Tuesday, May 31, 2011

24 Hour Mt Bike Race

This was our Camp

I have heard about this race that happens on Memorial Day weekend that starts at 12:00 noon on Saturday and ends at 12:00 noon Sunday. About 850 people ride their mt. bikes around a 15 mile circuit for 24 hours straight. Some do it solo, some do it on single speed mt. bikes, some do it on teams of 2 or teams of 10. It is ultimately one big party...with a lot of mt. bikes.
One fun day

I have never been to this event, and obviously have never participated in it...until this year. I heard that a team was short a few people so I asked if they needed a rider. I have known Tim Arnold at Bicycle Butler for many years. And I would consider him the "Mayor" or "Sheriff" of this event. He has done this race on mt. bikes, single speeds, beach cruisers, ...you name it. It is about getting out and having fun. Of course there are some "serious" people, and teams, as well. But for the most part, it's the Woodstock of the mt. bike world. Just with a lot of carbon fiber and suspension.
People Hydrating...or something

I asked Tim where I could find "camp" and he said that I would not miss it. And I didn't have any trouble. It was a western saloon with all the fixins.

After signing in and trying to figure out how this whole rodeo worked, I started to get suited up in all my TIMEX gear. It always amazes me how much easier it is to get ready for one sport versus triathlons. Helmet, shoes, glasses, bike... guess that's it.

The first corner with spectators

The race started with an 800 meter run that was pretty tough. But I think that was good because it spread out the start a bit. But watching some people try and run in their mt. bike shoes was pretty humorous. I already found myself saying, "If I were to do this I would have..." Dang triathlete in me. But once underway the race would continue for another 24 hours. I was assigned leg #3. My friend Greg would be passing the timing chip to me and I would be off.

My first Leg

And off I go

Greg came in with a great time and had a sweet hand off with the timing chip in his mouth. I took off a little quick up the hill and settled in. The course was pretty clear of people because they were so spread out. I ran into very little traffic and was in the red zone a majority of the time. I probably took some unnecessary risks, but it was a race. I had done this course once before in a mass start mt. bike race just the Wednesday prior, so I kind of knew it a little. But instead of riding with people, you were on your own and avoiding others in your way. I eventually was about done and making it to the transition point. It seemed to go fine and I was happy to be done. My official time was only about 30 seconds slower than my mt. bike race split so I was happy with that.
Mug 1, done

At the end of each lap, the person needed to chug a boot full of drink. That may be beer, vodka, or PowerBar sports drink. Fortunately a 'kind' person filled the boot with PowerBar sports drink...whew.

I was now 'off' until the morning. I hung out and cheered people on and watched this whole carnival unfold. It was as much about the campsites as it was about the race. People were cheering as much as racing. What a great display of a sport in full form.

I was fortunate enough to not race any "night laps." But I would need to ride again at 7:00am. After blitzing my first lap, and not cooling down, I was a little worried. I knew once I took off again, I might pay for that. Nothing worse than wanting to give your all and have your legs feel like you rode 200 miles the day before. But fortunately they felt really great! Extreme Endurance is a product I have been using and I attribute a lot of my recovery to that. Though I could tell I rode the day before, I was not suffering. As a matter of fact, I only slowed about 1 minute...maybe less. And I attribute a lot of that to much more 'slower' congestion the next day. I spent more time on the single track behind slower riders which was frustrating. But that's the way it goes. But my power output was quite similar.

Once done, it was chill time. Jessi packed a great lunch for me (I can already hear all of your comments) and I sat in a recliner and ate brownies, sandwiches, and a HUGE bowl of fresh fruit. Only thing better would to have her here sharing it with me. But I think it would have been a long day for Owen. I stayed a bit longer and listened to all the great stories that people had to tell. Everyone rode the same course, experienced the same mud, hit the same rocks, but had a different take. It was pretty cool.

A great event and one which I would love to do again. However, rumor has it that they will need to limit the field next year because they maxed out what they could accommodate. Great races do that, so sign up early. Thank you Round and Round Productions and all the great volunteers.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

You can lead a horse to water...

I think there is a saying that starts something like that. Or is it, "You can buy a cyclist a mt. bike, but you can't make him ride it." But that does not seem to be the case lately. Since riding for the TIMEX Multisport Team, a lot of opportunities have come my way. It's been amazing. One opportunity was getting a mt. bike a couple years ago. I have always wanted one, but really could not justify the expense. But a couple years ago I was able to. Since then I use my mt bike for recovery rides, riding in the winter, riding when roads are horrific, or getting out with a different group of people. It has afforded me a variety of riding options. But I had never raced it. The thought had crossed my mind, but it never seemed to work out. Until recently...

Eric Ewing and Gino Liesiecki put on the Wednesday Night Mt Bike Series. Though mt. bikers are their own 'group' with special skills, the group is painted with a broad brush of abilities...kind of like triathletes (but I am not making ANY comparison). But what I like about the mt. bike group is that there is really no expectation of anyone. You get quite a diverse group of bikes, dress, and people. But I will say this...don't judge. Just because a guy has hairy legs and a third eye mirror, does not mean he won't school you (yes, it happened, and he even was shooting video at the same time, check it out HERE). Anyway, I showed up and threw down what I was able to.
Staging...and wondering what it is I am doing

And we are off...

The first race was a hoot, 3 laps of a 5.1 mile circuit. When I was registering I was hoping to casually sneak into the 2 lap race, but the folks at registration only laughed and check the 3 lap option. It was then when I was handed my timing chip where I asked if this went around my pant leg to keep the grease off it. I then asked if we would be regrouping at the top of all the major climbs so we all stay together? Though the officials got a kick out of it, I am not too sure if the other racers knew if I was serious or not. I took my chip, number, and twist ties and headed back to my steed (bike...but since it's a mt bike, it's really more like a large animal...with suspension).

As I was fastening the number to the front of my mt. bike (which was hard for me to do since it's about the most un-aerodynamic thing I have ever done to a bike), I ran into a lot of people I knew from years past. I asked them a lot of questions about the course, what pressure they were running, tubeless or not...you know, traditional questions. Before we lined up, I had to let the race director know I had some concerns on the course. I saw that on some of the corners there was loose dirt, and I noticed that from time to time there were rocks on the trail. Fortunately, I have known Gino since I was a 13 year old junior cyclist and he knows how to dish it right back.

As we all lined up, I did not really know where to stage myself. Nothing worse than slowing people down. So I started a couple rows back in the mass of 100 riders. The start was quick, like a crit, and the 5+ abreast pack quickly split apart when we came to some road-covering puddles. "What?" Mt. bikers avoiding mud in a race? I really did not have an option so I went flying through the small lake. In doing so, I got wet and my shoes were soaking...oh well. But when I was going through it, water was blasting to the sides of me, like a boat, and dousing the people next to me. Cool.

Lap 1, under my belt.

We eventually hit some single track and I saw that I was definitely towards the front. Probably sitting about 18th ish. My initial racing self thought, "Great, up front." Then my common sense self thought, "Crap, this is going to hurt at this pace." You see, I kind of wanted to do this race and 'enjoy' it. Get out on the course and cruise along at a good pace and have fun. You know, group up and ride together. NOPE. Not where I was. I was following the wheel in front of me and holding on for dear life. I had no clue where I was going. Rocks, trees, sharp sandy turns, stumps, berms, more rocks, more trees. I fund myself saying silently to my bike, "Sorry for this." But with full suspension, I am blown away what a bike can do. All I need to do is hold on for dear life. But there are some limiters. Like I don't think I can go through trees...literally. I saw my PowerBar waterbottle on my bike wondering why in the hell I brought it since I was NEVER going to take my hands of the bars.

After a 2 laps I found myself in a group of 4. We seemed to be moving along quite well. The two guys in front of me seemed to like to dictate the lines. And I appreciated that. As we climbed each hill, I felt like my legs were going to stop turning around, but we were approaching the finish. Since it was a single track for the last bit, I knew that this would be the finish order. I was perfectly fine with that. These 2 guys pulled me along and I was not about to pip them at the finish. I had to sprint though as to not let the 4th guy beat me and to give the finish some respect.

Tough finish, but it's a finish

It was a great 1st race. I ended up 12th overall. Not too bad for triathlete on a mt. bike. However, I often wondered if I could have gone the same speed on my tri bike. But after all was said and done, I was able to look at the data from the race. HOLY SH-Cow. My avg HR and watts were similar to what I do in an Oly bike leg! Yet it was not consistent at all. The power spikes were incredible. It looked a lot more like a criterium than anything else. And it was also about 1 hour long. Nice speed/power intervals. However, my HR was a bit higher because I was probably more fearful of dieing than anything else.

The second race was a bit different. It was a 1 lap race on what would be in 3 days, the 24 Hour Mt Bike Race. That was good to know since I was going to be in that race too. Nice to get to know the course a bit. This time I had a better understanding of the dynamics of the start and what, in general, happens. I lined up on the front, and questioned if this was a good idea. The horn sounded the start of the race, and we were off. I took off strong and then eased up a bit because I did not want to 'lead' the race. I settled into about 7 place back into the single track.

Start of Race #2

Good spot as we hit the first hill. I know this would be a leg burner since it was at the start and people would hit it hard to maintain their spot, or try and move up. Once to the top it opened up and I moved up a spot or two. I was in contact with the front until a guy went down on a rock bed section. CRAP! I had to almost stop and then swerve and go into some forest o get around. The leaders were now off the front by about 30 yards and moving fast. Double Crap. I hooked up with another person and we cruised along until I realized they were riding the technical section so much better than I was. The gap was growing and I knew I was working waaay to hard to try and catch. So I settled in and started riding steady. I caught a guy on the flats that got spit out the back of the leaders and it was nice to have some company. As we climbed a steep hill he lost traction and spilled over. I kept climbing and was waiting for him to rejoin. Now, this is where I made a mistake. There are two ways to take a certain decent on this course. The fast way, and the slow way. But I did not know which was which. I guessed, and, well, though it was 'safe, it was the slow way. Once I got to the bottom I could see the guy I was riding with was 1/2 mile up the trail. Crap Crap Crap! Fortunately it was through some flat sections and I slipped into TT mode and started closing. I passed a couple other people, who were also behind me, and continued my quest. After chasing for about 10 minutes, I caught them. I stayed with them until the end of the race where it finishes on about 1/2 mile flat 1 lane road. I was happy to stay behind the guy that navigated me through the trees and rocks, but he said he wanted me to pull through and go. So I went to the front, thinking that he would jump on my wheel, but as we rounded a corner, I could see him on the inside. So I wound it up for the last 1/4 mile and finished strong. It was a fun race an a pretty quick course. I ended up 6th overall. Compared to the last race, I worked harder (according to watts) and the race was about the same distance. All in all, great.

Finish of Race #2

Afterward, everyone hung out with a beer in hand (they have a keg after each race) and shared their war stories. Pretty cool. I caught up with Greg and Cris to find out how their "first race" went, and they were both ecstatic! I know they will be asking me if I am going to come to the next one. Cris just bought a mt. bike the day before the race. Crazy.

Natalie and Greg with Owen

Me, Cris, and Greg post race.

I am sure I am telling an awesome story :)

Big shout out to Greg W, my old coach, for tunin' up my suspension and tires before the race. Apparently I had it all messed up and he got it dialed in. Whew. He knows bikes and how to make them perform to what they are designed to.

I cannot say thanks enough times to my family, Jessi, Emma, and Owen for coming out to the two races as well. It's a big quest for them to hang out in the woods and cheer me on. They are so supportive and patient. And because of them, I am able to post some pictures too. It's always nice to finish seeing Emma cheering her heart out. And it's a definitely a new look to see Jessi with the jogger again. It takes more time, and it's more work, but it's such an amazing gift. My family is awesome.

Just like when I was a kid, my parents signed me up for something that I did not want to do... only later to find out that I loved it... get out there any try something new. I am too old to learn any new tricks, but I think I found a bone I like.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spangle TT Series

I finally got my TT bike built up the day before race 1 of the Spangle Time Trial Series but on my Emde Sports. This series is a combination of 4 time trials. Two 12 mile TTs and two 22 mi TTs. No sense in trying something new the day of a race. I have been needing to build up my new Orbea Ordu but had been waiting for a couple parts. Robin, at Fitness Fanatics, got in my base bar and then I was ready to build.

Since I run Shimano Di2, it can be a little tricky to build. But in the big picture, it is not too bad because it is wires, not cables with tension. If you have not tried di2, let me say that unless you plan on buying it, don't try it. I have never been so amazed by a new product. Technology is definitely taking new shape. I suppose the next step will be wireless shifting.

I got it all built up late Wednesday night for Thursday afternoon race. I showed up to the race start and took it off the rack and took it out for about 4 mile spin. It all seemed to hold together, so I was ready to race. This race was a short 12 miles. Short yes, but painful as well. I had not raced a TT in quite some time, and not one this short. In a triathlon, it's a little easier to settle in. If you don't go hard enough, you can always run harder. If you go too hard, you fade and you still have to struggle through the run. But in a cycling TT, it's pain form start to finish. It's the "Race of Truth." The person who goes the fastest from point A to point B will win. No hiding, no drafting, no team, no team strategy. Just you and the clock.

As I took off, I watched my watts on my SRM and saw that they were pretty high. But, ignorantly, I felt like I could maintain those watts. Then about 2 minutes passed and my legs felt like plump, well done, sausages. I knew I would need to settle down a bit and ride what I know I am capable of. As I pressed on, I kept things constant and felt good. 6 miles out takes forever...but it always seems to go a lot faster on the way back. When I crossed the line I was spent. I can't say that I rode it very well, but I knew I went hard. Best of all, my bike did not fall apart and I posted the fastest time at 26:50.

It was a great baseline for me since I had not been on the bike for a bit. I was able to look at the data and see where I was too confident, and where I faded. But all in all, it was a solid effort. Next time it would be a 22 mile TT. Ouch.

Jump forward about 10 days to the 22 mile TT. This race was on a Saturday and Jessi, Emma, and Owen came to cheer. It's always nice to have some "support" in case you fall apart and someone needs to drag your sorry carcass home...or to the hospital. It was also only a few days after the Wednesday Mt Bike race. I was a bit nervous about recovery, but I have been using Extreme Endurance for a few months now and my body seems to adapt to harder workouts better. This, again, would be a good test.

Chitchatting with Marla Emde

Next to go...

The Start

The Middle

Ridin' the whiteline

This would be ride #2 on my new Orbea with the Di2. I knew what kind of watts I did in a 12 mile race and figured I should be able to avg the same or a tad less since I felt I went out too hard in the last one. I used my TIMEX Global Trainer this time to see how far into the course I was, and more importantly, how close to the finish I was as well. I selected a 2 field layout. One for speed, and one for distance. My legs would tell me if I was working hard enough and the powermeter should be in line with my legs.

I started off well, and watts were a tad high, but not like in the 12 mi TT. I settled in and tried to stay smooth. My position on the bike is pretty aggressive, so I know if I stay relaxed, it translates into speed. They had us go off in 1 minute intervals and I caught the first couple people in about 3 and 4 miles. I caught my minute man, at mile 6. So I knew I was going along well, but there was a long way to go. If too much is put out in the early miles, the last 3 miles will be rough. Kind of like a sputtering plane. Watts would be high...then low...then high, etc. Not a good pattern. I hit the turn and knew I was moving well. On the way back I held it steady and it went by fast. I crossed the line in 46:31 for the fastest time of the day, with an avg watts AND speed greater than the 12 mile race. I think it was due to having Jessi, Emma, and Owen there.

The Finish...with cheers from Emma

One thing I love about these races is seeing all the people out there testing themselves against the clock. It's a bold race that many people are afraid to do. I know I am each time I do. Because it's like a VO2 test. Fortunately this one you know when it will be over...you just question if you gave it everything you had.

Good luck to all of you and your "trials."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wow...waaaay behind

Wow, a lot has been going on since "2 weeks before Oceanside." Just the thought of a blog entry at this point has been daunting. But let me see if I can put it in some kind of a nutshell.

I am going to start from when I left Spokane...but stay with me because it has significance. I left Spokane on Thursday and when I landed in San Diego I had a message from Jessi saying that I needed to call here asap. So as I was walking to baggage claim, I called to hear what was going on. Jessi informed me that she was hospitalized because of pre term labor contractions. Things were moving forward, but she was only at 33 weeks of her pregnancy. I know this means VERY little to most people without kids, but you really need to be at 37 weeks before delivery, ideally 40 weeks. So a bit too early. I started scheduling flights to fly out the next day (Friday). I was on and off the phone with Jessi and her dad (who is a pediatrician) throughout the night. It wasn't until early morning that they felt the baby would 'probably' not come this weekend. Probably? I am 12 hours travel time to get home. If she goes into labor, I am screwed. This was really the dilemma of the weekend. Constantly second guessing what to do. Jessi wanted me to stay...I felt selfish staying to do a triathlon when my wife is in the hospital and could give birth to our son. Something about this did not seem right. But Jessi reassured me that it was better that I stay and do the race. I tried to get some more sleep Friday since Thursday night was a wash. But race morning was near.

Saturday morning I got up and had my traditional breakfast. But it did not seem to sit well. I just thought it was digesting and would take a few more minutes. But it never seemed to settle. Felt like I finished an all you can eat pizza contest. Anyway, I cruised down to the start, in the dark, and got all set up. Funny thing was, I was not nervous about anything. In the big picture of what had been happening, and what was happening in Spokane, this was pretty insignificant. And I think that took a lot of the stress off of it. Perspective.

As we were getting closer to the start, I tried using the restrooms, but the lines were way too long. So I suited up in my Orca 3.8 and rushed to the start. It would not be a race if I wasn't late to the start :) I got to my wave and we were about ready to head into the water. The water temp was cool, and it was saltwater, but it's still just swimming. I lined up on the front line and was ready to roll. The horn sounded and I was off in my first 1/2 IM in over 3 years. I swam steady and felt like I was never on people's feet, which I don't mind. I always get confused on where I am at on this course, but in the final 400 meters, you always seem to know where you are. I got out and looked at my watch and was happy to see that I swam a low 27 minute. Not too bad for the rather rough conditions. My Orca felt perfect. I quickly transitioned and was off on the bike.
Photos By ASI
My stomach was still not feeling great, but I was ready to ride. I felt pretty good and was holding back quite a bit. But I think everyone does at the start. On one of the out and backs I saw Sam Picicci and he was looking strong. I also saw Greg Gallagher who was cruising as well. Since I was in an earlier wave, it was not too congested out there at all. After about 1.5 hours on the bike I started to feel like I was missing some nutrition. I mixed my bottles a little differently hoping that I would supplement with course aid. But I factored it wrong. I took a chance to race with 1 less bottle, and it was a stupid mistake. At about 2 hours I knew I was limping a little and trying to maintain a 'reasonable' pace. I could feel that my legs had no snap left in them on the bike. I tried to eat and drink, but I knew it was too late. I still had a respectable bike time, but not my fastest at this race. Even on my Computrainer I rode higher watts and better times in training. I was happy to see T2 and rolled through it pretty fast. But I had to pee, and I did that in transition as to not have it impact my run split.
Photos By ASI
The run started fine. I started a tad fast, but slowed it down a bit. I watched my TIMEX Global trainer which kept me honest. The first lap I felt okay, the second things started to slow a bit. On the second lap I was able to see some people I knew which was nice. Tim Hola, fellow TIMEX Multisport Team member came up behind me and gave me a little push. But I was needing a bit more than a push at mile 8. Near the last turn, with 3 miles to go, fellow Spokaninte and friend, Sam Picicci came flying by me...I mean flying. He ended up running the fastest run split for our age group at just over 1:20. That's moving! As solid as he looked, I looked equally not. I plodded in and ended the day with a run split of 1:31+. Not a bad run for coming a bit unglued late in the bike. I ended up 7th in my division and was pretty happy with that. Total time 4:34:35...which just so happens to be 1 second slower than my best time there. But it was my best swim (by about 45 seconds) and best run there (by about 4 minutes). Bike was 6 minutes slower than my best, hmmm, who knows. So my final time was a bit slower because of the bike, but that's okay, I can fix that. So being away from triathlon for over a year, and away from 1/2 IMs for well over 3 years, I feel like I am right back in it. Just wiping off the cobwebs.

Photos By ASI
Once I finished, my mind was on getting home to be with Jessi. I gathered up my gear and rode back to my hotel room and packed the bike. As much as I wanted to think that I was focused on this race, I really was more focused on getting done with it. So that felt good. But it was also nice to get out and race and put in a solid effort.

A huge thank you to all the great people who made the day flawless on so many levels. There are so many aspects that can go wrong in a race. It's always nice to have the best equipment and sponsors doing their part. Now all you have to do it yours.

TIMEX and all fine partners of the TIMEX Multisport Team
Orbea bikes
Shimano Components (especially the Di2)
Orca wetsuits
K Swiss shoes
Extreme Endurance
Fitness Fanatics in Spokane
Rudy Project
Sugoi clothing