2014 Race Schedule

State Championship

02/09 Rocky Hill Roundup – 15th
03/02 Mellow Johnny’s Classic – 12th
03/16 Pace Bend Race – 9th
03/30 STORM Hill Country Challenge – 6th
04/13 Bent Wheel Bash – 4th
04/26 Prayer Mountain Pedal – 10th
05/04 Big Ring Challenge –
05/18 The Warda Race – 10th

Series Rank: 5th

Texas Cup

09/01 Camp Eagle Classic
09/14 Tyler Speedwaves
09/28 Piney Hills Classic
10/12 Huntsville Classic

Misc

October Enchilada Buffet
11/23 Reveille Peak 100

2013 Race Season Recap

This year was my first year to seriously pursue competitive mountain bike racing. At the start of the year, I had put a goal of finishing in the top 3 in the state series. That turned out to be a bit of a stretch given the level of competition, but it was still a great year.

In my efforts to be competitive, I bought a road bike and started riding it regularly for training purposes. The road bike made huge improvements in my fitness levels and facilitated my placings in the races this year. I’ve put over 1100 miles on the road bike this year, and while that’s not a lot by a lot of standards, that’s a fair bit for me. I’ve put in over 223 hours and 2500 total miles so far this year.

Early on I had a bit of a scare at Rocky Hill. Something off with the ticker, or so it seemed. Looks like it was just unfamiliarity with the level of intensity that I was training and racing at. After some rest and more conditioning, I had no further issues.

Unfortunately, this set me back several weeks in my training and put my dreams of a top 3 finisher out of reach. I still managed to finish decently all year long in the TMBRA series and could have placed #5 in the series had I done the Pay Dirt required trail work. I’ll make sure to schedule better to get those extra points for next year.

All in all I would consider my first year in racing a success. I figured out a lot of things, things that work for me and things that don’t. What to watch out for, proper pacing and managing expectations.

I have now capped off my race season with a victory at the RPR100k. Kirby and I doued in the Men’s Masters (over 35) division. It was my longest race ever but we somehow managed a win! Actually that somehow is firmly planted on Kirby’s insane first lap result, but I’ll ride those coat tails today =)

Next season I’ll be moving up to Cat2 which will double all my race distances. New strategies to learn and conquer. I’m not yet ready to put any goals on paper, but I think I’ll fair okay. It will be interesting!

First place, baby!

First place, baby!

2013 Racing Schedule

02/09 Rocky Hill Roundup 8th
02/16 The Waco Race 16th
02/23 STORM Hill Country Challenge –
03/02 Mellow Johnny’s Classic 8th
03/16 Bent Wheel Bash 7th
03/23 Big Ring Challenge –
04/07 Solavaca Cat Claw Challenge –
04/20 Pace Bend Race 5th
05/05 Bicycles Plus Blowout 4th
05/18 The Warda Race 7th
08/01 Camp Eagle Classic –
08/14 Dave Boyd Huntsville Classic 5th
08/28 20th annual Piney Hills Classic –
10/12 Tyler Speedwaves 3rd

2013 State Series Rank: 9th

11/23 Reveille Peak 100 1st!

Reveille Peak 100k – Race Report

Terra Firma Racing Reveille Peak 100

Terra Firma Racing Reveille Peak 100
Photo by Reveille Peak Ranch

Reveille Peak Ranch, our own little mini-Moab nestled right here in the Texas Hill Country is a truly unique riding experience, particularly here in Texas. While there isn’t a lot of elevation, the trail itself climbs and saunters over granite slick rock the likes you cannot find for a thousand miles. It’s pure fun!

I love riding out at RPR so the opportunity to do a mountain bike race there made this a must do event!

100k of riding RPR solo is pretty much out of the question for me. I tapped Kirby W. to duo the race with me. We talked early in the year about doing this race and I held him to it!

Leading up to the race, we had both agreed that we would go into the race ‘for fun’ with just wanting to have a good time and an enjoyable experience. Neither of us had ever done a race longer than a typical Cat 3 XC race so we really didn’t know what to expect from turning 2 15 mile laps. Four times longer than we had ever raced before.

As we are both moving up to Cat 2 next season, we wanted to use this race to work on pacing and just see how well we would hold up.

Two weeks prior to the event weather in Austin was beautiful. Mid 70’s during the day and just gorgeous riding weather. You can’t ask for better weather!

As we entered the middle of November, a blue norther started threatening the forecast. 10 days out the forecast was calling for cooler temps in the 50’s with a chance to rain. The forecast continued to deteriorate right up until race day, settling in with a call for temps in the 30’s, 20 mph winds and a 60% chance of ‘ice pellets’… That did not bode well…

The Thursday before the Saturday race, I went out for a ride in sunny, gorgeous 80 degree weather. 24 hours later it was in the 30s and raining. Oh boy!

Kirby and I spoke on Friday and discussed our options. We decided to at least head out to the venue and see how the weather turned out. If it was too cold or too wet, maybe we’d just hang out and drink all day while heckling the poor bastards who decided to race.

We were up and out heading for RPR by 7AM. It was super wet and/or rainy almost the whole way there. Until we got to Marble Falls, where the wet seemed to stop. We arrived at RPR at 8AM and while it was cold, it was dry. They had had a little rain the day and night prior, but very little standing water, and no new rains had happened for several hours.

Well, that settles it, we’re racing!

Our strategic discussions basically were completed in the 10 seconds while in line to get our race kits. Kirby would go first and I’d head out for laps 2 and 4. We briefly talked about possibly doing our 2 laps back to back and Kirby would make the call as he rolled into the pits after his first lap. The thinking being that once you’re warm, you might want to continue on.

The race start was a mass start. Everyone was cold and eager to get moving to have a chance to warm up. Kirby was bundled up and ready to ride. The horn went off and the racers were off!

Kirby starts the race

Kirby starts the race

With Kirby out riding, I was left with what to do with myself for the next hour and a half or so. I headed to the nearest fire pit and hung out for a while keeping warm by the fire. With about 30 minutes left, I got dressed and made sure everything was ready. I then headed back to the pit area and the warmth of the fire.

The first couple of riders started showing up around 1:28 in. As we had talked about ‘taking it easy’, I didn’t expect to see Kirby for another 5-10 minutes. I continued to enjoy the warmth of the fire…

Roughly 1 minute later I hear people yelling ‘COOPER! COOPER!’. Oh shit… Kirby is here! And I’m hanging out by the fire! I start running towards the pit, remember my bike is laying behind me, run back, grab the bike, run to the pit.

Clock in…
Try to turn on Garmin…
Fumble with bulky gloves…
Take glove off…
Turn on Garmin…
Pull glove back on…
Forgot to turn on and put GoPro in housing…
Fumble with bulky gloves…
Take glove off…
Turn on GoPro and put in housing…
Put glove back on…
Chuckle at my absurdity…
Pedal off…

I probably cost us a solid 90 seconds by not being ready. Turns out Kirby is the #4 guy back to the pit area in 1 hour, 28 minutes. Holy smokes that was cooking! WTF happened to ‘take it easy’?

Anyway, I get to pedaling. It is cold. I am cold. My legs are like numb stumps somehow turning pedals.

Someone passes me, I pass someone else. One guy was likely a solo rider as he looks warm and riding hard. The other looked like a duo rider, likely in our age group, but there is no way of knowing.

Loving RPR trail

Loving RPR trail

I pass another guy, this time a younger kid. Definitely one of the under 21 duo riders. A couple of minutes later Nathan ‘Certified Bad Ass’ Winkleman of WTF comes around me. He mentions having already flatted twice and he’s got some time to make up on the solo leaders.

Nathan of WTF

Nathan of WTF

15 minutes go by and I’ve been keeping my HR in my ‘warm up’ zone, being careful not to go too hard. I’m still nowhere near warmed up. My legs still feel dead, but at least my upper body is starting to feel better.

As I make the approach to the Epic Trail climb, Marcus comes around. This guy is definitely in our age group. We make the Epic climb, riding when we can, hiking when the rock turns too vertical for it to make sense to put forth the heavy exertion of climbing.

Marcus climbing Epic

Marcus climbing Epic

At the top of Epic, I try to push to keep up with Marcus. A long loose descent, surely I can manage that? As much as I try, my body feels too cold to be as loose as I need to be through the loose turns and Marcus puts more time on me. I lose him into the singletrack and don’t see him for the rest of this lap.

At this point it’s just ride clean without over exerting. My upper body has warmed by this point, to the point where I am hot on top and cold on the bottom. My legs just cannot get warmed up and I feel I cannot push, or even ride as smoothly, as I know I can.

Hill Country Slickrock

Hill Country Slickrock

At about 45 minutes into my lap, my legs finally feel like they are coming around. Which is good, because one of the most demanding portions of the route is coming up. The sadistic designer of this course has decided to have us ride the Flow Track. Oh, UP the Flow Track. Not only that, but with the damp, this is the muddiest, tire suckingest portion of the whole trail. Getting up and over each jump is highly demanding. I feel like I’m going in slow motion. Getting over one rise, thinking I’m nearly to the top to only see another three jumps up the trail ahead of me.

Flow Track Uphill

Flow Track Uphill

It was slow going, but I willed myself to the top. Fortunately, from here, there aren’t anymore brutal climbing and it is just time to ride fast! I know the end isn’t too much further so I push as much as I can without red lining too much. Gotta make sure I keep gas in the tank for lap 2!

Riding hard, having fun

Riding hard, having fun

As I neared the lake, I give up another position to someone I suspect is in our age group. I try to grab his wheel, but my legs are having none of it. It’s my own pace or nothing…

I roll into the pit area and yell for Kirby. He checks in, grabs his bike and he’s off.

I venture a glance at the leader boards and only now do I see how things have really played out thus far.

Kirby turned in a screamer of a first lap, putting us in first and 3 minutes ahead of the next in our age group. My slow transition cost us at least half of that lead. My lap was 7 minutes slower than Kirby’s and I gave up 2 positions, putting us 5 minutes out of first and about 30s out of 2nd. The reality that we could actually be contenders in this race sets in and I start thinking and priming myself for a good 2nd lap to give us a chance at placing.

From here, there isn’t much for me to do for the next hour and a half except try to warm up, dress more appropriately and get some food and fluid in me.

I head for the truck and crank up the heater to full blast. I change my top half, going for a bit cooler top as I was overheated on the top last lap, but never did get my legs warm. I eat a PBJ and down a couple of bottles of water and a 5 hour energy. I remove my socks and dry them on the heater. I start getting pumped up to turn a much better 2nd lap.

As the first riders start showing up for the next lap, I start getting ancy, wondering where Kirby is. His 2nd lap isn’t shaping up to be quite as good as his first and I am just hoping that I can at least help us hang onto 3rd.

I see the now 1st place team come through and make the transition. Marcus heads out for the final lap. About a minute later, I see Kirby in the distance. I head for the transition, determined to have a fast switch. I am thinking we’re in 3rd, and I want to hold that position or make better on it.

This time around at least I am fully warm all over. I am more evenly layered and I am feeling good. I pedal hard off the bat, but still making sure to keep it below the red line. I’ve got another 15 mile lap to go here.

Epic?  Yes it is!

Epic? Yes it is!

As I approach the bottom of the Epic climb, I look up and see who I thought think in 1st at the very top, Marcus, about the top. I spot his location and make a mental note of time.

Rider 3 mins ahead

Rider 3 mins ahead

When I get to the top, I check my Garmin. He’s about 3 minutes ahead. That’s a lot of time to make up, but anything can happen, and I feel like I’m riding much better and faster than my first lap.

This time, I tear down the doubletrack descent, bound and determined to make up some time on my strong suit. I feel that I make it down in good time and head into the singletrack hard and heavy, keeping my HR under control and just under threshold pace.

RPR, a REAL MTB Trail

RPR, a REAL MTB Trail

I feel that I’m riding smoothly and hitting lines much faster than I did in lap 1. I’m feeling good and pushing hard. A few minutes into the singletrack I catch a glimpse of someone on the side of the trail up ahead. As I near, I recognize him as Marcus and one of the leaders in front of me. He’s flatted and is working to tube his front tire.

Marcus flats

Marcus flats

As I go around, I utter ‘Aww man, flats suck!’ and I do mean it, but inside I am devilishly thankful for the chance to not only gain a position, but put some time between him and me. I pedal on, working on being smooth and hoping to ward off any mechanicals for myself! A quick glance at the Garmin tells me I have about an hour to go and it looked like Marcus was close to finishing changing his flat and he would be riding hard to catch me.

I pedal onward, believing I am currently sitting in about 2nd place, thinking I know who is now in first and keeping an eye out for him. There are a couple of places where the trail comes close to the trail going in the other direction and as I pass him, I again mark my time. Believing this is who I had posted at 3 minutes at Epic, I now see that the gap is about 2:30. Still a lot of time to make up, but I feel it is possible.

I still feel like I’m riding much better than my last lap, and I start having visions of turning a 1:30 lap. That would be averaging about 10mph and so I started keeping a close eye on my average speed.

One thing started to become apparent though. As I progressed, my average speed wasn’t any better than it had been in the first lap. But I’m feeling much faster and stronger? What gives?

At 1 hour in, I popped a Honey Stinger and worked to bring it on home. I kept looking over my shoulder in anticipation of seeing Marcus or someone else closing in. While I felt I was riding much faster than my first lap, my Garmin was telling me otherwise. My pacing was pretty much on par with the first lap, which was bugging me.

Home stretch!

Home stretch!

As I rounded the final bend that opens up to the lake, and the wind, I pushed with all I had left while keeping a close eye on any potential sprint competition. Nobody ever showed and I rolled across the finish uncontested.

As I clocked in the official says ‘Congrats, first in your age group!’. Surprised, I responded ‘Really? Wow, awesome!’. Kirby was nowhere to be seen so I had nobody to celebrate with. I found him a few minutes later hanging by the fire, already on his 3rd post race beer. I told him that we might have won and we both laughed at the surprise finish.

It turns out that the other guy that I thought was ahead of me was in the Under 35 group, and although I closed the gap to 2 minutes, I never caught up, but I never needed to either!

First place, baby!

First place, baby!

I headed to the truck to change and had a nice cup of hot chocolate thanks to Nathan Winkleman’s wonderful mother. That hit the spot, thank you! After that, it was time to knock back a few of my own post race beverages, which for that day was Austin Beerworks Black Thunder, which was perfect!

There were some super sweet items being given away so we definitely were going to brave the cold and hang out until awards and such. Sadly, neither of us won the awesome Kuat NV Rack or the killer Trail LED lights. We did score some sunglasses as prizes for our finish as well as a couple other swag items during the raffle (multi-tool and water bottle).

I’ll finish by saying that this may be my favorite mountain bike race to date. First of all, Reveille Peak is a mountain bikers dream. It’s technical, it’s flowy, it’s fast, it’s fun, with some double track breaks thrown in at just the right time for a chance to grab a drink and get a little recovery. To me, THIS is what mountain bike racing should be like. Not like racing wide open on flat boring nondescript trails. Fitness is important, but so is bike handling and technical skill. You have to have both in order to succeed here.

Terra Firma Racing put on a fantastic race. The organization and running of the race was spot on. The organizers were extremely friendly and went out of their way to talk to you, see how you liked everything and make sure you had a good time.

There was only one thing that I would have liked to have done differently and that was actually knowing who we were racing against. Leading up to the race I had no idea who was registered and at the race you had no way of knowing who was racing against you. It was only by careful inspection that you might guess if a racer is in your group or not. Probably easily remedied by just getting to know more people.

The group of folks at this race were a bit different than I’m used to seeing at the TMBRA races, although there were definitely lots of familiar TMBRA familiar faces about, just not many that I knew.

Given all that, this race will definitely remain on my MUST DO race for the future. And I’m seriously looking at future Terra Firma races as well. These guys put on a fantastic, fun race. Sadly their other MTB specific races are at Warda and Rocky Hill. While I enjoy Rocky Hill, Warda ranks right up there as one of the least technical MTB trails around and is one of my least favorite trails. Still, given the way this race went, I’m still contemplating hitting the Dirty Dozen at Warda in February as a warm up for the TMBRA races.

Some lessons learned:
1 – Anytime doing a team event with Kirby, he rides first. Kirby is a beast and will keep up with carrots very well. The whole reason he killed that first lap was because there were power riders for him to feed off of.
2 – Careful of dress in this kind of weather. I had never dressed for these kinds of temps. I think I nailed it on lap 2. In Lap 1, I wore some heavier gloves which did keep my hands warmer, but my hands grew tired dealing with the added bulk, and I didn’t like the ‘feel’ on my brakes with the added bulk. Regular long finger gloves worked fine.
3 – I wasn’t able to take my Honey Stinger on lap 1 because I couldn’t fish it out of my pockets with all the extra gear. I taped it to my top tube for lap 2
4 – STAY WARM! I was completely cold during lap 1 because I was hanging out in the cold. I think I fared much better in lap 2 due to staying in the heated truck as much as possible.

Lap 1 Kirby 1:28:25
Lap 2 Cooper 1:36:38
Lap 3 Kirby 1:35:42
Lap 4 Cooper 1:36:15

Race Video:
YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXHianZiwhQ
Vimeo – https://vimeo.com/84320445

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 164 lbs
Bike weight: 26.5 lbs
Race Time: 9:00AM
Nutrition: 3 serving oatmeal and 2 eggs for bfast, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before race, 1 water bottle during race each lap, 1 stinger halfway through 2nd lap
Weather: Overcast, 35 degrees *COLD*, precipitation threatening all day
Dress:
Lap 1 – Too hot on top : Thermal base layer, jersey, thermal vest, wind jacket, tights and thermal bib knickers, toe warmers, skullcap, heavy gloves
Lap 2- Just right: Short sleeve base layer, long sleeve jersey, wind jacket, tights and thermal bib knickers, toe warmers, skullcap, regular long finger gloves
Week lead in: Normalish week, had been sick, less than normal riding 4 weeks prior
RPE: First lap couldn’t get warm, 2nd lap felt good, but legs were fatigued
CTL: 34.5
TSB: -14.8 (falling)

Lap 1:

Lap 2:

ADDENDUM: It wasn’t until I got home and was able to closely compare my laps that I saw the differences in my lap performances. While my overall times for each lap were near identical, I felt that I was riding much better and faster in lap 2. Turns out, I WAS riding faster and smoother in lap 2, as long as the trail wasn’t going uphill. The second there were climbs, my lap 1 self would catch up with my lap 2 self. I was MUCH slower on nearly all climbs in lap 2, pointedly showing that my legs were definitely fatigued after much more riding than I’m typically used to.

Tyler Speedwaves Race Report – 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to draft!

Time to draft!

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

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

A ride in the woods

A ride in the woods

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

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

DH is riding well and showing some skill

DH is riding well and showing some skill

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

Draft on the double track

Draft on the double track

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

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

Time to make a move!

Time to make a move!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freight train, aka Miguel Alvarez, coming through!

Freight train, aka Miguel Alvarez, coming through!

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

Demoralized, I almost let him go completely

Demoralized, I almost let him go completely

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

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

One man's misfortune...

One man’s misfortune…

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

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

3rd Place is in sight!

3rd Place is in sight!

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

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

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

“Please let this be the finish…” – Me

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

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

My view from the podium!

My view from the podium!

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

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

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

Race Videos:
COMING SOON!

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

CTS Field Test – October 2013

CTS Field Test2 months down, time for a new field test! The past 2 months I’ve been fairly consistent with my riding, targeting 6 hours per week in the saddle and I’ve pretty much hit that.

I did 4 weeks of general training rides and then 4 weeks of CTS training.

The temps this morning were a refreshing 60ish degrees, which is cooler than I’ve ridden in since the spring. It quickly showed with a PR climbing up the Cuernavaca Top Out segment and had 2 good 8 minute runs.

Down to it:
Weigh In: 166 lbs
Test Time: 10AM
Nutrition: Egg & cheese english muffin, coffee 1 water bottle during ride
Temp: 65 degrees
Humidity: 30%
Wind: Don’t think so, maybe negligible tailwind?
Dress: Bibs and short sleeve jersey
Last ride: 4 days prior
CTL: 46.4
TSB: 3.2 (rising)

Time Dist Avg Spd Avg HR Max HR Cadence
8:06 2.88 21.3 164 170 100
7:52 2.88 22.0 163 169 98
Aug Results
8:00 2.78 20.8 173 181 97
7:58 2.78 20.9 173 181 94
June Results
8:00 2.74 20.5 171 176 98
7:45 2.74 21.2 170 174 98

A couple of observations: 1) I went faster. 2) HR back down quite a bit. 3) Strava estimated power numbers are considerably higher than the last time…

Huntsville State Park Race Report – 2013

It has been nearly 4 months since my last TMBRA race. I was unable to make Camp Eagle over Labor Day weekend so this would be my first test to see if I had made any improvements over the summer.

I’ve been riding regularly for about the last 5 weeks and have seen some pretty significant gains in some of my times on my fun and training rides. I was looking forward to seeing how those might translate into the race setting.

Nearby Sam Houston Statue

Huntsville State Park is, as you may guess, just outside of Huntsville, Texas. It’s a fun course through the tall pines around a small lake. The trail itself is very sandy and rooty, only broken by numerous bridges over marshy areas.

The sand can be problematic and the roots add to the trail to give it some technical handling requirements. There isn’t much elevation gain at about 650ft per lap, with the climbs being mostly longer gradual climbs. The downhill segments are only technical in that you can gain a lot of speed quick, and they often terminate into hard turns in deep sand.

I wanted to make this race as I am still working to get my 8 ‘counting’ races for the state series. This would be my 8th counting race and would give me a good indicator of my final state series placement.

I was also excited to make this race as I was hoping my gains would give me a shot at a podium finish. The podium has eluded me all year and I’m still working on landing on a step before the year is over.

To help me possibly get onto the podium, 5 of the top 5 series racers are no longer making the races. 3 of them have catted up to Cat2 and 2 others are not racing in the fall. This meant out of the ‘regular’ guys who show up to race, I would have a pretty good shot at getting on the podium if I have a good race.

I made it out to pre-ride the course the week prior and was glad I did so. I managed to learn some good lines and experiment a bit with handling in the deep sand. I quickly learned to make sure I had dumped my speed before the turns to make sure I was able to take the most inside, most shallow of the sand corners.

I had contemplated if I should look at getting a higher volume front tire, but after pre-riding opted to go ahead and keep the 2.1 Maxxis Ignitor up front. This is the same tire that I have been running all year and have been generally happy with it under most conditions with the exception of the very muddy Rock Hill Ranch race back in February.

Our start time was slated for 1:30PM, which meant I had plenty of time to drive down the day of the race. This allowed me the opportunity to get to ‘sleep’ in my own bed before the race. I say ‘sleep’ because I rarely sleep well the night before a race…

The day of the race I woke up at 7AM and started my routine. I had already loaded everything into the truck so it was just a matter of final preparations. Breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, getting ice and drinks together and heading out. I was on the road by 7:30.

I headed straight for Huntsville where I did a pit stop at Subway for a sandwich for lunch. Then on to the Park.

I putted around a bit, visiting with folks I hadn’t seen since May. Took my GoPro and filmed the Cat2 starts and went to the feed zone to cheer on the guys I knew who were racing.

Warm ups went well and everything was lining up great!

I got to the staging area and they lined us all up. Unfortunately, for some reason, the start times were running about 15 minutes behind schedule. It would have been nice of them to let us know that so we could have known… Sitting in the hot sun at 1:30 in the afternoon isn’t optimal for being ready to race. By the time we actually got to the line, I was halfway through my water! Fortunately I was able to get a quick refill from a friend standing nearby.

The ‘start loop’ for Huntsville is basically about 1/2 mile of doubletrack before it drops into a mile or so of fast, mostly downhill singletrack.

I didn’t particularly want the hole shot, but I definitely did not want to get too far back. When the whistle blew, I just pedaled. Not too hard, but just how much I wanted. Low and behold, I’m in the lead with the hole shot and I didn’t really even want it! (I’ve said that before!)

Hole Shot

Hole Shot

We were flying through the singletrack. This first segment is a lot of fun and I was pushing pretty hard. There were about 4 of us in a pack and we had gapped the next group already. The riders with me were urging me on so as not to lose the gap.

I was running hot and I knew I couldn’t keep up this pace. I let one of the guys around and cooled a little. Miguel A was behind me, asking for a pass towards the bottom. I knew the bridges were coming so I called out a ‘Not now’ but it was enough to take me out of my zone. A slight mental lapse as I hit the bridge and my wheel slid out. Down I went…

Crash!

Crash!

Crashing on a bridge is a scary thing… Fortunately it turned out alright. I banged my hip and it took me a couple of seconds to locate my sunglasses, but I was able to hop back up on the bridge and keep going. The gap we had was now gone, but I was still in 2nd as the group I was with had to stop. My bike was on the bridge and Miguel had dropped his chain.

I jumped on the bike and kept going. The adrenaline from the crash really spiked my heart rate and as it started to wear off, I knew I was going to have to really dial it back for a bit. Once off the bridge and onto a little climb I eased over and 8 guys came around. From 2nd to 9th in 3 seconds time.

In 9th Place

In 9th Place

At this point I’m redlined and had been a while. Which meant I was going to have to recover a bit, and here I was at the bottom of one of the long climbs. I settle in and just start working on smooth, relaxed, efficient pedaling to give me a chance to recover.

Beach balls make fitting warning signs for upcoming sand traps

Beach balls make fitting warning signs for upcoming sand traps

I give up another place and find myself in 10th. The good news is that by the time I crest the climb, I have my heart rate a bit under control and I’ve recovered somewhat. The next section of trail is again mostly downhill. I take this opportunity to further recover, but make good time as well. Again focusing on efficiency more than being too concerned with place and effort.

I stick with the last couple of places that had passed me and once the trail begins climbing again, I start reeling them in. I make up a couple of positions and continue to work on closing the gap to the next ones.

Hard left coming up!

Hard left coming up!

Another downhill segment, more rooty and technical than others and I really open it up, laying off the brakes and just letting the Niner run. I quickly close the gap on a couple more positions and get around one in the long “Fenceline” doubletrack climb.

Reeling in Michael C

Reeling in Michael C

As we drop back into the singletrack, we’re about 2/3rds of the way done and I’m starting to feel pretty good. This is how I could have been feeling the whole race if I hadn’t gone out a little too hard in the start. Need to pay attention to that for the next race!

"You've got to be kidding me!!" - Jeff J

“You’ve got to be kidding me!!” – Jeff J

I make another couple of passes in the last gradual climb and know that all that is left is the final downhill segment. 4ish minutes of sandy, rooty, twisty, turny downhill. A real fun segment! I concentrate on riding cleanly, but riding hard as well.

There is one final gut check punchy climb at the very end. Wanting to get the pain of that one over as quickly as possible I light up my remaining matches and blast up the powerline climb with all I have left. After that, it’s a little more downhill to the finish which I focus on riding cleanly to avoid any possible crash at the end.

I roll across the finish in 5th place. I was really hoping for a podium but the late addition of some unknown Houston ringers and strong rides by Sean and Miguel bumped me to 5th. I was disappointed, but it was a fun race. While Huntsville is very sandy and there aren’t really any major technical features, the trail as a whole is a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the ride!

Race Videos:
Vimeo
YouTube

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 167 lbs
Bike weight: 26.5 lbs
Race Time: 1:30PM
Nutrition: Oatmeal & coffee, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before race, 1 water bottle during race
Weather: Humid and overcast, 91 degrees
Dress: Bibs and short sleeve jersey
Week lead in: Normal Tuesday and Thursday Interval workouts, Saturday Openers
RPE: Rode hard, felt great, 100%
CTL: 44.4
TSB: -4.1 (steady)

CTS Field Test – August Road HRM Test

CTS Field TestI’s been 2 months since I did my last field test and as I’m planning on trying to ramp up my ride time again, I felt it was good to do another field test.  Hopefully this will give me a good baseline for the next couple of months of riding.

I haven’t been getting much saddle time over the past couple of months so I really expected my test to come out pretty close to the last time, or slightly worse.

The Nitty Gritty:
Weigh In: 164 lbs
Test Time: 9AM
Nutrition: Oatmeal & coffee, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before ride, 1/2 water bottle during ride
Temp: 90 degrees
Humidity: 70% (!)
Wind: None!
Dress: Bibs and short sleeve jersey
Last ride: 2 days prior
CTL: 33.4
TSB: -7.1 (falling)

Time Dist Avg Spd Avg HR Max HR Cadence
8:00 2.78 20.8 173 181 97
7:58 2.78 20.9 173 181 94

A couple of observations: 1) I went faster. 2) HR increased somewhat.

Photos from Dirt Remedy

Last week I made it out for the local short track series race at City Park (Emma Long). The format is a timed short lap race, with each lap being about a mile in length. The B race is as many laps as you can begin* within 45 minutes.

The race is held at the most technically challenging trail around Austin and is the location where I achieved my one and only 1st place finish at El Deguello last November.

This is a true mountain biking course and I am very excited for the local race series. I just wish I could make more of the races. Being on Tuesday nights, it makes it impossible for me to make more than a couple of the race nights.

At any rate, I entered both the C and B races. The C race was going well for me, with my pacing along with the leader until about 2/3’s of the way through the race and I got a large gash in my tire.

Fortunately, I was able to hustle over to the guys at ATX Bikes, who were able to plug the gash and allow me to ride in the B race as well.

I didn’t really know what to expect in a ‘higher’ category of racing, so I went out a little conservative. I ended up mid pack or so and in the thick of things in the bottlenecks of the trail on the first lap.

My first lap had me at about 9:30 whereas the rest of my laps were in the 8 minute range. Next time out I’ll push a bit harder on the sprint to the trail to get a bit further up in the pack and hopefully avoid more of the traffic.

In the end I finished 11th of 20 ‘true’ B racers (there were about 10 A racers who started with the B racers). A mid pack finish in my first higher cat race, and I’ll take it =)

I really enjoyed the race and am planning on getting out for the next race next week. Unfortunately that will be the only other race of the series that I’ll be able to make.

Here’s a few pics by J. A. Hicks Photography.

Road HRM Testing

Well, the spring races are done and with my wife’s upcoming recital, and work overload, I’ve been completely swamped with things to do. I haven’t been on the bike in 10 days, which hasn’t happened since January.

Obviously that isn’t for lack of want, just lack of time! As usual!

With the break, I decided to go out for a max HR test today. I used the Time Crunched Training Plan’s CTS Field Test, which is basically a warm up followed by 2 8 minute all out efforts.

As I was rolling out, I could tell that I hadn’t been on the bike in over a week. While legs were fresh, things felt a little rusty and the warm up allowed me to loosen everything up.

The one down side to doing the Field Test here by the house is that Bee Caves is hilly. Well, gradually hilly, but not all flat as would be ideal. I had picked out a section of the road where I could do most of my 8 minutes with as little steeper descents and inclines.

It was a little hard getting into the groove. Again, just felt sluggish from being off the bike. Anyway, my road segment worked out pretty well, although the final 30 seconds or so of the effort are on a pretty good incline. Good thing that I planned to really push as hard as possible during the final 30 seconds anyway!

The only fail of the test was that when I hit the Lap button on my Garmin, it put in a location marker to auto-lap the next time I was there. On my 2nd attempt, I was riding faster than the first and so my auto-lap lapped me at 7:45 instead of 8:00. Oh well!

Here’s the breakdown:

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 158 lbs
Test Time: 11AM
Nutrition: Oatmeal & coffee, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before ride, 1/2 water bottle during ride
Temp: 80 degrees
Humidity: 75% (!)
Wind: SSW 4mph (negligible)
Dress: Bibs and short sleeve jersey
Last ride: 9 days prior
CTL: 45.4
TSB: 24.8 (rising)

Time Dist Avg Spd Avg HR Max HR
8:00 2.74 20.5 171 176 98
7:45 2.74 21.2 170 174 98

Given that info, my target HR zones going forward based on 171 AVG HR:

Workout Name % of CTS HR HR Intensity Range (BPM)
Endurance Miles 50-91 86-156
Tempo 88-90 150-154
Steady State 92-94 157-161
Climbing Repeat 95-97 162-166
Power Interval 100+ 171-max

E2 Multisports Zones

Zone % of LTHR HR Intensity Range (BPM)
Zone 1 65-78 111-133
Zone 2 78-89 133-152
Zone 3 89-93 152-159
Zone 4 93-99 159-170
Zone 5 100+ 171-max

Warda Race Report

Bluff Creek Ranch in Warda, Texas is one of those trail destinations I just hasn’t made it out to yet. From what I knew about it from hearsay and a couple of videos, the trail wasn’t really my style. Pretty flat, exposed, un-technical, and wide open.

My assumptions were confirmed when I made it out to pre-ride the course with Kirby on the Thursday before the race. The course was an all out hammerfest and I’m not quite sure how anyone would say it isn’t. I’d like to know what exactly a hammerfest is, if it isn’t Warda!

Early in the season, I had expected to skip Warda for this very reason. But with still needing to get more races to get my 8 races for the series, and not knowing what I’ll be able to make in the Fall, I decided to do the race. Scheduling turned out to make it not a bad day for me to be away, so I felt compelled to go.

Looking at pre-registrations, it looked like some of the top dogs might be passing on the race, so that somewhat fueled my excitement to go to Warda. But that excitement was mis-placed as pretty much everyone showed up for this race, including some additional roadie ringers that I’ll get to in a moment.

My hopes of placing in the top 5 were soon replaced with hopes of finishing in the top 10.

So far in 2013, we have had exemplary weather. With the exception of a rainy and muddy Rocky Hill Roundup, the weather has been generally perfect. No temps in the 90’s, often clear, beautiful 70 degree weather.

Warda deviated from that just a little. Fortunately for us Cat 3 racers, we got to start early in the day as it turned out that many new high temp records were set on this day. Coupled with the heat, it was very humid. I was very thankful that we were getting to go early for this race.

I arrived at the venue in plenty of time to prep up. Warm up went fine and I felt primed and ready to go at the start.

There were 38 in our field, and since I am in the top 10, I was also fortunate to get called up to start on the front line. This is the first front line start I’ve gotten since Mellow Johnny’s!

Sadly, on this course, a front start is only partially helpful. The ‘start loop’ is over a mile long and all of it is easy passing. Even when you get to the single track, there are ample opportunities for passing if you are so inclined.

At the start line, I saw some unfamiliar faces. Many of them sporting that gaunt roadie look. I knew what was coming. Those guys were going to blast the open areas. Hey, more power to ’em, I wasn’t going to burn myself out on the start loop and I knew it.

The whistle blew and the racers were off. Sure enough, the roadies took off. I, and some of my smart brethren, let them go.

Off the line

Off the line

In addition to the heat, today also happened to be a particularly windy day. With winds gusting to over 20mph. The initial start goes with the wind, but it soon does a 180 right into the wind.

Here, I took a lesson from my roadie friends, and found a nice wind blocker to lead me into the wind.

Roadie style!

Roadie style!

We were riding about 20mph on loose gravel into a 15mph headwind. I drafted off of the guy in front of me, working to save some energy before the fun really begins. A couple more roadies charged by the pack and worked their way towards the front.

We all hit the singletrack within 15 seconds of each other and I went in around 10th place. Steve C & David C were right in front of me. We were cruising through the twisty section and I was focusing on riding smoothly more than pounding it out.

Kirby W

Kirby W

It wasn’t long when I came upon Kirby W on the side of the trail. He hopped back on as I passed. I asked what happened and he mentions that one of the roadies had endo’d right in front of him, causing him to topple as well.

The roadie was in front of me and I rode behind him for quite a ways. Several times in the twisty section, he nearly washed out, with his rear tire breaking free. He nearly went down when going for an unsafe pass on David C in a short open section when he hit a log.

Watch that log!

Watch that log!

At any rate, other than riding kinda sketchy, he was riding pretty strong and fast through the singletrack. I concentrated on riding smoothly and spending as little energy as possible through the tight turns and little up and downs.

We managed to overtake 3 more class riders in the single track. Either a roadie in the sketchy turns, or someone who had went a little too hard in the start loop and was paying for it in the single track.

Hammer time!

Hammer time!

We soon popped out into the open and it was time to hit the gas. Well, as much as I can hit the gas at least. Of course, here is another section where the roadies shine. It’s smooth, flat, and wide open. I do my best to draft off of David C while Kirby comes around and heads out.

One saving grace of this section is that when it drops back into the trees, it’s the best part of the course. A short downhill segment that is a lot of fun to ride. Of course, if you can say there is anything technical on this course, this is it and it is here that I am not surprised to find one of the roadies clinging to the hillside.

Roadie down!

Roadie down!

I throw out a quick ‘Are you all right?’, to which he replies ‘Yes’, which is good because I didn’t want to have the moral dilemma of stopping or waiting until I see a course marshall! (Just kidding, I would have gladly stopped!)

The fun downhill is short lived and we again pop out into a field for another long section out in the open. It is a short loop of a hay meadow and then we get to head for the only climb of the course. It is relatively short so I just suffer up it and turn the corner.

Climbing the hill

Climbing the hill

After a short, sketchy down and some navigating some trees, we again pop out for a long 1 mile loop around another field. I am again passed by another roadie. I draft off of him for a while until we turn sideways to the wind, where the gusts break my will and I let him go.

Drafting like a Pro/Cat 1/2!

Drafting like a Cat 2 roadie!

Clicky this link to see road race results for this Cat 2 road racer!

At this point, we’re about 80% of the way through the course and there’s mostly all out hammer the rest of the way. I can tell I’ve burned a lot of my matches despite my attempts to conserve energy. I fade a bit and lose a little of my fire as I figure I’m pretty out of catching anyone else in my group and also have a long lead on anyone behind me. Those big fields give you the opportunity to see anyone who is +/- 1-2 minutes of your position.

I make my way through the last little interesting part of the course, the BMX area and the Roller Coaster. Unfortunately, I’m too drained to really pin it through here and don’t make great time.

As I come out of the Roller Coaster and pop out onto yet another half mile of wide open, I see another from my group. Miguel A is a strong rider and I’m surprised to see him. I’ll later learn he had crashed and that was why I was able to catch up.

At any rate, I latch on. We have another half mile of wide open, into the 15 mph headwind. I grab his wheel and draft, with plans of making it a final sprint finish. Miguel senses my plans and he really starts to hammer. As we near the final stretch, he really puts the hammer down and pushes our pace upwards of 24mph. We’re cooking!

The final little bit is a hard left on very loose gravel. Taking that turn at 20mph is suicide and Miguel pays for it. His wheels wash out and he goes down hard. As I happens, I see his rear end washing out and I think to myself that I am going to go down too. I veer right and roll over his rear wheel and across the course ribbons. Fortunately nobody was standing there and I was able to recover without crashing into anyone.

Miguel goes down hard at 20mph

Miguel goes down hard at 20mph

I roll across the finish in 7th place. The post-race festivities were great. Free Shiner beer and BBQ.

Race video here: Warda Mountain Bike Race Video

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 158 lbs
Bike weight: 25.8 lbs
Race Time: 10AM
Nutrition: Oatmeal & coffee, 1 honey stinger 15 mins before race, 1/2 water bottle during race
Weather: Clear and windy, 85 degrees
Dress: Bibs and short sleeve jersey
Week lead in: Normal Tuesday Interval workout, Thursday pre-ride at about 85% pace
RPE: Rode hard, felt great, 100%
CTL: 53.5
TSB: 0.4 (steady)

Addendum: I should state that I do not have anything against roadies or really fit folks. I’m just giving a hard time, as I always do. Roadies amaze me. I don’t have the will to do what they do and I’m just jealous =)