Thursday, June 18, 2015

Wednesday Double Header

I didn't bother tapering coming into Wednesday but Tuesdays workout did allow me to open up the legs.  Only issue is I woke up feeling every bit of effort and my TSB reflected it.  The alarm went off, the dog was let out, coffee was made, chamois cream applied - I was smart and packed all my stuff the night before, ambling to the truck in the pre dawn hours, still whipping the sleep from my eyes.

I was yet again the first one on scene at the Bowl and I swigged the last of my coffee while clicking the shoes on and ensuring my helmet was on the correct way.  Went around in a slowish circle and by start time there were 7 of us - I vaguely know the names and Jon took one look at me and asked if I was even awake yet.

We all stood around looking at each other, someone says go and we reluctantly agree.  Around some greasy chicanes and up THE hill, ouch.  I was somewhere in the pack, not last and not first and we start the first equalizer.  I get dizzy and eventually get out and back up the hill is goes.  After the marbly off camber horridness Jon is off the front and then off the bike taking some of his human growth hormones.

The next 2 laps continue and I am out front, on the back, always changing it up when the equalizers present themselves.  I don't take glory but I do get first loser and enough stinky Louis-tucky BoD mud on myself and bike to necessitate all the windows to get rolled down on the way to work.

Fast forward 9 hours and 17 minutes.......

Short track time, yeah I don't get there as early as hoped but who the heck cares, it is Wednesday night after all.  I have one gear this time and it isn't quite stout enough to measure up to the dudes that got 1st and 2nd last week.  I take a few laps to see what the CU folk have in store for us, backwards it seems and enough flat stuff to make my legs work like a jack rabbit in heat.

The single geared folk line up just in front of the fast ladies - everyone checks that there bells work and we are off.  The under geared folk (myself included) get out from quick while the more cross geared folk wind up like the Millennium Falcon going into warp drive.  And there goes Han and Chewy, I'm left in 4th closely bookend by 3rd and 5th.  We trade leads as each of us figures who as the gear to allow best climbing but sprinting out of the glades.

I can taste the kidney beans and hot sauce from a bit earlier and my eyes feel like they are going to pop out of my head a la Roger Rabbit.  My number falls off and I think to stuff it down by jersey, great wind block for when it is cold, not so much when it is 86.  I get rad on the rollers and chase baby bunnies and then I finish.

Recovery meal and drinks provided by Jon and whatever her name was behind the bar at Lucky Pie.

You want data from this madness?  I rode a 1x9 hardtail in the morning and kept it dialed back so I could crush it at Valmont.  I rode my singlespeed at night with rpms somewhere in the 300 range at heart rate not too far behind.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Gunnison Half-Growler

Race #2 in my effort to try new things

Despite meeting my goals, this was probably one of the worst races for me in a tactical sense.  Cold, apathetic, lack of outdoor saddle time… …etc.   Most everyone else was in the same situation so it’s really an indictment of my mindset.

About The Race

The growler course alternates directions each year with the 2015 edition heading clockwise.  After pre-riding the couse this past weekend, it starts out a pretty fast ride with the last 8 miles or so having a bunch of punchy climbs, semi-technical power moves and rock features.  I figured under normal conditions that 4hrs was attainable with a stretch goal of 3:30.

Well, lately conditions here have been anything but normal.  My wife told me that this May has been the coldest on record since 1917.  The preciptation has been pretty significant as well.  I’m not going to research it but you’re pretty well aware that it’s been fairly Seattle-esque around most of the state.  So Saturday morning began with a little of both aspects.  I looked out my hotel window and saw a nice sheet of ice on my windsheild.  Local weather reported a crisp 36 degrees and a slight wind at 6am.  The forecast indicated low 40s at the start with a high in the low 50s and a significant chance of rain throughout the day.

Anticipating these conditions, I’d decided beforehand to race with my second favorite base layer (craft coolmesh sleeveless ), shortsleeve jersey, the versatile champion wind vest (rocking Echelon logos – I love this vest, dual zips, mesh back, heavy duty zipper with a long pull…) and PI Softshell arm warmers.  I decided to forego knee warmers as I despise “wet” clothing and didn’t want to rip up my softshell ones, opting instead to use some “medium” embro – if you’ve used this, it’s a warm medium imo.

I ran into local legend Dave Wiens a few times last weekend as he was refreshing some course marking and giving pointers to people like me out reconnoitering the course.  Super good guy and I was a little star-struck but he’s about as humble as they come.  This race is organized by Dave and the local advocacy group Gunnison Trails which benefits… ….Gunnison area trais (surprise) .

In pre-race emails and at the start line, Dave repeatedly voiced that the Hartman Rocks trails ride well when wet.  I guess that’s somewhat accurate but I’ll get to that in a second.   

The race 

begins in downtown Gunnison with a police leadout to Hartman Rocks around 4 miles away.   We averaged almost 24mph and I felt terrible for the SS crowd as there was no way they could keep pace.

The course would inevitably bottleneck at the first singletrack (doesn’t every race?) about 30min into the race. So I did my best to be well positioned heading into Hartman Rocks.

Kill Hill (somewhat obvious but highlighted above just in case) is at the entry to Hartman Rocks and where the shit hits the fan.  Short (roughly ½ mile) but somewhere around 20%, it’s a pain in the ass when dry but after the overnight rain….  Well it sucked.  

I probably overextened myself here (~320w avg)  navigating bad line after bad line with everyone else through the mud.  

Just after Kill Hill is another grinder around  1.5 miles on a jeep road.  Less muddy but rutted, it was amusing watching people try to avoid puddles and in doing so have their front wheel wash out.  Dumbass moves every 30 seconds all so they didn’t get wet.

In the first hour and a half, I can’t count how many times I was forced off my bike either through my own fault or more often being behind others.  Check out the number of times watts = zero on the climbs/flats.  I was pretty close to dropping out at this point as I recently procured a new drivetrain (xtr 11spd $$$) and wasn’t really excited about replacing anything this early in the season.
The point where the Blue line bottoms out would represent the Hail/Snow/Hurricane portion of the event.  Hoping some pictures exist as it was pretty crazy.  Only thing missing was lightning and I’m okay with that as we were in the midst of one of the massive Sea of Sage sections of the course and there wasn’t much cover offered.

Thankfully, the trail composition changes from clay to decomposed granite right around this point.  If you’ve spent time at Buffalo Creek, the conditions are fairly similar and THESE trails do handle moisture well.  When saturated, they’re still slow but they’re grippy

 At about 2hrs in, I stopped at the Skull Pass aid station to fill up the bottles and generously apply some chain lube.  Lots of squeakin and grindin going on around me but my rig was ninjalike despite the mud caked everywhere.

It was right about here that I stopped eating for some reason having only a gel and one bottle of ~2/3 strength skratch.  I don’t think this was a huge deal but it probably did cost me some time near the end Look at the power and RPM tail off the last 20 min or so - 194w NP @ 60rpm avg vs. 222w @ 78rpm for the entire race.  Oooops.  Maybe I shouldn’t have chased the bacon with whiskey?  Or maybe I needed a second serving.

I did really fumble around the last couple of miles on the “ridge” section of the course walking many of the moves rather than  risk it.  I just wanted to get home without any additional damage to body or bike.  Full gas on the last climb and then down likely appropriately named Collarbone Alley to the finish.

Data Things

Time - 3:58:22 -1:10:02 back
Placing  - 79th overall  11th in age group 46 minutes (exactly) back
Training Peaks  -

Some Pictures:

What did I do well…

  • ·         I rode within my limits for the most part
  • ·         ate and fueled well early
  • ·         proper choice of clothing
  • ·         Finishing the damn race in mostly sucky conditions

What could I have done better

  • ·         Ridden with some urgency/aggression
  • ·          nutrition was poor over the second half of the course

 What am I not sure about

  • ·         Did I go out too hard
  • ·         perhaps a more aggressive tread for the rear (Saguaro?) might have helped with the mud at the expense of rolling resistance
  • ·         If I care that I didn’t do well
On to the next one...

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Summer Open Triathlon Race Report

For the first time I can remember, maybe ever, I was both confident and relaxed going into a race.  They say the second night before a race is the most important night and to get a full night's rest and while I might argue that it should start about a week out, more, quality, sleep is better than none.  Thursday night resulted in a quite crappy sleep with me waking up every few hours.  But Friday night, I went to bed a little early and slept soundly with none of the pre-race jitters that usually keep you awake starting at 2am.

I'd set my alarm early enough to ensure I got to the race right as transition opened, only was a tad late and as a result didn't get the money transition spot.  I did, however, still get a really decent one and set up my stuff.  We were told four-to-a-rack, but that left lots of space and I knew from experience that late arrivals would move other, non-present athlete's stuff over to make room for theirs.  Even knowing this, I took my bike out for a warmup ride since I'd never ridden the course before and couldn't drive it beforehand.  It was only a 12.5-mile loop and I had plenty of time.

We had our own lane coming out of Union Reservoir and for the next several miles marked with cones.  But when the road turned right, the cones stopped and I realized I didn't have directions or know the streets so I just winged it.  Turns out, I guessed right and did manage to ride the entire loop.  As I'd suspected earlier, coming back to my rack, someone else had racked there bike where mine would have gone.  Thankfully, he was still there and I had him move his stuff over.

I finished setting up and started putting on my wetsuit.  We still had ample time before starting, but I wanted to make sure I was acclimated to the water.  Or, at least as much as possible given the 54ยบ temperature.  The water was cold and I got in as much of a warmup as I could manage - I didn’t want to start cramping.

We line up to start and I take a left of center position up front.  The horn sounds and we’re off.  I go out hard and strong and eventually someone catches me and passes but he’s going too fast for me to be able to hang on.  I did most of the swim on my own, without drafting, which stinks, but sometimes is the nature of the beast.  About 300-400m in my chest tightened up and I forced myself to relax and backed off.  One of my points of emphasis this year is swimming less in training, and not working so hard on the swim in racing.  Was it a good strategy, I don’t know, but I was 3rd in my AG on the swim.

T1 was a smooth transition with no issues.  Due to the run over the muddy and grassy berm from the parking lot to the dirt road I chose not leave my cycling shoes clipped in to my pedals but I did when dismounting after the bike so in retrospect, I should have just left them clipped.

The bike was uneventful.  Only two riders passed me during the entire loop and neither were in my age group.  I passed a ton of riders, but I stopped looking at age groups on people’s calves and just rode my race.

T2 was even smoother leaving my shoes clipped in to my pedals, but the problem was that due to the cold water and probably the airflow on the ride, my feet were completely numb - exactly like last year.  I ran on stumps to my rack, dumped my helmet, pulled on my shoes, grabbed my race number and was off.

I tried to keep a high turn over on the run and was initially successful, but eventually slowed down.  I don’t recall when I started feeling my feet again, but it was well after mile two.  The out-and-back course was flat, having just been grated, but sported some rough spots with decently sized rocks churned up by the blade.  There was also a massive puddle that had to be navigated.  Only two guys passed me on the run, but neither were in my age group and I believe had started in a wave ahead of me so I already had at least three minutes on them.  The second guy passed right before the finish and I should have held him off, but didn’t.

All in all, it felt like a really solid race for me at the time and was confirmed when I looked at the results later and saw that I’d made the podium, getting third.

Swim:     10:59 (3rd in AG, 31st overall)
T1:        1:14
Bike:     34:29 (3rd in AG, 31st overall)
T2:        0:40
Run:      23:22 (6th in AG, 56th overall)

Total:  1:10:46 (3rd/13 in AG, 29th overall)

Thanks to my wife, my coach Billy Edwards, my shop Foxtrot Wheel & Edge, my team Foxtrot Racing, sponsors GU Energy and Rudy Project, multisport shop Colorado Multisport, for all the support.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Koppenburg “race”

I kinda figured I’d get blown up at some point but most of my problems were my own doing.  Race day was AWESOME.  Great weather (early) with slight overcast, temps in the 60’s and virtually no wind.  We had five people racing in the SM4’s with one obvious favorite (Greg) and two potential good showings (Kirk and Andy).  Adam and I would probably mostly be taking up space. 

I haven’t been training this sort of power (1-2min) so I figured I might be useful in one or two aspects.  One of which was to “help” keep someone at/near the front for a lap or two.  The other was to get the team to the first lap climb in front (a 5 minute job) and then see where the chips fell.  I sold the latter and came close but in reality didn’t do a damn thing.

I haven’t raced this in a few years but the start hasn’t been too chaotic until you near the Koppenburg hill.  We begin on pavement, take a right turn after about a couple hundred yards and then begin a sneaky little climb on dirt for about half a mile where you then head slightly downhill after a left turn.  At this point, the “infamous” Koppenburg hill where the race is basically decided lies about a mile away.

We were lined up about 4 rows back at the whistle.  Someone seemed to “take off” and naturally panic ensued.  It was kinda funny but thankfully the short dirt climb on the full width of the road allowed for relatively free movement – it was tight but doable without much fuss and about 2 min in I’m in a good spot.

Moving to the front, sadly, I couldn’t find anyone from our team.  Here’s where I made my dumbest move.  I sat up (around 4min mark you can see the power drop) hoping to find them.  In hindsight, I should have kept at the front and “waited” at the top.  I don’t know why I did what I did but it sure didn’t make things any easier.  I tried to get back on but between having trouble getting into the big ring and picking stupid lines (too far to the right) I wasn’t able to make it back to the lead group.  I question my wife’s timing but she said I went through 10-15 sec back on the first lap.  Strava(!!!) shows lap#1 at 13:33 which isn’t bad for me riding 75% solo.

After that, I saw the lead group just pull away up the dirt road and I knew it was over.  Luckily I saw Andy.  The bad thing is he was headed the wrong way.  And walking.  He’d flatted the rear wheel I’d given him, something I saw quite a bit of unfortunately.

Near the end of the second lap I saw Kirk pulled off eating donuts and smoking cigars with some dude from Rally Sport.  Kirk kinda joined me for the remaining laps but was teasing me by being about 30 sec up the road.  Pretty cool to be able to take a break, eat, smoke and still finish 30sec up on me.

Every time I look at the standings I drop back another place.   Monday morning shows me at 45th out of 63 people.  YAY!

Coming through the line though I found out that Greg survived my attempts to cut off his fingers and finished 2nd - missing 1st by four tenths of a second and had a whopping eight hundredths of a second over 3rd !!!!

Data Things

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hell of the North - Colorado Style

I had gotten in half a lap on Friday afternoon just after work.  The course seemed smoother as if it had just been graded, though there were still some nasty washboard sections.  Most of these could be skirted by hugging the outside as much as you dare, the only risk being that the road quickly went from fast hard-packed dirt to the dangerously loose and swallowing sand washed to the side by the road graders.

I got there with plenty of time for registration and a visit to the Kybos (ask Kirk what these are if you aren’t from Iowa).  It turns out pinning on your own number while waiting in line doesn’t yield the best results – thanks Kirk for the quick fix.  I got enough of a warm up to wake up my legs and mind, knowing full well that a close to 40 mile race would mean anyone that went off like a shot, a la cyclocross, would be caught by the slow ramp up of speed the group would have in the first lap.
As it turned out that about 2 miles in, that exact thing happened and off went one of the juniors on a solo flyer.  A couple of racers got excited and got to the front to try and catch him right away and by habit I found myself in the first 10 racers at this point.  Things started rotating and I got out front and stayed there for a bit, trying to calm things down to a reasonable pace with 35 miles left, and the junior was still out front by a few hundred yards trying hard to stay away.  Meanwhile friendly chatter resumed in the group and I tried to get my nose out of the wind but stay out of harm’s way near the front – I realized here what I missed about road racing.

Corners went by and we would go from dirt to road, back to dirt.  Saw Kirk and Greg a few different times, Kirk got relegated to the back for disobeying the “imaginary yellow line rule” on the dirt and Greg just looked like he was out for an afternoon ride.  I had a feeling that he was going to be just fine in this race as long as he didn’t get himself all tangled up in the riff-raff. 

Coming into the finishing stretch on this first lap I noticed my vertical water bottle had some unnecessary movement.  I took a quick swig and ditched it at the feed zone to mitigate any issues this might present.  The first set of S curves of the second lap, the right hander was pretty loose on the inside, and I notice the guy in front of me start to wash to the inside.  I had just enough time for a quick brake check before he washed completely out and the pile up ensued; some way this same guy’s leg ends up in my front triangle while I am still straddling my bike upright.  I yank my bike out of the mix and I’m off to mitigate losses knowing that this little split will whittle down the front group substantially.  I hear Kirk ask if I’m ok and I just give a thumb up as I think talking at this point would put my breakfast on my top tube.  I come back into contact and start to make my way up the right side into safer territory and look down to discover the bottom bolt from the offending cage is gone, this’ll be interesting and I wonder if a well placed down stroke on the pedals could just snap the little guy off.  A mile or so later and the problem has solved itself: it is no longer dangling and my bike is now 38 grams lighter; my legs didn’t get the message and feel as if I have added that and more to the bike.

We make the right onto Nelson and four slip off the front.  There is yelling and the pace quickens, the line strings out, and I find protection again on the right side – easing my way up using my out-of-season downhill momentum and clear path to gain spots.  I see Greg moving up the opposite side, doubting he knows what I am planning but let’s see how this plays out.  I make it to the front of the four riders as the group latches on to them, yelling “On the right” as I continue with momentum, and click down the cassette.  The front guy decides this means go right and I end up in the gravel to avoid catastrophe and commit myself to the move, I get back to pavement and kick again and notice Greg is coming with – okay not the plan but this could be fun too.  I round the corner onto 51st out front with a clear road ahead and proceed to bury myself on the gravel – stealing one glance down to see 40 something on the Garmin.  The road levels and I keep the pace high – not daring to steal a glance anywhere but ahead while my legs scream to stop.  And there it is: my limit.  I give a shake of the head and fall back into the quickly approaching group.  Well we didn’t get away that time but the group got strung out and the pace is a bit lifted, I could say the secondary mission was accomplished here.

Things continue to happen here and there but mostly just a spirited Saturday ride although my heart rate seems a bit high for over an hour of riding at this point.  I wonder how long I can sustain this pace and how many more matches remain.  I tempt fate and move to the front while headed south on 65th Street.  I notice one guy up the road a hundred yards and another coming up at a good clip on my right; I decide to latch onto his wheel to see what ensues.  Well we are rolling off the front all non-shalant and no one is following, I’m still just hanging on trying to recover from the last effort thinking this effort isn’t going to last long on that hill coming on Nelson Road.  An ill timed attacked has us going through the corner at the same time we overtake that lone rider, seconds are lost.  I pull through and hold for a bit and give the guy behind a chicken wing, he comes through for just long enough for me to recover, he chicken wings, me and the rotation timing is established.  We rotate a few cycles thinking we might have just made the move, then that hill rears its ugly slope in front of us and I feel myself slipping backwards while attempting to pull through.  He sags back and I just give him a look of I don’t have it today but that was fun while it lasted.  I let myself get swallowed by the group and the hill grows longer.  And now I’m being swallowed by the empty space behind the group.  I stand up to close the gap, nearing the top, and my legs scream.  I sit back down, shift the weight back in an attempt to find some muscle that still has enough left to propel me up this hill.  No luck there, I try standing, and quickly remember after a couple rotations why that didn’t work just a moment before.  By this time I’m at the top and watching the group string out on their southerly procession down the dirt.  I can’t regain contact and resolve to just commence damaged control and get myself to the line without getting caught by the 40+ crowd.  Well that almost happens until the finishing chute when I see the leaders coming up and move to the right allowing them a clear line, the 40+ podium passes me as I ease across the line and stop the timer.
I make a right and stay on course to try and find that 38 grams I shed earlier – no such luck but I did manage to get my half full water bottle back from the feed zone.  I lick my wounds on the way back to the truck as I hack up all manner of earthen material I just ate for an hour and thirty-six minutes.

A great race and I accomplished my main goal of mixing it up in the pack, having fun making and covering moves, all while getting a good workout.  Team tactics could have been more organized but I suppose that is what you get with a quick email exchange the week of the race.  I am Looking forward to pinning on another number at Koppenberg and hopefully delivering Greg to the line in May.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


I kinda dig this course.  Kinda tight, just enough loose corners to keep your speed in check, plenty of punchy short climbs and a few steep ~5min climbs.  Quite a few of the trails used in this course butt up to someone’s backyard.  It’d be pretty neat to have this sort of stuff right out your backyard but probably pretty crowded too.

Last year I finished mid-pack in 4:32.  I arbitrarily targeted  4:15 with a stretch of 4:0x.  No real idea where these times come from but if nothing else it’s something to shoot for.  For the last month or so we’ve been working on repeated efforts in the 3-8min range with minimal recovery or recovery at tempo.  That’s perfect for courses like this and most of the RME stuff.

Da Race

I had planned to get a good warmup in but lost track of time.  Probably not a big deal since we’d have to wait ~10min at the start.  I really wanted to be near the front at the start to avoid the bottleneck that generally occurs as we transition from the road to the paved path so I made a point to get behind some fast people (Ward Baker, Rob Batey…).  I think that worked out well as I ended up with a clean line onto the path and entered the course 24th a whopping 10sec down.

First lap went alright.  Rode a little tight, wasn’t used to the new rear tire but eventually got that under control.  Wish we’d been able to pre-ride last weekend as I vaguely remember the course but there are enough loose/blind corners that I probably would have been able to ride much more efficiently.  The only notable even was that I came to close to some scrub oak and that bent my rear derailleur cable so that it was hitting my spokes.  Stopped in the pit to straighten it out and lost a few places.

Second lap I concentrated on making up the places I lost, trying to keep the hammer down and riding smooth.  Pretty good lap times but I wanted to chill out just a bit as they didn’t feel sustainable (TP would validate this thought – lap1 272w np, lap2 252w np).

Laps 3 & 4 were more sane ( 239w and 224w) but the climbing and passing was starting to wear on me and I did my best to spin in hopes to avoid a cramp and completely crush the final lap.  I picked my way through a group of ~10 people, about 5 in my age group.  Strangely, I’d gap them on the climbs (this never happens to me) but they kept coming back to me when I’d get stuck behind someone.   Also, someone in the neighborhood was grilling some burgers and I couldn’t get that out of my head.

Last lap - I did my best to put some time on the group behind me.  Running right up to the point where you can feel your muscles warning you of a cramp if you keep it up.  It sure felt like I was flying as I was passing people left and right (not in my age group though) but my garmin was telling me a slightly different story.  My power on the flats was less (surprise) and my “burst” for passing was kinda pathetic.  Slowest lap of the day (surprise).

I finished 18th (of 57 – seemed like more but…) and did put about a minute onto the pack I’d been yo-yoing infront of the previous lap.  But, next dude (17th) had ~5min on me.



I’d planned to use my pack for the first 3laps maybe 3.5 (60oz) before switching to a bottle or bottles for the remainder.  One of the neat things with this course is that you’re never more than 30min out from a bottle.  At lap 3, I reached back and figured I had a fair left and would just see how far I got.  I ran empty just after the start of lap 4 but never dropped the pack.  Sadly there weren’t enough volunteers for bottle handups but at that point in the race it’s probably not a deal breaker.

This was the first race (and 2nd ride) on my new hoops, drivetrain and rear tire.–

·         Wheels

o   Light Bicycle carbon 24mm internal width hookless bead
o   DT 350 28h
o   DT revolution spokes

·         Drivetrain

o   Xtr 9000 2x11

·         Tread

o   Front – Maxxis Ardent Race 2.25 @24#
o   Rear – Schwalbe Thunder Burt 2.1 @ 28#

This is a DAMN light wheelset (IMO) at under 1,600g w/ tape & valves and with the Thunder Burt coming in at ~515g, the fully built rear wheel comes in around 1,900g (w/ sealant).  But…. This tire has some tradeoffs.  Like most tires, it doesn’t do that well on kitty litter corners.  It doesn't add much braking.  Some of that may be tire pressure as I haven’t had time to dial that in.  I ran ~25# for BOD and felt it rolling on some corners,  I’d guess the sweet spot under my fat ass (~185-190 w/ gear) is probably around 26.5-27#.

Having a 40t rear cog was a blessing, esp on the final lap.  There is the possibility that I may have gone faster without (?) but it was nice to be able to sit with a reasonably high cadence while others were forced to stand.

What went well

·         Positioning – I’m not going to podium here (probably ever) as the lead group was a full 1/2hr ahead.  But like most races, avoiding the bottlenecks is key.  For the most part I did that.

·         Aggressive/Opportunistic riding – as much as possible without burning too many matches early.  For the first time in one of these races, I wasn’t lapped and only two riders from the mens 50-59 came by.  I’m sure the pro’s were right on my ass by the end of the 4th lap but it’s kinda neat

·         Pacing – even though I didn’t negative split, I never felt like I was going to come undone.  Close at a couple points on the final lap (the two bigger climbs on the second half of the loop) but it didn’t happen.

What could have gone better

·         Pre-riding – I’ve ridden here a fair amount but re-familiarizing with the sharp corners, off camber & blind turns could have helped me be a little more efficient

·         Pacing – I wonder if my first lap was too much and if that prevented me from going faster later in the race

·         Nutrition/hydration – I probably ate about half of what I should have.  But… I kinda felt like I was tempting tummy trouble.  I ended up consuming ~600 calories total (~240 from Skratch) over the race.  Virtually nothing for the final lap so over the course of things we’re talking ~200cal/hr which is probably on the lean end of where I want to be (somewhere around 2-250 seems to work best)

·         Passing – There were times when I probably should have passed some people but instead sat on their wheel  (yup, I’m that guy).  I don’t think this would have made up the 5min that separated me and 17th but ya never know.

All told I finished this race 19min faster than last year.  That's a pretty good chunk of time to cut off.  If I do this again next year, I'm gonna shoot for a sub-4hr finish.

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.


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.




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.


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...  ???