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)


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.


  1. Here is my take: In 2008 (after 8 years of racing) I won 5 out of 6 races in the Cat 2 50+ category, and only missed the overall becasue I did not do paydirt. The key to my success was carbohydrate loading the night before each race. 5 beers worked perfectly for me, and the one race I only did 3 I bonked at about 1 hr into the race and could barely hold on. I think the lull comes as your body switches from burning sugars and energy stored in your bloodstream to burning fat (the oft described second wind). The other key to my success was an 80 mile training road ride – the last 20 of which ridden after I had bonked – seemed to push my ability to burn fat to a new level, and enable me to ride to the finish without loosing energy.

    • I think you’re on to something there. My beer intake has been lessened during ‘training’. I’m sure you’re spot on in that regard!

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