Welcome to the first installment of my Race nLog (pronounced Racein Log). Hey, I figure that if others can coin silly phrases to describe their diaries as Blogs and refer to digital audio as Podcasts, I can call this my nLog. In this and future nLogs I’ll try to describe the racing events as best as I can, mostly from my own perspective. If I’m unable to attend a race and you have an account of the race you’d like me to publish (results, placement, times, random thoughts, etc.), send it to me, and I’ll add it to the next nLog.
Who am I? Good question. I’m pretty new to this bike racing thing, but it’s a ton of fun and people tell me I’m not a slouch at it. So hopefully they told me the truth instead of just buttering me up so I’d be your new, friendly (I hope) race captain. My previous experience before this year are the weekly time trials, Grattan, and the Ada and Rockford criteriums. I’ve been riding bikes seriously since June of 2005 when my wonderful wife Sara somewhat jokingly said I should get a new bike for my birthday. If only she knew what she had gotten herself into! We were recently joined by our firstborn Aidan (now 6 months old), who I’m eagerly anticipating pulling up hills in his new bike trailer. Ah the joys.
The Rapid Wheelmen racing team is just getting its racing legs back after a couple years of dormancy, so I hope that this nLog will encourage our membership to try racing. If you would like to get faster on your bike, there is one way to do it. Ride faster. Specifically, ride faster with people who are faster than you. The best way to do this is at races. No matter how fast you think you are, there is always someone faster. If you have the desire to participate in any sort of bike race, come out and join the team! No experience (or speed ;-) required.
I shouldn’t fail to mention the Race Team’s Thursday night training rides. These can range from wickedly fast rides to “I feel tired this week” recovery rides. Either way, you’re guaranteed to finish the ride with some sort of group no matter how fast you move your legs, so come out and join us.
There are perks (free stuff!) to joining the Race Team. Join or find out more by calling me at 616-633-8601, join our yahoogroup at
, or email me at
The season (so far) in summary:
Fisk Knob (March 25, 2007)
Race Team Racers (RTRs): Joel Bierling (43:43), Jeff Scofield (49:17), Jeff Festian (51:02), Dave George (47.17), Jeff Thomssen (46.40)
Given typical March temperatures and especially the rain that was forecast for the day, I was concerned that the time trial would turn into a trial of a different sort. But thankfully that was not the case, as it turned into a beautiful day, albeit a bit windy.
For those of you not familiar with the course, you start and stop on a massive hill, evidently the highest point in Kent County. Well, it’s not so massive for anyone who knows what a real hill looks like (Rockies anyone?), but for us flatlanders, it’s one of the best we have. Now, the proper way to tackle a hill would be to start up the hill and finish down the hill, but for better or worse, we get to go up the hill when we’re the most tired – at the end.
As luck would have it, I had purchased a disc wheel the very morning of the race and I didn’t have an aero helmet, so a normal helmet with its vents taped up had to make due. But even without the aero toys, I still turned out a pretty decent time, and I think everyone else was happy with their performance too. We had a great team turnout. Good job everyone!
Random thoughts: Great organization and great grub! The soup varieties were delicious.
Milk Jug (April 17/24, May 1, 2007)
RTRs: Joel Bierling (2nd, 1st, 1st)
For those of you looking for something a little different, the weekly Milk Jug mountain bike races are just the ticket. The events are very informal and you’re almost guaranteed to go home with a smile on your face and leave with more goodies than you brought.
For me, I’ve done pretty well so far this year. However, last year, the event was well attended by some blazing fast mountain bikers who consistently schooled me. That is a good thing since, as I’ve said, the only way to get faster is to ride with people who are faster than you. Still, I won’t complain about taking home some very nice prizes this year, as the event is well sponsored.
One of my mottos for mountain biking is that if you’re not crashing, you’re not riding hard enough. By that measure I took the first two races too easy, but I did crash on the third. However, I was going about 2mph and basically just fell over when my front wheel lost traction around a muddy turn. Nothing bruised except for my ego.
Yankee Springs (May 22, 2007)
RTRs: Joel Bierling (49:52), Jeff Festian (1:02:24)
It was another beautiful day for mountain bike racing. This was my first race at Yankee Springs, so while I’d ridden there somewhat frequently (including the day before to get a feel for how the trail had changed), I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. As such, I entered the Sport class and I ended up winning that class. I probably should have ridden Expert, but I really am a newbie at this!
The ride was great, fellow riders were great, great race. The race was also attended by both our families. Jeff’s wife as it turned out would shortly after give birth to their third child. Congrats Jeff!
Random thoughts: Results/awards took way too long. Great grub! Bagels, chocolate candy, bananas, etc., etc., etc…
Steelcase Duathlon (April 29, 2007)
Racers: Joel Bierling/Neal Bierling (Relay 1:38:52), Jeff Thomssen (1:31:44), Tom Townsend (1:43:57)
I had done a couple triathlons last year and found that I neither liked nor was well suited to swimming. The final touch during the Reeds Lake triathlon was nearly colliding with a massive, pink dead fish under cold rainy skies. I didn’t and don’t need that.
So when I found out that there was a duathlon (5k run, 30k bike, 5k run) only a few miles from my house, I just had to do it. However, there was a fly in the ointment – my right knee suddenly decided it didn’t like running. Now, I’ve run practically my whole life, but I’ve also had knee problems my whole
life. Two weeks before the race, my knee decided that it didn’t like short one-mile runs. I would come back from one, barely able to walk, but I’d get on my bike and pedal pain free for hours. Knees are weird like that.
In any case, I convinced my dad to take over running duties, which was fine with me. Although I’m an experienced runner, I’ve never really liked it that much. Let’s face it, I live for speed, and I can go a lot faster on my bike.
It was another beautiful day. The race went very well (I was sporting my new time trial kit – a disc wheel and aero helmet), and Jeff T. even got a 3rd place trophy. Good job Jeff!
Random thoughts: Ok food. Had pizza!, but allowed only one slice???
Grattan (May 2/9, 2007)
RTRs (May 2): Joel Bierling, Mike Burden, Jeff Scofield – (May 9): Joel Bierling
So far the Grattan season has been colored by the horrific crash on May 2 that caught Gene Terhorst in its grip. Thankfully Gene is on the road to recovery, but it will not be a quick or easy path. Get well soon Gene, I need my riding buddy back!
Grattan is a criterium-style race. Fast paced, quick turns, lots of action. You need to be on your toes the entire race. I’d gotten my first intro to Grattan last year, and the first races were both frightening and exhilarating. There is not another sound that can compare to a peloton of 50+ whirring bicycles around you.
The racing went well for everyone except Gene. Mike had a smile on his face at the end. Jeff also said he had a good time. I must admit to freewheeling on the last lap of the May 9th race though. Gene’s accident has made me even more gun-shy of the final sprint. I don’t think I’m the greatest sprinter, so I think I’d rather ensure a safe finish than compete for 17th place.
Fort Custer (May 6, 2007)
RTRs: Joel Bierling (Expert - 10th)
Last year, the Fort was the first mountain bike race I’d ever done, and I ended up placing 1st in my age group for the Sport class. So given that and the result at Yankee, I knew it was time to step it up this year, and I signed up for the Expert class. The Expert race is three laps vs. two laps for Sport. Last year, my legs felt fine after two laps but I could barely hang on to my handlebars. I didn’t quite know what to expect for the longer Expert race, and my only goal was not to finish last. The wind added a bit of chill and right away I had a spill about a mile into the race. I just lost traction on my front wheel around a turn and went down at around 15mph. Probably nerves. In any case, by the time I scrambled off the trail to avoid being run over, apologized to everyone in back of me, got back up, took inventory of my lost skin and bruised knee, straightened my saddle so it wasn't poking me in places I don't want to be poked, I was in dead last in my wave/age group. But other than 3 more off-the-track excursions (one each lap in the *SAME* place as my handlebars brushed a small sapling sending me crashing into other small trees) I ended up doing a respectable job.
I finished 10/27 in my age group and 22/61 (or so) overall for Expert. I figure I lost a minute or so in my
crashes and #9 was a little more than a minute ahead so it’s possible my crashes didn't cost me a place. I was definitely my own worst enemy though.
Random thoughts: I had to leave early so I didn’t stay for the results/awards, but I hear they took way too long. Just like last year. Where was the food? I did find a couple bananas.
Rapid Wheelmen Time Trails (May 7/14, 2007)
RTRs (May 7): Joel Bierling (35:25), Jeff Festian (43:23), Tom Townsend (40:01) - (May 14): Joel Bierling (34:33)
Others: Well everyone there is a Rapid Wheelmen member, so how come they’re not all on the race team? Hint hint hint…
Two weeks running and the time trials have had a great turnout each week. May 7th was just after my race at Fort Custer, and I was tired, sore, cut, and bruised from my crash. So, I didn’t know how well I’d do. I usually make the trip to Ada on my bike, so I was hoping by the time I got there I’d have loosened up a bit. Thankfully that did end up being the case, and I even managed a PR. It was good seeing Jeff there too, and he did a great job. I met Tom for the first time. Thanks for introducing yourself Tom.
May 14th found me a bit better rested and not sore anymore. There was a brutal wind coming from the SW and wind almost always hurts more than it helps so I wasn’t expecting a great result. But somehow I didn’t manage to lose a lot of speed on the trip home to the finish, and I managed another PR somehow. I’m sure some of the improvement can be attributed to my new toys (disc + helmet), but hopefully some to the engine as well.
Stay tuned for more next month!!