Monday, April 29, 2013

Singlespeed-A-Palooza '13

Singlespeed-A-Palooza is a single speed only (hence the name) mountain bike race, organized and promoted by Dark Horse Cycles from Montgomery, NY. 2013 was the 5th year of this race, all which have been on the Stewart Preserve, near the Stewart Airport. This year the course was one 25 mile lap, never retracing where you've already ridden. This was my first year racing SSAP. Initially capped at 250 entries, and with a large following, online registration filled within just a few hours when it opened on February 3. 2013. They later decide to allow 50 additional entries only for smaller classes (women open and sport, fatbike, etc.) Although, last year was my first year racing and spent most of it dealing with injuries and only completed 2 races, I decide to sign up for Pro/Open (112 total entries.)

I am always very nervous before races. "Stay calm," "don't worry about it," "its just a bike race," etc., don't help me sleep any better the night before. I enter races to win. If I don't win, I will always walk away saying I honestly tried the hardest I possibly could. In my opinion, if your going for a bike ride, "Just to have fun," why did you pay to enter an organized race??? Knowing that I probably wasn't going to "win" the entire race my first time in pro/open, I set more realistic goals for myself. I was hoping for top 15 placement, and was shooting for a time of less than 2 hours.

I got down to Stewart early, plenty of time to finally calm myself down after a night full of annoying dreams and anxiety. Once I had signed in, got my number plate, etc I finalized my food/supplement choices for the race, continuing to eat and drink throughout the morning. The I started warming up, alternating short spin rides and stretching. Finally getting close to race time, I decided to go for a bit longer, yet still easy ride, with plenty of time to spare before the race. As I get back, it is 10 minutes before 9am. Perfect, just enough time to stretch again, get a quick shot of electrolytes, hydrate, and still be warm for the start. As I get back I hear, "OK so we're going to get this started a little early!" So I threw myself into the front 20 of the 112, now starting a few minutes before 9.

As the horn sounded, the mass start was off. 112 dudes, bros, men, and monsters, all raging with testosterone, all on bikes with one gear, charging down a 12 foot wide, drainage rut and pot hole filled, loose gravel, dusty road. I had never been in this big of a mass start, and I typically ride alone. It didn't take long to figure out the every one was drafting and using road racing techniques to save a bit more energy before entering the single track. The dust quickly dried my mouth out and I found myself needing water much earlier than I had planned.

The first eight or nine riders entered the single track, I was second in a group of four about 30 feet behind the lead group. I quickly found my goal of keeping the leader in sight withering away. Riders started to spread out rather quickly (at least the top 20 or so) and I set into a good fast pace, with very civilized passing amongst a few riders, either loosing or gaining a position every so often. I was feeling really good. Not having a computer on my bike, I don't know exact mileages of events, but somewhere around 11 miles in I felt something bumping the back of my leg. The rider behind me said, "your seat bag is hanging down." Knowing I would never finish with it like that, I unhappily stopped to fix it. Apparently the strap had ripped, it wasn't just the Velcro that had come undone. After the first fix-it attempt, it fell again, now rubbing on my wheel. I took it off and tried to stuff the bag into my jersey pocket. It fell out, I picked it up and stuffed it in once more, I made it to the next gravel road section, where it fell again. Already having lost about 2 minutes and 6 positions I was not stopping for it. I took off in a sprint, attempting to catch where I had been, which didn't work so well. I burned myself out quick, so I settled back into the same pace, just a few positions back now. I saw the "beer" stand at a bit past the halfway point. I had another full water bottle, no need to stop. Less than a mile after the refill station, my bottle decided to jump the cage and make a break for the trail. No more water. 10+ grueling miles left.

Continuing to an further uneventful finish, I was exhausted and dehydrated, I couldn't control my arms, from a rigid fork on washboard single track, yet I was stoked when I saw 1:46:XX coming across the finish. I knew I didn't place well, but I rode as hard as I physically could have. Results show I came in 18th overall, about 9.5 minutes behind the leader. I am content with my finish and had a good time at the race. Thanks to Revolution Bicycles for the support. HUGE thanks to my parents, family and friends for putting up with me being all crazy for the few days before the race.

Now that the race is over, I can clear my head and focus on my tour, less than two weeks away!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Suck it up and ride.

I'm pretty sure that anyone who has ever planned a life changing adventure could relate to the turning point when it hits you, "Shit just got real." You know when excitement turns to anxiety, when you lay in bed, try to go to sleep, but a bazillion scenarios go through your head, while you stare blankly into the dark. I am confident I can and will complete this trip, but there are still so many "what ifs."

With just about a month until I leave, on a bicycle, from the easternmost point of the country to ride to the westernmost part of the country. I am prepared for the struggle, I am embracing the fear of the unknown. In the pendulum of life, I know I will experience the full swing, from the extreme high of accomplishment and freedom, to the utmost lows of loneliness*, boredom*, and pain.
*specifically directed at some of the mid west states with days on end with next to no human interaction.

Aside from equipment and conditioning, I don't really know how else to prepare, which adds to both the excitement and anxiety side of things. Not long before I realized this trip was going to be a reality, I signed up for a big mountain bike race at the end of April. My original plan for this year in biking was, ride a lot, and focus on racing. Now that the tour has materialized, I am finding it hard to focus on setting tire to trail for the purpose of "training." While I still enjoy racing and the competitive side of biking, I just feel like I've found the deeper meaning in riding. I ride for myself, for the love of the sport, for the love of the freedom of flying through the woods, or down a road on two wheels powered completely by my own body, and gravity. I will be racing SSAP (Single speed-a-palooza) at the the end of the month, and will still race with every last drop of enthusiasm and effort I can find on that day, but I wont be packing my schedule with a race every weekend before that.

A couple thanks:
Revolution Bicycles Great shop, great people, and the right attitude to bicycling in general. Thanks for the support!

Fats In The Cats Mountain Bike Club I've been bumming along group rides, and sneeking around the forums, but I'm not actually a member, like I should be. (I promise to join if I return to NY after the trip.) Thanks for all the hard work on both community and trails.

Renegades MTB Club Another club I'm not a direct member of. Again thanks for all you do for the world of MTB.