Doing it all the hard way...

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Steilacoom Race Report 2018

When the going gets tough....
The Tough go Belgian

With minimal preparation I once again paid money and pinned on a number so I could catch up on my allocation of suffering.   I got bunny into Cyclocross configuration with wide knobby tires.  Fenders, lights and bottle cages were removed and sitting on a shelf in the garage.

In sharp contrast to seasons past I am not working off of a detailed checklist of race day equipment and strict warm up and nutrition protocol.  My tires felt fine in the garage and I had cold cereal for breakfast.
I arrived at Steilacoom and it greeted me like an old friend.  I warmed up and the new course had it all.  Merciless climbs? Check. Daredevil loose downhill? Check. Bumpy grass and lumpy baby heads that force you out of the saddle when you would rather be seated? Check. High speed downhill with sharp corner at the bottom? Check again!  Stacked field of powerful, yet sinewy, racers? When I said it had it all, I meant it.  This is cyclocross baby!

While I said out loud that I wanted to start near the back and hold my position, inwardly I hoped to move up a few spots compared to my last race.  As we were getting seeded into our starting positions I tried to shed my relaxed mindset and get the “eye of the tiger.”   I failed.

The gun went off and I found myself going faster than I wanted, yet slower than I should have been.   A gap started to form early on and I moved up to avoid being in the back group.   On the loose and soft downhill I put my weight back and let it fly. 

Out of the saddle, I pushed on the bumpy flat after the downhill to keep in contact.  Over the barriers and then a chicane leading to the steep, long, steep and muddy (and steep) run up. Shouldering the bike I moved up a spot or two as I felt my heart race.  At the top we remounted and BEGAN a long curvy climb to the top of the course. The run up was so steep I welcomed climbing on the bike.
As the course snaked up and down and back up the lumpy surface was constantly pushing back and disrupting any flow that one might have hoped for.  I was riding big 40mm tires at low pressure yet the surface was beating me senseless.  I can only imagine what the course would have felt like in 32mm tires at 65 psi (Hayes style).

At the top you made a left turn and flew down to the bottom in one slippery push.  At the end of the fast downhill the course turned from wet pavement onto loose gravel on a corner that was well past ninety degrees to the left.  On my third lap the rider in front of me locked up, completely missing the turn.  He went straight and blew through the course tape like he was breaking the tape at the end of a marathon.  I don’t know if he ever got back on course or just called it a day.  I backed off and made the corner with minimal slippage.

As the race wore on my legs, lungs and low back all complained and were told to shut up. I was glad to get the bell for one to go (meaning I wasn’t going to get lapped by the leader of the 35 plus field that had started two (or more) minutes ahead of our group).  I continued to push and looked ahead for riders to catch.

On the last lap I caught a couple stragglers from the 35 plus and 45 plus fields.  Those guys looked defeated and could not have been excited to have yet another 55 plus rider pass them.  They were, however, totally blown and I passed them quickly.  

I looked over my shoulder on some of the final curves to see if I had put enough distance between myself and the riders I had passed on the last couple laps.  Sure enough there was a big gap and I could enjoy the final hundred meters to the finish line.  I didn’t really back off, but I didn’t dig to gain a second or two either.
Afterwards I found The Wizard of Coz and we shared a fist bump.  I continued to ride for ten or fifteen minutes in hopes of chasing the lactic acid out of my legs.  I was tired and it felt good.  I was racing again.  I returned to my car and recognized the guy parked next to me was the same guy who had missed the turn at the bottom of the downhill.  His knee was bloody and he realized I was the guy who was about to pass him when we miscalculated the turn. We shared a few encouraging words.  It struck me that if I had to choose to be the one who crashed trying not to be passed and the one who had chased down that guy, my preference was to be the one who survived and finished.

At times it seems foolish to dress like a superhero and race other old men with similar obsessive behavior traits.  Back at work on Monday I compare weekend experiences with the other middle aged men I work with.  After listening to guys whose weekend highlights were beer and television, my trivial race seems to make more sense.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Our Fondo has a bakery stop

Reloaded and ready for more
In 2014 I rode the Winthrop Fondo.  That year it was on the old course and the event was held in June.  It was hot, but the elevation kept the temperatures cool enough that only on the final climb up Lester road was it uncomfortable. In 2015 a handful of us did it and lived to tell the tail.  In 2016 many of us did it as a group and had a great, though predictably shattering, experience.
 El Jefe' in 2016
For 2017 we opted to assemble the same weekend as the Fondo, but instead did a five hour gravel ride as a group instead of seven to nine hours of hurt punctuated by cramps and cursing.
This is much better than killing ourselves.....
For 2018 we again chose the Fondito (little Fondo) option.  We still had a full day that left us spent, but the ride did not shorten our expected lifespan. 

McWoodie, Marcel and Einmotron came over on Friday morning and met at Cramps place.  They were all eating lunch when I arrived and before long we were in costume and racing along the trails on the valley floor. 

We had a rollicking good time that included single track with short steep climbs and winding ski trails that allowed for stinging accelerations and “look out ahead” cornering.   We hit some late summer duff and the resulting cloud totally obscured the heavily rutted trail.  Marcel went down and was lost in the cloud.  
Heading back to Mazama we were all down in the drops and drilling it as fast as the winding trail would allow.  I was fortunate to be able to anticipate the familiar twists and turns and felt bad for those who did not.  After our ride Cramps had to head back to the waiting perils of city life.

The next day The Punisher and Coz arrived and after some coffee and vittles were ready to partake in a heaping helping of gravel. 

Under grey skies we rolled out with food in our pockets and extra layers just in case the skies opened up.   We climbed Lester and then up and over to join Beaver Creek.  This was just the start of our riding and we topped off our bottles with some water we had cached for just this occasion.
Then the serious climbing started as we made our way toward Starvation Mountain.  Up road 4225, then up 4230.  The endless series of false summits would have broken our spirits if we didn’t have the beauty around us to remind us why we were here.   Then we reached the secret passage that took us to 4235.  Here we regrouped and put on more layers.  Instead of the day getting warmer as it had on Friday, it had gotten colder.  Soon we were climbing again as we now headed east. 

The views opened up to our right.  Bear Mountain and Loup Loup stood tall and green.  Beyond them, the Sawtooth range.  This was what made the ride worthwhile.  I knew there wasn’t much climbing left, and my eyes kept searching for the road to flatten out. 

After peaking out we zipped up and braced for the cold descent.  The descent was fast and loose. We hunted for better lines as the washboard bucked us around like we were riding jackhammers.  My hands were numb by the time we reached the pavement which didn’t last long.  

On the punchy lower slopes of Balky Hill my left adductor cramped.  “Oh good,” I said out loud to no one.  I stopped and Marcel passed me.  I had been carrying a small bottle of the product “Pickle Juice” which had been recommended by Fatty who has all kinds of cramping problems as a miracle drug. 

I swigged the two ounce jar and yes, it tasted like pickle juice.  I restarted and my left adductor seemed a bit better but less than a minute after swigging the juice my right adductor joined the party.  I soft pedaled for five more minutes then realized my legs felt okay now.  I ramped it up.  No cramps.  I really ramped it up.  No cramps.  I am a believer.
We arrived at our planned stop of the Cinnamon Twisp Bakery.  We ordered sandwiches and salty chips.  We were in good spirits with only one big climb remaining.  Someone asked if we were in town for the Fondo. We replied that we were doing our own Fondo.

After eating our fill we slowly remounted.  I had to take the short way back to let out Tux who had been alone in the cabin for too long.  The rest of the group went up the Twisp River Road and when they turned onto Little Bridge Road they were met by a member of the fire crew who told them they could not pass.  After some conversation and bonding sprinkled with an outpouring of charm the guardian discreetly waved on the men in black and orange.  They then climbed the winding gravel road to Thompson Ridge and then partook in the reward of descending Bluebird and Radar Creek and tempting fate along Patterson Lake only to cap off the day with a ripper down the Winthrop Trail.

After showers there were heaping plates of salad, pesto bread and spaghetti to be devoured. 

We capped off the weekend with a Sunday ride up and around Sun Mountain.  A final lap of the descent down Radar Creek and the Winthrop Trail was the icing on the cake.  After showers the group packed up and left as the rains started.  You can hope for this kind of timing, but you should never expect it.

Sometimes you get lucky!
Hey everyone, meet Adam.  Our newest grandchild.  He is smiling at Hottie in the photo