Archives for April 2014

2014 Prayer Mountain Pedal – Big Cedar Mountain Bike Race

My Cat2 40-44 mountain bike race video from 2014 Bent Wheel Bash in Abilene, Texas.

Race Report: [Read more…]

2014 Prayer Mountain Pedal Mountain Bike Race Report

Last year at Big Cedar I had a bit of a breakout race. I had a pretty bad start, but then somehow managed to make up a large number of positions, power up the climbs and bag a surprise 4th place finish.

I was hoping to have another breakout race this year and place strongly, helping to cement my standings in the state series. Going into the race I was hoping for a top 5. That may have been a bit ambitious given that I didn’t know many of the local names that were pre-registered for the race.

But hey, gotta have goals, right?

At any rate, the week prior to the race, I had been living in a household of sick family members. I was fighting off what felt like the onset of a head cold and early in the week I began popping Zicam like candy. I don’t usually buy into things like that, but I was willing to give it a shot just in case it might help.

Whether the Zicam made a difference or not is unknown, but the cold never progressed to a full blown cold and instead was just annoying sinus pressure. I felt that I had perhaps dodged the bullet.

With the race taking place on Saturday, I drove up on Friday to get in a pre-ride. I invited my very green cousin to ride with me, not really remembering how technical the trail was. My cousin is really new to MTB, and the Big Cedar course was very challenging for him. I was planning an easy circuit anyway, so it gave me time to burn various sections into memory.

After the pre-ride, we headed out for dinner and a couple of beers. No carbs tonight as burgers were what the eatery had to offer. Beer and burgers… not ideal the night before a race, but I wondered how much it would really matter anyway.

Saturday morning was the usual. Grab some breakfast and head to the venue. All was going well. Weather was great, warm ups went well and I was feeling good.

Not wanting to have the same fate as last year, I lined up with a clear lane and planned to hammer hard to get to the singletrack around 4th or 5th place. And it was to be my goal to hold that position for the duration of the race.

Big Cedar

Hammering off the line

It was quickly apparent that I wasn’t the only one wanting to get a decent position into the singletrack. It was a mad dash and lots of folks were hammering hard, with more right on my heels.

I manage to hold onto Travis D.’s wheel as we enter the singletrack and I enter in 5th place. Before the race Travis mentions that he has family nearby and that he rides here frequently. Travis is one of my rival competitors (in that we are typically pretty evenly matched) so I adjust my plans a bit to ride his wheel, or another local if that doesn’t work out.

We make good time through the first bit of tight twisty, up and down singletrack. One of the leaders does bobble on section that causes a little pile up, but it is fairly inconsequential.

Big Cedar

Pile up and forced dismount

I’m like a rubber band on Travis, sliding back a bit, catching back up, sliding, and so forth. I’m keeping on his wheel well enough though and feeling good. However, I do hear Troy A. right on my wheel and he asks for a pass, letting me know this is his home trail and he knows it well. That could work too, so I ease over to let him around and he says “Grab hold!”.

Big Cedar

Troy A. comes around

Which I plan to do, unfortunately I can’t quite keep up and he drops me before long. He knows the turns and he’s railing corners at much higher speed than I am able with my unfamiliarity with the trail.

As we finish up in the tight and twisty bits and pop out onto Ranger’s Romp, it is now time to put away the brakes and let ‘er fly! This portion of the course is a long straight slight decline where you can push speeds into the upper 20’s without too much effort.

Troy must have also gotten around Travis because I catch back up to Travis here and I again plan to hold his wheel for a while.

Big Cedar

High speeds down Ranger’s Romp

I take a quick glance back and see 3 other riders right on my heels. I don’t recognize them so I assume they are some of the local speedsters. I mention to Travis that we’re being tailed by speedy locals as we enter the next tight singletrack section.

We’re making good time and then for some reason I notice my chain has dropped. Oh crud!

Big Cedar

Dropped chain!

I picked up a Race Face Narrow Wide chain ring back in July and have been running flawless for almost 1,000 miles of all kinds of trail conditions. Rough, smooth, bumpy, you name it, and not one chain drop. Until now… I’ll have to check the ring for wear and make sure chain is good as well…

Anyway, I pull to the side and get the chain back on. It only takes a few seconds, but I lose Travis’ wheel, and also the 3 local speedsters also come around.

I get back to pedaling and getting down the trail. At this point I’ve been riding pretty hard the whole way, but I feel like I’m okay. In one of the straighter sections, I take a glance back and notice another local guy closing in. He actually asks for a pass, but as he does I put some power in and put in a gap. I think the message was understood as he doesn’t ask to get around again. No offense, but you’re in my group, you’ll have to earn this pass!

We’re riding pretty hard again and I’m pushing the pace. He fades back a ways and I feel like I may have dropped him for good.

It is in this area that my camera has some problems and stops recording for a bit. At least that appears to be what happened. When I get home, one of the video files is corrupt and I am missing about 30 minutes worth of footage. I go ahead and order a new memory card in the hopes that some of these recurring issues are due to an issue with the card.

I’m motoring on through more tight and twisty as we head towards a new portion of trail they added this year. The trail actually goes through a storm drain. It is about 60 yds or so long and it is very dark. It is also a bit shorter than I am tall, so I have to duck down a little when riding through. It’s interesting but I question the sanity of including something like that in a race situation.

Big Cedar

Storm drain tunnels

The other side of the tunnel has a fun loop. A tight climb and then a fun, but short, descent before more flowy twisty trail and then you go back through another storm drain alongside the first one.

After exiting the tunnel, it’s now time for steady, steep climbing through the end of the lap. Including a very steep climb call the “Brick Climb”. Through all this climbing, my legs are burning, but I feel I’m still holding strong. Apparently my pursuer is fairing better however as he catches up with me on the climbs and stays with me.

Big Cedar

Brick Climb

When we reach the Brick Climb, I know I’m already too torched to climb the hill. I dismount towards the bottom of the hill and he and I both walk our bikes up. This is a bit demoralizing as I actually was able to climb quite a bit of the Brick Climb last year as a Cat3! I’ve just been pushing really hard this whole lap and my body is on the brink.

In the pushing, Chad B. catches up as well. We all 3 crest the hill together but I am hurting and sucking wind the likes I haven’t seen for a very long time. I’m hurting and hurting bad, even WITH having pushed my bike up the hill. I’m completely blown up.

Chad B. and my pursuer quickly mount their bikes and pedal off. Oof…

Mentally I’m trying to push, but my body is hurting. My legs are burning and I’m nearly hyperventilating. I’m trying to calm my heart and lungs.

I pedal onward, albeit quite a bit slower than I’d like. I suffer along, thankful that this portion of the trail is pretty tame. I head towards the finish line area until the trail turns back away and heads down ‘Texas Sunset’ which is a technical, tight switchback descent down to the bottom of the hill. And once you get to the bottom of the hill, guess what? You gotta climb right back up it. A tenth of a mile up a 9% average grade asphalt road. Ouch!

I roll across the lap line pretty drained. My body is NOT liking all this climbing today.

Big Cedar

Crossing the lap line

I take a water bottle hand up and pour the cold water all over. Oh man, that was nice!

I then proceed on, and begin lap 2. It isn’t until about another mile and a half before everything starts coming back around. I finally start feeling a little more recovered and am able to start pushing it again.

At this point I am passing back markers left and right. And single speeders… oh my, the poor single speeders. I couldn’t imagine doing this course on a single speed and I’ve been passing up single speeders trying to catch breathers on the side of the trail left and right. Mad props to those guys, beast mode for sure!

The second lap feels smoother than the first. I do eventually catch one of my own age group riders and make the pass but I never catch site of anyone else, either in front or behind me. I keep chasing back markers and then trying to hold wheels of the few older guys that come around.

Kirby catches me at the tunnels, but he’s hurting as well. I actually end up gapping him for a while, but he eventually catches up and then passes me at the top of the Brick Climb. He’ll go on to finish 6th in his group, getting passed at the line to miss out on 5th.

I suffer through the rest of the lap, and as I pop out onto the asphalt for my final climb, I drop my chain again… bah!

At least it didn’t cost me a position. There is nobody to be seen so I painfully diesel up the climb and cross the line in 10th place.

I am disappointed with the placement, but I am exhausted. I haven’t felt this tired at any race finish this year. Travis, whom I have finished right with all season finishes a minute and a half ahead and Bobbit gets me by 2 and a half minutes. I should have been in the mix with those guys, contesting at least the 7th-8th placements.

Several variables were at play for me to point fingers at. I had been fighting a cold. I’ve been training hard ever since the beginning of January and I am due a rest/recovery week. I didn’t really eat right the days leading up to the race (no carb loading). I did go with Camelback so it wasn’t hydration at least.

In the end, I can’t be too disappointed. I’ve been doing much better this year than I ever thought possible. It will be interesting to see how the next 2 races play out. I am in the running for a top 5 overall, but that depends highly on who shows up to race the next 2 races, and if (and how) I do the last race of the season at Warda.

Race Video


YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTM-svjvEpo

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 158 lbs
Bike weight: 26.5 lbs
Race Time: 11:00AM
Nutrition: Hearty breakfast, bacon, eggs, biscuits, 1 water bottle with Nuun before race, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before race, ~2 water bottle during race via Camelback, 1 stinger halfway through
Weather: Perfect, 80’s and partly cloudy
Dress: Short sleeve base layer, short sleeve jersey, bibs
RPE: Started out feeling good. Climbs hurt more than usual, blew up on ‘Brick Climb’
CTL: 56.1
TSB: 2.2 (steady)

Strava:

2014 Bent Wheel Bash – Abilene Mountain Bike Race

My Cat2 40-44 mountain bike race video from 2014 Bent Wheel Bash in Abilene, Texas.

Race Report: [Read more…]

Buck Creek Trails – Not my A game

Just a short video of clips from my minor cursing and not riding smoothly. Hit the deck twice. [Read more…]

Redemption, or how Abilene Buck Trails Got Their Balls Back

After my displeasure with the route decision for the course last year, I had all but written off making the trip up to Abilene this year. After hearing they had added some technical sections back to the route, I decided to make the trip up.

Assuming some of the good techy stuff had indeed been added back to the course, making it less of a hammerfest and more of a balanced trail, I figured I would have a decent shot at a strong finish. Abilene is typically a lighter raced venue so with the lower numbers, and a course that favored my style, I knew I could have a good result with a smooth ride. Who knows, maybe a top 5 would be in the cards?

I drove up to my Dad’s on Friday which is just an hour or so away. On Saturday I drove over to the venue to check out the course, planning to pay particular attention to the trail on any extended southerly facing sections. Forecasts were calling for 20+mph winds out of the south at race time and I wanted to start planning any possible effort savings with possible drafting sections.

As I started my pre-ride, one thing was very apparent. The trail was very, very loose. The dry, loose soil lead to some sketchy corners that would put handling skills to the test. Additionally, the route now included a good portion of nice technical sections in both rocky climbs and descents. During the pre-ride, I couldn’t help but smile ear to ear with how enjoyable the course was. Buck Creek Trails got their groove back, yay!

I finished up my pre-ride and rejoined my family at a local eatery. Being in west Texas means one thing is going to be on the menu for all meals. Beef, and lots of it. I did my best to temper the burgers and steaks during my stay and tried to supplement with plenty of potatoes in lieu of other carb sources.

Race time was to be 8am on Sunday morning. With my Dad’s place being an hour away, that meant I needed to be up and out the door no later than 6am. Not that it really matters as my typical race night routine was in full effect meaning there was no need for an alarm clock. I was up, wide eyed at 4:30am.

I rolled out of bed and began my routine, with the pre-race adrenaline already starting to trickle in.

I arrived at the venue well before daylight. I felt like I was the first one through the gate. It was still pitch black out and it was pretty quiet other than the wind whiping the tents of the campers nearby. Even at 6:30 in the morning, the wind was already making its presence known.

I had plenty of time to prep and ride the start loop a few times to warm up. We lined up at the start line right on time and with a short countdown, we were off!

Granata and Weckworth leading it out

Granata and Weckworth leading it out

The start heads out with the wind at our backs, but will shortly make a hard turn into the wind for a bit before we dip into the single track where the barely budding mesquite trees provide a little respite from the wind. I have no plans of being the lead out person here and with speeds in the upper 20’s, I’m definitely going to find a good wheel to draft off of before we get into the twisty bits.

Granta really charges off of the line and by the time we get to the single track, he’s already way ahead of the pack. With no sign of J. Cantu at the race, it means Granata’s only real competition today will be Clayton. I’m happy to hold back for now, planning to repeat my rabbit chasing as I had in Comfort two weeks prior. I hit the single track in 5th place, behind Chris Weckwerth.

I’m a little ancy at this point as I see the lead riders starting to pull away. I would like to have a shot at 3rd place today and the new face currently in that slot is an unknown to me. I want to at least give him a run for his money.

We are weaving through the tight single track and there’s not really any clean spots to pass without a big effort. I’m still very much hedging my bets for now.

Drafting in the open areas

Drafting in the open areas

Any time the trail turns towards the south and into the wind, I suck up to Chris’s wheel and do my best to draft and conserve energy. It’s pretty obvious this is working as I’m able to freewheel quite bit while I see Chris really having to put power to he pedals. In the open areas, the 20mph winds coupled with cruising at 15+ means there is quite a bit of wind resistance.

Waterfall Climb is a nice rocky technical climb

Waterfall Climb is a nice rocky technical climb

On the Waterfall Climb, the lead to the next group is recovered. There’s now 5 of us riding together, with Clayton and the new face just in front of Chris. However not long after the climb, they start pulling away again. I’m wanting to keep them in sight, and keep us in the mix if possible.

Finally, after 15 minutes, I come around Chris and tell him to grab my wheel. My intention is to give us a pull to try to make up a little time on the next guys up.

Coming around Chris

Coming around Chris

I pedal onward with Chris and Travis right behind. We’re cruising pretty well and finally come to the ‘Wimp Hill’ climb. This short climb is right into the wind and has a steep end point to it. The good thing here is that you can see quite a ways up. I even spot Granata up ahead, but not as far ahead as I thought he would be.

Wimp Hill Climb

Wimp Hill Climb

I estimate that Clayton and Mack (new guy) are roughly 20 seconds ahead. Fortunately, after the top of the leg furnace Wimp Climb, you have a fun little downhill that terminates with a small tabletop gap jump with a ladder bridge. I came really close to clearing it this time around and one of these days I’ll make it the whole way, ha!

Almost cleared it!

Almost cleared it!

I just work on pedaling smooth and working hard. I want to close the gap if possible and just keep riding well. I enjoy the Bobsled downhill, and catch some air at the little jump at the bottom. On the 2nd lap, I catch too much air here and nearly wind up flying off the course airborne…

At this point, the route takes you through several rocky technical sections. That’s good for me, right? Usually, I would say yes, but today I haven’t been on my A game. The perfect ‘flow’ just isn’t there. Eventually, I wash out in one of the loose corners, but am able to jump up and run and remount to avoid losing a position.

Buck Creek Trails

Cactus, it’s what’s for dinner (and breakfast and lunch and snack)

At any rate, I’m still leading out, with Weckwerth and Davies holding my wheel. I haven’t caught sight of Mack in a while and I start to worry that he may be getting out of reach. I motor on, suffering as much as I risk at this point in the race and enjoy the ride.

As we are approaching some of the bigger boulder crawling, I miss my intended line, lose my front wheel and down I go. It wasn’t an overly hard crash, but I bang my forearm on some rocks. My arm was just now getting healed up from my spill at Comfort! Additionally, my bars get knocked off center and I’m in a narrow part of the trail. Chris and Travis come around and I pedal forward a bit to find a safe spot to straighten my bar.

Buck Creek Trails

Down I go, AGAIN!

I’m a bit dejected and not working with urgency. I suppose I was a bit rattled. I pull over and fix my bars, and now suspecting I’m a bit behind Chris and Travis, begin my work to make up the time.

Buck Creek Trails

Love the boulder section

As I am nearing the end of the lap, I see Chris and Travis and spot time them to be about 45 seconds ahead. That’s going to take a lot of effort to make up. I finish up the lap and grab a water bottle through the feed zone. I’m again opting to wear my camelback so I take the bottle and gush it over my head, neck and back, and finish off with a big swig of water.

I start the second lap by downing a Honey Stinger and reminding myself to stay focused. “The Lull” was not allowed to make an appearance and I wanted to make sure I kept my head in the race. I worked on smooth pedaling and trying to ride efficiently. There’s another 10 miles to go.

I spot time Chris in a double back portion of the trail and they are now about 30 seconds up. I’ve made up some time, but still have quite a bit to go.

As I near the Waterfall Climb for the 2nd time, Gary Hanna, the points leader of the 45-49 age group is on my wheel. He takes the pass on the climb. I know he is making better time than me so I decide to try to use him as a bit of motivation to catch up with Chris and Travis. I decide that I’m going to ride his wheel as long as I can to use him to get me up the trail a bit.

Buck Creek Trails

Riding Gary’s Wheel

Gary is on a hardtail and he flys up the little climbs. I’m lighting up matches left and right trying to keep up, but I’m bound and determined to pace him until I catch up with Travis and Chris.

We’re eating up the single track, drifting through the loose corners, running at maximum output. Finally, thankfully and mercifully, I catch sight of my prey. We have caught up to them and I am gassed. I let Gary go as he gets around Chris and Travis and I sit in, looking to just hang on while I recover a bit.

I suspect that 3rd place is now out of reach so I decide that now the race is between the 3 of us for 4th place. I’m sitting in sixth and gassed with less than half the lap to go.

I start planning out how this needs to go. There are not a ton of passing opportunities and the sprint finish is out of the question as the sprint distance is barely 30 yards. Whoever makes it out to the finish run first is likely to be the winner so I have to get around before we get to that point.

I struggle to hang on to recover. I’ve burned several matches making up that time. I was worried they would gas it here and get away before I could get recovered, but they didn’t and that works out well for me.

Buck Creek Trails

Struggling to hang on

I manage to hang on and start feeling my legs and lungs recover a bit. I’m holding the wheel strong now and there is about 3 miles left. The time to make a move is coming up soon.

Travis makes his move first. Chris slows a tad on a short climb and Travis gets around and stands on his pedals. I can’t hesitate so I jump around Chris as well and hold onto Travis.

Camera mount is loose at this point, but here's me coming around Chris again

Camera mount is loose at this point, but here’s me coming around Chris again

I am a little worried that either of them has been sand bagging a bit to build up for the final push. Travis continues to push the pedals but I hang on. I look back and see that Chris has dropped off. I guess he wasn’t sandbagging as we have now put a decent gap in..

A glimpse of Travis's wheel through the boulders

A glimpse of Travis’s wheel through the boulders

We are about 1.5 miles to go. I’m feeling good and feel that I have plenty to give when the time comes. The trail is tight and twisty but I know a passing opportunity is coming up before too long. I sit in on Travis’s wheel and ready myself for the final push. 1 mile of all out, about 4 minutes at these speeds. I’m feeling good and confident I can do it.

In my eyes, 4th place is mine for the taking, I just need to not screw it up.

As I keep looking for the passing lane, suddenly an unexpected opportunity arises and I jump. Legs are primed and I’m ready go to. I punch my card and get to work. When I go, I go hard. I come around Travis and shout, “The race is on!” I am assuming that Travis has gas in the tank, just like me and this was going to result in an exciting finish.

Coming around Travis

Coming around Travis

It doesn’t take long for that assumption to prove false. On my hard jump, Travis does not respond and I leave him behind. I want to make sure it sticks so I don’t let up and keep the pedal on the floor.

Up ahead I see Gary Hanna again, the 45-49 point leader. He’s holding his left leg and I figure he’s cramping up. Sure enough as I get to him, he says he’s cramping. I don’t dawdle and ask for a pass. I get around, tell him to grab my wheel if he’s able and motor on. We’re very close to the finish at this point and into the final twisty parts Travis is nowhere to be seen. This one is in the bag.

I cross the finish in 4th place! Come to find out I was only 20 seconds out of 3rd and perhaps I might have made a run for that under different circumstances. A satisfying finish to a hard fought race.

4th Place Finish!

4th Place Finish!

Throughout the last half of the 2nd lap, my camera mount had come loose. I had forgotten to install the piece of inner tube under the mount that I usually do and did not tighten the clamp all the way. As such, the camera ended up pointing at the ground towards the end of the race. It’ll make for an interesting race vid at least =)

Camera mount was f'd...

Camera mount was f’d…

So with 3 races to go in the series, I am sitting in 4th place overall. Which is kinda silly but is a testament to the lack of consistency in the racers in our group. With a strong finish, I can end up in the top 5 overall, which is higher than I was ever ranked in Cat3. Funny stuff!

Race Video

Some outtakes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWOWeYXfGos

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 160 lbs
Bike weight: 26.5 lbs
Race Time: 8:00AM
Nutrition: 2 serving oatmeal, 1 water bottle with Nuun before race, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before race, ~2 water bottle during race via Camelback, 1 stinger halfway through
Weather: Perfect, 70’s and overcast
Dress: Short sleeve base layer, short sleeve jersey, bibs
RPE: Felt good, spent some time burning matches bridging gaps, sat in a bit too much on recover, pushed hard at the end
CTL: 59.7
TSB: -1.7 (rising)

Strava:

Looking for Dirt – Mountain Biking Barton Creek Greenbelt

Put a little edit together from some footage taken while mountain biking Barton Creek Greenbelt in Austin, Texas. Just [Read more…]

2014 Comfort Flat Rock Ranch Mountain Bike Race Report

#selfie

#selfie

The Comfort race falls on a pretty tough weekend for me. The wife and offspring had a 3 day weekend of dance convention and competition that would make it tough to work out what to do with the little 3 year old guy. Due to that, it was very doubtful that I’d make Comfort at all and I didn’t really plan on making it. I figured if it panned out that I could go, then great, but I wasn’t going to worry over it as that just makes it worse when it comes down to the time and I DON’T get to go.

Through some interesting sitter scheduling, it turns out that I did indeed get to make the race. The FIRST sitter arrived at 7:30am to let me get out the door and on my way to Comfort. The SECOND sitter was scheduled to relieve the first at 11:30 and I was expected to be home by 4:30 to relieve that sitter.

A tight schedule, but it meant that I could get out and ride my bike, and that always makes me a happy boy!

So 7:30 rolls around and the teenage sitter arrives blurry eyed, but ready to perform her duties of watching the little hellion for a few hours. I grab the last couple of things, throw them in the truck and I’m off.

I haven’t ridden at Comfort in over 8 years and have no idea what to expect. I spent a little time looking at the elevation profile for the near 20 mile course, but I really didn’t know what to expect. Some long (for Texas) climbs, and some fun looking longer descents as well. Not knowing the course at all, this changed my normal planning a bit.

The race starts off with a fairly long, but not too steep climb. The first 3 miles or so would be mostly uphill. I decided I would take it easy on this initial climb and just check my pace and try to keep my place wherever I felt comfortable, expecting that to be in the 10-12 position range.

Additionally, not knowing the course, I also opted to wear a Camelback for water instead of taking a small water bottle. I didn’t know where would be safe spots to drink, nor how long before the water hand ups. Because of this, I took about 50oz of water, with 2 NUUN tablets added in.

I make it to Flat Rock Ranch by 9:30, ample time to be ready to go for the reported 10:30 staging and start. I don’t waste any time, getting registered, ready, and warmed up just in time to reach the start line at 10:30. Where I’m promptly informed we won’t actually start until 11:20… Well, feck! Ah well, now I have a some time to do a little socializing! And more agonizing because I had left my heart rate monitor at home! I’ve never raced without it, and while I don’t rely on it too heavily, I typically use it to remind myself if I’m ‘dogging it’ and not going as hard as I could be.

I talk with some folks who know the course a little and they try to give me some pointers on various portions of the trail. The initial climb, a couple of the more technical drops, etc. While it all sounded good at the time, I’m not so sure it really helped much, ha!

19 fellas showed up to race this one, including most of the top 10 series guys, as well as a newcomer who was coming off of a decisive win in Cat3 before quickly moving up to Cat2.

We line up and they call up the top 10’s. I check to make sure whoever gets behind me isn’t going to be held up since I’m not planning on blasting up the initial climb. David C. is back, fresh off of a 3 month lay off due to a knee injury. He assures me that I won’t be holding him up, so I feel comfortable with my plan and will just be sure to get out of anyone’s way who is really blasting off before we get to the singletrack.

The whistle blows and we’re off!

And they're off!

And they’re off!

The podium seekers blast off and I quickly find myself in 11th place, right behind Chad B. and Chris W. I figure this is a good spot to settle in for the climb and I grab onto Chad’s wheel.

We’re cruising through the single track at a fairly easy pace. About 5 positions ahead someone is really taking it easy and clogging up the line. There are 6 of us, wheel to wheel through the tight singletrack looking for openings to make some passes and move on. This is the risk of not blasting up the double track for the hole shot, but I’m not concerned. Part of me is a little pleased with the slower pace of the steady climb. Otherwise there’s a good chance I’d be redlining…

Nowhere to go, settle in and conserve

Nowhere to go, settle in and conserve

Eventually the trail allows for some passing and we all get around and start motoring on up the hill.

Get around and let's go!

Get around and let’s go!

I’m still riding with Chris and Chad, but I sense we are getting close to the top of the climb, at which point I am looking forward to a fast and flowy descent. I get around Chad and then look to get around Chris as well.

As we approach one of the final switchbacks, I decide this is the place to go. Chris is swinging a bit wide so I look to cut the inside corner. Unfortunately I mistimed my move a bit and as I swing through, my front tire catches Chris’s rear tire, turning my bars 90°, promptly sending me to the ground.

It’s not a bad crash so I hop up, dust off a little. Chad came back around while I was adjusting so now I’m behind he and Chris again. I notice that my GoPro got hit when I went down and is now facing downward. I reach to tilt it back up and in doing so I also hit the front button, and with a ‘BEEP’, I no longer know what function the camera is on. The top light is not flashing red so I know it isn’t recording anymore. I play with the buttons a bit, trying to figure out if it is recording or not and finally give up on it. Ah well, no video for this race =(

All of a sudden Chris is pulled to the side of the trail, working on his chain. Looks like it has come off the rear cassette on the outside somehow. Chad and I come around and keep going.

Chad leads through the first descent, showing that he can ride his hardtail Niner with some good handling skills. As we near an open area, he ushers me around, and I put on the gas a bit. I pour into the remaining downhill section, having a good ole time.

As the trail starts going back uphill, I settle in and just start steady pedaling back up. I look back and see Chad not too far back and fully expect him to catch up with me on the climb, but he never does.

I was feeling good and putting some power to the pedals. The climb went by and on the way I pass Troy A. on the side of the trail with a severely torn sidewall. He’ll DNF today.

I keep catching glimpses of a black Gold’s Gym kit just a bit ahead. It is a tantalizing rabbit and I work on catching him. It is Cesar F. and I finally grab his wheel. He’s riding strong and I’m just trying to hang on for now and recover after a bit of hard effort in catching his wheel.

It is near here that the trail starts coming back out into the open again and the wind starts being a factor. I start doing all I can to catch a little draft here and there and manage to utilize drafting quite successfully for a long time. I rode close to Cesar’s wheel, often closer than comfortable as it meant I had a hard time seeing what was coming on the trail. Doubly bad since I have absolutely no idea of anything that’s coming!

I manage to keep a keen eye out and ride smoothly given that I can’t see much of the upcoming trail sections.

Hospital Hill drop

Hospital Hill drop

I follow Cesar all the way back through the end of the first loop and through the water hand ups. Going through the hand up, I don’t need the water due to having the Camelback, but I grab one anyway and gush nearly the whole bottle over my head, neck and back. I was a little warm, and the drench of water felt great. It energized me and I just kept riding Cesar’s wheel, letting him pull in the windy sections.

I felt that I was about at my max riding effort riding behind Cesar so I didn’t attempt to pass. I was content to sit in for the time being and I knew that there was another sustained climb coming up. My plan would be to just ride his wheel all the way up the climb, across the windy top, and then attempt a pass before the big fun descent to the finish.

This strategy worked out wonderfully until right near the top of the upper loop. It was here that the leaders from the later age group finally caught up with us. There were 3 of them, including Kirby rocking it in 3rd place. It was about now that I started to realize just what kind of effort the day was turning out to be. Here we were, getting fairly close to the end, and I’m just now getting passed by the 45-49 leaders. Usually these guys catch me sooner than this… hmm…

The leaders finally get around us once we get to a safe passing area and they start to motor on. Cesar seizes this opportunity and grab’s Kirby’s wheel. We’re still climbing, and have been climbing pretty hard for the last couple of miles. My legs are fatigued although my cardio is feeling okay. I look down for a minute to catch a break from the wind and when I look up, the leaders and Cesar have put a sizable gap on me. I put some power to the pedals in an effort to bridge back up before we pop out on top and into the wind, but the legs informed me they were done for now.

With a sigh, I watch them increase the gap and disappear over the crest.

I know what is awaiting me. It has been pretty windy today and I’m about to pop out up top of the upper loop, out in the open, with no draft protection this time. As I crest the climb, the winds hit me full force and work to break my drive. I put my head down, sit back in the saddle a little, engage my hams and glutes, and just try to motor on as best I can. I know that once I get across the top, it will be a rip roaring descent to the finish. I just gotta get the bike pointed downhill.

With a huge relief, I see the hill drop off in front of me and now I know the fun is on. This is really the first time I’ve had nothing but open trail in front of me, and although I’ve never seen this trail before in my life, I let ‘er fly as best I could seeing as how I was riding blind.

My legs let me know they are ready to play now so I start pedaling hard on every chance I get. Up ahead I see Rick D. and close the gap on him. He’s suffering and I hear some all too familiar mutterances as I come around. Something along the lines of ‘F*ing WALL!’, and it is here that I am reminded that my previous 3 race nemesis has failed to make an appearance today. ‘The Lull’ has been completely absent and will be a topic of discussion later.

At any rate, I’ve now gained another position and I feel that perhaps somewhere down there another is available. I keep pushing, reveling in the downhill. It’s great fun! I blow through a couple of corners and ride some sketchy edges, but it all works out okay. I can’t wait to come back and ride some of these segments again when the trail will be a bit more familiar.

I do finally encounter the one technical drop that I had been thoroughly warned about. Here comes that triple down arrow, ‘Don’t go right, go down the middle’, but alas, not having seen the drop, I was pulled right. I slow down and unclip a foot and dab the drop. Better safe than sorry!

OMG SO SKETCHY!

OMG SO SKETCHY!
Photo cred: J. Michael Short

Of course there is a photographer here to catch me pussy footing down this apparent inconsequential drop. Let’s just say this drop looks way more sketchy from above, and the trail actually cuts hard right just outside the bottom frame of the picture so the proper line is very important here, as this group can attest to:

At any rate, I power on to the finish, giving it a good ole sprint at the end, again, just me and my shadow. I finish 13s behind Clayton P. (5th) and never caught sight of him. Cesar went on to finish 4th.

I somehow manage to roll across in 6th place. I had no idea where I finished, but I suspected it was top 10 given the people I had seen along the way. I am very pleasantly surprised with this finish and couldn’t have asked for better given the circumstances.

6th Place! Photo cred: J. Michael Short

6th Place!
Photo cred: J. Michael Short

However, the biggest victory for me was that I did not experience the dreaded ‘Lull’. The question is, why? Perhaps it was hydration and electrolytes? With the Camelback, I drank more fluid as well as had electrolytes for both portions of water, whereas usually I have only 1 bottle with a NUUN tablet, instead of 2. Even with the Camelback, I still ran out of water about a mile from the finish. So I know I drank way more than I typically do in a race.

Was it mental? I kept looking for signs that it was coming. I wanted to be ready for it so I could try to ‘handle’ it.

Was it being in the race? The previous times I’ve hit ‘The Lull’, I’ve been riding alone, possibly for a while. In this race, I rarely raced alone and was often giving chase to someone for nearly the entire race.

Was it pacing? Being completely unfamiliar with this trail, I didn’t have a clue what to expect, so I really took it way easier than usual. Additionally, I had forgotten my heart rate monitor, so I had to go by ‘feel’ alone and no numbers on how much effort I was putting out.

And perhaps it was something else? I paid close attention to my week workouts as well as what I ate in the days leading up to the race. I typically eat pretty healthy, but I don’t typically eat a lot of carbs. I specifically ate big pasta dishes in the 3 days leading up to the race.

In the end, I was super stoked with the finish. I had a great time at the race and on the trails and look forward to getting back out to Comfort again sooner than the last time. Perhaps I’ll be able to make this year’s Zombie Goat Enduro in October?

Since the GoPro crapped out pretty early into the race, I instead got the idea to throw something fun together. I coerced folks to help me with some pics while at the race and put this little fun piece together. Enjoy!

Next up, Abilene?! (Hopefully)

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 160 lbs
Bike weight: 26.5 lbs
Race Time: 11:20AM
Nutrition: 2 serving oatmeal, cup of yogurt, 1 water bottle with Nuun before race, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before race, ~2 water bottle during race via Camelback, 1 stinger halfway through
Weather: Perfect, 70’s and clear
Dress: Short sleeve base layer, short sleeve jersey, bibs
RPE: Felt great, refrained from redlining much
CTL: 59.5
TSB: -3.4 (rising)

Strava:

2014 Flat Rock Ranch Mountain Bike Race #selfie

So yeah, after a slight crash, I bumped the GoPro and it beeped, telling me it was no longer video’ing [Read more…]