Posts tagged ‘mtb’
My first experience in timed endurance mountain bike racing went really well – I came away with a win in the solo expert class. But more importantly I think the switch flipped on during the first lap of the race, and I discovered how to ride a mountain bike over technical terrain. I still have a long ways to go with a mental battle to trust the tires on tight turns, but I have much more confidence rolling the 29er over rocky and rooty terrain. I got the hole shot into Mr Toad’s after nearly running into the back of the lead vehicle. I got passed by one rider (a 6 hour solo rider) in the tight switchback turns at the end of Mr Toad’s, but I had no problem catching back up on Johnson’s Mountain. I decided not to pass, though, because I knew he would be fast down the descent, and I wanted a firsthand view of how to ride the Johnson Mountain descents fast. It was awesome. I kept up through most of the descent, but lost him in the tight turns just before crossing Peavine. Also, Eddie O’Dea and one other rider had caught up to us at the road so I slowed for a second to let them by on the road rather than entering the next twisty section and having to let them by there.
I lost some ground on the initial technical part of the Bump climb, but then caught up to Eddie and the other rider by the big berm before the bumpy steep part of the climb. They let me by and I flew up the climb. I wanted to try to have a big enough gap so as not to get in the way on Jekyll. I ran up Blood Rock and continued running through the switchbacks where I had fallen and hurt myself last Wednesday. Plus, for me it’s actually faster to run that section than ride it … especially if you don’t clear the switchbacks. I entered Jekyll nervous but fast which turned out to be key to riding that section (thanks John Karrasch). I rolled over stuff that I had to walk previously. And other stuff that I wanted to walk I came onto too quickly to stop so I had to ride it. And after not falling through each tricky drop or rock section, I got more and more confidence. Then shortly after the switchback that separates the two technical sections of Jekyll, I bobbled and unclipped right as Eddie was catching up to me. So I let him by and then tried to follow his line. I had to unclip two more times, but I was close enough to see some of the lines he took and also see that he was riding everything which gave me the confidence to try everything. This was hugely important for me eventually winning the race. If I had done all of Jekyll on my own then I may have not even attempted some of the trickier sections, let alone seen the lines to take. Huge thanks to Eddie!
Also, while I’m thinking about it – huge shout-out to Jacob who convinced me on Thursday night during our practice run on the course to run much lower tire pressure than I have been running. I ended up with 25PSI front and back for the race instead of my normal 30PSI. Also, thanks to Boris Simmonds for showing me the fast lines at night down the Hyde portion of Jekyll and Hyde and also for teaming up to share resources in the pit. I loved the sign he made “Borat & Toone” and wish I had gotten a picture of it. And thanks to Lennie Moon for coming out and cheering with his family. Also, a big thanks to John for the advice about just tackling Jekyll one section at a time and not looking too far ahead, this was hugely important later after I got more comfortable so that I stayed focus on the immediate section. I basically learned that the bottom portion of Jekyll only has three sections which are tricky and knowing that meant I could roll the stuff in between faster and use each of the tricky sections as benchmarks for the descent. Also, thanks to Roger Byrd from Bob’s Bikes for loaning me his awesome headlight.
I crossed the line in third after the first lap, but the two riders in front of me were a six hour solo expert rider and Eddie from the Eddie/Namrita six hour team. So that meant that I basically led the 9 hour solo expert race from start to finish! I ate a powerbar each lap and drank a full bottle of gatorade each lap. So I felt like I stayed on top of my nutrition better than I have in previous long mountain bike races (Leadville and Fool’s Gold, particularly). Still, I was really struggling on the 7th lap and by the time it got dark I got nervous that I was going to see Jeff Clayton’s lights approaching me. But when I made it up Blood Rock and could look down the entire bump climb and not see any lights I knew that barring a mechanical or bad fall I was going to win! That last time down Hyde was a bit tricky because I got into the mode of thinking “don’t fall, don’t fall” rather than just flowing with the descent.
Here’s my data from the race.
Annotated heartrate zone summary
Analise and Josiah got to participate in the racing action as well. The day started out with a kids race at 8:30. This was the first time for my kids to ride on real trails apart from the 0.2 mile section of woods on the way to school, which is pretty much a straight shot downhill. So this time they got to ride uphill, around corners, over bridges, around logs, and roll over small roots on a mile long portion of the family trail. They loved it!
Finally a couple frantic (me being the frantic one) videos from the pit and gallery of pics from the day:
Saturday’s mountain bike race in Dahlonega, GA was definitely an epic adventure. I forgot to post my heartrate data, so I’ve added another post with my heartrate zone summary and heartrate vs elevation plot. Also, Thom Parsons posted an amazing highlight video on cyclingdirt.org and a two-part interview with me after the race. Thanks Thom!
Summary of time spent in each of the five HR zones
CLICK ON THE LINKS BELOW TO WATCH THE VIDEOS ON CYCLINGDIRT.ORG
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: