Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mullet Classic (Ahquabi) Race Report

The final race of the IORCA mountain bike series was held at Lake Ahquabi near Indianola. We were treated to a beautiful fall day and the bikers came out in force. 155 riders showed up for the race and I have to think that this is a record turnout for an IORCA race. To top it off, we were going to have a mass start and run all categories together.

Ahquabi is a fast course and Bruce B. worked his butt off to add a mile or two of singletrack to get it up closer to a 8 mile course.

Rasmussen Team BS'ing before the start.

After the initial instructions, the entire group moved down the road for the start. I don't usually line up on the front row and didn't plan on it today, but I found myself between Cam and Tony with Jed next to Cam. To top it off, Jay Chesterman from Omaha, Basso, Vandelune, Alread and Blackford where on the second row. I briefly thought about swapping places with someone, but then thought "screw it". I figured that I'd go as hard as possible and ride a good line. In most of my races, I seem to start near 10th and then pick a few off at the end of the race. I wanted to see if I could hold the harder pace as long as possible. It was a 40 mile race, but even if I won my class, I couldn't win the overall series. I might as well try.

Cam leads the group over the slight bump to start the first lap. Tony is behind him and Jed is hidden behind Tony and to my left.

Jed goes rabbit on me over the hump.

After we started, I sprinted as hard as possible to the entrance of the narrow double track. I was fourth wheel going into it behind Cam, Jed and Tony. They were pushing hard, but I was holding on. We hit the first steep hill, which is maybe 200 feet and possibly 10% grade. I stood and pushed a higher gear and although I didn't get passed, I did lose some ground to the first three. On the fast section after the descent, Chesterman came around me. I kept him in sight for a bit and stayed 5th wheel up the second tricky and steep climb. At this point, Basso was screaming at me to keep it up. We were pushing hard and I think breaking away from those behind us. However, Pete destroyed the sidewall of his wheel and all I heard was the sound of a deflating tire and the end of his race.

Not too long after that I was caught by several and decided to hold a medium pace so I could recover a little. I certainly felt like I went out too hard and that I had paid the price. I think that I came through the start finish in 13th place or so. I had to remind myself that many of those that passed me were the faster sport class racers and were racing fewer laps.
Lap 2 was more recovery and somewhere in here, Squirrel passed me. He left me with encouraging words and reminded me that it was a long race and that everyone was hurting. I took that to heart and waited until lap 3 to push hard again.
At the start of lap 3, I was down in 17th place and could see about 8 riders in front of me. I began to pick them off one at a time and midway through lap 4 could finally see Jason Alread and another rider on the backside of the course. I pulled onto their wheel and recovered for awhile. It was Jason pulling the 2nd riders along and #2 looked at me and asked if I wanted by. I loudly announced my presence to get into Jason's head and told them I was happy sucking their wheels (probably 18mph through this section). I even gave Jason a hard time about his being too small to create a large enough draft for us. It was all in good fun.

It was all that I could do in not passing, but I wanted to be smart and save it for a pass that would stick. I waited until after the levy and north end bridge and jumped on the short hill afterwards. They couldn't respond and I was now in 8th or 9th place. That had to be one of the best moments of my racing season as I rarely have the opportunity to make a tactical decision and then to have it work.

I might have caught one or two others, but don't remember. I ended up 8th overall and 1st in the 35+ category. I was happy with the race and the overall season, but in the end Jason had a better season and pulled out the overall series win in 35+. Glad that it was a teammate and he's a good guy on top of that. I will be gunning for the title next year.

Take a Kid MTBing - V4

After two years of poor weather (V2 and V3) Take a Kid MTBing was finally given a perfect fall day. Central Iowa Trails Association (CITA) got the word out and the kids and parents showed up in force. This was, by far, our best turnout yet. We had 38 kids and 25 adults show up at Greenwood Park.

While sign up continued, the kids took to the mini-obstacle course like ducks to water. We didn't get the time to explain what they were working on, but it didn't matter, they had a blast on the "miniature skinnies".
We had a brief meeting and the group of older kids took off to J11 and Denmans. It is a short ride on the paved trail and then the dirt gets progressively harder. It is probably the best trail around to allow the kids to work on growing their skills.
While the bigger kids were out, the littler kids took their Striders out on roller coaster (yikes!). Don't worry, their dads were with them.
After an hour of riding the trails, we gathered back at the pond for the raffles. We first drew for the Schwinn MTB given to CITA by IMBA. Ingrid Collet was the lucky winner.
Little Callie Gibson had been trying out the demo Stider (donated by Strider) earlier in the day. The look on her face when she understood that she won, was priceless.
The day went by rather quick, but it was very satisfying for all involved.
Each of the kids went home with a water bottle from one of our sponsoring bike shops. Thanks again to:
Also thanks to Steve Fuller for his great photos of the event.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chequamegon Fat Tire 40 - race report

Long overdue for this race report, but the memories still linger. I can't believe that when I lived in MN (94-98) that I never did this race (although we discussed it). Also can't believe that I've lived in Iowa for seven years and only been up there twice. That will be corrected from here on. The race, the weekend and the company all made it a memorable experience.

Jed G. and I left town on Thursday for the uneventful 7hr drive up north. I had secured a place to stay with a group of Rassy's guys and gals that have done this event for 10 years or more. They have a house that they rent in the start town of Hayward. It is a great location, on a lake and near a good restaurant. The start is less than a mile away as well.

We did a short pre-ride on Friday morning and the gang took me under their collective wings to show me the course and to point out the various items to watch out for in the first 5 miles. Our alarms were set for 4:30am in order to secure a good place on the start line. The majority of us did not have "preferred starts", so John N. made sure that we all got our bikes down to the line. Front row for John and I!
The sunrise over the lake on race morning.

After eating some breakfast and then lounging around, we finally kitted up and walked to the start line. When we had placed our bikes upside down on the start line we were the first row of maybe 200 bikes. However, this race had over 1800 starters and now the majority were lined up behind us.
The view of the bikes from the front row.
Shortly after 10am, we slowly rode away. The start line was a narrow two-lane street, but within one block we were on main street and it was four-lanes wide. John pushed forward, but I quickly got swallowed from the sides. Lesson learned for next year.
The main street roll out is controlled by two four wheelers. The mayhem wasn't as bad as I expected, but you had to keep your eyes and ears open to your surroundings.
1800 strong rolling down main street (parade speed).
The first three miles are on pavement and the speed ramps up quickly after the first mile or so. With my high gear of 34x11, I quickly ran out of gears to keep up. I would jump on a wheel and then slowly lose them, look for another group and jump on their wheel. At the time I wasn't happy about the perception of losing ground, but in hindsight, it was probably for the best that I wasn't able to go 110% yet.
At three miles, we turn into Rosies field and the rest of the race is on dirt. The pics from Skinny Ski and others don't do it justice. I know that I was near the front of the field, but it sure didn't look like it at the time. If you look closely in the pic below, I'm on the right side and just in front of the guys painted like Kiss.
I started to pick groups of people off and tried to use my head on when to draft. We would have a good pack of guys together for 2-3 minutes and then a few of us would jump ahead to the next group. It went like this for the first 8-10 miles. Somewhere in there, we hit a gravel road and it felt like I went backwards. Several people would pass me and I just couldn't hold their wheel.
I tried to recover for a 10 minutes and figured that my race would come around to me later.
At the mid-race checkpoint (actually 16miles), I was already 5minutes behind my goal pace. I knew that due to the wet course that the pace would be slower, but I was already disappointed. I figured that I'd have to have a strong second half to salvage a good result.
The middle of the race is fuzzy, but I found 2-3 guys that all held the same pace and we worked well together. We kept the pace high and kept on reeling in others. By the time that I hit the Seeley Fire Tower climb, I was feeling much better. The guy in front of me firmly, but politely told the walkers to get out of our way. Surprisingly, they parted and frequently apologized for being in our way (love that about MTB racing), the two of us rode all three sections to the top and got a good applause for our efforts.
The rest of the way to the finish was an all out effort that never seemed to end. I did hate the last three or four climbs in the last mile, but now I know what to expect.
I ended up finishing at 2:43.39, which was off my goal of 2:30. I suppose that part of that is because of the wetness of the course, but my time was still too slow. I believe that course knowledge would cut almost 5min of that result, the rest will come from better and more specific training.
My goal time was based on last year and I was shooting for top 200 men. I ended up 221st in men and 248th overall (singlespeed, tandem and women make up the difference). If I shave that 5min off, then I would have been in the 170s overall and 150s in men. That's my goal for next year.
Funny stats: plate number 248, finished 248th overall.......I was 224th fastest in the first split and 224th fastest in the last split.
I can't wait until next year and am already thinking of ways to get faster for this type of racing.