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)


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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