Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Got my mojo workin', but it just won't work on you

Raced at the rustic Coyote Hill venue this past Sunday- a day with two faces. We arrived to rain and 55 degrees, damn chilly when standing around in a T-shirt. Hmmmm, muddy conditions splattered the faces of Cat 2 racers and the guy who lost his vision while racing - heard he had a stroke - thank Godessence for ambulances. BY 1:30 pm, the day had swung to full on humid sunny conditions. Heat, eh? As I'm staged, Alan Moats makes a prophetic comment - "Hmmm, Al. That rear tire looks like it should be going the other way for the muddiness." I know he is using some sort of Zen like Obi-Wan Kenobi whammy on me. "Phft! Whatever."
The pros go off to a holeshot clusterF, some standing still while waiting for the weird to clear. Watching, I make a decision to keep the same from happening to me and when we go off, I'm out front making the holeshot and popping out the other side into a... field? Hmmm, note to self: pre-ride dummy! Yep, I hadn't been on this course-ever. I follow the likely leaders up the road climb and into the woods. "I'll just stay on their wheel and find the lines - kind of a learn as I go strategy. Smart." This works until I bobble at the end of the lap on a water hole with a muddy uphill exit. I'm cursing my over pumped fork and slipping rear tire... an extra 3-4 inches of over rotation accompanying each pedal stroke on the all the slight uphills. OK, I'll just get back on and that's when I realized I didn't have the juice, the mojo, the goods to do the do. I proceeded to hope that the others would come back to me or I'd speed up over the next two laps. "It'll dry out and they'll falter." Riiiight. That didn't happen and I was, well, humbled. Humbling is good for the soul. It kinda kicks cocky in the mouth and leaves you wandering around in a vague cloud of murk. On this day I gladly accepted my fate, bashing my head against assorted walls and finally consulting with my staff of scientists who monitor my body daily as part of the ever expanding knowledge base of Al Raine, MTB Racer.
Scientist One: "Our power tap montoring shows 700 watts for 2 minutes and then a gradual taper to zero watts by the finish line. Highly unusual!!!"
Scientist Two: "My review of heart rate montoring data reveals a spike at 30 seconds in and then gradual rising to double spike status by the end. The last reading of 574BPM is remarkable!!!"
Scientist Three: " The study of our GPS device exhibits usual magnetic activity which appears to have caused your bicycle to run backward for half of the race, which combined with your forward progress, means you actually rode for a distance 50% longer than the other racers. Astonishing!!!"
After hours of collaberation by the various scientists involved, the results were released, which stated, and I am not kidding here: "You didn't go fast enough to win, place or show, or maintain any semblance of dignity." Now there's science at work. How succinctlly put. MIT and RPI grads rock.
See y'all at Bear Brook. I'll be the guy with bells on.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Storing it up

Squirrells come to mind. Furry creatures that spend tremendous amounts of time gathering and hoarding nuts full of energy - storing them to be opened later. It seems like that's the story of a MTB racer's life: spend months on stationary trainers and studded tires maintaining basic health and a modicum of fitness during the cold months, followed by waking up and thrashing our legs as we hit the road for build phase during the introduction of spring, then moving to the sweet, transient joy of hitting the trail - poking around to see what condition the world is in and waking up those MTB-only muscle relationships, which gives way to repeated hard efforts - engaging the discipline and mental fortitude that drives us on that all important date with the starting line. Storing it up. Storing it up. Storing it up.
I haven't released it yet. Nope, it's building, held back behind the dam. Lean body weight at 150 something, noticable definition and mass appearing - especially in the hamstrings and vastus groups, mitichondria responding confidently when summoned. Which brings me to what I wanted to share in the first place:
This week I introduced race starts - those fuzzy little warm critters that live in the woods. I ride out to Mast Yard where several miles of flat flat flat doubletrack coax the effort out of me. At it's entrance, I put down a foot after the 25 minute road warmup. Then I unleash the emergency response crew BAM! Pounding on the pedals, out of the saddle for 10 seconds after clicking in, settling in to the saddle as brute circular force drives me over 20 mph, flying over the few roots and through the sandy stretch right to the 60 second point of "I can't possibly do this any loooooonnnngggggeeerrrrr! and I back off everso slightly, HRM at 171, 172, and the sickening feeling of lactic acid and hormones breaks over me in a huge wave, shouting at me to STOP! ... Then I settle in for the next 4 minutes of robust charging over the uneven and slowly curving route, easing back and forth to find hard ground PLEASE!, over the bumps, churning ever forward in the pine needle-filtered sunlight ONWARD! 173, 174 and finally it's coming... the end at 176. 30 seconds into the return trip, my HR is at 135, 60 seconds and I'm at 122, ahhhhh... the slow ride back to the start with a hit of water and a bite of power bar en route.
There is an effect, a realization that becomes apparent during hillclimb and race start intervals... dissociation. Part way through them, I become the observer. The watcher. My legs are cranking, my heart is running, my breath is even, my arms and shoulders relax a bit and I am doing the hard work while my mind monitors - as if from a distance. Legs? check. CV? Check. Mind? Present and calm? Check. It's remarkable when I, and we, get to this state. It's meditative. It's physical. It's spiritual. Consciousness. ( I often point this out to my yogini wife, whose kundalini practices take her there through a different mechanism daily. )
They've been allowing me to keep building more energy up higher and higher behind the dam, dammit! The nuts I'm gathering are accumulating into a big pile. Pent up. Waiting. C'mon, c'mon, c'mon! I can hardly (under) stand it!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Animal Sighted on Beech Hill

Last night I turned a page. Rode out to Beech Hill, a 1 mile washed out MTB climb that rips out your heart, beats it with a dead porcupine, and then invites you back home for 12 year old scotch laced with LSD. This time of year, my first foray there marks my return to race fitness. I did an 'introductory offer' three repeats, which will become 6 three weeks from now. (WARNING - NEEDLESSLY LONG DESCRIPTION ALERT!!!) The ground is uneven and starts with a hundred feet of fist-sized crushed granite, gives way to muddy, starched shirt idiot-piloted "I can climb this with my Escalade... oops... I gotta back down" tire tracks, then churns up 200 yards to a flattish section that ya gotta hammer to keep the HR up on, and then steeps out over another 500 yards of leaf and stick-strewn rumbly class 5 abandoned road past the first male born in Hopkinton memorial and flats out again just in time for a middle ring acceleration with springtime black flies journeying up your nose, or mid-summer horse flies biting chunks out of your buttcheeks through lycra. Got that? It's a good undeniably tough climb immediately followed by the return descent. This is when most who have ever joined me become terrified, grabbing both brakes as I whizz downward, ever faster out of sight until the bottom and woithout recovery, repeat repeat repeat repeat repeat - ravaging my CV, engaging mitochonrial memory, developing DH skills, toning hands and forearms en route.
Fun. At least that's how I feel every time I'm done - a chest beating grin on my face. Superhero Al sensation - one I'll take to the starting line every race. Damn, no one else does these. Supreme - and they come with a shower and big ol meal. Killer. Grrrrrrr...