Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ultimate XC Race Report

Race Map: Here.
Race Pictures: Here.
Race results: Here.
Now that we have that out of the way, here's my race report:
I did this event last year along with several MTBMINDers: Katherine, Eric, Steve, Chris, and Ernie. Steve's family was there as was Marissa and Ernie's honey Lisa. I think we had more teammates than any other team at the race. Not so much this year. I arrived after the 5.5 hr drive from Concord and found Chris and Marissa parking lot camping and Marissa having just finished the half marathon Saturday. "There was a lot of sun" was probably the best summary of her race depiction- that and she said she might have gone for the whole enchilada, if she had it to reconsider. Chris eminated confidence, ready, poised and pointing out his new 2x FSA crankset. I went to pick up a racer packet, sweet high tech fabric T and presented my 40% accurate French to the amused women running the registration.
Down by the finish area alongside Lac Tremblant, awards and finishers of the 58K trail run mingled- looking wobbly and tentative in the sun. Tears flowed down the faces of some upon finishing - as I saw on a few more faces after the MTB race the following day.
I reread a quote recently which goes something like "I used to ride my bike to go outside and explore the world. Now I ride to explore the inside." A race like this invites both. I have been a bit nervous about racing it this year, knowing what sort of mental and physical stamina is required. Doing a handful of longer rides has been reassuring, but it is an intimidating day on a bike, given the placement of the climbs in the last 15 miles, the sun, and the interminable climbs in the last 15 miles. And then there was the climbing in the last 15 miles. Am I clear? BTW, there are some killer climbs at the end of this race.
At 2:15 am I woke and twilight-slept for the next 2 hours before rising to be part of the caravan drive to the starting locale- a chapel in St. Bernard about a half hour away. Picturesque? Check. Chilly? Check. Different starting place from last year? Check.
It seems everyone in Canada knows Dan Desrochiers. EXHIBIT A: "I'm doing this race put on by a guy named Dan." Quebecquois respondant: "Ah yes Daaan." Self: "You know Dan?" Quebecquois:"Oh yeeaasss, I know Daaaan." Everyone knows Dan- even the Quebec ambulance driver at a gas station 40 miles away who decided to strike up a mid-pumping conversation on my way home. Daaan is apparently everywhere.
So Daaan gives the race instructions en Anglais et Francais and makes the claim "This is the most difficult race of this distance in the world. The second half is very difficult so save something for the second 50K." We are told to go after a round of applause erupts in honor and respect earned by the few racers who have already done the 58Km kayak and 38Km run in the two days preceeding the MTB leg. I am humbled by their determination and fitness, wondering what makes them focus on this aspect of their life to the degree it takes to be able to do it.
We're off and riding the first few kilometers on a dirt road. Chris is positioned 50 meters in front of the rest of the field. Nice to see some green way up there. When we hit the singletrack, he's out of site as are 20 or so guys itching to go fast, and go fast RIGHT NOW! I'll see many of them later on as they fade after their youthful enthusiasm is tempered by the race's duration. The new course uses most of last year's early singletrack and incorporates new stuff built by the guy in front of me who is riding a SS. The bench cut narrow trail was a pleasure as well as talking with the guy who built it. He was in heaven , finally seeing racers on the trails he built for that very purpose. It was his third day of racing the solo UltimateXC. "32x17 may be a little strong, eh?" Eh. When I feel my rear wheel deflating, he was gone gone gone. I hit it with CO2. I 'm running Stan's and the air is jetting out through a sidewall's teeny tiny hole. It fills with Stan's when I spin it sideways. I'm off for another mile before its dead flat. It's a long race and I try to remain calm, changing to my only spare tube and away I go.
The race goes up and down for the next many miles- some sandy, some singletrack but mostly old logging roads - some of which are only used in winter by snowmobiles- overgrown and wet bottomed in summer. We cross the 4 lane highway "tampon" or buffer zone to neutralize the traffic light's effect. It was a well timed and became a pee stop. The gathering racers socialized with the FOQCC(sp?) Canadian national UCI federation officials monitoring the, um, tampon. After that we rode alongside a couple of rivers, sunlight sparkling on each eddy and wave, reflecting the azure sky, contrasted by the lush green vegetation. I didn't stop to smell the roses, but I made sure not to miss what was all around me. It's absolutely spectacular around Tremblant, including each time a view from a high place was afforded- simply gorgeous lakes dotting green land under blue sky... you get the idea.
At one point a rather large hare ran out across the trail in front of me, took a quick look in my direction and scooted back into the underbrush -fear making its appearance and then retreating.
Every aid station(each 10K) saw a bottle refill, an endurolyte and at every other I started munching on power bars. I made a deliberate effort to eat and hydrate well in prep for the climbs- no bonking right?! As we made or way ever closer to THE MOUNTAIN, we skirted a golf course. There is a gnarly descent that I flew through- and succeeded in ripping another tire's sidewall. She went flat a mile or so later. What now? I was in no man's land and walked the next mile to a road crossing where a French only speaking marshall was posted. Next thing you know, the race official is having a tube delivered to me- dans dix minutes". 25 minutes later, it arrived. My pacing and readiness didn't yield any benefits as I eventually accepted my fate- today would be about finishing, not about posting a clean race's time.
Rested and ready to rip the second half, I started the first long climb- the one in the woods that goes up gradually. Each time you round a corner, up it goes again. Somehow I remembered it being shorter and hotter. Its descent is a la VT50- as fast as you dare on overgrown doubletrack- only three or four times longer than the VT50's streaking DHs. It tempts a racer to stay off the brakes completely. On a few of the sweeping turns, flattened vegetation revealed the outcome of those who should have grabbed a little more lever and explains some of the bandages and bruises seen at the finish. It is the first time my hands would throb during the race.
At the bottom, I rode out onto the gravel desert that signals the arrival of biking hell. This was where Chris cashed it in earlier due to repetitive flatting that extinguished his will to continue. Temps had risen to over 70 degrees and the aid station was crowded by those in the know. There is really no incentive to rush at this point in the race. An official warned people to please fill their water bottles and eat. "This is a one hour climb." he said, looking me straight in the eye. Naaaaa...It's only 40-50 minutes on loose gravel with a black fly conclave at the halfway point. I have about 20 bites to show for it. At the time, I hardly noticed, but even now I have each and every one and they look like oversized mondo black flies made them. One is a triple bite - in a row- from a fly who apparently decided to eat her way through to an exit along my spandex' seam. This is the climb where, last year, Tyler Merritt bonked, reclining on a chairlift's seat until recovered enough to move again. He finished 6th this year. Live and learn. During the second flat it seemed like half the field had passed me- and now I was passing them- at about 3 mph. It sucked to be them, almost as much as it sucked to pass at 0.1 mph faster, while walking. That's right, I hiked about half of it.
Upon arrival at the top, the views were spectacular and I had no problem contemplating my navel. I was in no hurry and enjoyed the several moments before descending the hiking trail down the front side of Tremblant. It is a rocky, twisty trail used for hiking. My arms went numb after about ten minutes and ached to the point of failure for another five before I finally grabbed a little too much front brake and washed out my front wheel at 10-12 mph. I endoed, watching my right pinky finger flip backward to touch my wrist. An inventorying revealed everything was attached and I could make a fist- so no torn ligaments or tendons. Race on. I rode past some hikers a couple of times- whose mouths were agape with astonishment that anyone would be riding down this trail on bikes. One exclaimed, to my amusement " Oh My GOD!" as I clattered by. Unlike last year, I knew what was coming next - another gravel access road climb, hotter, steeper, looser, and thankfully a bit shorter. I did another 50/50 ride/hike and didn't feel any cramping like last year. More non-authoritative passing ensued. "Hot enough for ya?" " Nice day for a ride." I can't wait for the next climb." et al... Sarcasm works when suffering.
The World Cup DH course section is a blast. The shingled ramps and bridges are a hoot. And then came that pointless(everything up to this time had a point) climby singletrack. I guess the rocky cascade of waterfalls makes it worthwhile- on a day when hiking with your sweetheart. Past the last checkpoint, I let it fly, finding myself powerful for the last cobbled street descent through the village. As I passed another racer, they exclaimed en francais, and then in English for my benefit -and at the top of their lungs- " If they send us up another climb, they are F*CKING A*SHOLES!!!" I guess Daaan isn't since we didn't go up again. But he could have been cuz one more climb would have been a real game changer.
I crossed the finish line with a sense of tremendous relief- arms at my side. 8:07:21 for 20th overall - 56 minutes faster than last year and 'what could have been' regarding the flats. I was second master by <1 minute.
1st place overall was Aroussen LaFlamme at 6:18. He's a pro who raced in the Tour de Beauce with Mancebo and Ben Day last year. I'm guessing there wasn't much walking on his part, eh?

That will be the last pedal stroke for a while at Tremblant. Two and out is my current view. It is tough race every racer should be confronted with, but walls are walls and my head hurts from banging mine against this one. And there must be some other race that will draw my attention. The TransAndes, TransAlp, or TransRockies sound pretty good. Daaan says he'll be on a team with me. It'll give me great pleasure to encourage him on the climbs.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Feel of an Olympic MTB Course

Katie Compton's pre-ride video.
I often wonder how to convey the feel of a MTB course to someone who doesn't race, doesn't float through the woods streaking downhill on the rivet of commitment, trees a blur going by and then the hard corner, dumping of momentum, and hard push/grind, spin heart grabbing uphill, over would-be obstacles and doing this repeatedly, in the sun, in the rain, in the dust, in the mud... you get the idea. Somehow this video conveys the sensations I'd hope to get across - through Katie's helmetcamvid despite the synthetic course with 'event' features and contrived composition. OK, so there are some boring stretches and no racers, but it comes across to me.
Imagine going mach one with your heart in your mouth after the gun, over and over... it's not hard.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Big Ring Rumpus-ness

I've been trying to get some big miles in since my first couple of races in preparation for the UltimateXC - and laying off high intensity efforts. Since I need more long rides, I had been debating racing the Rumpus at all, but had the dubiously brilliant idea of doing both, a long ride and racing. Wednesday I went over to FOMBA with Andy Gould, who put on a pro display as first Expert overall in 1:26 Sunday. We did some LT laps around the course and I was surprised to have some good sensations, despite being almost overtrained ( riding 12 hours the week before and 90 hilly miles Monday.) I held off on making the decision until the day before the race- to ride from Concord to FOMBA and back. Stupid? Maybe if all I was thinking of was the Rumpus, but I've become pre-occupied with the painful vision of last year's UXC-walking up Mt Tremblant in the heat in hour 8 of a 100K race with something teen thousand feet of vertical. More miles is almost always the answer and so I rode my trusty hardtail the 25 miles to the race and arrived a hour or so in advance.

The first person I see is Tom Barton, who happily tells me how bad it is for me to have ridden to the race. Alrighty then. Game on, Tom.

It wasn't until the 15 second warning from the starter that I let a wave of adrenaline come over me. GO! and Dennis Flanagan absolutely flew off, head down, churning down the railroad bed with 12 of us in his wake- right up until he went straight and we all took the right turn. Oh the humanity! I felt bad for him knowing he'd have to sprint to try to get back on while we'd all be thinking- "How could he have possibly done that?!" Sometime during the first half lap, the selection was made with Bob Bisson, Tyler Munroe, Mike Good and I taking pulls for three laps, Tyler's turns a little soft after racing at Auburn the day before. My god it was fast.

On lap four Bob dropped his chain and fell off the bunch. I yelled "Let's take the hope away!" I know Bob is strong and I hoped to rally the troops to dispense of him when we had the chance. Fat chance. I was alone and off the front, eventually putting them all out of sight... Lap 5 and I could see the three of them coming back to me on the RR bed and so I backed off to recover, accepting that they would work together against me, or that they just didn't have anything to give.

Early in lap 6, Mike Rowell came by. I went straight onto his wheel with only Bob able to get on mine. Just before the chicane and start of lap 7, Bob and Rowell opened a little gap on me and I spent the next half lap a mere five yards behind and desperately trying to get back on Bob's wheel. Shite! I just could not keep that up and rode in solo for 2nd, nearly a minute down. 1:32:25. After changing into fresh cycling clothes and eating a bit, I rode home, ate a horse, and fell fast asleep. Thanks to Geoff McIntosh for toting my clothes and extra water to the race. 2 weeks 'til Ca Na Daaa.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Glocester Bouncer

The race:
1. I rode
2. Mosher rode away
3. Flanagan faded
4. Hung on after slow flats riding on the rim for 2nd. Ripped sidewall and Stan's x 2 CO2.
5. Broken shock bolt on the Top Fuel - must have been the big downhill hits.

And, while I did NOT write or otherwise participate in the making of this doozy, I think you'll find that it rings true. Be patient.