Monday, March 30, 2009

SERC #2 Chickasaw

Yesterday was SERC #2. It true spring fashion, it was a COLD and windy day. It was warm and rainy all week so at least the wind dried things out a bit.

Mark, Helen and I went up there on Wednesday (in the rain) to pre-ride the course. It was a wet muddy mess but we had a ton of fun. The day was topped off by Mark's "shower" under the water spicket in the park.

Sunday was the race and Helen, Catherine, Amanda, Emily and I were ready to go. It was bitter cold. I spent most of the morning in the car with the heat on, occasionally jumping out to cheer as someone went by. At one point I think we were all huddled into the car on top of each other to keep warm. It was about 45 degrees outside but the wind was cold and blowing at about 25mph. That didn't seem to deter anyone from racing; all the fields were HUGE and extremely compititive. Fun!

Helen was first off and she had an amazing start. By the top of the field climb she had a huge gap and we were holding our breath that she's keep it. Unfortunately she suffered a bit of a mechanical issue half way through the race (her rear skewer was loose and the wheel came off) and she got passed by two girls. She took third in her second official race. GREAT JOB!!!! She made a podium appearance for the first time this year.

Catherine's race was next and they had a really tough group. It was a battle from the start and Catherine was right in there. She did great. The top five girls battled the entire race and Catherine eventually ended up 4th. Great job girl. Another podium appearance for the team on the day!!!

Emily, Amanda and I lined up in a FAST Pro/Expert field. About 1/3 of the field was pros so it is exceptionally challenging for the two of them as expert racers. Of the 5 pros that were there anyone could have won. It was a really hard start. I felt like I was racing cross again. Ouch!! Didn't anyone tell these girls we had a 2.5 hour race ahead of us?? Oh well, go with the flow. I had a great day. I took second place and rode as well as I am capable of. I also passed most of the local guys. Yay me!! Amanda rode great. She was the second expert woman, 7th overall. Emily took an impressive 8th place after being sick for a week and then off for another week for a spring break vacation. Great job ladies!!!

So, three races and we put riders on the podium for all of them. Great job ladies!!!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Catherine ROCKS again.

Yesterday was the first race of the Georgia State Championship series and Catherine, being a GA resident, is focusing on the series. It was her first "official" Sport race and although she was nervous, we all knew she'd do just fine. She tore the MTB scene up last year and we knew that she was ready for another year of it.

She WON. I haven't heard the full race report yet but it was a sprint finish. YOU GO GIRL!!!! Looking at lap times, it was an exciting race to watch.

Catherine, we are proud of you.

I am glad she's on OUR team. :)


Life doesn't get any better...

I got to spend a beautiful spring weekend riding my bike at one of my favorite places with good friends. Life doesn't get any better.

Helen is all smiles as she climbs the mountain.
This past weekend we decided for Helen's spring break we were going to find her "balls" on the mountain bike. A camping weekend in Pisgah National Forest was just the ticket. In the spirit of a girls weekend in the dirt, we invited all the mountain bike chicks we knew and decided to make it a "girls get skills" weekend. Two of my athletes (and good friends) Kim and Karen joined us. We decided to not go completely "man free" and let Mark come along as our "dutch oven chef" and Dave came along as our "token boy toy". (It helps their egos if we give them titles like that...)

Reily and the ladies.
Helen and I were so excited to get there that we decided to leave Thursday night right after work and do most of the drive that night. We went to Greenville and slept on Dave's couch (free is good). Friday morning we loaded up and it was off to Pisgah. We quickly set up camp and then it was off to ride. It was sunny and warm and the trails were in AWESOME shape. We rode for about 2.5 hours; it was hard to head back to camp but dinner finally convinced us. Dave rode his bike up from Greenville and apparently had his own little "adventure" that included dirt roads and steep climbs. Everyone else rolled in about 8pm and it was off to the giant buffet and then good conversation around the campfire.

Our Master Chef enjoys the mountains.
Saturday was the big ride day and although it started cold, it quickly warmed into a perfect day for riding. We started our day with Mark's famous Mountain Man Breakfast. We all pigged out and were armed and ready for what the day was going to throw at us. The ride began with a 1.5 hour climb up the mountains. Everyone hung in there and did great. The next 2.5 hours were a mixture of technical climbs, gnarly descents, and sweet fast single track; all with a phenomenal view. We spent a good deal of time working on bike handling skills and all three girls were masters of the steep technical descent by the end of the day. The only notable crash was Mark doing a dance with his bike, a root and a tree. He was not leading. Dave did a long road ride up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and apparently found a great descent that went along with it. The highlight of the day was Kim talking to herself while she rode anything that scared her. It went like this: "Don't stop pedaling. Don't stop pealing....etc." It worked. She pedaled right through everything!!!

The ladies...
Saturday night was my turn to cook and after all day riding it was time for Jambalaya; in the dutch oven, of course. We all ate until we were ready to burst and then it was a relaxing evening around the campfire re-hashing the day's ride. Everyone dreamed of more sweet single track to come....

Karen climbs through the woods.
Sunday morning started (cold and sunny) with Mark again cooking breakfast for us; this time it was pancakes and scrambled eggs. By the time we were fat and happy the sun had warmed things up and it was another phenomenal day for a ride. Today was ladies only (plus one furry little black man...Reily the dog accompanied us for the first hour of our ride); the boys went for another road ride. It was one of the best rides I've done in a long time. Not only was the trail perfect, the three ladies that were so timid on Saturday were BOMBING down the trail and were invincible. It was so much fun. Helen was deemed "Princess Soggy Foot" and everyone spent some time laughing and rolling in the dirt. We decided that we'd pay the extra day campground fee so we could stay and ride longer. We didn't want to be packed up and on our way home at 2pm. The boys also had a great time and the weekend was over too soon.

Princess Soggy Foot!!!
Dinner was a restaurant in Brevard and then it was time for the long drive home. We stayed too long and it was a LATE night; arriving home at 12:30am. It was worth it.

Little English Chapel in the woods.

Next weekend it is back to racing. FUN.

Karen sums up how everyone felt by the end of the weekend. Happy and exhausted...
Thanks for reading...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Catherine ROCKS Snake TT

Last weekend was the final Snake TT in Dalton, GA. The race series (3 weekends: January, February, March) takes a rider's best time and uses that for the overall awards. Catherine raced all three weekends and it payed off.

SHE WON!!!! Catherine won the 17 mile even convincingly. And of course, knowing Catherine, she did it with a smile. Congratulations girl, we are so proud of you. It is the first mtb victory in 2009 for the team.

Emily put up her time on the second weekend of Snake and even though the third weekend was SIGNIFICANTLY faster conditions, she still held on for third in in the 35 mile. Great job Emily.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Season is HERE!! SERC #1, Florida

Florida in March always hurts. Our race season starts there every year and it is a rude awakening. First, it is way warmer than what we are used to; especially this year. Second, the Florida racers have been racing all winter and they are FAST. Third, the trails there are so different than anything that we race here. Those factors all add up to a painful but fun start to the season.

Mark, Helen, Amanda, Emily, Star and I all decided to head to FL to get the punishment over with. What a great weekend!! And we did okay. We even had a podium appearance....

Friday afternoon Helen, Mark and I loaded up the car and started the journey south. Star was already in FL vacationing so she was meeting us there. Amanda and Emily were driving from Knoxville Saturday morning. After a quick stop in Dalton to see Shane at Bear Creek Bikes and pick up Star's bike, we were off. Slowly. Nothing like trying to get through Atlanta at 6pm on a Friday... Other than traffic it was an uneventful trip. The highlight was Mark's "culture dance" at a shady gas station in south GA. The next time you see him, ask him to do it....

We slept in Saturday and then it was off to the course. Florida racing is so different than anything we have here. It is FLAT, twisty and fast with short STEEP hills. Think BMX through the woods. It is really fun, but definitely not our forte. Helen, although being from Florida, has not really done any of that type of riding. It was a challenging pre-ride with a number of spectacular tumbles. There was no re-injuring of the shoulder but she is significantly more bruised than before. The race was going to be hard but after some assessment, Helen decided that she could do it. She is so determined. Most people would not have been racing unfamiliar trails with a "still slightly separated shoulder" three weeks post injury.

Emily, Amanda and Star all arrived at the hotel by dinner time and we had an AWESOME pasta dinner that Helen's mom Sharron sent along for us. THANKS SHARRON. You are awesome. After dinner is was off to bed to try and get some sleep. We had a short night because of the time change so 6:30am came really early.

Sunday morning we were all a bit nervous but also excited. This was it; the first real race of 2009. It was sunny and a bit chilly and we were ready to go. Helen raced first and we all cheered loudly. Not only did she race faster laps than she though she could, she finished with a smile, ending up in 6th place. Great job!!!

Amanda, Emily and I lined up in a very stacked pro/expert field and hoped for the best. It was a FAST start and we all held on for dear life. After a little bit I found myself in second, right on the wheel of first. Shelly Allen was leading and she is always so talented on the bike. She lives in Florida and there is no one better than her on tight twisty trails. Just when I was feeling pretty studly for staying with her for so long I slid out in a turn and lost contact. After that the gap never got any bigger but it never got any smaller either. I ended up finishing second, about a minute down to Shelly. What a great day. I came into the race feeling like I didn't really have any race fitness; to be able to finish so strong in such a talented field was great.

Emily also had a killer race, setting a couple of personal bests. First, she was the first expert rider to finish in the combined field and was 6th overall. Second, she beat her dad, something she has never done. She has been working really hard all winter and it is paying off.

Amanda finished 7th in her first ever expert race. Amanda is a kick butt Cat 2 road racer but until recently has done very little mountain biking. This year is going to be a learning experience but she is off to a killer start. GREAT JOB!!!!!

Star lined up in the sport race on a trail that put her completely out of her element. First, she is an endurance racer so this "short" cross country stuff is always tough. To top it off, it was flat with steep power hills. All things that she hates and is NOT built for. She rode a great race and never gace up. She took 8th and had fun challenging herself. We are proud of you Star.

It was a LONG drive home. It always sucks driving home after a race but 7 hours really really sucks. We got home at about 11pm and immediately passed out. What a great way to start a new season.

Thanks for reading...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Helen's black cloud...

So Helen is back on her bike this week after a couple of weeks off to heal a messed up shoulder. She's been carefully riding the road bike in hopes of being able to hang onto her mountain bike long enough this weekend to finish her race in FL. Everything was going according to plan....

Tuesday afternoon Mark, Helen and I were headed out for a short spin. We met downtown and decided to ride toward my house and I would then drive Helen back home. Perfect. The sun was shining (finally) and we were happy to be riding.

As we were rolling out through the "Bend" we had some poorly angled railroad tracks to cross. I was first, looked back and saw a car way in the distance. I proceeded to cross the tracks at a steep angle so as not to fall. Helen was behind me and as she went to cross the tracks, the car, who was moving SIGNIFICANTLY over the speed limit, brushed her and forced her to swerve so she didn't get run over. Of course swerving caused her to ride parallel to the tracks and consequently right into them. Of course she immediately fell over. She fortunately was okay (and I expanded EVERYONE'S vocabulary while yelling at the car as it sped off) but we were all really angry. Why do drivers have to be that way??!!! After a quick assessment of any damages (one slightly bent hanger but still rideable) we were off again.

Not two minutes later a very nice man in a pickup truck rolled up, told us that not only had he seen the whole thing, but he had followed the car and gotten the license plate. WELL!!!! Yes, we will call the police. So we did. A very helpful police man came out (lights and sirens) and took the report, license number and informed us that if he could find the car they would take the driver to jail for leaving the scene of an accident among other things. AWESOME!!!! Helen was only slightly concerned about the prospect of having to possibly go to court and testify if the driver was located but she decided that it would be worth it to make the roads one driver safer.

All in all, we were really lucky and it ended up being a good ride. Although road riding sometimes makes me lose my faith in humanity, (one can only be run off the road so many times before getting a little bit bitter), today mostly restored that faith. A very nice driver took the time to do the right thing and the Chattanooga Police were extremely supportive and helpful. Helen is fine, not even a bruise so she'll still get to race this weekend. And we got to enjoy a sunny day outside.

Sometimes it takes a bad incident to make a person realize just how fortunate they are.

Thanks for reading.