Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bear Springs Trap

Time for another race.

This time it was Bear Springs Trap, which is a little south of Mt. Hood just off Highway 26.

On a random note - the Prius got 40.1 miles per gallon, even loaded down with 3 200# men, and a bike hanging off the back of the car.  Pretty impressive since it included climbing over Mt. Hood, twice.

We got there pretty early, and snagged a choice parking spot right near the course.  We stood around, killing time until about 45 minutes before the race, at which point I started warming up.  I rode up a gravel road for a while and then hopped on a single track to follow some people riding around.  It turns out I got on at the far-point of the initial lap, and I rode the single track back to the start.  I tried to keep the heart rate low and gentle, but some of the singletrack was pretty rocky and technical and I got pretty revved up.  But I was happy with about 30 minutes of riding.  I downed some water and a Clif bar to make sure I was topped up.

I thought I might have a few more minutes to warm up, but realized that the Pro men were starting at 11 sharp, so I should find the start and get ready.  You see, I'd looked at the starting schedule when I checked in, and I knew I would be starting after the CAT 2 men, and just before the CAT 2 women - right around 11:14 am.

Well... it appears that the Clydes were moved up and started ... I still don't know when.  When the last bunch of CAT 2 men (45+) were lining up, we heard the OBRA official say that after that were the CAT 2 women.  Someone shouted, "wait, what about Clydesdale?!" - and we were told that they'd already left, and the official had announced it 3 times already.


I was pissed.

I let out a frustrated curse and tried my best to catch up to the Clydes in front of me - wherever they were.

I'd read about the start on Mel's blog from her post about last year's race, and as I rounded the corner and saw that the course went straight up the power line.  And... there was a huge pack of people walking their bikes up.  Gah.  I rode right into the back of that, and luckily most of the people had already reached the top and I was able to ride up the whole thing, passing the tail end of the CAT 2 men.

I knew that I had to get in front of as many folks as possible, because like all the other races, once you enter a single track section, you're pretty much locked into place - and if you're behind someone slow, the people in front will begin to gap you.  And I didn't know where the other Clydes were...

I was in the middle of a group of around 15 guys when we hit the singletrack, and we got pretty bunched up early on because of some rocky sections.  People began to get frustrated and yell "if you walk, move to the side" - which doesn't really apply when everyone has to walk b/c some dude is clogging up the entire trail.

A few passes later, we finished the first of the 3 loops of the ride, and were a little spread out.  We entered a climb, and my mad dash had caught up with me.  For the first 20 minutes, I had an average heart rate of 181 - which is basically my limit (using the standard calculations).  Ignoring the fact that I shouldn't be able to sustain max heart rate for 20 minutes, I knew I couldn't keep it up.  And, sure enough, right after that first loop the trail began to climb again, and I had to slow down.  A handful of people passed me going up (what?  that's my strength damnnit, they can't do that!) and I settled into a slower pace to recover, and the next 20 minutes I was down to an average of 170.  The numbers are all thanks to Strava, I wasn't looking at them during the ride.

The trail so far had been an absolute blast.  There were long sections of rollers - where you couldn't sit down because the rollers would throw you into the air.  I'm still not quite sure how to ride these fast going up.  Going down, you pump them like the BMX kids do in the parks, but up ... I like to sit and power the pedals, but you can't sit - so stand I did.  So, when there weren't rolling bumps, the corners were well banked, and mixed in all of that were short sections of big rocks.  You wouldn't fall asleep on this ride.

I tried eating a little snack and getting some fluid in, but it was a challenge given the terrain.  I opened my little snack bag up and had a few Dots, and I drank some water from the CamelBak.  I left the snack bag unzipped for easy access ... and lost nearly all the Dots at some point.  Live and learn - don't pack the bag so full next time.

After about an hour of riding I was still thinking about the late start and lamenting that, but the pack had stretched pretty thin, and I could only see two or three people at any one time.  We hit a few straight roads and descended toward the ravine.  The CAT 2 folks take a sharp left at the ravine, while CAT 1 dives down it for a quick lap of hurt.  The trail traverses the top edge of the ravine with what I imagine are some pretty views - I was more focused on the fist-sized rocks littering the narrow trail, threatening to dump me off the edge.  That whole section is actually a 20 minute long climb - the first 10 are next to the ravine, and the rest are a bit safer and steeper.

We then dive down a half mile to the bottom of the ravine and then tackle a very technical 10 minutes of trail along the stream.  It's very rooty, lots of little ups and downs with twists and rocks and more roots.  I did pretty well, but did walk a couple short sections.  I remember thinking, "I could spend half an hour here, trying until I can ride the route clean, or ... I can spend 20 seconds walking it." Walking won out.

Then it was time to climb out of the ravine - over 6 minutes climbing up a 12.5% grade, with a couple of tight switchbacks thrown in.  This was where I had planned on catching and passing people, giving them my best Lance Armstrong look and dropping them like he did Ulrich in 2001.  But... at this point, there really were no other riders.  I'd passed one guy in the technical terrain next to the stream - and one guy passed me (never to be seen again).  That was it.  As I climbed out, I was tailing a really young kid - a teenager, and I couldn't quite catch him.  I nearly did just before we got to the road at the end, but I didn't push it because he wasn't in my category - and there was nobody behind me.

I officially finished in 2:05:33, about middle of the pack for CAT 2 men, and a minute and a half in front of second place.  I don't remember passing him, but I obviously did.  I chatted with him briefly and asked when he started the ride, and he was the one Clyde who started early (I think with the first CAT 2 men).  So, I really beat him by several minutes, but I'll just take the gold.

Sam and Dad were there at the finish to congratulate me.  They took my bike and I wandered around in a bit of a daze, eating some potato chips.  I changed and we drove home.

Looking back on the race, I'm very happy with my descents.  I caught some people on the down hills and even passed them - which I haven't done in other races.  I think I rode the banked corners pretty well (still going a little slow into them), and I managed the rollers pretty well too.  My climbing was a little disappointing because I did get passed by a number of people, but I was a bit strung out, and it was just skinny guys who passed me.

As always, a good start is critical.  Had I started with the other Clyde, I'm sure I could have been in front of quite a few guys going up that big, initial, climb and been better situated for the long sections of singletrack.

I did end the race without much air in the rear tire.  I could hear it on the corners - all the tread was digging in.  Great traction, but I was a little worried I might burp the tire and flat out.  I'm glad I played it a little safe to finish on that tire, instead of pumping for air (and likely losing the race).  Time to buy a bottle of Stan's.

All in all, a great course - I had a good time once I let go of the start.  It's very technical, and my bike handled it great - at least once I was out of control and on a horrible line only to have the shocks absorb the obstacles in my way.  I think the brains really did help on the climbs as I saw other folks bouncing on their bikes during warm-ups.  I'm very glad that I got a good warm-up in, I was able to punch it right from the start and didn't have any weariness in my legs until the end of the race.

Food-wise, I need to pack it a little better so I don't lose it on the trail.  I liked having water in the CamelBak and an energy drink in the bottle - it felt good to get some tasty beverage during the ride.

Two races and two first places.  Granted, today's race only had 3 other Clydes, only one of whom was competition, but it felt good.  I feel confident that a top-3 placement is possible for any of the rides I've got coming up.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Mud Videos

Another video of the Mudslinger from this year.  Very well put together.

I even make a brief cameo in it at 3:33 (good number, eh?)

And the guy made a video of the start of last year's Mudslinger, poor quality, but again, I'm in it -front and center at 1:27 - I take up more pixels than anyone else...

And another Mudslinger video from 2012, it has good quality but does suffer from not showing me...

Friday, April 12, 2013

There Was Mud

This past weekend I raced in the Mudslinger, the second OBRA XC race of the season.  As predicted, the rain came and saturated the trails, ensuring the race lived up to its name.

I hitched a ride with a buddy from Team Dirt and we helped man the registration tables.  I enjoyed meeting a bunch of the riders and checking out the competition - they certainly ran the gamut from very casual to the nervous beginner.

With about 45 minutes to the start, I was released and I got ready for the race.  One of my goals this season has been to get a proper warm-up, and I certainly didn't have enough time to do so here.  In some of the races last year I didn't feel quite ready to do a sprint right at the beginning of the race, and a difference of a position or two going into the singletrack can have a HUGE effect on how the race unfolds.  After dressing and getting my gear situated (how does one dress for a 2.5 hour event that could either be sunny and still, or driving rain - possibly switching between the two in the span of 15 minutes?).  I opted for the knickers (a no-brainer), a long-sleeved undershirt and my thermal, long-sleeve jersey.  I carried a jacket, rain knickers, over-booties, and my buff - figuring if I needed to stop and put those on I was out of the running and just needed to stay warm.

So, with about 15 minutes before the start, I started biking around.  Ripley gave his little spiel before the roll-out to the starting line, and I kept on circling around.  We all rolled out and headed to the starting gate about a mile away.

I made sure to be near the front of the mass because last year I didn't hear the announcement for the Clydesdales and I missed starting with them by 30-45 seconds - which was no fun.

All the pros, CAT 1 men and women, and CAT 2 men started in various waves, and then it was time for us Clydes to show our stuff.  Of course the CAT 2 women were right behind us - giving us a hard time.

Off we went, up hill for 2 miles and 600' elevation gain.  We all sized each other up, and about three minutes into it I realized that this was my time.  I'm crap for downhill, so I'd better use my strength to my advantage.  So I turned on the afterburners and took off up the hill, first catching the straggling CAT 2 men, then passing a bunch of them.  I didn't really look back to see if any of the Clydes were following me - I was hoping not.  Once in a while I'd glance back, but my short term memory is about as good as my descending (not good) and I didn't see any Clydes behind me.

My goal was to put some distance between me and the other Clydes, hoping that I could get a few slow CAT 2 men between me and the others, letting me maintain the gap I'd (hopefully) built up.

I turned down Super Tree - the first downhill section and focused on staying upright.  It's not terribly difficult, but it was a bit muddy and I didn't want to pansy out.  I was riding and heard a voice behind me saying, "you're good... you're good" (indicating he didn't want to pass me).  The singletrack opened up into a road for a short bit before continuing with the descent and WHAM! a Clyde passed me.  sonofabianchi!

I was pretty surprised by his blowing past me so fast and didn't pick up the chase fast enough - he was gone.  I tried picking the pace up down the last section of descent, but I didn't see him again - I actually didn't see anyone until the very end when someone else caught me just as the descent finished.

So, after 15 hard minutes of climbing, I lost my lead and then some in just 6 minutes.  damn.

We had another climb, so I started plugging away, picking off CAT 2 after CAT 2, and then I saw the Clyde.  I caught up to him and we chatted.  He was impressed with my climbing saying I had left him, but he was immediately on my tail maybe a minute into the down, so I couldn't have gapped him very much.  He asked if I'd let him in front if we entered the singletrack down at the same time and I agreed.  I don't think that was a mistake - he was obviously better at that than me.  My mistake was to keep chatting with him and slow down for a few minutes.  We entered a singletrack going up and he missed a shift, so I continued up and up until we reached the next down - Collar Bone Alley.

The day before the XC race, Ripley held a hill climb and a downhill race.  The downhill went down Collar Bone Alley and then down Panama Canal  (I thought it was going to include the top portion of Root Down, but it didn't).  Someone posted a video of his ride down this section during the downhill race.  It's kind of fun to watch - he edited out the 4 minutes of flat/climb between the two downhill sections, and it's not as muddy as it was for me on Sunday.  That said, he finished the downhill in around 12 minutes - it took me 18 minutes to do it.

I successfully navigated the twisty singletrack entrance to the Alley and got into the wide, water-berm studded road section, only to hear a swear and feel someone ride into my rear wheel.  It was that damn Clyde again.  He stayed upright somehow and zoomed on.  I kept on riding, focusing on doing my best to feel safe.  I think that's what I need to work on with the mud - to push that envelope - especially on this section where it's muddy and wide - it's about as safe as can be with wide open mud, so I should let'er rip (a little more).  I don't need to worry about slowing down/stopping because the course is pretty ride-able.  I just have to have a little faith.

I pushed pretty hard once I got to the flat/up between the Alley and Panama Canal, but I didn't see the Clyde.  I settled into navigating Panama - which is about 1/3 twisty and tight, 1/2 flowy, and a little bit of scary.  At the same spot where I split my lip the year before I got off the well-worn path (slightly off-camber and high) and ventured into a branch-filled rut off to the side.  I put a foot and a hand down as two people passed me and I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn't have a real crash.

Just a minute later I reached the bottom and turned up the hill, resolving to catch the Clyde.  Afterwords I checked results, and he finished the downhill section of the race in 13 minutes, where it took me 18 - so I definitely had ground to gain back - likely too much.

So I started grinding up the hill.

To my surprise, I see the Clyde riding back down.  I asked what happened, and he said he broke his wheel. "yay" I thought, I'll take that.  I relaxed a little bit knowing that he wasn't going to be passing me on the downs any more that day.  Of course I had no idea how far ahead of the other Clydes I was...  And, to be honest, a number of the CAT 2 men looked like they would have qualified for the Clyde category.

I kept racing, and no big dudes passed me (though, honestly, I was the largest Clyde by a fair margin).

During the first two climbs I didn't pay attention to my heart rate much, but when I glanced down I could see that the rate was at 91-92% of my "max" (just determined by age, but it's generally been accurate for me).  I usually can't handle riding at >90% for more than a couple minutes, but most of the first two climbs were above 90%.  I don't know if my heart rate monitor was a little off, or if the warm-up just dialed me in.

Back to the middle climb...

This climb has some pretty steep sections at the beginning, and it took me 36-40 minutes to finish the climb.  I didn't push as hard as the first two climbs (hmmmm... mistake?) but I kept the effort level pretty high.  Nobody was passing me - so that was good.

I knew that the top was just past the aide station, and that Root Down was next.  Last year I walked a section of it because I was scared.  I'd asked a number of friends from Team Dirt who were good racers for some tips on riding in the mud.  Their tips were useless: "don't use the brakes, ride it out." I guess there's no magic bullet.

At the top I resolved to give it my best shot, to grow a pair and actually race as though I wanted to win this thing.  I knew that if I walked it, it'd be slower and I'd let the other Clydes catch up.  So I rode.

I took some sections real slow, and I put a foot down once on the first section of downhill.  Actually, as I did that, a guy went to pass me (plenty of space, it was all good) and he fell.  I had to laugh a little.

When I got to the bottom of the first section of Root Down I let out a huge WHOOP! of excitement - I'd ridden it all, in the mud.  I didn't remember what the second section held, but I was pumped and ready.

It turns out, there's more roots and a big switchback with a steep drop.  I walked that little section - about 100-150' total.  I saw other guys walking it too, so I didn't feel emasculated.

At the bottom of all that we rejoined the first loop, did some climbing, and re-descended the Collar Bone Alley and Panama Canal - staying on my wheels the entire time.

I felt like I rode the downhill better in the second half - I remember letting the brakes out and picking up some speed in sections, but looking at the Strava data...

I took descended the downhill in 18 minutes the first time, and 19 the second.  Bummer - I thought I was going so much faster.

Of course, after reaching the bottom of Panama Canal, I still had 2 miles of riding on a gravel road to reach the finish line.

I felt pretty good - nobody had passed me on the ups, and only a few small guys (and the one Clyde) passed me going down.  I started riding on the road and noticed two people behind me.  Nobody was going to catch me on the gravel, so I upped the tempo.

With these two miles left, things changed for me.  The previous 2 hours and 20 minutes I was limited either by my aerobic/lung capacity going up or my fear going down, and in these last 10 minutes my lungs felt great - but my legs were starting to die.  I pushed on, seeing that I had a good chance to finish in under 2:30.

Officially, I finished in 2:28:27, 8:40 ahead of the next fastest Clyde.  Woo-hoo!  Not only had I gotten on the podium, I'd blown through my goal of finishing in 2:45 and did a sub 2:30 race.  I looked back on older race results (Clydes have only been a category for 3-4 years) and I finished faster than any Clyde has finished the race!  Course conditions were comparable to last year's - at least Trevor Norland's time was within a minute of last year's.

So, I was super stoked with my performance and the overall results.  I talked briefly with the Clyde who broke his wheel - and he'll be at the next race too.

My takeaway ... a good warm-up is key, I did OK this time and it really helped.  Being in the right starting heat calms the nerves, and my time to hammer is on the climbs!  Also, I can ride mud better than I could last year, but I need to keep working on my descending - I'm losing too much time.

I was 1st out of 6 Clydes (only 5 finishing), and if I'd raced as a CAT 2 40-49, I would have placed 8th out of 27 - pretty reasonable.  No CAT 2 women caught me, so I didn't owe anyone a beer.

Thanks to Oregon Velo for the photos.  In the last two you can see the Clyde I was leapfrogging in the white jersey behind me.

Snow and Sun

I haven't skied in years, and Simone has never skied. We changed that a couple of weekends ago when we went to Hoodoo. Mary stayed home because she was feeling under the weather.
We got to Hoodoo at noon, ate a little lunch, got our gear on and headed to the lodge.
The conditions were perfect: no wind, just below freezing, and turned from high clouds to sunny blue sky.
I signed Simone up for the beginner class and left an excited girl in a room of strangers.
I hit the slopes and got in a fun hour and a half before Simone's lesson finished. Hoodoo is so nice - a full day and a half after a 9" dump, I was still able to find little pockets of untracked powder in the trees. It wasn't quite like riding a bike, but it came back pretty quickly.
I checked in on Simone halfway through her lesson - they'd just come outside from the instructions inside - and she was still having fun. I kept Mary updated via text messages.
I skied down to Simone at the end of her lesson to watch a little snowball fight and got the scoop that she was doing great. The lesson only progressed to them walking up a green carpet and sliding down 20 feet of practicing pizza slices and French fries (snow plow and parallel).
I asked Simone if she wanted to ride the lift, and she was game.
I think I was more nervous than Simone about getting on the lift. She hopped up with a little help from me, and as soon as we were up in the air she said, "this is FUN!!!"
We spent an hour skiing down the bunny slope together, and finished with snow angels and and a snowball fight in a huge patch of fresh powder.

Sunday, April 07, 2013


Simone is often figuring out who she wants to be for Halloween. It might be a pig, or a ballerina, I can't remember all the crazy ideas she's had.
Tonight she came out of her room because she couldn't sleep. So I tucked her back in. As I was leaving she said, "I have to tell you one more thing. For Halloween I want to be Elvis. We have to get the wig and the big eyebrows."

Where did she learn of Elvis?

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Snip Snip

Nana was down a few weeks ago, hanging with Simone. I guess there was a lull in the action, and Simone zipped off to find a pair of scissors and some space in the bathroom to take care of a tangle in her hair. And her bangs were a bit long too. Snip, snip.

Tsk tsk nana. This comic strip is for her.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

How to save $150

What so you do when you get a new bike and find that it doesn't fit on your old Yakima Steelhead rack because the disc brake caliper gets in the way?

You can drop $150 and get a fancy new rack.... Which of course only works for one newfangled bike, so don't try to bring someone else along.

Or, you can get a hacksaw and a file and start cutting away. I think the result looks pretty good.

Upcoming Mud

It has been absolutely beautiful in Corvallis the past few weeks.  The trails are dry and fast, the sun has been shining, birds chirping.  People were starting to think spring had no showers!

But, that had to come to an end.  Why?  Because the Mudslinger XC Race is this weekend, and it has to live up to its name.

I didn't do the pre-ride this year, but have been out and about - finding little bits of mud to get accustomed to riding in the slick.  I'm not real excited about the "Root Down" section of trail - last year I walked it during the Mudslinger because it is steep, and when muddy - it's scary.  I rode it well during the TOE 50, but it was dry then.  Other than that section, I'm pretty psyched for the race.

My goal (which I set last year after finishing the Mudslinger) is to get on the podium for the Clydesdale category.  If last year's times are any indication, I've got to finish 22 minutes faster at around 2:45.  Given that I had a mechanical that stole 7 minutes and kind of sapped my resolve to race super fast, I think it's totally achievable.

A first place might be within reach, but the guy who finished first last year is a really strong rider, and I did have nearly 6 weeks off, so my training isn't quite where I wanted it to be.  Nonetheless, I'm ready to give it my best shot.

If you're curious what it's like out there in the woods, there are a couple of videos worth watching.  The first is really well produced and shows the beauty of the riding in Blodgett.  It's from the TOE race from last year.

Test of Endurance from Mike Ripley on Vimeo.

The second is Mike Ripley's introduction to the Mudslinger, and shows some action from the viewpoint of the rider.  Like most videos shot from this angle, you have no good gauge of how steep or flat any particular section of trail is.  So, imagine it real scary, or not:

And, while I'm putting videos in, check out this video of the High Cascades 100, the race I'm aiming to finish in the end of July.  You can also read one guy's realistic account of it here.

                        Watch more video of 2012 High Cascades 100 NUE #6 on

Let the racing begin!                

Monday, April 01, 2013

Easter Birthday

Easter fell on my birthday this year, and Mother Nature came through in spades.

Simone woke up to a basket from the Easter bunny full of books and stickers - very exciting. Then the Easter egg hunt began. Simone used to not enjoy looking for things, but the eggs were more than enough incentive.

Mary and Simone headed over to church for service and another hunt while I headed out on a birthday ride. At the top of McCulloch peak I ran into a friend on Team Dirt - Joe. We were headed in the same direction so we put together a bunch of single track from the peak through Iris Meadow and all the way to Jackson Creek. Joe has just moved into the valley and he pointed out his house - literally a stone's throw from the forest entrance. Anyway, an awesome ride made better by sharing it with a friend.

In the afternoon, Simone decorated the maple tree with plastic eggs and we just hung out until Rose, our sitter, came. Then Mary and I had a lovely walk to dinner and back, and then I made a gin and tonic with a new bottle of gin from Yum!

All in all, a good day. I'm not sure how Simone is feeling today after eating all those jelly beans... She'll get through it.