Monday, September 25, 2006

The Vermont 50 - A Race Report

Saturday started on a sour note w/Andy calling early to say he had to bail on the 50, work obligations. Was seriously bummed and for a split second thought about bailing myself. Was dragging my mom, Jenn and baby Seneca along with me, a lot to ask, and had to ask myself, is it really worth it?... but i'd ramped-up the training, riding the day my daughter was born and late at night on the indoor to be ready, I had to go-on w/o my friend - he wouldn't want me to bail!

cruised-up to Ascutney with the fam saturday afternoon, rained all morning, was expecting a wet course and more rains to come, found myself getting fired-up for it, always ride better when the weather turns ugly.

after my mom sprung for a great dinner saturday night, Seneca blessed the race by sleeping as well as she ever has. 435a, up later than optimal for digesting breakfast before a 615a start, choked-down a bagel, then some cold oatmeal using a tire lever. had to scramble out of the motel, but Seneca hadn't gotten her fill of breakfast and cried on the 25m ride to the start, was the saddest morning, felt like the worst dad ever... completely lost focus on what was happening and ended-up standing on the start line full of doubt and misgivings on the whole trip.

with the light barely breaking through the heavy morning clouds, the first wave of riders were off. started in the 2nd row and hung-out in the draft, doing practically no work, occasionally swinging outside the draft to assess the situation. as we rolled down dark country roads, we'd hit thick patches of warm moist air, then a minute later, descend into cooler air, glasses fogging and unfogging every few minutes. the rains had held-off and at 55-60 degrees, was the warmest start to the 50 most folks could remember.

the legs felt heavy, hadn't ridden in two days nor arrived on-site with time to warm-up, so swung left and lightly sprinted up the first climb for 30secs to get an effort in, try to get the legs to open-up a tad. a small gap opened w/my mini-effort and someone says, "here we go". crap! i didn't want to go, but it was too late, as soon as i shut it down a swarm of riders surged past, going much faster than my legs were ready for. it was disconcerting as i didn't want to let the lead group go, but my legs were dead and with breakfast still sitting in the guts, couldn't respond. watching those 8-10 riders pull away was horrible, felt a bit like quitting - my legs were dead, had no idea if they'd open-up, i'd dragged my 3wk old daughter up here, what in the hell was i doing!? had zero focus and needed some if this race was going to go my way.

45mins later i could still see the lead group 2-3mins up the road, occasionally someone would fall back, then surge back up, i focused on my pace and avoided the temptation to bridge-up, this race wasn't about the first 25miles, but about the second 25. my plan for the race from the onset was to ride the last 25miles harder than the first - chase from behind, so in a way things were actually working-out as planned...

The infamous Brian Lyster passed me at this point pushing a 2-1 ratio on his singlespeed. hooked-on like a boat anchor, wasn't thinking about much, just going w/the flow. he stopped at aid station 3 (mile 12-15), so i stopped too, grabbed a banana, cpl dixie cups of HEED, and as i rolled-out realized the stomach had settled and the legs were feeling pretty good... one of my goals for this year's 50 was to eat more, to avoid the bonk at all costs - and if guys like Lyster stopped for 10secs to eat...

soon we were heading up Gavin's Hill (mile 20), one of the nastier climbs in the race and home to the nicest view. through the red and orange leaves sprinkled aross the trail i spotted a small red salamander, creatures i've been fond of since childhood. they represent health in an ecosystem and for some reason i view seeing them as a sign of luck. later, i thought of this salamander with sadness, as its chance to survive the fury of 1000 wheels on 500 bikes was slim... but, for some reason, possibly the salamander omen?, this was the real turning point in my race. Lyster had been slipping away a bit and i couldn't shed a cpl other guys, then suddenly i was alone on top of Gavin's Hill, the view obscured in heavy clouds whose misty tendrils trailed down to touch the open fields. i rode past the aid station, blaring Jimmy Buffet as it does every year, Lyster filling a btl, then down screaming doubletrack alone with little regard to safety, it was on!

within a few minutes i saw another familiar jersey - Brett Racine's, another guy i have nothing but respect for, rides like a tornado, always passes with friendly words. his season took a turn for the worse at the Jay "60" when his knee took a nasty shot, but was back after 2months of recuperation (aka, not riding). he slipped back after we chatted for a minute and any resting i may have done quickly ended as Lyster sped by. Playing the part of boat anchor once again, we rode and chatted here and there, occasionally passing other riders originally in the front group.

By aid station 7 (mile 35), we were on a 4hr 20min finishing pace, 10mins ahead of my expectation, stopped for some old-school electrolytes (aka, a handful of salt) as my legs were twitching a bit. It was awesome to see Jenn holding Seneca, my mom holding a btl out for me... soon after Brian stepped it up a notch and dropped me as the course turned up some grinding climbs, i really wanted to save my legs for the final 5miles, which climbs the backside of Ascutney - and hoped to see him again.

the final 15miles of the course contains the best singletrack, but being as wet as it was really slowed-down the pace, had to take the tight 180 degree turns through the first section of narrow singletrack with the utmost care, wet off-camber roots everywhere, a desperate desire to hammer quickly quelled by a solid crash. eased-up a tad too much and with 10miles to go Racine stormed by while i lubed my chain, firing on a massive second wind. i latch-on thankfull for the pacing.

the next 5miles fly-by and are the most fun of the day, great singletrack, muddy, but can ride it harder than the previous section, Racine setting a great pace, then WHAM! wail my rear tire into a sharp rock and within 60secs it's down to 20psi, but feels like the Stans is holding some air. pull-over to add air, seems to be holding, should i put a tube in it!? no. on the chase now, but within 60secs, feel the rear tire flattening, but fuck it, if i pull-over and slap a tube in, i'll lose 2mins and all hope of catching Racine or Lyster, but if the Stans can keep the pressure at 20psi, i still have a chance...

at the final aid station w/3miles to go i pull-up as Racine and Lyster pull-out, i'm off the bike, add air w/final CO2 and hope for the best. racine's lack of riding the past cpl months rears its head and he offers words of encouragement as i go by (he had one of the gutsiest rides i've ever seen yesterday), but soon i'm down to practically no air, take a turn too hard, burp air out and have to get-off and use the last little bits of my CO2 to get rolling, am now taking it insanely easy, constantly looking back versus forward, crawling along the final cpl miles, legs want to go, been saving them for this hill all day!! final 3miles are agonizing, finally head across the ski hill on a now 100% flat tire and down the slope, rear wheel sliding all over and across the line 4th overall. finished in the same time as last yr (4:42), which was really surprising considering our pace at mile 35, those final muddy 15miles of singletrack were amazingly slow with the rains the night before... winner across 4 1/2 minutes before me, so was definitely bummed about getting the flat, but at the same time it would have taken miracle legs to catch him... Thom P across in his best 50 time, 2nd SingleSpeed! but that's his tale to tell.


Seneca sporting the newest in baby-bike-wear style, Jennifer's design.


At 9/25/2006 12:55 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Still a great result even with the flat! Nice job. Great pics of the baby. Seeing your kid in the pits/crowd is alway a nice motivator. Enjoy.


At 9/25/2006 2:06 PM, Blogger rick said...

nice job and great write-up.

At 9/25/2006 2:51 PM, Blogger Matt DeMeis said...

Right on man.

At 9/25/2006 8:07 PM, Blogger IF Chicks said...

Grreat race daddy-o !
Nice work on the beanie Jenn :)
Hope everyone is recovering from the big trip up to vermont.

At 9/26/2006 6:58 AM, Blogger Andy said...

great race. Glad it all (mostly) worked out in the end. Damn flat!

So, you ate your oatmeal with a tire lever?

At 9/27/2006 3:59 PM, Blogger 55nine Performance said...

congrats! and congrats on the baby! great pics :)


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