Sunday, April 30, 2006

Dual Overhead Cam

Cam Kirkpatrick

Finally. My favorite race course. Seven Oaks is the most technical and difficult mountain biking race course that you will encounter in the Iowa series. Lot’s of steep power climbs that will make you crossed-eyed and lot’s of bench cut trail that’ll make you think twice about going too fast for fear of launching yourself over the edge of a ‘cliff’. More than any other course, half of the trick to mastering Seven Oaks is getting your mental game on. To do well at Seven Oaks you have to bring your mental ‘A’ game or else it’s gonna be game over real quick.
I was coming off of a recovery week so I was expecting to have a fresh pair of legs. I did an easy hour of recovery on Monday and hit the weight room for an hour of light weights and an hour of bs’n with the gym rats and tri-geeks. To those of you that don’t know any better, I call ‘em tri-geeks, not as an insult, it’s just what we call ‘em. Some of my best friends are tri-geeks and it’s all good. I’m a geek in my own freaky way. How many people do you know that willingly spend 15 – 20+ plus hours a week sitting on a 1” wide piece of leather that one might liken to some sort of medieval torture device… and actually enjoy it? Tuesday I did the TNWC and probably rode a little too hard for too long. Wednesday was another hour of easy active recovery. Thursday I did a 2 hour ride on the dirt with the Jedi Master. Friday I sat in a room with about 80 other enginerds for an 8 hour brain thrashing exam in attempt to acquire my professional engineering license. My melon felt like my legs do after a 6 hour ride up and down the mountain passes of southwestern Colorado. Saturday was another easy hour of active recovery.
I woke up Sunday morning to near perfect conditions. Not a cloud in the sky and temps were in the 50’s and forecasted to rise into the mid 70’s… Perfect. So about 15 minutes after I drug my carcass out of bed, my phone rang. I took a look at the caller ID and I got this dookie eatin’ grin on my face. It was my Mom… and I knew exactly why she was calling. I answered the phone and she said they were cruisin’ through Iowa City on their way to Seven Oaks. She had called me the day before to pick my brain about the course at Seven Oaks. I told her about how tricky it was and said she’d better bring her walkin’ shoes because that’s what she’d be doin’ a lot of. My Mom is pretty stubborn sometimes and so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at her decision to come out anyway. She wants to race her mountain bike damnit!
So I finished loading the car up, threw down a couple of boiled eggs and cups of joe, grabbed a box of cereal and hit the road. I got to the race course, got signed up, did some bs’n with some of the bro’s and then got suited up for the recon ride. My Mom and step dad arrived and my Mom wanted to recon the course also. I told her she better get a move on ‘cause the race started in about 90. So she got suited up and hit the trail. I started my recon, got to the top of the first climb and there’s my Mom, looking down the first drop with that ‘you gotta be kidding me’ look on her face. I guess she got a flat tire shortly thereafter and I still hadn’t gotten around to teaching her how to fix a flat. Bad, bad, bad son! She got back down to the bottom of the hill and some dude fixed it for her and taught her how to do it in the process. I don’t know who it was, if you’re reading this, thanks bro. Further proof that mountain bikers are a cool group of cats.
I got back down to the start area and noticed that Cully Todd and Brian Eppen made the trip out. Sweet! So we lined up for the start and Troy pulled out this shotgun for the starters ‘pistol’ and pulled the trigger before I was ready to go. It took me an eternity to get clipped in and ended up about mid pack by the time I got clipped in. I wanted to be the first to enter the singletrack so I really had to dig deep to get there. I did manage to get to the front, but got myself a little cross-eyed in the process. Once I hit the singletrack I backed it off a little and was able to recover a little. My objective at Seven Oaks is to always be the first into the singletrack and try to establish a gap as soon as possible so that nobody can follow my lines. That didn’t work this time because I sort of blew my wad getting myself to the front. We got to the top and I think WWJ was on my wheel. Once we got to the bottom I dumped the clutch and punched it. I could tell that my legs were not going to be very cooperative, they didn’t have the snap that I usually always have after a recovery week. To make matters worse, my gears were jumpin’ all over the place. That’s a bad problem to have on a course like Seven Oaks. It really requires a lot of focus due to the technical nature of the course. Distractions like unruly gears tend to knock one off of their ‘A’ game.
We got to the new section of trail, and like any new section, it was very soft and bumpy. I felt like a slug riding through it. I got about halfway through the new stuff and I heard someone catch up to me, I could tell by his labored breathing that his heart rate must have been pushin’ 200. I took a quick look back and it was Eppen. The dudes’ a freakin’ animal, he was racing on a fully rigid singlespeed. A singlespeed on a course like Seven Oaks probably isn’t a whole lot slower than a geared bike. You’re carrying around a lot less weight, if you have the right gearing, most of the climbs are rideable and if they aren’t, running up the climb won’t be any slower than a guy riding up the climb in a granny gear.
Shortly after Eppen caught up to me, I heard him say ‘oh crap’. I asked what was wrong and he said that he thought he was flatting. I asked him if he had everything that he needed to fix it and he said yeah. I kept motorin’ and looked back after a while and noticed that I was finally able to establish a pretty decent gap between myself and Cully. My gears were still acting up and as a result, was not nearly as smooth as I normally am. I slowed the pace a little to lessen the likelihood of wrapping myself around a tree or taking flight over the edge of a ‘cliff’. I started passing lapped traffic from the beginner class and the first person that I passed was me Mum. She was walking her bike over one of the crazy sections and was able to get out of the way pretty quickly. We exchanged quick pleasantries and I continued on my way.
During the last lap of the race, I could see that Eppen had fixed his flat and had caught back up to Cully. He looked like he was flyin’. I knew the course well enough to know that if I maintained a solid pace to the finish, I wouldn’t get caught. I caught my Mom again while she was walking through yet another crazy section. We once again exchanged pleasantries and I continued on. I ended up winning in about 1:52:30. Eppen came in 2nd about 50 seconds back with Cully finishing in 3rd about 20 seconds behind Eppen. WWJ was another 5 minutes back finishing in 4th.
I was very lucky to pull out the win because I was definitely not on my game. My legs felt a little flat, my gears were jerkin’ me around and I never really felt like I got into my groove. A lot of people got multiple flats, mostly in the new section. The place was riddled with thorn bushes and it’s nearly impossible to clean out all of the thorns while the trail was being built. It must have really been my lucky day because I got home from the race, pulled my bike out of the car and noticed that my back tire was completely flat! I should have hopped back in the car an bought a lottery ticket, eh?
I have to give a huge thanks to Singletrack Promotions for putting on the race. Kyle See-door, Ron DeGeest and the rest of the crew have been bustin’ their butts over the past couple of years to make Seven Oaks the beast that it is. I also want to thank O-dawg Rob Versteegh of Oakley. Anybody who hasn’t been living under rock knows that Oakley makes the best eyewear. He’s been hooking me up with shades for the past couple of years. I hate to think about how much money I spend every year on cycling, I honestly don’t want to know. It’s a huge help when folks like Rob and Rasmussen Bike Shop step up and help out.
I also want to give an atta-boy to Phantom Bill and….. Andy…. sorry dude, no name yet, but the Mohawk will definitely help in moving the process along. They both had their best expert finishes thus far placing 5th and 6th. Phantom Bill called me ‘Dual Overhead Cam’… I laughed.
My next race was supposed to be Psycowpath #2 over in Omahole, NE. The upper Midwest had this big ole’ rain cloud swirling above. The radar image looked like a giant flushing toilet…. how appropriate. It had rained so much that they had to postpone the race until June 24. So my next race will be IMBCS #3 up near Waverly, IA on May 7. It’s a sweet, epic 9+ mile course that’s on a boyscout camp. I love racing there and can’t wait to see what kind of work that Buchanandale and Kerkove have done.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, April 17, 2006

No Brass, No Ammo

Cam Kirkpatrick

I had a pretty good week of training leading up to last Sundays race at Sylvan Island. I took Monday off from the bike and went to the gym to throw some upper body weights around, do some stretching and some BS’n with some of my gym-rat friends. I rode with the Tuesday night world championships group ride and did some LT intervals. Wednesday I met some of my dirty bro’s at the SC and did 3.5 hours on the dirt. I didn’t sleep worth a crap that night, probably because my body was still pretty amped up from the ride. I woke up Thursday morning feeling like I just got ran over by a freight train. So I decided to take it easy and do a recovery ride. Friday I did 4.5 hours on the road. I drove to the race course on Saturday and did a course recon for about two hours. Counting the race, I got in about 18 hours last week, a nice solid base week.
I felt that pre-riding the course as much as possible was going to be pretty important for this race. It was held on an island in the Mississippi River and it used to be home to a ammunition plant. The course was very tight and twisty, lot’s of technical stuff. You could tell that there used to be a steel plant there. There were chunks of brick, concrete, steel and glass everywhere, parts of the old foundation were sticking out of the ground all over the place. The course led us through all of this stuff, over, around, through and off of old loading docks, over a bunch of railroad ties, up a short but steep hill that was saturated with some sort of petroleum product. It was probably the same stuff that Bassonova uses for chamois butter. Which reminds me, never shake Bassonova’s hand before a bike ride or race. If you’ve ever seen how he applies his nut butter, you wouldn’t have to ask me why.

Cruisin' by a big ole' chunk of concrete.

So Sunday arrived and my Mom finally decided to cave in and do the beginner race. This was her first mountain bike race ever and she is 59 years young. This woman’s athletic prowess never ceases to inspire me. Myself, WWJ and my stepdad got to the course just before the start of the beginner race. I couldn’t believe all of the peeps that were there! They had something like 50 or so beginners lined up to throw it down. The starters whistle blew and they were off like a pack of wild banshees.
We picked a spot on the course where we could see the racers 3 or 4 times throughout each lap. My Mom was in dead last, which is exactly where she wanted to be. Her main goal was to finish and not get in anybody’s way. It was really cool to just sit there and watch the race. There were all kinds of cats riding all kinds of bikes. I saw one dude riding an old Fisher with a luggage rack looking thing attached to the back of his rig. We pretty much saw a lot of everything, including my Mom who had a huge smile on her face goin’ from ear to ear. Welcome to the fold Mom. You now understand the addiction. She only managed to accomplish one of her goals, and that was stay out of everybody’s way. She unfortunately flatted at about 2 laps into her 3 lap race. I forgot to teach her how to fix a flat so she had to bail. Bad son, I know, I know. All in all, the atmosphere was pretty damn cool, just a bunch of people lookin’ to have a great time on their bikes.

Me Mum and I before the start of her race.

Me Mum gettin' down with the sickness

My race was still a few hours away so I went back to my car to begin the process of getting myself into race mode. I figured there would be a few big guns here because of the location and the weather. As I was doing my pre-ride, I saw Cully Todd, Brian Eppen and a few cats from Wisconsin and Illinois. While cruising the course I focused on some of the more technical parts of the course to make sure that I had them dialed in as much as possible. I also started thinking about strategy for the early part of the race. My plan was to follow Eppen into the singetrack, grab his wheel, hang on and hope that I don’t get into any altercations with trees, concrete, steel or rocks. Eppen is the baddest of the bad when it comes to racers in the Midwest. His plan is to apply for his pro license this season, and based on his race resume, I’d say he’s a shoe-in for a pro license.
The race started and I ended up third wheel going into the singletrack. I got stuck behind Nathan Kline and Eppen was able to quickly create a gap on the rest of us. What made the situation worse was that Nathan was all over the place, overcooking turns, etc. which caused everybody else to slow down because there were no good places to pass. About halfway through the first of nine laps we hit the first open section of the course and I was able to get around Nathan. Eppen was long gone by then so I put my head down and dropped the hammer. I was able to establish a gap between myself and Nathan. I think Cully got around Nathan also because I saw a picture of myelf with Cully right behind me.

Cully Todd chasing me down a right handed sweeper.

I could almost immediately tell that all of the riding last winter at the SC had paid off. I was flying through all of the technical singletrack. Cully is among the best in tight and twisty stuff, but I was still able to create a gap between the two of us. Probably had something to do with our levels of fitness. I’ve been going since January and he usually gets a later start to his season.
About three laps into the race I could see Eppen ahead of me. I couldn’t believe that I was actually closing the gap on him. He usually hands my arse to me on a dirty silver platter to the tune of about five or ten minutes. This was a huge motivator for me so I turned the screws a little tighter and about a half of a lap later I caught up to him. This was where the real fun began. When got to the first open section of trail, I went by him and told him to grab on. About halfway through the lap, we hit the second open section. He passed me and I took his wheel. We did this for about three laps and because we were working well together, we were able to increase the size of our gap on everybody behind us. I had an absolute ball riding his wheel through all of the technical stuff, we were flying through this stuff like we were at terminal velocity. I think if I’d gone any faster my tires would have washed out and I would have wrapped myself around tree. I found myself taking a lot more risks than usual, but that’s what you have to do if you want a chance at guys like Eppen.

Me reeling Eppen back in. Check out the g's I'm pullin' in the corner.

At around the middle of lap six or seven, Eppen got through a technical section of the course a little more quickly than I did and opened a small gap. As the lap progressed the gap became larger and I didn’t seem to have the legs to close it up. About midway through lap eight, I could see that I was once again closing the gap. He must have looked back and saw me, because the gap began to increase in size once again. That was pretty much all she wrote. The official results had Eppen in first, with me coming in second by about 35 seconds, but it was more like about 10 or 15 seconds. Cully came in third about 2 1/2 minutes back followed by WWJ in fourth. Results can be found at:
Believe it or not, it was one of my best races ever. I’ve never finished that close to Eppen and it happened on the type of course that typically doesn’t suit my riding style very well. I put in a lot of hours over the winter over at the Science Center trails, focusing on bike handling at speed. It also really helped to ride with guys like Squirrel and Bassonova, who know how to handle a bike. I also think the ‘tifosi’ had a lot to do with it. The spectators were incredible, I heard people yelling my name all over the place. I even had a woman come up to me after the race and thank me for the entertaining race! How sweet is that?
So after the race, the obvious question for me was why I wasn’t able to close up the gap near the end of the race? I thought about this during my 2 ½ hour drive home. It ultimately came down to two things. I had just done an 18 hour week and as a result, had a large accumulation of fatigue in my legs. My legs were definitely my limiter for the race. Whenever I hit the open sections towards the end of the race, I would try to punch it and the legs wouldn’t respond like they normally would when they’re fresh. My average heart rate for the race was 170, which is about 5 to 10 beats lower than normal. This further indicates that I was well below my aerobic limit, and further evidence that my legs were noodle-esque from the overload of an 18 hour week.
Secondly, Eppen was on a full suspension rig and my rig was a hard tail. This was OK for the first half of the race, but as the end drew near my body began to suffer a little from the beatin’ that the rigid rear end of my bike was giving me. The course was pretty rough and my arse end was getting bounced around a lot. It made it very difficult to maintain smooth lines through a lot of the rough sections. If you can’t maintain a smooth line, especially through the corners, the lack of efficiency is going to catch up with you and slow you down. It was the beginning of one of the rough sections that allowed Eppen to create the gap on me towards the end of the race. I pretty much blew my wad trying to overcompensate.
As I had mentioned earlier, I was very happy with the result. My fitness is good, bike handling is good and I’m having a great time! Life is good… All indications thus far tell me that I’m going to have one hell of a season.
I also want give a couple of my bro’s a big ole’ pat on the back. Bassonova, Phantom Bill and….. Andy….. I guess I don’t have a name for you yet. I’ll figure something out in time. Anyway, they finished 6,7 and 8th respectively, in their first expert race. Saweet!! Rumor has it that Kerkove did a road race instead of joining us…. Beware of the darkside my friend, for dark side of the Force is innately tied to the distinctly negative ethical paradigm of the roadies. The dark side of the Force comes from the hate, anger, fear, aggression, vengeance, and malice in all living things. You do not want to wander down this path…

Next up is IMBCS #2 in my ‘backyard’ up at Seven Oaks this Sunday, April 23. It’s going to be a sweet event, with a bunch of new trail cut, a radio station (103.3) doin’ a live broadcast and all of my dirtbag mountain biking bro’s. Good times…

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Off To A Great Start

Man it's good to be back into racing again! After two months of trainer rides and frozen mountain bike rides at the SC with my Bro’s Grand Master Lou, Bassonova, tPod, Squirrel, Jedi Master Gammel and the rest of the dirty DSM posse, I’m ready to tear it up. The trainer rides actually went pretty well this year, not nearly as painful as last season, thanks to Netflix and tPod for allowing the posse on the MSM roadie team to sweat and stink all over his basement.
Training actually went really well this season. I’ve put together a pretty aggressive program for myself this season that will net about 700+ hours of training time. Like last season, my Bro’s in the expert class were kind enough to paste a big ole’ target on my bike with a bulls eye that says ‘kick me in the arse’. And again, like last season, a lot of guys are steppin’ up their game. A lot of cats are working with coaches and I am totally stoked about it. Everybody’s getting faster, myself included, and I’m looking forward to some killer competition this season.
While I’m on the subject of coaching, I’m giving very strong consideration to getting into the coaching biz myself for next season. I don’t have much in the way of details right now, it will be mountain biking specific and will include coaching in all aspects of mountain biking. There are already plenty of coaches for roadies and tri-geeks and pretty much none that can do a thorough job for mountain bike racers. My involvement in coaching will depend on a few factors. For this season I’ve taken on one ‘client’ on a trial basis. My future involvement in coaching will depend heavily on how this works out. If we are both satisfied with his results, that will go a long way in my decision. So who is this masked man you might ask? That’s for me to know and you to find out. You’ll probably figure it out at his first race ‘cause he’ll be the man that kicks y’all in the arse! He’s flyin’ right now and he’s only 10 weeks into his program.
I officially started my training in earnest back in mid January and my first race of the season was last Saturday. Only 9 weeks of training… That’s a little too soon for me, I only had one LT session under my belt so I felt that my racing fitness was still a few weeks away. I did a couple of fitness tests, one at about mid January and the other a couple of weeks ago. My last test indicated that my form was coming along nicely and that I would probably be OK for the first throwdown of the season.
The race was the first of the Psycowpath series and was at a venue that was new to me, Tranquility Park in Omaha, NE. It seemed that everybody else had ridden the course several times because they had a race there last season. So I did a good hour long pre-ride and hit a couple of the technical sections of the course several times at speed to get them dialed in. The course basically consisted of a nice mix of tight, twisty, technical singletrack, some open sections where you could open the legs up and drop the hammer, and a few climbs. All in all a pretty sweet course.
The race started and my plan was to get into the singeltrack second or third wheel, to let somebody who was a little more familiar with the course lead the way. It’s early in the season and I had no idea where my fitness was compared to everybody else. The last thing that I wanted to do was blow my wad early in the race. I got into the singletrack in second behind Shimonek. There were about 8 of us that broke away from the rest of the field early on. I think Steve Jarret was behind me followed by WWJ.
I had no trouble at all following Shim throughout the first half of the lap, so when we got to the top of the second hill I passed him and turned the screws a little tighter. I looked back on the way down the hill and saw that I was immediately able to establish a small gap. So I put my head down and applied a little more pressure. We got to the bottom of the hill and hit a gravel road that transitioned us to the next section of singletrack. I looked back once I hit the gravel road and noticed that I had pretty much splintered the rest of the group. Shim was close enough to me that I could see his tongue hangin’ out of his mouth. He was trying to close the gap on me so I dropped it down a cog and punched it. I looked back and saw that I had almost doubled the gap on him.
I crossed the start/finish in first after the first of five laps with about a 30 second gap. I looked back as I looped around the expo area and noticed that about five guys had regrouped. I figured they were probably going to work together and try to reel me back in, so I turned the screws a little tighter. By the end of the second lap I couldn’t see anybody behind me through the expo area, so I knew that I had increased my gap. I was feelin’ good so I kept the pressure on.
By the end of lap four, I was lapping some of the slower experts and I couldn’t tell who was where behind me. So I figured that my gap was pretty good and I cruised into the finish in first. WWJ ended up in 2nd about 2:30 behind, followed by Matt Landen a little over 3 mintues back. Shim came in 4th about 5 minutes back. The official race report and results can be found at:
A couple of things surprised me, my fitness and how good I felt with the effort after just two months of solid base training. My average HR was around 173 which is good considering I’ve spent little to no time in the 170’s during training this season. The second surprise… WWJ. The man rode a strong race and had his best finish ever in a Psycowpath race. Congrats dude, you’re going to have a good season if you can keep yourself from destroying various key components on your bike during a race.
I put the Mongoose into semi-retirement and rode a 2004, Specialized S-Works M5 hardtail this time around. It’s lookin’ like this will be my stead of choice for the season. It’s super light, about 1 ½ lbs lighter than the ‘goose. She weighs in at a scant 20.5 lbs and has the same feel as the ‘goose. So the transition has not been a problem. A huge thanks goes out to my old man for giving me the bike. I love hand me downs!
My goals for the season were to repeat as the IMBCS champion and bag 2 or 3 wins in the 3 marathon races over in Nebraska. I had also planned to do the first couple of Psycowpath series races. If I do well in the first couple of races and feel that I’ve got a good shot at their series overall, then I’d try to do all the Psycowpath races as well. The first race went well, so we’ll see how the next one goes. My schedule is pretty full this season, racin’ almost every weekend somewhere.
The IMBCS will be my first priority for the season. I, along with the IORCA posse, have put a lot of work into getting the series ready for 2006 and I intend to continue the effort, both on and off the bike.

See you all at IMBCS #1, Sylvan Island this Sunday, April 9.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

2006 Throwdown

Today is the first throwdown of the season over in Omaha, Tranquility Park. Never been there and I've heard a mixed bag of comments about the course. We'll see how it goes. I'm feelin' good and ready to put myself back into the hurt box. I'll most likely use my 2004 S-Works M5 hardtail as my steed of choice, bringin' the Mongoose as a back up.
So now it's time to hit the road. I'll do a post race write up, hopefully this weekend.

Over and out,