25th Annual Pando Classic

Pando Ski Area is only open a few times a year for mountain biking, and I had never been out there to ride, let alone race. So Marty and I took the opportunity to pre-ride the race route on Saturday afternoon so I could get in a few laps and understand what the course was going to be like for Sunday. I felt really good on the pre-ride, we got in a few laps before it started to rain.

Race day was no different. The 25th Annual Pando Classic. They tout it as the longest running MTB race in the U.S. I felt pretty good. Excited to be in another race (been since July). Weather was perfect for mountain biking...chilly, breezy, but sunny.

The short 4.3 mile course starts at the bottom of one of the ski hills. You have to ride up the hill, then back down the side to some wide single track and cross-country ski paths. Mix in some fast, long decents and more technical riding and more inclines and there you have it. Sport class was 4 laps, which meant 4 times up the hill, plus a bonus fifth time....because the finish was at the top of the hill. Brutal.

When the 30-39 division took off, I felt good and kept pace about half-way in the pack up the hill. I had enough power at that point to be standing and pounding the pedals all the way up. Let me say, I'm a terrible starter and for me to make any headway during the race by passing people later just doesn't happen. So unfortunately, my races seem to be determined by how well I start. And since I'm not a good starter...well, let's just say I need to work on that. Rocketing your heart-rate from resting to 173bpm can be a troubling thing for your body to deal with. I was out of breath for almost the entire first lap which I'm sure put me near 3/4 the way back in my division. I just couldn't calm myself down. I got passed by all the other Rapid Wheelmen that lap (who started 2-5 minutes behind me). My goal was to not let that happen again.

Honestly, out of all the laps, the first was the toughest. Because I couldn't catch my breath almost the entire way, I had a terrible pain in my side that didn't subside until half-way through lap two. By then I had caught my breath and was feeling better. I wasn't flying by any means, but felt good.

At one point, almost done with lap two, I got passed by about 4 "elite/expert" single-speeders - absolutely flying. Dear Lord! Amazing. I also stopped at one point on lap 2 to help out a Founder's rider, I could tell he was older and not in my division. (Besides, how could I not stop to help a Founder's guy? "Maybe he had extra beers", I thought.) He had busted his chain and as I passed I asked if he needed a chain tool. He said no, he already tried and was just going to walk to the finish. I said "I got quick links". He said "sure!" So I stopped for 30 seconds to dig one out, handed it off and away I went. I hope it worked for him and was able to get in a few more laps.

The course is weird that it has ski hills, long, winding cross-country ski paths mixed in with some pretty technical twisty up and down single track sections riddled with roots. Oh, and the downhills...ahh, the freaking downhills. Long, steady, FAST. I could use more of those. The more confident I was getting in those areas, the less I was using my brakes and letting it flow. There were a few spots where riders would get hung up climbing sharp inclines, I made it up all of those without faltering, except for one on the last lap. "Riding the Ridge" I think was a new section this year and there was this, I'll say, hole in the ground, you had to ride through. It was probably about 8-10' deep by just as long. You had to ride down into it and hope you had enough momentum to get up the other side. The bottom of this pit-thing was just long enough to suck your front wheel in. It was the sharpest down-up I've ever decended into. There were a lot of spectators there, I suppose because it was a site of lots of carnage throughout the day. Lap 1, I fell off the side of it - out of momentum. I caught myself without falling completely over, but racking my thigh on my handlebar. (nice bruise today) Lap 2 - I made it through by holding on to a tree on the left. By lap 3 I was nearly by myself and walked down it for the last two times. That was easier and I knew I was losing my "piloting" skills by then, so this was also the safer alternative. At least I wasn't weak enough like some other riders, hiking through the woods to avoid that section all together.

Lap 4 was about survival for me. "Just keep turning the pedals" I kept saying. Within about a half mile (I think. Mr Garmin hasn't been recording correct mileage for me lately.) after walking down that pit-hole-rim-crusher-thing my left quad started to lock up. Cramps. Great. So I continued to pedal. It was painful, but I was near the end and couldn't give up now. My last time up the ski hill was slow, but I kept cranking away aiming for the finish line. Once at the top, I dismounted, but could not stand up. the cramps were too bad. I had to lay down immediately, Patti rubbed out the worst (left quad) and it eventually subsided.

All I wanted was less than a 2 hour finish time, and that's what I got: 1:58:25. Fifteenth out of twenty-one. Good practice for Iceman, I guess - I have more riding and endurance to put myself through in order to feel good about that race. I have 2 events left to do in the coming month leading up to that, plus some special training rides, so I should be good to go by then.

I never race to win - at least against anyone else. At this point, riding once or twice a week is not going to earn me any real "wins", so I race for "fun" even though most people don't understand the "fun" in climbing a ski hill 5 times so you can get cramps, not be able to stand up afterward, "earn" bruises and sweat until your face is salty and you're delirious.



Thanks to Marty and my family for coming out to cheer me on. (Thanks for the pics too Marty!) I had a blast and were glad they did too! Oh, and to the Rapid Wheelmen waiting for me on the last hill climb (Scofield, Daigle, Kowalczyk), thanks for waiting for me. I'm usually the last to finish all these events and miss all the who-haa at the finish, although someday I hope to be as good of riders as you. I may have flipped you off when you were trying to fake me out by saying someone was challenging me to the finish, but you weren't fooling me...you bastards. HA

Game face on at the start. In fact, I didn't even know Marty was standing right there.

This is the downhill after climbing the ski hill.
Coming down fast, you can see I'm already aiming for the turn.
It was rough and getting sandy there from the Expert race just before.

This is my favorite. It makes me look like I'm going super fast.

A sharp incline where there was a frequent jam-up of riders. In pain.


Quick Update...

Been racking up both some road and mountain bike mileage. Just more than one month till Iceman, so I have lots to do. Planning on racing this weekend at the Pando Classic, then riding at Fort Custer next weekend. From there is the Tour of the White Pine Trail. After that I'm planning on finding a weekday I can take off from work to pull 4 laps at race pace at Luton to gauge my fitness level for Iceman. Then one more race before Iceman, the Lowell 50. Add in family birthdays, weekend soccer games for my daughter (for which I'm the coach) and it makes for a busy fall.


Cannon Cruise

I needed some big time miles, and I finally had the time to put in so I headed out early to the weekly Saturday morning Cannon Cruise.

It was super dark at departure, 6am. My plan was to take the rail trail to 12 mile, then cut across. It's more hilly on 12 mile, but I would have less traffic. Almost to 12 mile I spotted the glowing eyes of what I thought was a nice fluffy cat. Once I can make out its shape and color, I say to myself "oh great, a nice fluffy BLACK cat crossing my path, today ought to be a good day." Once I got up on it to buzz by to scare it, I see it's actually a skunk with it's tail raised and ready for spraying. OH SHIT, I swerve last minute to the other side of the trail in case I need to squeeze past its stink stream. I don't know if it ever sprayed, I was safe, that was all that mattered. Close call.

The ride was going good, I was good up till about the half way mark where we took a rather long break. From that point forward, I was always at the back of the pack, struggling to keep up. After another 20 or so miles, I wasn't having such a fun time any more. I was being dropped like no body's business and I was "that guy" they were waiting for at each stop sign. I hadn't gotten hardly any miles in August...two 25 milers on the flat rail trail and a 30 mile mountain bike ride. That was about it. So I was lacking some muscle mass and fitness.

Bill snapped a rear derailleur cable at one point before our long half-way point break. Once we stopped I jumped right in getting all dirty in order to try and fix the situation. We managed to get just enough cable back to the bolt so he could at least have a few gears to select from. I love being "that guy" who can work on a bike roadside and send someone merrily on their way.

Within 10 or so miles from our original starting point, I had been dropped by probably a half mile (it seemed anyways) so I was riding completely alone, I turned right and felt the back tire get a little loose. It seemed that I had a low tire. So I stopped to throw some air in it to see what it would do. It seemed better for about 3 minutes, then was going soft again. Slow leaker. I limp up to where I see the rest of the group and tell them to go ahead and move on. I planned on taking a short-cut home rather than ride back with all of them anyways.

Luckily I always carry a spare on long rides and plenty of tools. So I took my time replacing my tube in order to rest, put the bike back together, take a gel and headed out. On my way was a local bike shop (Speed Merchants) and I planned on getting a refill on water and some more air in the rear tire because it still seemed kinda soft. I figured since I need to buy some nutrition stuff anyways, they'd allow me in their shop with my Fuji bike (they are a Trek/Scott dealer) for those few free items.

I topped off my tire to 100 lbs and I was out. (I only managed 70lbs with my short-throw hand pump according to the gauge on the floor pump. My arms were burning with anger so that's all I could muster.)

I got home, very exhausted. I relaxed my burning lower back by laying flat on the floor, hands over my eyes putting pressure on them as a nice dehyration-headache was setting in. Apparently I fell asleep for 15 minutes and was snoring. I woke up completely rejuvinated. Weird.

Glad I got some miles on. Gotta keep it up now. Iceman countdown....2 months. Time to get back in it.

Roadside Maintenance Tip #38:
When racking your bike upside down, remember to close or remove your water bottles,
or else they will leak and lose their holding capacity due to the extreme natural powers of
mother earth, also known as "gravity". After flipping the bike back over, and getting
leaked on, I was like...DOH! Sun uva...