Posts tagged ‘mtb’
Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale) took the win (also wrapping up the title for the 2012 NUE series), followed by Ben Swanepoel (Squirt Lube) in 2nd, and Christian Tanguy (Team CF) in 3rd. But before all that, I snuck away on the Cooper Gap climb to try to get the Strava KOM with Swanepoel catching me across the top before the Winding Stair descent. Once we hit the single track, I quickly lost ground eventually ending up in 13th place. Exhausted and happy now!
- The beautiful sunrise leaving the winery
- Chatting with everyone before, after, and during the race
- Riding hard up the Copper Gap climb and leading the race
- The fog across the top of the mountain on the Winding Stair descent
- Sunlight breaking through the fog and rays of sunshine shooting through the pine trees (I think that was near Bull Mountain)
- Getting the chance to see Gerry Pflug climb up a super steep hill on his singlespeed … amazing!
- ALL of the creek/river crossings. For somebody like me who is always thwarted by creeks and rivers on road rides and route planning, it was awesome to be able to just ride straight through the creeks on my mountain bike.
- 6 inch long millipede crossing the trail – I rode around it
- Small deer or fox jumped off the trail in front of me
- Any singletrack that was uphill … especially the climb up to the top of Bull Mountain up steep singletrack through a thick pine forest breaking out into a HUGE grassy meadow at the top of the mountain. I really disliked the singletrack descent down from the grassy meadow, though, because without functional front suspension I got beat up pretty bad on that section ended up in that deep rut both laps having lost control and lucky not to have crashed.
About 100 riders set out before sunrise on a 100 mile mountain bike race. Lightning and light rain gave way to a beautiful sunrise as we rolled out of the winery onto Hightower Church road in a fast neutral section. Shortly before we made the left onto Forest Service Rd 28, I moved up the right side and then immediately followed two riders that surged at the front stringing out the group. As we hit the gravel with some of the steep fast rollers, I tried to stay towards the front but ended up drifting a few spots back.
We were probably a mile into the Cooper Gap climb when I realized that I could make some time on everyone else before the singletrack if I went hard on the climb. This turned out to be a great decision because drilling that climb and taking the KOM was the best part of the race for me. And considering how slow I was compared to everyone else on the singletrack, it wouldn’t have done any good to “save energy” for the singletrack. Even after I rode away from the group, I kept on expecting to look back and see the group closing in, but I never saw the group again after the first few switchbacks.
Across the top, Ben Swanepol caught me, and I was able to keep up with him on the rollers before the Winding Stair descent. As soon as we hit the descent, I thought that I would be able to follow his lines and keep up but this lasted only a few seconds before I nearly lost it on some of the washboard (my front suspension was not working right – almost like a rigid fork – I got beat up pretty bad by the rougher sections of the course). So I slowed way down and kept expecting the rest of the group to catch me. But Ben and I must have had a pretty big lead by the top since the rest of the group, led by Jeremiah Bishop, didn’t catch me until just after we made the turn onto the singletrack near the bottom of the Winding Stair descent.
I knew immediately that I needed to get out of the way so I pulled off the trail and maybe 7 or 8 riders passed me. Then there was a break so I hopped back on the trail and continued to ride as fast as I thought was humanly possible. But three more riders caught up to me and then we got tangled up as I tried to get off the trail. Hopefully this was the only time I slowed anyone down on the singletrack. This section was short enough that when we hit the next gravel road I was able to drill it and pass a few people coming really close to catching back up to the lead group (less than 50 meters ahead). But as I saw them disappear into the next section of singletrack, I knew that was the last time I would see the leaders.
Within a few minutes of entering the second section of singletrack, the riders that I had passed on the gravel road started catching up to me and I pulled over immediately to let each of them pass. A few minutes after that Gerry Pflug (Salsa) came by on his singlespeed. That was one of the highlights of the race for me as I got to see the top singlespeed racer in America grind up a super steep climb that I could barely clear with my geared bike! Then it got lonely for a really long time. Nobody coming up from behind, and nobody in sight ahead of me all the way to the 2/3 aid station. By this point, I had already given up on a top finish so I focused on making sure I got enough nutrition. By the end of the race, I ended up stopping at FIVE aid stations and making sure I left each one with two full bottles. Still, I didn’t get the nutrition quite right because I didn’t put anything in the self-supported cooler drop-off and I didn’t realize how long it would take to get from aid station 2/3 back to aid station 2/3 for the 3rd time. I’m pretty sure I rode about 10 miles without anything to drink. I backed way off the pace to keep from cramping. Around every corner I kept hoping to see the aid station. When I finally got there, I filled up both of my bottles and then took a third bottle that I filled with a mix of heed and a can of coke. This first time through the aid station, though, was the lowest point of the race for me as I realized that this was going to be at least an order of magnitude more challenging than I had anticipated. I went from leading the race to wondering if I was going to make the time cut-off.
Fortunately, though, a number of things happened within the next few miles of the race that really boosted my confidence. First, Zach Morrey (Blue Ridge Cyclery) caught and passed me. Then Rob Spreng (Dirty Harry’s) passed me, too. But Rob passed me shortly before the singletrack turned uphill. So I caught and passed him on one of the uphill sections of singletrack. Then when it turned downhill again, Rob caught up to me and passed me again. We ended up settling into a nice rhythm this way for a long time. He made it to the deep water crossing a few seconds before I did and we were joking about it afterwards that the creek was much deeper than we had expected. The singletrack turned uphill and so I left Rob for a while and eventually caught back up to Zach. I left him on the next long climb and then that is when I ran out of water. I was still ahead of Rob and Zach after leaving the aid station, but they both caught and blew past me shortly after the skies opened up and the heavy downpour turned the singletrack section that I had enjoyed on the first lap and was looking forward to on the second lap into a muddy mess. The mud didn’t seem that slippery, but with several more events on my racing calendar this year I wasn’t taking any chances with all the collar-bone breaking roots and rocks just laying there on the ground waiting to be fallen on.
The rain stopped fairly quickly, but it was 30 minutes of single track riding before it started to dry out. I caught Rob during the final double track climb up to the gravel road (FS-28) that would eventually take us back to the paved road leading to the winery. I was so elated to be on my way back and to have survived all the singletrack that I absolutely crushed the gravel road and paved road back to the winery. In fact, I was closing in on Zach on the paved road, but as I watched him turn into the winery I knew it was all over to try to catch him b/c of the last technical bits in the winery – which had turned pretty slippery after all the 50 milers and the first 12 100 milers had ridden it. Still it was fun to come flying up the last hill to the cheers of my beautiful wife. What an amazing adventure and what a great experience!
Hear is my heartrate data from this year’s Leadville race (read my race report).
Heartrate summary – note the lack of any time at all in Zone 5
2012 Leadville Heartrate data (click to enlarge)
A few things to note about the heartrate data … first, there is no time at all in Zone 5! I think this is mainly because of the altitude because my legs were fresh. Also, I think I may have been a bit intimidated by the length of the race – thinking that I needed to be really conservative. Next year (hopefully), I’ll have at least a few minutes in Zone 5, and spend a lot more time in Zone 4 and less in Zone 3. I know I can crack the top 25 in this race!!!
Here is the annotated map showing where we made a wrong turn that ended up costing me an extra 1.9 miles (exactly) and 5’32″. Note that would have made my time 7hrs, 30minutes, and a couple seconds – which surely would have bumped me up a couple places. Note that the 1st and 2nd place female riders would have still probably beaten me. Sally Bigham was in my group that missed the turn whereas eventual winner Rebecca Rusch was farther back and did not miss the turn. No arrogance or offense intended, but wow those women are world class fast!
And here is our annotated road trip data:
- Day 1 Wed – Hoover, AL to Wichita Falls, TX (795 miles)
plus 43.9 mile ride in Hoover, AL
- Day 2 Thu – Wichita Falls, TX to Salida, CO (593 miles)
plus 30.0 mile ride from Raton, NM to Trinidad, CO
- Day 3 Fri – Salida, CO to Leadville, CO to Silverthorne, CO (117 miles)
plus 32.0 mile pre-ride of Leadville race course
- Day 4 Sat – Silverthorne, CO to Leadville, CO to Silverthorne, CO (89 miles)
plus 107.7 mile race
- Day 5 Sun – Silverthorne, CO to Leadville, CO to Hoover, AL (1486 miles)
plus 7.8 mile recovery ride on Leadville Mineral Trail
- Day 6 Mon – Arrive back in Hoover around noon after driving all night
Grand total: over 3100 miles of driving!
I am very happy to have finished the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race today in 7 hours and 35 minutes in 39th place. I could really feel the effects of being so high up in the mountains (minimum elevation 9200′, maximum elevation 12,500′) so I had to really pace my effort throughout the day. Even so, I dug a bit too deep trying to keep up with the current world mountain bike champion, Christoph Sauser, on the way out to Columbine and ended up paying for it in the last 25 miles of the race. Still, I’m happy and hope to come back another year to try to do even better!
The detailed report
The Leadville race starts at 6:30 just after sunrise to give people as much daylight as possible to finish the race. This meant leaving our place in Silverthorne at 4:30 to drive up to Leadville and have enough time to get everything ready, have a short warm-up, and make it into the starting corral before it closes at 6:15. Everything was going pretty smoothly until with only a few minutes before the corrals were going to be closed, I realized I didn’t have my tools and extra tube. So I booked it back up to the car to get these and made it back just before the corrals were closed.
Because I got into the Leadville race through a qualifying race (the Barn Burner), I was able to start in the first corral. Still, once the race started there were a lot of people jockeying for position. I entered the first dirt road somewhere in the top 100 or so. By the time we made it to the double track, people were already starting to pop from their early effort on the way out of town. I had to sprint around these gaps to make it back up to the leading pack. One other person doing the same thing was Garth Prosser (Specialized), who I had raced with at the Southern Cross race in February. We chatted briefly before the start of the first climb – a nice 2.5 mile climb with some pretty steep sections. Eventually we ended up getting separated with me following a couple faster wheels and Garth making a much wiser decision to keep a nice steady tempo. I wouldn’t see Garth again until 78 miles later as I was pretty much crawling up the top part of powerline when I looked back to see Garth riding up it smooth and steady – eventually putting more than 4 minutes into my time by the finish.
By the top of the St Kevin’s climb, I got a time split of “5 minutes” to the leaders. I flew down the road descent to the valley below the Sugarloaf Pass climb catching a group of about 10 riders. They weren’t climbing as fast as I wanted, and I could see another group up the road so I left them crossing the gap solo to a faster group that helped push me up the last rocky double track part of the climb before the Powerline descent. Once we made it to the Powerline descent, I moved to the back of this group so I wouldn’t get in the way and started down the descent. Most of the riders from the group that I had left behind caught and passed me on the descent.
Once we were back out on the road, I joined a small group and went to the front to try to get a rotation going. This ended up with only one other rider coming with me. A mile or two later, the rest of the group decided to pick up its pace and reeled us back in. At this point we got into a pretty good rotation and started to catch some riders coming off the front groups. I was just following wheels in the pack when we started up a rough paved climb. After we had ridden a mile, we see a large group coming back down the other way! It had most (but not all) of the leaders, including world champion Christoph Sauser. Our group turned around and merged with their group making a group of more than 50 riders as we headed towards Twin Lakes.
I made the mistake of being too far back in this large group as gaps started to open up. Fortunately, there were other strong riders in the back and we worked together to bridge across the gaps to the group as it whittled down to maybe 20 riders. By the bottom of the dirt climb before the singletrack, we caught some of the riders who had not missed the turn. Sauser went to the front and lifted the pace immediately separating himself from the group. I lifted my own pace and bridged across to him as we tackled the first part of the climb. I didn’t know that it was going to be as big a climb as it was so I thought I could maintain the pace. But as the climb kept going, I realized I had to back off or I was going to be deep in both oxygen and energy debt. By the top of the climb I was in a good group of maybe 10 riders that drilled the singletrack. I was happy to be able to keep up with them.
Coming out of the singletrack, there was some rolling double track and some hills that led to me and one other rider, Justin Lindine (Medline Bicycles), entering the Twin Lakes feed station at mile 40. I stopped for the first time, got two new bottles, powergels, and a cliff bar from Kristine before taking off again up the Columbine Climb. I was not feeling great for the Columbine climb so I settled into a slow rhythm. Even though my time up Columbine was pretty slow, I was very happy that I was able to ride the entire climb including the super steep sections in the middle and towards the top. I kept expecting to see the leaders coming back down, but it wasn’t until the steep sections near the top that the lead 3 including Jeremiah Bishop and Christoph Sauser came flying down the other way. Next up was Tinker Juarez and one other rider. I was counting the riders as they came down and think I was somewhere in the top 30 by the turnaround – where I grabbed some pretzels and potato chips.
I thought I was doing fine on the long steep descent back down to Twin Lakes until Pua Mata (Sho-air) came flying by me easily 15mph faster than I was going. This actually helped me because it inspired me to try to go faster. I let go of the brakes and took off! It was a really fun descent – especially with all the riders doing the climb. Several called out “Go Brian” … thanks to all of you because that really motivated me to pick up the pace after Twin Lakes where I grabbed another bottle from Kristine and another cliff bar. I caught and passed Pua telling her what a great descender she is. Earlier I had passed Rebecca Rusch (Specialized) shortly after the feedzone (she had passed me while I was getting a bottle from Kristine). It was really windy so I thought about slowing down to work with Pua, but then I felt that wouldn’t be fair to Rebecca so I drilled it and set my sights on a rider just ahead of me thinking that if I could just dig deep enough to catch him, then we could work together. The rider I found out later was Peter Smith.
I ended up catching Peter twice! The first time was after what they call “the wall” after the singletrack. I decided to ride it whereas I could see Peter was walking up it. So at the top I caught up to the back of him just as he was remounting and taking off. I went to catch his draft and suddenly realized that I couldn’t breathe or pedal because clearing the wall had required just about every bit of oxygen and energy I had left. So Peter easily put 10 seconds into me, which took another few miles to reel back. We started working well together to the powerline feed station where we both stopped. Kat and Katie were there and gave me a bottle of coke and some more powergels. Peter and I got back together after the feed station and worked well into a really stiff headwind all the way to the bottom of the Powerline climb.
I was not feeling well at all and after riding the first part of the climb up to the crazy steep section, I decided to get off and walk/run/crawl up the steep section instead of riding it. Meanwhile, Rebecca Rusch had been closing in on us, and she caught me shortly after I started walking. I decided to try to keep up with her running behind her while she rode, but that only lasted a couple hundred feet before I had slow down and walk. I walked, crawled the rest of the way up the climb and was completely exhausted by the top. I could never get back up to speed and spent a lonely 10 minutes or so just spinning in my granny gear. About 3/4 of the way up the rest of the climb, I looked back and saw Garth catching up to me – he saw me look and gave a friendly wave as if to say “hello again!”
Garth was the only one to catch me through that section, but then on the Sugarloaf descent Sally Bigham came flying by me, shortly followed by Jamie Mcjunkin (Marc Pro – Strava). Jamie had to stop to fix his rear derailleur halfway down the descent and I could see Sally just in front of me so I thought I would possibly catch her on the road climb back up St Kevin’s. I was catching up to her, and Jamie was catching back up to me, and then all of a sudden Sally was pulling away from both of us. Jamie and I were both cooked by this point so we chatted through the rest of the climb eventually catching one rider and getting passed by another – Trapper Steinle (Lifetime Fitness). Jamie descended much faster than me, but I caught back up to him just as we exited the dirt double track at the bottom of St Kevin’s. We worked together and were pushing the pace hard when we saw a rider catching up to us. We wanted to try and stay away so I went to the front to pull and looked back to find the other rider, Dereck Treadwell, had caught up to us. Up ahead we could see a group of about 4 riders. They looked like they were going slow, so we gave it everything to try to catch them, but in the end they still had about 30 seconds on us.
This made for a really hard and slightly disappointing finish as I was pushing it as hard as possible to try and catch this small group, but came up short. Still, just to finish was very rewarding and I’m already looking forward to come back another year to try to do better – I’ve really got to work on my descending. I was losing several minutes on the long descents and a couple minutes on the shorter ones. All those minutes add up! Part of the problem is that when I started racing mountain bikes in 1993 you couldn’t just bomb over rocks at 40mph. You had to pick and choose a good line through the rocks. With these new 29ers, you can just roll right over anything. I have to get over the fear I have of losing control and/or flatting while bouncing over rocks at 40mph.
All-in-all it was a really great day amongst the huge towering peaks of the high country of Colorado. Kristine got some good videos I’ve posted below these pictures from the race:
Day 1 – Birmingham, AL to Wichita Falls, TX (800 miles)
Day 2 – Wichita Falls, TX to Salida, CO (600 miles)
Day 3 – Salida, CO to Leadville, CO (60 miles)
The highlight of the first day was driving I-20 through East Texas where Kristine and I first met 11 years ago. 9 years of marriage and 2 kids later, we stopped at the same Dairy Queen where we used to hang out together. We ended up at 1:30AM in Wichita Falls at a Holiday Inn called “Holiday Inn – Wichita Falls (At The Falls!)” including the exclamation point.
The second day had lots of highlights, including a rural rest area at the foot of a volcano outside of Raton, New Mexico. But the main highlight of the day for me was when Kristine dropped me off in Raton, and I rode the Old Raton Pass into Colorado on a 30 mile ride to Trinidad, Colorado.
I had used topocreator and initially was going to try to ride alongside the railroad up and over the pass, but then I found a dirt road leaving Raton called Old Raton Pass. This road climbs from within Raton up past a start on top of a hill overlooking a city all the way up to the old “Port of Welcome” for New Mexico. Along the way, there is this sign:
I was really curious, so I went around the corner and found a burnt (maybe from a forest fire) informational sign talking about the KT boundary, which relates to the layers of the earth before and after an asteroid impact millions of years ago. I continued climbing until I came to the abandoned New Mexico welcome center – and the mother of all barricades (for motorcycles, atvs, etc…) complete with a trashed ATV perhaps as a warning and also a full-blown moat. I knew that it probably was supposed to keep out bikes too, but I needed to get across the border to Kristine in Colorado.
After the moat and a long gradual descent, there was a long gradual climb up to the pass with old stonework from the original road. Shortly after the top on some rolling double track, there was a barbed wire gate with the barbed wire attached to a thick stick held in place by two metal rings. The ring at the top was held top by a latch mechanism. I figured out how to open (and close) the gate continued on about a quarter mile to a fork in the trail with two gates – both the same type of barbed wired gate. Once through this gate, the trail really started to descend.
The double track was perfectly smooth, and I had just started to pick up the pace when I came across a few cows grazing next to the road. They didn’t seem to think twice about me so I kept on going and that’s when I entered into the middle of an elk herd. That is quite an experience. Elk were diving for cover around every corner. At one point there was elk running alongside and in front of me. There was elk of all sizes, too. I would guesstimate that there were maybe 50 elk in the herd. I only saw one bull with a full rack of antlers. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time to be so close to these large animals scattering every which way.
After the elk, it was pretty much a straight shot down and out of the area, a thick metal gate to climb up and over, a railroad tunnel, another gate to crawl under and finally out onto the interstate. Yes, I ended up riding on I-25 north for a few miles, but per the picture below, I was allowed to be there. Plus, the interstate was really deserted – maybe 20 cars and 5 tractor trailers passed me during the few miles I was on the interstate.
The final stretch into Trinidad was amazing with the sunset sky and layers upon layers of HUGE mountains glowing orange … my camera phone picture doesn’t even pick up all the high mountains in the distance.
I met up with Kristine where we ate at a fancy Italian restaurant complete with some really amazing singing waiters and waitresses. I got a video I’ll try to remember to upload when we get back to Birmingham.
Day 3 (today) was check-in day at Leadville. They have a really well run organization and we breezed through the long lines thanks to all the great volunteers. After picking up everything we went to the gym for the motivational and informational meeting. It was inspiring – highlighted by the Wounded Warriors and the Ride 2 Recovery – veterans and active military wounded in action who will be racing Leadville tomorrow. Also, Lance Armstrong made a surprise visit to encourage and motivate us (plus, I think he may be racing tomorrow?)
It was a great meeting, but towards the end it did get a little long. After the meeting was the highlight of my day – Kristine went for a run and I went for a ride on the opening 20 miles of the course including the powerline descent. Powerline wasn’t bad at all if you take it slow – but I can see how people could get hurt because the trail itself keeps begging you to let off the brakes and fly. I went down it slow and nearly fell once so I’m going to have to be careful tomorrow if I’m with people who are trying to bomb the descent.
Well, today’s mountain bike ride definitely fit the bill for a “cycling adventure”. Highlights included riding in and behind a thunderstorm, riding through a pilgrimage of devout Catholics, stumbling upon a small forest fire, discovering another Strava Cat 2 climb for Alabama, lots of mud, lots of flying ants, and lots of yellow jackets. Here are annotated topocreator maps of my route.
We had some thunderstorms roll through Birmingham this morning, so it was lots of rain on the long ride out to Double Oak and eventually over to Signal Mountain. Most of the thunder/lightning activity stayed just to the east of my location, but it was still disconcerting to be on the edge of a thunderstorm while climbing over the highest ridges in the area. Apparently, lightning from the storm had struck the top of Signal Mountain as I would later discover a small forest fire near the top.
Before climbing Signal Mountain, I had to first climb up and over the Double Oak ridges taking me down into Bear Creek Valley. As I rode north on Co Rd 43 through Bear Creek, I noticed hundreds of cars parked alongside the road. This was really unusual, but it got even stranger as I started reading the license plates which were from all over the country. I eventually made it through the cars to this field and found out by asking someone walking back that some devout catholics believe Mary appears in this field every year near the Fourth of July.
Continuing on Co Rd 43, I eventually made it to this barn which used to have a cool concrete statue of cyclists resting on the ground with their bikes propped up behind them, and turned onto the street/driveway (Moss Rock Trail) that leads straight down to Bear Creek itself and the low point for the start of the Cat 2 climb up Signal Mountain. I turned around at the bridge and began the climb by heading back out to Co Rd 43 and turning left to go back all the way through the pilgrimage area until I reached Season Rd, which is the start of the steep part of the climb.
I’m pretty sure this will be the only time I ever do the climb. It is a good climb through a beautiful area, but the majority of it is on private hunting grounds (hence the name “Season Rd”). I reckoned that on a rainy Monday morning in the middle of summer everything should be deserted, which it was. But this is property that should generally be avoided. At the top of the climb is a single radio tower, which is ironic given that the name of the mountain is Signal Mountain.
The climb starts out steady and steep for the first mile before leveling out when you cross over from the back side of the ridge to the front side of the ridge. The view along the front side of the ridge is absolutely amazing – overlooking the valley over 1000 ft below and the adjacent ridge of Double Oak at nearly 1000 ft above the valley floor as well. After about a half mile, the climb bends around the side of the mountain again and really kicks up in elevation. It was just past this bend where I saw the forest fire. Also, I had to run the last bit because I got off-balance in the wrong gear, and it was too steep to remount – but theoretically the entire climb is rideable without stopping.
After I made it down the mountain, I rode back to the pilgrimage area and reported the fire to a Shelby County police officer who was helping with crowd control. He thanked me and called it in on his radio. Then it was time for me to head back up and over Double Oak ridge … the mountain was swarming with yellow jackets and flying ants. Because of the earlier rain, I had to run several sections and with every footfall there would be a yellow jacket rooting around in the rocks and mud. I was super careful, but it wasn’t until I was actually riding on a slight downhill at about 15mph when a yellow jacket, bee, or wasp came from in front of me and collided directly with my head. The sting was immediate – I couldn’t tell a difference between the “thud” of the bee hitting me and its sting. One day later as I finish off this post, the entire righthand side of my face is swollen along with both sides of my neck.
To view the ride interactively on Strava, click this link: http://app.strava.com/rides/12387038
Finally, here are all the pics that I took during the ride: