Dam Loop, Dirt Remedy and Feeling Sluggish

View of Austin

View of Austin

On Father’s Day, I snuck out in the wee hours of the morning and did my first ever ‘Dam Loop’, a 42 mile loop around the Lake Austin. It’s a pretty popular route for the roadies and I had been wanting to try it out, but just hadn’t taken the time. Typically when I have 3 hours to ride, I’ll go hit some good dirt somewhere, but a neighbor talked me into a road ride this morning.

We took it pretty easy, keeping effort well below threshold. I hadn’t done a road ride like this so I wasn’t sure what to expect really. So a nice and easy ride worked out well. In the end it was an enjoyable ride and one I’d do more often if I was kept off of dirt!

Tuesday rolled around and I was able to get away to head out to City Park for the Dirt Remedy races. I raced in both the C and B races. I played it conservatively in the C race and didn’t really push myself, planning to save gas for the B race. Well, along comes the B race and after the first lap, I just didn’t have any gas left. So… I saved myself and finished poorly in the C race, but then still had no gas and stunk it up in the B race… Lesson learned, pick a race and hammer that one, or try to do two and suck in both of them!

Anyway, the DR races were fun and I was glad I got to get out and race again. This will be the last DR race I’ll be able to make so I really was looking forward to getting out and enjoying a race at City Park.

One of the cool things about DR is that it really strokes my vanity to have a photographer out snapping multiple pictures of us =) I need to pick out a few to buy to support the photographer!

In trying to keep up with getting my time in the saddle, I headed out for a 2 hour road ride on Thursday. Unfortunately time was running short, so I had to shorten the ride. I went out for a 2×20 in Zone 4 and boy was it killer! I actually stopped towards the end of my second interval for a break as I was just dying! Perhaps it is the heat or humidity, but whatever it is, it sucks!

I really hope I get my legs back soon! Only 4 more weeks until ORAMM!

Oh, and I noticed this lovely piece of fortune while swapping out my rear brake pads before Dirt Remedy on Saturday:

Another chainstay bites the dust!

Another chainstay bites the dust!

Maybe if I would stop treating my lightweight race bike like a beefy all mountain bike I’d stop having to replace the chainstay every 6 months…

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 =)

Shredding (tires)

Not too much to report this week. Had a couple of road rides to keep the training going and then tried for a couple of laps at Pace Bend on Saturday.

Roadie Cooper is a roadie

Roadie Cooper is a roadie

I found this pretty interesting. When I went out for my ride last Tuesday, there were numerous contrails all heading nearly directly west. I found it amusing.

Head west, young man!

Head west, young man!

Unfortunately on the first drop from the top of Well Worth It, I heard the all too familiar PSSSSHHHH of a sidewall tear. I try for a little bit to see if the Stan’s will seal it, but to no avail. Putting any amount of pressure in the tire noisily blows out the Stan’s sealant. I decide to put my tube in before I use all of my CO2. I get the tube in and begin airing up. Everything looks good until the tire starts violently loosing pressure again… Uh oh… Did I just noob it up and forget to check for pokey things stuck in the tire? Yup, probably so.

At this point, it doesn’t matter because I only have the one tube, and only 1, now empty, can of CO2. Looks like I’ll be hiking out!

Good thing it was a beautiful day, and fortunately it only ended up being about a mile and a half hike.

I am mostly disappointed with my lack of getting to ride. I was going to go for 2 laps at high tempo to try to give myself an idea of what a CAT2 race would be like.

I had been talking with Kirby just that morning about sidewalls, tires, and my need to get some new rubber on my wheels. According to Strava, my current tires have 950 miles on them. That’s 950 hard rocky, sharp, Texas hill country limestone miles. I’m actually pretty impressed they have lasted this long!

Stans fail

Stans fail

I actually already had new replacement tires in the garage, ready to go, for when this time came. My Ignitor on the front still shows a fair bit of wear left so I’m tempted to leave it on and only replace the rear Crossmark. I guess we’ll see how much time I have this week for doing a tire swap and setup.

So this coming Saturday is the race at Bluff Creek Ranch in Warda. It’s going to be a challenging course for me as it has little elevation change, and appears to be an all out hammerfest. Winning times last year come in around the 35 minute mark. That’s crazy! Averaging 14mph on a mountain bike trail is a little excessive.

I have never ridden out there and am going to try to get out for a pre-ride this coming Thursday, so I guess I’ll be more educated soon!

Not Solavaca

Another race is in the books, and another race I was forced to miss. It’s not a huge surprise and was expected although I had been hoping for some miracle to manage to make the race.

I did however manage to get away for a long, local ride. I again headed for Barton Creek Greenbelt, riding to the trail from the house to get some added miles in.

We had gotten some rain this week, but it had been a few days so I expected the trails to be in pristine, ‘hero dirt’ shape. Unfortunately, I was a little wrong and in for some mud, downed trees and sometimes slippery conditions.

This was bone dry a week ago

This was bone dry a week ago

Whatever it was that I had last week, I definitely did NOT have it this week. I could tell within 10 minutes of starting my ride that my legs were not feeling great and that it was going to be a little bit of an off ride. This week has been very stressful with some work projects and other stresses, leading to a few nights of much less sleep. Additionally, I put in 2 good, hard interval road rides this week so that likely impacted my ‘freshness’.

Once I hit the trailhead, I again lowered tire pressure in anticipation of going for a dab free Mulch Hill climb and a PR. My first approach stalled out rather quickly as my line from last week had been obliterated in the hard rains earlier this week. The heavy rain had really impacted this portion of the hill so I had to re-strategize.

My next attempt didn’t fare much better, but I did get further than the first attempt. I rolled back to the bottom and gave it a 3rd try. While I made it above my usual stall out point, I did stall out again. I waved the white flag for today and carried on.

This would be the first of several areas that I saw that the heavy rains had washed/changed the lines. Much of the skree/light chunder was washed from the trails and could be found in a nice soft and loose pile at the bottom of segments. The edges were still soft, the valleys were overly tacky/squishy. Realistically, the trails needed probably 1 more day to dry out to ‘Hero Dirt’ status and it’ll be several days if not weeks before the newly displaced skree and chunder is packed in and/or pushed to the outside of bottoms.

It became pretty apparent that any PRs were going to be unlikely for the day due to the changed trail conditions, and the fact that I wasn’t quite feeling 100%.

At any rate, I had decent times up to Travis Country and headed into Cheese Grater. Just past the short cut, there was a large oak that had fallen across the trail. There won’t be any PRs on full Cheese Grater in either direction until the tree is cleared. I suppose you could take the short cut to avoid the downed tree, but where’s the challenge it that?!

Downed Tree on Cheese Grater

Downed Tree on Cheese Grater

Next up was Pump House Down. I did go for a PR on this part and did manage to improve my best time by about 6 seconds. It’ll take another 8 second improvement to break top 10 and a full minute for KOM! There’s a low leaning tree in this segment which has nearly jerked me off of my bike on multiple occasions as it has a knack of grabbing my backpack as I try to squeeze by.

After Pump House, I headed over to Sweet 16, with plans of trying to improve my personal best on this segment, but that was shot down rather quickly. There were numerous walkers (and dogs), not to mention a fair bit of mud and a few water crossings. I ended up over 4 minutes longer than my personal best due to the obstacles.

I then hit Cheese Grater and headed onward to Elastic and Washtub and finally up and out to back home. 27 miles at right at 3 hours. A good ride, just a little messy! It’s also starting to warm up out there and I’m going to have to start carrying more water.

On deck for this week is another couple of high intensity interval days, although I may skip Thursday’s to do a race pace loop at Pace Bend, if the rain holds off.

Bluebonnets in Bloom

IMG_20130331_102017

Not withstanding the issues from a couple of days ago, I intend to keep training as if I’m still going to make races.

To that end, I managed to get in my long ride yesterday, putting in 26 miles over 2 and a half hours. Road Betty from the house to the Greenbelt for a good loop in the dirt and then the return ride home.

I could tell I didn’t ride much this past week as I was feeling particularly spry. I was feeling strong and decided to go for a few Strava PRs during the ride.

First up was Mulch Hill. The loose over loose, chunky bitch of a climb. I haven’t yet been able to clear the whole thing without dabbing, but I feel I am really close to reaching it. When I got to the hill, I let some air out of the tires to help give some grip and hopefully keep from spinning out too easily. I headed up the hill, but there were some hikers coming down. I stopped, went down the hill and waited for the trail to clear. I headed back up on a second attempt and got to my usual first stall point and did stall out as usual. I looked around to see if a better line was had and devised an alternate line strategy for my next attempt.

I rolled back to the bottom and prepared again.

I charged up the hill, in my 2nd to lowest gear, ass ‘on the rivets’ doing my best row boat impersonation. I cleared the first ledge/stall spot! This is the first time I’ve cleared right there so I was feeling pretty good. I’ve cleared the rest of the hill in the past so I felt a strong climb coming on. I climbed up and up, through the 2nd typical stall spot and kept going without any issues. As I neared the last little ledge, my legs were burning and I could tell I was fading out.

I got my wheel up the little ledge, and made the step up! I was going to make it! Except as I came up the ledge, a largish rock was in my path and in my tired state, that stupid little rock turned the wheel and stalled me out. OH MUH GARD! So close! I debated going back down for another attempt but decided to push on and at least get the PR that I was sure I had gotten.

I rode on and was riding strong. I cleared most everything I had cleared last time I rode with one little up. In any case, I was feeling good and not overly winded after the Fence climb.

I continued on with my next sights set on the Travis Country Pumphouse down segment. I opted to hit the road instead of Cheese Grater to stay fresh for my PR attempt. My goal for now on this segment is a top 10 finish, which I feel is within my reach.

I headed down the segment, feeling good. On this descent I felt almost like I could slow time to see the various lines. Lines were almost obvious to me and I was able to make really good time. I easily PR’d the segment, but still need another 16 seconds of improvement before I break into the top 10.

Next up was Sweet 16. Sweet 16 is one of my favorite segments. It is a fast, and challenging roughly 2 mile section that climbs almost 200 feet. It’s a great segment to test fitness and technical riding.

Again, I fairly easily PR’d the segment, beating my previous best by 20 seconds. I’d still like to shave another minute from my time and will be working towards that.

After Sweet 16, it was time for another PR attempt on Cheese Grater. My plan for Cheese Grater was to ride as fast as possible through the endless rock garden and try to look for more efficient lines through the larger rock piles.

11 minutes later and I had another PR!

I snapped the above pic at the clearing at the top of Sweet 16 leading into Travis Country. The bluebonnets are in full bloom!

I wasn’t done yet. I still had 1 more segment that I was going to go for a big PR on. Elastic is one that I have always enjoyed hammering. It is a quarter mile segment that has some good technical spots, as well as tight twisty turns. I hit it hard and managed clean clears on the technical areas and managed to bag a Top 3 finish. A 2 second improvement will get me the KOM on this segment and I’ll be gunning for that in the future.

After all that, I finished out my trail ride on another of my favorites in the area, Washtub and then headed home. I wasn’t shooting for a PR on Washtub, but still got it.

Even after a pretty hard 14 mile trails loop, I was feeling pretty good. Without even trying I managed to bag another PR on the road climb out of Lost Creek up to Bee Caves.

One thing I have noticed over the last 2-3 weeks is that my ‘diesel engine’ is really starting hum. I can get into a cadence and pace and just go, go, go. It isn’t a super fast pace, but I can pound it out, uphill or otherwise and feel like I could sustain that pace for quite a while.

While the diesel engine is running like a champ, I still feel the high octane race engine is still lagging somewhat. I’ll keep working towards improving both the race engine while keeping the diesel engine able to keep up the current output.

Madrone Trail

Madrone Trail Trailhead

Due to circumstances surrounding kiddos, dance conventions and babysitting, I found myself in the position of being in San Marcos, Texas with a couple of hours to get away from it all. After hunting around and asking for tips, I settled on heading out to the Madrone Trail at Canyon Lake Park.

The day was cloudy and cool. Temps were around 51F. I met up with a fellow Bike Mojo rider and we hit up the trail for a couple of laps.

The trail is reminiscent of Pace Bend Park, only with more gnar and less fast and flowy. While there is less than at Pace Bend, there is plenty of flow to the trail. And the numerous rock gardens gave ample opportunity to test line choice decisions and rock climbing abilities.

All in all, I found the trail to be fantastic. If the trail were closer, it would definitely be in my regular rotation of rides. I greatly enjoyed the ride and the company was good!

While this will be classified as a destination trail, it is one that I would make the trip for and definitely would not pass up if I happen to already be in the area.

There is no usage fee. The trail is covered pretty well so will be a good summer ride.

2013 Bent Wheel Bash – Race Report

Well, now that I have gotten my grumpy post out of the way, better put together an actual race report.

The Bent Wheel Bash takes place on the Buck Creek Trails in Abilene, Texas. Typically this is a Fall series race, but with the 2013 change to a year long series, the race moved to a spring time slot.

I raced this course back in the fall and this course became one of my favorite race venues. The trail was fantastically fun with some great technical sections, fun descents and some sweet flowy singletrack. I had looked forward to making this race all year-long.

Abilene is typically a lighter attended race, and leading up to the date nearly all the top 5 riders had reported they were not going to make this race. The fall course was also a favorable course for me, with the technical sections, no long sustained climbs and flowy, speedy descents. With that in mind, it meant I had a very real chance at a podium finish! And if I have a real good showing, then who knows what might happen!

To my disappointment, the race directors completely changed the course this year and removed nearly every last bit of technical trail features. I won’t go into that here, but you can read about my displeasure in the ‘Whiny Lil Bitch’ post.

So on to the race report!

vlcsnap-2013-03-18-15h11m57s219

I arrived at the venue by 10AM, which gave me more than ample time to prepare and be ready for our noon time start. I got everything ready, set up the bike and cruised around visiting with the various racers. I saw that a couple of the top 5 guys had shown up to race. Kudos to them, but that meant I was going to have to work harder for my placement =)

At staging, I counted 20 men in our group. A good number and I was pleased that there were more than back in October. I knew that was good news for the race promoters.

We rolled up to the line and anxiously await the send off.

That's me on the far left, green & white kit

That’s me on the far left, green & white kit

The countdown was called and we’re off!

I settle into 3rd place behind David C (#4 in series) and Steven C (#2 in series) on the start loop. I figure that will be a good place to be going into the singletrack. That didn’t last long however, as apparently our 18mph wasn’t fast enough for a couple of riders. I’m not sure of their names, but first one (John E I think) passed and went to the lead, hammering hard. Steve C grabbed his wheel but David C eased up. I imagine he knew he’d be fine once we hit the singletrack and didn’t want to risk blowing up.

The first turn off of the jeep road is a hard left and having ridden that section during warm up, I knew it was soft and a real problem for a possible wash out. I’m not sure if John knew this because he went into the turn very hot… too hot… and down he went. He took Steve C out with him as well and they tangled at the turn.

Riders down!

Riders down!

I basically had no choice but to go around and take the lead going into the singletrack. I had the hole shot and I didn’t even want it!

We went into the singletrack riding hard and heavy. I knew the first technical section was cut from the course so I wasn’t suspecting anything at first with hammering through the ribbon of dirt.

The corners were loose and sketchy so holding the turns and paying attention to handling was paramount. I kept pedaling hard.

I lead for probably close to 5 minutes and I was REALLY looking for some technical rock to help me out a little. I knew some technical would give me a little breathing room from the pack of 7 or so riders that were right on my wheel.

Damn near gapped the ladder (unintentionally)

Damn near gapped the ladder (unintentionally)

But the technical didn’t come. I finally had to give in and ease off as there was no way I could hold this fitness hammer pace for much longer. As I eased off, the 6 riders who were hot on my wheel got around and kept hammering.

David C powering by

David C powering by

David C was in the lead through the fun little ‘Bobsled’ segment of the trail and I was trying to stay in the mix. I kept looking up the trail wondering where were the rocks? Where is anything except this flat, hammerfest dirt?

Steve C, Jeff J, John E and Steven C were in the line ahead of me. It was beginning to sink in that they hadn’t just cut out the first technical section, they had cut it ALL out. Not only that, but the short punchy climbs were gone too. It was flat, flat, flat and nothing but hammer, hammer, hammer.

Losing steam

Losing steam

At one little line choice section, a couple of the locals (Todd S and Tracy J?) knew the shorter line to take and they got around me at that section. I was now somewhere in 8-9th place and looking at the reality that this race was just going to be an all out hammerfest for the duration of the race.

It was about here that I started violating one of my primary tenants when mountain biking and one that I belt out anytime I sense someone around me is starting to succumb to its soul sucking evil.

I started grumpy riding. On of my typical mantras is ‘NO GRUMPY RIDING’ and I was violating it hugely. I started cursing and sputtering and just generally not having a very good time.

It was near here that I came up on John E on the side of the trail again. It looked like he had likely washed out again and was adjusting something on his bike. I went around and continued on.

I rode alone for a while, passing the earlier age group stragglers.

After a bit I heard riders coming up on my wheel and I knew it was the next group in our age group. It sounded like it was 4-5 riders. I knew I better get my act together and start riding or I was going to finish a lot worse off than I originally was.

I contemplated letting them all come around as I wallowed in my grumpiness, but my better sensibilities won out and I started pushing again.

Mark A, David O, Michael C and I’m not sure who else, were all right on my wheel. I motored on, still being pissy, which is unfortunate as I’m sure the course is actually a lot of fun, it just wasn’t what I was expecting it to be.

John E caught back up and motored by. It was about right here that Todd S was on the trail and going slowly. I think he may have had to end his ride due to a mechanical or something.

It is worth noting that I felt fine. I was basically giving it all I had, but I’ll be the first to admit that my 100% on all the time fitness just isn’t where it needs to be for that kind of effort. I really need those ups and downs, in and out of the saddle changes that allow you those ever so slight moments of recovery in your legs and chest.

Oh look!  A rock!!!

Oh look! A rock!!! A rare moment on the new course

This new route just didn’t have any of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if I only got out of my saddle on this course less than a dozen times total. My rear stayed firmly planted in the saddle and pedals were turning nearly 100% of the time.

As we were closing in on the final quarter of the course, we finally hit a couple of small technical sections. They were brief but I capitalized on each little section and each time put some gap in between me and my pursuers. They would invariably close the gap again in the wide open sections, but I remained in the lead.

Mark A rode my wheel for a long time and I kept expecting him to make a pass, but he never went for it. With about a mile to go in the course he said something like ‘One mile left, let’s finish strong’.

I knew he was right on me and my chasers were still threatening so it was about this time that I started lighting up what few matches I had left. When I passed a straggler, I would gun it to try to put some distance between me and Mark before he could get around the straggler as well. I didn’t want to give him the chance to come around me at the last minute.

I came across one last straggler probably 1/2 mile from the finish. I called my pass and hit the gas, giving everything I had left. A glace over my shoulder a few seconds later confirmed that my chasers had gotten jammed up behind the straggler and I had some space to push on to the end.

Thumbs down on the new course (my opinion only!)

Thumbs down on the new course (my opinion only!)

I finished it out and got 7th in my group. I averaged over 12mph over the course which is hauling pretty good imho for a mountain bike course. There was less than 300ft of climbing through the route which put this course at about the same (or less) difficulty as the entry level trail in Austin, Slaughter Creek Trails.

UPDATE: There is also a write up in the Abilene Reporter News site.

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 160 lbs
Bike weight: 26.6 lbs
Nutrition: 2 servings oatmeal, 1 cup coffee, some fruit, 1 honey stinger 30 mins before race, took 1/2 bottle of water, but didn’t even touch it during the race
Weather: Clear and perfect, 60 degrees
Dress: Bibs, short sleeve jersey
RPE: Went hard off the gun, eased up through ‘meat’ of the course, burned hard through the finish. Still not quite feeling 100% in the cardio category.
CTL: 42.8
TSB: -13.8 (rising)

Rocky Hill Roundup Race Report

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Well, here it is!  The first race of the year was this past weekend and I was hardly able to contain my anxiety.

Training rides for the week were to include a rest day, followed by intervals on Thursday.

For my day off the bike, I actually had a bike fitting scheduled at Bicycle Sport Shop.  I took the rig in and just wanted to have the confirmation and confidence that my current setup was ideal for my riding.  I didn’t really have any specific issues with my ride, and actually I am very comfortable on the bike, even for multi-hour rides.

I was planning to start upgrading some components, and just wanted the confidence that I would be getting the right stuff.

At any rate, the fitting took about 2 hours and we went over various things with my bike including pedaling, position and posture.  Turns out Travis was pretty happy with how I was configured, and we only did a few minor tweaks.  We have a couple of suggestions for later which I am going to explore, but did not want to do anything drastic just a scant 3 days before my first XC race.

Probably the biggest change we did was getting new inserts.  Turns out, according to their measurements, that I have pretty high arches.  Some new insoles that conformed better to my foot really helped keep my foot more stable in the shoe and overall improved my pedaling comfort.  As an added bonus, there was less play in the shoe which has to translate into better pedaling efficiency.

I also found out that my saddle is a little too narrow for my sit bones, but I’m not ready to pull the trigger on a different saddle just yet.  For now, I will be upgrading my handlebar, stem and seatpost.  I’ll look towards saddle next.

I’ve already placed an order for an Enve Sweep carbon fiber handlebar and a new Easton Stem. Todd hooked me up with a Thompson Elite seatpost, but I haven’t put it on just yet.

My plan will be to put on all of those new components after this weekend’s Waco XC Race.

Anyway, my Thursday interval ride went well and felt good.  I did take 1 attempt at the Commons Ford 1 Mile PR, but finished about 7 seconds behind my best time.  I know my current PR was a short all or nothing ride so it doesn’t quite equal this effort.  Anyway, I’ll get a new PR on there soon enough =)

Todd came by on Friday and we went out for an easy spin to keep the legs fresh.

Saturday was the Kids Kup and the SuperD.  I took J out to the Kids Kup where she was super excited to do the Kids Kup.

After the Kids Kup, it was time for the SuperD.  There wasn’t a big entry field, but this is something I felt I could give a good run at for 1st place.  I had already decided that I’d put forth a hard effort, but I little did I know that a 5 minute hard effort would impact my race on Sunday.

After pre-riding the SuperD course and warming up, I felt pretty good with my prospects.  We lined up and the Start was called.  I was immediately in last place as I had mis-geared my starting setup.  Lesson learned there…   I was able to get into 2nd pretty easily, but getting the hole shot was no longer an option.

I followed Alex into the single track and held his wheel.  I knew there was a portion of the course that opened up onto the jeep road and I decided early on that I would make my move when we hit the road.  I was going to attack and attack hard to get the pass.

Unfortunately for me, Alex really powered it up on the jeep road as he was anticipating a possible attack.  This caused me to really have to push hard and likely in the end, this was my undoing.  I made the pass, but it cost me dearly.  While I maintained speed and composure right after the pass, I could feel that twinge my legs and chest that indicated that no matter what I wanted to do, my matches were burnt and I was going to be stalling out.  Sure enough, when we hit the last little climb, I could tell I was done, and rather than be a dick, I moved over and let Alex by uncontested.

Rocky Hill Ranch SuperD

Having lost the race right there, I then took it easy through to the end.  No need to risk a crash on the small jumps at the end of the course.  I rolled across the finish in 2nd place.

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You can see a video of the run and read a little more over here: Rocky Hill Roundup SuperD

It was right about now that I started feeling pretty rough.  I was exhausted, more so than I can ever recall being.  I was faint headed and nauseous and could hardly stop coughing.  I could tell that I had really given my heart and lungs a very strenuous workout.  It would be a solid 90 minutes before I would recover enough to feel normal again.

The rest of the day I took it really easy and tried to go to bed early. I was still very anxious for the XC the next day and was very excited about the coming race.

On Sunday, Little Red woke me up about 5AM. I had planned to be up at 6, but there was no way to go back to sleep at that point. I got up and got everything ready. Had a bowl of oatmeal and some yogurt. A cup of coffee and I was out the door.

I arrived at Rocky Hill Ranch by 7:30AM, in plenty of time for the scheduled 9AM start. Unfortunately it was raining, and had been raining for quite a while. It was sloppy and muddy. Due to this, the race was delayed just a few minutes until 9:15, and the course was diverted around some of the most muddy parts of the trail.

Part of the reroute meant that we would be climbing the jeep road for a longer time period. That didn’t really bode well for me, as sustained climbs of that nature are not my strong point. “No worry”, I told myself, as I still felt that as long as I could keep up with the leaders on the climb that I’d be able to hang in there through the single track.

I did my warmup and lined up on the front line for the race. The GO was called and we were off, albeit a little slower than typical. My feeling is that everyone knew we were in for it on this initial climb and there was no need to charge off hard right off the bat.

I started out in fine condition, sticking in the #3 position for most of the first bit of the climb. Towards the end of the climb however, several others had moved ahead. I wasn’t worried just yet as I felt I would be able to make up time in the singletrack where my bike handling skills would support me.

As we hit the singletrack, it was super sloppy. My wheels were spinning and I was sliding all over the place. I was riding on less aggressive 2.1 width tires, both up front and in back. Maxxis Ignitor up front and Maxxis Crossmark in the back. I would find out later that people running more aggressive tires said they felt strong in the mud and did not have slipping problems that I reported. Duly noted and I’ll have to pick up some tires when courses look to be muddy again in the future.

Even though I wasn’t as fast or as strong in the singletrack as I usually was, others were having issues as well. While I estimate that I hit the singletrack in position 10 or 11, I was able to make my way up as high as #6 before eventually being overtaken in the final 200 yards of the course by 2 racers. Just as in the SuperD the day prior, when it came to the final sprint, I just had zero gas left in the tank and lost out.

I finished the race in 8th place. I am disappointed as I really wanted to be in top 5, if not the top 3. My buddy, Kirby, who I feel I am pretty much on par with, finished 4th, and only 6 seconds out of 2nd! It was a close finish for 2-4. I really feel I should have been in the mix with those guys. They finished about 1:30 ahead of me. Was it due to the mud? Or the SuperD on Sunday? Or is that just where I would be under normal circumstances? It is hard to say…

In the end, it was still very fun. My anxiety really tore me up the week prior to the race and I hope that I can get that under control, particularly the couple of days before the race. I need my sleep!

Race Day Recap:
Weigh In: 161 lbs
Bike weight: 26.6 lbs
Nutrition: 2 servings oatmeal, 1 serving yogurt, 1 cup coffee, 1 honey stinger 30 mins before race, 1/2 water bottle during race
Weather: Wet and muddy, 59 degrees
Dress: Bibs and short sleeve jersey
RPE: Rode hard, but felt sluggish
CTL: 27.1
TSB: -5.2 (steady)

Reveille Peak Ranch

With the Christmas holidays quickly approaching, I was hoping to get in a ride with my good buddy, Todd. He was in town on vacation and hauling his RV so we made plans to meet out at Reveille Peak Ranch.

I have been wanting to get out to this trail system for a long time, but it has just never materialized. It has been heralded as the mini-Moab of central Texas due to an abundance of granite slick rock at the location.

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I was a little tight on time, so I didn’t get to experience all the place has to offer, but what I did experience was fantastic!

They have a flow trail there with some dirt jumps and nice berms. Unfortunately for me, I have never really learned how to properly ‘do’ dirt jumps and in my ever present sense of self bad-assery, decided I’d not take it easy and roll all the jumps, and instead decided I’d at least try to do the jumps somewhat.

One thing you should know about jumps, you can’t just do them ‘somewhat’. At least I don’t think so. I believe you’re supposed to approach them at an all or nothing frame of mind. Shorting a jump is worse than going too long, or at least so I think. At any rate, I didn’t really heed that little tidbit and did end up shorting a little double up, which then caused me to do a nice endo smash…

So yeah… I dunno wtf I’m doing when it comes to jumps… Maybe someday I’ll learn how to handle them properly, or maybe I’ll just decide I’m past that stage in my life and stay far, far away from jumps. I have 2 close friends who have severely injured themselves on dirt jumps and this little brush should teach me a good lesson.

I did manage to finish out the ride, but I torque’d up my neck pretty good. I need to pay my local Chiro a visit to make sure things are lined up properly.

Anyway, I didn’t let the crash deter me, although I did easy roll the rest of the flow trail. No more tires off the ground for me on this ride other than the little drops/etc that I have no issues with.

Back to the overall experience. While the flow trail is a lot of fun, the real reason to come out to RPR is for the rest of the trail system. The upper slick rock trails provide a great ride with beautiful vistas and riding unlike anything you can find in the hill country. I put together this fun little video from the footage taken at The Peak.

I put that together using the Trailer feature in iMovie on my wife’s iPad. Easy to put together a fun little clip! The important thing to take away when wanting to make an egaging video is to get lots of variation in clips, keep them fairly short, and have good music and sound with your vid.

As usual, the Strava entry for this ride:

Fall Rides

The last couple of weeks have netted some good riding.  Last week was pretty chilly (for us) with morning temps in the lower 40’s as I headed out on my ride.  Riding the road to the trail meant chilly winds when I was ‘warming up’ for the trails.

Other than that, the rides have been good.

I got a new big chainring after El Deguello.  Additionally the shop found a bolt was flat out missing on my linkage, which yet again calls into question the expertise of my last shop.  I’ll be giving Cycle Progression some shots at my go to shop for a bit.  I definitely liked what they did this time around.

Got in a couple of rides on the greenbelt, and had a short outing to the local neighborhood trail.

One of the nearby private land trails was open this past Sunday.  Flat Creek Crossing is a great trail and one I hope continues to be available on a monthly basis.  This was the location of the Mellow Johnny’s Classic back in February where I did my first ever mountain bike race.

I really enjoy this trail.  It is fast, has some decent technical areas, strong climbs and fun descents.   It is a great mix!

I had heard there were other trails and had been tipped off on one alternate route.  I decided to check out that direction and was rewarded with some great views.  The trail goes along the creek, along the bottom of a cliff edge, through a Death Star-esque trench where I can relive my fantasy of doing a trench run.

It will be interesting if they decide to incorporate this part of the trail in the race loop next year.

Speaking of which, I did hammer out a near race pace loop to see how much I have improved since I raced here back in Febrary.  I was able to shave off about 6 and a half minutes from my race time.  In the 40-49 bracket last year, this would have put me in the top 10.

That is encouraging, but I still look towards making some additional gains, hopefully at least 2 more minutes which would put me into the top 5.