Wednesday, August 27, 2008

American Mountain Classic - Day 4

6am never felt so early as it did on Sunday. The previous night was yet another restless night of poor sleep. How is it possible to ride so much and sleep so little? My legs felt dead, heavy, stiff, sore, you name it. No big deal. I only had the most difficult stage in front of me, with close to 50 miles and over 7000 feet of climbing. At that point, I was in survival mode - just finish. I forced down some food and headed down to the staging area.

Stage 4 was a 24 mile loop that we would do twice. Each loop had over 3500 feet of climbing. We had actually ridden about 2/3 of the course during Stage 3. The course took us up the same paved and dirt roads toward Brian Head Peak, down the Lowder Ponds trail, and then skipped all of the flat/rolling fire roads of the previous stage. Instead, it went straight up the Sydney Valley road and up the same steep single track climb back toward the Peak (I think it's called the Bunker Creek Trail, according to UMB). Fortunately, instead of climbing all the way to the top, the course takes a right turn down the infamous "Dark Hollow" trail. Near the bottom of Dark Hollow, we hung a left at a scout camp, and the loop finished with a 4-5 mile climb back to the start/finish area. You can check out a low-tech profile of the stage here.

I figured I'd have plenty of time to take pictures during this stage, so I brought the camera along. Here are a few pics of the staging area and start.

Tony and me pretending to look forward to the stage:

The "peleton" at the start:

Tony getting ready to drop me:

The race started pretty mellow again while everyone tried to get their race legs back. It took me a while, but after the first 20 minutes or so, my legs were actually feeling quite a bit better than I had expected. Tony went out ahead as usual, but I was able to keep him in sight all the way until I reached the top of the dirt road climb. As we were funneled onto a short, steep, rocky single track to finish the climb, Lynda Wallenfels snapped this picture of me:

Yesterday on stage 3, I was able to catch Tony on the descent down Lowder Ponds going into the feed zone, so I hoped to do the same thing today. Just after this picture was taken, I was feeling the flow on the DH, hopping over rocks and carving the corners. And then I heard the dreaded hissssssss coming from my back tire.

I still don't know for sure what caused the flat because it happened on a completely straight and smooth section of the trail. I hopped off my bike and found the puncture. It was a 1/4 inch tear in the sidewall. My only guess is that a sharp stick jabbed the side of my tire as I rode by. I tried to position my wheel so that the Stans sealant would do it's work, but it never sealed. From there, it was a comedy of errors. I took my back wheel off (which seemed to get hung up by the chain more than normal), grabbed a CO2 Big Air and went to work. For whatever reason, I couldn't get the CO2 to properly empty into my wheel. Chad had a similar problem on Stage 2 and I think I ended up with the same faulty CO2 nozzle/valve thingy that he previously had. I gave up on the Stans and took off the tire and rim strip, emptied out the excess sealant and started to throw in a tube. I fumbled with the tube and tire for a while before I got everything properly mounted. I begged a hand pump from another racer, and I reached down to unscrew the valve stem so I could start pumping. To my surprise, the valve was completely missing from the tube. The stem consisted of an open passageway from the outside to the inside of the tube, which doesn't really help much. The thought of DNF'ing the entire race went through my mind. We were less than 30 minutes into the race when the flat happened and I'd been fiddling with my tire for 15 more minutes. My only tube was a dud, and not many more people would be coming by. A guy came into view and I practically threw myself in front of him on my knees begging for a spare tube. He was incredibly nice and reached in his pack for a tube, and then said, "shoot, you're a 29er, aren't you?"

"Yes, but a 26 is going to have to suffice", I replied.

He tossed me the tube and I stretched it into place around my big wheel.

While I was pumping and waiting for the tube to explode in my face, the guy says "Hey, aren't you Aaron Smith?"

"Yeah, that's me. How did you know?"

"I'm Tony's friend, Doug. He'll kill me if he finds out I'm helping you."

I laugh it off and say "Your secret is safe with me" (which it obviously isn't). "The race for first is over anyway. Right now it's about finishing and hopefully hanging onto second. Plus, Tony is the nicest guy around. I'm sure he'd have it no other way."

Doug chuckles and says "Tony's a lot more competitive than he lets on. Plus, you just never know what might happen over the next 5 hours."

I pumped the tire up to about 40 psi in hopes that I wouldn't pinch flat and we headed on our way. I figured I'd been stopped for close to a half an hour, but at the end of the race I compared my ride time to the elapsed time on my bike computer and figured it really took me about 24-25 minutes. Either way, I knew there was no chance of catching Tony plus making up the 16 minute deficit, but I did have a 2nd place finish to try and recapture. By the time I started riding again, I'm pretty sure that there was nobody behind me in the entire race.

On the way down Lowder, I snapped this pic of the valley below. It's not the best, but I was riding at the time:

I made a few passes on the descent and made it to the first feed zone without blowing out my 26 inch tube. I grabbed two 29er tubes and was on my way. I made a few passes on the climb up Sydney Peaks Road, and a few more on the "uper steep" (thanks Jon) climb up Bunker Creek, including Clayton Bell from Arkansas. I mentioned in my Stage 2 write-up that Clayton was the toughest rider at the AMC, and now I'm about to tell you why. I pulled up behind him and greeted him with a hello. He replied back, but sounded kind of weird, like he'd just gotten home from the dentist and his mouth was filled with novocaine. I asked if everything was okay. He responded that while descending Lowder, he reached down to unlock his fork, lost control, crashed and knocked out three of his teeth. Actually, I take that back. He only knocked out two teeth. He PULLED OUT the third tooth! I asked him why he was still riding his bike. He told me that he was going to finish. He'd come all the way from Arkansas to race, had already ridden 130 miles, and there was nothing he could do now about his teeth, so he was going to finish. Not only did Clayton finish, but he ended up winning his class. Just before I pulled away, I asked if I could take his picture, and he obliged. Caution, the content is somewhat graphic:

As I rode away from Clayton, I thought to myself, if Clayton can finish with 3 missing teeth, the least I can do is give it my best effort for the rest of the race. So I did. I climbed the rest of Bunker Creek, and started the descent down Dark Hollow. Dark Hollow is the most rocky, steep, rooty, crazy down hill I've ever ridden. In other words, it's a little slice of heaven. I passed more people on the Dark Hollow descent than anywhere else (remember though, that I basically started at the very back end of the race). It's not too hard to pass when most people are walking. I got fairly beat up on the way down with my hardtail and 40psi tire, but felt okay once I got to the bottom.

I climbed up the single track back to the start/finish area and came in with a somewhat dreadful 3:07 lap time. My lovely wife Wesla was waiting for me with a bottle and food, and she said that Tony was about 10 minutes in front of me. I was quite stunned, since I figured he'd be closer to 30 minutes in front of me. I did the math and realized that minus the flat, Tony and I could have been in a pretty close race. If I could keep up the same pace and avoid any additional mechanicals, I figured I had a chance to at least catch him during the second lap, so I quickly took off.

Up the roads, down Lowder Ponds, and through the feed zone, and no sign of Tony. By this time, I had caught and passed the 2nd and 3rd placed guys in our category, so my 2nd place was pretty secure. I figured if there was any chance of catching Tony, it would be on the descent down Dark Hollow. That meant I'd better give the last big climb everything I had. I dug deep and started to motor. It seems like when you take it easy, the climb goes by fast, but when you push hard, the climb seems to last a lot longer. This climb seemed to go on forever. I finally made it to the top and barreled down Dark Hollow. I took another good beating all the way down to the scout camp, but never saw Tony. All that was left was the 4 mile climb back to the finish line.

At that point, I knew I wouldn't catch him and lost a bit of motivation. It was all I could do to climb those last 4 miles. I don't know if I've ever been that tired on a bike before. At the very end of the race, the course took us around a final corner where you see a quick descent down a grassy slope and into the parking lot where the finish line is. I can't describe how relieved I was to take in that sight. I cruised across the finish line with a second lap time of 2:51 and overall time of 5:58 and was met by my wife. After the congratulatory kiss, she asked, "Where's Tony?"

"I'm not sure, but he must be here somewhere, because I never passed him."

The results board was updated just as we checked it. At that time, I was the only one in my class with a finishing time. Tony was still out there somewhere, and I hoped he was okay and not in the back of a truck, since I hadn't seen him. We waited around for 15 minutes or so and I had to get back to the condo to grab some food.

We came back down for the awards ceremony and they still hadn't updated the results since we last checked, but I did see Tony. Apparently, Tony broke his chain on the second lap, almost exactly where Lynda took my picture above during the first lap. He left the trail for a minute or so to get a tool from a spectator, and while he was there I must have passed him. I spent the entire second lap chasing him when he was actually behind me for most of it. He also ended up flatting on the Dark Hollow descent, but I'm not sure if it was the first or second lap.

We compared the times we thought we had for stage 4, and we decided that I narrowly picked up the victory. We exchanged congratulations and shared war stories until our class was called to the podium. To our surprise, my name was called up as second place, and Tony was called as first. Here's the podium pic:

I was a little curious, but figured we'd somehow miscalculated and Tony must have edged me. The announcer congratulated us on a tight race, mentioning that only 7 minutes separated us. My curiosity grew. That meant that with his 16 minute lead going into the last stage, I could have only finished 9 minutes in front of him on stage 4, but I didn't see him cross the line in the 15 minutes I hung out after I finished.

The final finishing times for stage 4 were posted by the time we left. We checked the times, which just added to the confusion. I had crossed nearly 24 minutes before Tony. If I were a nice guy, a good sport, or not so uptight, I would have just left good enough alone. Apparently, I am none of those things because my curiosity got the best of me and I asked the timing lady about the situation. She pulled up her spreadsheet and saw that I had a 7 minute lead, but it turns out that she never re-sorted our category after stage 4, and the podium MC was just reading the names in the order he saw them. She apologized profusely, grabbed me a gold medal and a "class champion" jersey, and sent me on my way.

I can't say I was initially all that excited about the win. Instead, I felt a little bit petty for even looking into it, especially since Tony was probably the stronger rider. I guess the final results were inevitably going to be published here anyway, so I suppose it's nice that I was able to get another free jersey out of the deal (everyone got a finishers jersey as well). Either way, it was an amazing race, and a pleasure to duke it out with Tony day after day. Tony is a class act.

I wish that the race hadn't come down to a battle of mechanicals, but for two hacks like us, I guess it's almost inevitable that something will go wrong after that much brutal racing. I can't help but laugh about Doug's prediction that "you just never know what might happen over the next 5 hours" as he gave me his 26 inch tube. If not for Doug's generosity, who knows how long I would have been on top of that mountain. And if Tony hadn't dragged Dough to the race, Doug may not have been racing in the first place, so he wouldn't have been able to help me out. Oh the irony! Doug eventually confessed to Tony, and Tony jokingly threatened to make Doug find another ride home. Of course, I was more than willing to give Doug a lift. In case you're wondering, the 26 inch tube worked flawlessly on my 29 inch rim. It's still holding air on my bike right now, even after two romps down Dark Hollow.

The big guns kept it exciting to the brutal end. Tony had the chance to talk with Jeremiah Bishop after the race, and he relayed Bishop's account to me. Bishop said JHK was taking all sorts of risks down Dark Hollow and had a pretty good gap at the bottom. Bishop could occasionally see JHK's dust clouds on the final climb to the finish, which which gave him hope. He finally caught JHK before the finish, and JHK outsprinted him by a mere .2 seconds. Bishop hung onto the overall lead by 6 seconds. How is it possible for two people to be so evenly matched? I can see this happening on a road race where drafting plays a key role, but this is over 160+ miles of some of the most brutal trails I've ever raced. To put their speed in perspective, they beat living legend and recent 24 hour world champion Tinker Juarez by an hour. I'm almost embarrassed by how much they beat me by, but you can see that for yourselves in the results.

To wrap up, the AMC was everything I hoped for and more. Stage racing is a blast. In most one day endurance races, I doubt that you'd even know who you were racing against during the race. In a stage race, you finish the day, check the time gaps, make a note of who is who, and form a strategy for the next day. By the end of the race, I could recognize most everyone in my class, which made for fun competition. The tight race against Tony made it all the more memorable. I hope the race happens again, and I hope they keep the course the same so that previous year's finishing times can be compared. If the fasted guys in the country keep showing up, I think the AMC has the potential to be one of the premier endurance races in the country since there is nothing like it unless you go to Canada (Trans Rockies), South America (La Ruta), or Europe (Trans Alps). Huge thanks to Wesla and Mags for the support at the aid stations. I'm sure they had better things to do than sitting around at aid stations watching for Chad and me to roll by.

Sorry for the long-winded write-up, but it was a long race. This account is more for my sake than anything else. For next year, Tony and I have already talked about racing the Open class. Although we won't be racing directly against one another (he'll be in 35-39 and I'll be in 30-34), I'm pretty sure that I'll be checking his time and he'll be checking mine.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

American Mountain Classic - Day 3

August 23rd - Birthday Stage:
To pick up where I left off, I ended the 2nd day of racing about 9 minutes behind Tony. I headed home and had a tough time eating for a while, but the appetite finally kicked in and I was able to put away a pretty good amount of food. I was sure I'd get a good night sleep after the long race and the previous nights' lack of sleep. After prepping all of my race gear for the next day, I hit the sack, tossed and turned for hours, and finally got 4-5 hours of restless sleep. Not enough, but it was going to have to suffice. I headed to the staging area and found that many of the racers who were staying in Brian Head were having a tough time sleeping, likely because of the altitude (9500 feet). Any of you Leadville racers have a similar problem?

The course today started right in Brian Head and consisted of an initial climb and descent, followed by 20 miles or so of flat and rolling fire roads, followed by a huge climb to the top of Brian Head Peak, and then the final descent back to Brian Head. I knew that the next day (stage 4) would feature a ton of climbing, so I figured if I was going to get some time back from Tony, it could possibly be during the flatter dirt roads and the technical descents on stage 3, since I knew Tony was a stronger climber than me.

We lined up and started with a mass start. The pace was easy for the first 5 minutes or so, but it picked up in a hurry. Tony was pushing the pace on the climb a little faster than I was comfortable with, but I kept him in sight. It was nice to gain some "easy" elevation on the paved and dirt roads because I knew we'd get it back at some point. We reached the top and started a fun, fast, technical single-track descent on the "Lowder Ponds" trail. I felt pretty fast on the descent, and hoped I was gaining on Tony. The descent seemed to last a really long time, and I can't wait to ride it again under non-race conditions to enjoy the 1-track goodness a little more. The trail emptied onto a dirt fire-road, and I started trading pulls with another racer and we were making good time.

The first feed zone came quickly and I still had a bottle-and-a-half, as well as a good riding partner, so I rolled on through. I was still in chase mode, so I was putting in some hard pulls. About 10 minutes later, I got a pat on the back. I turned around and there was Tony. Apparently, Tony was stopped in the feed zone as I rode through. He saw me and jumped on his bike to chase me down. I'm impressed he did it alone.

Tony and I rode together for the next 15-20 miles or so, along with a few others we came across along the way. There were a few times I thought I had a gap on him that might stick, but he kept coming back every time. There was an out-and-back fire road at the far-end of the course that was a really fast pace. I was hanging onto a train that was quite a bit faster than I was comfortable with. The road wasn't too smooth though, so a lot of effort was wasted trying to stay with the train. Tony never wavered though, although he did confide at the end of the stage that he was hanging on for dear life.

A few miles past the out-and-back, the road started to turn upward. It didn't take long to realize that I was going to pay for my efforts on the flats. Tony started riding away and I couldn't match the pace. The next 20 miles were going to be brutal, and there's no such thing as a comfortable place inside of the pain cave. I tried to keep a decent pace, knowing that the biggest climb of the entire race was in front of me. I put my head down and climbed for what seemed like a really long time up a dirt road. Finally, I saw a support vehicle parked to the side, and an arrow pointing the racers to the left. I dropped into a single track descent and thought, "Hey, I'm okay! That wasn't too bad!" Unfortunately, my relief was short lived. After a half-mile, the descent quickly turned into a steep, brutal 1-track climb. Granny gear was the only option for me. For a long while, the steep sections just got steeper. I felt lucky to be on my bike, since I was passing quite a few racers who were walking it like the pioneer children. I finally rounded a corner at the "top"... only to see the trail quickly descend through a small valley and keep going up up and up.

After what seemed like forever, the trail finally leveled off, and a dirt road appeared in the distance. It was finally over. I could see the descent to the left. My joy was full. Wait a minute. What are those people on bikes doing hundreds of feet above me on that other dirt road? Are they still climbing? My heart sank when I realized that I still had to ride an out-and-back to the very tippy-top of Brian Head peak. Man, while writing this, I'm confirming what I already knew about myself - I'm a total head case. If things go differently than expected, I have a tough time shaking it off. This was a perfect example. Demoralized, I dropped back into the granny and climbed to the top of the peak. 11,300 feet. On the way up, I saw Tony zipping down. I figured he would have already come through by now, so seeing him gave me some hope. I made a note of the time and place I saw him and pushed to the top. I'm pretty sure that when I reached that peak, I was at the highest elevation I'd been at since I was in Colorado in 2001 (airplanes excluded). I think that even the Snowbird tram only tops out right at 11,000 feet.

I turned around and flew down. Amazing how much longer a road seems while traveling at 5mph as compared to traveling it at 35 mph. I reached my Tony sighting spot and saw that I'd lost 9-10 minutes. Somewhere on the descent, a rock must have flown up and hit my front derailleur, because I could no longer access the small ring. Fortunately, the single track that followed only had a few short steep pitches before the final descent. The descent was yet another fast and technical piece of single track with one very unwelcome little climb. I rolled across the finish line in 4 hours 40-something minutes, about 6-7 minutes behind Tony, putting his overall lead at 16 minutes. I had about 20 minutes on 3rd place. Stage 3 was in the books, with another 53 miles and about 5000 feet of climbing. I was really afraid that my efforts on the flats had caused me to bonk on the latter climbs, and was not looking forward to how it would affect me on Stage 4.

Despite being on the verge of bonking, I was glad I raced the way I did. I wasn't going to go down without a fight. It didn't seem to work - in fact it probably backfired, but hey, at least I tried something. I still had one day left, and you never know what may happen. I was gaining a whole new level of respect for the stage racers at the grand road tours. I still can't imagine how they do what they do for 20+ days at a time.

The race among the big guns was still incredibly close. Bishop again outsprinted JHK at the end of the stage by about 4 seconds. So now, after 115 miles of racing, 6 seconds separated the top two guys in the US (that weren't at the Olympics). The results of stage 3 are here.

Post-race birthday festivities:
I got home and had no trouble at all with my appetite. I seriously ate nonstop from 2pm till 7pm. And then ate some more at 8 pm. And again at 10pm. I fixed my front derailleur, got my stuff ready to go for the next day, and headed down the canyon with Wesla, Chad, and Mags for the highlight of the evening, the cultural event of the summer. No, I'm not talking about the Shakespeare Festival. I'm talking about the Parowan Demolition Derby. Cars were smashed, mullets admired, belt buckle sizes compared, and voices lost:

Side note: It looks like I'm not the only one who thinks Cadel looks a little bit hobbit-like. BikeSnobNYC's picture is classic!

Monday, August 25, 2008

American Mountain Classic - Days 1 and 2

Let me start off by saying that this may have been the greatest birthday party ever. You were all invited, so if you missed it you only have yourselves to blame. I went into the American Mountain Classic with hopes that it would be the most epic adventure I've had on a mountain bike. Now that it's over, I can say that it exceeded my expectations.

Before proceeding, I should probably mention that I did not go through with my plan to move up to the "Open" class from the "Sportsman" class. I had seriously considered moving up, but got a bit intimidated by the field. Since the top "Elite" class was filled with the fasted guys in the country (e.g., JHK, Jeremiah Bishop, Tinker, Manuel Prado, etc.), I thought it would have a trickle-down effect, causing the "Open" class to be filled with semi-pros and top experts. I did some google detective work on the guys in the Open 30-34 class, and my suspicions were confirmed. Everyone in that class had a long list of race results listed on in semi-pro and expert mountain bike races, and cat 3 road races. Having never done anything like the AMC before, and knowing that I'd be racing against similarly skilled guys like Tony Parkinson in the Sportsman class, I decided to stay where I was at. As I'll describe over the next few days, Tony and I ended up having a great time racing against each other, so I'm glad I stayed where I was.

Wesla, Chad and I drove down to Brian Head Thursday morning and arrived in time to check into the hotel/condo and line up for the "prologue" on day 1 of the race. I think the race promoter was afraid that the Thursday stage would be too big of a time commitment for too many potential racers, so the Thursday stage was shortened to 7 miles and racing it was optional. The results of the stage would be used to determine your starting position on Friday morning. Knowing this, I used Thursday as a chance to spin out the legs at a very leisurely pace, and to get used to riding at 9500 feet. I rolled in about 6 minutes behind the winner of my class. It only cost me about 5 feet the next morning, so I think my strategy was a good one. I came away from the prologue having learned two things: 1) Brian Head trails are technical and a lot of fun; 2) Tony was obviously on good form, finishing only 24 seconds behind the winner of our class.

I hoped to get a great night's rest before Friday's 55 mile stage since I'd been up late the last few nights getting ready for the trip. A combination of nerves, uncomfortable bed, noisy sheets, restless wife, peeing 5 times, and being out of breath just sleeping at 9500 ft limited my sleep to about 2-3 hours. I finally fell asleep, just in time for the 6am wake-up call. I ate as much as I could (which wasn't much) and we headed to the start of the race. Here are a few pics of the staging area:

The fast guys chomping at the bit:

The fast guys sprinting at the beginning of a 160+ mile race:

The slow guys (me) going out easy:

The race started with a 1.5 mile decent down a dirt road, which I used to make up for the 5 foot disadvantage I started with due to my slow time in the prologue. Despite receiving multiple warnings from the race directors about a sharp right hand turn at the bottom of this hill, I went into it a bit too fast and in the wrong gear. The road went uphill at the corner, and I dropped my chain trying to downshift. Tony went by me and already had a good gap by the time I got going again. I thought about chasing him down, but he was climbing way too quick for me this early in the race, so I let him go. It was the last time I'd see him that day. During one of the descents on the dirt road I saw local Art O'Connor off to the side fixing a flat. Bummer.

After a few more ups and downs on dirt roads, we funneled onto the Virgin River Rim Trail (VRRT). If you have ridden this trail, you know how great it is. It's a series of semi-technical climbs and descents. One of the great things about the AMC is that almost all of it is on the kind of single-track that I normally seek out when I'm not racing. The views from the VRRT aren't bad either:

After a few miles on the VRRT, we were dumped back onto a flat dirt road for a few miles of riding into a headwind. I hopped on the back of a train and after drafting for a minute or so, I took my turn at the front. It didn't take long to realize that this train was only going to have one engine, and that engine was me. Art O'Connor came flying by trying to catch his class and I sprinted onto his wheel, leaving the train behind. Even drafting behind him was probably a bit too much for me that early in the race, but I hung on till we got back on the 1-track.

We started climbing and the crowds were still pretty thick. I played leapfrog with a few guys, including at least one from my class. A few miles into the climb, I saw Chad off to the side fixing a flat. Double bummer. I stopped and gave him my only CO2 and tube in hopes that I'd have good fortune until the 1st feed zone. Turns out Chad had some problems fixing the flat that cost him 20 minutes or so. He must have been down for a while, because it took him 15 miles or so to catch me. Fortunately I made it to the first feed and restocked on supplies, food and water. I'm pretty sure I rolled into the 1st stop in 3rd place for my class behind Tony and one other guy from Revolution.

I felt really good from the 1st to the 2nd feed zone. There was a lot of climbing topped off with great views and fun descents. After miles and miles on the VRRT, we temporarily left it to do a loop around Navajo Lake, which included another dirt road into a head wind. While on the dirt road, I met a guy named Clayton Bell who came all the way from Arkansas for the AMT. He ended up winning his Sportsman 20-29 class, and earned the title of toughest rider in the process. I'll tell/show you why in my day 4 write-up.

After the 2nd feed zone, we had about 18 miles left. I felt good for the first 8 of these, but really started feeling the fatigue during the last 10. Most of the big climbs were over, but the short steep stuff was starting to hurt. The trails were a blast, but were filled with of rock gardens that were really starting to wear on me. A full squish would have been nice so that I could sit down and pedal, but with my hard-tail 29er, I had to stand in order to pedal through the rock gardens. The stage ended with a treacherous descent down a dirt road. I checked the results and I finished the day in 5:06, 9 minutes down on Tony and 10 minutes up on 3rd place. Day 2 was in the books, having covered 55 miles and almost 6000 feet of climbing. I was already loving the idea of stage racing, and was formulating a strategy to try and get some time back from Tony on stage 3.

The race between the big guns was shaping up nicely. Bishop out-sprinted JHK to take a 2 second lead after day 2. That's right, after 55 miles of technical single-track, only 2 seconds separated the top 2 riders. And their finishing times were an unfathomable 3:42.
Tinker won the Elite Masters category, finishing 25 minutes or so after JHK and Bishop.

Stage 3 write-up (and maybe stage 4, depending on how much time I have) is coming tomorrow.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lessons from a 3-year-old

This falls under the "out of shammy experiences" category. Today I was playing with my 3-yr-old little girl and she started running toward me. Half way across the back patio, she jammed her left big toe into the patio furniture and toppled over. While I tried to comfort her, I said "don't you just hate stubbing your toe?" Between the whimpering and moaning, she responded "No. I don't hate anything, because 'hate' is a mean word." I think I'll try being more like Aubrie and delete the word "hate" from my vocabulary.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Got 7 rides in yesterday. Rode to the gym, rode to work, rode home for lunch, rode back to work, rode home from work, pulled my daughter to the park in the trailer, pulled her back home. Too bad none of my rides were over 2.5 miles. And I did it all while wearing flip flops. That's some hardcore training.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Love at first sight

Well, maybe not first sight. It's more like if you had a crush on a girl in jr. high or high school, didn't see the girl for 15 years, and then saw her again and fell in love. Yeah, kind of like that.

I used to ride the "3 forks" network of trails back in my teens. My friends and I would drive down from the West Valley City ghetto and ride those trails more than any other. Back then, mom and pop were filling the gas tank for around $1/gallon and I had nothing but time, so distance didn't seem like a big deal. We'd pretty much stick to the lower trails because it never occurred to us that we could ride our mountain bike for more than 5-10 miles at a time. The thing I remember most was that the trails were amazing. That, and the hot pots were a good excuse to go skinny dipping.

For the past 10 years or so that I've been riding again, I've meant to go check out these trails, but I was either too for away, too busy, or maybe I was just afraid that the trails wouldn't live up to how I remembered them from back in the day.

This weekend, I had hoped to make it up to the Evanston Icup race, but couldn't pull it off. Instead, I got up early and headed to Diamond Fork to check out the trails I had been dreaming about for the past 15 years or so. They didn't disappoint, in fact the trails are better than I had remembered. They are so good that if you gave me the choice of riding the ridge trail system or the 3 forks trails tomorrow, I'd pick the 3 forks. Granted, my opinion may be affected by the fact that it had just rained and the trails were in perfect condition. And the fact that I rode 25 miles before I saw another person on the trails. Yes, I think I'm in love. If I were still playing in a band like back in the college days, I'd write a love song about these trails. Shoot, I wrote a love song about my favorite fishing lure back in the day, so writing a love song about a trail should be a breeze.

If these are your secret local trails and you're afraid I'm letting the cat out of the bag, don't worry. You're just about the only person who reads this blog, so your secret is still safe.

In other news, I was down in Sandy for a follow up apt. with Hoopes Vision (I'm seeing better than 20/20 6 months after laser eye surgery), and I decided to do some riding in the Corner Canyon area. I felt like pushing the pace, so I gave the Clarks TT another go. I went out a bit easy at the beginning to save myself for the steeper sections at the top. Crossed the finish line at 11:04, which is almost a minute faster than my time back in May. I think I have a sub 11 in me, but it will probably have to wait till next year. After descending Ghost, I turned around and TT'd Ghost. I think it's a good short TT for race prep, although probably not deserving its own website. It actually makes you think about bike handling instead of just pushing hard.

It looks like the AMC stage race is attracting some pretty big names (click on "Elite Men"). The promoter just sent me a press release that identified the likes of JHK, Jeremiah Bishop, and Ryan Trebon in hopes that the big names would attract more racers. What really surprised me is that some reason the press release didn't list me. Don't they know who I am!?!?

Monday, August 4, 2008

American Mountain Classic Almost Here

It's been a busy week, so it's good to finally get back to the really important things in life, like blogging.

Teton Village Icup:
Headed up Friday morning with the whole family. Somehow when you have young kids, 5.5 hr drives are easily extended to 8.5 hr drives. I was able to preride on Friday night and quickly realized that the Teton race may be the best course (in terms of a fun place to ride) the series. We really are spoiled by the Icup series, with N different courses that could easily qualify as the "best." I mean, look at this lineup: Green Valley (St. George), Draper, Sundance, Deer Valley, Solitude, Sherwood Hills (Logan), Teton Village, all of which are great places to ride. Not to mention that Ed is the coolest promoter around. Did I ever mention that last year, I had pre-reg'd for 10 races. When my son was born 6 weeks early last June followed by a month in the hospital, Ed basically gave me credit for all my unused races which I was able to apply to this season - no questions asked (other than how my son was doing). This type of coolness has become expected for those of us who race the Icup series, but try pulling this off with some other race promoters and you'll probably be disappointed.

Saturday morning, I lined up and for whatever reason I just didn't feel like racing. I went out a bit slow and unmotivated. Eventually the motivation came around, and I felt like I had a good second lap. I felt like I stayed strong during the 3rd lap, but did slow down a bit. I had some good battles with a few guys, and I think I won more of the battles than I lost. I ended up in 7th place out of about 15 racers.

When I prerode, I predicted a lot of crashes and flats, and I was right on both accounts. I saw a lot of people struggling on the technical sections, and noticed that I could certainly work on motoring through the techy stuff rather than dancing through it. If you want to know what your weakness is, race this course next year, because it has a bit of everything. For me, my main downfall was the flatter bumpy sections, where I lost some time. I gained it back on some of the climbs, but the one thing the course didn't have was sustained climbing.

We spent Saturday through Monday checking out the Tetons and Yellowstone. Everyone loved this vacation, which just happened to coordinate perfectly with the Teton race, so hopefully this becomes a new family tradition.

American Mountain Classic:
The AMC stage race is less than 3 weeks away. It's not too late to register (in fact, I think you can show up on the first day of the race and sign up), and there are still plenty of reasons to do so. First, the promoter just threw in a $50 "gas incentive" rebate, so the price for the race is now only $350. A steal for what you get, as documented in my previous post. And although this is old news, the E-100 race series was canceled, so if you were planning on getting your epic on at the E-100, you'd better come down south instead for the most "epidemic" mtb race in the states. And while you are there, you might just leave with the new mountain bike that is being auctioned off. Of course, these reasons are all secondary to the fact that you'll be missing my birthday party if you don't come.

While a lot of my friends are taking it easy this weekend in preparation for Leadville, I was able to pull off an AMC dress rehearsal today. I call it the "Big Odd-Day Sucker" ride, which consists of going up Mill D North to Desolation Lake, Wasatch Crest, down the Connector Trail, Mid Mountain, up to Scott's pass, back on Wasatch Crest to Desolation, and back down Mill D North. I had some extra time, so I played around in Park City before heading back to the Crest. I rode some great P.C. trails for the first time - Steps, Keystone, Apex, and Shadow Lake Loop. Of course, the "Big Even-Day Sucker" uses the upper Mill Creek Trails rather than Mill D North. However, the descent down Mill D to end the ride is good enough that it's probably worth doing on even days - especially the upper section of Mill D which is about as good as it gets.