Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spinners REPRESENT! Day 6 of the Greenville Spring training series

Wow! What a great day of racing! The weather was nearly perfect (some wind late in the day) and the Greenville Spinners brought it to the table and kicked some serious butt!

I arrived at the final race of the spring series near the 2nd half of the Cat 4 race. There was three Spinners out there working the peleton - Tim, Clark and Robert. When I arrived, they were just coming through for their final lap.

What a sight when they came around for the sprint! Since I had been otherwise occupied in the morning, I wasn't sure who was out there, but what I saw when they came across the line was two Spinners' kit at the front! Clark and Robert brought it home for the top two podium spots! What a great job by those guys. Really great to see team-mates getting those podium positions.

The cat 4 race results from Day 6 of the Greenville Spring training series - Spinners Represent!
As for other races that the Spinners were involved in, the race in which I would normally be participating had just one of my Teammates representing - Ed (my Polka Dottay team-mate from the Austin Ride) rode to finish with the peleton.

Where was I? I was taking a chance that I would be able to stay in the Spring training series ominium top 10 without racing at Donaldson today. Instead, I represented the Spinners in an off-road triathlon.

These off-road tris are a little different from the traditional tri - the off road tri (of course) includes three events - a trail run, a flatwater paddle (kayak or canoe) and a mountain bike ride. I had signed up for this event weeks prior to signing up for the spring series, so I decided to get out there and have some fun. After all, there will be plenty of opportunity to get out and ride laps around Donaldson center this summer!

I loaded up my boat and my mountain bike saturday afternoon, so I was ready to leave bright and early sunday morning. I was about the 2nd person to arrive at the event site, and immediately met a first timer as she was off-loading her boat. She asked me a few questions, and we had a nice chat. She would be doing the 'sprint' event, while I would be doing the 'endurance' event. I outfitted myself in my Greenville Spinners Racing kit so I could represent the team.

What's the difference? The sprint event is a 3 mile trail run followed by a 2 mile paddle and a 7ish mile mountain bike ride. The endurance event is a 5 mile trail run, followed by a 4 mile paddle and a 12ish mile mountain bike. When I had checked earlier in the week, the field for the endurance event was only about 20 participants (women and men). When I asked about it during packet pick-up, they told me the field would be about 35 participants. A good number of peeps waited until the last minute to get signed up it seems.

The two events would start together and follow the same course for the first ~1.5 miles of the run (and the last mile), the early part of the paddle and parts of the mountain bike. This made it interesting as I was doing my event - At times, I wasn't sure who was doing the sprint and who was doing the endurance.

Another of my Spinners team-mates was also there at the off-road tri. Abhay came out with his rowing skull and his mountain bike to give it his shot.

The run started on an uphill, but thankfully, my buddy Pip suggested a warm up so I started off feeling good. By the time we crested the climb, a clear seperation had formed between the top 10 or so runners and me. My first mile was 7:24, which was a bit faster than I expected - especially with that hill. Pip was up in that front pack as they pulled away from me. I could hear some peeps behind me, but it was pretty spread out.

The run came through the transition area on it's way up to a trail called Grinder. You can imagine - this trail is aptly named. It is a long grinding uphill about a mile long. Not terribly steep, but you feel it - every step of it.

We came out on a paved road for a short distance before plunging back into the forest to run down the Clemson Freeride Club's downhill course. It's pretty fun to run down that course.

Before we arrived at the boat transition (about a 1/2 mile from the boats), the leader of the sprint race was already on his bike and heading out. Super strong effort from that guy (he did end up winning it).

I arrived at the transition with three other runners from the endurance race. The three of us ran together for most of the run. I got suited up with my camelback and my pfd and jumped in my boat.

I knew I had to make up some time on the boat - I would only be able to make up so much on the bike. As there were many peeps from the sprint event out on the boats for the first half of the race, It was difficult to tell who was who, although the speed differential was somewhat obvious.

The sprint boaters turned right at the 2nd bouy, but the endurance competitors kept straight to round a third bouy before turning back to the takeout. As I came around a point of land, I could see the endurance competitors spread out in front of me. I counted the boats and I found that I was in about 7th position (or 6th maybe). One of these peeps was the woman who was right behind me for most of the run. That put me in 5th or 6th place at the end of the boat.

I ran up to the bike transition and began to get myself squared away. The woman was staged just a few bikes away, and I saw her take off slightly before me. I got on my bike and gave chase. As far as I knew, no-one had escaped on the bike in front of me (from the endurance event - i.e. left the boat after me, but made a faster transition).

It took a few minutes, but I caught and passed the woman (who ended up winning first overall for the women in the endurance event) and kept chasing those in front of me. This first two miles was on a fire road and there was a good number of sprint event peeps out there. The only thing that made it obvious who was doing the endurance was their relative speed - we were traveling quite a bit faster than the sprint folks who were out there (because the fast guys / gals in the sprint event were already out on the singletrack part of the course).

I can't say for sure if I passed any of my endurance event competitors during this initial fire-road portion of the ride. I was tucked and in the big ring going about as hard as my legs and lungs would let me go. These fire road portions of the course had to be taken advantage of.

When I crossed into the singletrack and onto the Lawrence trail, I noted a rider behind me (to be called red shirt because of his red jersey). Anyone I saw on these trails was an endurance participant, so I knew I had to do what I could to overtake and prevent myself from being overtaken during these periods.

I learned a little about this guy on the climb up lawrence trail - I am a stronger climber than he is. I pulled a larger gap on him on this little climb coming out from the five forks intersection. He was a better mountain biker though as he reeled me in a little on the flatter portions of this trail.

There were periods where I was riding in the middle ring on the front and the smaller cogs on the rear. When I was in this configuration, I began to hear rattling from my rear hub! I was also having a bit of trouble shifting - thankfully, there was no ghost shifting, only imprecise shifting - I could live with that.

When we turned to go up collarbone, I could see two or three other guys in front of me. I was trying to count, but I was unsure of where I stood because of the confusion of the shared courses. These guys became my next targets and I dispatched two of them on this climb up collarbone. The third would fall (as in I would overtake him) as I rode down the dam road.

The Dam road was really fun. Once again, I was in the big ring and pushing for all I had. A big part of this fire road is downhill, so the speeds were probably over 30mph (maybe as much as 35mph). As I approached the intersection with the lake trail, I looked back to see two guys behind me - blue shirt who I passed on the dam road, and red shirt who had been following me since the lawrence trail.

Red shirt had passed blue shirt and began to gain on me quickly as we made our way along the lake trail. As he was getting close, I came upon a root system that stopped me in my tracks. I tried to quickly get out of his way, but was not able to. He had to stop, and because I felt I owed him, I told him to go ahead and pass me.

Luckily for me, his body chose that moment to cramp up on him. I waited for a moment, but when I realized he wasn't going to be able to pass, I continued on my way. I think blue shirt passed him at this point.

The rattling in my rear hub was getting worse - I can remember clearly thinking "ride it until it breaks!" The shifting was getting worse - It's critical to be able to cleanly shift into the proper gear when on a technical trail and I was fighting the imprecise shifting.

We were overtaking a number of the sprint competitors on this trail, and they were really great about moving off to the side to let us pass. since I was in the front of this little 3 bike train, I would call out "rider coming behind" and the would pick a safe spot to pull over for me (and the guys behind).

As we began to run out of lake trail, we came upon another root system that hung me up. Blue shirt was able to get by at this point, but I felt pretty confident that I could catch him on the fire road if I could just keep him in sight.

He exited the singletrack a few moments before I did, and red shirt exited a few moments after I did. I was in chase mode to catch blue shirt when red shirt pulled up next to me. We chatted for a short time before I let him pull a little in front of me. I pulled a roadie on him and began to draft. He pulled for a bit as we passed by blue shirt, then he pulled out to the side and told me "I think I'll let you pull for a while". Who was I to argue - turn about is fair play (only later did I talk to a friend of mine who told me that drafting was usually not allowed in traditional triathlons). I don't think it was an issue, I pulled him for at least as long as he pulled me.

I knew the course, and so did he. He had gone to school at Clemson and started mountain biking on these trails. I knew we had one final climb on this fire road before the trail went down hill to the finish.

I opened it up on him a little as we made that climb - the strength I have gained from road riding payed huge dividends here. As I crested the hill, I looked back to see I had pulled 10 or so bike lengths on him. At the top, I clicked it over to the big ring and started hammering. He was working hard to reel me in, but the gap appeared to hold steady.

I crossed the line with that gap intact. I was pleased. I felt I did well - perhaps in the top 5. Red shirt, blue shirt and I chatted a little as we made a cool down ride up the hill (same as where the run started). It was great fellowship.

When I got back to the bike transition area, I hung up my bike and started to get out of my biking gear. About that time, I looked up to see Pip crossing the line. He was about 5 minutes behind me. Great result for him.

Somewhere in there, I walked over to the folks doing the scoring. I asked how I did overall, and they said I was 29th overall (sprint and endurance competitors). She asked if I was in the endurance race, and told me that I might have gotten third place! Third!! I was stoked, but I was trying to keep myself from getting too excited before she finished with the official results.

Abhay came in while I was at my car getting my bike squared away. He had fun, but he had trouble with his racing skull that delayed him for about 10 minutes on the paddle.

We hung around for the results and I was super-stoked to find that I actually came in 2nd overall for the endurance event! What a great way to finish a race.

JD takes 2nd overall for the Clemson Off road triathlon!!

And what about the spring series for me? Without racing today, I dropped in the ominium standings from 6th to 8th place. I'll take that - a top 10 finish in my first ever road racing series, to include a win.

Cat 5, 35+ ominium standings as posted at Donaldson this afternoon.

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