Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The First Cut Is The Deepest

With Cyclocross two weeks dead, the time has come for me to shift my focus onto more longer, less intensive events. This is not to say they are any more or less painful, it's just a different kind of pain. I set my sights on the 12 Hours Of Santos as the first event of the year - a training race. The idea of racing for training is nothing new, pros have been doing it for 40 years. They will start out in the spring and race in select events to systematically coax their bodies into fitness. For me, instead of coaxing, what I do is more like bitch-slapping myself into shape. My last long race was last August at the Fool's Gold event in Georgia. Then a winter full of cyclocross where the longest race was 45 minutes, I headed out last Friday to leave winter's cruel grip with my destination Ocala, Florida where I would find sun, sand, palm trees and hopefully warmer weather - oh yeah and a bike race.
I got an early start so I could ride some on Friday and get a look at the course which contained the Vortex trail. I had been forewarned about the evil that lurked on the Vortex and I wanted my first peek not to be in the first lap of the race. It was a long trip and I was happy to have 7500 songs on my Ipod plus XM to keep my sanity. Still, I had to find ways to pass the time.

I made it in pretty good time although it is quite possible I may have exceeded the posted speed limit in several states. I met Bob, Anet and Wes Lamberson along with Michael and Laura Ritter and Andy Johnston. We set up a corner of Florida real-estate and went riding. Santos is a huge place built on an abandoned quarry. It had trails that ranged from dead flat and fast to rocky, steep and things that could cause you to die (not figuratively but really!). There was tons of jumps and a few sick drop offs if you are in to that. In short, it is a place to go ride!

On the 2 laps I got to pre-ride the Santos course, me and Bob hit the Vortex first. Not exactly fun after hopping out of the car after driving for 10 hours, it took me a while to get into the groove. My 32x18 gearing worked fine although I did have trouble with some of the abrupt climbs. Florida may not have the 45+ minute climbs that I am used to. In fact, the Santos course didn't have a climb more that 45 seconds but they were rocky, had little or no flow leading up to them and very steep. I'd have to say my first trip through the Vortex got the best of me. Onto the fast, flat stuff and it was fun and flowing. The course had a sort of Jekyll and Hyde feel for sure. There were a couple of sections that the trail was on the side of a cliff (not figuratively but on the side of a real cliff complete with pain and probable serious injury if you fell off) and that was just cool. Dangerous but cool.
After the ride, there was dinner and an early chill out to get some rest. Shortly after dark, Ben Appleby and his wife Erin arrived and the Tennessee contingent was complete.

Race Day

We awoke to sun and.........................Frost. Yep 28 degrees and frost. Florida is the sunshine state but it never promised to be the warm, sunshine state.


I got ready and tooled around on my bike to see who all rolled in overnight. I saw my buddy Marcel Aguirre from Tampa and a few others that I have met throughout the South from racing.

There were quite a few people there.

These socks make me feel special.

My Vassago was ready to race with or without me.

Soon it was time to get it on. We lined up without our bikes for the LeMans start. The runn (I know there's an extra "n", running should be a four letter word) was about 1/4 mile followed by another 1/4 mile sprint and then singletrack. The first lap was a huge traffic jam. I got my bike and passed as many as I could before the singletrack and then just cruised in a really long line of people. We'd go for a bit until somebody messed up ahead and then the deck would be reshuffled and on again we'd go. The first time through the Vortex was a real treat. I got knocked off my bike twice, banging my shin on my pedals once (that felt good) and I just tried to relax and get through it. It was a long race and there was time to just chill out.

Bikes waiting for riders.

650 miles from home, first race of the year, I played the caution card.

The traffic kept me from riding a lot of the techy stuff in the Vortex on the first lap but by the third, I had ridden it all and noted the places where I'd really need to watch it later. It was about then that I realized that the flat, fast stuff had a gritty under belly too. Since it was all flat, it was all pedaling with no place really to rest. By the end of the third lap, I wasn't feeling to great. Since I had already exceeded my longest ride so far this year by about 300%, I figured that I probably shouldn't be feeling so hot and I stopped in my pit to rest and chat with Marcel as he strolled through. After stretching, some food and a nap (hahaha), I headed out for some more. My 4th and 5th laps saw my average speed drop from 13 mph on the first couple of laps to under 10 mph on my 5th. I crashed once when I got sloppy and hooked a tree and decided to call it a day. I had done enough.

It was a fun but tough race. The Ocala Mountain Bike Club has done an amazing job of making Santos a great place to ride.

Of the rest of the Tennessee gang, Bob retired after 4 laps with a cracked fork. Michael finished the 6 hour race and then helped Anet who gutted out 12 laps to take second in women's solo! Ben finished 3rd in the 12 hour solo sport in his first endurance race. Very nice.

Sunday, I was up early and headed back home where Tennessee welcomed me with open arms

and snow.

Many thanks to Bob and Anet for their hospitality and the use of the USS Lamberson for the weekend, to Michael, Laura, Ben, Erin, Wes, Andy, Marcel and everyone else for the encouragement and comeraderie.

Thanks also to Vassago Cycles and their continued support along with Ergon, WTB, White Bros, Crank Bros, Carbo-Rocket, and Under Armour.

Special thanks to George at Bike 29. The wheels worked great! Thanks G.

photocredits: Wes Lamberson and Marcel Aguirre.

1 comment:

SandPine said...

That was Rob's first ever endurance race??? He gave Harlen, Ernie, and Harvey a race worth their money. It was oweseome keeping time gaps on them as I opted for expectating instead of racing. Mainly because the Vortex red trail. It is not one I have mastered yet. So for 6 or 12 hrs would have been pure pain for me. The race course skipped the heariest stuff but it still had plenty challenges. There are at least 4 or 5 other trails like that one on the other side. But the rest of them are like the "twister" trail that was in the race course...

Hey good thing your honda has auto pilot cuz you sure were taking it easy behind the wheel. :-)