Made the trip up to Elk River yesterday morning for the 1st of 3 races in the "cold bear series". This series was my first initiation into racing last winter (I know- that doesn't make any sense why you would start with these, but I wanted any experience I could get before the real season started) and they are alway a ton of fun. I was able to talk Corey Edge into coming with me for this one- it was nice to share the experience, and the drive, with another Rochesterite. I'm hoping we can get a consistent group together in the future. It was around -20 F when we were leaving town, but the reports suggested that the temperatures would soar as soon as the sun had some time.
We got up there with about an hr before the start and pulled on all our gear. It had warmed up a whole lot at this point and it was going to be comfortable. However, Corey's freewheel had frozen on his Surly 1x1. We tried putting it next to the fire for a bit, but worried that it would refreeze when he started to ride anyways. Luckily, I had brought two bikes along (the Marin and the Mamasita) so we decided he should give it a go on the Marin. It is an OK fit for him, but quite a bit different feel wise from his later model 1x1. We both signed up for the two lap expert race.
Race time came quickly. I was a little worried because I felt no nerves and wasn't as "pumped up" as I normally like to be at the start. The race started and things went fairly well. I had some consistent trouble with switchbacks, but otherwise felt I rode reasonably well. The snow singletrack for me is still more of a technical exercise than it should be- I never feel like I can really try to use my fitness without going off course. Of course, if I were more fit I would be more within myself going faster and possibly stay on course a bit better-- but it would probablly help even more if I could descend/corner as well as the 'fast' pug guys. I was in 2nd as we entered the singletrack and held that position for quite a while. I did get passed by Jeff Colbert after having some issues with some of the first steep switchbacks. However, I was able to keep him in site, reeling him in and then falling back etc., for the next hr or so. I guess I was pushing him pretty hard, with about half a lap to go he stopped and asked if I had any food... I gave him the remaining 4 oz of hammergel that I had on me and he pulled the plug on his race. I rode in from there doing my best to stay efficient/upright and work on my skills, knowing that I had no chance of catching first or most likely of being caught.
As it turned out 1st place, Dave Hoglund, finished 16 minutes or so in front of me! Quite humbling. The rest of the field was pretty strong too and 4 of them hadn't even finished. It was the kind of day that really separates people (maybe similar to my experience at Decorah in the muddy time trial last spring). It isn't a legitimate excuse (as it wouldn't have made nearly enough time for me to win or anything), but I doubt I had my best legs after my ride Friday.
Corey, for his part, came in 4th. He was about half an hr behind me. On a borrowed bike (which I know I would have been significantly slower on myself, just due to the weight and it being a SS) and in his first winter race this was an excellent finish. This was definitely a ride worthy of a comp class rider- which he will be moving up to in MNSCS next year.
As always, it was a good time sitting around by the fire after the race. Thanks to those who showed me the way to go faster (it wasn't just Dave, a lot of the Pugsleys kicked my butt too).
Anyways- I figured it was an ok time to post some goals- going to try to keep them in sort of an order in which they will occur.
1. stay with lead groups as applicable (and choose correct break-away groups for my fitness=better strategy than employed at heck of the north) in all of the AGRS races
2. finish in top 5 of overall AGRS series (thinking multiple top 10s will accomplish this)
3. finish the dirty kanza 200 by riding steadily throughout
4. ride a century and at least one metric century in each month (January may be huge challenge- continue this even if I don't accomplish it in January)
5. keep a "long-view" of my training and goals when it comes to MNSCS when things don't go perfectly/recognize that going to expert class is going to be a huge challenge and keep in mind how much faster I became during the summer last year. Probably even more so when it comes to the longer endurance races... realize that if I keep doing the same stuff I'm doing now for another year or two that I'll be a whole lot faster just because of the experience/physiology that will occur.
6. get in the money in a race with a payout (this is for you Laura)
7. finish in the top third of the field consistently in late season MNSCS expert/pro field
8. 12+ laps at afton 8 hr
9. ride consistent and strong in 2 or 3 WEMS 6 hr races and 1 12 hr (choose dates later). these will be "training" rides, but want to feel capable
10. continue to make the hard choice when training- push myself
Hitting the Hero Gravel. - I wan't able to ride Monday due to Gymnastics and with rain predicted all day today into Thursday I really wanted to ride on Tuesday. Well, in the morning...
11 hours ago