Monday, September 28, 2009

All Aboard the Pain Train - a full weekend of racing

After packing and loading up the car on Friday, I left early Saturday morning for Sanford MI. This was the site for the 30 Miles of Pain Haven race, a race which has been intriguing me for a year plus now. As the name states, this is a 30 mile mountain bike race, held at Pine Haven in Sanford. The start is a bit different than a typical race. You do a 1 mile time trial, and your time (relative to other riders) in the time trial determines which wave (of 2 or 3 riders) you start in. Each wave then starts 5 seconds apart. The primary reason for this is that the singletrack starts within 50 yards of the start, and it helps to cut down on bottlenecks going into the singletrack.
I had a mediocre time trial, and started about 5 waves back with Steve Kinley (a Masters rider). There were 3 others in the singlespeed class, 2 starting in the wave prior to me, and the last a few waves up.
I beat Steve to the singletrack, and grabbed ahold of the wheel of the singlespeed rider one wave ahead of me. Unfortunately, he quickly pulled away through the first couple miles of singletrack. When we hit the 2-track, Steve pulled around and took off.
I spent most of the race by myself, except for a bout of cat-and-mouse with a geared "age group" rider. Overall, it was a very enjoyable course, with a lot of doubletrack in the middle. There were a suprising number of hills in this doubletrack also. The twisty nature of the singletrack meant you were frequently seeing other riders, who were either a minute plus ahead of you or an equal distance behind you.
Late on the 3rd (and last) lap, I caught Steve. Afterwards I would find out he suffered a bout of crashes. I also pulled within site of another singlespeeder. unfortunately I was lacking in gas and time to fully reel him in.
I crossed the finish line at 2:19:24 for 4th of 4 in singlespeed. I was 10th of 20 overall (for the 30 mile racers, not counting the sport and beginner classes). All four of us in the singlespeed class were seperated by less than 3 minutes.

Unforutunately, I couldn't stick around for the awards, post-race food, or more than one beer. It was back in the car... next stop Ithaca... for the Ithaca Grand Prix of Cyclocross. Team Sandbag assisted in setting up the course for Sunday's race, and I had volunteered to help. I met up with the team, and we laid out the course. This was followed up with some pre-riding to learn the layout and work out the best lines on some of the corners. Afterwards, we had a nice pasta dinner and a good night sleep.

I had a bit of time before the singlespeed race, so I was able to watch all the other classes. My teammates Curt, Ben, and Lee rocked it out in the 30 minute "C" class race. Following that, I watched Todd and John in the 45 minute "B" class race. John had recovered from an early crash to work his way into the top 5. Unfortunately mid-race he suffered a flat and had to carry his bike ~2/3 of a lap to the pits. Grabbing his pit-bike, he was still able to at least finish.

At 1:15, after my warmup, I was lined up with Ben, John, and 12 others for the 45 minute singlespeed race. At the start, some of the riders made the dash for the cash Prime. John took off with this group: I think he was out for blood after his flat in the "B" race. I held back not wanting to blow myself up right away.
My start was mediocre, and I found myself back in 10th or 11th for the first couple laps. There were a few minor issues due to my jitters/inexperiences: tripping and almost falling on the ampitheater run-up, washing out on a hard left (luckily I recovered without hitting the ground), a few pedal strikes, some bad line choices.
Having worked out the opening jitters, and some of the "heavy legs" feeling that came from racing the day before, I was able to pick up the pace. My line choices became better, I used less brake going into some of the corners, and I was able to put the hammer down on the more open section mid-lap. Over the next 4 laps, I was able to work my way up to what I believed to be 6th or 7th place.
On the bell lap, noting that the next guy back was nowhere within striking distance, I backed off a bit. With one lap to go I didn't want to take any chances. Towards the end of the last lap, I noticed I was within 30 seconds or so of the rider in front of me. Unfortunately (as with Saturday's race) I was out of time to reel him in.
I crossed the line, and later was told that I finished 6th in the 15 person field. Not bad for my first ever cyclocross race. My teammate John rocked it to a 4th place finish.

Riding up the sled hill. We rode about 2/3 of the way up, made a hairpin left turn, and bombed right back down (hitting close to 25 mph). During set-up, it was suggested that we go all the way to the top. By my last lap I was thankful we didn't.

Hairpin left off of grass onto blacktop.

Running up the "Ampitheater of Pain"

Cresting a short climb.