Sunday, April 5, 2009

Race Report: Uxbridge Icebreaker

Thanks for the photo Big Ring

I only really tolerate getting up at 4:30 am for riding. Or going somewhere where I will eventually be riding. Or going somewhere interesting enough to not miss riding. I'd get up for my daughter too. Today was to be spent in a car for 8 hours and on a bike for two. Kinda sounds like a day of downhill at Bromont (driving really slow), except that'd be more like an hour and a half riding max. Unless you count time on the lift; that'd be pretty pathetic though wouldn't it?

Roll out of town at 6 with Dom (Eurosport) and Stu (Bushtuka). Drive. Arrive at Durham Forest despite my navigational failings. Register and change with 20 minutes until the gun fires. This is one thing I dislike about racing, rushing the prep process. Once changed and watered up, there was no time to spare to warm up. Problem? Yes. But before elaborating, let's take a moment to set the scene.

The Course:

The 'long course' was supposed to be 50k. It was more like 41-42k. I didn't mind. It was comprised of a mix of wide logging road trail, dirt road and a small amount of singletrack. Packed snow, in varying depths covered anywhere from a few to 200 meters of trail. Some was perfectly rideable fast, other sections not rideable. Big ruts developed in some areas over the course of the race. I suspect most crashed at least once. There were a couple sections of sheer lumpy ice. Dirt sections varied from soggy to pretty firm. There were very few rocks posing the risk of pinch flats. The dirt roads were smooth and rolling. I can't attest to the elevation profile, but there was a moderate amount of climbing. There we very few if any difficult turns to navigate. 

The Bike:

I opted for my 'cross bike for a couple reasons. 1) I like it a lot; 2) The course was sure to be muddy, and cross wheels roll well through that; 3) The 'cross bike should be better for running; 4) It should also excel on the road sections. 

My bike was set up with the usual bar position, a 34c cross tire in the front and a 32 in the back - full knobs. I ran a 39/42 x 12-27 drivetrain. Why so weird? Necessity. I only actually needed the 42, which was nice; this particular set-up requires a soft touch to shift accurately. Rim brakes with Scott-Mahauser compound brake pads. No power issues; not much braking to do though.

Its hard to say whether the 'cross bike was the best move. I also have a Niner hardtail with a rigid fork I could have used. On the soft snow an mtb would have been far easier to control, but would have been slower on the road. The overall winner was on a 'cross bike, and Ryan Atkins (EMD-Sorono) was second on a full suspension Epic with 26" wheels. Toss-up.

The Race:

Ryan evidently decided to roll out at a mellow pace. That's good for one without a warm-up right? Or is it opportunity knocking? Uh, no, that's your ego shlepping suffering with the promise of 3 minutes at the front. Sold. I took the lead on the first downhill and turned onto the first deep snow section, which required a dismount and run, uphill. Poof. A gaggle of young guns passed and I had to chase. Not good, approaching red zone. Onto the road things mellowed a bit. I got onto Ryan's wheel and we cruised for a while. In the next trail section he got away, as did others. Trying to catch up while flailing on unridable snow took its toll. Burnt-lungs. Had to slow down. Some more guys passed. After that, it was damage control time. I sucked wheel where I could and powered where I could, which was good enough to hang with a monster of a man on a vintage Rocky Mountain Blizzard for a while. This guy was hammering the road, and I easily hung with him on my cross bike until a deep snow section where I flailed and he pulled away. He ultimately won the 30-39 category. I managed to real in a trio of juniors on the road on the second lap, and broke them down until only one chased me. I knew he was not in my category, but my goal was to keep him behind me. One minute he's out of sight, the next he's 50 meters back. Depite my best efforts, the deep snow near the end of the lap bogged me down and he passed and held his position while I exploded chasing him up an icy single track that was barely walkalbe. I decided to be ok with that, as I had no choice, and wrapped up the last kilometer. 

Unfortunately, burning my lungs kept me from really using my legs to their potential. It was a pretty good legs day, and I had hoped to really hurt them and gain some strength, but I don't think that happened. Off-road racing can really bite you when it comes to the starts. With road events people never go out super hard. In contrast, this is the norm for mountain bike events. Without a proper warm-up you are prone to burning the lungs if you go too hard. After that the body can't get enough oxygen to do the work, so there's only so much you can accomplish. I seem to need to remind myself of this every year by doing it wrong.


Our car rounded out the podium today:

1st - Dom - Clydesdale short course
2nd - me - 30-39 men long course
3rd - Stu - 30-39 men long course

While I can't see myself returning to the Icebreaker in the future when there is deep snow on the course like today, I would be willing to do it again with less. I am poor runner. The running in 'cross is just right for me; more is bad. My personal goal was to ride hard and get some intensity training in for the upcoming races. The lung burnage limited my ability to realize that plan, but I'm happy to have had the experience nonetheless. I think Stu and Dom were happy with their efforts.  This week will consist of a bit of recovery spin tomorrow, followed by some intervals midweek. That can't be put off any longer. The Hell of the North should be a great time next weekend.


glacialridn said...

we should have something in ottawa...

multi stage sort of race in June-July

Race would consist of mostly late day to evening riding to avoid...

some parts in the gats
then camp around browns lake
then race on the dirt roads in wakefield
then back to camp around browns lake
another race in the gats

3 days - any bike - cyclocross or mtb

Pascii said...

Nice one Matt; podium despite lung burnination.

Matt Surch said...

Thanks Pascal!