April 29, 2007

Now I've gone and done it...

Dear Harvey Minton,

The following request to change your NORBA category has been approved and processed by USA Cycling: harveyminton - 2007-04-27 8:07
Member: Harvey Minton
License: Cross Country Racer
Request to change category from Expert to Semipro

Member Explanation/Resume:
9/17/06: Florida State Championship Series #1, Reddick FL: 2nd, Expert 40-49
2/17/07: 12 Hours of Razorback, Reddick FL: 3rd, 12-hour solo
3/11/07: Southeast Regional Championship Series #1 (AMBC), Reddick FL: 2nd, Expert 30-39
3/18/07: Georgia State Championship Series #1, Macon GA: 2nd, Expert 30-39
4/1/07: Southeast Regional Championship Series #3 (AMBC), Bryson City NC: 3rd, Expert 35-39

Request was approved on 2007-04-27 14:49 by Stuart Lamp

Thank you for supporting USA Cycling.

--USA Cycling Support

I have to shell out $15 to re-issue my stolen license so I thought I'd make it worth my money. I've podiumed every XC race I've done this year, plus the 12 Hours of Razorback must've counted for something since it's on the National Ultra-Endurance Calendar. Endurance is really my thing and XC is just a tool to work on my top-end, so I might as well step up and race guys who are faster than me.

The podiums were fun while they lasted. Here's to getting my ass handed to me.

April 23, 2007

Cohutta 100

It was the worst week leading up to a big race that I've ever had. While riding at Croom last Saturday (my last long ride before the race), my car was broken into and I lost a lot of stuff. The lowlifes busted out my window and made off with cash and wallet, 2 pair of sunglasses, my gear bag (which was full of stuff priceless to a cyclist and worthless to a lowlife) and my Sirius receiver. The scumbags even took my clothes! At least they left my towel to put between my sweaty bike shorts and car seat.

It was Saturday afternoon. I had no cash, credit cards, ID or travel gear. My car had no driver's side window. Somebody had the keys to my house and my home address. I was supposed to leave to head to the Cohutta 100 Thursday morning. My stress level immediately went through the roof and stayed there until I was finally on the road Thursday.

Thankfully I have an understanding boss, because I only made two brief appearances all week in my mad rush to get my affairs in order. It didn't look good a couple of times, but Lauren, Fontana and I were rolling out of Tampa at 6:30 Thursday morning.

We rolled through Atlanta and stopped at Blanket's Creek north of town to spin the travel out of the legs. We were supposed to meet Jeff and Andy there, but Andy's bike was delayed at the airport (how they can lose a bag on a nonstop eludes me), so we rolled out alone so we could finish the drive to Blue Ridge and get our cabin keys. We found a nice pet-friendly cabin very close to the race venue last year, and made sure we got it again.

Our cabin mates were Jeff, Andy, Harlan, Elk, Eddie, Namrita and the O'Dea dogs. Harlan showed up with a brand-new Ti Deluxe 29er with a Lefty fork, partially assembled, a box full of parts and my new Ergon grips. He went right to work, intent on riding the new bike in the race. He was so sure it was going to work out that he didn't even have his old bike with him. The boy's got some cajones.

I figured if Harlan can race a brand-new bike, I can race some new grips, so I installed the Ergons, played around with the fit in front of the cabin, then we all headed to Tanasi for a spin around the trails. We took it easy, let the dogs have fun and took in the views we wouldn't see much of during the race. I couldn't get the positioning on the Ergons to feel right, so the experiment ended until I can figure them out. I love how they feel but didn't want to risk something going wrong and affecting my race. I like to leave the experimentation for training rides anyway.

I knew that since the race was now part of the NUE series, and since the NUE series seems to have gotten more peoples' attention this year, my results were not going to be quite what they were last year (10th overall, final podium spot). With guys like Eatough, Juarez, Price and others showing up, the podium was going to be elusive. I settled for personal goals: a top-20 finish and shaving 1 hour off last year's time.

The weather was looking great. The high was going to be in the mid 70s with no chance of rain. I could've done without the sub-40 degree start, but it would warm up quickly. I added a base layer, arm and knee warmers and a vest to keep warm. I should've gone without the vest. This would cost me an early stop to ditch the thing barely 1 hour in, and a possible bridge up to a faster group. Hindsight.

We rolled out right on time, starting with 2 miles of pavement before hitting the dirt. I stayed near the front, but didn't get too aggressive yet. I seem to have a problem ramping my heart rate really high early in the starts and my breakfast (which last year's experiments taught me needs to be big) was still digesting. I have to work through that, because being up there at the start is necessary if I ever want to shed the role of the guy with the steady pace who feeds off the guys who roll out fast and blow up.

My race strategy was to stop at aid stations 2, 4 and 6. I'd sent bottles up with drink mix so I could just add water and go. I thought about going without a pack, but needed someplace to carry the layers I'd be shedding. I wish I'd thought about this one more.

Things went well, except for stopping when I exited the singletrack for the gravel to shed my vest, and when I checked the water level in my pack at aid station 2. I didn't put the bladder all the way back in and the hose was hitting my knee with every pedal stroke. This was in the heavy climbing part of the course. It was like a Chinese water torture. I had to stop to fix the offending hose.

I went back and forth with the eventual singlespeed winner and a Cannondale guy all day. I stopped at aid station 4, ditched all my layers, got my chain re-lubed (those guys at that aid station totally rocked!) and my belly filled. It was showtime, with a bunch of flat road and a couple of big climbs back up to Tanasi. I'd already caught one guy who cracked and I was sure there would be more. I caught the singlespeeder and the Cannondale guy again (they rolled through aid station 4, passing me again in the process) and finally put them behind me for the last time. I was feeling great, except for my recently filled-with-water pack. It was killing my back, so I took a calculated risk and dumped it and its contents off at aid station 5 without stopping. I was sure that I'd have enough fluids to finish and that I wouldn't need anything that was in the pack. I also had one more aid station to re-fuel at before the finish.

I started to reel in another rider, but he was proving stubborn. By the time I reached aid station 6, he was still out front. I stuck with my plan and grabbed one last bottle. While the volunteer was filling my bottle, I stuffed my face with some Oreo knockoffs. I usually stay away from the junk food during races, but pretty soon the sugar rush had me flying and feeling even better! The singletrack started with a nice grunt of a climb. I saw my elusive rider up there, walking it. Sweet! He was mine. It took a while to reel him in, but I got him and a few others as I flew through the singletrack. I was flying and most of them were cooked, and they'd hear me coming and just move over to let me by.

I made my final pass at the bottom of TR Express and had to pin it on the pavement to make sure I held the spot. I ended up 19th overall with a time of 7:40. Last year's time was 8:35. Mission accomplished. I ate a hamburger that tasted like a hockey puck (but I didn't care), cleaned up and began the vigil waiting for the drop bags to return. In between, we indulged Harlan's desire to get back to his southern roots with a trip to the McCaysville Family Diner for a plate full of fried catfish, fried veggies, fried potatoes and sugar-water, er, sweet tea.

April 04, 2007

Knobscorcher (Bike Destroyer)

Things came together and I made it to Tsali last weekend. The weather forecast looked pretty bad for Sunday, but I went for it anyway. I figured I usually do well when conditions get bad, but I didn't think about the effect mud has on a bike. Not that I worry about mud when I'm racing, but geez, this race wasn't even a priority for me.

I got there late Saturday morning and even though it was beautiful and dry, I decided to commit to it being muddy and mounted a Hutchinson Bulldog on the rear. The pre-ride was awesome. Tsali is just so fun to ride fast.

My next dilemma was what class to race in. I'm 41 this year and have stayed in 30-39 expert. This race was broken up into 30-34 and 35-39. Not a big deal, except for how they started it last year: The 35-39 group lined up 10' behind the 30-34 group and they went at the same time. If I registered in 35-39 I would be immediately be in traffic no matter how good my start was. I really wanted the win - the whole 10-year group - and thought being able to start in front would be best. Greed got the best of me, however. The 35-39 pre-registration was twice that of 30-34, meaning a bigger payout for a good finish in 35-39. The decision was made.

The rain started Saturday night, but wasn't too bad - yet. It wasn't even bad when the Beginner wave started, but then the skies let loose and conditions got worse as the day wore on. The Expert wave was scheduled to start at 1:30. I warmed up in the rain on the road, just to postpone the inevitable, and lined up 15 minutes early. At 1:30 they announced that an injured rider was on the course and we wouldn't start until he was hauled out by EMTs. At 2:00 they told us to go ride around and come back in 15 minutes. At 2:30 they decided that to get things going, the course would be the right loop backward, instead of the right loop/left loop combo.

I should've gotten some food, but instead I hung out catching up with people I hadn't seen in a long time, and made the observation that a lot of the people who I wanted to see how I'd stack up against had upgraded to semi-pro.

What a way to start. I hadn't had any signifigant food since breakfast and was hungry. We were about to ride a sloppy course that we hadn't seen run in that direction. I was about to wreak mechanical havoc on my bike in the name of age-group glory. What was I thinking?!?!

We were called to the line at 2:45. As I lined up behind the line, they said all 30-39 experts would start on the line. Sweet! I quickly got a spot. We got to vote for 2 or 3 10-mile laps. It looked pretty even, but 3 laps it would be. Sweet, still 30 miles. When the horn went off I almost went down spinning my rear tire in the mud, but recovered and started working up the fire road. I was pretty flat due to my warm-up being eons ago, but I worked the climbs to my advantage and dropped into the singletrack near the top 5.

Half way through the lap I came upon a rider down. As I got closer it was Earl Bradley, a pro from the east coast of FL who races for Trek. A couple of people were already stopped helping him. I slowed up to make sure things were under control. They assured me that they were and encouraged me to stay in my race. When I came around on the 2nd lap and he was still there I was thinking "WTF are we doing??? There's a guy laying here, obviously injured, and we're finishing a race??? Crazy.

Back to my race. I was riding really well, cleaning all but two sections of the course. At the end of the first lap was the biggest climb on the course, which was super-slick. I had caught a bunch of the 19-29 expert group, who were all walking up the climb, slipping in the mud. Not wanting to risk chainsuck, I stayed in the big ring, stood up and mashed up the climb, picking my way through the carnage. That was probably the highlight of my day.

I had worked my way up to 4th by the end of the first lap and had 3rd place in sight. I reeled him in on the climb up the road, but once he hit the singletrack he was gone. He either had some mean skills or total disregard for his safety. Either way, he was gone. I couldn't bomb the downhills because I couldn't see - my eyes were filled with mud.

With about 2 miles to go in the 2nd lap, I got to the place where spectators hike in from the finish and got word that the race had been cut to 2 laps. That sucked from the standpoint of an endurance racer, but was probably good for my bike. One of my rear brake pads was totally worn down and it was metal-on-metal. Another lap and I probably would've worn right through to the piston.

I held the 4th overall spot. It translated into 3rd in 35-39 and would've translated into 2nd in 30-34, but with a smaller payout as predicted. My teamie Patrick bagged 5th, putting 2 IF riders on the 35-39 podium.

When I finished the lines for the showers/bike washes were so long that I just put my bike on the roof, hoped for more rain to clean it, and cleaned myself under my Sun Shower. Upon arriving home Monday and tending to the filthy beast I tallied the damages: Brake pads and rear rotor. A complete dismantling and cleaning of the brake calipers had them working like new. Not bad, but there goes the $100 I won.