Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dakota 50 pre-ride notes (2013 course, reverse from normal)

This post to help others that are riding in the 2013 edition of the Dakota Five-O.  This years course will be run backwards from normal.  I pre-rode the course after driving home from Montana at the end of July. These will be basic notes, ask me any questions here or on Facebook.

To preface this report, I had driven about 10 hours through Montana the day prior and another 3.5 hours the day of this ride. My nutrition seemed right, so that didn't seem to impact the ride.  It was a little warmer than normal, since I had been in MT for the previous two weeks, the elevation was not likely a big impact.  I was riding my Salsa El Mariachi Ti with a 34t front and 11-34 rear 9-speed cassette.

The short summary is that I was in 1st and 2nd gear for the majority of any uphill riding (maybe due to sitting in the truck for 13hrs).  During the ride, I felt like I was at about 80% of race effort and was constantly thinking that I should gear down to a 32t for the race. However, after reviewing the Strava data, I was actually at a pretty low HR.  I wouldn't hold too much weight to the comparative KOM ratings as not many people have ridden the course in this direction. I think that under race conditions that the 34T will be just fine.  There are a few spots that the 32t might help relieve some pressure, but at an overall cost of speed. The 34t just forces me to race faster.

In summary, a full suspension might be nice as the course seemed rougher in this direction.  I also noticed the rocky ridges more.  For me a double of 32/36 with 11-34 on the rear would be perfect.  But, I run a hardtail and 1x9 :)   So...I'll likely stick with the 34t and hope that the race pace puts the gearing more into my comfort zone.

The Strava file:

Some detailed thoughts: (mileage and elevation are close approximations)

I started at the Tinton Trail singletrack trail head. So I had skipped riding the initial gravel climb
(3.2 miles and approx 690 feet of climbing).

Climb #1 is up Tinton Trail, across the gravel road and up the double track. Nothing extraordinary about this section. But probably more climbing than expected. (5.2 miles, 1050 feet climbing for this section only)

The Bacon Station climb is as hard as expected. Initial singletrack is surprisingly rideable, but rocky sections make you dismount and walk several times.  The climb actually goes past the bacon station a little ways. (2.3 miles, 850 climbing for this section only)

To me the key is to remember that at this point of the ride, you will be at approximately 13.2 miles and near 2600 feet of climbing (that includes the gravel road start stats).

The "unnamed road climb" in Strava is the fast double track downhill that is near mile 30 of the normal course. This was a little different than expected. Not as steep as I expected, but still hard due to trail conditions. For this section alone, you will climb 575 feet in 2 miles.

At the 16 mile point of my ride, the stats show a little over 3100 feet of climbing (make that 19.2 miles and close to 3800 feet of climbing from the start).  That is a lot of the climbing for the 1st third of this race!

The next section to note is called "Cringle Connection" and "Taco Alley" under the normal course direction. This is the section of what I remember as cow trail through the scrub trees. Lots of big rocks that we ride over and down, now much flow in the normal direction.  Again, many short walking sections in the reverse of the course. Lots of potential mud here if it rains as the cows really churned up this part of the trail. Lots of alternative paths to take as well. The main trail is pretty obvious, but the cows are making more and more options. Still some good climbing through here.

The climb from the above referenced section to the top (Old Baldy Trail head) is not as bad as you would think. On the normal race loop, this is the fun downhill after checkpoint 2. I would have thought this was steeper, but it went fairly quickly (despite me having to herd cows off the trail).

So now you are at the top of the course (normal checkpoint 2).  Mileage should be near 25.5 and 4875 of climbing (including gravel road from the start).  You would think that the majority of the rest of the course is downhill, right?  Not so fast....

I was probably most surprised by the slow going on the second half of the course. The rock gardens and climbing sections keep the speed surprisingly slow. I was by myself, so I wasn't pushing any of my limits, but it didn't feel like there were too many sections to really push it on the upper sections.  I had to bail out on my ride at the location of the normal first feed zone/checkpoint.  From the top to this section it was 11.7 miles and still had 1250 feet of climbing.  Some really fun sections and some spots that I wish that I had a full suspension bike.

Like I said, I had to bail on the funnest section of Tinton Trail downhill as it was getting dark.  I remember that section having 2-3 more climbs as well, but nothing sustained.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Getting revenge at Syllamo's Revenge

This season is not anything like last year.  The weather has been harsher, my training has not been as dedicated, but my overall fitness and times seem to have been feeling better than 2012.  Maybe I was more over trained last year, maybe I've carried more fitness into this year.  Whatever it is, I'm starting to believe that I'm in better shape than years past and that is good.

Regardless, I still went into May 18th's Syllamo's Revenge 50 mile MTB race with a lotta doubt.  Last year, this was a big goal race and I completely blew it.  This year, I wanted to improve, but really didn't think that I could meet last years goal of 5hrs 15min.  I went into this years race just wanting to do better, hoping for a 5:30 and wanting to have fun.

Jason Dal and I loaded up on Thursday afternoon and drove down to Mountain View, Arkansas.  Home to the race. I made a navigational decision error and it took longer to drive down than it should have.  We pulled into our cabin near 11pm and after unloading, decided to have a few beers to unwind.  It was a long and winding road to get into town and after all, I was trying to have more "fun" this year.

Just after lights out, the skies opened up and it down poured.  Really heavy rain for most of the night.  I wouldn't think much of it until later the following day.

Friday morning, we walked across the courthouse square to find some breakfast.  The small diner was full of locals and I'm sure we stuck out like sore thumbs.  No matter, the food was good and we ate enough to be able to skip lunch and pre-ride the course at mid-day.  This was when both Jason and I had our eyes opened to the slipperiness of the Ozarks stone.  We had ridden the opening climb to the singletrack and on the shorter, power climbs over rock, you could not keep the rear wheel from spinning.  There was even a short section of off camber rock that was hard to just walk across.  It wasn't looking good for race day if the course stayed this wet.  Jason was questioning if he should switch tires to a more aggressive knobby that he had brought along.  But, I was stuck with what I had - Specialized Renegades.  Semi-slick knobbies that were perfect for dry days, but seemed to be completely wrong for the slick rocks.

After the pre-ride at the start, we drove to the opposite side of the course to test the tires on more rocks.  We dropped the air pressure and that seemed to help.  This part of the course was also drier.  I had no choice, so I thought positive thoughts and told myself that the rocks would be slick for everyone and that I could out ride the others though this stuff (positive reaffirmations, by Tom Anderson).

We were able to meet up with Jim and Sally Logan for a pre-race dinner and good company.  I had another couple of beers that night, breaking my promise to abstain before the racing.  A semi-early bedtime and we were up on Saturday for the race.  Last year, we had stayed at a hotel and the poor breakfast choices where the beginning of my demise.  This year, the cabin allowed us to make our own breakfast and I think it really made the difference.  Eggo's are not likely the best choice, but it was easy carbs and calories for me to digest about 2hrs prior to the 7:30 start.  Jason and I arrived at the start early and I took my time suiting up. I didn't want to spend too much time aimlessly riding around.  I did get about 10min of warm-up in and figured that the approx 3/4 mile long opening climb would be my warm-up. It also fit into my plan of starting slow this year so I wouldn't blow up like last year.
On the initial fireroad climb, 8-12% grade

Last year, I got a terrible position on the starting line.  This year, I barged my way up to about the 3rd row on the outside. My goal was to go into the singletrack about 40 or 50th position out of the approximate 300 starters.  The problem with this course is that after the opening climb, the course turns right and into single file singletrack.  No real passing spots, unless someone makes a mistake.  Last year, I pushed into the top 20 and paid for my efforts.  This year, I was hoping to get some slower people in front of me so my efforts would be regulated by them.  The race director blew his whistle and off we went.  I went about 80% up the opening climb. Just at the top of zone 4, maybe zone 5. It was hard to let the front group go, but I was betting that half of them would blow up.  A second group formed behind them, and then the group that I was leading.  We were are the top in short order and we headed into the singletrack.  I'd guess that I was in 50th to 60th at this point and pretty happy that I hadn't burned any matches yet.

The first 15 miles to checkpoint #1 is very technical riding. The wet rocks made it even worse. I held back from those in front of me and let them make mistakes. This allowed me to see a potentially better line and to ride past them. I took my time and metered my efforts. I kept telling myself that it was a very long day and to relax. Some of the sections were too wet to ride and a short walk was in order, but I as able to ride the vast majority of this section (surprising, given my tire choice). Many times, others would gladly step out of the way just to see you attempt to ride a section. Congratulations were given when you made it, which gave me extra incentive to ride the sections clean. I pulled through the checkpoint in 1hr 43min, which was ahead of my goal time of 1:45.  I was feeling good and happy that I wasn't worn out.  I had the volunteers fill up a water bottle (I was using a camelback) and I was quickly off.  I had passed a good 20 or more people to this point and figured I was in about 30th.

The next section heads to a rocky overlook.  Lots of slow, rock crawling type riding. The last half has several downhills and the rocks are not as bad. I had an aggressive time goal for this section, but last year I cooked myself trying to descend too quickly.  I also remembered that the few climbs on this section are tougher than they should be. I kept telling myself to "be smooth" and to save energy for the climbs. More people were passed and I was actually enjoying myself.  Last year, this was the section that I began to bonk.  This year, I came through slightly faster, but in better shape.  My goal was 1:15, I came through at 1:11.  I was 6min ahead of my overall goal pace and started to think that my 5:30 goal was easily obtainable.  I had the volunteers fill my camelback with water for me, while I gulped down 1/2 a bottle of Heed and filled it to the top for the rest of the trip.  It was getting hotter and I didn't need to cramp on the upcoming climb.

Jason working his way along a side hill ridge

The long slog up to check point #3 was mostly a walk for me last year.  This year, I couldn't believe how short the climb was. I think that I may have actually held back a little too much here.  Still, I was surprised to pull into the check point in 1hr.  A full 33min faster than last year!  Walking vs. riding was the obvious difference, but also knowing the overall course and what to expect really helped.  At this point, I was a good 15min ahead of my goal and excited to finish the race.  The last section is fast and flowy if you are reasonably fresh.  I still had no idea of where I was placed in the race, but was riding with some faster guys.

Sally through #1 of two creek crossings, they were refreshingly cold!

I grabbed some more water and took off fast for the last section. I was chasing a guy through here and every time I was getting closer, he would find another gear and pull away.  I was mostly just trying to maintain a smooth pace and it was getting harder.  I think that my efforts over the course of the day were about perfect. Near the end a guy came from behind and I was determined to not let him pass.  We were racing at short course speed and passed a few guys.  I kept thinking that the final climb and then downhill to the finish were near, but after a few sections, I let him pass.  Resolving to myself that I was mistaken and that the downhill was still a few miles away.  I settled back into my pace and 10min later the downhill arrived.  There was no way that I could have kept that pace with him, but we had fun encouraging each other on while it lasted.

I finished in 5:17 and got a cheer from Ryan Feagan (who had finished 5th overall in 4:53). I think he was as surprised as I was with my finishing time.  The funniest part was when he noticed my poor choice in tires and shouted out again that I was nuts for running them.  Funny, after the initial hour, I don't think they made a difference, good or bad.

I cooled down some, showered and changed and grabbed a beer and a chair, settling in to wait for Jason and other friends to finish.  It took longer for Jason and I ultimately found out that he had "burped" his tires 2x in the first 90min and finally had to put a tube in.  Then his cleat moved on him and he had to walk over a mile.  He was able to fix it and finished, but at least an hour past his goal (which was obtainable for him).

At this point, no results were posted yet. I wasn't worried, I had the race that I wanted and was happy.  I figured top 8 in age group and top 25-30 overall (based on previous years times).  It wasn't until Jason went to look for his result that he told me that I had finished 18th overall and 3rd in age group (40-49). Yahoo!!!!  I had no idea that I was that far forward.  Amazed and elated. 

Syllamos Revenge 2013

I picked up a cash payout and this fine looking trophy, then Jason and I went back into town to celebrate.  The celebration didn't last too long.  The day caught up to both of us and after some BBQ and a few beers, were were in bed early.  Waking up at 6am, we decided to get on the road ASAP and beat the impending thunderstorm home.

Thanks to my family who supports me in my racing and thanks to Jason for the road trip.  Also a big thanks to Greg, Sterling and the gang at Rasmussen's Bike Shop. Always there for me with support, parts and good natured ribbing. It was a blast and I'm already looking to next year to see if I can improve on this results.

Thanks to "CommieBiker" and Arkansas Outside for the photos. They are appreciated.

2013 stats:
to chk1 157avg heart rate  1:42.45
to chk2 150avg heart rate  1:11.33
to chk3 153avg heart rate  1:00.33
to finish 147avg heart rate  1:17.55
total moving time 5:09.29; total time of 5:16.49
total avg heart rate 152
max heart rate 176
z1 0:14.44
z2 0:54.14
z3 1:22.59
z4 2:03.50
5a 0:31.50
5b 0:07.59
5c 0:01.11

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Colorado Training Camp

I haven't been as diligent as I had hoped on keeping this blog semi current, but with the cold, rain and lack of racing, I haven't had much motivation for posts.  Since my last race report, I had the option to race Sylvan Island, but the potentially poor weather and a last minute bartering with my family kept me away.  Instead, I opted to join some friends for a week in Colorado at the end of April.  The original plan was to drive to Denver on Monday, hop in an RV and head south to Pueblo for a few days and then inland to Salida for a day and then onto Buffalo Springs.  Six guys in a rented RV, mostly camping in primitive spots.  It would have been entertaining to say the least!

However, the fickle weather changed our plans.  In fact, it was snowing in Denver the day we left and our local guy made the call to head to Fruita.  Just in case the pass closed, he hightailed it out of town in front of us.

The final two hours were some shaky driving, but we made it outside of Eagle and camped for the night.  We woke to blue skies and snow.  The weather warrior seemed to be a good omen for the future.

We packed up and headed towards Fruita.  Riding in Rabbit Valley the first afternoon:
The 2nd day was at the famous Loma Exit trails (also called Kokopelli Trails):
30min from this photo, Jason and I would be on the trails pictured below him (Steve's Loop, I think also called Handcuffs)
Post ride beverages with my college roommate, Mike.

Day 3 was at the Lunch Loops at Grand Junction: (group photo)

Then, what I thought was some of the best riding around.  Buffalo Pass, just south of Evergreen, Colorado.  Long sweeping trail lines, lots of pine forest and then through massive burn areas. Great trails, great views.
Nice camping location, right off the trail:
Cool hidden restaurant/bar:
Bonfires, camping, lots of beer and buddies. We rode somewhere near 120 miles, climbed over 13k feet and were out and on the bikes around 20hrs, all in 5 days.  I still gained weight....

More pics here:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

 I meant to post this shortly after my last race.  I've been trying to figure out why my training seems so sporadic this year and yet, my results and fitness seemed to be better.  I'll have to chalk it up to having more miles and more experience in my legs. 

The graphs below are from; which is the site that I used to plan and track my training.  The first chart is my progress in 2012.  You can see three distinct Base phases (where the yellow and pink lines are far apart). Those were the long rides that I did in January through early March.  The fourth spread is the first Build phase.  And the blue line is the gradual build in fitness.  Now remember that the lines are all relative.  I don't think you can say that a blue line of 70 in 2012 means that I was more fit when compared to my blue line of 50 in 2013.  I don't know enough about that line or have enough years with this site to really determine if that is true.  Also, all of the blue dots are rides.  The higher the dot, the higher the intensity of the ride.  2012 was all according to plan.

2012 Training Peaks Fitness chart (1/1/12 to 4/15/12)

The next chart is for the same time period in 2013.  You can see that I didn't get the same Base fitness rides in and that they were not for the same longer (two weeks) periods. However, (and it is hard to see on these pics) the blue dots are trending higher.  In other words, the rides that I have done, have been more intense. So not the same amount of hours or miles, but slightly higher intensity.  This makes sense from just comparing what I perceive last year was, compared to this year.

So what does this all mean????    I'm not really sure.  I do know that I felt better at Swanson at a higher heart rate and for a longer period of time.  I also know that my performance fell off at the 3 hour mark (indicating lack of base).  Either way, I need to work with what I have and move forward.  Syllamo 50 is in a month and I have a few more weeks to add the the base while keeping some intensity rides up.  I likely won't know how it all works out until about the 3 hour mark of Syllamo on May 18th.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Psycowpath #1 - Swanson Marathon Race Report

Wow!  This one created so much confusion for me that I don't really know where to start.  It might take a second post to sort out, but here goes:

The opening race of the mountain bike season was this past Sunday at the Swanson Shoot Out, race #1 of the Psycowpath series out of Omaha.  As noted two posts back, I haven't had the same amount of training as last year. Of course, it has been a colder winter, so maybe everyone would be in the same boat. As I drove to the local Hy-Vee for a pre-race breakfast, I actually had thoughts on how bad this race would go and what I could do to salvage the rest of the season.  Maybe all racers are full of self doubt, it seems like a common thread among other race reports.  But I was just sure that with the lack of training and more specifically the lack of concentrated base training that I'd blow up early in this race.

Jason, Jeff and I carpooled together and arrived with plenty of time to get a good parking spot, take our time  kitting up and placing our coolers in a prime spot for mid-race replenishment. We hopped on the bikes and pre-rode a portion of the course. Just last Thursday, I had installed new Specialized Renegade tires and moved my gearing back down to a 34T in the front (I run a 1x9 setup). I only had the chance to ride singletrack once prior to the race (Friday night), so I was happy to feel pretty good during the warm-up and course recon.

Ryan Feagan and Daryl gave the last minute instructions and we all lined up for the start. Now I should explain that I had peeked at the start list Saturday night. I saw 3 top Cat1 riders, and 2 other marathoners that had beaten me previously. I also figured that a few other fast people would show up for morning registration, so with my self doubt firmly embedded, I was thinking that a 10th place would be a decent start to the season.

I have no idea what changed my mind, but I decided "F-it" and took the front row with Kent McNeill, Cam Kirkpatrick and Kevin Limpach (the fast Cat1s). At the whistle we took off hard and Jim Winklepleck came streaking around us. I settled into 5th spot (behind the four mentioned) and off we went. I could hear others behind me, but I made the snap decision to stick to Cam's wheel as long as possible and hopefully build a lead on those behind me. Outta sight, outta mind...and hopefully recover enough to hold off a few of them by the end.

Lap 1 ends and I'm still there, lap 2 and Cam is slightly outta sight of me when he must have hit something. He is dusting himself off from what looked like a hard crash and gets back on after letting me by. Cool!  I'm in fourth, but say it's just temporary until he comes back around me. I hold him off for lap 3 and on lap 4 we catch Kevin. He is obviously trying to stretch his back out. I begin to wonder if these guys have gone out too hard? Maybe they aren't invincible.

We finish lap 5 just after the Cat1s have started. I stop for water bottles and Cam goes by (I think it was lap 5). I hear the Cat2s start just behind me and I try to hold them off as long as possible. Eventually, the leaders catch me and I let them by, finally settling into a group more of my marathon speed. I figure that Cam wouldn't let that happen to him and will now be gone. I'm racing for fourth and keep looking over my shoulder.

Nothing spectacular really happens during the rest of the race. My laps were consistent until the last 3. Lap 9 finished at 3:50, so I knew that I had to go onto lap 10. Pride kept me pushing as hard as possible, I wanted to keep all 10 laps under 30 minutes and I didn't want to get lapped by the marathon leader. I finally finished the 10 laps in 4:15.47.  Good for what I figured was 4th place out of 34. It wasn't until later that I learned that Cam also had to pull out early (also back problems?).  I was handed a very unexpected 3rd place.

Sorry for the lack of pictures, I know these posts are boring with all words an no pictures. I'll work on that.

Next post will be on theories as why my body was actually ready for this effort (despite the best efforts of my mind).

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

My first MTB  race of the year is this weekend at the Nebraska Psycowpath series.  They do a fantastic job with the organization and the courses. So they attract a pretty large crowd. They also have a "Marathon" class which is an additional format (on top of the normal XC races).

The marathon races last for 4 hours, but if you complete a lap prior to the 4 hour mark then you can go for another. Most laps/first racer wins. Thus it can become a race of attrition, pacing and strategy (so you don't have to go out for that extra lap after the 4 hour mark). I wasn't the fastest in this group last year, but I was the most consistent and won the series. I had 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 10th for my placings in the six races. I'm not feeling as strong as last year for this first race, I don't really know what to expect. I'm sure that the competitive juices will start flowing on the starting line, I just hope that I don't blow-up.

My bike is still in winter mode. In the next few days I need to put the suspension fork back on, switch out the front chain ring and chain. Replace some worn out bearings and check other vital parts. This is not something that you normally do just before a race. I hope that I can get it done on Thursday and then ride the bike Friday and Saturday to shake out any bugs.

Lastly, I was hoping to have my tires last the month of April before replacement. On tonight's ride I noticed what looked like something stuck to the tread. When I stopped, I found a bubble start to push-out from between the treads. Basically a start to what ended up happening to me two years ago in the picture below. I guess I need to replace those before this weekends race as well (at least I found it now).

End of this tire

Monday, April 1, 2013

1st Quarter 2012 vs 2013

Compared to last year, this year has been very odd for me and my training.  Not necessarily due to the colder weather this year, but it seems due to motivation. As an example:

          Total Hours          Miles          Strength (included in total hours)
2012      142:45              1349           25:45
2013        84:15              1028             3:15

The really odd part is that I seem to be carrying a lot of my fitness from last year.  I know that I don't have the same strength or the same endurance base, but the longer rides do feel pretty good right now. Obviously, I haven't done the same hours, some due to skipping out on the P90X program that I did last year. I didn't realize until I pulled this data, how close I was on the miles.

Oddly, CIRREM (February, 2013) went fairly well.  After a decently hard start for the first 20 minutes, Jason Dal and I settled into a medium pace. I stayed with Jason until about the 3/4 mark and then went hard for the last hour. Chasing down several rabbits and coming in at a decent time. Could I have went faster? Maybe....I probably could have been faster by another 10 minutes overall by being more consistent in pace. But maybe since I went easy in the middle, that certainly gave me more at the end.

Either way, I will be toeing the line this weekend for the opening Psycowpath Marathon race. I guess I'll find out how things really are after this race.

Me at the end of the 2013 CIRREM, pushing it hard at the end.