Summer Mountain Bike Racing and Trail Running!

The summer has come and gone again in a flurry of activity, training, and some recovery squeezed in here and there. I competed in the same New England mountain bike race series this summer as last year called the Bubbatrophy Series. It is such a great event with awesome competition. I progressed much faster and raced better this year which was a nice surprise considering how little I bike in the spring due to late ski racing and resting in April. I also jumped into a local Vermont trail running half marathon which I will describe a bit later on! I raced more this summer than I usually do, which possibly led to a bit lower training volume, but feeling better at higher intensities and just mixing up training nicely.

The first Bubbatrophy race I competed in was the second race of the series, I missed the first one to see my girlfriend on her birthday in Wisconsin. The first race I did was in New Hampshire and was a tough one on the legs. The early races are always very challenging for me because I do not have the strength or power in my legs for cycling, in addition to carrying some extra spring time weight probably. I find that cyclists go out incredibly fast on the start in order to get a good position before the singletrack, and my off-the-line power is not high until around August. I paced the race well I thought and fought for 11th place in the Pro Mens category. It was a fun race, getting the skills back and engine going again.

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Landing a touch off camber in the Bear Brook Pro Mens race. Photo: State Nine Racing facebook

In addition to the summer training routine of running, biking, and weight lifting, we had a few long and challenging rollerski workouts that we started to incorporate 3-4 times a week. Luckily for us, we had amazing weather for most of the summer in Vermont and enjoyed dry and cool days.

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Starting to feel stronger after a 3.5 hour double pole to Lake Willoughby! Photo: Pepa

I had the opportunity to coach three clinics throughout the summer in partner with Skirack for the Mansfield Nordic Ski Club at the Jericho Range this summer. The first clinic was for skate skiing specifically working on timing, coordination, and power for V2. The second clinic was focused solely for double poling technique over varying terrain and the final clinin in August was for working on V1. Luckily the Jericho Range had all the terrain we needed to focus on all our technique changes and it was a fun and rewarding time working with the next generation of nordic skiers. They picked up on the technique incredibly fast and was great to see them improve over a few short weeks.

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Talking technique to the Mansfield Nordic Club! Photo: Sara Falconer
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Loving this groups’ attitude! NO LIMITS! Photo: Sara Falconer

My second Bubbatrophy mountain bike race was at Highland Bike Park in New Hampshire. It was a brutal race with 6 short laps including a long climb up the downhill mountain bike trails on the mountain. I didn’t get a photo of this race, but worked my way up from 2nd to last (a terribly slow start for me) up to 4th place overall in the Mens Pro category! It was a breakthrough race with solid pacing and a strong last 3 laps that gave me confidence to go much harder in the remainder of the summer.

A few weeks later I competed in my third Bubbatrophy mountain bike race in Ascutney Vermont. It was a hot and humid day racing 3 tough laps on the side of a downhill ski mountain. Luckily I was hydrating properly, but I don’t know that any athlete didn’t encounter serious discomfort from the heat and humidity. I personally had a headache for the last lap and I know I was not the only one. I had a breakthrough race again, I was able to stay with the lead pack in the beginning (which surprised me) and worked through a few bikers and had strength to push the climbs in the last 1.5 laps to get 2nd in the Mens Pro race! It was awesome having Elizabeth there to cheer me on and help with feed bottles during this hot race, best support crew out there!

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Fighting to the line! Photo: Ansel Dickey
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Podium ceremony with these awesome riders! Photo: Ansel Dickey

The next weekend I decided to do a local Vermont trail running half marathon at Paine Mountain in Norwich. I admittedly have never been to Paine Mountain, but it was a great venue with fun singletrack trails and hiking trails all over the mountain. I competed in the half marathon option in order to have the intensity last between 1.5 and 2h hopefully. Elizabeth came with me and decided that week to jump into the 10km trail race as well! She of course won the overall womens 10km race, and was 2nd overall in the 10km! I went out at a solid hard pace but was promptly dropped on the first summit of Paine Mountain. I decided to work the descents and save a bit of energy running the climbs as fast as I could L3. At the bottom of the mountain going up for a second time I caught the race leader and put in a bit of a surge to get some distance, and was able to take the overall win and new course record! It was a tough race, but fun and I love trail running due to the inconsistent nature of the terrain and mix of climbing and descending. It was also great to see some of my sponsors at the event promoting the best outdoor gear you can get: Leki, Julbo, Skirack, and Altra running shoes!

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Enjoying some sun and elevation gain at the race! Photo: Mike Burch
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Grabbing the W in the mens half marathon! Photo: Mike Burch

It wouldn’t be a complete summer of racing without doing a rollerski race! The GRP competed in the App Gap rollerski race in late July. Unfortunately for me the 5th Bubbatrophy mountain bike race was the next day in Massachusetts, but Elizabeth and I made it work! I didn’t feel amazing for the rollerski race, so I decided to stay in the pack and feel out the pace, see if I could hang and how it would unravel. I stayed with Simi and Adam to the classic ski exchange, and tried to pull away a bit near the top of the gap. Simi and I had a nice little battle but he quickly surged with 150m to go or so, and put 12 seconds on me with ease. It was a nice tough race and good to test the skiing fitness.

 

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Chasing the legend near the top! Photo: Elizabeth Simak

That afternoon Elizabeth and I drove down to Massachusetts to visit my old GRP teammate Corey! It was a perfect distance only about 30min from the race venue. I tried my best to hydrate and recover for another hot race, but my legs were aching during the warm up anyway. I tried to go out hard in the Pro Mens race to stay with the lead pack. I started in 2nd but was bumped back to 6th by the singletrack. I managed to work my way up to 3rd and bike with my mentor and friend Jake Hollenbach who I rode with for a while. I managed to find some recovery in the endless twisty singletrack and pushed to try and close some time to the winner and finished 2nd again! It was a solid race, I pushed very hard on the 2nd lap, and faded a bit on the 3rd but just focused on maintaining momentum and consistent effort to keep the silver.

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Finishing hard during a technical race! Photo: Elizabeth Simak
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2nd in the Pro Mens race Bubbatrophy #5! Photo: Elizabeth Simak

A few weekends passed with some glorious Vermont weather. We all were worried about a heat wave similar to last year, but we never got the full brunt of it, just a few weekends. During one of the nice weekends Elizabeth and I got out for a gorgeous hike up Mt. Mansfield. Certainly no hills like that in Wisconsin!

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Perfect Vermont summer day!

The second to last mountain bike race that I did was the Craftsbury VT30! The original VT3 stage race had to be shortened due to lack of registration, but the awesome folks at Craftsbury (Sheldon and Ollie) made up a sweet and unbelievably challenging 15 mile course. I opted for the 2-lap. I thought it would be around 2.5 hours of solid racing, but it ended up being much harder. Jake Hollenbach brought along some great local riders with him, so the field was pretty stacked. They went out much faster than I had hoped, with Cooper Wilsey attacking in the first few miles. My legs almost blew up before the first feed zone about 3 times. I thought it may be a tough race from that start, combined with the technical sections I knew were ahead of us and the severe humidity that day. Cooper was gone pretty soon, and there was a small gap to Nick, and then to Sam and Jake and I. Jake had a crash and flat, and then Nick got a flat about half way. Sam did some work on the flat sections and climbs that was too much for my legs to handle. I could barely catch him in the singletrack before he pulled away from me. With my legs cramping at 1.5 hours and 10 miles to go, it was going to be a tough day. Needless to say, I bonked and cramped with about 3 miles to go and lost 5 minutes to Sam, held onto 3rd place, but not feeling super good. My legs cramped so bad by the end I had to hobble off the bike to get some water. Good hard effort, and harder course than it looks!

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Leading eventual 2nd place Sam Noel into the descent! Photo: Elizabeth Simak

The final Bubbatrophy race was the 2nd day of racing of the Julbo Eastern Grind held at Catamount in Williston, VT. I was hoping to stay closer to the consistent Pro Mens winner of the summer in this race. I had a decent start out in 2nd place, but by the singletrack I was more in 6th position. Due to a technical climb, I was held up in the pack while the leaders got away. I managed to work my way up to 4th and then finally 3rd place by the last lap. I had a small crash on a rocky section in the woods, which bent my derailleur hanger. My shifting was all off and making truly awful noises that no biker likes to hear, but I made it work all the while seeing riders close the gap behind me. I luckily had enough of a lead on 4th to keep 3rd place behind the usual Bubbatrophy Pro Mens winner all summer Logan, and Nick Lando, a rider who raced well in the Pro UCI race the day before.

I managed to finish 2nd overall in the Pro Mens category in the series for the summer, which I am really happy and proud of! Not only was it a great day for racing and great result, but Elizabeth, both my parents, my twin brother (who was in town for a wedding), a best friend from high school and his girlfriend, and some other friends came to watch and cheer! What a way to end my xc biking season. I may jump into a few more this fall, but none that I am signed up for yet.

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Finishing the season with 3rd place in the Pro Mens race, 2nd overall in the Series! Photo: Eric Lustgarten

Next stop: Europe! The GRP ski team will be traveling to Oberhof, Germany and Ramsau, Austria to get on snow in September in order to prepare for the season.

Stay tuned for some equipment updates and a post about the snow training camp!

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