Posts Tagged ‘endurance cycling’

August 5th 2017

There are only a few races that I really like returning to year after year.  This race, situated on the western side of the Tetons, is definitely one of them.  Great venue, awesome trails, outstanding aid station work, post race fun, and a course that has changed slightly – each time for the better. I really don’t know how the race director, Andy Williams, does it.  In any case, I appreciate the hard work he puts into this fine race. 

I arrived Thursday and and setup camp alongside my friends, Christian, Milissa, Tim, and Barb. 


Pretty sweet base of operations if you ask me. 

All setup, we headed out for a ride up Action Jackson (named for the late AJ Linnell), riding essentially the first half of the 2nd&3rd loop of the race.  No one else would see this trail as they were only doing the one lap affair. The alternative would be the service road, nobody wants to ride service roads when there is single track. 


At one point during the ride we stopped to make some bike adjustments and heard this weird noise nearby. It ended up being a Sage Grouse most likely protecting her nest.  Too cool!


Moving along, we ripped down 38 Special and onto Millcreek trail.  Cow poop trail would be a better name for Millcreek btw. Looking forward to next year’s race without the “Trail of Poop”.  A road ride up to the resort (yep there is ~2.5 miles of pavement)  then a jump onto the singletrack again for a few miles with Barb finishing back at the camp, much to the delight of my dogs. 

A night of beer and conversation, very typical for us.

The next day, after coffee and such, we got an earlier start and rode the 2nd half of the course and the best trails of all.  The gentle climbing of More Cowbell leads to the super fun Perma Grin.  If they could just do laps of this I’d be ok with that. 


It was off to the North Woods and back to the start area.  Tim, Barb and I then rode up the starting road so that they could see the “fun” they would have at the start before heading back down Andy’s trail.

The fun of camping among others, outside of us, was quickly eroded as generators droned on around us that evening.  I had not slept well the prior evening and was hoping to get an early start to bed the night prior to the main event @7am the next morning. Barb, sensing my frustration (and my loud vocalization), decided to have a talk with a few of the offenders.  It was very much appreciated as I was able to get some good sleep.


5:45am alarm rings and my pre race prep commences.  Less than an hour before I’m on the 🚲, I feed the dogs (dogs always first) and prepare engine with 3 Hammer Nutrition Race Caps and 2 Anti-Fatigue Caps, grab my Perpetuem from the fridge and lay back down in bed and do 1.5 X Compex EMS warmup routine on my legs. For what I’m about to do, riding around for 30minutes prior to 100 miles is not on my agenda.  Warmup done I kit up and grab my running shoes for a short jog with the dogs before putting them back in their crates. One last check of my tires and I head to the start.

As I hit the start area with 10 minutes to go, I see Sten and congratulate him on his Tatanka 100 win.  It was a race I had won last year and couldn’t participate this year.  He was a deserving winner.  I expected him to do well at this race as he had finished 2nd the year before.  Jeremiah Bishop (Topeak/Ergon pro rider) would roll to the front just before the start and started to record a video from his GoPro. A multi year winner of the PH100, he would go on to win again.  

Race starts and I’m riding within myself knowing the climb is about 40 minutes.


Being that my birth year was 1966, number plate 66 was pretty cool. 

I rode pretty solidly up the road.  I didn’t push it and when we slotted into the singletrack I found myself a rider behind another 50+ rider,  Jeff Clayton.  He had never ridden here before and I was taking full advantage of relaxing on stretches that I knew not to push the pace on.  By the time we hit the 38 Special descent I was on his wheel and having to brake more than normal. It was after a few switchbacks that I asked him if that dropper post was just for show.  We had a good laugh because he had totally forgot about it.  We quickly rolled up on another rider and we were held up even more on the descent.  At the bottom and clearly at the limit, she pulled aside and let us through.  For all the apprehension on the 38 Special trail Jeff showed, he lit it up on the lower Millcreek section.  Pretty much riding like there was a fire he was trying to outrun.  By the time we hit the road climb he was ~15seconds in front of me and kept on driving.  I settled into my pace, not wanting to blow up early. We haven’t even gone 15 miles yet for pete’s sake. It was about this point when I realized something weird. Where were all the racers?  I looked up the road and behind me, only a couple of us.  Was I really that far behind or did everyone get caught up behind slower riders on 38? This would go on the rest of the race for me.  There’s not much to say about the next half lap other than I remembered where I was when I heard Tim’s 8:45 start cheers.  Completing the 2nd half I headed through the start finish area and was greeted by a familiar face as Milissa was standing on the side of the singletrack with camera in hand cheering me on.


As you can see, I was feeling good with 70 miles to go.

Again, riding within myself, not trying to crush it, I made my way back up to the high points and descended 38 Special. This time there was no one to hold me back and I took full advantage of it.  On about the 15th switchback I saw a huge deer standing in the corner.  I’m not sure what I said but he jumped downhill.  A good thing as I was not stopping for him.  He appeared lower down but thankfully not on the trail.  After 38 I had my near race ending moment as I drifted sideways on some dirt and a root or something caught my front wheel and sent me over the bars. I landed hard on my right side with my elbow and thigh taking the most damage. From that point on I started to entertain thoughts of dropping out due to the pain and general lack of training for an event such as this.  I stopped at my first aid station of the day and filled my Camelbak with race supplied HEED and dumped my Perpetuem in too for the calories and fueling I would soon need.  I had gone 45 miles on my first 70 ounces Perpetuem and had refilled for another 45 or so I thought. Over the next 18 miles I would drain my reservoir to almost nothing. I was still thinking of dropping out at 2 laps.  65 miles, that’s a good effort I thought.  Downhills were painful to my elbow as I would cradle it in between sections that didn’t require 2 hands on the bars. The thought of quitting was real. More real than I have ever experienced. When I finally came through the start/finish area for the 2nd time all my friends were there cheering me on.  Sten had pulled out after 2 laps, he was cheering me when I passed his camp heading out onto the 2nd half of lap 2. He was the first to give me encouragement. Then the wild bunch was dancing and cheering me on as I rode through. Christian was even drinking a beer telling me he’d save one for my finish.  I headed back onto the singletrack and continued to climb.  It was about 1/2 way up the hour climb that I realized I was out of liquid. So focused was I at dropping out that I had forgot to refill my Camelbak. Mouth parched and now feeling the full extent of elevation and sun, I went into major conservation mode. My trip through the high points and down 38 Special were guarded.  38 had eroded spectacularly to the point of no fun.  I winced every 5 or so minutes that my elbow was subject to the brutality of the trail.  At the bottom I was lucky to get water  from the safety guy and a couple of riders that were out for a day ride, I drank deeply draining what they gave me in less than 2 miles.  I eventually rolled into the aid station and took a seat while my chain was lubed and I contemplated continuing on.  I was pretty devastated at this point.  I did not want to ride up the road again.  I had hit my physical limit, or so I thought. 

So, just to prove what I’ve experienced in my life as a Hammer Nutrition athlete, I have not had one cramp during this race.  I’ve maintained an intake of Endurolytes throughout the course of the race.  I’m not sure what others went through but to be offered pickle juice at every aid station because they believed it would help me was kinda funny but annoying.  Just goes to show how few riders really know how to prepare themselves before a race. End rant.

The aid station workers were great.  When I told them I was thinking about quitting they told me how close I was to the finish. Easy for them to say that as they didn’t have another +2 hours to race.  Rested from my 5 minute stop I headed out again up the road.  Each lap up I watched my speed drop.  9-10 mph the first time, 6-7mph the next.  This time I expected 5mph.  I pulled out 7-8.  The short break did me good.  Coming through the midway point of the lap I again came across my friends as I pulled over for the aid station to refill one last time. I really wanted to quit. Elbow pain and 70 miles of racing when I haven’t done more than 56 all summer weighed heavily on my mind. Whatever Tim, Christian, and Barb said to me I was on my bike and enjoying the push off from Tim as he gave me a few last words of encouragement.  The light switch turned on for those last 15 miles.  Thinking it would be 2 hours plus I realized that I still had a chance at a sub 11 hour race.  I pushed my pace knowing how far I really had to go to finish under 11.  Rounding through Snowdrift I pushed it hard knowing there was 2 miles to go and the goal was in sight.  Racing up the final hill I crossed the line in 10:57:04 in 25th place and 3rd 50+ Master.   

There is no way I would have finished this race if it wasn’t for the support of my friends, co-racers, aid station workers, and Hammer Nutrition pushing me on.  This podium finish is a tribute to all those that helped me.  


The bonus was that everyone in our group podiumed


And my spoils of victory were 

Special thanks to Milissa Melle for a bunch of the photos!

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It’s been a rough 5 months for me.  The huge win at 24HOP scrambled my brains and turned them into mush.  I took a backseat and rode only for fun, regaining my desire to race before even considering racing in my backyard. With no focused riding this was to be a test of the legs before next weekend’s big 100 mile race. 

2 laps of the new 28 mile long Laramie Enduro course were on my platter as a preparation for next weekends Pierre’s Hole 100. At just over 6000′ of climbing for the 56 miles, it seemed like a good idea to test my legs after a couple of setbacks over the last few months. The camping was excellent. Being local, I arrived well in advance and got myself a choice spot. The evening prior, Jenny and I setup some motivational signs on a steep climb that she would be marshaling. It would be reminiscent of my first Enduro, in which other signs placed along the course helped take my thoughts away from the pain I was feeling with a bit of laughter. They were a hit with everyone btw. Back to race stuff… Hydration prior to the race was accomplished with Hammer Fizz, (electrolytes with flavor – goes with any meal) 😀.  I had a good night sleep and woke at 5:45am for my 7am start. As I had my dogs with me the first item was to feed them. From there I had my solid pre race regime of Hammer Nutrition Race Caps and Anti-Fatigue caps, Compex EMS warm-up routine and sipping on Perpetuem. 20 minutes prior to the start I had 1.5 scoops of Fully Charged to prime the engine before heading out onto my bike and lining up for the 2 lap Epic. One gel before the race started and it was a fun “road style” pack ride for the first 3 miles of dirt road with climbs that would separate everyone before the singletrack. I treated the first lap like a one lap race planning on relaxing a bit on the second lap. Interestingly the eventual 50+ winner and I were riding together the first lap. He was from the low lands of San Antonio Texas but was riding really well. I left him to go on his own on the road section the next lap.

Feeling good

One lap down

 

I was thinking more about not killing myself before next week’s race, and was sticking to the plan of tempo riding the second lap. It was there that I had an “oh $h!!” moment when I realized I had left my Endurolytes, Anti-Fatigue, and Endurance Aminos supplements in my warmup jacket. After a few miles of telling myself the HEED/Perpetuem mix in my hydration bladder were enough, I resumed normalness and proceeded to enjoy my favorite singletrack sections. The temps were dropping fast this 2nd lap as the clouds built up. The forecast was for thunderstorms starting around noon, but I’ve never experienced them that early before. This would be the first as lightning started cracking well before I hit the north side trails of Tie City that were wet an slick with mud. The rain had started in earnest with lightening cracking all around me by then. “No need to be a statistic” was my thoughts as I headed up the last ascent of Haunted Forest. I finally dropped a Single Speed rider that had caught me, and was thinking about how warm and dry it would be when I got back into my trailer when I was caught by another rider, Anthony M, a longtime fellow competitor and also a 50+ rider. As much as I hoped to follow his wheel, the slick trail and roots kept me back. By the time we reached the top of the climb he had 20 seconds on me and I had nothing to respond with. I had hoped to make up any time on the last descent, but with the rocks being slick with rain, I thought it best to finish without a crash. When I finished, I heard the sounds of people calling my name, but all I could think of was getting dry and warm. My hands were a mix of purple and white, and my knees were painful to bend. I think I sat under a dribbling hot shower for at least 5 minutes before feeling better. If Suffering is what makes a man then this year I might have hit the limit and turned back into a baby. As pleased as I was to finish 3rd, I think it was the few individuals that came up to me after the race and thanked me for the fueling recommendations. They had all used what I have been encouraging them to do in all races. No breakfast, a gel prior, and HEED or Perpetuem with a couple of Hammer Gels during the race. They told me they felt great and would continue doing the same in upcoming events. That, was the highlight for me. Seeing others perform well on products I have been using exclusively for the last 4 years. 

Anthony and I, the Texan left already

PH100
I arrived at Grand Targhee Resort late Thursday morning. The following photos of my ride that afternoon don’t do it justice.

30 miles later I got back to the trailer and Christian and Milissa had recently got in and were setting up camp. Later after eating and a couple of beers, Andy -PH100 event promoter and Christian’s brother stopped in to relax. I found out then that current road cycling World Champion and fresh off his Tour de France Green Jersey winner Peter Sagan would be arriving tomorrow to compete Saturday in the 1 lap 50km race.  He was using it in preparation for his Olympic mountain biking debut in a few weeks.

We all headed out on a short 9 mile loop up Action Jackson and Buffalo Soldier trails a bit later for them to stretch their legs and me just because.


Friday morning I slept in til 8.  Usually C&M are up and finishing their coffee by 8 but because of wind and the worry of their sun shelter blowing away, it appeared they were none too happy when I knocked at their door at 8:30.

We all later headed out on the second half of the course to check out the new additions that Andy had built. Towards the end of the loop last year was a fast singletrack section that brought you down the mountain through the berms and jumps, this year was different. The addition of the new Snowdrift section was twisty and bumpy. The twists continued again after flying down a road dropping you off at the bottom where you had the cruelness of one last uphill to the finish/lap line. Boy this is going to be fun.

I replaced my fixed seatpost with a dropper post to give me more control on the descents and switchbacks that adorned the race course.
Race Day
The alarm woke me at 5:45 for my 7am race start. Outside my window I noticed that rain had soaked everything not under the tent. It was a welcome sight after 2 days of riding on dirt that resembled moon dust from many days without moisture. I pulled up a muscle warmup program on my Compex Wireless EMS to jump-start my legs and had some Hammer Nutrition Race Caps+++ I dragged my cooler containing a full Camelbak and 3 extra bottles up to the trail above my campsite that would act as my resupply point. Dressed and on my bike I did one short uphill spin before heading to the line for the start. The race starts on a dirt access road to break everyone up before entering onto the singletrack I eyed Sten and Gary in front of me and relaxed knowing that it’s a long climb and there was no reason to put myself in the hurt locker this early into a 100 mile race. I made little jumps here and there when others seemed to slow down and when we neared the last steep uphill before the descent of 38 Special (switchback heaven and hell) I jumped pass a group of riders to really narrow the gap. Flying down the trail, I caught Gary first and he let me by after nearly ran him over a couple times. Quickly after that I caught Sten and I knew he wasn’t going to let me get by him. We chatted it up on the descent and flew through the lower singletrack that led to a 3 mile paved road climb. We pretty much were content to ride together and he would let me go first into descents knowing I was faster. He would eventually catch up after each one as I was clearly not trying to drop him that first lap knowing we had 2 more to go. We crossed the line together as we entered the second lap heading onto Action Jackson trail. It’s an hour long climb from the start to the descent and I settled into a comfortable pace keeping an eye on Sten as he rode away. I only needed to keep him in sight as I would probably catch him on the descent of 38 Special. As the trail started to ease off I picked up the pace and started to really hammer when the trail started dropping a bit. On the 2 track section prior to 38Special, I heard the sickening sound of air and tire sealant escaping from my rear tire. Somewhere I clipped a rock and punctured my sidewall. Adding some air from my only CO2 cylinder I attempted to get it to seal as I rotated the puncture down and kept pressure with my finger. It was much to large a hole to seal. A passing singlespeed rider asked if I needed anything and I asked if he could spare a CO2. He obliged by dropping 2 out of his pocket. As I pulled my wheel off to put in a tube, Gary (the eventual Masters winner) passed me by. Aired up with a tubed tire, I headed down 38 Special. This time I would be 4 minutes slower to the road climb as I took it much easier since I was now without a spare tube if something did happen again. In fact everytime I headed downhill now I was much slower than previous due to being overly cautious. Going into the last lap I calculated that in my tired state, giving it what I had left in the tank, I would finish in 10:20 5 minutes outside the time limit to get a finishers buckle. I decided that I would ride strong on the climbs and back off on any tire slashing descents so that I could finish. It was at the top of Action Jackson and Buffalo Soldier trails that I was greeted by Milissa and Christian.

 Christian cheered me on as only he could by stripping off his shirt while Milissa took photos. I told Christian I was in need a spare tube or I might be looking at a DNF if I flatted again. When I came through the intersection again he was waving a tube which I gladly took. I through caution to the wind knowing I had a spare that I could finish on if I needed it. My times reflected the same as the prior lap but I attributed that more to lack of precision handling as I was pretty tired and motor skills to corner smoothly were not quite there.  On that last lap I caught up with the rider that saved my race when he gave me his CO2 cylinders.  I thanked him and continued on my way.  With a half lap to go, it started raining and I decided to hit the Aid station and get some fluids in me. Stopping there was a small mistake that I would pay for later. I jumped on my bike for the last 15 miles. With ~6 miles to go I saw a rider in front of me wearing the team kit of Gary Gardiner. Was I seeing things I thought? Only one way to find out as I pushed my pace through the North Woods trail only to lose sight of him. I sped up the hill towards Snowdrift and caught a glimpse of him again. “is that Gary?”, I asked myself. I was now on a mission to catch the mystery rider. He was also pushing hard and through the closing mile of the race he was right there in front of me. By then time and race course had run out, I finished 23 seconds behind him only to find out he was Gary’s teammate John Lauck, another masters racer. He had passed me while I stood at the Aid station. The probably unnecessary stop had cost me 3rd place. And with a finishing time of 10:17:53 it probably cost me a Finishers Buckle awarded to the riders that finish under 10:15:00

Next time

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It’s crazy how fast some things can change especially medical issues. I’ve been suffering from chronic pain due to an injury I sustained 20 years ago. The last year and a half I’ve noticed reduced strength in my left arm along with an increase in neck and shoulder pain. A trip to the doctor and I was diagnosed with an acute muscle imbalance. 6 months of physical therapy later I felt a bit better but still felt something was wrong. This past year I raced some very long races on a rigid Fatbike. This action, along with several crashes (IKR, like that doesn’t happen MTBing) probably resulted in an accelerated degradation of what was going on in my body. A revisit to a doc that finally listened to me hastened the review of my problems and sent me to a neurosurgeon. On the first visit after a review of all my exams and images I was given one option, a fusing of my C4,5,6. Deep down inside I probably knew this was going to happen but chose to ignore it.
Here is what the MRI of my neck with it’s bulging discs and narrowed spinal column look like

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I was told I’m one severe crash away from possible paralysis.
So, with that knowledge and the possibility of being able to ride with less pain (or, hopefully none at all) I opted to have my discs removed and 3 vertebrae fused together.
I’m optimistic and scared at the same time. Surgery is in 12 hours. See you all soon

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Sandwiched between Fort Collins and Cheyenne, these two open spaces share interconnecting trails. It’s not technical riding in the slightest but the sandy washes, long climbs, fast twisty descents and sheer beauty of the Big Hole make it an underground destination for endurance riders looking for a solid +5 hours of riding. There are shorter loops but I prefer mine @ ~40 miles and +4000′ of climbing.

Red Mountain Open Space

Soapstone Prairie

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