Reveille Peak Ranch, our own little mini-Moab nestled right here in the Texas Hill Country is a truly unique riding experience, particularly here in Texas. While there isn’t a lot of elevation, the trail itself climbs and saunters over granite slick rock the likes you cannot find for a thousand miles. It’s pure fun!
I love riding out at RPR so the opportunity to do a mountain bike race there made this a must do event!
100k of riding RPR solo is pretty much out of the question for me. I tapped Kirby W. to duo the race with me. We talked early in the year about doing this race and I held him to it!
Leading up to the race, we had both agreed that we would go into the race ‘for fun’ with just wanting to have a good time and an enjoyable experience. Neither of us had ever done a race longer than a typical Cat 3 XC race so we really didn’t know what to expect from turning 2 15 mile laps. Four times longer than we had ever raced before.
As we are both moving up to Cat 2 next season, we wanted to use this race to work on pacing and just see how well we would hold up.
Two weeks prior to the event weather in Austin was beautiful. Mid 70’s during the day and just gorgeous riding weather. You can’t ask for better weather!
As we entered the middle of November, a blue norther started threatening the forecast. 10 days out the forecast was calling for cooler temps in the 50’s with a chance to rain. The forecast continued to deteriorate right up until race day, settling in with a call for temps in the 30’s, 20 mph winds and a 60% chance of ‘ice pellets’… That did not bode well…
The Thursday before the Saturday race, I went out for a ride in sunny, gorgeous 80 degree weather. 24 hours later it was in the 30s and raining. Oh boy!
Kirby and I spoke on Friday and discussed our options. We decided to at least head out to the venue and see how the weather turned out. If it was too cold or too wet, maybe we’d just hang out and drink all day while heckling the poor bastards who decided to race.
We were up and out heading for RPR by 7AM. It was super wet and/or rainy almost the whole way there. Until we got to Marble Falls, where the wet seemed to stop. We arrived at RPR at 8AM and while it was cold, it was dry. They had had a little rain the day and night prior, but very little standing water, and no new rains had happened for several hours.
Well, that settles it, we’re racing!
Our strategic discussions basically were completed in the 10 seconds while in line to get our race kits. Kirby would go first and I’d head out for laps 2 and 4. We briefly talked about possibly doing our 2 laps back to back and Kirby would make the call as he rolled into the pits after his first lap. The thinking being that once you’re warm, you might want to continue on.
The race start was a mass start. Everyone was cold and eager to get moving to have a chance to warm up. Kirby was bundled up and ready to ride. The horn went off and the racers were off!
With Kirby out riding, I was left with what to do with myself for the next hour and a half or so. I headed to the nearest fire pit and hung out for a while keeping warm by the fire. With about 30 minutes left, I got dressed and made sure everything was ready. I then headed back to the pit area and the warmth of the fire.
The first couple of riders started showing up around 1:28 in. As we had talked about ‘taking it easy’, I didn’t expect to see Kirby for another 5-10 minutes. I continued to enjoy the warmth of the fire…
Roughly 1 minute later I hear people yelling ‘COOPER! COOPER!’. Oh shit… Kirby is here! And I’m hanging out by the fire! I start running towards the pit, remember my bike is laying behind me, run back, grab the bike, run to the pit.
Try to turn on Garmin…
Fumble with bulky gloves…
Take glove off…
Turn on Garmin…
Pull glove back on…
Forgot to turn on and put GoPro in housing…
Fumble with bulky gloves…
Take glove off…
Turn on GoPro and put in housing…
Put glove back on…
Chuckle at my absurdity…
I probably cost us a solid 90 seconds by not being ready. Turns out Kirby is the #4 guy back to the pit area in 1 hour, 28 minutes. Holy smokes that was cooking! WTF happened to ‘take it easy’?
Anyway, I get to pedaling. It is cold. I am cold. My legs are like numb stumps somehow turning pedals.
Someone passes me, I pass someone else. One guy was likely a solo rider as he looks warm and riding hard. The other looked like a duo rider, likely in our age group, but there is no way of knowing.
I pass another guy, this time a younger kid. Definitely one of the under 21 duo riders. A couple of minutes later Nathan ‘Certified Bad Ass’ Winkleman of WTF comes around me. He mentions having already flatted twice and he’s got some time to make up on the solo leaders.
15 minutes go by and I’ve been keeping my HR in my ‘warm up’ zone, being careful not to go too hard. I’m still nowhere near warmed up. My legs still feel dead, but at least my upper body is starting to feel better.
As I make the approach to the Epic Trail climb, Marcus comes around. This guy is definitely in our age group. We make the Epic climb, riding when we can, hiking when the rock turns too vertical for it to make sense to put forth the heavy exertion of climbing.
At the top of Epic, I try to push to keep up with Marcus. A long loose descent, surely I can manage that? As much as I try, my body feels too cold to be as loose as I need to be through the loose turns and Marcus puts more time on me. I lose him into the singletrack and don’t see him for the rest of this lap.
At this point it’s just ride clean without over exerting. My upper body has warmed by this point, to the point where I am hot on top and cold on the bottom. My legs just cannot get warmed up and I feel I cannot push, or even ride as smoothly, as I know I can.
At about 45 minutes into my lap, my legs finally feel like they are coming around. Which is good, because one of the most demanding portions of the route is coming up. The sadistic designer of this course has decided to have us ride the Flow Track. Oh, UP the Flow Track. Not only that, but with the damp, this is the muddiest, tire suckingest portion of the whole trail. Getting up and over each jump is highly demanding. I feel like I’m going in slow motion. Getting over one rise, thinking I’m nearly to the top to only see another three jumps up the trail ahead of me.
It was slow going, but I willed myself to the top. Fortunately, from here, there aren’t anymore brutal climbing and it is just time to ride fast! I know the end isn’t too much further so I push as much as I can without red lining too much. Gotta make sure I keep gas in the tank for lap 2!
As I neared the lake, I give up another position to someone I suspect is in our age group. I try to grab his wheel, but my legs are having none of it. It’s my own pace or nothing…
I roll into the pit area and yell for Kirby. He checks in, grabs his bike and he’s off.
I venture a glance at the leader boards and only now do I see how things have really played out thus far.
Kirby turned in a screamer of a first lap, putting us in first and 3 minutes ahead of the next in our age group. My slow transition cost us at least half of that lead. My lap was 7 minutes slower than Kirby’s and I gave up 2 positions, putting us 5 minutes out of first and about 30s out of 2nd. The reality that we could actually be contenders in this race sets in and I start thinking and priming myself for a good 2nd lap to give us a chance at placing.
From here, there isn’t much for me to do for the next hour and a half except try to warm up, dress more appropriately and get some food and fluid in me.
I head for the truck and crank up the heater to full blast. I change my top half, going for a bit cooler top as I was overheated on the top last lap, but never did get my legs warm. I eat a PBJ and down a couple of bottles of water and a 5 hour energy. I remove my socks and dry them on the heater. I start getting pumped up to turn a much better 2nd lap.
As the first riders start showing up for the next lap, I start getting ancy, wondering where Kirby is. His 2nd lap isn’t shaping up to be quite as good as his first and I am just hoping that I can at least help us hang onto 3rd.
I see the now 1st place team come through and make the transition. Marcus heads out for the final lap. About a minute later, I see Kirby in the distance. I head for the transition, determined to have a fast switch. I am thinking we’re in 3rd, and I want to hold that position or make better on it.
This time around at least I am fully warm all over. I am more evenly layered and I am feeling good. I pedal hard off the bat, but still making sure to keep it below the red line. I’ve got another 15 mile lap to go here.
As I approach the bottom of the Epic climb, I look up and see who I thought think in 1st at the very top, Marcus, about the top. I spot his location and make a mental note of time.
When I get to the top, I check my Garmin. He’s about 3 minutes ahead. That’s a lot of time to make up, but anything can happen, and I feel like I’m riding much better and faster than my first lap.
This time, I tear down the doubletrack descent, bound and determined to make up some time on my strong suit. I feel that I make it down in good time and head into the singletrack hard and heavy, keeping my HR under control and just under threshold pace.
I feel that I’m riding smoothly and hitting lines much faster than I did in lap 1. I’m feeling good and pushing hard. A few minutes into the singletrack I catch a glimpse of someone on the side of the trail up ahead. As I near, I recognize him as Marcus and one of the leaders in front of me. He’s flatted and is working to tube his front tire.
As I go around, I utter ‘Aww man, flats suck!’ and I do mean it, but inside I am devilishly thankful for the chance to not only gain a position, but put some time between him and me. I pedal on, working on being smooth and hoping to ward off any mechanicals for myself! A quick glance at the Garmin tells me I have about an hour to go and it looked like Marcus was close to finishing changing his flat and he would be riding hard to catch me.
I pedal onward, believing I am currently sitting in about 2nd place, thinking I know who is now in first and keeping an eye out for him. There are a couple of places where the trail comes close to the trail going in the other direction and as I pass him, I again mark my time. Believing this is who I had posted at 3 minutes at Epic, I now see that the gap is about 2:30. Still a lot of time to make up, but I feel it is possible.
I still feel like I’m riding much better than my last lap, and I start having visions of turning a 1:30 lap. That would be averaging about 10mph and so I started keeping a close eye on my average speed.
One thing started to become apparent though. As I progressed, my average speed wasn’t any better than it had been in the first lap. But I’m feeling much faster and stronger? What gives?
At 1 hour in, I popped a Honey Stinger and worked to bring it on home. I kept looking over my shoulder in anticipation of seeing Marcus or someone else closing in. While I felt I was riding much faster than my first lap, my Garmin was telling me otherwise. My pacing was pretty much on par with the first lap, which was bugging me.
As I rounded the final bend that opens up to the lake, and the wind, I pushed with all I had left while keeping a close eye on any potential sprint competition. Nobody ever showed and I rolled across the finish uncontested.
As I clocked in the official says ‘Congrats, first in your age group!’. Surprised, I responded ‘Really? Wow, awesome!’. Kirby was nowhere to be seen so I had nobody to celebrate with. I found him a few minutes later hanging by the fire, already on his 3rd post race beer. I told him that we might have won and we both laughed at the surprise finish.
It turns out that the other guy that I thought was ahead of me was in the Under 35 group, and although I closed the gap to 2 minutes, I never caught up, but I never needed to either!
I headed to the truck to change and had a nice cup of hot chocolate thanks to Nathan Winkleman’s wonderful mother. That hit the spot, thank you! After that, it was time to knock back a few of my own post race beverages, which for that day was Austin Beerworks Black Thunder, which was perfect!
There were some super sweet items being given away so we definitely were going to brave the cold and hang out until awards and such. Sadly, neither of us won the awesome Kuat NV Rack or the killer Trail LED lights. We did score some sunglasses as prizes for our finish as well as a couple other swag items during the raffle (multi-tool and water bottle).
I’ll finish by saying that this may be my favorite mountain bike race to date. First of all, Reveille Peak is a mountain bikers dream. It’s technical, it’s flowy, it’s fast, it’s fun, with some double track breaks thrown in at just the right time for a chance to grab a drink and get a little recovery. To me, THIS is what mountain bike racing should be like. Not like racing wide open on flat boring nondescript trails. Fitness is important, but so is bike handling and technical skill. You have to have both in order to succeed here.
Terra Firma Racing put on a fantastic race. The organization and running of the race was spot on. The organizers were extremely friendly and went out of their way to talk to you, see how you liked everything and make sure you had a good time.
There was only one thing that I would have liked to have done differently and that was actually knowing who we were racing against. Leading up to the race I had no idea who was registered and at the race you had no way of knowing who was racing against you. It was only by careful inspection that you might guess if a racer is in your group or not. Probably easily remedied by just getting to know more people.
The group of folks at this race were a bit different than I’m used to seeing at the TMBRA races, although there were definitely lots of familiar TMBRA familiar faces about, just not many that I knew.
Given all that, this race will definitely remain on my MUST DO race for the future. And I’m seriously looking at future Terra Firma races as well. These guys put on a fantastic, fun race. Sadly their other MTB specific races are at Warda and Rocky Hill. While I enjoy Rocky Hill, Warda ranks right up there as one of the least technical MTB trails around and is one of my least favorite trails. Still, given the way this race went, I’m still contemplating hitting the Dirty Dozen at Warda in February as a warm up for the TMBRA races.
Some lessons learned:
1 – Anytime doing a team event with Kirby, he rides first. Kirby is a beast and will keep up with carrots very well. The whole reason he killed that first lap was because there were power riders for him to feed off of.
2 – Careful of dress in this kind of weather. I had never dressed for these kinds of temps. I think I nailed it on lap 2. In Lap 1, I wore some heavier gloves which did keep my hands warmer, but my hands grew tired dealing with the added bulk, and I didn’t like the ‘feel’ on my brakes with the added bulk. Regular long finger gloves worked fine.
3 – I wasn’t able to take my Honey Stinger on lap 1 because I couldn’t fish it out of my pockets with all the extra gear. I taped it to my top tube for lap 2
4 – STAY WARM! I was completely cold during lap 1 because I was hanging out in the cold. I think I fared much better in lap 2 due to staying in the heated truck as much as possible.
Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 164 lbs
Bike weight: 26.5 lbs
Race Time: 9:00AM
Nutrition: 3 serving oatmeal and 2 eggs for bfast, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before race, 1 water bottle during race each lap, 1 stinger halfway through 2nd lap
Weather: Overcast, 35 degrees *COLD*, precipitation threatening all day
Lap 1 – Too hot on top : Thermal base layer, jersey, thermal vest, wind jacket, tights and thermal bib knickers, toe warmers, skullcap, heavy gloves
Lap 2- Just right: Short sleeve base layer, long sleeve jersey, wind jacket, tights and thermal bib knickers, toe warmers, skullcap, regular long finger gloves
Week lead in: Normalish week, had been sick, less than normal riding 4 weeks prior
RPE: First lap couldn’t get warm, 2nd lap felt good, but legs were fatigued
TSB: -14.8 (falling)
ADDENDUM: It wasn’t until I got home and was able to closely compare my laps that I saw the differences in my lap performances. While my overall times for each lap were near identical, I felt that I was riding much better and faster in lap 2. Turns out, I WAS riding faster and smoother in lap 2, as long as the trail wasn’t going uphill. The second there were climbs, my lap 1 self would catch up with my lap 2 self. I was MUCH slower on nearly all climbs in lap 2, pointedly showing that my legs were definitely fatigued after much more riding than I’m typically used to.