Thank you for letting me sleep with you last night. It’s always warmer and cozier for me that way when you just fall asleep with your headphones on and don’t bother to take me out. I can never hear what you’re listening to, but whatever it was, it must have been good. You don’t often dream of being young again, but last night you did and I got to see people from your past that I hadn’t seen before. I’m not sure what they were saying to you, but I could feel it make you warmer. Sponge Dog was in there too, I think he was standing watch over something, or someone, but he was keeping an eye on you like always does. There were shadows of other dogs running all around him, and they eventually lay down beside him and watched you too.
When you close your eyes, you project your thoughts and memories onto your eyelids like a movie screen and I have front row seats. As you drifted toward sleep, it was fun replaying the course over and over again that you took me to see the other day; I couldn’t wait for you to ride it faster, full gas, like all those other rides you’ve taken me on. Those rides where everything except for the trail becomes a blur. Those rides where you stare right through me with even more focus and vigor than you usually do. Those rides where your green iris’s supernova, let it all in, and I can look back and see the fire burning bright as ever behind your eyes.
These past few days here have been sweet. That chill ride along the coast you took me on Saturday was something special. You were taking it all in.
When you blink you’re snapping pictures into memory and I can look back through your eyes and see them get piled up in the corner with all of the others. You placed these on right on top. And then watching Tofor do so well in his race today was killer. It was a bummer that he flatted, but hey that’s racing. Even I know that. Hopefully people saw what he’s capable of before that happened. Hopefully he saw it too. That was a great sunset out there today too…maybe the best one you’ve shown me yet.
It’s almost like you knew it would be my last one.
You probably didn’t see it coming, but today was my last day. I had it planned for awhile. We were together what, like three months, and I knew it was just my time to go. I’ve gotten a little rough around the edges; and was doing you no favors with all of this springtime pollen around right now, and I could tell you’ve been a little irritated with me.
You’ve been wearing your glasses so much these days.
From how much I’ve watched you think about these trails, I’m thinking that today’s race might be important and maybe it’s not the best day for me to jump ship like this. But I know you can handle it. And it’s not like I’m going very far, I’ll still be right there watching. I just need to go out on my own terms and this is the best way I know how. I’ve watched you consider such things yourself so I know you’ll understand.
Yet you always seemed to just look right through me.
I probably could have picked a better place to jump off, but I had to wait until things got moving…at least until you got off the paved racetrack and onto the dirt. When I knew you would just react and leave me be, and keep on rolling. Besides, from watching you stare at the trail maps, I knew that fast rutted dirt road descent was called Lookout Canyon Rd, and I just love the obscure irony in that. I be all like “Ha! LOOKOUT!”.
When I jumped and landed perfectly on the inside of your sunglasses, I looked back at you and boy did you look surprised! It was FUNNY! I had to do it in a spot where you wouldn’t be able to take your hands off of the bars. Your eyes got so wide I could still look back through them and I saw connections firing that you didn’t even know you had. But I knew you had them. I’ve seen them fire before.
But then I saw all those other guys pass you and I felt kind of bad. For a while there it really seemed to affect you. You just stayed behind that one guy on all of that fun looking singletrack! You weren’t even riding it much faster than you rode it the other day! And that group of five other guys just took off! Like they were gone in a real hurry! I kept waiting for you to chase them but saw that you needed a moment to yourself. It wasn’t long before even I couldn’t see them up ahead anymore and believe me; I can see a lot better than you.
I kind of wanted you to stop again at those cool looking rock formations that you took me to the last time we were here, but I knew you couldn’t.
That was where you finally moved around that one guy you were following and I started to really feel the wind through my pores. This is what I was waiting for! I looked back and saw that you said something to that guy, but he just stared back and I watched him slowly disappear. I looked up into your eyes and they were full blast.
I wondered if you knew I was still there watching.
I didn’t know if you could see it or not, but I started to see a dust cloud just ahead from that lead group. You seemed too busy to notice; you were trying to straighten out the turns in the trail and were just bashing your arms and bars through the overgrown branches like they weren’t even there and I’m really glad you didn’t go down. Did you even see all those erosion ruts all over the trail? That got a little intense there. The dust cloud ahead billowed bigger, closer, thicker; and then there they were.
Your eyes filled with soft relief when you saw them but you stayed on it. I saw you thinking about how you could potentially make up a little time on the sandy run-up and sure enough you were able to pass that one guy and it seemed that was when all the other guys realized you had reattached yourself. That was cool, glad I was there for that. Those two guys who wouldn’t let you pass on the singletrack while the front three powered away was a little worrisome but holy crap, when the trail opened back up you sure did start smashing! Just like those loopy neighborhood lunch rides you’ve taken me on. That fire in your eyes now was FRIGGING BRIGHT. I thought you were going to let up after passing those two, but then you bridged up to the lead three and snuck in front of them too just before the next singletrack started. That made me smile.
I looked back and saw that it made you smile too.
It was pretty sick being on the front for that. Even closer to the action than I normally would have been. You were moving pretty well but I did get a little worried when you eventually waved the other two around. Your face relaxed a bit when you were following their tires on the downhill stuff. The way you relax when you take me out.
You probably needed to relax a little anyway.
When you guys merged with all those other riders, things sure kicked up a notch and that dust was intense. I really don’t know how you were able to see. I could barely see a thing, and that’s saying something. That one guy riding the black hard tail really seemed to pour it on here. I think I saw fire in HIS eyes. I kept waiting for you to climb back to him but you never did. The fire was still in your eyes, but now more crackling campfire than funeral pyre. The third rider behind you slowly disappeared.
As you pedaled off the dirt and returned onto the racetrack, I looked back up into your eyes and saw you replaying the terrible crash that you had here last year over and over. I don’t think I had seen that memory yet. The one that cracked your helmet and broke off your saddle. The little room where you kept that memory has always been a bit smoky, but it seemed to be clearing out a bit now; as if someone finally opened a window. You took your hands off the bars and soft pedaled the entire home stretch. I saw you replaying all the rides we did together this year. The fast ones. The hard ones. The lonely ones. The long ones that brought you here. The ones we both know you really don’t have the time for.
You were smiling.
And now my last memory: You finally take off your glasses and see me still sitting there. YES I’M STILL HERE! I’m cold, dusty, and brittle; I’m done. But the soft glowing coals in your eyes warm me one last time.
I think now for the first time,
instead of looking right through me,
you are finally noticing me.
The 7th Annual TBF 50 MTB Race was held last weekend, and I was fortunate to have the legs to be able to take the overall win against a large field of solo riders. This race is always a tough one for me as it falls right in the middle of cyclocross season, and I always find it little hard to be equally fast in a 3 – 3.5 hr endurance MTB race as well as a 60 minute anaerobic blitz-fest that is a cyclocross race. But I had been riding a lot lately and thought that I just might have the fitness to be competitive, so I made a sort of last minute decision to sign up the morning of the event.
On my side, I had the shadowy power of “new bike stoke and wattage” that I hoped would be able to power me through any fitness shortcomings for earlier in the week I took ownership of my 2016 XC racing bike, a 2016 Trek Top Fuel 9.8 SL:
For the past two years I’ve been racing on a hardtail, so I thought I’d switch things up a little for next season with a full suspension rig. The 9.8 SL isn’t the top Top Fuel in Trek’s lineup (that distinction goes to the 9.9 SL), but with a few tweaks that I will soon make (i.e. wheels, cranks mainly) I will be able to get the weight of this nearly down to the 9.9 AND have a training set of wheels to boot.
So for the TBF 50 race, I ran this bike completely stock as pictured. The only changes I made were the addition of my pedals (Shimano XTR’s), my saddle (an SMP Dynamic..not pictured), swapped the stock lock on grips for some sweet BiB Global Silic One’s, and gave the chain a coating of root beer scented Chain Brew lube and with two test rides under my belt, called it good to go.. I even ran the stock Bontrager XR1 (set up tubeless of course) tires even though I am usually very particular about what tires I run for a race. I often run Maxxis Ikons for local races, and these seemed to have a very similar tread pattern and width so figured that they would be fine and didn’t want to overthink things.
As for the race itself, the TBF 50 is deceptively difficult. What it lacks in elevation gain over the race (i.e. less than 3,000 vert total I think) it makes up for in just punishing steady power output with no relaxation or recovery anywhere. It was great to see so many people on the start line (nearly 100 solo riders?) and seeing local chargers Antonio Miranda, and Jeff Landauer on the line, (and even former Pro World Tour rider Michael Sayers was there) and others on the starting line made me realize that my work would be cut out for me.
It was also great to see other Folsom Bike riders there such as Tom Campeau who was THIS CLOSE to an overall top 10 finish, and Dave Desrosiers and Kathy Cervantez teamed up on a 2-person coed team and were able to take the WIN there.
When the starting gun went off I was in absolutely no hurry to get a hole shot or anything so slotted in behind Jeff Landauer’s wheel following the starting gravel straightaway. Jeff kept a good pace for the opening wide open few miles and no one seemed in a hurry to get around either of us. I took a glance over my shoulder at one point and it was basically a steady stream of 100-ish riders tire to tire all stretched out…kinda cool.
After the opening few miles of wide open dirt, we entered the Granite Bay singletrack proper. I knew that a few hundred yards into the singletrack there would be a potential rock garden choke point, so I knew I wanted to be first into that part to be sure that I wouldn’t get hung up by anyone. So just before the singletrack I put in a few hard pedal strokes to get around Jeff, and that ended up being the one and only pass that I would need to make for the rest of the race. From here on out, I was able to ride just a hard steady tempo, stay smooth with no mistakes, and I noticed my gap getting bigger and bigger.
I did my first lap of 4 in a smidge under 48 minutes, and then laps 2 and 3 were each under 49 minutes as well and as I started my 4th and final lap someone shouted out that I was on pace for a 3 hr and 14 minute finish time which would beat the current course record by 2 minutes or so. That was kind of cool, but at this point I knew that I had a decent sized gap so let off the gas a bit to ensure that I wouldn’t get knocked back by some unexpected cramping or something that would cost me the race. In the end, I was able to make it through in 3 hours and 18 minutes for the overall win.
Nutrition was pretty standard….just 3 water bottles for the duration of the race (i.e ~1 per hour) with basic Skratch labs mix. Prior to the gun, 1 bottle of Skratch Hyper Hydration during my warm-up. Ate 1 Clif Shot packet at the start, and 1 near the end of each lap.
So the new Top Fuel is 1 for 1 in it’s racing career and I couldn’t be happier. I was pretty amazed at how “at home” I felt on this bike right from the get-go and am really happy with how well it rides…it’s small bump compliance is over the top which allows to just keep the power down and glide over things, and it really knows how to hold a line without ever being ‘twitchy’ (if there’s ever any twichiness, it comes from me, and not the bike!). I was a little worried about running the stock 32t chainring as I usually run a 34t or 36t, but in the end it worked out great as having the 32 probably saved me from trying to push to hard of a gear and toasting my legs. But speaking of toasted, I tried to jump back into the cyclocross race scene this weekend and got thoroughly spanked…as I said in the beginning, it is kind of tough to manage both styles of racing at the same time, but hopefully with another week of easy-ish riding and recovery, I can be sort of fast on a cyclocross race course a few more times to close out the year. We’ll see…..
Only a few days have passed since the 2015 edition of the Tahoe-Sierra 100 MTB race, and I’ve already lost track of how many times I’ve opened up my laptop, fully intending to write this race report, only to stare at a blank screen struggling with where to start. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for me since the race ended this past Saturday. After an all too brief pit stop at home for the night after the race, my post-race recovery sleep was interrupted by the sound of my alarm at 4:30 AM Sunday so I could catch an early morning flight out to Boston for a few days of business travel.
Even still, I’ve tried several times to pop open this laptop and start writing, only to stare at a blank screen with empty thoughts. I thought writing this race report would be easy. Easy, because I won. Easy, because everything finally went right for me in this race. Easy, because my race wasn’t affected by my contact lens popping out like it has at the Annual Cool MTB Race in March. Easy, because my race wasn’t ruined by a malfunctioning clutch derailleur like it had in the Napa Valley Dirt Classic in April. Easy, because I didn’t go from 2nd place to 5th by crashing so bad at the Sea Otter Classic that I broke myself saddle off, cracked my helmet, gave myself a slight concussion and had to finish the race standing up the whole way. Easy, because I didn’t taco my wheel in a crash like what happened at the Lost and Found 100 Miler in May. And easy, because I didn’t get completely crushed by the high altitude like what happened to me at USAC XC Nationals in Mammoth in July.
I guess trials and tribulations give better material to write about.
I also find it kind of hard to write about a win without coming off sounding like a jerk. When in reality, the way I feel is best summed up here by one of my favorite bands/songwriters lately, James Snyder from Beach Slang where he says at the beginning of this acoustic recording: “I feel like a kid who got invited to a party that he has nooo business being at”…Somthing like that….
Anyway, here at the Tahoe-Sierra, things just went smooth. We lined up at the start behind the Summit Restaurant in Soda Springs for our 6 AM start and the pavement start toward Ice Lakes Lodge starting calm and well enough. Racers chit chatting about what is to come and spinning lightly in the cold early morning light. And then just 50 yards or so before we hit the dirt, two Team Chico riders, Rich Thurman and Aren Timmel (both former Tahoe-Sierra 100 winners themselves) picked up the pace and separated themselves a bit. So naturally I bridged up and grabbed their wheels and just like that the three of us were off together down the first decent of Soda Springs Rd.
Rich and Aren held pace down the decent with me following their lines closely being careful not to flat on the many hidden rocks buried in the moon dust. I choose a risky tire combination this year and wanted to be extra careful here at the beginning. Normally, I’d go with some solid, durable trail worthy tires as the course is known to destroy rubber…but this year, I took a risk and went with a Schwalbe Rocket Ron in front and a Thunder Burt in the rear. Both pure XC tires. The Rocket Ron certainly has grip for loose conditions but it’s sidewalls are very thin. Same with the Burt. Pure XC lightweight, pinner tires. I carried 3 tubes with me expecting many flats, but hoping for the best.
We got to the bottom of the descent all together and then I rolled to the front setting pace, glancing down at my power meter from time to make sure I wasn’t going anywhere near the “too hard” mark. Then a few minutes later, as the grade began to kick up I looked back expecting to see Aren and Rich right on my wheel but they were already a few hundred yards back. “Huh….am I going too hard to early?”, I thought, then glanced down at my wattage numbers and confirmed it was a manageable pace and saw no need to back off.
And then just like that, they were gone and I was off the front.
Alone, just 30 minutes in.
And it stayed that way for the next 8 hours.
My tires rolled fast and didn’t flat. I blasted through the first aid station without stopping (just checked in my number and out), and then I rolled into Aid 2 at Robinson Flat in just a smidge under 2 hours and basically just rolled right through that as well. Then blasted down Cavanaugh Ridge as quickly as I could, and onto Aid 3 at Dusty Corners. Here the helpful volunteers cleaned and lubed my chain while I took a leak, then grabbed a PB&J square and wolfed that down before the single track of Pucker Point.
Pucker Point went fine except for the COWS. I rounded a corner and came face to face with a small herd of four cows standing right in the middle of the singletrack and I skidded to a stop and we all just stood there staring at each other no more than 20 feet away. I rang my bell. They shook their heads and stamped their feet and rang the bells around their necks but they didn’t move. It was really funny and wanted to take my camera out, but I really had no idea how much of a gap I had to any chasers so I just wanted to keep moving. I basically had to get off my bike and run around the cows and eventually they ran away too and it probably only cost me a minute of stoppage time at most.
The loose singletrack of Pucker Point soon ended and I found myself on a dirt road looping back toward the Dusty Corners aid station again which pulled double duty as aid 4. I quickly came upon them, rang my bell to get their attention and shouted my number out, and then just continued on up what I thought ended up being one of the toughest sections of the course…a big long 10-ish mile climb through deep dust on torn up logging roads. This slowed my pace down considerably, but I was still able to make it to the half way mark, back at Robinson Flat Aid station at mile 51 in just a little bit over 4 hours.
It was here I ran into my buddy Jeff Barker who graciously took a few pics, and then cleaned and lubed my chain while I refilled some bottles and slugged down a bottle of coke.
No one seemed sure what my gap was to the chasers so I rolled out as quickly as I could and began the rough descent down the Western States singletrack toward Duncan Canyon, and the Poppy Trail singletrack that hugged the northern edge of French Meadows Reservoir.
I didn’t think I was riding these parts very fast, and I thought FOR SURE I was going to get caught here, but I saw no one as I exited the last bit of trail and into the campgrounds at the far end of the lake. From there I rolled down to the Aid Station 6 at the bottom of Red Star (mile 64) and I finally got my first time split to the chasers that I had heard all day. They said “well, we think you’ve been holding about 15 minutes on 2nd place since the first aid station”. That was a surprise and a relief. I was starting to get a little tired, and knew that I had some big climbs right in front of me, but I knew that I was climbing well lately and the last 30 or so miles of the course would suit me just fine.
So from there it was literally just put my head down, pedal, and try not to screw anything up. Luckily I was able to do just that, and rolled into the finish in about 8 hours and 29 minutes total time according to my Garmin to take the win.
Rich Thurman from Chico ended up rolling in some time after to hold down 2nd place, and then I think it was Alex Work from Rock Lobster for 3rd. Someone else I didn’t know snuck in for 4th. And Aren Timmel rolled in for 5th…I think…results are not up yet, so can’t double check. (EDIT: Results are now up here: http://northlanderevents.com/results-tahoe-sierra/4588066079)
At the end of the day it is a bitter sweet victory. I’m glad that my name can be added to the list of Tahoe-Sierra 100 winners. And I guess I’m now the only rider to take wins in both the Single Speed category (2012), as well as an overall win, but unfortunately, this is the last edition of this race in it’s current form. For next year, this race is moving to a new different location in a slightly different format (i.e. 3 x 33 mile giant loops). I won’t get into the reasons why here, but I sure am going to miss the remoteness and ruggedness of the Tahoe-Sierra 100 in the form that it’s existed in since 2008. But change can be good, and knowing Jim Northey inclination for “hard” races, I’m sure the new format won’t be…..easy.
Thanks for reading –
Like someone slamming down a stack of hardcover books on a quiet wooden library table, the bang inside my helmet when I hit the ground was startling.
I flung weightless over my handlebars, feet still clipped into pedals (I think), in that moment of clear thought where you’re just hanging there knowing that you are going to slam but being completely powerless to fight it, I had no idea the impact was going to be that hard. I guess I was expecting more of a slide than a direct impact to disburse some of the forces, but a direct slam it was. My last thought just before impact was, “damn, that was going well…no chance at podium now..“
If my lungs had teeth, they just got all kicked out.
As all of the wind exited my lungs, and I came to rest on my side but facing downhill, I had the memorable view of watching my bike, now 20 feet or so in the air, cartwheeling and ejecting anything that wasn’t bolted to it. Cartwheel. There goes a water bottle. Cartwheel. Oh there goes another one. Cartwheel. Buh-bye Garmin 510. Cartwheel. Ah crap, was that my saddle? Carthweel…rest. Oh man, why can’t I breathe?!
Getting the wind knocked out of your lungs is such an odd feeling. Lungs kind of in a shocked state grasping for air and kicked out of their rhythm, there’s nothing you can do but kind of wriggle around on the ground like a turtle on its shell which is pretty much what I proceeded to do. Heaving and gasping, trying to take stock of the situation. What the hell just happened?
I had one goal at this year’s Sea Otter Classic. Win. People would ask how I was feeling, and I would shrug it off saying that I was just racing to qualify for XC Nationals this year, but secretly I knew that I was riding pretty good lately yet not feeling overextended, so as the day got closer my goals changed from ‘Just hang around with the front group and see what happens’ to ‘let’s make some stuff happen and try to win’.
Looking at the list of pre-registered riders I knew my competition would be some of the best and one name in particular stood out: Bob McCarty from Florida. Where did I hear that name before? Oh yea, Bob is last year’s Sea Otter defending champion in my Cat 1 age category and more exciting to me, he is the current Master’s XC National Champion. So on the start line I made sure to line up right next to him. Bob’s wheel was the wheel I would follow, or if I was feeling good, maybe I could get Bob to chase mine for a bit.
The start was pretty mellow. 30-ish or so of us started mildly hard and settled into a small peloton working our way around the Laguna Seca race track until we hit the dirt. I hovered around, toward the back-end of top 10 or so until we turned off onto the dirt, when I moved up into the top 5, and then all of a sudden second wheel when we hit the first little climb.
Staying on the power, I found myself riding by the front rider so I just stayed on the gas. A hard pace, but not full attack mode and I glanced over my shoulder and was pleased to see the group already stringing out. The first rider right behind me 6 or 7 seconds back? Bob McCarty giving chase with maybe 3 others on his wheel, then already a decent gap to the rest.
Bob soon bridged up and we traded places a few times along wide fireroad of Lookout Rd, then descended down to a brief pavement section before the first serious climb of Trail 49. Bob took the lead here and I coasted behind his wheel saving energy, and right behind me was Scott Leland from Reno, NV, and one other who I didn’t know. Craning my neck behind us trying to see if anyone else was down the road and I saw no one. Perfect. Five miles in and we’re off the front I thought.
We hit the singletrack climb of Trail 49 together but at some point Bob and I lost contact with Scott and the other rider behind us. We just kept the pace steady and made our way around slower traffic from previous start groups as smoothly as we could but at the top of this climb, Bob swung by a group of lapped traffic and then the opportunity for me to get by got shut down in an instant. There was nothing I could do and just made my way around when I could.
From here on out, we were hitting huge amounts of slower lapped traffic from the earlier start groups. It was pretty frustrating but I figured it was something that all of us had to deal with so hopefully in the end things would even out as they should anyway. I went as fast as I could, but was mostly just biding my time and recovering looking for opportunities to get around traffic and seizing on them when I could. Every now and then I would catch sight of Bob’s jersey and I estimated his gap to be at about 30 seconds. I was happy with that.
Then I started taking risks. Gaps in traffic would open up long enough to where I could finally really pin it and started hitting corners and downhill stretches right on the limit trying to make up time. About half-way though the race now, solidly in 2nd place, I’m already thinking that if I don’t screw something up and ride within my limits I should have this spot nailed down. But of course, that’s not good enough….pin it, drop into the Goat Trail descent, stay off the brakes, make up time…..
After my breath came back and I realized that no body parts were broken (my ribs were throbbing, but not cracked as far as I could I tell), I grabbed my bike and aside from the broken off saddle everything else on it was in perfect working order. Wheels? Both true and no rotor rub. Rear derailleur? Intact and it works fine. Bar Controls? Not one lever was out-of-place.
So pleased that I at least wouldn’t be faced with an hour+ walk out of their and a DNF, I thought well, at least I can pedal this thing out even if I have to stand the whole way. I grabbed my broken off saddle and stuffed it in my jersey, and as I began to pedal, I began convincing myself that I should still give it my best. I was still sort of dusting off the cobwebs as I finished off the remainder of the Goat Trail descent, and sorting through my options: Time wasted in the crash: Maybe 5 minutes of stoppage time? Could just cruise it in: At least I’d get a finishing time and another USAC race under belt for Nationals. How many people passed me as I stood there? A bunch, but a lot were from other age categories that I had lapped. What place was I in? Hmmm, could I still be in the top 15? top 10? That’s not so bad. Can I really race the last 40-45 minutes with no saddle? Just don’t sit down you idiot, you can do this, you’re a single speeder and are used to standing.
The remainder of the race is a bit of a blur. It hurt pretty damn bad, I wanted and needed to sit on the flat sections where you need to just power down, but with nothing else to do I just dealt with it, and stood and smashed the pedals. Smash. Smash. Smash. Steadily reeling in all the lapped folks that I passed, then got passed by as I sat on the side of the trail with no air in my lungs, and then I began recognizing riders in my age category and I passed them too. I had no idea what place I was in, but I was still going to give this my best shot. My ribs were screaming in pain, but I figured they were just bruised and all would be fine..Smash. Smash. Smash.
Crossed the finish line exhausted and elated that I finished. Found out that Bob won by a few minutes and Scott Leland ended up 2nd. Me and my friends at the finish line inspected my helmet and realized that the impacted area was smashed and dented in, and looking that ribs on the inside, it was clear that THREE of them were cracked clean through. Like little earthquake fissures. Holy shit I guess that was a hard impact. I had no idea where I ended up, but I just wanted to get out of there really. Tired. A bit bloodied. And worried that once the endorphins wore off, my ribs and torso was REALLY going to start hurting.
Found out later during the drive home that I was able to claw my back into 5th place. I was stoked, but it is bittersweet.
Time to heal up with lots of trips to see Dr. Shigemoto who has been helping me out a ton this year (http://www.shigemotochiropractic.com/)
Next up is Bogg’s 8-Hour solo in 2 weeks……not sure about that at the moment……
There is an indie pop-punk band from my former hometown of Philadelphia, PA called Beach Slang that I have been listening to a ton lately. They came across my radar as I’ve listened to each of the band members respective previous bands going back 15 years or so now to my college days (edit: um, possibly 20 years….). So it was interesting to hear what these guys are up too lately and even with a grand total of just two 7″ releases to date, these eight songs are so have found regular rotation on my playlists lately with their raw un-produced sound, catchy hooks, and heart-on-sleeve lyrics.
So at races, I tend to always get a song stuck in my head that sort of becomes my mantra during the race and this year’s version of the Napa Valley Dirt Classic was no different. These songs serve the conflicting roles of both calming my nerves and also firing up and motivating me. The song for me for this year was Beach Slang’s “Punk or Lust” off of their Who Could Ever Want Anything so Broken 7″.
Specifically, there is an infectious anthemic, line at the 1 minute mark that goes: “THIS MACHINE. LET IT BLEED. LET IT EXPLODE!”.
(link directly to lyric at 1 minute mark)
Anyway, having a mantra of “This machine. Let it bleed. Let it explode” sung in my head over and over again may have been a poor choice for this race as I have suffered extremely bad luck each and every time I have done this race. For example, let’s look at my Strava titles for all of the Napa Valley races I’ve ever done:
2011 – “NVDC MTB Race – Made Wrong Turn, Rode in Circles, Doubled Back a Few Miles UGH”
(2012 – skipped race, was probably still lost riding in circles)
2013 – “NVDC MTB Race – 2nd Pro SS (Broken Chain Cost Me First UGH)”
2014 – “NVDC MTB Race – Mechanicals and Speeding Tickets, Not My Day UGH”
2015 – “Napa Valley Mechanical Classic UGH”
So each time I have done this race, I have had a mechanical that negatively impacted my race, or even when I didn’t have a mechanical, I made a wrong turn and got lost…..
Bit of a broken record. UGH.
So singing “This Machine. Let it Bleed. Let it Explode!”….was a great mantra to shout it my head as the gun went off and our Cat 1 class hit the gas up the start line pavement and I got impatient as no one out of our group of 40 or so REALLY seemed to want to hit it so I exploded to the front, took the holeshot, and led the charge onto the dirt and up the first climb stretching the field out until the mandatory run-up climb where I slowed then and allowed for a group of 6 or 7 of us to come back together so I had other riders to work with through the next flat and fast sections.
“This Machine. Let it Bleed. Let it EXPLODE!”…was a great anthem to shout at myself as our group bled watts, poured sweat, and shed a few more riders off our backs and we were down to myself, Curtis Smith from BP, Cole Davis from Limitless Cycling/Folsom Bike, and two other riders that I did not know. I believe just Curtis and myself were in the same Cat 1 35-44 age group, so I was stoked that we were leaving others in our wake and so I just kept on shouting…..
“This Machine. Let it Bleed. Let it EXPLODE!”….and kept pushing. kept smashing as my quads flared in pain soaring up hills and singletrack to stay with the group, and push the pace over the whoops section and through all the super fun shady leafy singletrack on this classic MTB’ers course.
“This Machine. Let it Bleed. Let it EXPLODE!”….while on the edge of control, drifting turns fast with tires hooking up in just the last seconds before disaster. Hurting, but feeling good knowing that everyone else here is hurting too…we’re in this together. Smash, smash, smash.
“This Machine. Let it Bleed. Let it……”….ah #$@! it DID explode! On a choppy high speed straightway, about an hour into the race, I was downshifting and smashing pedals chasing Curtis’s wheel when the chain went flying off.
“This Machine…”…..”it is bleeding, it has exploded” I said to myself as I looked closer and noticed that the chain was not just off, but it was kinked 4x’s around itself and the derailleur was out of whack.
“This damn machine”, I quietly muttered to myself as I burnt 7 – 8 minutes or so un-kinking, re-kinking, and finally untangling for good the chain and then got the derailleur back in line and in functioning order. I’m not sure how many people passed me by on the trail. A lot. Curtis would go on to win our age category and Cole just edged him up putting up the fastest Cat 1 time of the day.
So for my next mantra, the Beach Slang song stuck in my head, for the remainder of my “race” was:
“This city sleeps in a pattern of broken junk, but nights like this, it don’t matter. All this dirty fun”
(link directly to lyric at 20 second mark)
Roughly translated paraphrased and interpreted into: “These races sleep in a pattern of broken junk, but rides like this, it don’t matter. All this is just dirty fun”
Ended up 9th out of 18th after all of that.
Next up, Sea Otter Classic.
EDIT: Bonus, more Beach Slang tunes. Intimate acoustic set via NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts:
Yesterday, TBF Racing held it’s 5th (!) and final MTB race of the Winter/Spring series. Since these races start so early in the year (first race occurs in mid-January), and I needed a little bit of a break following a long cyclocross season that also stretched into January, I’ve only attempted to show up to the last two races to see how the legs are feeling.
The first race I showed up for a few weeks ago wasn’t a good indicator as I burped a tire on lap 2 and basically DNF’d, so with this one I was just hoping to put in a strong training effort, and finish the race.
Giant XTC Advanced SL 29’er
SRAM XX1 Drivetrain with a a 36T front chainring matted to a Quarq powermeter
RockShox SID XX World Cup front fork (100mm boosted to 120mm)
Nox Composites XCR-29 wheelset
Continental Mtn King front tire
Maxxis Ikon EXO 2.2 rear
Link to my Strava File:
The race was 4 laps of a 6.5 mile singletrack circuit with a long gravel start and finish sprint from the timing arch along the shores of Folsom Lake. As usual I got a bad start and in the first few hundred meters of gravel found myself mid-pack and boxed in but I wanted to get to end of this gravel in the lead so I could be first into the singletrack. Halfway down I was able to break outside and hit the gas to launch to the front and create some separation before the singletrack.
After settling down a few moments later, I noticed that it was already just myself and two other racers peeling away off the front with the other two being the brotherly duo of Curtis and David Duncan. Satisfied with that separation, I let up a little and the 3 of us rode up to the bench and then down through the next few miles of rolling singletrack towards the Beek’s Bight parking lot.
As we hit the parking lot, I knew I didn’t want to be responsible for pulling all 3 of us around all morning so having a hunch that one of the two Duncan’s would gladly accept a pass if I swung wide in the parking lot to forego the curbside bunnyhop jump back onto the trail, I did just that and rolled back onto the dirt via the slighly longer route through the boulders. Sure enough, just I’m doing that both Curtis and David both take the faster line popping the curb and then hit the gas. Perfect 🙂 I then jumped on their tires, let them set the pace a bit and watched their lines. For the remainder of this first lap, we stayed together and Curtis was at the front setting a pretty high pace.
The three of us rounded the corner beginning the second lap all together and it was here that David moved to the front. Then it was Curtis, then me. We rolled through some flat singletrack twisters and my sixth sense began barking at me that these two guys, being brothers, could possibly try to work together to drop me. So just as I’m thinking this, whether intentional or not, it seemed as though Curtis left off the gas a little and David was pulling away. Not wanting any part of those (potential) tactics, I kind of forced a pass around Curtis and then jumped right back on David’s tire to avoid any blocking.
David kept up the pace as we went through the neutral water station on the pavement and I looked back and noticed that Curtis was beginning to drift backwards. So what I thought earlier could have been team tactics, was more of Curtis just backing off the pace a bit. From there on out, our gap grew and it was just David and I racing together for the remainder of the race.
This lap was fairly uneventful. David and I stuck together, trading places here and there. The only meaningful event that occurred to me on this lap was during our climb back up to the bench. The middle of this climb tips downward for just a bit through a pretty fun rock garden. It’s nothing crazy technical, but if you hit it just right you can create a small gap causing other riders to burn a match to catch back up and I was able to do exactly just that here.
For those of you on the team that attended our little MTB clinic at Granite Bay back in February, this is the first section that we stopped at to spend some time practicing on and discussing lines. Here is an example of when practicing on the MTB really did help!
After riding through this rock garden I glanced back and noticed that I had created a bit of a gap between us (#foreshadowing). For a second, I toyed with the idea of just gunning it right there trying to drop David. But with another lap and a half to go, I thought I’d wait, and settle for David having to burn some energy to catch back up.
So now on the last lap, we started the climb to the bench one more time with David in the lead setting the pace. With what I learned by going through the upcoming rock garden section at the front of mind, I snuck around David and made the pass just before we started the short descent into the rock garden and then tried to fly through this section as quick as I could.
After the rocks I glanced over my shoulder and saw that I may have had an even bigger gap this time then I did on the previous lap, and so NOW it was go time. I stepped up the pace a bit and started to put some distance between us.
For the remainder of lap 4 I just tried to keep the pace high, and not make any mistakes. Working smoothly around lapped traffic without delay and being careful not to totally blow myself out just in case I needed something in reserve for the end if David happened to catch back up. But luckily I was able to maintain that gap to the finish and hold on for the win. David cruised in behind me just 40 seconds or so back so it was good that I didn’t let up the pace too much as I would have been upon me in an instant. David is super fun to race against and is getting faster and faster so he’ll be threat to keep an eye on for the remainder of the year!
Next up…..some good ol’fashioned mid-week Prairie City racing starting Wednesday and then some USAC races in April with Napa Valley Dirt Classic and the Sea Otter Classic where I want to try and qualify for XC Nationals in July.