Archives for April 2013

Earbuds while mountain biking

I don’t really understand the desire to wear ear buds while mountain biking, but whatever.

While riding this past [Read more…]

2013 Pace Bend Mountain Biking Race

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2013 Bicycle Sport Shop Pace Bend Race at Pace Bend Park
/>Men’s Cat 3 40-49
This is the 8th race in the TMBRA State Series

Shot 100% on GoPro Hero2 HD

Weather and trails were perfect. I felt 100% and had a good race. John E (Lifetime Fitness kit) held me off and finished 18s ahead of me. He was a good rabbit to chase for a good chunk of the race!

I used a new mount for this video, a K Edge mount:

You can read a more detailed race report here:

Dashware used for gauges/HUD:

Race 1: Rocky Hill Ranch : (8th)
Race 2: The Waco Race : (16th)
Race 3: STORM Hill Country Challenge – Did not attend
Race 4: Mellow Johnny’s Classic – (8th)
Race 5: Bent Wheel Bash – (7th)
Race 6: Big Ring Challenge – Did not attend
Race 7: Solavaca Cat Claw Challenge – Did not attend
Race 8: Bicycle Sport Shop Pace Bend Race – (5th)

Pace Bend Race Report

Gorgeous day at Pace Bend

Gorgeous day at Pace Bend

Well, I made it! The little guy that I was at the mercy of hasn’t made his appearance yet so I was able to get out to race Pace Bend this weekend.

And I am so glad that I did! You can’t ask for a more perfect race day. Everything went right leading up to the day. We got some passing showers and a cool front on Thursday that not only cooled things off, but wet the trail just enough to have perfect, ‘hero dirt’ conditions the day of the race.

I made sure to eat well, hydrate well, and get plenty of sleep in the days leading up to the race. This is my A race for the year, on my home turf. This is where I better put my best foot forward and give myself every possible chance at a strong showing.

After riding Pace Bend the previous week, and putting down a 47 minute lap time, I was feeling really good. I knew a sub 47 lap was within reach, but I didn’t know how much I could improve upon that. I knew it was going to take a stellar ride with everything going just right to pull off a high placement.

As I expected, nearly all of the top riders showed up, with one exception. As I knew each one’s riding strengths and weaknesses, I had devised a plan that would give me the best chance of success.

Pace Bend Starting Line

Pace Bend Starting Line

One wrench in my plan was the starting loop. Since I have missed 3 races, I had fallen out of the top 10, which meant I wouldn’t get the top 10 call up. I would be starting at least 1 row back and for my plan to work, I was going to have to get by a good number of people on the start loop.

The start loop is a 1/2 mile, uphill-ish loose gravel jeep road. In the past, I have blown up on this little climb only to have to spend too much time recovering in the first section of technical singletrack, which is one of my stronger riding sections. I was going to have to walk a fine line of gaining position and not overdoing it and blowing up on the race to the singletrack.

One of the competitors that I have been struggling to best is John Eddington. This guy has the fitness of a race horse and he can power like no other in the less technical sections. Where I have a little advantage over John is in the technical sections, particularly on the fast technical downhill sections.

I knew he was going to explode up the start loop and I was going to risk running hot in an effort of keeping with him, with plans of trying to get around him in the singletrack in an effort to put some time between he and I before the trail started heading more uphill.

At the whistle, we all charged off, and as expected John E flew up the road. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a clear opening to keep up and the leaders quickly gained a sizable advantage. At the top of the hill, just before the drop into singletrack, I had one last opportunity to get a pass in to open the path in front of me, but I didn’t have it legs to push right then, and it would have required me to likely have to cut off David O right into the trail and I didn’t want to make that move.

Start Loop

Start Loop behind David O

I dropped into the singletrack in 5th place, behind David O. We made decent time, but I was wanting to open it up more. At the first opportunity I had, I passed David O and motored on.

Kirby W was right behind me, and urging me on. We were blazing through the singletrack. My front tire stuck in the turns like glue and we were shredding it through the turns.

It wasn’t long before I started catching glimpses of John E ahead in the trees. We began reeling him in and we finally caught up with him. Unfortunately for John, in a small little down and up section one of the prior race group riders had dismounted in the feature. John wasn’t able to stop in time and he endo’d over.


John E Endo

This gave me & Kirby an opening to get around and we got by and headed on.

I knew that here is where I had to make good time. We only had a little more of the fast and flowy before a 1.5 mile mostly uphill and less technical section of the trail, where I knew John would make good time and likely close any gap we put in.

It was here that I told Kirby to get on as I knew he’d be able to put some time on. He came around and headed out. I lost sight of him and didn’t see him the rest of the race.

I cruised on, still feeling great. I rode as hard as I could, entering my ‘diesel engine’ state of just breathing well and getting smooth turns.

As I neared the well, I glanced back and saw that John had indeed closed the gap and was now on my wheel. As we rounded the well and started our approach to The Hill, he came around.

I was disappointed, but I knew I still had a chance, if I could keep him in my sights and manage to get around him before the next descending sections, then I might be able to hold him off.

We made good time on The Hill, which is the only real climb of the race. It is only 1/10th of a mile, but it is steep and loose and has a couple of non-trivial step ups, especially after you have been putting down 30 minutes of race pace riding at that point.

John topped the hill first and dropped into the next little section ahead of me. I lost sight of him and worried that he had dropped me for good. As I started towards a good technical downhill segment, I caught sight of him up ahead and pushed hard. If I could manage to get ahead of him before the descent, I could possibly put some distance between he and I through the descent and the NXNW ‘endless rockgarden’ section before we hit the final last mile hammerfest.

Upcoming Descent

Upcoming Descent

Unfortunately there was an earlier group rider between he and I and by the time I could get around that rider, I had no other opportunity to get around John on the descent.

I had to be content with riding his wheel and hoping that I might be able to get around him before entering NXNW.

Looking for a way around

Looking for a way around

We encountered more prior group riders and had to work our way around them. It wasn’t long before we hit NXNW and I was still holding John’s wheel. We were both riding well and I kept looking for an opportunity to get around.


Diesel Mode – Picture by Ingot Imaging

By this time, I could feel that my legs didn’t have the power that I wanted and I wasn’t getting those short bursts of strength needed to blow over the rocky segments as smoothly as I would have liked. John was riding smoothly and consistently, whereas I was getting bursty, with little gaps forming, then me closing them.

Riding strong in NXNW

Riding strong in NXNW

Eventually I was the first to crack and I stalled out on a little section that I normally clear with ease. John was able to get away here and that was that.

As I popped out of NXNW, I knew John wasn’t too far ahead and I hoped that I could somehow catch him. So I dug deep and I pushed hard on this last mile of wide open. From here is just about 1 mile and 4 minutes. A good chunk of this part is also downhill. I pedaled hard in the hopes of catching sight of John

I never caught him and wound up in a final sprint with an earlier group rider, just nudging him out at the line. This makes the 2nd year in a row that I ended up in an all out sprint on the road to the finish line with a ‘photo finish’, barely edging out the younger competitor.

Final sprint to finish

Final sprint to finish

I crossed the line 18 seconds behind John E. It was a good race and we both rode our strengths well. John wins this one by a narrow margin.

I check my timer and I see that I’m sitting on a 46:10 lap time. I have improved on my best lap time by another minute. Over the past 3 weeks I have gone from 48:30 to 47:15 to 46:10.

I felt really good with my race. I rode a clean ride, gave it my all and finished in 5th place out of 38. It was an amazing day and one that I’ll have to thank my nephew for allowing me to make when he makes his appearance into this world.

Video available here: Pace Bend Race Video

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 157 lbs
Bike weight: 25.8 lbs
Nutrition: 2 servings oatmeal, 1 cup coffee, 6″ Subway Sandwich, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before race, 1/2 water bottle during race
Weather: Clear and sunny, 75 degrees, beautiful!
Dress: Bibs and short sleeve jersey
Week lead in: 75% workout on Tuesday, 50% workout on Thursday, 45min spin with couple of hard efforts on Saturday
RPE: Rode hard, felt great, 100%
CTL: 55.8
TSB: -5.0 (rising)

I also want to point out the improvements that were made from this race last year. On April 15 of 2012, my 2nd race ever, I finished 32 of 42 with a time of 57:14. An improvement of 11 minutes and much better placement as well!

E is for Endover?

John E gets stopped behind a dismounted rider at a very inopportune time at the Pace Bend race

Prepping for Pace Bend

Well, the Pace Bend race is 4 short days away and my chances of making the race appear to be improving. Essentially I’m at the mercy of an unborn child. Not mine, mind you, oh heck no! My sister-in-law is basically due at any second, but she’s not feeling that it is imminent. If the little guy can hold off until Monday, then I’ll be all clear!

Even though I felt my chances of making the race were slim, I’ve been proceeding with my training and preparation for the race.

Over the last couple of weeks I have gotten in some good training rides. My interval training has been proceeding as expected and I have been able to make all of my workouts the last two weeks, including both rides this past weekend.

Turnin Cranks

I did make an interesting discovery after my interval ride Saturday morning. I did my intervals doing laps down at the park on my mountain bike. It’s been a little while since I did some training down there so I was curious to see how things had improved from my previous times. 1 mile laps aren’t really a good indicator of overall progress, and unfortunately Strava is unable to create multiple lap segments so I had to go through and hand zoom the ride to pull out 3 lap (3 mile) data. It was not uncommon for me to put in a good 3 lap effort every few months so I thought that was a good indicator.

What I found surprised me.

While this particular day I did log my best 3 lap performance ever, what surprised me was that my prior best 3 lap effort had come back in September, a scant 3 weeks after returning home from my Durango to Moab trip.

I knew that the big trip had really given me a major boost in the bike fitness department, but it started sinking in just how much of a boost it provided. Looking at my 3 lap times and other general indicators, it would appear that a 1 week trip of riding up to 50 miles per day gave me near the same amount of fitness training as a structured training program covering nearly 10 weeks.

That is pretty shocking! I know there are big benefits to doing Endurance Blocks, but I really had no idea it could make this much of a difference. Now, granted, even these are not super specific detailed measurements, but I think the anecdotal evidence really points to pretty significant gains in a very short amount of time, if you can find a way to cram that much time on the bike. While it only took 6 days, I did put in over 25 hours on the bike.

So the takeaway for me, is to find a way early in my training season to get a big week on the bike to help jump start my training efforts.

On Sunday I headed back out to Pace Bend with Kirby to do another pre-ride and pacing ride in anticipation of the race this weekend. I managed to put in an even better lap than I did 2 weeks ago, improving my time by nearly 1.5 minutes. And that was with a stop in NXNW to let Kirby catch up as he had gotten caught up a little. I think a 47 minute lap is within reach, but it will definitely require a good ride.

I anticipate that first place will finish in the 45 minute range. A 46 minute ride *might* pull in a top 3 finish, but it would be tight. It’s going to be a pretty competitive race as I anticipate all the top folks are going to be at the race. Unfortunately for me, I’ll also be starting a little behind the leaders right off the bat. I have fallen out of the top 10 so I won’t be in the top 10 call up. I’ll be starting on the 2nd row behind the top 10.

Which means I’m gonna have to go a little harder on the start climb than I wanted, but you do what you gotta do!

I have some other thoughts on what I want to do in the race. I guess I’ll get to go into if they work or not in my race report next week, assuming the baby lets me race!

Earlier this week in my interval ride, wifey accidentally locked me out of the house while I was out for my ride. It wasn’t long, but it gave me a few minutes to ride more. I decided to take the road bike down to Commons Ford to go for a PR on Commons Ford Hill. While I was just going for a PR, I managed to bag 5th place, and knowing what kind of effort I put forth on it, I think I have a pretty good chance of breaking top 3. Granted, this is my version of my lightly ridden local track, but hey, I’ll take it!

Not Solavaca

Another race is in the books, and another race I was forced to miss. It’s not a huge surprise and was expected although I had been hoping for some miracle to manage to make the race.

I did however manage to get away for a long, local ride. I again headed for Barton Creek Greenbelt, riding to the trail from the house to get some added miles in.

We had gotten some rain this week, but it had been a few days so I expected the trails to be in pristine, ‘hero dirt’ shape. Unfortunately, I was a little wrong and in for some mud, downed trees and sometimes slippery conditions.

This was bone dry a week ago

This was bone dry a week ago

Whatever it was that I had last week, I definitely did NOT have it this week. I could tell within 10 minutes of starting my ride that my legs were not feeling great and that it was going to be a little bit of an off ride. This week has been very stressful with some work projects and other stresses, leading to a few nights of much less sleep. Additionally, I put in 2 good, hard interval road rides this week so that likely impacted my ‘freshness’.

Once I hit the trailhead, I again lowered tire pressure in anticipation of going for a dab free Mulch Hill climb and a PR. My first approach stalled out rather quickly as my line from last week had been obliterated in the hard rains earlier this week. The heavy rain had really impacted this portion of the hill so I had to re-strategize.

My next attempt didn’t fare much better, but I did get further than the first attempt. I rolled back to the bottom and gave it a 3rd try. While I made it above my usual stall out point, I did stall out again. I waved the white flag for today and carried on.

This would be the first of several areas that I saw that the heavy rains had washed/changed the lines. Much of the skree/light chunder was washed from the trails and could be found in a nice soft and loose pile at the bottom of segments. The edges were still soft, the valleys were overly tacky/squishy. Realistically, the trails needed probably 1 more day to dry out to ‘Hero Dirt’ status and it’ll be several days if not weeks before the newly displaced skree and chunder is packed in and/or pushed to the outside of bottoms.

It became pretty apparent that any PRs were going to be unlikely for the day due to the changed trail conditions, and the fact that I wasn’t quite feeling 100%.

At any rate, I had decent times up to Travis Country and headed into Cheese Grater. Just past the short cut, there was a large oak that had fallen across the trail. There won’t be any PRs on full Cheese Grater in either direction until the tree is cleared. I suppose you could take the short cut to avoid the downed tree, but where’s the challenge it that?!

Downed Tree on Cheese Grater

Downed Tree on Cheese Grater

Next up was Pump House Down. I did go for a PR on this part and did manage to improve my best time by about 6 seconds. It’ll take another 8 second improvement to break top 10 and a full minute for KOM! There’s a low leaning tree in this segment which has nearly jerked me off of my bike on multiple occasions as it has a knack of grabbing my backpack as I try to squeeze by.

After Pump House, I headed over to Sweet 16, with plans of trying to improve my personal best on this segment, but that was shot down rather quickly. There were numerous walkers (and dogs), not to mention a fair bit of mud and a few water crossings. I ended up over 4 minutes longer than my personal best due to the obstacles.

I then hit Cheese Grater and headed onward to Elastic and Washtub and finally up and out to back home. 27 miles at right at 3 hours. A good ride, just a little messy! It’s also starting to warm up out there and I’m going to have to start carrying more water.

On deck for this week is another couple of high intensity interval days, although I may skip Thursday’s to do a race pace loop at Pace Bend, if the rain holds off.

Hermosa Tours – Durango to Moab Day 5

Back in Spring of 2012, my buddy Todd and I decided to plan a trip to mountain bike from Durango, [Read more…]

Bluebonnets in Bloom


Not withstanding the issues from a couple of days ago, I intend to keep training as if I’m still going to make races.

To that end, I managed to get in my long ride yesterday, putting in 26 miles over 2 and a half hours. Road Betty from the house to the Greenbelt for a good loop in the dirt and then the return ride home.

I could tell I didn’t ride much this past week as I was feeling particularly spry. I was feeling strong and decided to go for a few Strava PRs during the ride.

First up was Mulch Hill. The loose over loose, chunky bitch of a climb. I haven’t yet been able to clear the whole thing without dabbing, but I feel I am really close to reaching it. When I got to the hill, I let some air out of the tires to help give some grip and hopefully keep from spinning out too easily. I headed up the hill, but there were some hikers coming down. I stopped, went down the hill and waited for the trail to clear. I headed back up on a second attempt and got to my usual first stall point and did stall out as usual. I looked around to see if a better line was had and devised an alternate line strategy for my next attempt.

I rolled back to the bottom and prepared again.

I charged up the hill, in my 2nd to lowest gear, ass ‘on the rivets’ doing my best row boat impersonation. I cleared the first ledge/stall spot! This is the first time I’ve cleared right there so I was feeling pretty good. I’ve cleared the rest of the hill in the past so I felt a strong climb coming on. I climbed up and up, through the 2nd typical stall spot and kept going without any issues. As I neared the last little ledge, my legs were burning and I could tell I was fading out.

I got my wheel up the little ledge, and made the step up! I was going to make it! Except as I came up the ledge, a largish rock was in my path and in my tired state, that stupid little rock turned the wheel and stalled me out. OH MUH GARD! So close! I debated going back down for another attempt but decided to push on and at least get the PR that I was sure I had gotten.

I rode on and was riding strong. I cleared most everything I had cleared last time I rode with one little up. In any case, I was feeling good and not overly winded after the Fence climb.

I continued on with my next sights set on the Travis Country Pumphouse down segment. I opted to hit the road instead of Cheese Grater to stay fresh for my PR attempt. My goal for now on this segment is a top 10 finish, which I feel is within my reach.

I headed down the segment, feeling good. On this descent I felt almost like I could slow time to see the various lines. Lines were almost obvious to me and I was able to make really good time. I easily PR’d the segment, but still need another 16 seconds of improvement before I break into the top 10.

Next up was Sweet 16. Sweet 16 is one of my favorite segments. It is a fast, and challenging roughly 2 mile section that climbs almost 200 feet. It’s a great segment to test fitness and technical riding.

Again, I fairly easily PR’d the segment, beating my previous best by 20 seconds. I’d still like to shave another minute from my time and will be working towards that.

After Sweet 16, it was time for another PR attempt on Cheese Grater. My plan for Cheese Grater was to ride as fast as possible through the endless rock garden and try to look for more efficient lines through the larger rock piles.

11 minutes later and I had another PR!

I snapped the above pic at the clearing at the top of Sweet 16 leading into Travis Country. The bluebonnets are in full bloom!

I wasn’t done yet. I still had 1 more segment that I was going to go for a big PR on. Elastic is one that I have always enjoyed hammering. It is a quarter mile segment that has some good technical spots, as well as tight twisty turns. I hit it hard and managed clean clears on the technical areas and managed to bag a Top 3 finish. A 2 second improvement will get me the KOM on this segment and I’ll be gunning for that in the future.

After all that, I finished out my trail ride on another of my favorites in the area, Washtub and then headed home. I wasn’t shooting for a PR on Washtub, but still got it.

Even after a pretty hard 14 mile trails loop, I was feeling pretty good. Without even trying I managed to bag another PR on the road climb out of Lost Creek up to Bee Caves.

One thing I have noticed over the last 2-3 weeks is that my ‘diesel engine’ is really starting hum. I can get into a cadence and pace and just go, go, go. It isn’t a super fast pace, but I can pound it out, uphill or otherwise and feel like I could sustain that pace for quite a while.

While the diesel engine is running like a champ, I still feel the high octane race engine is still lagging somewhat. I’ll keep working towards improving both the race engine while keeping the diesel engine able to keep up the current output.