Sunday, August 02, 2009

Older guys kick butt!

Yesterday I raced the 12 hour race at Stony but as part of a four man team; this was only the second time I have done a team endurance event in all the years I have raced. In fact, my introduction to endurance racing was the other time I competed on a team but that race got cut short by two hours due to torrential rains. So guess what? This race was also cut short due to the threat of a storm. I see a pattern here.

Two weeks ago I was riding with Bernie Wendel, one of my Cannondale Midwest team members and we started talking about the then upcoming race at Stony and maybe doing it as a team. We recruited Shawn Schaffert from the team as well and started looking for a fourth. We checked with a few other team members, both male and female but did not find any other takers. Fortunately we recruited Mark Parmalee, one of the faster riders in the state even though he does ride a different brand of bike. :-( Mark went with me to the Paris/Ancaster race earlier this year.

We entered the Veteran 35+ category where the average age has to be 35. Our average age was 40 with me on the high side at 53 and Mark at 27. Mark's youth and speed was our secret weapon. We set up our rotation to have Mark start first, myself second, than Shawn followed by Bernie. We would adjust later in the race if necessary. With a four man rotation it meant each rider would have over a two hour wait between laps. Each time out was almost an all out effort; the time between causes the legs to stiffen up.

Mark started off the race by posting a super hot lap, coming in well ahead of the next riders and sending me off with no one close behind. I felt pretty good after the initial hard effort out of the gate and settled into a good pace. I was cruising along one section of gravel two track and blew right past a turn and kept going, not realizing I was not off course since I was actually still on the course but for a section that shouldn't have come until later in the race. I got to the top of a big hill about 15 minutes later and realized I had missed a section. I had to go back and do the section I missed to not cheat and make my lap count. My mistake ended up adding about seven minutes to my lap. And all those teams that were behind me were now in front.

I pulled into the team hand off area and told Shawn what to watch for on the course markings. I was upset that I had missed the turn and cost our team valuable time. It was my fault but this promoter has never been one that is liberal with the course markings.

Shawn came in with a great time and Bernie went out next on his singlespeed and was soon back in with a time matching Shawn's. We were still behind the first place team as they were also turning fast laps. We were confident that Mark would pull back some time and when he came back to the finish we now had a lead that we would never relinquish.

I managed to stay on course my second time around but my lap was slightly slower than Shawn's and Bernie's first lap. Shawn came back next in an almost identical time as his first lap and then Bernie was next and went out on a geared bike. His lap time was also slightly slower than his first. After Mark went out for lap three the second place team came in shortly after only 30 seconds back.

We decided that we would have Mark do two laps back to back; of course we decided this while he was out riding. Shawn rode up to the top of the last climb so he could tell Mark of the decision. It was kind of rotten as this was so close to the finish and you thought you were almost done for the lap. Mark was a trooper and got a fresh bottle that we had for him at the finish line and went back out.

This time when he came in I was ready and back on my 29'er that I rode for my first lap. I wasn't sure how my legs would respond after sitting around again and being asked to put in a third TT type effort. I was surprised that I came back in with my fastest time yet, on par with Shawn's and Bernie's first laps. I also found out that we had a pretty good lead on the second place team and they didn't gain any while I was out.

Shawn turned close to the same lap time as the first two times out and then Bernie went on the SS again. His lap was also back to close to his first lap time. I guess our time between laps didn't slow us down too much, it was probably more the mental aspect of having to get out of the chair and get back on the bike.

We had made a decision that after my lap Mark would go back out to see if he could get in before 8:00 to allow us to complete a final lap. But while Mark was out they announced that due to a major storm coming at us they were ending the race as of 6:30 and that no one else would be allowed to start another lap. In effect, as long as Mark didn't have a problem while on the trail we would have won our class.

Mark came in at 6:35 after putting in a heroic effort to turn a fast time so that we would be able to squeeze in two more laps. All was not in vain though as our team not only won our class, but we were the top team overall, including the Open Advanced and the Elite money class. For some old guys we were were pretty fast, and it helped to have a younger, faster guy to give us some breathing room. But all of us held our own against some pretty good competition.

Riding on a team in an endurance event is far harder than doing it solo. The requirement to go out each lap and ride as hard as you can after sitting around is tough. I would rather sit and go my own pace for 12 hours anytime. So why is it we were talking about a team again in October for the Addison 12 hour? only time will tell.

Jason and family arrive this Tuesday. We haven't seen them since January and are looking forward to the week they will be here. Both Sandy and I took vacation so we could spend the maximum amount of time possible with them. It will be a busy week as my parent come for a few days, other friends drop by to say hello, and the Lake Orion High School race is this Saturday. Whew! But it will all be worth it. I'm sure lots of photos to come.


cjsbike said...

Like I said:

One fast grandpa!

Great job on a team effort!

Have fun with the family.


Paynful said...

Nice write up!! I disagree with the team vs. solo... 120+ miles of Stony was brutal!! I still hurt!!

Steve Kinley said...

It's a different kind of pain, or is that Payne? :-) Having done a lot of solo endurance races this was harder in some respects.

TP said...

CONGRATS...great event!