As the year ends and a new one begins I cannot help but wonder where did all the time go? The memories are still fresh in my head but the time has passed once again. The Xterra season ended for me many months back and as much as I loved every moment of it I was ready for its end. Per my usual schedule that led me right into the Dorba Fall XC Series
The Xterra season went well I took the regional championship for my second year in a row with a perfect score. An honor that is humbling and still beyond where I ever thought I would be within this sport. I had a few goals this season and hit most of them. I was looking to defend my win at Eureka Springs this year but it was simply not my day for racing and I ended up with 3rd overall.
The bike for the first time had a flawless season without one mechanical hiccup which is an historic first. I raced only on two tires this season the Michelin Race R 26 by 2.0 dual compound and the Schwalbe Racing Ralph EVO DD 26 2.1. That’s right still rocking 26 inch wheels.
The runners in Xterra are getting faster my deal breaker run is not what it used to be and that is simply from an over emphasis on the bike and a neglected running regimen. My complete amount of swim training this year was maybe four hours in the pool and my race times did not necessarily reflect that, however I did lose my last race due to a two minute deficit in the swim. I took 3rd overall again and missed the win by 55 seconds at Xterra Dawg Days. Second and first place were out of the water two minutes before I was.
Training is for the love of the sport and I ride on most days after work, waking up at 4:45AM for a 10K run is probably the best way to start your morning. However swimming in a cement prison sucking down chlorine is not my idea of a good time. I love the bike and the run, swimming is for the fishes. Does it give me a weakness in racing? Yes and I am okay with that.
See you in 2012 Xterra my greatest competitor Kyle Grieser will be in my age group once again pushing me far beyond what I ever thought was possible in pursuit of one man. As I have gotten faster over the years he still grows as well. Looking forward to the chase Kyle see you out there.
Now onto the 2011 Dorba series.
I was born and raised in Texas and have a big place in my heart for this great local series. I started racing the DORBA series about four years ago and it has been a great experience with many highs and a whole lot of learning. I started this season with a different approach to the bike and have found success with my new found interest for road riding.
The mountain bike is now at a state of perfection. A statement that I never thought I would utter. My bike was stolen many months ago and was then recovered from a very talented local Sushi chef and now friend Scotty P. When the bike was gone it crushed me for many reasons. We had our travels and our memories together that no price could ever wage its value. From the World Championship Xterra race in Maui to my concussion in Oklahoma and my win in Eureka Springs Arkansas no bike could truly replace its place in my heart or my garage.
The Litespeed was my project, a project that has been over three years in the making. Many thousands of dollars have been spent on countless parts looking to achieve what I call my Masterpiece. I was in touch with a friend from fifteen years ago some time back and she was surprised that I was no longer involved with the arts as that was my passion when she knew me. I am still very much an artist’s the media has simply changed, bicycles are my art. The bike is an instrument that when properly used can create something far deeper than just a workout. It is a cathartic experience waiting to happen whether for a child or an adult, the world on two wheels simply is better.
The first race of the DORBA series was at LB Houston. This was a flat course with zero elevation gain and a phenomenal amount of turns. LB Houston was one of the first courses that I road on with Bill Driegert when I first started riding and it had been many years since I had been back. Last year in CAT 1 I made the podium just once on my home course at Rowlett Creek Nature Preserve. Things were different last year I had one of the most phenomenal training partners to help develop me as a cyclist. His name was Jackson Green a PHD student from New Zealand here in the states for a short time completing his eductation. Jackson proved to be the most technically proficient rider I have had the pleasure of riding with. He was the only beast who road Single Speed in a geared Category 1 last season and he still put the hurt on plenty of racers.
Jackson your tutelage and knowledge is still used today on the trails THANK YOU.
LB Houston taught me one thing, I need more power. I had my doors blown off right out of the gate and started dead last into the single track after the start. I over took everyone after the first lap and paced a super fast rider in my division. I over took the lead on the second lap and let it all out instead of pacing. He was on me the whole time my attacks in the flats were insufficient to hold him off. We entered lap three together at the same time as I grabbed a water bottle handout he took off and dropped me like I was standing still.
I never did see him again and took second for the day. Race number two would be at Cedar Hill State Park a dusty course with a little bit of rocks and a few field crossings. I for the first time in my racing career got the whole shot and took the lead immediately. That lasted until my first washout and then my second. Two wipeouts and goodbye to first place. I lost my position and my mojo. With shattered confidence I still managed third for the day less then fifteen seconds back from first place.
I was now tied for first place in the series the pivot point would come down to a race in Fort Worth at Samson Park, a race that fortunately was cancelled. I was in the middle of moving and frankly had been neglecting the training and was not ” in the zone” for Samson. She is a vicious course that ends agonizingly every lap with steep loose climbs that suck the wind out of you and boil your legs in lactic acid.
The day before the Samson race I pre road and did just one lap at six o’clock in the evening. I was tired and the course was just as I remembered it from last year. Rocky loose and fast. I was pre-riding way too late in the day, I normally do this in the morning. On the ride home I did not feel good about the race. The sky had been grey all day and when I got home the clouds starting rolling in more and I could hear thunder in the distance.
My prayers had been answered and the rains came and with that the race was cancelled. This was a relief and a wake-up call. The series was now going to come down to the Rowlett Creek race. All I had to do was take first place and the series was mine. In two years of racing CAT 1 I had never won first in my division. With the Rowlett race comes closure. It is normally the last race of the year for me and right at my breaking point of wanting to give up for the year. I knew I needed to put for more focus on intervals on the bike and sustaining hard efforts.
On race morning the weather played music to my ears and it was going to be a warm November morning. As the series progresses the participation starts to dwindle. I knew what had to be done today and was ready. I had not had a drop of caffeine in two months preparing for this day and on race morning I ingested a 5-Hour Energy Extra Strength. I was ready and on the start line feeling okay. As the race started I pedaled as hard as I could and ended at the back of the pack before going into the single track as usual.
My heart was pumping fast way too hard and my legs were feeling dead already from that uninspiring start. A lesson was being learned about caffeine ingestion, for as long as my break was I went a bit too far with the extra strength 5-Hour formula. I made my way up to the top three and tried a few surges to get up front and was unable to make a pass. As we entered the other side of the course I made one pass right before the trail closed up and then immediately made another pass shortly after that. I was now in the lead. From dead last to first in about twenty minutes.
As the race started to unfold I was looking at my strategy for the next two hours. It is easy to go hard develop a comfortable gap and then blow up later. I needed something slow and steady I try to never look back in races I believe in always looking ahead. I had managed to take lead in every race this series at some point and yet had not been able to seal the deal on a win.
The Rowlett course was to be the longest course of the whole series the average race was an hour and forty minutes long and today would be a two hour and twenty minute long race. That extra forty minutes was normally another lap in any other race. It would be endurance that would win this race.
I was not sure of how things were looking I could sense no riders behind me and that a comfortable gap was starting to build. I worked a lot this summer on interval training on my rides after work. Every time I passed an intersection I would start sprinting one hundred meters before. When I was through the intersection I would sit back down in the saddle. I do not use a power meter or anything scientific in my training or racing just perceived effort. I have nothing against those tools I just do not use them.
As each field crossing came and went I was out of the saddle sprinting. The race was unfolding nicely and on the second lap I started pulling a few of the earlier legs that let out before the fifth leg that I was racing released. There was an under the bridge cement off camber crossing that I have ridden under hundreds of times that never posed an issue until today. It was apparent on the first lap that the morning dew was still on the cement and that a super slick surface had developed.
Nearing the end of the under bridge crossing on lap two , the bike slid out from underneath me. My handlebars flew past the top tube of my frame and I knew it was going to leave a hell of a rash. I jumped back up and kept on riding I did not want to look down and access the damage. My left hip felt like eighty grit sandpaper had embraced it for a nice sanding. I could feel my chin bleeding slightly. The race was still on and I really could not feel a thing, too much caffeine and too much adrenaline.
Halfway through lap three I was starting to get stuffed. Had it been any other race, we would have been done by now. As I kept sprinting the fields I could feel the muscles in my calves just moments away from being torn and doing some real internal damage. I had to back it off on the out of saddle sprints and use more of my quadriceps to power the last half of the final lap.
As I realized the closer I got to the finish line the closer I was to winning the series. I thought of Michael and Christina. I thought of Bill and Randy and where this all started right here on this very trail in Rowlett. I told myself it would take three years to be successful at CAT1 and now I was about to wrap it up in two years.
I sprinted the finish line and like that it was done. I was hot, nauseous and pretty fried. It was a spectacular day for racing and I was delighted for many reasons. The 2011 race season had officially ended and on a high note. After seven months of racing this year it was time to take the helmet off and start embracing horrific amounts of sugary fattening foods and taking up drinking as a holiday past time.
To achieve the unexpected is a great feeling, the journey has been pushed along with great help from my sponsors, my family and friends and my passion to create moments that never seemed possible growing up. To be an athlete is still a label I struggle to grasp. As I look towards 2012 I am excited and ready. We shall see what happens.