A Mountain Massacree: Race Report

The oxygen seemed scarce as my heart pounded harder and harder. Searing pain was rotting my quads from the inside out, as I rocked side to side, churning the pedals; begging them to turn easier. The grimace on my face hid nothing. Eyes squinting. Teeth clenched. My gaze, no matter how intense, never seemed to bring the wheel any closer. The wind mocked me as it added to my struggle, screaming “where is your strength now?” I was about to get dropped.

90 minutes earlier—–

It was a perfect setting for a bike race: blue sky, mountains, sun, warm but not hot temps. Today would be my first road race in over 6 months. Excitement was pumping through my veins. This would be a good race for me I thought. I’ve been doing long rides with lots of climbing, my legs are ready. I was at the start line of the first ever Mountain Massacree Road Race, a mountain race in western Maryland.

We were to do 3 laps of a loop and one finishing spur to make a total of 57 miles and 7,700 feet of climbing. The numbers didn’t scare me. Even having driven the course ahead of time,   seeing the climbs didn’t scare me. I love riding up hill, the longer the better. I’m a climber naturally with a thin build, long femurs and unusual love for pain. As the road turns up and the effort level increases, the longer I push the more my strength shines through. This race would be perfect for me. How many guys in my category are doing long hard rides? It can’t be many.

For six months I have focused my training on getting stronger at one thing: going long. The Cohutta 100 mountain bike race was my focus, but I’ve done several other races that last beyond the typical 2 hour mark. Its become something of a habit, seeking out longer races that bring mental stamina into the equation. So far, I’ve been very pleased with the results. I can now ride for 4, 6 or even 8 hours and get my power up in the final hours of such rides. This race would be cake.

A short neutral rollout began our 3/4 race. Being one of the only 4’s in the group, I elected to hang at the back and sit in. The pace car pulled away and immediately the pace jumped 40%. Now, this would normally be an unnoticed event, but seeing as we had over seven thousand feet to climb, I was a bit surprised. 3.4w/kg for 4.5 miles got us to the base of the first climb, and we were now quite warmed up.

Then, it exploded. We hit the 9% grade and did 5.6w/kg for the first two minutes as the unprepared were ejected from the pack. The remaining 6 minutes of the climb were done at 4.6w/kg (1342 VAM) to get us up to the first rolling section of the whole course to this point. Staying with the pack had been a chore but not one I was unable to do. I was satisfied and “knew” such efforts tired us all out and would not be repeated again.

mm

We paraded down a very windy descent with cross winds stretching out the entire field until close to 8 seconds separated the front from the back. We approached climb #2 of the loop and someone at the front accelerated inciting a bunch sprint to catch a wheel (4.2w/kg for the 3 minute lead into the climb). Climb #2 was affectionately named Pig’s Ear Road, and it was every bit as ugly. A 4.8w/kg effort for the next 4:20 was the order to fill and we all grunted our way up the 8.5% pitch before cresting the top a bit strung out (1348 VAM).

Once over Pigs Ear, the descent began more or less. But unlike most races, it was anything but relaxing. The field stretched single file back out to 7 or 8 seconds as cross winds on top of the mountain ripped at our bodies. There is nothing like trying to race your bike while gusts are blowing you across an entire lane of the road. When the road turns down, I mean really down, fear becomes the competition. Who can deny their innate sense survive? Who can let themselves go, and plummet down the mountain fastest? We dropped 1,100′ in about 6 minutes. And I must tell you, there is little else in the world like hitting 48 mph on two small patches of rubber that are your tires, in a pack of racers.

Down the mountain we flew only to meet another climb immediately at the bottom. Nothing like a good 5.4w/kg for 3 minutes to wake your legs up from a 50 degree descent! We plowed up the road back towards the starting line; you’d have thought hell was chasing us. First lap done: 18 miles, 19.2 mph, 2,300 ft of climbing.

Back to the first climb, the irony of its name sank in: Sam’s Friend Road. This road was no ones friend today. 20 seconds slower the second lap didn’t bring the relief I’d hoped for as I pushed my 4.7w/kg to maintain contact (1286 VAM). The lactic acid was settling in, and my legs were in full on protest. My months of long distance training had neglected a few key pieces as I was quickly noticing.

I was barely hanging on to the back of the dwindling group now down to 16 riders from the original 28. We approached the climb up Pigs Ear and I knew it was going to be brutal. Another 6 minutes at 4.5w/kg was all I could do (1256 VAM). I crested the top and began reeling in the yo-yo’ing rider who would be my salvation, my bridge back up to the main group. Suddenly, we hit the cross winds.

Getting dropped in cycling is joy, humility, shame, frustration and relief wrapped into one moment. The thoughts are there and have been for a while, “can I maintain this pace?”, “this hurts too much”, “I wish this was over”. Then suddenly, like magic, its over. You’re off the back. And there is no hope to regain contact. You have been liberated from your cage of pain. Then, the thoughts flood in, “you’re not good enough”, “who were you kidding to think you could race these guys?”, “everyone will know that you couldn’t make it.”

I didn’t know what happened. I couldn’t comprehend why I was having such difficulty. My training had gone great, I was happy where I was and my fitness seemed to be at an all time high. What was happening?

Dropped and completely out of contention, I took the next lap easy. I enjoyed the views for the first time, marveled at the excellent weather we had and simply enjoyed riding. About the same place I had been dropped on lap 2, I was caught by two riders on lap 3. They were riding much more quickly than my soft-pedal-because-I’m-out-of-the-race-now pace, and thus I elected to join them and discontinue my lazy speed. We put forward a sincere act so as to not look completely pathetic to the race volunteers and made our way to the final climb.

I was excited about the final climb as it looked to be something to remember: a 2 mile, 8%, dirt road. 4w/kg got me to the peak in 14:10 (1192 VAM), and just a few seconds behind one of co-dropped-riders. Desperate to stay ahead, this guy buried himself for the next 2 miles, fighting rollers and wind to bring home 16th place. I kept him honest pushing 3.5w/kg, while making sure our third dropped member was no where in sight behind. I crossed the line for 17th and immediately began to feel the weight of shame at having been unable to hang with the contenders. Since the race ended on a mountain, we had a 10 mile ride back to the car (mostly downhill thankfully), but I made sure I pulled the true heros of the day back to town to kill my legs once and for all.

All in all, it was a majestic race, brutally hard and awesome. I learned a lot about the true state of my training, and what I needed to toe the line with such mountain goats. In a long distance mountain bike race, getting up to 4/kg again and again for 6 hours is what I trained for. But when it comes to road racing, there is simply no replacement for high power intervals regardless of how long your race is. Repeatability at high watts is priceless and will always rein supreme.

Next time, I will be prepared.

Bike Jam / Kelly Cup Criterium Report

   I hate criteriums. A bunch of guys flying around tight turns at high speeds all within inches of each other is not my idea of fun. It is however, exciting. Nothing gets my heart rate up like the nerve racking nature of a crit. Despite all of that though, I thought it was time to do another one. It also happened to be my road teams home race so… I had a few motivations.
     Given my focus on long steady mtb races this year, doing a 15 mile crit isn’t exactly what I’ve trained for. There are times when I race for the sake of it. I don’t intend to win, I don’t race vigorously, I just go out and race for the sheer excitement of doing it. That was what I did.
     The race was yesterday, a Sunday. To make things more fun, I had planned to do an annual spring mountain ride with buddies on Thursday. Simple math shows 2 days of down time between the two rides. Plenty of time to recover for a race, right? Not even slightly. The spring ride is one of my favorites of the year. Its hard, and we go fast… all day. A little over 5 hours in the saddle, 10,000 feet of climbing and lots of zone 5 efforts. Not exactly a ride I quickly recover from. But honestly, its way more fun than any race I do all year; so it takes priority.
     In summary: I knew the crit would be hard and scary. I was left with only one solution. Go off the front.
     Patience, is a virtue. In bike racing, patience is practically the only thing that matters. Even though I know this, I have not mastered it, and so I often make tactical errors.
     I did a lap to warm up before my race immediately after the previous race ended. I was about 300m from the start line of the 1 mile lap when I heard the whistle sound for my races start. I watched the riders take off and immediately was chasing. 1 hard effort and I was on the back of the group. We paraded around the course that only had 1 tight 120 degree turn (of which I never seemed to be able to ride well).
     On the second lap before the tight turn, I took off the front. The pace had slowed and I wanted to see if the group was at ease with a solo rider break. They were not. A half mile later I was caught.
     Two laps later I felt good again so I took off at the start line which has a bit of an uphill pitch. This time I absolutely floored it. Up over the top I went but as soon as the road turned down, I was reeled in. Someone was VERY committed to me not getting away!
 pushing the pacethe attack
     I sat in the pack and did as little as possible trying to get some snap back into my legs. At this point I was losing track of the laps and had no idea where we were in the race. Surfing around in the mid/back of the pack is nice to save energy, but it doesn’t exactly give you a clear view of what is happening in the race. With 5 laps to go two guys jumped off the front, and I didn’t even notice until they had about 7 seconds.
     The group wasn’t pushing it to catch them, as I assume they were tiring, so I launched off the front to go join the party! Bridging up was hard, but I finally got there and our gap grew. After two laps the bunch got antsy and began pulling us back. I was starting to feel the lack of preparation for the race and turned to see a strung out group on my wheel. The second I eased up, one of my breakaway companions hit it hard up the slight rise to the finish. And he was gone.
 bridging up to the break
bridging upPushing hard in the break
     That turned out to be the winning move of the day, to which I say, chapeau Anthony (of BBC)! Perfectly timed. The field was tired from chasing and with 2 laps left, he only needed a handful of seconds to make it stick. I hung around the middle of the field and pushed the sprint a bit but was no where near the podium.
All in all, I got what I came for: fun, excitement, and some short, sweet road racing!
     Looking forward to something a bit more my speed next weekend with a 55 mile road race in the mountains. Should be a blast!

2013 Spring Mountain Ride Report

Twice a year I head out to the mountains with friends to get some good mountain riding in. Typically, that comes in the form of riding our patented Skyline 100 route, that affords gorgeous views, long climbs and quiet roads.

This spring, it was time to shake things up a bit and try a new course. Charged with the scouting, I looked a bit closer than Front Royal, VA, for something challenging. What I came up with was tough, but really produced a memorable ride.

12 of us met up in Frederick, Maryland, and set out for Gambrills Park. We began climbing immediately and within the first 14 miles we had climbed 2,600 feet. Steep, and rough pavement made for a quick wake up call on the day: it would be a long one! With the group back together we began hitting a few rollers here and there, with things stretching out on some longer climbs as we made our way north towards Thurmont.

fd2

Somewhere in the first hour the rain began, but the group remained positive as we descended steep sections like Hells Delight Road. We made it down to the bottom and start of Ritchey Road (a hallmark of the annual Civil War Century) and regrouped briefly before heading up.

I knew in the back of my mind I wanted to hit this climb hard, and see what kind of VAM I could lay down. On top of that, I was hoping to snap a few photos of guys cresting the climb. I pushed it just about as hard as I could and got some great photos in the process.

fd8

Soon we were flying back down the mountains towards Thurmont. This may have been one of the best parts of the whole ride. The road was a nice -3% grade on fresh pavement. We all got together and just crushed it for 7 miles averaging well over 26mph. Great fun!

Resting in Thurmont for a bit, we took in some food and chatted about the ride. The weather was clearing and we were drying out as the wind kicked up and brought some sun! Soon we were rolling again and started our 5 mile, 1,200′ climb up to Camp David. It was a tough climb but good to shake the legs out after the rest.

fd5

From there we descended down to Smithsburg and began our southbound trek back to Frederick. A few climbs met us between there and the queen climb of the day, but nothing unmanageable. Now, I had heard about a certain climb called Coxey Brown, and I had been told it was an aboslute beast of a climb. So, I thought, “what better way to finish a day of climbing than with a hard, steep climb?” After 70 miles and 8,600′ of climbing, it was a big ask for all the guys to do it. But they all put their heads down and churned up it!

Coxey Brown: 2 miles, 1,000′ of gain!

fd0

fd

At the top, with sighs of relief, we regrouped, happy to be going mostly downhill from that point on. With only 7 miles to ride the motivation was high and the pace lifted. 80 miles and 10,500′ of climbing on the day made for a successful spring ride!

Cohutta 100 Mountain Bike Race Report

I can barely walk. My fingers are swollen. Quads, knees, back, triceps: all useless and paralyzed by fatigue. It’s the day after the Cohutta 100 mountain bike race, and my body is wrecked.

I don’t typically feel this way after a race. In fact, I have never felt like this in my life. But strangely enough, it doesn’t deter the desire to do it again. In a sense, I feel I earned this pain; it is my medal.

100 miles. 13,000 feet of climbing. Miles of grueling and muddy single track trails. Unending gravel climbs, rutted and carved by years of rain-shaped rivers cascading down the smokey mountains. This is the Cohutta 100, supposedly the “easiest” of all the N.U.E races (a series of long distance mountain bike events). Today, it became the hardest. Forecasts and radar maps showed the truth. A high pressure system was affording much of the country with beautiful spring weather, all while holding those of us in Tennessee captive to misery. The rain was coming, and with it, intense difficulty.

Racing 100 miles isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Its more of an “all day ride” then a race. Most would agree that the race doesn’t actually begin until the last 10 miles. Survive for 90 miles and go as hard as you can for the last 10 to determine your result. The problem becomes that you don’t necessarily have much left to “race” with as the pain and exhaustion from the day are firmly settling on your legs. It takes every ounce of energy you have, both physically and mentally, to press on to the finish. Riding 100 miles is exhausting. Riding it on a mountain bike is harder still. Riding up 13,000 feet adds to the difficulty. Riding that in muddy and slick conditions forces intense focus and the need for added power as your tires can slip as you pedal. Riding in sub 50 degree temperatures necessitates your body using energy to warm itself, thus taking it away from your forward motion.

The Race

The rain began overnight, soaking and muddying the trails before we even began. Contrary to typical habits, I remained in the car staying warm until 10 minutes until the start. It was raining lightly as I spun around the parking lot and got to the line with about 1 minute to go. The gun went off and it was on like a 90 minute XC race. People sprinting, jockeying for position and going fast. The race began with a 2 mile road climb where I remained in the top 15. I looked back near the top and the field of 200 some racers had been blown apart. Little groups speckled the road behind as we flew up the mountain.

We burst into the single track full throttle. You’d think the trails were bone dry as we ripped around narrow turns, up and down hills. Things were immediately strung out into long snakes of riders, and I was happy to be in the top 15 after the first few miles. Somewhere around mile 8, I felt a little bang on my leg and noticed that my two spare tubes were falling off the bottom of my seat. Not wanting to lose these precious items I stopped and lost a few places to re-secure them. After stopping again to simply rip the whole thing off and stuff it in my jersey I was behind some slower folks and somewhere in the top 35.

nue

Floating and bumping our way down the muddy mountain we got into some fire roads (think gravel that has potholes, divots, washed out sections, ruts and mud). I was happy to get out of the more dangerous single track and on to something slightly more predictable. We dropped down more descents of very steep roads and ended up on a paved section.

About this time (mile 20) I was feeling a bit heroic and wanted to make up some time. I carefully upped my effort, keeping a watchful eye on my heart rate and pushed ahead. I met another rider, Dave Tippy, who began working in a pace line with me and we quickly caught a group of 5 riders. They joined our efforts and before long you’d have thought we were off the front of a road race; taking our pulls and drafting as much as we could.

The fun quickly ended at mile 23. A few things happened at this point in the race. I realized that my hands and feet were going to be cold for a very long time, and that I would be going primarily uphill for the next 25 miles. Up 6,000 feet to be exact. And thus it began. The long, long slog up multiple mountains.

At mile 37, Cheryl Sornson (2012 female NUE series winner) caught me and was a perfect pace setter for me. I followed her up that mountain for the next 13 miles. Many times I would begin drifting back, easing up, but with eyes LOCKED on her rear wheel, I pressed on. It finally ended at mile  48 and I began what could arguably be a worse than climbing for 25 miles: descending for 4 miles, at 30 mph, while soaking wet. At the bottom, I was shaking uncontrollably.

I lost Cheryl on the descent and was alone again, and fairly demoralized in my near hypothermic state. Fortunately, Scott Cole (a former 24 hour racer) rolled up on me and talked with me for quite a while. We rode together for the next hour chatting about family, bikes and anything positive. The rain began again and having another fellow sufferer was essential. The Cohutta 100 was taking its mental tole.

Around that time it dawned on me that even with the thick mud, peanut buttery in consistency, my drive train (SRAM XX1) had been solid all day. No issues. Quite surprising considering the conditions, and awesome that I had not had to think about it once since I started. Any mountain bikers dream! Scott was riding it as well, and we both marveled at its reliability.

We passed the southern checkpoint, got our wristbands and began the 6 mile, 2,200 ft climb back up. Around this time, I noticed that my heart rate was sitting happily in the low zone 2 world, and I was unable to push it higher. Up until that point I had been monitoring how hard I was going based on my heart rate, but now, I was in survival mode and going at the only speed I had: finish. 

Scott was feeling a bit better than I so I told him to go. He kindly offered to ride with me, but I was not interested in holding anyone back. I climbed and climbed back up the fire road, carefully picking every place my tires went, looking for traction, avoiding holes and ruts. The climbing felt truly endless. The pitch changed constantly making rhythm difficult. I was extremely thankful for my equipment choice. I had recently built up a Specialized Stumpjumper hardtail. It is super light which mentally, was very helpful slogging uphill for miles. There is a lot to say for “mental” aids. When you’re out there for hours and hours, any positive boost can help. Knowing I had the fastest and lightest bike… well that was exactly what I needed to climb fast, and needed to know to stay focused. I was elated to see the top. Perhaps overjoyed is a better descriptor. 35 miles to go.

Just then, Greg Rittler passed me heading down the mountain (after having had some bike troubles) and shouted some encouragement and said I was sitting in the top 20. Those simple words lifted my spirits! The competitor within restarted its engine and I was off… at the same pace, but excited!

The next 25 miles are a blur of passing folks, climbing more, descending very very fast and doing everything I could to get my hands to function. Numb and tired hands make grabbing food and water bottles very difficult. So with about 10 miles to go, I stopped eating and drinking, hoping I could make it on what little fuel I had left.

During the last few miles of fire road I passed a few guys that looked rough and began thinking about finishing position. There were a few singlespeeders that would catch me on the climbs and get dropped on the descents, and we were in full on battle mode. I reached the final single track first only to find that it was an absolute mud bog. The track couldn’t have been more than 2 feet wide and slick. I went as slow as I could all the while having trouble braking as my hands were getting very stiff and my brake pads quite worn. I entered the final single track descent and was passed by a single speeder. “Ok, just keep him as close as you can” I thought as we slipped our way down the mountain. Half way down, I was passed again, dashing my spirits a bit. Not to be deterred, I stayed at my pace and hit the final 2 mile section of road to the finish line.

After 99 miles on a day like this, there is very little you want more in life than to just stop. But at this particular moment, I wanted to beat these two guys more than I wanted to stop. 2 miles of road that pitched slightly upwards was what I needed. My focus was drawn tight as I could see the first man ahead. Hunched over my bar I churned the pedals as hard as I could and quickly passed the first guy. My head was down as I time-trialed as hard as my legs go up the road, spending every ounce of energy I had left. At that moment, I was particularly grateful for my tire selection. Low rolling resistant tires that had worked well all day in the mud were great as I hammered down the pavement! I ran Maxxis Ignitor front and Specialized Fastrak rear, both of which had been golden all day long. No punctures, just pure traction. But, alas, despite the best equipment and my efforts, I wasn’t able to close to the next single speeder!

18th in the open race sounded great to me as I collapsed next to the fire to try and warm up. 9 hours and 41 minutes of racing, 45 degree average temperature. What a day.

I would be remiss to not mention Charles Nelson and his army of volunteers. What an incredible bunch! Energetic all day, super helpful, friendly, funny and life giving! They made the day bright by going above and beyond for all of us. When I collapsed at the line, a woman was there to help me get warm and eat. When i was out of sugar at mile 70, a aid volunteer gave me their own personal soda to help give me a boost.

Strava File

Dragon’s Tale Mountain Bike Race Report

The Ecstasy and the Agony (respectively)

Clear blue skies and lower 70’s temps brought about the day of Dragon’s Back; a 37 mile mountain bike race that truly redefines mountain.

A neutral rollout started from the sleepy mountain town of New Castle, VA. For the first 4 miles nerves subsided, and friendly chatter was the hum of the peloton of about 100 riders. Mile 4 hit, our pace car pulled away, and you would think it was the beginning of Paris Roubaix. The group swung hard onto a dirt road and immediately exploded. Pacelines, a front group, and a dozen chasing groups formed as we hammered towards the awaiting Dragon.

It was dusty, and the heat was beginning to make itself known just as we plunged into the first of six deep river crossings. The icy mountain waters soaked us from our knees down as we tried to ride/hike through the raging river. Five more times of this dipping stretched the front group out and I was fortunate enough to be on the back sitting in.

Still, the pace was so high my HR was through the roof trying to remain at the front of affairs. 8 miles of dirt road and river crossings were the prologue and lead in to the first climb. The front group split a few times and I entered the first climb somewhere in the top 12.

The first climb began, and it was everything I had heard: rocky, long and unrelenting. Switch back after switch back, so steep, you had to dismount and run up to the next level if you wanted to stay on the mountain and not tumble down. Somewhere along the way, I was caught fumbling on one of the switch backs and allowed a few riders to pass who had caught me dangling on the back of my group of 3. We pressed on and my HR was so high just to spin my easiest gear (a 42 of my XX1) up the mountain, I was beginning to worry how I would fair the remainder of the day.

Finally, the ridge came and I began my VERY rocky traverse over to the descent trail. When I say rocky, I mean brutally slow; balance was the skill of the day. I was sincerely impressed that my effort was only netting me 6.4 mph as I went over the 350 ft of climbing in 1.3 miles on the “flat” ridge.

Meanwhile, I rubbed my front tire against a rock, puncturing the tire. I jumped off as the unmistakable sound of air hissing out of a tubeless tire pierced the quiet woods. Stans sealant sprayed everywhere painting the leaves a nice taupe color. Thankfully, the hissing stopped as the sealant did its job. I hopped back on the bike and took off after the rider who had passed during my debacle.

The descent began all too soon and I found myself ripping down tight trails with even tighter switchbacks. About halfway down two guys asked to pass and disappeared faster than they came. I was legitimately fearful for their lives as they flew down the mountain on their full suspension bikes, sliding between trees, they looked like slalom skiers.

Near the bottom, the good word came from a spectator: “17th”. On the rollers back to the first climb again (we did it twice), I reeled the two downhill monsters back in and passed them, “good, 15th”, i thought to myself. The second time up the climb was a bit more enjoyable as I knew what to expect. I passed another fellow which was a good boost for the morale and began pushing myself up the Dragons. On steep climbs, you really can never be light enough. This was maybe the only time during the race I was grateful to have a hard tail, but I sure loved the fact that my Stumpjumper weighs in around the 20lb mark for a 21″. You just can’t beat that when climbing.

At the top of the climb, the real survival began. Rocks, rocks, and a few million more rocks jolted and tossed me about as I tried to ride as smoothly as possible. I picked up another 2 riders who were struggling along and smiled as I slipped into 12th. A few minutes later, a younger rider  caught me and we rode together for quite sometime.

db

At this point, the hiking began. There were so many steep pitches with rocks that the only option was to walk. Slow. Plodding. Nothing destroys your calves like steep hiking in carbon soled shoes. And nothing can begin to deter you like running low on water (as I was). Aid 2 could not come soon enough.

I kept putting in little digs every chance I got to distance myself and demoralize the guy on my tail. It worked and I eventually crested a hike section before he came into view below, which I figured would hurt his morale of catching me. After what seemed like 10 hours of ridge riding i hit the descent before aid 2. Right before I started it, I looked up the trail to see another rider stopped and working out a few cramps. I got distracted and clipped my handlebar on a tree and went down  into the dirt. Ugh, like I needed anything else to hurt on my body. I pulled myself together and got on with the descent. Thankfully, most of the descents were bench trails that had smooth sections, making them fast and reasonable.

db3

After being passed by two guys on the descent, I hit aid 2 and saw that there were 4 of us there. For those of you keeping track, that means I could leave and be in 10th. How fast do you think I turned that stop around? 50 seconds. Took a bottle, filled a bottle, slammed down the best cup of coke I have ever had in my entire life, and was off again. The next section was rough, but knowing I was in 10th gave me a bit of pep in my pedal… in the form of  3.9 mph climbing speed (which turned out to be one of the fastest times on the day). Right near the top I picked up another rider and slipped into 9th. I was pumped!

db1

I rode hard on the ridge and knew there wasn’t much but downhill and flat to go. I got to the last climb when the worst sound erupted again from my front tire. It had another hole. I jumped off and began to vigorously shake the stans to the hole, but watched it all simply gush out. It was just too big to hold. But then, it began to sputter… and after an agonizing 6 minutes on the side of the trail losing a few places, I had it stopped. I hopped back on and began riding hard up the last climb. One small detail of my incident was that I had used my 2nd co2 canister and now was out of air. But my front tire was very low, probably 10 psi (i started the day at 23).

I crested the climb and began my final descent but even the slightest of turns had the tire bending and rolling, threatening to jump off the bead. I took it as easy as I could but right at the bottom, it “burped” and all the air came out. I was defeated. I lost another 17 minutes waiting for another rider who might spare me some co2 or a pump (Laura Hamm was awesome to stop and give me a pump even while racing for 2nd place!). From there I fumbled for a while trying to get the tire in, got it pumped and dropped the HAMMER. A guy in 22nd had passed me a few minutes earlier and I was determined to pull him back. I was in full on TT mode, tucked, chin on the bars, flying as fast as I could go. But with only 2 miles to bring him back, a 21.5 mph average simply didn’t cut it.

23rd on the day, dissapointed, but happy that my fitness is there. Need to get a full suspension rig for these rocky races! 2 weeks until the Cohutta 100, and I don’t wanna see another rock for a year.

Sugar Hill Mountain Bike Race

I signed up for Sugar Hill, a local mtb race at Patapsco with firm goals of “training through” it. When going for training and not racing, why not get the most bang for your buck and do the longest race of the day?

Conclusion: a lot of reasons. One being common sense.

I was prodded into the expert race by a friend and my ambitions to race 3 laps instead of 2. And oh my did I get my moneys worth. I’m no mtbr. I try, and have gotten better so that I crash usually only once in a ride, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. And my muscles sure don’t get it.

Road riding is great. Put the power down, drop your friends on a climb, simple. In mtbing you are constantly hitting full gas only to brake to a halt to round a hairpin before flooring it again. Constant sprinting. My body made it clear today, its not a fan.

I went out to Patapsco knowing I would be WAY out of contention for a win, but I was excited to try my hand at a big mtb race. My first two races on the dirt were small and the fields were not competitive so this would be different and new.

We sprinted off the line and had about 500m to ride until we hit a fire trail that quickly turned to a single track and climbed for a third of a mile (fairly significant around here). The group quickly stretched to a congo line and I was somewhere in the top 15 after my back line start in the group of 35ish riders. The pace up the climb was fast, but not unbearable and by the top I grew a bit antsy. I jumped hard when I could to solidify my spot in the top 10. My last minute acceleration opened a huge gap and I was over 10 seconds up on the next rider quickly.

Loving life and the race I was absolutely flying, not recognizing that I would be out there for 2+ hours I began reeling a strong rider in as the first half of the loop was mostly up hill. Making the catch I felt on top of the world. “Maybe I’m better than I thought I was” I pondered. The course turned downhill and my dreams of speed evaporated instantly as we hit many technical sections that had me unclipping and running at times through mini boulder fields.

Soon, there were 6 plus guys sitting on my wheel because my lack of “finesse” through such sections was costing me minutes. And just like that, I was out of the top 10. The lap ended and I realized I had gone far too hard and settled into a more reasonable pace. But, the damage was done. With each lap taking about 40 minutes, my legs were already screaming.

One good thing to live by in life is to never ever doubt what you concluded while in a fully calm state of mind if you are NOT in that state of mind at present. I made a terrible decision to not bring any gels with me. Biologically, your body has about 90 minutes of glycogen on hand to work with. Once you burn through that, you need something or your muscles begin to make sarcastic remarks such as “why are you under the impression we can do that?”

With my heart rate plummeting as my legs got heavier, I soldiered on through the second lap and lost more places on the back half of the lap again. The beginning of the third lap was a relief and agony as I realized I still had 40+ minutes of racing to go. I struggled through the climbs as my lack of nutrition sunk in. With about 20 minutes to go I was in full on survival mode as I was deep into a bonk. People passed and I couldn’t have cared any less. There was simply nothing I could do.

Around that time when all you need is the finish line, I had the pleasant surprise of my rear shifter falling off my bars. After stopping and selecting a gear I thought to be good for the rest of the course, I wrapped it around the bar and got back to it. Of course, this happened right before the longest climb on the course, so more pain to be had in my noodles of legs.

I finished about 10 minutes slower than I had hoped, but happy. I raced my butt off, made some rookie mistakes, but got a phenominal training day in. I can’t recall ever laying on the couch after a ride, not moving, but still feeling pain in my legs. But today, that is my new reality. Mtbing won the battle today, but I sure did enjoy duking it out!

I think I finished 23rd, but many behind me dnf’d so I was among the last 5 to come in! Humbling, but I’ve never been more proud of doing so terribly!