Archives for March 2014

Rocky Hill Ranch Kids Kup Mountain Bike Race

My future mountain bike champion in one of her first Kid’s Kup races, tearing up the track at Rocky Hill [Read more…]

2014 Pace Bend Mountain Bike Race

My Cat2 40-44 mountain bike race video from 2014 Pace Bend Race.

Race Report: <a href="http://www.turnincranks.com/2014/2014-pace-bend-race-report/" target="_blank" [Read more…]

2014 Pace Bend Race Report

After Mellow Johnny’s Classic, I felt that my body was needing a break. So for the next 2 weeks, I pulled back on my training a bit. I suspended intervals, did a couple of ‘fun’ rides, and then did one hard ride the Tuesday before the race. You wouldn’t really think that I’d be encroaching on any sort of overtraining with my training load, but also remember this is the most structured workout/training I’ve done in a long time. Probably since high school, and even then I’m not sure that I was working as hard as I feel that I have been now.

At any rate, the whole first week after MJC my chest remained tight and I told myself that I’d either not ride at all, or at least not do hard rides until that tightness lessened. By the following weekend I was feeling more myself so I allowed myself to start getting back to it.

So far this season one thing I have been battling is hitting a wall around 1 hour to 1:15 into each race. I’ll hit this lull where I’ll feel pretty crummy. I’ll feel like I have no energy and my mental side will completely check out. I’ll enter that ‘why the hell am I doing this/this isn’t fun/screw this racing crap’ phase.

Oddly, it will only last 5 minutes or so. I’ll dial back my effort, not out of choice but out of necessity. And the next thing you know, I’ll be feeling 100% again, rearing for action and back to having fun. After that, I’ve found I have been able to finish strong, going way harder than I was before the ‘lull’.

I haven’t figured out what it is yet. Originally I figured it was racing nutrition. First race I did my Honey Stinger at 45 minutes into the race and the lull hit about 1:10. The next race I did the stinger at 30 minutes into the race, and still hit the lull at about 1:10.

This led me to speculate that it was training oriented, in that my body is just not used to pushing that hard for that long and I started considering if I needed to adjust my training.

I have been following Carmichael’s Time Crunched Training Program, which is typically about 1 hour of intervals, followed by a little more endurance mileage. My normal Tuesday/Thursday rides are about 90 minutes in length. Of that, I usually warm up for about 20 minutes, then ride pretty hard for the remaining 70 minutes, which comes in right at 1:10. About the same time as my ‘lull’ timer.

Anyway, it’s all speculation at this point.

To that end, I took the opportunity to do a one on one coaching session with Nathan Winkleman of WINKELMANN TRAINING FUNDAMENTALS. Nathan is a really great guy and I’ve always respected his approach to racing and coaching. I haven’t worked with him much on the coaching side of things so I didn’t really know what to expect, but I fully believe that he’d be helpful in whatever we could put together in an hour long session!

So we rode. We rode hard and Wink punished me. He was attempting to teach me a lesson in pacing, and I hope it set in =) What I took from the lesson was to try to keep a bit more steady pace. Attempt to recover when I should be recovering, instead of pushing in those spots too. And to attack with those saved reserves when I needed to.

Specifically to me, this translates into taking it a bit easier on the downhills and pushing harder on the uphills. Typically my strategy has been to push hard on the descents because those are my strong points. And then I’d suffer for it when the trail turned upwards.

This discussion, coupled with my real world expectations for the race, led me to restrategize my plans for Pace Bend a little.

Instead of hammering hard out of the gate to get a top hole shot so as not to be held up in the mostly downhill first section of trail leading to The Rock Garden of Greatness, I would instead take it a bit easier, be okay with going into the singletrack around 5-7 and then conserve energy with plans to push harder from RGOG up to the top of Well Worth It and The Hill.

I would then work to hold my pace such that I’d have more in the tank into the 2nd lap, and even halfway into that, and then if I still had plenty of gas, I’d put the pedal down and wring it out from there.

So yeah, that was the plan anyway…

We lined up and the top 10’s were called up. I have managed to squeak into the top 10 overall so I got the luxury of a front line start. The whistle blew and off we went. The top 3 jumped off the line and I kinda just pedaled. I didn’t go pokey or anything, but I wasn’t planning on blasting off either. After we got a little ways up the double track I looked back to make sure I wasn’t blocking anyone and we had already put in a bit of a gap.

Not 10 seconds into the race and I was already facing my first decision. Either pedal harder to stay on #3 for the draft, or really let off. I decided I’d just pedal to see what happened, but keep everything in check.

And they're off!

And they’re off!

And what do you know? I was able to keep on #3 with no problem. I FELT like we were not pushing very hard up the road to the singletrack. I kept looking back expecting someone to come charging up, but nobody did. It wasn’t until reviewing my Strava data that I was able to see that in actuality, we were hammering up the road at a pretty good clip. First draft is a success. While I handily PR’d the start segment, I reached the singletrack feeling like I had gone maybe 80%.

Additionally we had actually put a decent gap on the next group back. We dropped into the singletrack and cruised on.

At this point, drafting no longer mattered, so I planned to just let the top 3 go. Prior strategy meant no hammering this section, just ride it smooth and steady, eating up the trail and being as efficient as possible.

Wellll….. I guess I’m just more efficient in this section than I realized, especially when I try NOT to hammer it. I managed to keep the top 3 within view, and often right on their wheels, all while NOT hammering… I literally felt like I was still going a bit below threshold. I have to admit, that’s a pretty darn cool feeling =)

Of course all fun and games must come to an end, and this part of the fun was to be over once we reached the low point at RGOG and the trail starts pointing every so slightly upward. While it’s not steep, it is steady, and uphill, for the next couple of miles. This has always traditionally been my slower spot. I pushed as hard as I dared, but keeping in mind that I wanted to make sure to save more for lap 2.

A couple of guys finally caught up and came around. Travis D, whom I am closely matched, was one of them. Of course, I somehow manage to do a slow motion wash out with Travis on my six. Travis was directly behind me when I went down at MJC as well. He’s now 2 for 2!

Slow speed wash out

Slow speed wash out

As I come to the wide open into the wind section of trail, I see one of the guys who had just passed me just ahead. I burst up and grab his wheel, ready to draft off of him for the next section of trail which also happens to have a stiff 20mph headwind today.

Splendidly performing my roadie drafting impersonation

Splendidly performing my roadie drafting impersonation

It works perfectly. I grab his wheel and deftly draft the entire course of the wide open windy section. This is leading up to The Hill so I was looking forward to having a little more steam going into the climb.

Redline climb

Redline climb

I ease into the climb, holding on the lower section and conserving strength to make sure I could make all the step ups. And I did. While I didn’t break any speed record/PRs on the climb, I reached the summit and felt… great! Usually I top out on this climb cross eyed and hurting bad. For once, I actually felt okay! This meant that I could now focus on the little loop before the super fun descent.

The loop goes without incident and I come upon my favorite part of the course. A rip roaring fun descent with a couple of small ledge drops, plenty of rocks to crawl and just generally a good time.

I again discipline myself not to hammer too hard and work more on flow and efficiency. Even in not hammering, I still manage to PR the segment. Hrmmm… think this Wink guy might be onto something?

With what feels like good energy, I motor through NXNW, again focusing on conserving, efficiency and riding smooth and steady. In the meantime, I bag yet another PR on the lap.

As I pop out of NXNW, directly ahead is none other than the guy I drafted in the earlier wide open section. Guess what, another wide open, into the wind section is coming, so I tuck in and do another roadie impersonation through this section. I take this opportunity to also take my Honey Stinger and down the rest of my water in anticipation of a hand up through the feed zone.

I feel I put in a strong lap at 48 minutes. If I can manage that time again, I’ll be sitting pretty!

While I feel I’ve held off, I can still feel fatigue setting in. Going up the start loop the second time, I find myself alone and no easy drafting this time around. I pedal up, much slower than the first time. From here I ride alone for pretty much the whole lap. I only see my draft puller once but he washes his wheel out and I don’t see him the rest of the race.

Strangely enough, the section from the start to RGOG is one of the more enjoyable parts of the trail, and strangely it was here where my nemesis popped up. The melancholy attitude crept up. I lost power, lost will and generally decided racing was for the birds. I was riding alone, not having fun, and not riding fast. THIS is what I have GOT to figure out and cut off at the pass.

Even though I held back, worked on pacing, focused on nutrition and all other factors. Here it was again, The Lull. Fuck… At the time I don’t have the mental fortitude to see it for what it is and it is crushing. It takes the fun out. I lose The Flow. Riding isn’t fun, racing isn’t fun and all I can think about is saying screw it. It’s really strange…

Oddly enough, here is where I lost most of my time in my race. This first, usually very fast, section of trail, I ride over 2 minutes slower the 2nd time through than I did the first. The rest of my lap was pretty comparable, only being off by a few seconds here and there. But this part, The Lull, it cripples me, and really lessons my chances of improving my placement and puts me at risk of losing more places.

The good news is that I am cognizant of it. I know it for what it is. While I’m wallowing in misery, I’m telling myself, give it 5 minutes, I’ll be back to normal and it’ll be fun again.

And sure enough, that happens. 5 minutes or so later, I pull myself together and it’s back to the race.

The dreaded Lull

The dreaded Lull

I’ve got to figure this out. Maybe it’s pre-race nutrition? Something that I’m losing about 1 hour into the race? Is it pure mental? What could it be?

My plan for the next time it happens is to just do all I can to attack it. To look it in the face, know it is trying to drag me down and just pound out the next 5 minutes or so as hard as I can. This may do nothing but delay it or make it worse, or I may fail altogether. Usually, I’m so out of energy and out of it mentally, that I can’t do anything. Or so it seems looking back.

At any rate, it sucks and I need to beat this!

The rest of my lap finishes out pretty uneventful. I keep catching glimpses of Travis and I want to beat him. We’ve finished +/- a position of each other in all 3 races, and I really want to finish ahead in this one.

I manage decent time through NXNW, and when I pop out, I tell myself it’s time to wring it out. I put it all on the table and hammer it home from there, but never catch sight of Travis. In the process I put up another PR for the day on the final effort to the finish. I even throw up a final sprint on the road to the finish line, just me and my shadow, because hell, I actually have the energy to do it.

I finish and feel pretty good. Too good to be honest. My body tells me I had more to give. I needed to start wringing it out sooner. Race and learn…

Comfort is 2 weeks away. The one thing I’d like to get a bead on is The Lull. I’ve got to figure this bitch out…

In the end, I finish 9th of 21 starters. My first top 10 in Cat 2!

My GoPro decided to crap out about halfway through the final lap, so I’ll have less footage to work with, and no finish line. Ah well, shorter is probably better anyway =)

Race Videos
Youtube – http://youtu.be/XDHXKTy7MZ8
Vimeo – https://vimeo.com/90033597

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 162 lbs
Bike weight: 26.5 lbs
Race Time: 11:00AM
Nutrition: 2 serving oatmeal, cup of yogurt, 1 water bottle with Nuun before race, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before race, 1.5 water bottle during race, 1 stinger halfway through
Weather: Started off cool and overcast, turned out to be perfect temps
Dress: Short sleeve base layer, short sleeve jersey, bibs
RPE: Went a slight notch lower than all out in attempt at better pacing
CTL: 57.0
TSB: 5.9 (rising)

Strava:

FULL LAP – 2014 Mellow Johnny’s Classic Mountain Bike Race

The first lap of my race at the 2014 Mellow Johnny’s Classic XC Mountain Bike Race.

View the race [Read more…]

2014 Mellow Johnny’s Classic Mountain Bike Race

My Cat2 40-44 mountain bike race video from 2014 Mellow Johnny’s Classic. Weather started out nice. Watch the [Read more…]

2014 Mellow Johnny’s Classic Race Report

Photo by Ingot Imaging.

Photo by Ingot Imaging.

Mellow Johnny’s Classic is the Austin area’s biggest mountain biking event. Being the first race in the US Pro XCT Cup, all of the national big dogs come out to cut their teeth on our local trails.

It’s a great event and it is a lot of fun to experience all of the festivities with all of the national teams and sponsors in attendance.

This race falls at the end of week 7 of my training plan and hence I am starting to peak in my training plan leading up to my primary A race in two weeks at Pace Bend.

I can definitely feel the peak coming on and I’m feeling fast and fit on the bike. It is a fun feeling to have and I hope I can hold onto this for 2-4 weeks before it begins tapering some. I need to ride well at Pace Bend and Comfort before the balance shifts further from technical riding that I am strong at.

At any rate, pro races on Saturday were a lot of fun to watch. During the men’s race, I ran around the course collecting video footage, planning to put something together for my YouTube channel. This might not have been a smart plan as I ended up doing quite a bit of hiking a jogging around, not exactly kicking my feet up the day before my race.

Race Day

Our staging time was at 8:45am, so I was up and out the door in time to get to the venue by 7am. I arrived in plenty of time and made sure to get prepped in plenty of time. The weather was still pretty nice, around 68 degrees and overcast. The forecast was that temps were going to be falling and a chance of rain, but I believed the front was not going to blow through until after we finished.

At the staging, we were called up and I was on the 2nd line. As we moved up to the start line, a gap opened and I rolled up to the first row. This suited me fine and played to my start strategy.

In a sign of things to come, as we were lined up at the start, awaiting the start whistle, a shockingly cold wind blew in from the north. In a near instant, you could tell the temps dropped 5-10 degrees. Before the end of the race, temps would be in the 30’s and it would be lightly raining.

Blasting off the start

Blasting off the start

With the changes to the start loop, there was the chance for some bottlenecks in the beginning and I wanted to make sure I avoided any chance at something like that. There was also a grind of an uphill climb right off the bat which I had decided I wanted to really rocket up rather than potentially getting caught in among the field and having to grind up it.

When the whistle blew, I was off like a rocket, perfectly geared and smooth pedaling. I clipped in perfectly and pulled into the lead. I pedaled hard around the building and through the ‘car port’, up the first little burst of a hill and pedaled hard up the pipeline climb.

Once around the turn, I gave a couple of strong pedal strokes and blasted down the first descent, catching some air on the final little bump and then heading into the first little bit of single track. My starting strategy had worked perfectly and I was still out front through the initial single track.

At this point, there was some more climbing and some double track before the proper single track started. I eased off a bit at this point to ensure I didn’t blow up.

As expected, several guys came around me on the next climbs. I was expecting that and was fine with it. My plan at this point was to get up the hill, stick with the lead group and try to hold wheels. My goal for this race was a top 10 finish so at this point I was about where I wanted to be and just wanted to hold and fight for position.

As we cruised through the first section of single track, I was feeling good. Legs and lungs felt good and I was looking forward to a strong race. When we popped out for the first short descent, I opted for the alternate line, just for kicks. It is a little faster, but given the distance between the guy in front of me, it meant I could not get around him safely without completely cutting him off.

Alternate line!

Alternate line!

It was uneventful leading up to the biggest effort climb of the loop. Previously Strava had been present and issued a Strava KOM Challenge for this hill. It is mostly doubletrack, but it is loose and fairly steep. Fortunately it is a fairly short effort at around 2 minutes. I suffered up it, giving up a couple of positions I had made up in the singletrack, but I was fully expecting that.

Fighting and suffering up The Hill

Fighting and suffering up The Hill

I made a quick pass at the top and powered onward to a flowy and technical descent that leads to the creek crossing. I was held up a bit by those less comfy on the technical downhill, but I took the opportunity to try to get some recovery in.

As expected, the creek crossing and the immediate technical climb and switchback was jammed up so no chance at clearing it. I dismounted near the top with everyone else and we ran our bikes to the next pedal opportunity.

A great technical challenge section, clearing this climb and the next segment of trail without dabbing is a nice accomplishment

A great technical challenge section, clearing this climb and the next segment of trail without dabbing is a nice accomplishment

We navigated the next bit of tricky technical area without incident. Sadly, it was this point that I knew that nearly all of the rest of the lap wasn’t going to play to my strengths. The rest of the lap is much less technical, with a fair bit of climbing. I could also tell that temps had to have dropped below 50. While I wasn’t cold, the cold air was constricting my bronchial tubes and my lungs were barking at me. When it is really cold, I suffer a bit from EIA (excercise induced asthma) and I could tell that it was having a bit of an impact that was only going to get worse as time went on.

I tried to settle into ‘diesel mode’, which is just constant, motor on output, interspersed with the more intensity required efforts on step ups and punchy climbs. The longish gradual climb wore on me and worked to deplete my energy.

Grinding my way up the loose, false flats

Grinding my way up the loose, false flats

It was in this section where I came upon some poor guy who was carrying the limp corpse of his broken bike. As I was riding to him I kinda wondered why the guy was carrying instead of pushing his bike. When I got closer, I could see that his bike was broken in two. The head tube and down tube had broken.

Broken frame!

Broken frame!

Finally the longer slog was over, and now it was back into some fun little descents, the water crossing, and then finally back to the finish/lap line. My legs were feeling tired and every higher intensity effort resulted in major burning in the legs. This did not bode very well as I still had another lap to go!

I managed to make it right to the lap marker before the first of the older grouped came around. This was much better than Rocky Hill as I felt I was constantly getting passed by the older group, early on in that race. On the flip side, I had been passing back markers of the earlier group for quite a while.

The rain was also starting to become a factor. Rocks were getting slippery and a crash was becoming a very real possibility.

Another little hiccup here was that the water hand ups were not very obvious and I went right through the feed zone without getting a new water bottle. I was going to need more water as I had already gone through my one small bottle already.

"Yeah, this is gonna suck" - Heading up the pipeline climb the 2nd time

“Yeah, this is gonna suck” – Heading up the pipeline climb the 2nd time

Lap 2 was to be more of the same. The bonus of the 2nd lap is that the field is more spread out and I have no excuses for being held up on the downhills. Well, being jammed up is no excuse. However, being fatigued and tired did come into play and I felt too tired to be able to go full bore.

Second time up The Hill was very painful. My legs were burning like fire and it felt as if someone had thrust searing hot daggers into my thighs. As I reached the top, in pain and sucking wind, I managed a water hand up from my buddy Todd, thankful that he happened to be there and able to help.

Feeling tired, I make a mental note to myself, asking if I should back off to recover some so I could ride stronger, or just keep the pedal down. I noted how sloppy I was riding, in not holding it in turns and generally just not riding well.

That, coupled with wet, slippery rocks and roots, came to a head soon thereafter. There is a particular rock/root combo, that provides a couple of lines. The most direct cuts the root at less of an angle, and is the usual way I handle this obstacle. When dry, this is no problem, but wet, this poses a very real problem. I realize too late that I should take the safer approach, and feel helpless when my tire hits the root and is directed off course, dumping me on my side. I bang my hip, shoulder and knee a bit, giving a bit of a blood offering to the trail gods.

It takes me a bit to regain composure, and in the process I lose two more positions. As I head towards the creek crossing, one of the older group leaders catches up and asks for a pass. There’s nowhere to give a good pass here so I ask him to hold on a sec, hit the gas and clear the climb only to look back and see that he has bobbled it. He gets the pass a little further down the trail once he catches back up.

The two that passed me are a couple of guys who raced at Rocky Hill that I had finished ahead of. I wanted to catch them again if at all possible. I pushed as hard as I could, but finding that my fatigued legs just were not responding. It was taking more effort than I had to push when I needed to, and that sucked!

I caught a glimpse of Kirby in a part of the trail that doubles back on itself and I yelled words of encouragement to him to catch me. Something along the lines of him being a little bitch or something…

I guess those words of wisdom worked as he caught me on an upcoming punchy technical climb.

I tried to latch on but I knew it was a losing proposition. I rode with him for a little bit and then bid him farewell. I mistakenly thought he was in 3rd or 4th around me, but he was actually in 7th and would finish in 7th.

Hanging onto the pink as long as I can

Hanging onto the pink as long as I can

Kirby pedaled on and I continued struggling. On the brutal false flats, Chris W. caught up with me. A short distance further on a punchy climb, my legs give out and he gets around.

Chris W. comes around

Chris W. comes around

I grab his wheel and we ride together for a bit. He is now the 3rd that I had beaten at Rocky Hill that was ahead of me. I was bound and determined to claw some of those positions back if at all possible. I hang with Chris and finally on one of the painful steep step ups, I take an inside line and make a pass.

Chris is a strong and consistent rider and he’s always going to be a strong competitor.

I’m still hoping to catch a couple more folks in my group so keep pushing. I finally close the gap on Travis D. and get around him on a climb. He grabs my wheel and sticks to me. I don’t want to open myself up to a draft/sprint so I ease off a bit and let him back around. At this point, my plan is to hold his wheel and then attempt to out draft/sprint him to the finish. All I need to do is ride smooth and clear the few remaining step ups.

Unfortunately my exhausted legs didn’t cooperate and I stalled out on a step that Travis cleared. He got some space on me and by the time we hit the sprint area, he was too far for me to catch. I pedaled hard to the finish, resigned to my fate.

One of the final step ups that I usually clear with ease, stalled out and lost my chance

One of the final step ups that I usually clear with ease, stalled out and lost my chance

I cross the finish in 12th place. Better than I had in Rocky Hill, but top 10 still eluded me. Perhaps Pace Bend in 2 weeks!

12th Place Finish

12th Place Finish

By the end of the race, the temps had dropped to 38 degrees and we were wet with rain and sweat. It didn’t take long before chills started creeping in so I headed for the truck and some warm, dry clothes.

At the end of the day, I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped. My legs were very fatigued at the end and were not responding. Gotta keep the training up!

Another thing of interest was that I FELT like I was pegged out the entire race, but upon reviewing my Garmin data, my heart rate was well below threshold for most of the race. In particular in the 2nd lap, even with my legs very fatigued, my HR was way below threshold. I don’t know if the cold was the culprit, or the prior days hiking and running around the trails had taken more of a toll than I anticipated, but in any event, I believe I should have been able to push harder.

Race Videos
Youtube – 2014 Mellow Johnny’s Classic Mountain Bike Race
Vimeo – Vimeo – 2014 Mellow Johnny’s Classic Mountain Bike Race

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 162 lbs
Bike weight: 26.5 lbs
Race Time: 9:00AM
Nutrition: 2 serving oatmeal, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before race, 1.5 water bottle during race, 1 stinger halfway through
Weather: Sudden drop in temps, on line at 70, finished below 40 and rainy
Dress: Short sleeve base layer, short sleeve jersey, bibs. With the drop in temps, was cold at the end
RPE: Felt strong and at maximum effort throughout
CTL: 60.3
TSB: -11.8 (rising)

Strava:

Tired/Sloppy riding and slick rocks don’t mix

At Mellow Johnny’s Classic race today, banged up my side a bit, dropped a couple of places before getting it [Read more…]