Monday, April 16, 2012

Winding Trails - First Look

This weekend I got down to Connecticut to pre-ride Winding Trails on Saturday morning.  I was VERY surprised at how few people showed up for the pre-ride!!  Perhaps more people are sneaking on and getting a taste for it themselves (I'm looking at you Charlie) as I hear it's been marked for a little while now.  As our small group was about to start out Charlie showed up - always the schemer he was there to test out different gearing to really dial things in for the course.  Charlie offered to take me around since he's ridden the course, but I decided to go with the group at the slower pace (for the first lap) and allow Charlie to get his test run down.

Of course things didn't go smoothly with the first lap ride.  Not long into the course we lost a rider.  He was a younger kid, this was to be his first race and no one knew what happened... was he lost?  mechanical?  I volunteered to head back and find him and get him back on track.  Of course I run into Charlie head on as I'm back tracking... but he hadn't seen anyone heading back to the lot, so I guessed he missed a quick turn... so I run down various trails looking for our lost rider.

After a riding a couple "I missed the turn" options I headed back to the lot guessing he would eventually work his way back there having given up on finding the trail or catching the group.  I did find him back at the lot.  He has snapped his rear derailleur hanger... I utilized the intelligence of my phone and found a local shop for him to go to telling him if it was just the hanger (which it appeared to be) it should be a quick fix and I encouraged him to come back to get a full ride in.  He never returned (at least while I was still there).

So after I get him and his parents the info on the local shop I head back out to ride the course.  Much of the course is the same as last year.  Some changes are slight, due to blow down and whatnot.  Some are a little bigger, due to more access as the whole dredging the pond operation is done.  And one is HUGE.  The huge change being the start.  Still head up the sandy road, but instead of turning right - quick left into the woods we bang a left before the woods and ride the ridge line overlooking the fields.  Sounds fun - until you realize that not only is it sandy there, but it is totally soft sand.  It's going to be a mess out there as it's a narrow track and once one person fumbles it's a foot race.

So on my "first" lap I miss a couple quick turns.  The fire road portions are still there, but they are brief, and sometimes VERY brief, with quick turns into singletrack.  I catch up with the group before the final steep climb and finish the first lap with them.  I have to say I LOVE this course.  Is it designed for my strengths (what strengths?), I dunno.  But it is FUN!!  Great tight twisting singletrack.  Great opportunities to open it up on the fire roads - although some are quite short so it will be more of an opportunity to utilize acceleration rather than all out speed.  But it's just a track that allows you to use a bit of everything - technical skills (we got log crossing for days... some grouped together tightly), speed, acceleration, climbs (a couple grinders and one STEEP) and just overall bike handling skills.

We hang out at the end for a bit, I grab a little more water, and three of us head out for an "at speed" lap.  I'm taking up the rear and as we take the left into the new start my rear wheel washes out in the sand on a right turn.  There it is... the wrath of the sand.  I'll have to try different lines to start after we are done here...  acting as it's a race I run the bike to a spot where I wouldn't hang anyone up and jump back on and take off.  I can still see the riders ahead of me through the trees so I keep on it.  The start will be key really as once you hit the singletrack you will really be able to defend your position.  No, not in a dick "I'm not going to let you pass" way, but just because it is tight and twisty there won't be much opportunity for someone to want to pass...

I never catch up - but always catching glimpses around turns and through trees... my last glimpse being as I'm coming up the back side of the STEEP they are climbing it, which does push me to try to catch them, but there isn't enough course left to make up the gap.  I finish the lap feeling pretty good... but still wondering how I'm going to keep that pace for two laps.  I do not think I need to/want to back off the pace I rode that first lap in, but it will be interesting to see if my lungs/legs can hold up for the second lap.

Finished the lap in 31:32 with an average speed of 9.9 mph, climbing 337 ft over 5.2 miles, and an average HR of 170.  Everything looks good there.  Might be able to get the speed up a bit, but again with all the quick transitions from fire road to singletrack I'm not overly worried about it.  I'm feeling like (minus the spill off the start) I'd be happy with that performance come race day.

Of course I spent too much time bullshitting after the lap and forget to run the start a couple times.... ah well, one more thing to do the morning of the race.

So today start Spring Break!!  Which means getting more jobs done around the house (Annie really knocked a couple out of the park this weekend!!) and, of course, get some riding in.  I'm still concerned with the balance of my rides this week since I was not able to ride last week I don't want to go too hard this week and wear myself out for the race, but I also don't want to go too light....  The plan for today is to hit up Massasoit (which is the site of our next race) and see if I can figure out the course there since I didn't race it last year.  I've only ridden the trails there once so if I can't find the course itself at least I'll get a better idea of the terrain there.

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