Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Last wrentham training race

After we finished the races, there was this amazing pink sky sunset.
I rushed to grab the camera, the Goguens and Nate were out practicing the barriers.
I had a 5 minute window to set up, I was struggling to get a good shot.
later, when I got home I realize my camera ISO was set to 800, yikes
no wonder, everything was over exposed... oh well

click here for the set

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More Bacon’s 2009 Vermont 50 Race Report

My First Vermont 50
Epic races deserve epic race reports.
How I justified rebuilding my entire drive train, hubs, and brakes
At least my saddle is in good shape
Should have brought crampons

Having never written a race report before...

When Kurt called last Memorial Day weekend and told me "you've gotta sign up for this race.  It fills up fast," I must have already forgotten about the torture he put me through when he talked me into signing up for my first ever road race -- The 2008 Battenkill.  Without much thought, I plunked down the $125 registration fee for the Vermont 50 (VT50) and it was on for the for the end of September.  Since I'm in my first year racing bikes, I have no shame signing up for the novice races.  I figure I may as well collect some medals while I can, because once I upgrade, the smell of the podium will forever be lost.  I entered as a novice, thinking that I could probably finish in 7 hours and be a contender for the podium.  How sad my thought process can sometimes be.

Summer came and went.  I mountain biked raced at various EFTA and Route 66 races; did a four-man team at the 24 Hours of Great Glenn in the sport class; and kept on mountain biking at least once/week.  I never did any specific endurance mountain bike training, though you could count the 50+ miles and 7K of vertical I pedaled at Great Glenn as training, and I did throw down some 4 hours rides here and there, mostly on my cross bike.  I was as ready for the Vermont 50 as I'll ever be.

On Saturday, I looked at the weather forecast for race time, a picture sums it up better than I can:

Weather forecast for race day, September 27th, 2009

That's fine, I can deal with riding in the rain.  What I didn't plan for was the goopy mud I'd be plodding through for hours.  Consider this movie trailer: Man vs Mud

I drove up to Vermont on Saturday afternoon looking eagerly out my window at most perfect New England fall weather: 70s, sunny, and crisp with trees starting to gold.  I was excited and not really correlating the weather forecast with reality.  After all, living in New England, especially if you ski all winter long, you learn to never base plans on a weather forecast.  If I had a dollar for every time they predicted rain but instead it snowed...well, I'd be well on the way to repairing all the damage done to my bike during this race.  Alternate movie trailer: The Cost of the Race Isn't in the Registration Fee.

We met in the dark, saddled up our bikes and watched the Experts and Sport classes depart.  It amazed me to see all the singlespeeders knowing that there's 9,000 feet of climbing on this course.  But there they were, those derailleur-less-demi-gods in a position to avoid most mechanical problems because of their pure strength.  We rolled up to the line, I looked down at my GPS and it was off.  And I couldn't turn it on.  It had been broken for a couple of weeks, but still occasionally worked.  It wasn't going to work today, though, and this would actually be fortuitous for me.  We then rolled out and cruised downhill for the first 4 miles in cold dark, with the rain drizzle making me quite cold.  The pace car turned off, and we then descended down a formerly gravel road that had turned to mud that the knobby tires ceaselessly spit all over my face.  I rode with one eye open, then closed it to flush the dirt out while using the other eye.  A technique that got me to the first climb without any mishaps.

We hit the climb and a group of riders took off and I found my rhythm in my own group, letting the lead group go.  I was trying not to push things too hard because I had 46 miles left and I wanted to finish.  The last thing I needed was to have a DNF on my first VT50.  It would have burned inside me for the next year, and I probably would be hesitant to sign up again for a race I couldn't finish the first time.  The climb lasted a bit and we rounded by the first aid station and then hit our first singletrack by a gun club.  It shot up steep and what was previously rideable was now slick enough that your rear tire just spun and you moved no where fast wasting lots of energy you'd need later.  Thus, let me introduce you to the first hike-a-bike section.  This is the only hike-a-bike I'll number as it became de rigueur in this year's VT 50.  It was slippery and thus everyone started pushing their bike in one long train like some refugees fleeing a country recently overthrown by an unfavorable dictator.  The mud wasn't thick, just a little greasy for the slope...but that would all change later, and you've already heard about the trailer.
At the top of climb we started descending some beautiful single track.  However, I noticed that my rear brakes weren't engaging and that I was pulling my brake lever all the way back to the grip.  What the hell, in my early morning bleary-eyedness, did I accidentally get lube all over my disc brake?  Crap.  At least the front brakes were working.   I adjusted the lever and got it to engage so that it was no longer bottoming out on my grip, however, I still didn't have rear brakes.  I rode this way until the top of a climb at mile 18, crashing over the bars only six times.  Luckily it was so soft and all slow-speed that the only thing I shook was my confidence.

At the top of another long climb (mile 18ish aid station) there were lots of people lingering and eating Oreos, peanut-butter and jelly, and so I asked someone about the brakes, but they didn't really help me.  I started haphazardly twisting the red dials (Avid BB7s) and figured out that I just needed to shorten the pinch...that with all the mud my pads were wearing out quickly.  I started the descent and then realized that I didn't have front brakes, and so with my new found knowledge I tightened the front and I was rocking and rolling.

Eventually I got into this pace where the suffering was what it was.  I got cold, I got warm, I got comfortable, I plodded one foot in front of the other.  It go no worse, it got no better.  It just was.  And in this state, time started disappearing quickly. The Vermont 50 doesn't have any flat sections, either you're climbing, or you're descending.  Descending on slick twisty dirt is stressful.  Hiking up slick, muddy, steep hills sucks and engages all forms of upper body strength.  So every time I had a nice long climb on a fire-road, I was ecstatic as it was time to let my upper body recover.  One thing I do know, I kept working my way through some guys in the sport class, and I hadn't seen any of my fellow novice riders since about mile 7.  I knew the first group of novices was already long gone.

Looking back at the map of the course, there's actually a lot of sections I don't really remember anything specific.  I remember being pissed because I saw cheaters cutting twisty single track.  And then I worked for 25 minutes up a long logging road putting at least 1 minute on a guy only to have him cut up through the trail, saving 250 yards of miserable mud and be back on my wheel.  I remember at different parts of the race the different hurt in the body parts.  I remember people saying "I'm out of here at the next aid station."  I remember thinking, "wow, Oreos never tasted so good."  I drank some Cokes.  I ate my Endurolites like they hot tamales my hallucinogenic mind started thinking they were.  Four more times I had to tighten my brakes and in the back of my mind I wondered when I wouldn't have brakes at all anymore and that if I suffered for 45 miles, what would I do?

At around mile 35ish, we descended into this beautiful forest.  While we were in the woods for the whole ride, this particular forest was different, maybe there were more colors here, or maybe it was that it had this twisty, beautiful singletrack that if you weren't knackered, you'd be texting to all your buddies in the office how great the riding it.  Now, though, it was slippery, twisty, and putting a s#$t-load of strain on my upper body.   I still enjoyed it, though, I had found Zen.  I climbed out of this area past a house with a deck and a keg and some great fans yelling and screaming...and they had a hose, but I didn't use it.  (In hindsight, I should have spent the few minutes washing the bike, even though it'd get muddy again.)

At one of the stops, around mile 37ish, I asked what time it was and the lady replied that it was around noon.  "Noon, really?"  I couldn't believe I'd already been on my bike five-and-a-half hours.  I thought for sure it was maybe 9:30.  This was one of the benefits of not having the computer -- which I would have surely stared at, and which it would have surely taunted me with how slowly the miles were clicking off.

Unfortunately, for me, with the deteriorating course conditions and the relentless rain, it took me 4 hours to finish the last 12 miles.  Miles 41 to 47 were the worst.  I lost both brakes and was on metal on metal.  The funny thing about disc-brakes is that when you're trying to stop with no pads, they actually accelerate you while letting out a shrill, metallurgic scream.   Not that I needed the brakes much, though, because I spent most my time dragging my bike (as it lost it's ability to roll) through the thick clay-like mud.  I'd stop every 50 feet or so and clear the thick pig-slop out of the fork, out of the suspension, and the rear-drive train.  They also but a nice groove in the disc.  Fortunately for me, miles 47 to the end was mostly uphill.  By this time the mud was even thicker, lodged everywhere and I couldn't spin my crank more than a couple times without it locking up, so to alleviate the lockup, I'd reverse spin really fast to clear the mud.  This worked well enough except when I lost all momentum and fell over because did I mention: I was taking advantage of my 22/34 for the first time in a long time.  Finally the finish line was in site and I sped through, almost utilizing the hay bails to stop.

I shook hands with a runner who I paced with the last 3 miles, collected my medal, and proceeded to the car where I took the following self-portrait:

Self Portrait, post Vermont 50, September 27th, 2009 (taken with a Blackberry)

9 Hours, 48 Minutes in the rain.  I finished 7th/20th in my age class.  I don't know how I did overall, they will post that eventually.  However, the bigger stat I'm most impressed with is that nearly 250 didn't finish or start.

The Summary:
Let me define some lingo for you:
Mountain biking: riding your bike through rocks, down flowy dirt, up various climbs with a big grin on your face.

Hike-a-bike: when you reach a section of trail too technical or too steep for your skill that you dismount your bike and push it.

And now, a new term: Drag-a-bike: It's when the mud is so thick that it goops up in everything like cement and your wheels won't spin, so you end up dragging your bike through it.

I'm pretty sure there was at least 5 miles of drag-a-bike, and 5 miles of hike a-bike.  I'll never know for sure.  All I know is that from mile 41 to 47, it was so retarded for me.  And the only thing that kept me going from mile 47 to the finish was that I was almost done.

My Bike
After cleaning my beautiful BMC for an hour, my bottom bracket sounds like a grandfather clock.  Both hubs need to be rebuilt as my wheels turn with some horrendous sounds.  Neither shifters move freely, in fact it takes two hands to even budge them.  The entire drove train is shot.  And, of course, there's no brakes.  Cost of entering the VT 50: $125; Repair bill, TBD.
With what I know now, and having completed my first Vermont 50, if I showed up next year and it was raining like it was, I'd walk away, saving the monetary damage to the bike and knowing that I'd end up spending hours not even mountain bike racing, but pushing and dragging 35 pounds of technology and mud.

Some choice comments I've found either through Facebook or on other blogs:
Big Bikes - 2 Dumb 4 Gears: "....suffice it to say, it was just about the hardest damn day on the bike I've ever had"
Life Adventures: "Not riding turned out to be fortuitous because the mountain bikers got the short end of the stick today. The conditions were fine for running, but they were appalling (though not as bad as 2003) for riding."
From the VT 50 Facebook Fan site: "...after 03, couldn't do that to my Wojcik again..... next year another chance."

Let me leave this thought for you in closing: After doing the VT 50, the Battenkill is now child's play.  Now, the question remains, how the hell am I even going to be able to race cyclocross at Gloucester this weekend?


Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

SBC '09 - CAT3

I capture the end of the masters race
and the entire Cat3 race
Click here for over 300 thumbnails
or here for the slideshow!!

This is the Cat 3 Winner and a couple of shots I like

Saturday, September 19, 2009

natick Air Show

Good crew at the jumps!!
here is the link to the slide show

here are my favs


Natick dirt Jumps

After the Soccer game, we hit the jumps

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Quad Cycles Cross | Bedford | 2009

I fired off 721 shots today and narrowed it down to the 24 I like best. Be sure to take a look at the shots below too! Here is a link to the big versions.


Quad Cross - Bedford Ma

My race was schedule right before the Elite Women/Men races
I raced, then watch the fast gals/guys.
This is a picture of the Elite Men winner, unfortunately I don't have a good picture of the Women's winner
Click here for the rest of the images

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Dirt Jumps

My boy and hit the jumps this afternoon.
he gets more air than I do, not hard to do, but still....

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wrentham Cyclocross Training Series II

this was the last race of the night...
we did a lot of racing, 2 lappers, 2.5 lappers, 1 lappers, 3 half lappers
click here for all images

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cross & Beer

Noticed how the cork top of belgian style beer fits perfectly on a cross bike? as a bar end, coincidence?
I don't think so!
Click image for larger view

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wrentham Cyclocross Training Series

Not many images from last night, I was riding too.
This shot was taken on the very last lap of the last race.
The sunlight was GOLDEN!
4 x 2 full laps, that's a lot of hurting!
Click on Image for larger view.