Monday, July 30, 2012

Race Report - Single Speed USA 2012 - Stowe, VT

Well, after the Black Fly last year, I said that I wasn't really into racing. I should really take these lessons to heart instead of immediately forgetting about them and signing myself up for ever more ridiculous challenges. SSUSA was hard. Really, really hard. On the very first climb, my goals changed from "mid-pack finish with lots of drinking" to "just finish the race".  Some of these people in this race seemed to be genetic freaks. I'm in pretty good shape, but I might as well have spent the last 4 months laying on the couch. Compared to the top guys, I was basically standing still. Anyway, here's the report:

Breakfast of Champions at the Stowe Motel:

 I rode 3.5 miles on the amazing Stowe Bike Path to get to the start:

We started out at the Stowe Polo fields.

There were some "interesting" costumes:

After the pre-race talk, George from Bike29 said "go" and everyone just started going.

Here was my view for a little while:

I started out in the group, but as the road turned (straight) uphill, I started losing people.

If I had put in any more effort, I think my heart would have exploded, so I decided to just let the fast people be fast and settle back into my own pace. Soon, I came up on the first rest station (Sponsored by the Alchemist Brewery). I already told you that their Heady Topper is my favorite beer, so I had to have one on the way past.

After a lot more climbing, we finally got into the singletrack:

It was beautiful. Not too technical, just nice, rolling riding with plenty of nice Vermont trees and rooty goodness. I did have to push up a couple of climbs that I normally could ride, though (I think I was still tired from the first brutal climb):

After we busted out of the single track, there was a long, washboard-y downhill, which came out on the same road we climbed up on.  There was a big group of people waiting at the edge of the road, not sure if they were going the right way. Eventually, we determined that we were, so we took off down the hill we came up earlier.  The good news about this is that we got to hit the rest station for another Alchemist beer. Mmmm . . . 

Then we headed down the pavement back towards town. Hitting about 40 mph on the single speed was fun...

Man, Vermont is beautiful. Anyway, at the bottom of the hill, we got to the second rest station:

This rest stop was sponsored by Whiskey, Rum, Beer, and water if you asked. I got a shot of chilled tequila and a PBR. There was a forty left, and if I wanted to try the "chug a forty, finish, and win a $40 bar tab" challenge, I could have. I decided against it, though. This nutcase chugged 2:

Then, he finished an hour ahead of me. Like I said, some people are freaks. I actually felt really good after I started again, and I was able to crank pretty good up the hill out of town:

I reached a cool chairlift bench in the middle of the woods with a view of Stowe (that you can't see because I sweated all over the lens to my GoPro. 

Then there was some nice singletrack with some cool skinnies to ride:

We started climbing again, and all the energy I had seemed to go away pretty quickly. I started hiking it:

And then I took a sitting break at the top and had some Sport Beans (which is my new favorite calorie source on long days).

A couple of people passed, but I was not concerned at all about "racing" at this point. I just wanted to finish, and keep riding these awesome trails.

After a nice downhill, we busted out by the High School:

And turned up some doubletrack turned singletrack near the Trapp Family Lodge

It was another horribly brutal climb, but at least I was able to ride most of this one. I thought I was out of the woods, but then we got on the road and kept heading up:

And then back to doubletrack for more climbing:

Then more singletrack:

The final downhill was the best descent I've ever ridden (I think it's called Kimmer's).  It reminded me of the big long downhill at Pittsfiled State Forest in Mass., but longer and better.  Unfortunately, the batteries in my GoPro picked just that moment to die, so this is the only picture I have of the downhill:

You're going to have to trust me, though.  It was awesome. When I finally made it to the finish line, everyone was drinking keg beer and partaking in shenanigans to choose the location of the next SSUSA. Here's a couple of pics of the Maple Syrup Chugging Contest:

Totally ridiculous/awesome. There was some controversy as to who won, but I was too tired/drunk/faded to even care (it was Minnesota). It took me almost 5 hours to finish the course (which seems kind of ridiculous, but I did take a bunch of breaks at the rest areas, and there was that 15 minutes we spent discussing which way to go).  The top guys finished in about 3 hours (which is freaking incredible on this course). The hills were crazy. If you don't believe me, here's the course profile from this guy's Strava.

I'll definitely be back to ride around here at a more civilized pace (probably with a geared bike). If I wasn't having heart attacks on every hill, I think I'd be even more stoked on the sweetness of the riding around here. I'd say it rivals Kingdom Trails for trail quality, but I think Kingdom and Millstone still have them on pure mileage.  No matter. Stowe is a phenomenal place to ride, and this was a great event. More reports here and here and here.

UPDATE: Here's a picture at the finish. I look pretty glassy eyed at this point . . .

e.j.johnson photography: 2012 Singlespeed USA &emdash;

Saturday, July 21, 2012

MTB Trip Report - Millstone Trails/Rockfire (6/23/12)

The best part about Millstone (in Barre, Vermont) is the variety. We rode there all day, and didn't hit a single trail that we did last year. And we were there during a really cool event called Rockfire. It was a festival with artists, musicians, drinking and fire. So, like I said, really cool. Here's some highlights:

We started the climb up from the touring center, and we found some cool carvings on the way up:

We decided to take Roller Coaster, a trail we didn't get to last year. The way there had some cool features:

The trail was really fun, too. It was a One Way downhill with lots of drops, banks, and fun stuff to play on. Here's Ace negotiating the teeter-totter (poor photography due to wrong lens choice):

We rode it all the way down and then played around in the Harrington Ridge/Harrington Heights area:

Then, we made our way back to the start, but not before fooling around near one of the quarries that Millstone is famous for:

After a quick break at the touring center, we rode a little doubletrack to get back to the other area of the map:

We rode for another hour and a half, and then it was time for the evening festivities:

Followed by Fire. First, they lit a wooden sculpture:

Then they lit a bunch of bonfires on the hillside where we started out our ride in the morning:

Then there was a walking tour up to that hill, where a lot of the sculptures we saw earlier in the day were lit up:

Very cool. Finally, we returned to the field for a release of those sky lantern thingies that float away in the air:

All in all, it was a fantastic summer day.

Some might be curious about Ace being in these pics, especially after semi-recent events. Well, she's still my favorite mountain biking partner, my favorite person to hang out with, and my favorite friend. Sometimes people stay in your life for a reason. I don't know what's going to happen in the future between us, but I know I'll be happier if she's around to go on these sorts of adventures with me.

I have a few more adventures to report on, but next weekend is the Single Speed Championship up in Stowe and I gotta get out and train!