Monday, August 31, 2009

Snowshoe Race #3 (West Virginia)

After my last race ended in disaster, I decided to focus on overcoming my wreck and learning from my mistakes. It turned out to work wonderfully and couldn't have been a more fitting way to cap off a great weekend.

Along for this trip were Rachel, Puck, Joey, my brother Dave, my Mom Carol, and her husband John. We lucked out big time this weekend too, as we were able to stay in a friend's condo instead of roughing it again at our usual campsite. The condo was so close to the trails that we were able to ride/walk everywhere we needed to go. The weather was cool and comfortable, with only a few short rainstorms amidst the otherwise clear and sunny skies.

On Saturday we took several runs on the race course to get a feel for the terrain. The course was somewhat of a combination of the first two, including two of the road gaps and a new section that featured two large tabletop jumps. The technical area this time was found on "lower quickdraw." This section offers multiple choices of lines, so finding the fastest route was key. It's a challenging run, with sharp turns within the maze of rocks and roots. Even after emerging from "lower quickdraw" the course offered one last taste of technical riding in "lower hairball." This section was part of the previous racecourse, which I stumbled through rather embarrassingly last time. The final stretch of the course was the same as last race, including the rock jump that threw me face-first to the ground. I decided to take it slow over the rock and work on building my confidence in increments.

That night we went out for pizza in the village and played a game of spades at the condo before retiring for the night. Early the next morning, Rachel and I walked the course before the lift opened. It was helpful to take time to look at the lines and assess the best way through. At the final rock, I carefully studied the approach. The line is barely wider that a tire and the small rocks cause your bike to jerk side-to-side at speed, so coming into that area prepared is very important. After the course walk, we rode the lift back to the top and walked back to the condo to join the rest of our group for breakfast.

Pro practice had begun by the time we emerged from the apartment so Puck, Joey, and I headed to the Basin side to get a few runs in before the race. Puck left after one run to compete in the intro category. It was his first race at Snowshoe, and he finished in 2nd place! A great victory for the Get Loose Crew indeed.

Joey and I took a couple more runs, but unfortunately he suffered a flat and I had to split to get to the staging area of my race. My run went well, with only a couple minor slips and one complete stop when I reached another rider in "lower hairball." The crowning victory for me, however, was at the finish line rock. I approached the jump with my eyes focused intently on the run-in. As soon as I left the ground I could feel that it was smooth, and I landed comfortably in the lower section of the landing. Since I'd passed a rider on the trail, we had to wait until the end of my class to find the official time. It turned out to be 5:12, good enough for first place in amateur.

After the race, the three of us took two more runs on the mountain and then headed back to pack up our stuff and drive back to Richmond. On the shuttle ride back to the top of the mountain, we rode with the 1st and 3rd place riders of the pro class. The margin between 1st and 2nd was the closest I've seen this year, with Chris Herndon being beaten by only three tenths of a second. The winner casually joked that it must have been because of the skin-suit he wore during the race. I've got a feeling he'll be sporting it next time too.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Diablo Race #3 (Vernon, NJ)

For this race, Puck and I decided to leave town on Thursday night in his truck since most Richmonders were staying in town for Best Friends Day and we'd be the only two making the drive to New Jersey. That gave us an extra day to ride and time to stop by his Dad's house in Hightstown, NJ.

Diablo runs their lift until 7pm in the midweek, so we casually headed to the park on Friday and began to take some runs. Unfortunately, a storm rolled in after only two runs. As soon as thunder was audible, they shut down the lift. To make matters worse, we learned that Diablo offers no sort of rain-check for instances like this one. We waited out the storm in the parking lot and met a rider from Brazil named Sergio. Even after the rain had stopped, the lift remained static, so we headed to the campsite and called it a day.

The next morning was damp, but the sky looked promising, so we got an early start and began the day by walking the course to check out this month's race run. Surprisingly enough, the course was much simpler than the last one. The bottom half was almost identical to their first course and it seemed to be the shortest run they've had in a race thus far.

I spent most of the day making runs on the course, but took a few with Puck and Sergio to break up the monotony. We even found a few trails that we'd never seen before at Diablo - helping the park's reputation in our minds after being smashed by the overwhelming acreage of Snowshoe.

The ground was perfect - grippy and soft, without even a hint of dust which usually plagues the park. The temperature was much better also after the previous night's rain. Around 4pm, we were exhausted, so we headed back to the campsite with a quick stop at a local pizza joint.

The rain returned that night, so we each retired to our tents a bit early. The next morning was clear and within a few hours the sun was shining brightly above. Again the ground felt wonderful, so the rain wasn't really too much of a downer. We were able to hang out all of our wet gear while we rode, which was toasty dry by the end of the afternoon.

I took a couple of runs on the course to make sure it felt roughly the same as the previous day, and then returned to the parking lot to relax and mentally prepare for the race. At 1:29 I left the top of the mountain and crossed the finish line a mere 2 minutes, 26 seconds later. It wasn't a perfect run, but overall I felt confident about my performance. I was the first rider in my category, so I was able to wait at the bottom for the two main opponents to cross. Dennis Yuroshek and his teammate, PJ Mihalick (2wheelfreaks) were my most formidable opponents, but I snuck away with the win 5 seconds ahead of them. The best thing about the finish was that all three of us on the podium were riding the same bike - the '09 Giant Glory DH. I'll be selling my frame at the end of the season too, in case anyone's interested.

After the race, we said goodbye to Sergio and headed for Puck's Dad's house for a cookout, then back to Richmond for a quick rest before the next race - SNOWSHOE!