the other two and get there first. I was familiar with the course and felt confident in my abilities to push the pace a little harder. I opened up a small lead and held it into the third and final section of singletrack but the other two caught and passed me shortly before the end of the first lap and I couldn't respond.

Assuming that one of those two would take the win, I could relax and cruise through the rest of the race, knowing that I had the series won based on points. I stayed in third for the next three laps and ended up with a really nice mirrored plaque for the series, a state championship medal, and a free entry to the sold out Iceman race in November.

As a bonus, the local cider mills opened this weekend and the drive home from the race had me pass by two of them. I stopped in and treated myself to two fresh doughnuts and also picked up a half gallon of cider.

There are a few more races around the state, including Addison Oaks where I am one of the trail coordinators. I'm not sure if I will race it but maybe I'll try something different at that race just for fun. The cyclocross season starts up next weekend and I may race one or two of these events. It's been a few years since I've done one. And of course we have the Lake Orion High School race next month and then Iceman on November 10th.

Monday, September 01, 2008

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I thought that in honor of Labor Day I might digress from my normal topic of biking and talk instead about jobs and professions. And in spite of the holiday nothing really on organized labor, other than to say I've worked on both sides.

When we are young people always ask us what we want o be when we grow up. Depending on your era, common answers (for boys) was fireman, policeman, astronaut, cowboy, doctor, or even president. All the normal occupations aspired to back in the 60's.

I was no different and as I got older I thought about being a gym teacher. I thought it would be cool to walk around in sweats all day and have ready access to the gym to shoot hoops or something. Then I was going to be a photographer, but started to realize that they didn't make much money.

I figured a business major was where I could do the best, not knowing really what I would do with it except find a good paying job. While in college I got a job working part-time at UPS and ended up becoming a supervisor, again part-time. I was making more money than some others I knew out of school so I figured I didn't need college any more and dropped out with a little over a year to go.

I was always interested in motorcycles and since I had extra time when I got through at UPS, I got a part-time job at a motorcycle accessory shop. When that shop went under a year later due to tax problems I saw that there was still a market for the business and opened my own shop, later quitting UPS.

I soon realized that I couldn't really support the family on the store earnings and started working part-time again; now for a delivery company, DHL. Later I closed the shop and decided that maybe a college education wasn't such a bad thing. By now I was full time at DHL but also was going to school full time.

Once I graduated I got a job as a trainee with an industrial laundry company and within a few months was transferred to their Albany, GA location to take over as plant superintendent while the previous guy was off in the Gulf War. I stayed there for several years before my position was eliminated.

One of my other passions while in Georgia was golf; part of my package was a membership at small country club where I played several times a week. When I lost my job I decided to go back to an agricultural school to become a golf course superintendent, later transferring into the hospitality end of the business.

Before I could finish school I got a call from a consulting company about interviewing for positions they had available. I had started to look for possible alternatives to the golf business since money was very tight.

I was hired by the consulting firm and got on a plane one Sunday afternoon in January to fly to Chicago for my first assignment. Imagine the shock when I got off the plane and it was -19 degrees. I had no winter gloves since they were not normally stocked in SW Georgia. It was so cold that first week that the transmission in the car froze up and we had to drive around the hotel in revers until it warmed up.

I spent about seven months flying back and forth to Chicago before we had another assignment in Ohio, at the Chrysler plant about 15 minutes from my parent's house. Here I was living in Georgia and flying up to Ohio every week and also getting to see my parents. I was sad when that assignment ended and I had to move on to another one in Chicago again.

By now I was getting tired of flying out every Sunday evening and back home on Friday evenings. I barely had time to do anything with the family before it was time to leave again.

I decided to call up some of the contacts I had made at the Chrysler plant and see if they had any openings. Within a month I was working for Chrysler and living with my parents while the kids finished school down in Georgia.

I worked in the plant for two years in production control before landing a corporate job in Auburn Hills at the Chrysler HQ. While here I have had several different positions. of course now with the shaky auto industry the time may come when I will change jobs again, either voluntarily or not.

So getting back to my post title, I guess I can say I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Hmm, maybe a gym teacher that teaches mountain bike classes?