Monday, August 31, 2009

R & R

Oh, yes, a little rest and recuperation are good. I just drove back from Rehoboth Beach, DE and the body is feeling re-energized to race again. Not only did I take this past weekend off from racing, but I also took off last weekend, too...yes, two weeks off from racing for me. I know it is hard to believe, but it is true. Don't think for a minute, though, that I have not been riding. I actually did a 20 + hour week of riding this past week in preparation for Shenandoah, so the legs are feeling good.

In addition to my many hours of riding this past week, I also spent the past few days swimming for about an hour a day in the ruff surf created by Tropical Storm Danny. At one point, I decided to ride one of the big waves back onto the beach, only to be body slammed by this huge monster into the shore. I have a nice scuff on my nose to prove it. I actually thought the big wave snapped my neck when I hit the ocean floor. One day I will learn to not mess with Mother Nature, but probably not any day soon.

I took my single speed cross bike to the beach because there is less on it for the salt and sand to destroy. I found some cool trails and some nice roads to ride in Rehoboth. Additionally, I also had a chance to practice my cx sand pit skills...maybe a little too much. More than a few of the trails I found turned into deep and soft pits of sand. With the big gear I had on my bike, it was mostly impossible to ride this stuff, but it sure was fun trying. And, if I couldn't ride it, I would just run it, since I was in cyclocross mode anyway. The picture above was from a trail that lead to a large sand dune. I ended-up running with my bike for about a mile up and down this thing to find a trail that I could ride on again. The best part was that I actually had to run because I was being chased by a swarm of biting sand flies for the whole mile.

Well, now for the big news, if you haven't heard it already....I am NOT using a SINGLE SPEED for Shenandoah. I have decided to race a geared bike since I have the NUE Series Singlespeed Win locked-up. I have done well at Shenandoah in the past with gears and would like to try for another good overall finish there. I think only having one gear at Shenandoah would make it a lot tougher to do well overall, so gears it is for me. I also think it will make the battle for second overall in the singlespeed series a little more interesting to watch. So, Matt, Gunnar and Roger, you will need to have your fun without me....Good Luck to you all and may the best man win!

One last note: I finally joined the rest of the modern world and put a profile on Facebook this week. If I haven't tracked you down by now, please send me a friend request, so I don't seem so pathetic and friendless.

See you all for some good suffering in about a week... Happy Trails, Gerry

Monday, August 17, 2009

NOT Leadville, but......

This past weekend there were primarily two 100 mile mtb races from which to choose. A small, unknown race with some guy named Lance doing it being held in the mountains of Colorado (Leadville), if you couldn't guess. And, the other choice, the 6th stop of the NUE Series, the Fool's Gold 100, in Dongalonga, GA...the town was actually called Dahlonega, but Andy and I had some fun saying Dongalonga because we were not too sure how to actually pronounce the name of the small college town. Anyway, being the NUE Series Junkie that I am, I did the Fool's Gold Race instead of Leadville...not that I really even gave any real consideration to doing Leadville.

From what I can find on the internet, Leadville boasts approximately 14,000 feet of climbing. I do not use an altimeter or a GPS Unit on my bike, but I did find GPS information on the total of the Fool's Gold Race, which verified the climbing at just over 14,600 feet for the entire 100 mile, 2 loop race. So, even though I was not at the infamous Leadville 100, I actually got to do more climbing than if I was there anyway. Additionally, when compared to Leadville, Fool's is more of a true mountain bike course with many of the 100 miles coming from single track trails rather than dirt roads. I have never done Leadville, but my guess is that anyone who has done both races would probably say Fool's is tougher to do than Leadville. What do you think, Garth P.???

Well, enough comparison between the two races. Time to tell my story of Fool's and the fun I had doing it. Let me start by giving a description of the activities that occurred on the first climb, an eleven mile monster, which takes about an hour to climb. The race started in a flat grass field, then went for about two hundred yards, before pointing straight up. After the start, I immediately went to the front of the pack to set some good tempo up the climb. My new blogger friend, Rich Dillen, then rode up to me and introduced himself . We shook hands, said a few kind words and then continued with the racing. Anyway, my race plan up the climb was to keep a pretty fast pace at the front of the pack to lessen the occurrence of individual attacks, so that hopefully a group could form to set a steady, but fast pace up the rest of the climb. My strategy seemed to work and a few miles up the hill there was a group containing me and six other riders. We seemed to work well together up the climb and the pace was enough to create a pretty significant gap over the rest of the field. Gunnar S. was the only other singlespeeder in the lead group with me, so I was happy with how things were going.

I did the first climb with only one water bottle, since the first check point was on top of the 11 mile climb. I figured it would be better to climb light and then stop at the top of the climb to grab the rest of my hydration gear rather than carrying everything the whole way up. I figured that other racers would also have this plan in mind and that the climb would also split things up so much that a 20 second stop to grab my stuff would not be a problem. Well, I was wrong. As it turned out, I was the only one in the lead group to stop at the check point (and there was no way I could continue racing with only a quarter of a bottle left to drink until the next check point), so I had no choice but to watch the fast group roll away with Gunnar attached in their draft.

After grabbing my hydration gear and jumping back on my bike, I figured it was going to be a long day alone in the saddle, again, especially after I found that the descent had many fast, flatter sections, which seemed perfect for a singlespeeder to use for drafting. After the long, fast fire road descent, though, the single track started and to my surprise, I soon found Gunnar riding all alone. After catching him, I said "Man, I thought you were gone when you rode away with that group." He said, "Those guys are nuts on the descents!" I agreed with him and then we settled into a fast singlespeed pace, riding together for almost the entire first fifty mile lap.

It wasn't until the last climb before the end of the 1st lap that I was finally able to put about 20 seconds on Gunnar. I maintained this small gap going into the start/finish area of the first loop. I did a quick pit stop and like on the first lap grabbed only one water bottle for the long 11 mile climb, since I had my second camelbak and another bottle waiting on top of the mountain. When Gunnar came into the checkpoint he jokingly asked me to wait up for him, but knowing this was my chance to gain some valuable time, I pedaled away. From what Gunnar told me after the race, I put like ten minutes on him by the top of the big climb. But, not knowing where Gunnar was behind me, I pushed my pace until the end of the race. I also kept my pace high to accomplish a personal goal of finishing in the top five overall again at a NUE Series Race on a singlespeed, if I could.

Everything seemed to be going perfectly for me on the second lap, other than being stung repeatedly by a wasp on the temple area of my head, when it got stuck in between my face and helmet strap, at mile 67. Other than the pain from being stung, my bike was working flawlessly, the rest of my body felt great, my nutrition and hydration was going as planned, and I kept the rubber trail side down all day, too, so all was golden. It was so nice to do a race without having some major problem to tackle. I basically just got into my groove and enjoyed the trails and my ride.

By the end of the race, I had met my goal of being the first singlespeed racer to cross the line and the 5th rider overall to finish the 100 mile race, with a time of 8 hours and 15 minutes. Andy also had a great race, finishing 6th overall and as 5th in the open (geared) class, about fifteen minutes behind me. This was Andy's first time on a NUE Series Podium, so he was pretty excited about his finish. This win gave me a lock on the overall NUE Series Singlespeed Class Win. With now having four 1st places and one second place finish in the sereis, I can relax a bit and treat the Shenandoah 100 as a one day race instead of a meaningful part of a series.

I can't say enough good things about the Fool's Gold Race. The course was tough, but at the same time super fun to do. Eddy, the promoter, also did great job with all the logistical and event planning stuff required to make everything run smoothly. I would absolutely add this race on to a list of 100 mile races to do, even if doesn't have all the drama surrounding a guy named Lance doing the race. Happy Trails, Gerry

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Gerry Pflug Does NOT Eat People

I came to find out this past week that someone wrote a blog about me. If you did not get a chance to read it, checkout this blog here. The poster of the blog, Rich Dillen, is a single speed brethren, but not someone I can say that I actually know. After reading the blog, I figured it would be best to tell everyone not to be afraid of me; I do not eat people.

I think most people reading Rich's Blog probably do realize that I am not all he claims me to be. Man, I wish I was that strong, but, like everyone else, I have weaknesses. And, after this past Saturday's WVMBA Big Bear Ultra MTB Race, I certainly do not feel as strong as I am portrayed in Rich's Blog.

Let me just start by saying that I need to be a little bit more honest with myself when it comes time to rest. All week after the Wilderness 101 I felt tired. I took Sunday after the 101 off, but rode the rest of the week. I did not do anything too long or hard, thinking that this would rest me up a bit to do Big Bear. By Friday, I was still tired, but thought I would be good enough to do another long race. I can tell you now that the race is over that I should have been smart like Jason M. and did a long ride at 7 Springs instead.

I really did not do all that badly at the nearly 50 mile long Big Bear Race, finishing 5th overall and as the 2nd single speed racer, but my legs felt like crap during the entire race. I didn't make things much better during the race either when a few miles into the race I went over the bars and smacked my knee into my stem. Damn, that hurts! The darn thing bugged me for the rest of the race and still feels a little tight today, as do my legs in general.

Sorry to bitch so much about my tired legs...but, you would think, by now, I would figure out when I should take a weekend off from racing and rest. Or, at least be smart enough not to do a super hard race like Big Bear, when I need a break. Thing is, I like to race and it is hard for me not to race. I must admit that the trails at Big Bear were sweet. The network of trails there is amazing and they are by far some of the most technical around. At certain points during the race, I was not sure if I was riding on a XXC course or a closed trails course. Yes, some of the technical stuff was that sick! The technical nature of the trails certainly made time go by quickly for the 4.5 hours I was out there., thank goodness.

Even though I felt pretty tired from Big Bear, I still decided to ride today. Instead of riding the 29er, though, I took out my super light weight racing cross machine. Man, does that thing fly! I rode it over to my hometown cross course, Mammoth Park, and did a loop there before riding home. By the time I did the ride, it was in the peak heat of the day. I figured I better try riding in some super hot weather before heading down to my next 100 miler in Georgia, the Fool's Gold NUE Series Race. The heat did not bother me too much today and I do think that my legs loosened up a bit from the ride.

I think after doing Fool's Gold this coming weekend and the Shenandoah 100 in a few weeks, I will be ready to pack the mountain bike away for a bit. I am getting the cyclocross itch in a bad way right now. How nice it will be to race for like 45-60 minutes instead of 8 hours. Funny thing about bike racing is that no matter how long or short the race is, they all still hurt. Yes, Rich Dillen, I do hurt when I race....sometimes a lot. Happy Trails - Gerry

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ups and Downs

The Wilderness 101, being a 100+ mile MTB race, does certainly have many peaks and valleys to traverse. If there is any doubt about the amount of climbing contained in this race, it will quickly vanish upon seeing the hill profile of the course. Climbing is my friend; however, so it is not the amount of climbing or descending in the 101 that caused me difficulty on August 1, 2009. Like I have mentioned before, I always start my races with some sort of a game plan. My plan for the 101 was to stay near the front, with the geared riders, as long as possible and to keep my eye on the other single speed racers around me. But, just like at the Breck 100 Race two weeks ago, my game plan fell apart quickly.

After the first long climb, a group of about 20 riders was able to separate from the main pack. This group was comprised of all the main contenders of the race and two single speed riders: Matt Ferrari and me. Matt and I hung on to the pace set by the faster geared guys until about mile 20, when finally we both dropped off the pace. Since there was nobody in sight behind us, we both seemed happy to just ride together and keep our eyes on each other. We also had a geared bike rider with us and the three of us seemed to be working together pretty well together.

Other than getting dropped by the main group of geared guys, I thought things were going pretty well. But, then, on one of the first technical single track sections of the race, I must have pinched my rear tire on a rock. I noticed it slowly going low about 4 miles before check point 2. Even with my Stan's Sealant, the tire only held air for about another mile before needing to be repaired. I couldn't believe that I flatted again at the beginning of another NUE Series Race when I was feeling so good. I was hoping that I did not have the same repair issues that I had only two weeks early. You can only imagine how thrilled I was that my tube change had no issues. You can also imagine the disgust that followed when my CO2 canister would not inflate the tube. I was stuck and desperate, again. Luckily, another good Samaritan racer offered me the use of his pump, when I stood on the trail side begging.

I figure I lost about 5-10 minutes to Matt after my flat and knew I had my work cut out for me since he was a local strong rider and was very familiar with the race course. After my flat repair, I rode alone on a slightly downhill fire road, before being caught by a group containing 4 geared riders and 2 single speeders (Gunnar and Roger Masse). I was actually glad to see them and to "hitch" a ride with the group until check point #2, but at the same time, I now knew that I had two fast single speed racers to battle against. Masse had a super quick stop at the check point and probably put 20 seconds on me there since I had to add more air to my tire (added protection against a 2nd flat) as well as grab some nutrition. During our check point stop, Gunnar somehow lost sight of Roger and I leaving, so he was left behind and not to be seen again. Seeing Roger leave the check point quickly made me rush to leave also. It wasn't until a mile or so down the road that I remember Gunnar telling me during our paceline that my seat bag was open and that there was nothing in it. Great! Now I have no tools, no CO2, no tubes, no nothing until the next check point.

I caught Roger on a big climb after checkpoint two. He rode with me for a short while, but I was able to put a pretty good time gap on him by the top of the climb. I was now in my chase mode and began to focus on catching each rider in front of me. I must admit it is much better for me to be the hunter rather than the hunted. I came into check point three feeling pretty good, grabbed two bottles of Gator Aid and my waiting CamelBak of water. Of course being in a rush again, I completely forgot about asking for a spare tube and would do so at all remaining checkpoint.

Leaving check point three there is a sharp left turn that leads up a steep, root and rock covered piece of single track. On this trail, Harlan Price tells me that the other single speeders were right in front of me. It was only a few seconds later that I had sight of Ferrari again. I caught him pretty quickly and told him of my mechanical. I also checked with him to see if any other single speeders were out in front of him. He said the guy immediately in our sight, Joe Kedrowski, was a single speed rider. By the end of the single track, I was able to get by Matt and Joe. Seeing that I had put a gap on them, which put me into the lead again, gave me a good burst of energy. Like the other highs I felt during this race, it was also short lived, however.
Since I was feeling good again, I went back into the single track pretty fast. I then rode into a rock garden on the trail and proceeded to smack my big toe on a rock. The pain of that impact numbed my toe instantly and left it feeling irritated until the finish of the race. I fought through the pain, though, and was able to get into a pretty good grove again. It certainly makes me feel better when I can look over my shoulder around each bend and see that no one is chasing. At this point in the race, my legs felt really good and I was still catching geared riders on the climbs and passing them. I thought that if I could just stay smooth and continue riding strong, I might be able to win this race. As it has seemed to go all season, though, it would be too easy for me to just finish a race without adding some type of drama.

My drama came on the long rocky descent a few miles before check point 4. This descent is always a little sketchy, but the rain received the day prior made this thing nasty. Part way down this thing, I hit a wet mossy rock that caused me to eject from my pedals, which also caused me to lose my balance. Off to left side of the trail was a super steep and rock cover slope, basically it was a cliff. Me and my bike were pointed directly towards going off of this cliff and if we did, I knew it was going to be ugly. Somehow, and don't ask me how, I managed to free myself from my bike, but unfortunately my bike still took a trip over the cliff. I watched in horror as it bounced from one rock to another rock for about 10-15 feet before coming to rest. My first thought was that this was the end for my bike and that I was going to be plagued by a race ending mechanical.

I climbed down the rocky slope to examine my bike and collect my strewn about water bottles. I spun the wheels and looked for any noticeable major damage, but saw nothing. I then hiked back up to the trail with my bike in hand, all the time wondering if a rattle snack was going to jump out from behind one of the rocks I was clinging on to so tightly. I thought that a rattle snake bite would fit perfectly to the way things were going for me during the race. Fortunately, there were no snakes hidden in the rocks and after finishing the descent with my bike intact, it seemed that my bike was good, too. I still can't believe my bike survived that ordeal without any major damage.

Believe it or not, I continued the rest of the race, about 30 miles, without any others issues. I did not even need to go into survival mode because physically, my legs and the rest of my body seemed to be working fine, minus the toe, of course. I can certainly say that if nothing else, these NUE Series Races have been teaching me the meaning of perseverance. Overcoming obstacles, maintaining motivation and doing what I can to finish these races strong does seem to be a regular occurrence for me recently. I guess as long as I continue finishing on a peak instead of in a valley, all that happens in between the start and finish is good. In this case, I was able to maintain my lead for the remainder of the race and finish with a time of 8 hours and 5 minutes. This now gives me 3 NUE Series Race Wins and a pretty strong lead on the Series Win.
Happy Trails - Gerry