Tyler Speedwaves Race Report – 2013

The state series finale was to be held at Tyler State Park outside of Tyler, Texas. I didn’t know anything about the course but I knew this was my last chance at a podium spot before I ‘cat up’ to Cat2 next year. Once I’m racing in Cat2, my chances of a podium are going to be extremely diminished for a long time to come.

With XC racing, fitness plays a huge role in race outcomes. Fitness is primarily gained through training, and to a lesser extent, genetics. I know I don’t have the natural genetics to give me any advantage, so it all comes down to training for me. And my training time is already maxxed out. I won’t be able to devote any more time to training than I do currently so my chances of being ‘competitive’ in Cat2 will be greatly diminished for the foreseeable future. My only hope is that my consistent around the year training will eventually build up to get me back into a contention spot in Cat2.

Anyway, so this weighed heavily on my last Cat3 race. My original goal for the year was a top 3 finish in the state series. It quickly became apparent that was going to prove to be a lofty goal for this year. There are many strong riders out there and making my way into the top 3 overall was going to be tough.

As the year moved on and race after race went by, my best finishes were a 4th place and a couple of 5th place finishes. I *REALLY* wanted to get up onto the podium at least once! When that didn’t happen in Huntsville, I set my sights on Tyler.

Between Huntsville and Tyler, I had 4 weeks to really train hard. I primarily did road based intervals. Painful all out efforts. 3 weeks through and the pain was paying off. I was seeing some of my best times ever and my ‘estimated’ power numbers on the road were soaring.

The cast was drawn and the stage was set. Tyler would be it!

Knowing nothing about the course at Tyler State Park, I planned early on to head up the day before the race to pre-ride the course to get an idea for what was in store. I headed up on Saturday and arrived at the park. I rode with Steven C. who had locked up the #1 spot in the overalls and had already catted up to Cat2. When we got to Tyler, a storm had just blown through, dumping over an inch of rain and downing trees and powerlines all around.

We questioned the sanity of headed out onto the trail in such conditions, not wanting to completely gunk up our bikes and drivetrains the day before the race.

After reviewing the radar one last time and gambling that the storm system just to the south of us would not come north, I turned to Steve and said, “We came here to ride, so let’s ride!”.

While the trails were indeed a little sloppy in places, overall the trail had handled the deluge just fine! The soil here is very loamy and the added moisture just helped the soil to compact and hold your tire even more than I imagine it would when totally dry.

By the end of our first lap, I was doing all I could to really push my limits with the soil and my tires and was having no problems. We were ripping some of the sections while trying to reign in overall enthusiasm for being on some new trails that were a blast to ride!

In the end, the storm continued directly east and did not hit us. We stayed dry and the trails were fantastic! The bikes were a little gritty and grindy but a quick bike wash and lube, and all was well! We were ready to go for Sunday!

We camped at the venue, which was a first for both of us. Let me forewarn anyone, you might want to be vigilant about where you set up camp. Just because you are an early to bed type, doesn’t mean your nearby campers will be! We turned in pretty early, but our nearby neighbors were up carousing long after we had turned in.

We awoke around 6AM as other folks started milling about and some vehicles started rolling in for the 8AM juniors start and the 9AM Cat1 start.

I had my usual of oatmeal and enjoyed the stress free, no rush time before my 1PM start. We watched some of the other racing before beginning our own prep work for our respective races.

Steve and the other Cat2 guys looked great and I cheered them on before getting into my warm up routine and race preparation.

Our group rolled up for a 1PM start. I lined up with all too familiar faces, as well as one other ‘new guy’ who I recognized from Huntsville. This Dark Horse (DH from here on) was brand new (to us) at Huntsville and scored a 3rd place finish. I knew he was going to be one to watch as he obviously had it in him to place.

The whistle blew and we were off. Sean M. charged off on his sexy new green Pivot with DH in tow. Chris W. was in the mix as well and I initially settled in behind Chris while on the short pavement section before the singletrack. I went around Chris as the road turned uphill and rode behind Dark Horse.

Time to draft!

Time to draft!

I had no intention of jumping out front today. Anytime I have done that I have always blown up a little so I was content to settle behind DH and ride his wheel. Which I did for nearly the whole first lap.

As we were cruising through the A loop where you can see everyone behind you further up the hill, I noticed that the 3 of us had already formed a pretty sizable gap on the rest of the field. I was feeling good and did not feel in danger of blowing up so I continued riding DH’s wheel.

A ride in the woods

A ride in the woods

He was riding a hard tail so I knew he would have advantage in uphill and flats so I really worked on really flowing on the downhill sections so I would be sure to have the extra energy to chase up the hills. He was proving to be a strong rider, both in climbs as well as looking solid on the trail. He wasn’t sketching out on the descents which was good as it allowed me to just flow and not have stop & gos.

We’re cruising along at a comfortable clip, but Sean is starting to gap us. He’s really been riding well this fall. I’m sure he put in some hard work over the summer, and we all know sexy new green bikes definitely help too! Being that, and I was already running as hard as I felt I should, I didn’t give chase. If he was going to be able to continue to ride that hard the whole race, there was no sense in my burning trying to run him down now. I would have to just hope that he’s running hot and might crack at some point.

DH is riding well and showing some skill

DH is riding well and showing some skill

While we were riding well and had a good gap formed, I knew Miguel Alvarez could close that cap and catch us if he got rolling. It was a constant fear in my mind that he’d come out of nowhere, as he often does, and blast by me like I was standing still. I kept a vigilant watch behind me to hopefully be alerted to his approach.

Draft on the double track

Draft on the double track

DH and I were making good time and passing a steady stream of back markers. The downhill segment at the start of B loop is a real blast, but it is also the pre-cursor to the dreaded 1/2 mile uphill segmentat the end of B loop.

As we were nearing this uphill, we started getting bogged down behind some back markers. For whatever reason, the slowed pace was really killing me on one of the climbs and I took the opportunity to make a pass around DH and several of the back markers. DH wasn’t willing to let me just get by so after I cam around him and was passing a back marker on the right, he was attempting a pass of the same back marker on the left. We did this past 2 back markers on a steep pitch with me in the lead at the top of the hill.

Time to make a move!

Time to make a move!

There was a little time to relax before the true hill started, but it turned out to not be enough. I had really pushed it to make those passes and about halfway up the big climb I cracked. I slowed to a crawl and DH came around. He motored on up the hill and I never saw him again.

I cracked on The Hill and DH came around and dropped me

I cracked on The Hill and DH came around and dropped me

I was a little demoralized, but there wasn’t time for that. Upon a glance behind me down the hill, I couldn’t see anyone else in my group. I was currently sitting in 3rd and I needed to keep the heat on to make sure it stayed that way and possibly catch DH and/or Sean if they happen to crack as well.

Always on my mind was the possibility that Miguel would catch me and that fueled my pace.

The next half lap turned out to be pretty uneventful. I never catch a glimpse of the leaders, nor anyone on my 6. The way was often clear and I felt that I was making good time, pushing hard, but not too hard, keeping my effort in check.

Most of the 2nd lap was a solo ride in the forest

Most of the 2nd lap was a solo ride in the forest

A bit after the bottom of the B loop descent I hear someone a bit behind me. I hadn’t passed anyone recently so I was keenly interested in who it might be. As I glanced over my shoulder, my worst fear was realized as Miguel was bearing down on me quickly.

My heart sank. Miguel blew by me as he always does. He was a freight train and hauling ass.

Freight train, aka Miguel Alvarez, coming through!

Freight train, aka Miguel Alvarez, coming through!

I nearly broke for good right there. I cursed under my breath and almost threw in the towel. Something inside wouldn’t quite let me do it. Even though I didn’t want to, I dug deep and pushed my pace to keep Miguel in sight. My only chance would be if he mis-handles some place in the remaining couple of miles, giving me an opening to get by him again. My only thought was not to let him get too far ahead.

Demoralized, I almost let him go completely

Demoralized, I almost let him go completely

I pushed hard. I knew we had about a mile to go, but some of that is some rock and root gardens that can be a little tricky to navigate.

It turns out, my gut was right. In on particularly tricky rooty area, Miguel goes down. I hate to take advantage of his misfortune, but this is my only chance. After quickly making sure he is okay, I put it all on the line. This is IT. My last chance at getting onto that 3rd place step. This has to be it, all or nothing, no regrets, no excuses, no whining.

One man's misfortune...

One man’s misfortune…

I put as much into the pedals as I can and hit the end of B loop climb with all I have left. I get about 1/2 way up and I am dieing. I am sucking air like never before and my legs are burning with an intense lactic acid bath that I had never felt.

I’m sure the people cheering racers on at the top of the hill probably thought I might fall over and die. I risked a glace over my shoulder back down the hill and could see Miguel maybe 10-15 seconds behind me. Given the amount of trail left before the finish, that is not much. Miguel can close that with ease.

3rd Place is in sight!

3rd Place is in sight!

I’m not sure where I got it as I was already pushing as hard as I possibly could, but I pushed even harder. I gave it all I had, bound and determined, come death or high water, to not give Miguel a chance to catch me.

As I near the final turn onto the pavement to the finish, I risk one last look and see no sign of Miguel, he’s not close enough to sprint me to the finish. I cross the line, almost unaware of exactly where the finish was. I rolled to the end and nearly fall over. I did it!

"Please let this be the finish..." - Me

“Please let this be the finish…” – Me

While my overall goals for the TMBRA season were a bit out of reach, I had finally met my goal of getting a podium in a TMBRA race and it took every ounce of my being to make it happen.

After months of training, both on the road and off. Strenth training, conditioning, diet and psychology, I finally got onto the step! I was elated and completely exhausted.

My view from the podium!

My view from the podium!

Turns out DH managed to close the gap on Sean M. and pass him up as well to finish about 30 seconds ahead of Sean for the 1st place finish. Perhaps we’ll see him join the ranks in Cat2 and get to know him a bit. I finished 50 seconds out of first and 20 seconds out of 2nd. Miguel rolled in 7 seconds behind me for 4th. I had managed to fend him off and felt great to overcome so much personal pain for that 1 position.

Been a great year competing with these guys (and the ones not pictured too!)

Been a great year competing with these guys (and the ones not pictured too!)

Race Videos:
COMING SOON!

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 164 lbs
Bike weight: 26.5 lbs
Race Time: 1:00PM
Nutrition: Oatmeal, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before race, 1/2 water bottle during race
Weather: Overcast, 72 degrees
Dress: Bibs and short sleeve jersey
Week lead in: Light week
RPE: Rode hard, felt great, 100%. Most post-race wrecked I’ve been all year
CTL: 45.5
TSB: 9.1 (steady)

About TC

Long time mountain biker, recent mountain bike racer. Borderline unhealthy obsession with mountain biking, constantly drawn to hit the dirt and share my experiences.

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