Thursday, January 24, 2013

First scrap of the year - winter short track race #1

Sunday January 13th got here before I knew it. The holidays flew by and next thing I knew it was race time. January 13th was the first race of the Winter Short Track Series and for me it was my first race since 2011. No, I was not in shape or nearly ready for this race. In my year off I had gained weight and lost lots of fitness. Between injuries, surgeries, and catching colds it just didn't work out for me in 2012. Every time I would get a few good weeks of riding in it seems something would happen and I'd be back off the bike for weeks at a time. Glad to have all that behind me and start charging in 2013. I had a good solid 7 weeks of base training before the first race - enough to hang in there, but I knew that I wasn't going to be at race speed or even close. That's o.k. though - I know from previous years how long race fitness takes to build. Hopefully my body will remember and adapt quickly. My plan this year is to build up, do lots of mountain bike racing through the spring/summer, and hopefully be fast again in the fall for Cyclocross season.

I decided that I'd be racing in the single speed class during the winter short track races. I liked the fact that it is essentially an "open" class with cat 1, 2, and 3 racers. Additionally, I thought it would be good to give my little girl's legs some torture in the hopes I'd get some added strength. I made sure to get a good warm up by taking my son on his race, which was right before mine.

I lined up for the start of the race and decided that the 3rd row (out of 4) was about right. We took off up the hill on the start and as soon as we got to the woods, there was a big bottleneck as 32 guys were trying to get into the singletrack. We all got jammed up and next thing I know some guy goes over the bars and a couple racers around him are falling as well. See the video coverage of this incident here: Short Track Single Speed Pile up. Video compliments of Bart at Queen City Bikes. I had to make a quick move into the woods and around a tree to avoid the accident. If you look close in the video you will see me in my Carolina Bicycle Company jersey about 15 seconds in (# plate 217)on the left side avoiding the pile up. Glad I got around that mess!

We now head down the hill. The short track course is just that, really short with a 2 minute downhill section and a 2 .5 minute uphill section. It is not technical at all - really smooth with berms, rollers, some singletrack, some pavement, and some gravel fireroad. I'm always dragging brakes behind people on the downhill portion, it does get irritating losing all that momentum and having to regain it on the small punchy sections of uphill. There are enough people in front of me that the pace is very manageable heart rate wise and rather slow. We get to the start of the uphill and some guy spins out about 4 riders in front of me. We all have to stop, and somehow I manage to track stand so I don't have to take my feet off the pedals. The guy stumbles 3 or 4 more times and now people are screaming at him to get off the track and out of the way and let us by. Of course he doesn't, but eventually we get moving. I was blowing up every time up the hill. For you non-cyclists out there, blowing up just means that you are redlining your heart rate over and above what you are actually capable of doing lap after lap. It catches up to you later in the race as you burn all your matches. I was seeing 188, 190 heart rate numbers which are really high for me. I had to throttle back some on the climb, which kept me stuck behind some slower riders on the downhill.

There were a couple jumps on the course in the downhill section. They were relatively easy, and even though I was on a hardtail, and totally gassed, I still tried to give folks a show by airing them out best I could (they are really small jumps).

Unfortunately, Saturday night before the race I felt like I was coming down with something. It was confirmed Sunday morning when I woke up before the race. Then when we got our son up he had a big time runny nose. Sure enough, some kinda bug is going through the house - even Amie felt bad and she rarely gets sick. I decided that I would still race. I could tell during my warm up that I was more out of breathe then usual, oh well, I wan't gonna win anyway. I thought about quitting every lap, especially on this slow grassy death crawling section that just took your mojo right outta you. I just kept on fighting though, even as the girls in the class behind me started catching up and passing me! I even drafted a few of them up the hill and got some laughs from other racers (who had raced earlier in another class) that were watching our race. I eventually sucked it up enough to get rid of a couple guys who were keeping things a little to close for my comfort. Finished in 39 minutes and did 8 laps. It was good enough for 21st place out of 32. Not the start I was hoping for, but I had fun and it's only the beginning. I'm still off the bike now as I'm still sick, but I'll be back at it soon with a vengeance! If you have never tried short track racing, you gotta get out there and see what it's like. I had a great time cheering for other racers, watching my 3 year old do the kids race, and suffering some on my own.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Like Father, Like Son

It's true what they say, like father like son. Don't believe me? Read some more and you'll understand why I think it has some merit. Even though my main man (my 3 year old Brock) was pretty young for bikes more then a year ago, it didn't stop the wife and I from trying to get him on a strider and a little tricycle. We tried and tried, but never wanted to get too pushy about it. I would just suggest to him, "hey buddy you wanna try one of your bikes today"? I was always answered with a very quick and resounding "no, I don't ride bikes today"! So we never pushed it too much, but would take the bikes out, maybe try and get him to sit on one. He just wasn't ready yet.

 This past summer Amie and I would go to our local mountain biking spot, Anne Springs in Fort Mill, SC and ride. She would ride while I would take Brock for a hike in the woods. When Amie was done, then I would get to ride my bike and she would hang with Brock. It wasn't long before Brock decided he was missing out on the fun. So one day late this past summer Brock says, "I want to go mountain biking". So I sat him down and said, "ok buddy, but first you have to learn how to ride your bike before we take you on the trails". He immediately said, "today daddy"? to which I of course said, "sure buddy".

He started first on his tricycle and I had to do some pushing here and there mostly going uphill, but he picked it up pretty well. He moved on to the strider in the fall. Seems like he always wanted to veer off the road onto the dirt. Of course I was all for it, quietly saying "thatta boy" under my breathe. For those of you unfamiliar with a strider bike, it is simply a small 12" wheeled bike with no cranks or pedals on it. The boy or girl scoots their feet on the ground to get it moving and stomps their feet down to hit the brakes like fred flintstone.

Brock pretty much let's his momentum carry him down hill and doesn't worry so much about the slowing down part. Eventually when he is going so fast that he can't control the bike anymore and he just crashes to stop. Makes for some exciting moments, and the two of us get some good laughs out of it. At least it's winter now and his big puffy jacket cushions his fall!

After one of his famous crashes - notice the sticks and leaves in his helmet and the smile

Over the Holidays Brock decided he wanted to make riding his priority everyday. Great, what mountain biking mom and dad wouldn't be happy with that? We even rode some sketchy stuff (freeride stunts) that I built in the woods behind our house.

Of course, just like his Dad, Brock was heading right for the biggest jump out there. It will be a while before he can carry speed to clear it, but it sure didn't stop him from trying. Must be encoded in his DNA or something. I foresee lots of days with the whole family together enjoying the outdoors riding our bikes for many years to come. 

We even found a way for Brock to get his bike to the trail. No, I don't actually drive down the road with the bike back there, haha. That bike gets the royal treatment in the car or a certain 38 inch tall guy gets upset - you don't want to upset the Leprechaun!

I even got the little guy to the U.S. National Whitewater Center for a mountain bike ride. My thought was to go to a specific area and "session" the moderate hill over and over. Brock was all pumped up though and decided like he always does that he wanted to keep following the trail. We scoot around the whitewater park channel and it's not long before we see a trail darting in the woods. Soon as we head in the woods my phone rings and it's an important call that I need to take or you will never get them on the phone again. Brock goes flying down the hill at the same time. I mean he's moving. The corner proves a little to much for him at that speed and BAM, right into a tree. Hard plastic tires don't grip so well. The crash looked a little nasty. He get's up right away and says he is ok, brushes some dirt off his hands, and mounts up and takes off again! I'm yelling alright buddy, totally forgetting and kinda not caring that I'm on a professional call and not a personal one. I quickly get rid of the call as I would rather enjoy the time in the woods with my son. 

We had some close calls on some steep sections. Lucky for Brock his daddy knows where things would go wrong on some of the steep downhills and stands in that spot to catch him. You see, this trail has some very steep sections for grown up, experienced mountain bikers. This is why I was so impressed with his willingness to charge stuff that looks big to me - I can only imagine how big it looks to him. We even climbed up some big hills and I was surprised at how fast he was climbing. We did a couple miles in under an hour.

Early last week Brock heard me talking to a friend about the upcoming Winter Short Track race. Would be the first race back for me since June 2011. As soon as Brock heard me say mountain bike race he immediately said "Brockie wants to go ride a NEW TRAIL" in a very enthusiastic and high pitched voice. At first we figured he could just ride a section of trail that isn't used for the race, but a friend told me that kids 8 and under race for free. We thought, why not sign him up - if he decides that it's not for him then no big deal. We told Brock he could go and "ride with friends" on the short track. Didn't want him to feel pressured or nervous about "racing". We lined up and Brock was super excited. He kept saying, "let's go, let's go. I was pretty shocked that everyone at the race pretty much stopped what they were doing to watch this race. Everyone was cheering, and encouraging - I even heard a bunch of cowbells. He was stoked and smiling at all the attention! It all kinda distracted him a little and he was more focused on looking around rather then scooting. It is a race after all! He was pulling up the rear, I mean way back - dead last. I joked with some friends that I saw on the course that Brock starts like daddy does - DFL. Everybody was smiling and having a great time though. Once he got into the woods he settled down and even got to roost a big berm. We finally cross the line for a big moment.

He even got a medal that he is still wearing 2 days later. I think you'll see more of him at the Short Track this year! 

For those of you who have known me for sometime, I think you'll agree that little guy is learning to be a charger like his dad! Next up hear about how my return to racing went............