Saturday, November 17, 2018

24 hours of Rocky Hill 2018

My last RHR24 attempt in 2014 ended at ~8 hours due to a very tight back.  Since then my training time has been reduced significantly (kids will do that), probably to about 50% of the volume I was doing in prior attempts.  In 2012 I finished 16 laps which put me in 6th place.  Since then, I've done the Dirty Dozen a couple of times, broken my ankle, and mostly just ridden for fun with friends (maybe done a couple of TMBRA XC races and a couple of Capital Racing CX races too).  I definitely have not been riding my P29er singlespeed bike as much, or at all, mostly due to how much easier the full suspension is for my ankle.  So this year, having done the Dirty Dozen, I wanted to try the 24 hours and get the Dirty Duel award.   In spite of the reduced training time, I felt I was in pretty decent shape, until the rains started this fall.  That meant only a handful of off-road rides in about 2 months.  Because of this, I was really worried about my upper body holding up during the race.  In sharing this worry with @johnnyjmotox, his reply was that everyone is in the same boat.  Because of the constant rain threatening a muddy race, I got my P29er ready.  I did exactly 2 road rides on it in the week prior to the race, mainly to check and adjust the fit (and I don't think I had any rides in it, in at least a year before that).  I used the P29er to do the pre-ride and that confirmed that I didn't want to use my geared bike in that mess.  However, I was still really afraid to burn out pushing a hard gear on the climbs. 

On Saturday, the ground was still saturated, but I felt eager to get started.  I was having stomach pain (@johnnymotox told me it was likely from nervousness), so once the start sounded, I felt better.  I did the run and felt OK.  The first lap felt like a sprint race, mostly because I never recovered from the run, but also because I don't warm-up quickly and that's how my body reacts.  I walked the usual spots: the last climb to the top of Fat Chucks, and several of the steep and slick short climbs through the course.  Some I skipped to save my legs, some because I just couldn't get traction while pushing so hard.  My hands were going numb as usual, and my legs felt like they couldn't keep going at this pace for 24 hours.  My back was starting to tighten up (a sure sign of too much torque, not enough spinning for me).  I had no idea how I was going to even finish 3 hours, let alone 24.  I finished the first lap, I stopped to pick up a bottle and stretch out.  Laura told me @johnnymotox had done about a 45 minute lap, while it had taken me something like 1:10.  It is hard to fathom how fast he must have gone on the climbs to do that.

Thankfully in the 2nd lap, my legs loosened up.  My hands were still numb but there was some improvement overall.

By the 3rd lap I was feeling much better all around, I was thinking I could make it.  I was still stretching after every lap but doing consistent lap times.

By the 4th lap, I was starting to have doubts I could make it.  I just couldn't go slow enough and still ride most things.  Walking everything is no fun at all.  I still thought about my lesson learned at last year's Dirty Dozen:  apply power strategically to save power.  That means to spend a little extra power to keep momentum up, rather than slow down and expend more energy re-accelerating, or dismounting and mounting.  So I kept riding about the same, but by now my stops were longer.  My calves were cramping and my back was getting sharp pain when I walked or applied power.  Laura Neighbors helped me out by hitting some muscle in the back (nailed the spot on the first shot--wow!  That hurt, but it helped at least for a half a lap) and also hitting my left calf and showing me how to use my knees to massage it after every lap.  That helped quite a bit, at least for a while...

I honestly don't know after this what happened in what lap, when I put my lights on, what I said, etc.  All I know is that at some point, I reduced my goal from a podium in the 40+ class, to a certain number of laps and let the chips fall where they may.  Things were looking more than good as far as pacing.  At a later point, I was sure I couldn't make it the full 24 hours.  What I couldn't decide on was:  When do I stop?  Should I stop now, shower, and start again in the morning with some fresh clothes?  At this point my back was killing me--in spite of Laura's best efforts to restore normal function.  It was getting worse, and now it was affecting my bike position, my wrists were killing me with every root I hit (and there are a lot of them!)  I was seriously worried about how I was going to go to work the next day.  I think the biggest thing to cause me to stop is when I was riding stupid.  This is, hitting a tree on the inside of a turn with my shoulder for two laps, then over-compensating and hitting the outside tree with my handlebar for the next two laps.  After 7 laps I wanted to quit, but Laura and Shawn told me I was moving up, and they were totally encouraging me, and helping me get over my pains.  The last two laps were done 100% thanks the Laura and Shawn.

I think it was in my 9th and last lap in which Bill (Dirty Dozen 2018 winner) passed me while I had dismounted for some reason.  When I saw who it was, I got on his wheel, and we chatted for quite a while.  I could see he was also running into the same issues I was, namely hitting those slick roots and catching the bike just in time which saps your energy.  (This got worse after 11pm or so when the dew started dropping and everything got very wet again.)  We chatted for a while and he encouraged me to keep riding through the night to get a good spot.  At some point we hit a climb and I lost him.  This is when I had decided it was time to quit.  I didn't have a chance at a podium in the 40+ solo class, and I was in extreme pain and worried about being functional for the coming work week.  I had also decided that I would stop even if I was informed that I had climbed up in the rankings again.   Sure enough, Shawn informed me I was in 3rd place when I stopped since it seems like everyone else had stopped to rest.  I was sure if I could do 9 more laps I had a chance not only for a podium, but of winning.  However, I listened to my body. 

I still thought about maybe riding again in the morning, but struggling to stand-up, sit down, or walk kind of moved me away from that idea.  I'd stay and support and cheer for @johnnymotox as best I could.  I also got to hang around the fire and talk with Shawn and Laura.  I gotta say that all of John's friends are beautiful people and a pleasure and a privilege to know and to hang out with.  I got a chance to talk with Bill and also with Jose Bermudez, I got to meet John's brother and also his childhood friend, and see Dani and Dan Pedroza for the first time in a while.  Of course, all the Terra Firma crew are awesome.  (I don't know what they are drinking but I'll have what they're having!)  Their enthusiasm is infectious.  I just love the whole endurance MTB vibe.

In the morning, Kathy informed me that I was the 3rd of 3 singlespeeders and I was eligible for an award. If there'd been a 4th person in a singlspeed I would have declined, but I'm as happy to take this award home as I have been any other award in the past.  I'm never doing this race in a SS again (4 days after first typing this, I'm having second thoughts, what's wrong with me?), but I definitely want to give it another shot with a geared bike.  Maybe next year.

(Pictures courtesy of Terra Firma Racing)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Dirty Dozen 2018

The Dirty Dozen Race hosted by Terra Firma Racing is one of my favorite events and is one that for one reason or another (sickness, work travel, adoption, etc.) I’ve only had a chance to do once before, and I loved it.  My first time racing the Dirty Dozen was in 2017 after my broken ankle and with low expectations, but ended up doing well, being really close to a podium.  More details on last year’s race are here 2017 Dirty Dozen To summarize that report:  I had regrets, I wanted more from myself during a race and I used that to drive me in 2018.
It's so rare to catch me not grimacing on course

The biggest challenge this year has been staying healthy since the kids bring home bugs from school.  It seems like clockwork that come last week of August or first of September, the whole family gets some kind of cold, and usually the kids get over it in 2-3 days while the adults take weeks to recover.  My performance chart shows the starts and stops from this (or just life and work sometimes getting in the way.)  So, my goal in the past year has been to ride more with friends and groups and have more fun on the trails.  I have work buds Brian and Hawkins and we do regular rides of the Brushy Creek Trails or Walnut Creek Park, sometimes venturing to other places but we try to hit the trails at lunch at least 2 times a week.  They are usually fast paced rides so they’re always a good workout.  There were also the Bicycle Sport Shop Thursday MTB rides and rides led by our MTB captains Jeremy and Wes.  I also rely on advice from my endurance racing friends Dave, John, and Tony when I have doubts about how to proceed when I hit an obstacle.

My race started almost like last year:  late to the start, I got there as the runners were taking off, so I just rode slowly behind the last walkers then I took off.  And now the mental routine started.  This year I burned more energy passing people because I remembered John saying about how the 12 is almost a sprint pace, and I also remember how it felt missing out on the podium last year by a minute, and how I almost hated myself for doing a 2-hour lap at Rocky Hill in 2012.  All of that fueled me during my weakest moments. 

I had what would have been a fast first lap until the climb after the bridge toward the end at which point my SRAM master link decided to give up the ghost.  I just shook my head as I thought of Dan’s master link failure about a week earlier.  It looked like a plate failure with no shifting involved.  I’d never had a problem with master links before.  I spent way too long digging for the replacement at the bottom of my seat bag. I lost about 7 minutes unfortunately but I’d like to think that at this point my race was pre-disastered.

By the roughly 6-hour and 30-minute mark I’d done 8 laps which was a better pace than last year.  I really thought I’d be in a podium position so I was shocked when John’s buddy Shawn told me I was in 4th and a couple of minutes back from 3rd.  I felt a bit deflated but at the same time more driven.  I had thought I could slow the pace down for the 2nd half but this meant I couldn’t.  I had some caffeine and got going again.

I had my bad lap in #9, but it was all mental because I really didn't have a terrible lap time considering the few longer stops I had.  At this point I saw my wife and the kids as I came out of the barn.  I had moved up and got new gaps and the kids looked really excited about how I was doing.  That totally gave me a bunch of energy. 

A little aside…. So much of this type of racing is mental!  There was one section in the course that kicked my ass for about 3 laps:  after the downhill berms almost at the end, you hit a muddy section before you pop out into a bit of pines then the BMX section.  That mud felt like it was grabbing my wheels, and I just went slower, but in the last 2 laps, I told myself to dig deep, hop over the mud (by that point, I wasn't as concerned about energy conservation) and guess what?  It didn't kill me and I went faster and it actually felt easier. Seeing my family, hearing my BSS teammates cheer me on as I crossed start/finish, John encouraging me every time he lapped me, all of that makes an impact.

With about 1hr 52 minutes to go, I figured I could do 2 55-minute laps, but I had to do a 55-minute next lap before I decided to do a last lap.  I got a 57-minute lap in leaving me with 55 minutes and I just didn’t feel like I had a 55-minute lap left in me with the slick conditions and my problem with my bar light (which I didn’t know of until I stopped but I kept hitting slick roots and almost falling and I hadn’t figured out why until after) so I pulled the plug there hoping that was enough for a podium. It was at that point that Shawn told me I’d secured 2nd and that made me very happy.  Being on the podium felt great, but shaking the hands of my competitors was the best since I had no idea who I was racing against during the race.  I finished 13 laps in 11 hours and 5 minutes.  Next year I want 15 laps!
My first ever MTB podium!

Now I want to go back and do another endurance race this year, but I'm going to have to really think about whether I want to do another Solo 24 (Going for a podium there would be cool) or train for the Enchilada Buffet.

Friday, February 10, 2017

12Hr race: The Dirty Dozen 2017

I got to the race at 8:50am on Saturday morning after the drive from Austin.  I couldn't find my number at home (went there Friday, checked-in, pre-rode, went home to sleep) so searching for it made me very late.  I don't like to get to races with a lot of time to spare because it makes me so nervous waiting for the start.  I'd rather be rushed to make it there, but this was ridiculous.  I don't know how it works out psychologically but I just feel so much better not hanging around for too long before the race.   I'm the opposite when it comes to airports...but I digress.
So, I get there and I went to ask for a blank plate, and Diana (I really hope I remember the name correctly, forgive me if I didn't) at registration told me they have my number (I had left it in the bathroom when I changed).  While I changed into my bib and jersey, Diana got the number from the officials at the start and put the number on my bike.  Everyone was almost done with the run by the time I got on the bike...then I went the wrong way and got stuck in a corral.  I found my way around, basically rode the full run section and started--slowing at the start line to make sure they'd got me crossing--and off I went.  My “run time” was something like 6.5 minutes.  That’s how late I was to the party.
I was relaxed and just happy to be racing and happy to have an empty trail in front of me...down around the pond I started getting tears in my eyes while I had thoughts of the long road back from my broken ankle, surgery, rehab, the hard weeks for my wife Holly where she had to do everything for me and the kids, etc.  Then I just smiled and went. 

It was cold and humid but all the rushing while wearing my wool hoodie had me at perfect temp with just arm warmers and my normal head beanie (I wear it because helmets are gross and I break out, and to keep the sun from my scalp with the SPF50 cloth).
I started passing people about halfway through the first section in the woods (Aker woods or something like that) but I was not expending energy to pass in a hurry like I did the last time in 2014.
I made it to Gas Pass and felt good, almost caught someone there in the swoopy section after the descent but they got going again thankfully and I passed them in the flat.  I did the big steep climb in super slow cadence in the easiest gear just to save the legs.  There was more passing in the flat sections, not much to remember there until the muddy slick climb.  A mix of cow poop, pine needles, deep sticky mud had me making it almost to the top, dabbing, then remounting (I would go to make this climb without dabbing only 4 times in the race).  The whole time I'm conserving legs, letting people go away from me to save my legs...catching in the flats and descents.  I was actually riding the flowing sections pretty well considering how little off-roading I've been doing lately.  Through the race, as I did more laps I got even better with lower effort per lap without a reduction in lap time.  As I neared the end of the lap I saw Tony L. going the opposite way...this is when I thought I'd gone too fast so I consciously started to slow down.  Tony mentioned he was afraid I would go too fast and I think he was a bit concerned for how my race would go after a rushed late start.  I still managed about a 48-minute lap which means it was a 41.5-minute lap without the “run time,” and that’s too fast for me at this point in my fitness.
The second and third laps there was a lot more passing.  I really didn't know where I was in the order, but then doing the math in my head I realized that I was on pace for 4 laps in 3 hours...which means 16 lap pace.  I was completely certain that I couldn't sustain that pace based on previous years’ results for winners and where I am in my training this year (at the bottom), so I kept on consciously trying to slowing down.
By this point, my hands are not numb as usual, but my feet are a little numb, and my shoulders are killing me.  All the on-bike stretching and movements aren't helping much.  I think it was after lap 2 that I stop to stretch—while thinking back to my last unfinished RHR 24...tight hips and hamstrings = sore back = end of the race at hour 8.  So, I did hip flexor stretching, hamstring stretching, back stretching...and lo-and-behold my shoulders felt good, my feet were no longer numb, and my legs felt refreshed.  I decided it was better to keep doing sub-50 minute laps and spend 2-3 minutes per lap stretching than to do 50 minute laps and not stretch.  I think it was the perfect plan, and my trend for learning at least one new thing at every race is still going strong.
At some point after the 3 hour mark it was obvious to me that I could do 7 laps in 6 hours, which meant a 14-lap pace.  I thought that would put in in the podium for sure, but I kept reminding myself that my goal was to finish, and to think of the ankle, and to not take any risks and injure myself in some way again.  After the halfway-point I figured I couldn't do 7 laps in the 2nd half, but I had more than 6 hours to get 6 laps in.  Up to this point, my nutrition was right on schedule.  6 hours, and about 6 bottles of Infinit.  I figured it would be easy an easy last 6 laps...but then lap 8 happened...
So…up to this point and since January 2016, I am still taking it easy on caffeine.  I thought about risking some caffeine in the race, but I forgot a buffer for my I went without the caffeine, and lap 8 is where I really needed it.  I don't think I was necessarily much slower, but it took a toll mentally.  I don't really remember much of the lap...there was nothing of consequence that I can think of. 
At this point, I was wondering where Tony was.  I wasn't catching him so I guessed he was feeling well and doing some flying laps and was chasing to lap me.  After lap 8, I stopped for a longer time.  For the first time, it was a true break and not a stretch.  I got going for lap 9.  I was a bit faster and feeling better after the break.  I thought I would have time to spare to take a longer break next time around to make sure I'd finish. 
I took a long break and put the lights on.  I wasn't walking between my gear bag and my bike as much as crawling.  It was hard to stand up.  At this point Tony came in.  I thought this was him lapping me, but amazingly he was on the same lap as me.  Apparently in the first lap he'd taken a bio-break and I passed him.  We had been riding just a few minutes apart the whole race!  I was starting to get swollen hands…too much sodium for the cold climate, so I took off my wedding ring at this point.  I waited a bit longer after Tony left before I went out.  The clouds looked ominous but I didn't think too much of it...I should have...  By the time I got to the pond, it was a full drizzle with wind and it felt cold.  I figured I'd warm-up once I got to the forest...I didn't.  It took a while to warm-up eventually but still felt cold in those open sections--which Bluff Creek Ranch has lots of.  Cold=nipplage+jiggle=chafing and that is a terrible thing.  Not much else makes me want to stop riding than that pain.  It’s awful.  I walked up the steep climb and it actually felt good on my legs.  My HR stayed low and I don't think I went slower than I'd been riding it, but I think this lap I could have used caffeine too.  Mentally, it also took a toll.  This weak mentality may have cost me a position or the end of the lap, I wanted to put my jacket on and warm-up.  I wanted to stop...and I didn't want to give myself the option for 3 more laps.  I figured 2 easy laps was it.  I was going to take a long break, then ride easy to take away any option to do a 13th last lap.  Pretty messed up huh?  I could have used a bit of my friends John and Thad in my pit going a bit crazy, popping some caffeine in my mouth telling me I was going to see baby Jesus and pumping me up.  (ca. RHR 24 2012, I will never forget that as long as I live).
Amazingly, it is actually hard to ride Bluff Creek Ranch slowly, probably because it would be pretty boring (not a bad thing, just that speed makes it flow and fun).  I was still doing a good lap (the official lap times include my breaks too so it's hard to tell from those) and I actually gave myself a really good chance for a 13th lap.  I finished lap 11 not having drunk much of my bottle.  It was cold, I didn't feel thirsty, I did feel hungry, but I couldn't stomach drinking the normal amount.  I think my lower sodium blend would have been better than the full-on blend. 
I started lap 12 mentally thinking I couldn't do 13 but I gave myself the option of going again if I felt the need.  I was feeling OK until the climb after the Gas Pass descent.  I got off and walked...I had nothing left in my legs.  At this point, 3 guys passed me, one of which was Tony.  I guess he took another bio-break (I took mine I think in lap 8 or 9) and I'd passed him.  Now I was wanting to catch him up...partly to race him since we were competing against each other, but partly because I wanted to ride with a friend just to keep myself going, maybe have him pulling me along to make sure I didn't stop and lay down on the trail (RHR24 ca. 2012).  I had no idea what position we were in.  [taking a look back:  At the halfway point, I actually felt I could have been in 1st or 2nd based on previous years, but in my lap 7 another soloist passed me on his 8th lap.  Later in my 10th lap a guy passed me and he told me he was on his 12th and he was riding SS.  I figured previous years were not a good indication for this year's pace.  Maybe the trail was better--with slight moisture making for a fast trail, who knows.] So, mentally--at that point--I wasn't going to race Tony, but then I saw he hammered up the steep climb, and so did I, faster than on any other lap.  He still took a big gap on me.  It took a lot out of me but I didn't coast after the climb, and I attacked the steep and slick Mule Trace descent chasing after Tony, then boring flat stuff until some curvy stuff before the bridge at which point I caught up with him and he let me by.  He hadn't realized it was me (or maybe he didn't want to pull me which would have been an awesome strategic move on his part).  I had told him it was OK but he'd slowed down and pointed me by at this point and so I was in front.  I was slow on any ascent, but OK on most other stuff.  We got through a bunch of nice trail until the longish climb into the BMX section. It's a very shallow climb but against the wind and for some reason it feels a lot harder than you'd think by looking at it, at least for me.  At this point, Tony went balls to the wall and passed me.  I tried to chase but had nothing left.  After the climb, I got fast again and was fast in the rest of the trail but didn't see him ahead.  I went through start finish with 58 minutes to go.  They told me "You have time for one more lap!" and I said, "no, I'm done" but it nagged at me...and also thinking Tony had passed me but also thinking how I'd dug deep to try to chase him and didn’t have much left.  I was already not riding well in the last lap, making small mistakes, but we'd both discussed calling it quits. 
I got to the pit, and Tony had stopped and had his finisher medal.  I had thoughts of going again if he'd go back out with me, but I didn't even pose the question to him.  I have no doubt that if I'd gotten to the pits and he wasn't there, it would have been another lap for me.  As it turned out, the guy in 2nd had a several minute lead on us, but I had no idea about placing until maybe 10 minutes later.  I was packing up and Tony said, "you're going to hate me, I bumped you out of the podium."  It was a bunch of emotions at once.  First, I was very happy to actually have done so well with what I consider my worst fitness going into an endurance event, but I was also a bit upset to think I just missed out on the podium when I had a chance to do another lap, and at the same time very happy for Tony since he was staging a comeback as well.  For about half the race I allowed myself to dream of a podium finish.  It would have been the perfect ending to my comeback from the injury.   Looking back a bit...just missing out on it may be a good thing since it awakened the hunger in me:  I don't just want to finish; I want to compete.  The words from coach Shaun after I told him of my injury were very prophetic, I am paraphrasing a bit "...before you know it, you'll be toeing the line, fighting for a podium spot."  I'd be lying if I wasn't trying to wipe those words from my head during the race so as to stay within my pace.

Incidentally, my decent result has me thinking some of the training metrics may be better at judging fatigue than fitness.   It’s also clear how invaluable 5 years (2010 to 2015) of professional coaching from Shaun Taylor at are, not just the training and workouts part--which honestly you can get from multiple sources--but also how an “unfair advantage” (with credit to Mark Donohue for the phrase) are the mental and strategy game.  That was the difference between doing well, and competing for a podium for me.  I have not forgotten any of the lessons and I would be lying if I wasn't thinking of all those post-race lessons during the race, thanks Coach!

Thanks to Terra Firma Racing for another great event--as usual!
I have to thank all my endurance racing friends for their encouragement on my comeback, sharing their training rides on social media, hanging out with them, etc.  Dave, John, Julie, Tony thanks!
Thanks to Dr. Elenz at Austin Sports Medicine (rock stars all of them) and Ross Vines, Audrey, David, and Sarah at Seton Spine & Rehabilitation.  I highly recommend all of the above...and I hope you don't need them ever.

Mostly, thanks to my wife Holly for her unwavering support and encouragement, for weeks of holding the household together while I was in crutches, and continuing to encourage my passion for mountain biking and riding in general.   I couldn't have done it without you.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Super-Six Enduro at Bluff Creek Ranch

This was going to be my first time racing at Bluff Creek Ranch in years.  The last couple of years I had meant to do the Dirty Dozen, usually with having some kind of cold related problems.  This time I wanted to do it, but I was advised to do only the 6hour race.  It was good advice considering how little I've been training or even riding.
Hook 'em Horns!

With a 7-8am race check-in, a 9am start, and only 1hr 15 minute drive, I decided to drive the same day.  I woke up at 5:15 but I was for the most part packed up and ready to go.  I just needed coffee and something to eat on the way. 

Race check-in was uneventful and here I found out Terra Firma is using an RFID tag for the solo riders.  That meant not having to wait in line to scan the wrist band and not having to get off the bike on every lap.  That was pretty cool!

I had my toolbox but wasn't going to setup too much of a pit since Brian had a nice setup already.  I just needed a small place to stash my cooler and I'd be set.  I saw Tony on check-in and then later found Brian and Melissa starting to get ready.  Soon after, I went off on my warm-up.  I decided to do a lap of the first part of the course since it goes close to the pits on the way out.  I was feeling pretty good with good speed and low HR for the RPE and was testing out the course.  We had ridden it the previous weekend and it was in good shape.  I found a couple of spots where the trail had deteriorated and noted them in my mind.  I got to a spot where it dips into a dry creek bed after a sharp left with a berm.  I tried to rail the berm like the previous weekend but it collapsed on me.  I went down hard.  My left shifter got messed up and I re-sprained my right wrist badly.  My stem was a bit askew as was my saddle.  I got up and other than the wrist pain and some blood on the left forearm and left knee, I knew I was in good shape.  I straightened out the saddle and rode the rest of the lap.  I was now worried about making it to the race start in time since I had to stop by my car to makes some fixes and pick up a couple of things to take to the pit (spare chain.)  I was able to fix my shifter and stem quickly, I rode by the pit, tossed my keys (and that's it…can you tell what I picked up at my car and didn't toss out that I should have?)

I don't know why but I knew I was going to go hard today.  Maybe it is the months without racing, or the very low amount of riding the last few months (I went a month without riding and several weeks with no riding at all!) but based on my rides the last few weeks and the leg openers I was feeling confident and a bit rambunctious.  We did the usual LeMans running start and I ran a bit faster than normal and felt good, but still not the sprint that a lot of folks/runners were doing so I was probably in the back third or quarter of group.  

These were everywhere on the trail.

Pasture section between the first section and the rest
of the trail.

The first lap was like a sprint race with all the folks that go all out for the first 15 minutes only to collapse later.  Most of the people were nice since Scott Hudson from Terra Firma had warned people about passing/lapping, and courteousness.  The slowing down of the train was so bad that at some point we thought there was a big wreck since we almost stopped.  The guy behind me was wondering what happened…then we rode over--I kid not--a 2" root in dry sand before a gentle left hand turn and we sped up again.  He made me laugh when he half-jokingly said, "wait, THAT WAS IT?!"  BIKE SKILLS PEOPLE, BIKE SKILLS!"  this is when we both turned up the wick to try to pass people.

One kid was fairly slow but steady…he was wearing khaki chinos and a white t-shirt, street shoes and flats…yes, he had a race number!  He was pretty cool though in letting people by when there was a chance.  Another kid was not so nice.  He was on flats too and was putting his foot down on very easy turns, and when I saw a chance to pass and called "on your left" he started sprinting!  "OH NO YOU DIDN'T!" was what went through my head.  I quickly passed him.  I was redlining with every pass, but I had a goal of 8 laps so I knew what I had to do to accomplish that and I did not want my first lap to be over 50 minutes because of the slower folks. I knew it was going to hurt later but...well...I knew what it was going to feel like.  We left that first tangled section of trail onto the cow chute and "bike skills" guy passed me and we wished each other luck.  There was a long stream of people heading up the pasture and I desperately wanted to sprint and pass as many as possible before Gas Pass but I held back a bit.  It turned out to be not too bad in Gas Pass other than for two dismounts in front of me, but I was able to track stand and push through.  My heart was about to come out of my mouth by this point.  My rear tire was squirrely. I know that feeling as a tire that was low on pressure.  I think I may have burped it when I went down in the warm-up.  I knew I would have to stop to put air in and that was un-scheduled and not good for my 8-lap plan.  The added incentive to go fast was to put some distance between the non-technical folks I had passed so they wouldn't pass me as I was airing up.

This is where the 4 years of training with Shaun, and the times watching and hanging out with the fast guys pays off.  My fitness is probably at a 2-year low but my experience is at an all-time high.  My coach is my Unfair Advantage.

Lap 2 had a few more people to pass but it was mostly much smoother.  I got to ride behind a lady wearing a Colin's Hope team kit  (the executive director no less!) so we got to chatting about it and said her goal with the team kits was exactly that: to have conversations and bring awareness during a race.  This is the cool thing about endurance racing, you can have a conversation with folks while you ride.

I kept the balls to the wall for a few laps and was doing pretty even splits but one lap I thought I slowed down 3-4 minutes [it turns out it was actually a faster lap than I thought.  I think I must have been in more of a rhythm not having to expend energy passing people so it felt slower/easier] I knew what I had to do to do two more laps so I turned up the wick and did a fairly fast first split.  I could go harder but I also knew I wouldn't have much left on me if I did.  I had to go just hard enough and if I finished that lap and had at least 45 minutes left I would try another lap.  (Over 6hrs it doesn't count.) I was doing ok but I hit the wall at some point in the last third of the race.  I couldn't go very fast at that point.

Throughout the race, I kept pushing and feel like I was mentally strong.  As soon as I wanted to coast I started pedaling.  That worked for me and I plan on using that in the future.  In addition, for some reason passing people gave me a boost of energy too.  My calves hurt and felt like they could cramp any minute but nothing like my quads.  On the last lap, I got to the bridge climb and the quads started seizing up.  I had to stop and stretch and that was probably enough to keep me from meeting my target time.

All in all, I had a blast and it was a good workout and a really good mental test.  It was probably my best race as far as strategy and execution.  I set a new HR threshold too.

Once again, shoulders were what caused me to slowed down one lap.  Though all the fitters said my fit is ok, I will go down to a 90mm stem like John recommended to me.

Later after the race, I was able to analyze the results…and I'm not sure I understand the timing.  When I crossed the finish in my 7th lap, my clock indicated we had been racing 5:22 minutes or so.  My Garmin 705 time was 5:15 or so but I did not start my time until after the run, and I had it shut down (a random shut down...happens every so often) and lost a minute or so.  The race clock was showing 5:76 (yep, seventy-six) and was thinking it should have said 5:26, but I was fairly sure I had my times right and it made sense if I had assumed correctly one of my laps had been over 50 minutes.  It turns out, my laps were extremely consistent until the last lap when I stopped for 3-4 minutes!  From lap 1:  42:45 (includes the run!), 43:41 (includes a pit stop to add air to rear tire), 43:39, 44:31, 45:30 (this is the lap I thought I had slowed down more), 46:30, 49:28 (includes 3-4 minutes to stretch the quads and calves.  I think by my calculations and assuming 2-3 minute run time at the start, that I would have had to do a 40 minute lap to have had it count.  That was impossible at that point for my legs.

I'm pretty sure I ate some cow poop

I believe I was a lot more dehydrated than I thought.  During the race I stuck to a bottle of my custom-blend Infinit per hour.  After the race I drank 2 24oz bottles of water, 2 16oz bottles of water, 1 16oz bottle of milk/WPI recovery drink, 2 16oz glass of water at home.  At 2:30am when I woke up hungry and thirsty, I drank another pint of water and ate a bowl of cereal, then another pint of water after.  In the morning, I was still peeing darker than usual.   Next time I will supplement with some water during the pit stops.

I can't wait for my next race, but first I'm going to do race support for my coach and a bunch of his athletes at the 24 hours of Old Pueblo.  That should be fun!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

ATX100K Reveille Peak Ranch

This is part of the ATX 100k race series.  Originally the race was supposed to be at Reimer's Ranch but because of the rain the two previous days it was moved to Reveille Peak Ranch since it's mostly granite and/or well draining soil.  I had attempted a 100k there but in a much easier route than this (did not include the upper loop which I had never done) and even then I didn't finish because I went too hard at first and I did not take enough fluids in.

I got there around 7:30 with the first 10 or so guys.  The mood was pretty relaxed as everyone was getting ready.  In a true grassroots fashion, Thad--the eventual 2nd place finisher--had to setup the table and sign-up sheet and get everyone on the program.  

The start was split into 3 groups with the fast guys in group 1.  Most people were with group 1.  I was in group 2 with maybe a dozen or so guys.  Our group was basically going to try to ride hard and finish it but we knew better than to try to go with the fastest of Austin MTB endurance racing.  The group 1 guys got released then group 2 got released 3 minutes after.  For the first time in…well, for the first time actually, it seemed like it was a contest on who could go slower.  Unlike my sprint races of late and even some other 100k and 100 mile events I've done, there weren't people sprinting or cutting me off at the start.  I was in the lead and riding very relaxed, and I got the feeling if I slowed down more everyone would too.  But I think we all knew what was about to come so that's why everyone was smart about it.  I rode next to Albert for a while and we chatted, until we got to the climb.  I don't remember where but Albert passed me and then some other guys.  I was doing my own race trying to go as slow up the climbs as possible but as is the case with me sometimes, I can't seem to help but redline in the first lap or first 30min to 1hr.

I wasn't riding my best…I seemed a bit sloppy and not taking the best lines…it was all a bit off but I was still doing OK, until I tried to go between two very tall rocks and dabbed with my right hand to brace myself and push myself forward.  I guess paddle cactus can grow in sheer granite.  I made it through this section but stopped a bit after to pull dozens of needles off my gloves. I thought my hand was OK and most were in the glove but I had to stop another 3-4 times to pull more needles from my hand, the outside of the glove, and the inside of the glove…between my index finger and thumb, index finger, and the middle finger (I still have one buried in this finger…I'll show it to you).  I lost tons of time stopping for that.   But by then I felt a lot better, more warmed up and was riding a bit better…but my tires were not gripping like I'm used to (using a new rear tire for this race.)

Then I got lost.  Somehow I missed all the signage where the super d splits off to the right, and I followed the trail up, I climbed a significant portion of a very rocky climb and some big ledges and then some muddy trail upon which I had a realization…I only see one tire trail here…I should see more.  So I had to double back.

Maybe around mile 8 or so, I was trying to listen to a hissing sound off in the distance and wondering what kind of animal it was…then I felt a periodic stream of air blowing on the inside of my left calf.  I stopped and tilted the bike with the hole on the bottom so the stan's would start to flow.  It held so I continued riding.  As soon as I put any kind of pressure on the tire it opened up again.  I stopped another 3 times to add more air.  At some point I think I'd lost most of the Stan's.  The sidewall looked to have been eroded from going off camber on the rough granite.  The hole was pretty big.  Too much pressure and the Stan's would just leak out.  Too little pressure and the tire was rolling and coming off the bead.  I rode the last 4 miles with what was basically a flat tire.  I had to walk the steep granite climbs and any off camber trail.  I was also very thirsty and out of fluids and I wasn't sure I had enough air in the Big Air can to be able to add a tube.

From a goal of 2hrs or less per lap, I was nearing 3hrs for my fist lap.  My lap was so bad that I had to channel my coach Shaun when I asked myself "what would Shaun say?" and I answered to myself, "this lap will build character." It sure did….but I also felt like I wouldn't have been surprised if a snake bit me, or a dog came out and pissed on me.

I made it to the pits, signed my first lap time, and went to my pits to put a tube in.  I wish I had stuck with my beefy and strong sidewall Specialized The Captain rear tire but I was going to have to live with a tube and this lighter weight tire.  I was very thirsty since normally I would have had 1 per hour plus maybe an extra bottle or more in the pits if it got hot.  In this day I had 2 for 3+ hours, and 3/4 of a bottle in the pits while I put in a tube.   I got back out on the trail feeling actually pretty good about putting that lap behind me.

I finally got in a rhythm and my legs and HR started to feel more normal. I knew my legs would hurt by the end of the race but I didn't care about that as long as I could continue with a good rhythm. The trail was 95% single track...and all technical with very little swoopy fast trail. It beats you up, chews you up, and spits you out but that also means it keeps you busy and engaged and I'll admit it: it's fun. I was riding much better and more confident on the 2nd lap. I was feeling good...then there was the ledge up with water running to one side. I tried to go up it but was too conservative (worried about tires slipping in the slimy water) I put my left foot down and unclipped and as I stepped my right foot up, my left slipped. This is super sharp and rough granite and I shredded my left shin, re-opened up my just-now-healing scrape on my knee as I slid backwards on my skin...and the thing that stopped my backwards momentum was a sharp sideways-pyramid piece of granite jutting out from the big rock on the left. It nailed me right on the kidney/thoracic ribs area. I actually yelled from the pain. I stood and tried to figured out how badly I was hurt. Blood was gushing out of my knee and the gash was still white and not bleeding yet but I could see that was all superficial and would stop bleeding.

Granite+shin=this (after clean-up)
My back pain was bad though and it was throbbing. I decided to ride back and call it quits and I informed a few folks that passed me at this point while I was taking account of my injuries. I walked back a bit, then I rode, then the back started to loosen up a bit. So I decided to turn around keep riding the lap...and I actually got in the rhythm again. Then the sun started coming out while on the rock, I was hot but I was still feeling really good. I kind of felt nothing would hold me back, that I was managing the pain, the race, the heat well.  Matt passed me while on the top of the rock…in the spot where it's hard to see where the trail goes.  I went the wrong way and he almost followed me.  It was a bit surreal because he seemed pretty relaxed and polite but there was nobody behind him for a while.  He had passed me halfway through my first lap while he was on his second, and now he was passing me early on my 2nd lap while he was on his 3rd.  I kept on riding on my own for a while still feeling good.  All of a sudden I started to feel really thirsty, and hot, and I started getting those chills again (like what got me to quit RPR 100k) I was running very dry. Toward the end of the lap the back started seizing up again. Any time I would have to go up a ledge or step, it would want to seize up. My shoulders/neck was terrible too...if I hadn't had back problems, that would have made me stop too (like RHR24 in 2011...that bad.)  I was walking very slowly up some hills whenever I didn't feel well, and then I would ride whenever I could.  It was while walking one of those climbs toward the end of the 2nd lap that Thad passed me.  I think I was still bitching about my first lap so he thought I was pushing the bike for a mechanical but I told him I was OK.

I somehow made it back to the pit stop a bit dejected then I saw a lot of the fit riders that had passed me in the first lap already showered and driving off. Then I went to the lap sheet to post my 2nd lap time and saw a bunch of people had DNF on theird 3rd lap. I felt a little better about it but I still hate it. I didn't put my DNF in yet because I wanted to see if I could just pump fluids in and recover and to see if the back would get better. I saw Thad using the stick on his lower back, and Todd, one of the organizers, had quit because he pulled his lower back. Albert was ambivalent about quitting too since he likely had at least bruised ribs from a fall. He said a bunch of guys had fallen too. Eventually I saw John Russell come in. He said he wasn't feeling good, was taking it easy, but was in 3rd place. I saw another guy get mock-disgusted to hear John say he was taking it easy. I just laughed. You just have to admire the kind of performance Matt, Thad, and John put on for us.  

I almost knew I wasn't going to finish this race at some point in my 2nd lap, but I was toying with the idea of going for a 3rd lap with my phone and taking some pictures since it was so beautiful. I love this trail because it's so different and you can ride it even in the rain. 
I opened my car door and my ribs/back really hurt so I knew my day was done after 5.5 hours or so of riding.  I signed the DNF and showered.  That shower felt great.  But the best part of the day was that I enjoyed being out there riding hard on technical stuff and doing well until I or my bike couldn't anymore.  Unlike some other big name race I didn't finish, I want to come back and finish this race next year..and I'll keep trying until I do.