Friday, February 26, 2010

South bound and down

When we were approached by Bent's Cycling in Lakeland Florida to consider a trip South for the 12 hours of Santos, there really wasn't much to consider. The weather here in Chattanooga has been anything but typical for us for several months. We have had snow and ice and very cold temperatures most of the winter. So when we heard that it was going to be sunny and 65 degrees in Florida, Mike V and I were figuring out all the details as quickly as possible. We never really looked at this event as an opportunity to race. It was more of a chance to meet with the shop owner and employees at Bent's Cycling. They have recently signed on as an Authorized Lynskey Performance dealer and we wanted to get to know them a little better.

After work on Thursday, we loaded up some bikes we had at the shop and hit the road. We stopped in Macon, GA that night for a little shut eye to break the trip up. It was a slow start on Friday morning but we found the closest Cracker Barrel and had some much needed coffee and breakfast. More driving followed and it seemed that each mile we covered the weather only became better. We hit the Santos Trails mid day on Friday and found the exceptional spot Bent's had saved for us…right past the Start/Finish line and directly next the transition area. This would prove to be a key element in the race. So after some hellos and how are ya's, we geared up and went out for a little test run on the course to assess any necessary bike changes and get a feel for the course. Shorts and short sleeves were the order of the day and it felt amazing. It has been quite some time since I last rode in summer gear.

After we finished our lap, more of the Bent's crew had arrived. We also ran into the Piney Flats race team from East Tennessee. What a great surprise! We hung out in the lot for a while talking bikes and racing and what tire pressure and gear choice are you running, you know the usual. Then some folk from The Great Bicycle Shop in Tallahassee showed up. They are also a dealer of ours so it was a full blown Lynskey party at that point. We all loaded up and went out for a pre-race dinner and some more socializing. What a great group of people. It was a chill evening as we sat around the tents and campers, had a few beers and talked some more shop. It was a great way to wrap up an evening.

The following morning it was business as usual. Sorting gear, setting up the pits, filling bottles, making playlists and all the pre-race preparations you can imagine. I have to mention that Mitch from Mitchell's Coffee House and a Bent's Cycling team member made the most amazing cup of coffee for us that I think I have had in a very long time. That stuff was so good. There was a mass Le Mans start that was going to take place so we tried to strategically place our bikes up the road where we could find them and grabbed a place in the line up. A few pre-race jitters (maybe it was the coffee) and some conversation with some competition and then we were off. Running up the fireroad was not too bad other than the mass chaos and rummaging through a pile of bikes looking for the one you brought. The first lap was pretty crazy and there were several bottleneck sections, but it went pretty smooth overall. By the third lap, the course was flowing nicely and people had started to spread out so you could really get some nice flow on the trails. I think Mike and I were running 3 laps then changing bottles on the 4th. This seemed to work pretty well. He and I rode together and also apart for most of the daytime laps. At about the 7th hour, someone said that you guys (MikeV and I) were in 2nd & 3rd. We were both totally shocked.

We laughed on the way down that we were in Spring Break mode not necessarily in race mode. This was great news for us. But that also meant there was a lot to lose as well. Mike V hit the gas and took off and turned out 2 killer laps that carried us into the darkness. I was just motoring along and trying to stay consistent. I came though on my 11th lap and found out that Mike had put some time in on me and I was sitting nicely in 3rd. When I came though transition the next time, one of the guys in our pits told me that Mike V was only about 4 minutes ahead of me, which was all I needed to hear. I hit the gas and went all out on the last 2 laps. He had just enough time on me to roll in for a solid 2nd place finish and I held onto my 3rd. What a great day after all. Not really expecting too much had paid off. That along with a little in-house rivalry always makes things interesting.

After the race, most of us were pretty worn out and we hung around at the pits for a bit. After the awards ceremony, everyone was ready for some sleep. We woke up early and packed up the mass of gear and bikes we brought down, said our good byes and went to breakfast. We had a wonderful time and want to thank everyone for the hospitality and kindness. Many thanks to Bent's Cycling for taking care of us. Thanks to The Great Bicycle Shop for support and conversation. Thanks to the Piney Flats crew for being there and showing off some of your killer new Lynskey bikes. And last but certainly not least, thanks to the Gone Riding crew for putting on a spectacular event. And of course, many thanks to OMBA for building and maintaining some really sweet trails. Florida had way more to offer than I could have ever imagined. We will see you guys again next year!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Post-Snake Creek and More Winter Weather

It has taken me nearly a week to shake off the personal pain and frustration that went down at the first round of the Snake Creek Gap Time Trial. I know that many people were dissatisfied with their results and times posted, but I have been in a daze. I have not gone over the 4 hour mark in a really long time and I rolled in somewhere slightly under 4:15. You may wonder what the hell was I doing out there? Well a funny thing happened...Let's start with the fact the temps at the start were just a hair over 20 degrees with high winds and snow flurries. Usually I make the decision to under dress for this race despite the conditions since I know I will be warming up fast on the trail. As always, about 2 miles into the start, there is a decent sized creek that you have to cross through. This year it was a bit wider than normal and it was well below freezing outside. I rolled up to it and stopped to get a good look at it. Then backed up and tried to go at it with some speed and lift my feet up with hopes to make it through and not get my feet too wet. Needless to say, that is not how it worked out and I made it about half way in then ran out of speed and wound up walking to the other side. I instantly knew that was going to have an effect on the outcome of the day. As I rolled on, I just tried to put the fact that my feet were soaked out of my mind. The first half of the trail went pretty well. I never put in too hard of an effort, but my main focus was just to keep pedaling and catch the folks that were in front of me. I would roll up on someone, ask to pass and then sit back down and churn the pedals. I went through the first aid station and realized that my bottles were frozen solid along with my shoes and socks. Ice was forming in my pedals from where the water was seeping through my shoes. I eventually lost complete feeling in my feet and then my hands. I remember thinking to myself that I dressed down because I would get never happened.

I tried to stay focused and keep pedaling. That was all I could think about. Around mile 30 or so, I was hauling ass on one of the few downhill sections and rolled my front tire off the rim and launched myself over the bars and crashed hard. It appeared that my valve stem got damaged and the front tire leaked air for a while, but since I had been climbing, it was not very noticeable. Well it became pretty clear that something was wrong on the descents. So with frozen hands, I had to pull off a busted valve stem and proceed to install a new tube to get back on the move. I fumbled with this mechanical for what seemed like forever, but was nearly 10 to 15 minutes. During this time, a heard of guys that started behind me caught up and went on by. This was the nail in the coffin for me. I was cold, shivering and could not feel my extremities. So I pulled it together and just cruised my way back to the finish line. I was truly grateful to be finished that day. I know the Snake Creek course is always difficult, even when you are prepared, but this day was something else. I am glad to have this one behind me and will be taking the necessary steps to be ready for the next one. I can only hope it is warmer next month.