Posts Tagged ‘Mountain Bike racing’

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!

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

The race is part of the Colorado Endurance Series, a series of self-supported, on your own, no assistance provided other than what you can find along the way races. Fully decked out in my Hammer kit, I did the Bigger Loop, consisting of 106 miles and ~13000′ climbing. This race takes in the Colorado Trail from near Salida Colorado to Buena Vista then heads east and rides up and down the Arkansas Hills before returning to the start. 64 of us met early at Cafe Dawn in downtown Salida. We signed in and Tom P gave us last minute instructions and we were off.

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This year I decided to do the race on gears and suspension versus last years rigid Blacksheep Fatbike, it was a hard decision.

The roll out was fast and I found myself in the back watching the top dogs roll away, most of them were doing the “shorter” race (89miles) and this old dog needed to ride sensible and warm up proper before “throwing down”. On the 8.8 miles of pavement before we hit dirt I warmed up quickly in the rising sun. I left the group I was in and began to ride my own pace which would have me riding solo all the way to Buena Vista. On the horizon was the first objective the climb to the Shavano TH on the Colorado Trail.

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Of the ~13000′ of climbing, the course climbs 3400′ in the first 15 miles alone.

I didn’t go crazy hard, I kept it real and rode smooth.  The beauty of the Colorado Trail and the podcasts of NPRs Snap Judgement loaded on my IPod kept me in good spirits.  With Hammer Nutrition gels/bars and Perpetuem, I knew that only a mechanical or crash would delay me arriving in BV in around 5 hours. 

Halfway to Princeton Hot Springs I had my only crash, it was on an off camber washed out section of the CT.  It wasn’t bad as I was able to jump off my bike, but the rear derailleur smacked something hard enough to bend it or the hanger out of whack.  I figured this out pretty quickly when I shifted into my spokes on the next steep climb.  

The rest of the trail was fairly uneventful, with the exception that I got to watch a rider go over the bars on a section that I figured was safer to walk than ride.  He was OK by the way.

With a resupply at 47 miles in Buena Vista I was able to carry a ziplock bag of Perpetuem to refill my food bottles and thanks to the bike shop, Boneshaker Cycles, having cold Heed available was able to fill my 3ltr water bladder full for the heat i would encounter over the next 60 miles.

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They also had Bacon and Whiskey

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I deserved bonus points as I couldn’t resist a small shot.  It was so smooth and tasty I had to hold myself back from having another.

This was my only stop of the day.  The finish-line beer awaits.

Crossing the Arkansas river I had gained the company of Joe S on my wheel.  I try to keep it as Solo as possible at times and until I took a wrong turn on the Midland trail I kept pretty much to myself and Snap Judgement.  After that SNAFU we rode mostly side by side on the way out to Chub Park (where does that name come from?) I let him roll away hoping to catch him on the climbs after Trout Creek pass. It was warm and I knew what was lying ahead.

Casually descending to Chub Park I was caught by Tom and Robert and I decided to get my act together if I didn’t want to get passed by anyone else.  We rode the windless dirt roads together, which was a nice change from last years stiff headwinds, until after a short rise I found myself alone again. Crossing Hwy 285 I eventually caught up to Raphael from Sub Culture Cycles in Salida.  He had been up with the front group at the start and was showing fatigue on the hills.  He was good company and I slowed to his pace and turned the podcast off in my ears for the last time.  Eventually Robert rejoins us saying that Tom had stopped but would probably catch up.  He would not catch us as we rode together up the long climb interspersed with some short downhill sections.  It was here that another rider came flying by us.  nice Second Wind we remarked.  

After missing the turn to Futurity and being alerted by my GPS, we found ourselves riding back uphill to the hidden turn.  It was here we came back across Second Wind coming towards us remarking that this can’t be the trail with all the down trees.  I assured him the it was and the trees were for walking over. Eventually we would be able to remount our bikes and ride out the rough singletrack.  By now Raphael had faded back and it was just Robert and myself.  We stopped at Futurity and picked up some SBFL chips (rocks) that Tom P had placed in an abandon building.  The chip removes 45 minutes from your finishing time but it doesn’t hurt any less.  

The race was almost over now.  We decended to rejoin the short loop and with one last big climb, a fast descent, another shorter climb, and a faster descent we were back in Salida.  The temps had dropped quickly with a passing shower that we had avoided.  It was enough for my hands to be suffering from a pretty bad case of Reynauds.  I could only tell how hard I was braking into corners by the momentum I felt when slowing down from the high speed descent.

It was a new long course and I was super stoked to finish the 106 miles under 11 hours and in 10th place. 

Colorado Endurance Series SBFL

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