Friday, March 20, 2015

Race Report – TrueGrit Epic 50

Misc mumblings


Having been out to St George a few weeks back to both preview the course and get some early season desert riding in, I knew roughly what to expect.  I’d pre-ridden “most” of the course in just over 4hrs but I’d missed a key section with some climbing and lots of rocks.  I guestimated this section would take ~45min give or take on its own so throw in some fatigue from ~1.5hrs at race pace so that section plus the remainder would leave me just under 5hrs.  I set 5hrs as my target and 4.5hrs as my stretch goal after having ridden with (albeit behind) a guy who finished at ~4:20 last year.  Seemed like pretty reasonable targets for a 50mile race in freaking March.

The 50 mile version is really just under 46 and has around 5.2k of climbing (I’ve seen files as high as 5.6 so….).  Regardless of the “real” amount, I kinda figure that if a course has over 100ft per mile of climbing I’m shooting for a mid-pack finish.  Anything higher is a bonus.

Last year I wanted to do some long and fun races outside our little Front-Range bubble and the Dakota Five-O fit that bill.  I’m not completely sure why I picked this race, maybe it had something to do with not really racing since September.  Probably that, coupled with the likelihood of warmer and drier weather.  Digging in a bit more, I’d heard that this was a fun race but very tech and a touch on the climby side of things.  The resounding opinion though was that it was a great event and the few peeps I talked to have been attending since day one.  Consider me curious.  Make that sold.

This race happens on a Saturday and with the 9-10hr drive I wanted to make sure I could get there, stretch out, and recon both the stuff I’d missed as well as some of the tech features on both the “Barrel Ride” and “Barrel Roll” sections.  Barrel Roll comes near the finish so I wanted to scout out passing opportunities as well.

Strategies...???


The first 2-2.5 hrs of the course is a mix of tight, technical climbs, bumpy "flats" and the descents are both technical with a handful of significant drops and typical desert loose over hard.  I really wanted to keep in front of the riff-raff heading into the Zen loop so my "plan" was to attack the climbs and recover on the flats and downhills.  On the backside of the course, there is a nice 30-40minute (for me) exposed climb where it would be approaching noon and sure to be warming up.  I'd try to ride mostly z3/z4 to minimize my losses and then attack the two climbs on the Reaper/Cove Wash and Barrel Roll sections.  Keep in mind that "attack" has a pretty broad interpretation towards the end of the day.


Fast forward to race day 

and the forecast is for mid/upper-70’s, clear skies and virtually no wind.  I’d used the Osmo PreLoad Hydration as mentioned, I’d planned to go out hard through to the first feed at the start of the Zen Trail (indicated by the Red/Yellow marker on the map below and the big up starting at ~mile 14 through 20).  Save for the pavement section, this part of the course is tight, dusty and technical so I wouldn't have many chances to drink.


Course Map




So despite arriving early to see the 100 racers off, I managed to space out and forgot to put my jacket and pre-race bottle away.  Of course while I'm doing that, they start the pre-race info session and now I'm "lined up" near the back.  Awesome.  At least I'd have ~1mile of asphalt to keep the leaders in sight.

Gun goes off and we have to try to squeeze about 100 racers through an inflatable arch.  That worked well.  LT for about 5min brings me to about 20th heading into the dirt.  Things are going well, fast but well.  I'm feeling good but so is the lead group and naturally my chilled approach has left me behind some people who aren't great at some of the technical moves requires as we ride up a drainage so I'm at about 110% on the first 9min climb as I try to keep them in sight.

That worked fine there but I knew that really wasn't a sustainable approach on this particular day.  I had to be a little smarter as barely 5 miles and 1/2 hr in I'd already spent about 15min at LT or above.  Knowing there is really only one long climb I decide I'll try to stay around LT on the climbs and let the cards fall where they will.

For the most part, I end up not being able to ride the bigger tech sections as they're backed up.  That's fine by me.  Better safe than sorry although somehow I do manage to fall while walking.  Thankfully that's the only time I'm on my ass all day :)



My plan is working-ish


on the long hot climb out of Stucki Springs (~5.5 miles ~1kft) , I'm picking off some of the people who'd passed me earlier but I'm also being passed by the better climbers (surprise!).  It's pretty apparent that some weren't prepared for the heat (that's approaching 80) as they're clearly not having any fun.  Of course at 2.5hrs in, my idea of sweet spot has morphed into low z3 but just let me pretend it's all working out.

Up and down, I'm slowly reeling people in but it's kinda hard to keep track of things as there is nothing to distinguish between the different groups doing the 50.  Not really worried about it as I'm not going to podium but it would help (I mention this on the promoter's race review).

"Attacking" the climbs

I can't help but laugh though as I look at the power numbers.  Ordinarily doing tempo on a climb is a recipe for dfl but at this point I feel like I'm flying.  218W for 7min!  235w for 5min!  On their own its not much but for mid-March and about 35miles/4hrs in, I'm ok with that.

The Home Stretch


The second official feed zone is at the parking lot/Barrel Roll trailhead (the upperleft red flag on the course map).  Thankfully they have cups of Coke w/Ice.  I freaking LOVE Coca-Cola on course.  Of course you end up belching like hell but it's also rocket fuel at this point in the game.  Mad props for having some common sense.

It's also getting damn hot (Garmin reads mid/upper 80's).  I grab a bottle of water to offset the sometimes overwhelming sweetness of Skratch and to dump over my head/down my back.

The Barrel Roll loop starts with a ~8min climb, short but steep and loose downhil followed by approx 8-10 minutes of climbing.  I also know I have about 30-40 minutes of racing left.  By my Garmin, I'm approaching 4hrs so I have to empty the tank if I want to finish around 4.5hrs.

Barrel Roll is a GREAT trail with some tough moves, some fast/flow and enough short punchy efforts to keep you honest.  I was running out of gas, especially on the climbs.  I'd pull away from this one guy on the flats and DH, he'd catch up when things pointed towards the sky.  But... ...he'd also start cramp while I tried to stay just below that point.  I passed through the Barrel Roll Feed zone/timing mat at 4:18 in and had roughly 3miles to go, one of which was on pavement...  Ten and a half minutes later, i roll through the finish at 4:29:04 in 33rd place out of 97 finishers.  I'm happy with that.

Data

Equipment

Fuel




What would I do differently?


about the only thing I'd change would have been to drop the pressure up front a pound or two.  I've only used these gigantic tires a few times and haven't quite dialed in the pressure.  I'm scared to go too low but I think I could have gone lower just fine.


The other thing I forgot was to cut my Skratch mix by 1/4 to 1/3.  Its just too damn sweet after 4hrs.  I did end up drinking more ~80oz plus a few bottles of water but I'd have liked to run the bladder empty by the time I came to Barrel Roll.  Next year?

In this race, I think a full-squish "might" be a small advantage as the Barrel Ride, Zen and Barrel Roll trails have quite a few momentum killing square edged hits and sometimes you just can't avoid all of them.  Is it enough to overcome the weight?  I don't know.

a 120mm fork might be neat too.  It took about 2hrs for my hands to stop throbbing. There's that much chunky-ness to this course.  I made a point of asking as many people as I could what they'd run and it was pretty close to split between full-squish and hardtail.  Those who rode FS said they wanted more travel.  Does that mean they're soft?  I don't know.  Despite the rough nature, my back didn't act up so my fit and core workouts appear to have paid off.

On a related note, i chose to drive home right after the race.  Coincidentally, my hips and back are not exactly right nearly a week later but I think that has more to do with my really smart choice rather than the equipment.


Would I do this race again?

Yes.  the drive is a quick 9hrs if you go 3-5mph over.  Hotels are cheap, weather is good and the course is fun.

Misc...


If you have 13 minutes to spare, this will give a better indicator of the general course conditions than I could hope to articulate.  Most of the big features are missing from the video but you'll get a good idea and maybe it'll inspire you to come out next year...  ???


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Product Review: Morgan Blue Solid Chamois "Cream"


Picture borrowed from Competitive Cyclist

I've been using this product for the past two seasons and change and I LOVE IT.  Why you may ask?  Well, it does what it's supposed to do for a long, long, long time.

 This isn't a typical eucalyptus scented "creme" from Rapha.  It's perhaps a bit non-traditional in that it's wax based and because of this, it's good for rides in wet weather AND is not as affected by perspiration.   It will still "disappear" like a traditional chamois cream but not nearly as quickly - I've found that it's good for at least a 5-6hr summertime ride but your mileage may vary depending on how much you slather on and/or perspire.


picture borrowed from crossbikereview.com

In fact what prompted me to write this is that after (finally) washing my bibs from this past weekend, the pair I wore for the shorter ride still has a small amount of the waxy residue.  Think about that, after just short of 5 hrs saddle time and a "delicate" wash cycle there's still some of that stuff lingering.  I'm not 100% sure that is a good thing but just know that 
  1. it may take more than one wash cycle to get this out of your chamois
  2. it will last for a while
Because it is paraffin based, the application is a little different.  Instead of simply reaching/scooping like you would with the shea butter based creams, you'll need to use your digits to apply a small amount of pressure while rubbing the surface of the cream.  This will warm up the substance and allow you to gather some on your fingers for application.  I'd imagine you wouldn't need to do this if it was say 90 degrees out but I can't validate that.  It feels kind of tacky in your hand but I honestly haven't noticed that once applied.

The fact that it does last so long also means that it's not necessarily easy to remove.  I'll use baby wipes post race to get most of what's left but... ...I only use this if I'm going out for ~4hrs or more so there usually isn't much left.  I did have a spot on our bibs near the chamois that is difficult to get rid of but Oxiclean seems to help keep it in check

I'm out of Oxiclean Billy!



I'm not sure how/if this would work for you odd folk who run after you bike but if you have friction problems, it might be worth checking out.

Pros
  • Long lasting
  • relatively odor-less
  • highly water resistant
Cons
  • atypical (I'm not 100% sure this is a con)
  • more difficult to remove from skin than shea butter based creams
  • more difficult to remove from your bibs - can lead to discoloration on white areas
I've been getting mine through a local dude - Balm Co. for somewhere around $25-30 and have been going through about 2 tubs/season

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Camp Lynda



 Organized by Coach Lynda Wallenfels, the “camp” is a series of rides in and around the trails of St George, UT.  Lynda is a mtb coach (surprise) based out of Santa Clara, Ut and even though I don’t really “know” her that well, is one of those people you can’t help but like.  This was the eighth iteration of this annual event and the plan was to have three good rides over a 3-day span (Friday through Sunday) showing off some of the area gems as well as the True Grit course.

It’s about a 9hr drive in good weather (we saw NO police in Utah until just outside St George) and as you may imagine it’s largely a desert environment – it’s about 1.5 hrs from Las Vegas


 

Before I forget, I have to mention that the drive from Green River to I-15 is AMAZING – google images for San Rafael Swell please!!!






Allegedly there is some nice riding in this area but it’s (supposedly) best on a moto because it’s just so damn vast and vacant.


Anyhow, the gist is the drive was pretty neat save for the ~2hr stretch between Fruita and Green River.

We rolled in on Thursday night, had some sushi and I got ready for a ride the following morning.  Billed as a 34 mile out and back (~3-4hrs), I prepped as such. 

Friday

A group of ~25people showed up at the Starbucks to ride.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but planned to ride mostly tempo to save my legs for the race course preview the next day.  That sort of worked until the group split into two as I was too fast for the slow group and too slow for the fast group.  Feeling good, I ended up hanging out near the back of the faster group (think Josh Tostado fast) and all was going well as we reached the end of the out and back route – which was closer to 20 miles from the start.

Some of the people didn’t want to ride back the way we came as there was a fair amount of sand involved.  Fair enough, I don’t like riding sand that much.   Especially uphill.  So one of the locals said there was an alternate way back that would add a few miles but be faster overall.  I liked the sound of that as it would put us closer to 3.5 hrs.
Well…




  • High temp = 82
  • TSS = 369.1

Sour Patch Kids were a big hit as most everyone was out of food – thanks Andy!  We did loop back to part of the trail but I skipped out and hit the pavement home.  Some Bison steak and toffee cake (that rhymes) got me ready for the next day.

Saturday


After Friday, I wasn’t going to be surprised by anything today and packed for the Tour Divide (at least it seemed like it).  Today we’d be previewing the True Grit 50 course – except for the start/finish stretch which happens in downtown Santa Clara.  The race promoter was there to hand out maps and address course changes for this year.  Neither of which really made sense to me at the time as I was a St George virgin.

As we got out of the car, I was given a big bro hug by Matt (from Chicago) for saving his life with the sour patch kids.  He proudly whipped out his zip-lock baggie grinning ear to ear.

Today would be slightly different as most of the people planned on going out at a race-like pace.  That meant I just had to hope to keep people in sight.  We started at roughly the Blue Flag shown below.




I kept the group in sight for about the first hour or so of the course but eventually the prior day slowed me down and I lost track of both the group and which direction I needed to head amongst all of the intersections.  Checking the GPS with the map against the maze of trails put me further and further behind.  I ended up missing the loop by the yellow marker in the picture above as I mistakenly followed two people who intentionally skipped this loop.  Kinda hard to see but that side loop starts and finishes at the same point and then somehow you continue on through the same intersection – close up below.  I’ll hit that when I come back mid-March.  Curious to see how this is all staked out come race day.



All told that loop looks to be about 6 miles, 1,300ft and ~45-55 min.  So add that to the 4hrs and change it took to finish the remainder of the course, subtract 5-10 min for stopping and route finding.  Maybe another 10-20 for fresh legs and I’m shooting for 4:30 come race day which would have put me in the top ten age group last year.

Sunday


Plans were to ride ~20miles on the renowned Gooseberry Mesa but the weather decided to spoil those plans as well as my plan to take the scenic route home through Zion/Bryce/Capitol Reef.

Anyhow 98.6 miles, 11,329ft in 10hrs 54min was a great end to a 766 TSS week!

It’s pretty cool to see what a few hard days will do to your “fitness” (ignoring the debate about TSS, anaerobic activity and “fitness”) – for this we’ll just assume that the “blue” line is a representation of fitness.  You can also easily spot the increase from the Fruita weekend last year.




Friday, February 13, 2015

Race Weight pt2

The Wrong Direction

I was planning on CX to help me get through the work related potlucks, plates of cookies and dinners with Friends and Families.  But… that didn’t work out (again) and leading into the new year I’d peaked out at ~192#.  Most of the season I’d raced at 185# +/- 2 so we’re not talking about a ton but it was (surprise) the opposite way I’d hoped the holiday weight would head.

Not too many sane people would object to the idea that (all other things being equal) a lighter person could travel up a hill faster than a not-so-light person.  Kinda duh right?

Relating this back to mountain biking, or any form of cycling really, losing “extra” weight would help me get closer to the front of the field.  I mean a lot of other things have to go right but… 

How much faster could I (or you) get?  Well, thankfully there are people out there who are smarter than me and have thought this through:


Now realize that there are limitations to mathematically modeling the physical world but we’re not here to debate limitations of the math used.  I just want an estimate of how much faster I could be if I could race at ~10# (or maybe 5kg) less this year.

Thankfully Katie Compton’s dad told me that I’d be about 5 minutes faster (314 seconds) up a 2000m smooth asphalt hill at 8% grade.  It’s not a big surprise that this time gap rises as the surface quality deteriorates.  Regardless of how many 2000m & 8% hills there are, that’s a hell of a lot of time to try to claw back – and yeah, all things being equal, I’d gain SOME of that time back by being heavier but not enough to really make a dent in the lead I’ve gained over the heavier me.

Side note - Spend some time checking this page out, it’s pretty cool.  You’ll soon figure out that the truth around “rotating weight” and some of the other unsubstantiated ideas floating around.


How do I drop 5kg?


Back on track, a few weeks with the Garmin Vivosmart and some semi-careful dieting led me to guestimate I’d need ~2,000 calories to lay in bed all day and stay at 192.  I estimated that I used ~200cal operating my desk and walking to/from the handful of meetings I had – really surprised it was that low but I guess if anything that’s being conservative.  So roughly 2,200 calories to keep on keeping on.

The general consensus is that to lose one pound, you need to create a caloric deficit of roughly 3,500 calorie.  Note that the 3,500 is a ballpark.  You’ll see that some people get all bent out of shape over this assumption but I’m not trying to plan my weight loss aspirations down to the gram.  This sort of math works for my planning purposes.  There’s some variance around converting your workout to calories as well as some big assumptions that your body digests/consumes the calories in the food you eat.  I don’t know enough to get into that so I’ll just pretend these don’t exist.

Alright, so way back when I’d targeted being 185 by next weekend (2/20/2015) and figured that in order to do so I’d need roughly 400cal/day less than my "keep on keepin on" diet so the target was 1,800cal/day.  This would have me losing roughly ¾lb per week.  Something I hoped wouldn’t really affect my workouts - where I’d get extra deficit also.

Thus far it hasn't affected my workouts but I'm also only really just starting to ramp things up.  Once I'd reached my 185# target, I'd planned to bump the calories up at least 100 leading into the TrueGrit Epic.  This week, I decided to change that to 2,000cal/day since my weight loss happened faster than anticipated suggesting that I'm either not estimating my consumption correctly or that I'm using more than 2,200cal/day.

I’m running out of time so next week I’ll post more about what I’m eating and when so you don’t think I’m on some whacked out plan.


Have a kick ass weekend!!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Race Weight


 As I’ve become slightly more (and at the same time less) serious about riding the past couple of years I’ve gone through what might be the somewhat typical progression of seriousness

  • Nice(ish) bike and Ride frequently
  • Nicer bike and Ride more
  • Powermeter and Ride Harder but still clueless
  • Halfway follow canned online training plan with half-assed results
  • Religiously follow canned/online training plan and get hurt/burnt out
  • Hire coach
  • …present state


Having nice/neat equipment is fun and generally adds to our riding excitement.  Training plans and Coaches help keep our workouts focused so we can crush our 12 “A” races this season – just kidding, inside joke.  All that stuff is relatively easy though.  My N=1 is that taking care of yourself is the hardest part.

As we get older, we’re (generally) slower to recover from our harder workouts/events.  I really struggled with this despite semi-regular yoga, a training plan with rest days and massage/chiro care.  Last year I bought some “space legs” that are pretty neat but I’m honestly not sure how much value they add.  Back on topic…

The backstory

Alright, so last year I had a good year results wise.  I’d wanted to be around the top third of my age group and did that everywhere I didn’t ring my bell (I think) and finished the mtb season pretty strong.  Enough that I bumped that to the top 25% for this year.  

Going from DFL to mid-pack is relatively easy in all seriousness, it’s those stupid little incremental gains needed to glimpse the pointy end of the field that are a pain in the ass.  I’m relatively happy with my power and would be happy with more but in most bike races let alone mtb races, it’s not just about power.  I’m pretty happy with my tech skills and confident that this won’t cost me much ground.  Where I know I can make gains is in weight.

Grad school did me in and I haven’t really recovered – 20+ lbs over 4yrs.  To be fair all my efforts so far have been pretty half-assed.  I ate a LOT better last year as Alison started picking up on some bad habits but was scared to cut back on the quantity as I was training harder than ever - It’s neat that now they can’t see exactly what you’re eating/just the nutrient composition with the feed from MyFitnessPal.

Last year we had a post about some peeps top recommendations for losing weight.  They were largely neat but I think missed the larger point.  So I started reading; you’ve got books like the Feed Zone, Racing Weight and a few others that escape me.  But none of them did a thorough job of getting through my thick skull of what to eat, when, how much and at what stage of your training plan.

Most “athletes” have a peak season or event.  Andy focuses on Cross in the Fall, Adam on Tri’s – mostly in the Summer.  Last year I tried to race a full endurance mtb calendar and then bridge into cross.  Where do you starve yourself when your “season” is nearly nine months long?  To complicate things, this year I have an “A” race in mid-March.

Plan?

A few months back I picked up a Garmin Vivosmart   Fun little gadget that’s like a half-smart watch but if you distill it down, it’s more like a pedometer with a Bluetooth & Ant+ connection.  It’s pretty neat, I can control my Garmin Virb with it, start/stop my music and all sorts of semi-useless but neat crap.  

What I really got it for was to get a better idea on just how many calories I burned when not exercising.  It’s still largely a guess but it’s ever so slightly more accurate than the typical Age/Height/Weight/Activity Level 1-5 scale guestimates.

Why is that important?  Well, assuming I fuel correctly during/after exercise I can then more accurately manage my regular/daily/non-exercise calories.

One of the better “books” I’ve read makes it a point to separate your exercise nutrition from your daily life.  Why?  Well, completely different requirements is the short story.  We don’t need a boatload of carbs while we’re piloting our desk around the office and we don’t need 100g of protein during our 4hr bike ride.  

I’m not going to get too specific because I barely understand the basic concepts (like the preceding sentence) but let me know if you want to check it out.  This lady came highly recommended, seems to know her stuff but the packaging/presentation isn’t quite sparkly/shiny like say Racing Weight.  Truthfully I don’t really care about that so long as you help me figure out what/when/how much… …etc.

It’s still early in the process…


To cut to the chase, I’ve been eating MUCH better and dropping weight like mad while still riding relatively strong – I’ve had some rough patches trying to get stuff dialed in.  At 183, I’m equal to my lowest weight from last season and two pounds ahead of my goal and one week ahead of schedule.  Hope that made sense.

Near term target of a stable 180# for the TrueGrit Epic and somewheres in the 170-175 range by August for the Pierre's Hole 100 and cross.

Thanks for listening

#Istilldrinkbeerjustnotasmuch

Monday, January 19, 2015

The End of This Road

In the beginning of December I was slotted in the second row of the grid, bouncing around based on everyone’s result by a spot or two.  Come New Year’s I was first call up in the third row and finally landing in spot number 21 by the morning of January 9th – good enough to be the fifth call up in the third row.  I assumed I would get the middle as the right side (my preferred side for this start) was full, but nope I slotted in at one in from the left.  I kept reminding myself this was just another race, like any other weekend in Colorado, except this time we had mud and it would only be for 45 minutes.
I arrived in Austin late afternoon on Wednesday with just enough time to pick up my bike from Pro Bike Express – something I will always do now for big races such as this; I never worried about a thing and was just able to focus on the task at hand.  I pedaled some easy circles on a stationary bike at the hotel for 30 minutes to flush the travel from my legs, I was feeling quite fresh.  Got back to the room that night and did a once over on the bike and laid out enough clothes for the morning ride.
Up with the sun on Thursday to make the 15 minute ride to the course – tubulars feel interesting at 40 pounds – dropped the bag, let out some air, and I was off for the recon.  Course was pretty dry with not a lot of lines burned in on the grass yet.  I caught up with some Iowa folk just as I was beginning to push into tempo on the second lap.  I think I went a little too far into my sweet spot during recon and kept having to consciously hold myself back.  I knew I was feeling good and had to remember to keep myself in check to have enough reserves for Friday.  Picked up the parents and had a relaxing night putting sixteen pins and four numbers on my skin suit.Low PSI
9 am      Carly dropped me off at the course around for a couple preview laps.  It had rained a little over night and looked to do some more during the day.  Course conditions were vastly different than the previous day and I could lean a whole lot further in the turns – down to 18 pounds front and rear. The rain started to pick up and I quickly ducked into the nice warm tent to relax.  I was getting jittery and just wanting to start my warm up; I sat down and visualized waiting for 11 am to come around.
11 am   Finally it was time to kit up and get on the trainer – yes I use a trainer to warm up.  I have a very specific workout that takes less than 20 minutes and if I don’t I can feel it in my legs after the first lap.
11:30     Switch wheels and last minute instructions for my pit crew – yes I had a real pit crew, just another perk of Wesley’s service.  Everything was ready, I was calm and focused, head to staging.
11:40     All players appear to be present and there is talk of course changes; you can smell the nerves and tension wafting in the air.
11:45     Chief referee is making announcements and updating us on course changes – barrier section is gone, replace by a swooping right hander into a quick left and onto the pavement.  That was the section I liked the least – race is getting even better.
11:50     The first row is called up – William Iaia, Kevin McConnell and Caleb Thompson are in there, the rest I don’t know.  I road with Kevin yesterday on course and used to race against him in Iowa, William and Caleb both from Colorado, I have a feeling Kevin is taking the hole shot.Start Line Stare
11:58     Two minute warning and I am beginning to ditch my pants and coat, last minute Garmin auto pause adjustment, a deep breath.
11:59     One minute warning, I start my Garmin, and hear Carly giving me encouragement on the other side of the cattle fence.  I’m in the right gear, left pedal is level, hands off the brakes, ring finger gracing the right shift lever.  I look ahead and remain focused, intent and sticking with my plan.
12:00     The whistle and Kevin surges to the front, seconds later both my feet are in, my head up, looking for space.  I keep the throttle low and maintain position until the rise halfway through the chute; road tilts up and I give a few clicks down and open it up.  I surge enough to put me well within the top 10, everyone is slowing and I keep pedaling up the ramp, through the sweeping left hander, and the first road crossing.  I feel someone lean on my left side, I lean back – doing what I can to stay vertical – and shake my partner.  I hear something that resembles a crash and thud accompanied by swearing – I click it down again, rise out of the saddle and try to recover the spots lost.  We are wheel to wheel a gasping train winding through the first set of turns.  I settle in and collect: 11th and I realize I had my old reaction to a crash – GO – my head is back in the game and this is my race.  The first lap is for sorting things out and we do just that for the remaining six minutes.  One dab on an off camber turn between stair cases with my knee and quick decisions to run past people during slow traffic in the grease.  The course is much different than my pre-ride.
12:09     I’ve crossed the line once and realize we have 5 more to go and the 4 leaders have taken off.  I worry about what I need to do, my goal is top 10 and I need to focus.  I consider backing off but have decided to only use the pavement for a brief break and to maintain places on the limestone stairs (you can’t win on the stairs but you can fall down and mess yourself up on that jagged rise from hell).  I get into a groove and start having fun. From now until the penultimate lap not much happens except racing.  I find myself passing people and then getting passed, so the cycle goes on but I keep coming through the line in 11th – I still can’t crack the top 10. Tripod_Nats
12:34     Two to go and an Austin rider and I have been trading 11th spot for a couple laps.  I form a gap as we dive into turn one and keep on the gas and make it stick.  It sticks, until it doesn't, and he catches me, pauses only briefly and moves right around.  I’m unable to hold on and I just keep the pace where I know I can for two more laps – it is really hurting by this point.  In the off camber I see Caleb Thompson off his bike getting all aggressive with his chain – bad luck but I’m back in 11th at this point.  He remounts and I hear his gears really arguing as he tries to pedal up small inclines, I give it a little gas just so I’m no longer in his sites.  Around the pits for the second time of the lap and onto the pavement – little slick and I drift a bit more than I had been, the mud has finally slickened up the pavement sections (note taken).  The second turn of the series of three and Brad Cole is down – I’m in 10th.
12:42     The bell – 8 more minutes of the season – I’m in 10th – I wanted 10th – I need to burry myself in case I can get 9th – leave it all on the course.  I do just that, out of every corner, in every straight, I race up the stairs as fast as my abused legs can carry me.  During this lap I remember one thing – hitting myself in the face with my stem while shouldering my bike up the first set of stairs.  Aside from that moment I can only recall that I was forcing myself to push past limits and remain smooth and focused while driving around the course.
12:50:59  I’m done, the season is over, I’m exhausted with a smile on my face, and my wife is running towards me.  While I was happy with myself I have never seen Carly so happy at a race – then and there I knew I accomplished everything I wanted to and all the work, training, and sacrifices by myself and family were justified.  My parents were right there with her and heard them both praising me for a job well done – something I have missed at the finish line.
The Data:
2015 CX Masters Men 30-34 Lap Times                Training Peaks
It was a long season – just over 4 months – of cross with lots of highs and lows I was able to share with a new team.  I was able to raise my hands in victory more times than any other season, climb the podium at least twice that many times, persevere in races I so wanted to quit, get upgraded to a Cat 2, get horrible results in the Open, quit one race, and cap it all off with my goal which sometimes I felt was going to be out of reach.  I came into Austin with a maybe on the trip to Asheville in a year – now I have to find a reason to not go.  One week of now schedule and I already have the plan nearly filled in completely.  2014 was an awesome season and I’m going to do my best to ride that momentum and push the pace through the 2015 season.

Friday, December 19, 2014

December in Shambles

The struggles of the last two races had me rethinking my Nationals aspirations – the airline tickets are refundable as is the equipment transport.  After talking it over with the team manager – Carly – I decided I just needed to get my head back in the game and realize my fitness is exactly where it needs to be, my head is the thing that needs work.  I’ve been reading articles and doing visualizations that have been helping me out with that, I’m getting that edge back and can’t wait to experiment with my results in practice races in the coming weekends.

December 6th – Sandstone Park – Longmont, CO – The Grass Crit

Last time I lined up at this course it was snowy and muddy but no ice, this time around it was dry with mild temperatures.  The first time around I won the Open 3s race without much contest – this time I quit halfway through with bike and motivational issues after moving around the back of the field for the first 30 minutes.

My rear Zipp exploded a bearing with 30 minutes before start time; luckily Jon was on hand with a perfectly good replacement.  With a new rear wheel rolling on untested tread and tire pressure I lined up in the 4th row on the outside.  Avoided some mix up after the start and pushed into the top 20 on the hill up to the parking lot loops – the lower one proved a bit difficult with incorrect pressure in the rear.  I was breaking loose in so many corners with no way of predicting when while being pegged at red line.  I pitted after the first lap – oops didn't check that pressure either and was riding on rock hard tires.  Switch back after a lap and some much needed air in the rear, but I still was having issues hooking it up correctly.  I battled this for another 2 laps and decided to throw in the towel.

I didn't even through in the towel after the great flat debacle of 2014 – the Jefferson County Fairgrounds – where I switched bikes no fewer than 5 times and ended up with 3 flat tires the next day.  Quitting races is not something I enjoy doing; I’d rather finish last with good workout for the day.  Well that workout wasn't happening either – my head and heart just weren't in it this Saturday.

December 14th – Rhyolite Park – Castle Rock – State Championships

I do well here; rather I used to do well here.  I’d raced in Castle Rock 3 previous times, getting 1st twice and a 5th at last year’s state cross in the Open 3s.  This is the big boys though and all the big hitters were present at the line – even some I hadn't seen most of the season – with everyone’s fitness probably hanging in the realm of perfect for the close of the 2014 Colorado season.  I had yet another 4th row start, opting for the outside spot to use the left lane and power around as much of the group of 24 people in front of me.  Think I ended somewhere inside the top 20 after turning off the pavement – perfect. 

Doing the course recon at noon was fun – still powdery and gripy, with no ice to speak of; this quickly changed at the start of the Open race at 2:45.  On the first downhill, I quickly found out the condition had changed but I was moving through the field one by one and think I made it as high up as 18th with the next several not too far in front.  My top 15 hope was within my reach, just needed to ride smart and keep it upright.  Running the switchbacks proved to be faster for me – but for some reason I still decided a couple times to attempt to ride them.  Just see exhibit A below around 1:20, you get a good view of the underside of my bike (sorry camera guy).  I had some issues around corners trying to find traction and issues clipping in with all the mud and snow in the cleats. 

I also had not pre-ridden the mud pit but had decided to run it – rim brakes and all considered.  The running proved effective on the first lap with traffic, rode it on the second lap just fine, and then second guessed myself on the third go round.  As Kirk put it: The scary mud monster jumped up, grabbed me, and through me to the ground.  I had to lay there for a bit, get my air back and finally managed a thumbs up.  I quickly heard my wife from across the course yell at me to get back up – being a happily married man I quickly obliged.  That was the first crash since Nationals in January that kept me on the ground.  My spirits and confidence were shaken after this and I struggled for the remaining 3 laps with line choice and keeping my speed up.  I finally had some fun on the last lap – knowing that I was completely off my mark of a top 20 let alone a top 15 finish.

What’s to Come – The Rest of 2014

There are a couple hard weeks to come, the search for rabbits to chase around different front-range courses continues, and the formal taper begins with the coming of the New Year.  As of this posting I am starting in the third row at Nationals.  Not much fitness will be gained in the next 21 days but much can be lost if not properly attended to – my entire focus until January 9th.  Well that and hopefully buying a house.

Exhibit A