Tuesday, June 15, 2010

So I finished up the Burn 24 hour Race two weeks ago, but never posted a write-up. Admittedly, I’ve been distracted putting on a sweet 8 Hour race, the H8R. Unfortunately, it was last week, so all my time after the Burn immediately went towards that event. It went well, and I’ve managed to decompress a bit from it and get back into the swing of things…

So without further preamble, we’ll move onwards to the Burn 24 Hour goodness. I’ve sort of had mixed bags with the 24 hour races, but I keep coming back for a perfect one… Went with the Burn and Figured I’d try the SS to see if it might be the one.

I arrived in Wilkesboro on Friday night, and realized the field was soaking wet and full of big squishy puddles. While walking around I saw a giant pile of mangled pop up tents. Apparently, hours before I got there a giant storm came through and destroyed lots of people’s tents. Glad I missed that. I decided setting up my ragged out tent of dubious quality in the possibility of another big storm was a bit questionable so I took the great approach of sleeping at the Hotel L’Accord. Surprisingly it wasn’t so bad, and I slept great.

I hate hate HATE how 24 hour races start at 12 noon… I love waking up at 6 am and realizing I have 1 hour of prep and 5 hours to kill before the race… I hooked up with the Bike Factory Racing crew from Virginia, and they graciously agreed to help me out with some bottles and stuff for the day. I prepped the Superfly SS as my primary bike, and I had a borrowed SS as a backup, both set up with a 32x20. The burn starts with a stressful “designated runner” le mans start. Basically, this means that anyone on a team gets to have someone on their team wear running shoes, warm up, and then sprint the ¼ mile run. So for a solo rider, this means either sprinting the run, or walking the first half lap behind the entire field of riders. I went for the former and was the 2nd solo or so to the bike.

First lap started well after I cleared the traffic, and I settled into a medium pace. Since I admittedly did not train enough for this race, I wanted to do a steady pace, and start off easy to make sure I could ride the whole thing. One solo SSer passed me on the first lap, and I didn’t bother chasing. This worked well for the first 10 laps or so. During this time, I had one or two SS guys go by, and I faded a minute or two on the 11th lap. My 12th lap ended up being death.

I had been racing in 80+ degree temperatures for 9 hours without sweating, and was somehow pouring sweat everytime I climbed a roller. Riding the SS felt like someone had switched my cog to a 16t. I felt like every roller was excruciating, and when the rear tire slipped on a root, I didn’t have the power to keep it going, and had to dab many times. I found myself riding off the trail into the brush a time or too as well. I finally rolled into the pit area demoralized after dropping 20 minutes

I was crushed… I had been at this point before in 24 hour races, but usually after 15 or 17 hours… not 9. I couldn’t push the gear I brought, and had nothing else. I sat in the chair of defeat for an hour and pretty much convinced myself to pack my stuff and head home. I decided to take a look at the results and see where I was. Well, it turned out that I was passed by SSers who weren’t solo, and that I had been and second place and lapped 3rd, even with the lap of death. The SS guys that passed me weren’t solo riders…

I decided that I might as well give it one more go and see what happened on the next lap. I got ready, and rolled out 90 minutes after I stopped… I was now in 4th place, with a short jump back to 3rd, and nearly 45 minutes behind 2nd. Back on the bike, and everything just clicked… I was on, and caught 3rd place back in the first half lap. 3 laps later, and I had brought back the big gap to 2nd and rode on by. After getting back into 2nd, I backed off a bit on the pace and cruised for a lap. My rest was not long lived, as 3rd went by me as I grabbed food in my pit, and the chase was back on, I passed him, and then on a slick log, I missed getting over it, and he was right there and missed it too. We looked at each other, and he bolted… I caught him and continued a high pace, did a quick pit, and then a full XC pace lap.

Apparently his legs didn’t like that and I was able to take out a healthy chunk of time. I went back into cruising mode and started counting down the laps. I was fine, but a numb finger since 3 laps back and knee pain had me dreading each additional lap as adding a day of recovery time, for such little game… Luckily, third had the same idea, and he didn’t force me to ride the 3 extra laps I had time for, and I was able to stop at 10:30am after 171 miles in 20.5 hours of ride time, and 1.5 hours of self-pity.

This unfortunately meant over 3 hours of sitting in the sun before I could drive home… I packed my stuff and hung out for the awards and food, then headed home, and finally got to bed and slept 13 hours after being awake for over 40 hours… definitely a long weekend…

Overall, I can’t be anything but happy with the way it turned out… It still wasn’t that perfect race, but I was satisfied to be at the point of quitting, and come back from it and ride strong… Hell, I was doing full XC laps after 19 hours, I wouldn’t have thought that, especially on the SS… Maybe the perfect one is still out there… or maybe, there’s no such thing.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Mess

The Cohutta has come and gone, and left me with my first DNF on a NUE race. I could complain about alot of minor things that went wrong, but in the end, it came down to weather.

Started off the day right by forgetting to take my vest off before the start. Not really an issue to ride no hands and get it back in the pockets, until I realized I put all my food in the vest pockets and not the jersey pockets... Got that fixed, and made it over the climb. Apparently my speed was appropriate to my current race placing in brush creek, as I never caught anyone until the end, and dropped the train I was leading 3/4 through.

Old Copper road was lonely again, as I was passed by a few geared people and unable to catch onto a wheel. Made it to the whitewater center and started some singletrack climbs feeling great. I caught 2 SS guys who passed me on old copper road and had another in sight, and then CLICK!

I looked down, and my right pedal had fallen out again... WTF? It was definitely torqued, especially after it came out in a previous race. I stood there in shock a minute, and tried to thread it back in, but the threads on the crank were slightly crushed in a place. I managed to borrow an 8mm and chase it back in and tighten it on. I figure it was a good 5 minutes gone.

I started the furious chase back on, and went a bit harder than I should have. 30 miles later, My pace slowly drifted from passing people like crazy, to riding the same speed, and then to falling off the back... In my mind, the event was quickly becoming a "ride" and not a "race."

By this time the fog was dense, temps were dropping on the ridge, and the wind was crazy strong. There were even some giant headwind sections on some of the climbs. I made it to aid 3 just before the torrential downpour began. I only had summer wear and the vest, and I knew if I didn't make it down the mountain before it rained that I might not make it down at all.

Of course I made it 2 minutes into the 12 mile descent and the rain came. The descent was crazy. Torrential rain, 5o ft of visibility with the fog, and huge crosswinds that I had to lean into and still got moved across the trail. I was good for most of it, but my body fat slowly lost the battle to the wind and rain.

As I approached Aid 4, I was slowing, shivering uncontrollably, and had no sensation in any of my fingers... It got to where I would brake and I could feel the bike slowing, but couldn't feel the bars or that I was braking. It was hard to even stand up and hold onto the bars they were so stiff. Got to aid 4, and hung out for a bit under the tent as people streamed by. I knew I was done when I took my gloves off and all my fingers were completely white and waxy, with no sensation at all in the first 2 phalanges of any fingers.

If I was racing, I might have convinced myself to go on, but the combination of the day defeated me, and I accepted a ride back to the start after 65 miles... I really don't know if more clothing would have been enough, I would have had to bring fleece gloves to make it down the descent, and even then with the rain, it might no have been enough. One more thing to worry about, I guess.

Kudos to those that finished, it was an epic day for sure.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Cohutta 100 has finally arrived, and sadly, it is my first real race of the season... Should be a good shock to the system.

Elizabeth is doing alot of the SERC races this year, so I've accompanied her to Chickasaw and Tsali for some SS action... The first race was a mudfest, and I ended up slipping back to 5th after figuring out that the XDX tires were great for the clearing the wet course the first lap, but not as great on the 2nd lap when everything turned slick as snot...

Tsali was less fun. I made it 5 minutes into the woods, hit a bump, and wound up on my top tube... I looked down expecting to see a broken chain, and instead noticed I didn't have a right pedal. The threads were still good, so it seems to have just unthreaded itself for no reason... Of course I had every hex except the 8mm I needed to tighten it back on. Eventually someone had an 8mm that I borrowed to save myself a 10 mile walk, and I managed to finish an impressive 30 minutes back. I did beat one guy though who had his left crank arm fall off. "Hey man, do you have an 8mm?," he asked.

So back to Cohutta... It will be my longest ride of the year thus far. I tried to do a run of the 65, but the fireroads were all icey snowy. The picture below is the start of a big fireroad descent. We turned back after a few wrecks...

I'm going for the whole "I've done way too many of these fricken off-road centuries, maybe my experience will pull me through." I'm running the 32x20, again, for the third year in a row. Every year I think I should use a 19, but then I get on those hills and am glad I have the 20... We'll see how it goes!

Stella shares my current excitement level

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Shoes and TMI

I'm the type of guy that once I find something I like, it's kind of hard to convince me that something else is better. That being said, I've owned 3 pairs of biking shoes in my life:

2004 - Sidi Bullets - Basic 3-strap velcro mtb shoe... I rode the crap out of these things, until the velcro died enough to not hold on, and the sole had huge grooves in the bottom from the eggbeater pedals, so that the engagement is quite loose...

2005 - Sidi Dominator 5 Carbon - When I got my first road bike, I went with some higher end shoes since the Sidis had done me no wrong. Fit is great, pretty stiff, and tolerable all day despite the crappy paper insoles they come with. I'm still rocking these to this day.

2007 - Sidi Dragon - The mack daddy mountain shoe... I still rock these as well, by far the most comfortable shoes I've owned... They've been through many miles of heat, cold, rain, snow, and everything in between. The replaceable sole is nearly done, though I've yet to replace them yet. I've lost one of the techno-twisting middle buckles, but they're useless anyways...

So what would make a man change from shoes that work decently well? Reluctance to buy a $100 sole for a 3 yr old pair of shoes? Boredom? Distraction by shiny object? Drawn to B-Dot supremacy?

Take your pick, but I've ended up with not one, but two shiny new pairs of cycling kicks, with the new [new = last year release] Bontrager RXL shoes in road and mountain flavor.

As for fit, for both shoes I had to drop down a half size from my Sidis to get the proper size... and even then, I can only wear them with thinner summer weight socks. Not really a big deal most of the time, but sort of an annoyance. The next size up is too large to wear even with thicker socks. Beyond that, the derby cut works well to really let you adjust out the volume in the front of the shoes to get a snug secure fit, while the toe box is wide enough for comfort. The buckles work well enough, although I sort of miss the half click release option from the sidis for easy adjustment on the bike.

After a couple hundred miles [sadly, many on the trainer], I can say that the RXL road shoes are superb... A+. I've had no issues of numbness or pain, and they are noticeably stiffer than the Sidis. The eSoles insoles make a huge difference, and is easily felt while pedaling. The vents seem to work at pushing air into the shoe, but I've only had one outdoor ride without booties to go by. The heel locks in well, and no sliding around yet. Overall I'm super pleased...

The mountain shoes verdict is still in progress. I've done a cross race and a 2. 5 hour mountain ride with them so far. On the bike, they fit well and are night and day stiffer than the Sidis. Despite the extra roominess compared to the dragons, they don't slide or move around at all either. So far, I'm still debating on the off the bike performance. I have a little heel slide while running/walking, and the super stiffness could be an issue on longer walks... So it's gonna take a while to see where these will fit in, and whether they will hurt me in a longer race where walking is an issue... happens sometimes for a singlespeeder...

But overall I'm pleased with both pairs and can't wait for the weather to stay warm enough to get some more testing in!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Powered Up

I realized it has been some time since I've blogged... I guess with all those epic rides and all the long hours down in sunny Florida logging base miles, theres just not much time left for typing.

If only that were the case...

Instead, I've been working 50 hour weeks and riding the trainer every other day... I hate this damn cold, my appendages refuse to cooperate with me.

So instead I've been finding shiny things to occupy my time, like my christmas present to myself.

I decided to try and add a bit more structure to my training this year, and ended up getting a Powertap SL 2.4 hub from the fine folks up at Saris. My timing was fortuitous, as for 2010, Bontrager wheels were no longer paired spoke, which meant I could actually build the wheel into a nice rim.

I had batted around the idea before of getting some bombproof training wheels in the form of the Bontrager Classics. 32 spokes, durable hubs, puncture resistant tires, etc. But then I started to actually think, and realized that [1] I don't race road, so why do I need "race" and "training" wheels? [2] If I did do a race here or there, wouldn't I want the powertap? and [3] I like shiny things.

So instead I decided to replace my current RXL wheelset [for sale, $475] and just build up a lightweight all around wheelset. Since I like things that match I went with the new 2010 RXL scandium rims, and the DT Swiss Aerolite white spokes, which are flattened to be bladed, but are small enough to fit through a 2.5 mm hub hole without slotting. Rounded it off with the DT prolock nipples. I don't know much about them except being told they are the best, and carry a price tag to match.

After getting it all built up, the final weight for the wheelset was 1720 grams. Not bad at all with a 412 gram hub. This pushed the Madone up to 15.5 lb with the sensors/cages/pedals/everything. I don't think I can complain about that at all.

Sadly I haven't gotten to ride anywhere but the trainer and the boulevard, so I haven't been able to do a solid threshold test and get all my zones set up... But it is interesting to see all the little things like terrain, wind, cadence, etc that have such a huge impact on how much power you're actually outputting. But I think it's going to be a great training tool and I'm really looking forward to this damn cold going away so I can put it to good use!

Friday, January 8, 2010


The puzzle pieces are falling into place... Hmm, Fancy scandium rim, fancier and shiny white spokes, red nipples... Only one thing missing, what could it be?