The day before the 55, the a small crew of misfits decided to put in some trail time out at Dupont. About 27miles of trail time. It was all good. I had planned on riding something to try and remember how to ride a mountain bike anyway. The only slight issue was when I decided to launch myself over the handlebars at about 20-25mph (according to my best estimate via my Garmin). I cant really recall what exactly happened. All I know I took a pretty good hit to the head (thank you helmet) and somehow got twisted inside my bike unable to move (thank you Ian for helping me get out). I seemed to be ok, just typical scrapes, bumps and bruises and a bit dizzy. Fast forward toward the end of the ride an my head was pounding! Like every time I hit a rock/root it felt like my eyeballs were going to explode out my head pounding. A little rest/recovery, a 32oz Dos Equis, an Advil or four and be fine for the next day, right?
Now I've only ridden about 40% of the 55 course. Yes, I know... I lived in Asheville and did not ride some of the best known trails. Shame on me, yea yea. Moving on.
The main challenge was riding the unfamiliar trails. Another challenge was overcoming not really being able to look to the left, pedal hard with my right leg or generally convince myself that my body didn't feel like a white knuckle clenched fist. Oh, lets not forget the rain. Seems like every damn time I visit AVL it freaking rains! Sorry folks. If Kyle's coming to town better break out the rain jackets (or at least it rained on the Ranger District side of the mtn).
It was not my best day. I felt like ass. I rode like ass. Just generally unable to get my rhythm going and making stupid mistake after stupid mistake. All those stupid mistakes completely killed what little mojo I had. Surprisingly though, the only sections I felt good about were the ones I was most intimidated by, Pilot Rock and Black Mt. DH. I've been up both those trails so I knew what was in store for on the way down. I cleaned, lets call it 90% of Pilot and all of Black which was significantly more than I had expected to. Some sections even feeling fast. Its the little victories...
It was a rough day. I bit off slightly more than I could chew. I had a lot going on in my head. My body didn't want to help me out. I consider it a win when you test yourself, push what you think you are capable of, whatever that may be, and come out the other side. I'm still checking this off as a W in my book. One of those things when you feel happy that you finished.
Dad's birthday was this past Friday. He was on my mind a lot. I miss him. I don't say that enough. A part of me felt like he was there, pushing me when I was at my lowest. It really is a unique feeling like someone who isn't physically with you anymore has your back and is pushing you. Thanks Dad, I miss you. Happy Birthday.
I've never used the term "training". I don't think I ever will. Riding a bike is something I view as a simple thing. It's fun, it should make you happy. If you're feeling good, ride hard. If you feel like shit, don't, go have some beers. This ideal may have me being a perpetual mediocre bike racer and I'm cool with that. Of course I'm a competitive person and I want to do the best I can when it comes to racing and I also enjoy pushing myself and suffering like a dog but it's not an end all for me. I can have the shittiest day, go for a ride and be reminded that the bicycle is an amazing thing. It can wash away all the anger, all the frustration, sadness, confusion, it truly is a pretty amazing thing, riding a bike.
That being said, I haven't ridden my bike once this week. Ha. I know, WTF! The term "rest week" is a foreign concept to me. Honestly, I'm not a fan. It's tough for me to not ride but I feel tired, burnt out a bit if you will. I've pinned eight numbers to my jersey in 4 weeks. This past weekend I could tell my body was trying to tell me something. Give me a break dude! Alright, fine, big baby.
I'm already itching to get back to riding again. This time off has hopefully done some good. If I can take just three days off the bike and be dying to get back on it, thats a good sign. I know both my mind and my body will be ready.
I've got some exciting things to look forward to and jump start me back in. What better way to get the legs going again than a nice 65mile jaunt in southern NC, northern SC. On Saturday I'm pretty excited to be riding The Good Ride an event benefitting The 24 Hours of Booty. Both are amazing charities that raise money for cancer research. Something that hits close to home for me.
Next week is National Bike to Work Week. Did you know that? Yea well it is, so ride a bike to work next week.
Then I will finally get back in the woods for the Pisgah 55.5K. It should be an interesting day to say the least. I had originally planned on pre-riding some of the sections I haven't done but unfortunately that never panned out. Yes, I know I lived in Asheville and haven't ridden some of the most notable trails. Shame on me. Why not pop the cherry during the 55, right?
I remember the first time I attempted the Athens Twilight races. The course was sketchy, it was full of big crashes and plenty of guys being complete dickheads. It was one of the final road races I competed in years ago and it left the taste of ass in my mouth for road racing. I never really looked back.
I told myself that this year that I would take every opportunity I could to race my bike and I wasn't going to let the past change that. Of course loosing my father has made me realize more than ever that life is short. Too short to let anything intimidate you. It seems a bit strange but because of that I've developed this odd sense of calm when it comes to racing. It's also the best place to loose myself and just let it all go.
The most frustrating thing for me when it comes to road racing is the fact that people seem to show up to these things and not want to race. Just sit in the pack, letting other people do all the work and go for it if they're still there. I'm sure I will never be able to do that. Thats probably why I fell in love with cyclocross, there really isn't any bullshit. Race hard. The whole time. Period.
That being said, it really does take it's toll being the one of the ones making the race hard. Especially on a circuit like the Twilight amateur course. Two long straights, one slightly uphill make it damn impossible to get away from the bunch. There are always a bunch of crashed here. I knew this. Going into the turns first was critical, obviously but coming out of those turns and having a second or several on the rest of the pack made it damn hard not to try to push the pace and get away, ultimately it paid it's toll. I stayed in the top 10ish for just about the entire race (as most racers plan on doing) but when it came down to the dash for the line, those lazy bastards just got the best of me. Thus is road racing. Psh.
Now I was kind of down about letting lazy roadies get the best of me but at least I had delicious Taco Stand margaritas, not to mention great company, to look forward to so I was cool. I mentally checked out. Come to find out I ended up finishing 10th out of 57 preregistered (I would say maybe 70 toed the line? crashes, dnf's, etc...) and qualified for the Amateur Finals on the downtown Athens course.
It was incredibly hard not to partake in mid day festivities. Luckily several fellow Hoffs took up the slack. Thanks guys, you know who you are. I went into the "finals" with zero expectations. It was just one of those things I could never pass on. Having already done an "amateur finals" race this year, the only goal I had was be happy with my performance. I spent the race, yo yoing off the back of the main group which contained just about every category of racer (I was definitely, on paper, the lowest on the totem pole) . After about 35 minutes of some of the hardest efforts I've ever done on a bike, I gave everything I had left to sprint it out for another placing that didn't matter.
120 people potentially qualified for the "finals". When I registered it definitely looked like everyone had signed up. There were plenty of crashes and from what I've been told there were on average five people being pulled from the race per lap. Out of the 72 listed finishers, I ended up 49th. 49 out of 120 of the fastest racers, i'll take that. Not like that number really matters. I was satisfied and happy.
It was a good weekend! Thanks to everyone who screamed at the top of their lungs, held a front row starting spot (even though I wasn't there to take it), took photos, had drunken conversations that only I will remember, drank more than their share because I couldn't, gave hugs and high fives. #HoffLife
Many people know I have "unique" feelings about racing road bikes. After much debate and hesitation I have once again decided to chase glory in the road world. Being that it's been close to four years since my last road race I had a bad taste of what to expect and I knew it wasn't going to be pretty or easy or safe for that matter.
In my new home of Charlotte, NC, the Dilworth Criterium is a staple of crit racing in the Queen City. It's early in the season, the course is physically (not technically) tough and there are a lot of eager beavers looking to show their stuff. After doing a bit of course recon, with two long straights (one slightly uphill after a sketchy ass turn, the other slightly downhill after a sketchy ass turn) I knew in the cat4 field it would be a nice 45min sketch fest. It did not disappoint. As per usual in a cirt race environment, if you're at the back you spend the majority of your effort yo-yoing after every turn trying to stay with the field and with a pretty little nasty kicker of a hill after the sketchiest turn it paid its toll and it did it quickly. I did my best to stay in the top 10-15 riders, still slowing more than I would like at the turns but not having to catch back on after everyone. It was grupo compacto for the whole 45min. I got as close as I could to the front before the final turn and the long uphill kick to the line. Of course someone hit the brakes more than anyone needed to and that bitch killed my vibe and I was forced to full on sprint to even see the winning group hit the line. I finished 14th out of 60 so I was contempt.
Come to find out that it was the first year that the Dilworth Criterium offered an Amateur Shootout at the same downtown course the Elites race and I had actually qualified, sweet. I decided its not everyday you get this experience so with zero expectations, I decided it would just be really cool to "race" my bike in front of the same crowd and on the same course the Elites get to. The DT course was awesome! You didn't need to touch the brakes if you could even somewhat handle your bike and it was super fun. I was railing all the turns at full speed and sprinting out the apex.
If you 5 hours to kill you can watch the Shootout and both Elite races. You will not see me. Sorry. Actually JK, at about the 1:07:50 mark you'' hear him say, "These guys are still killing it." thats my group and then you get a small glimpse of The Hoff.
The staging was worse than at a cross race. About 25 minutes before the scheduled start the staging area was grid locked, asses and elbows. I took my place on the last row and chit chatted with some dudes I knew I'd probably be spending the next 30 minutes riding around with. They decided to give us a neutral lap. HA!!! 30mph+ neutral lap with almost dead stops at every turn. I was off the back before the race technically begun. Score! Anywho, I "raced" as hard as I could and settled in with my brethren and to be honest, rode the funniest race I've ever ridden on a road bike. Of course more than a few guys still didn't want to pull through and do any work. Really?! this far off the back and still no one wants to do anything? I was knees out, pushing my weight down to the tires and using every inch of tarmac I could. I would have a slight gap going onto the straights but the group would catch me in the straights. I wasn't even close to the real race, in fact I watched as the peloton passed on the opposite straight and I was cool with that. Would I have liked to see if I could have hung in that group (I watched the video above and there are def dudes I've beaten in that group) but I wasn't about to let that take away from the experience of what I was doing. The crowd actually got into "the race behind the race", hearing "GO PINK DUDE" was a pretty funny thing to hear. "Raced" for 30mins, sprinted for a place that didn't even matter and it was awesome. After having several "recovery beverages" with the BikeSource boys and watching the Elite women and men I was definitely wishing I hadn't already pre-registered for Sunday's race in Belmont, NC. The cleverly named, Belmont Criterium.
Peep the sweet vid with an awesome soundtrack from last year's race.
This course definitely played more to my strengths., meaning that as opposed to 90% of the cat4's I could actually handle driving a road bike. With the 6.5 turns I thought I could try and use this to my advantage. The Belmont field wasn't close the fields the day before, maybe 30 toeing the line. Of course I lined up behind the guys thats apparently never used road pedals before! Balls! Once again starting from behind, I found myself chasing to find the front of the race. Like I said earlier, I am still surprised by the amount of cat4s that really cant handle their bicycles. I was luck enough to avoid 3 bad crashes not 2 wheels in front of me. I'm talking dudes that clipped the fences and went over the bars or slid out and when under the fencing. When I got toward the head of the race I found that there was already 2 dudes off the front by a good margin. Surprisingly, I was feeling ok so I gave it a go and just kept motoring trying to chase em down. "No Mans Land" is not a friendly place. Its lonely, it's windy, the gradient is unrelenting. I rode there for a solid 15 minutes just seconds behind the leaders but never making contact before inevitably being chased down. Luckily I was only chased down by a couple and now becoming a threesome we were able to then chase down the leading two within a few laps. This was the five that would decide the race. Once again I knew I hand the upper hand when going into turns. Unfortunately burning most of my matches to get to the front I wasn't able to drop the remaining pair. I nailed the final turn but couldn't muster the sprint to pass the two in front before the line.
It may seem cocky to use the term "settle" for 3rd but I honestly feel I've been always right there but never grabbing that elusive top step that I've been craving. Road racing is definitely a different beast and I've got to play the cards right. People don't want to work, can't handle their bikes and wonder why they crash and to be realistic I'm just not quite fit enough to ride away from them all. I'll be working on that...
All in all, not a bad start to the "road season". Yea, thats still weird to say. Spend some money to race the road bike, racing a course that only few get to, learn some valuable lessons along the way, win all the $ back plus a few bucks on Sunday, I'll call that a successful weekend.
On a side note, there has never been a time when I've pinned a number on my back where I don't think about my father. Dad loved hearing about my riding and racing. Every time I spoke to him on the phone, one of the first things he would ask is, "You been riding a lot? or "How's racing going?" After ever race I always miss giving him the race report. Miss you DBM.
don't judge the grammer and or speillling...