24 Hours of Colorado Springs – 2011 24 Hour National Championships

The idea to race 24 nats as a duo team took root at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo.  My teammate Jeremy Young and I got 2nd at Old Pueblo after an all night duel with the Speedgoat.com team.  They finished a little more than 20 minutes ahead of us on the same lap.  We decided to try our shot at 24 hour nationals, this time in Colorado Springs.

Fast forward to the end of September and we had still not registered for the race.  Jeremy and I had talked a little bit over the summer but had not seen each other much since I race mostly endurance and he races mostly cross country.  I ran into Jeremy at a CX race at Valmont Bike park.  It was the week after the Vapor Trail and my results were predictable.  I was cooked.  Both mentally and physically.  Jeremy and I talked a bit about racing nationals.  I wasn’t convinced.  I knew I wasn’t going to be as fast as I had hoped.  A couple of texts over the next day and we made the call.  Might as well race.

We had a pretty big crew heading to the event.  Jon Davis, Tim Lutz and Ben Welnak were racing solo.  Jeremy and I were racing Duo.  Erick Lord and Jill Hueckman were racing Coed Duo.  Erick Erickson from the Trek Store Bicycle Store  was going to be there wrenching for us.  Add some additional friends like Curt Wilhelm and Brett Ebben along with the Davis and Wilhelm family and last but not least my uber helpful and supportive wife Lacey and we had a giant swath of the solo pits occupied.  Game on.

The race was at Palmer Park, an urban park in Colorado Springs.  It was supposed to be on Falcon Trail at the Airforce Academy but terrorists thwarted that possibility.  The new digs were less than ideal for a 24 hour race.  No pre-race camping or set-up and no alcohol.  Typically, people show up days before one of these races to set up their camps and get everything ready to go.  It adds to the atmosphere and the excitement of the event.  Racers were not very happy.  Lacey and I showed up around 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning and started to get ready for the race that began at 12:00 p.m.  Jeremy and Erick had rented an RV and a generator for charging our lights so all I had to do was show up and get ready.  The course was said to be pretty technical.  Unfortunately I didn’t have time to pre-ride.  I guess that is what the first lap is for.

For the bike setup, I decided to take a break from the singlespeed and instead go with the comfor of the Trek Superfly 100 Elite for this race.  As with the Vapor Trail, the Superfly 100 handles the rocky and technical sections with ease and climbs like a hardtail when I engage the propedal on the shock.  For wheels, I decided to go with the NoTubes ZTR 29er Race Gold wheelset.  I have a heavier (but still pretty light) wheelset built with NoTubes Crest rims and I was a little worried to run these ultra light weight wheels on such a rock course over such a long period of time, but they held up really well at the Breck 100 and they did not disappoint at Palmer Park.  Lots of step-ups and 1-2 foot drops and I had no problems even though I am only 15lbs under the weight limit for the wheelset.  To dress up such an awesome wheelset, I’ve finally found what I believe to be the perfect tire for Colorado racing – the Maxxis Icon.  This is as close to a set it and forget it tire.  I’ve raced them in all conditions on really rocky trails and have yet to suffer a sidewall tear or other puncture.  Though I do choose the EXO carcass that is a little heavier but more durable. 

As always, I ran ergon grips.  In this case, the GX2 Carbons.  Besides having a comfortable platform to rest your palm on, I’m convinced that the Ergons keep me from overgripping the bars.  This helps to maintain control in the technical sections and prevents hand fatigue that can make it difficult to brake and even drink. True story: last year at the 24 hours of Moab, my hands were so fatigued that I had to drink by squeezing my bottles between both palms.  That meant riding off-road with no hands 18+ hours into a race.  Pretty dangerous.

We knew our competition was the Honey Stinger team of Cameron Chambers and Daniel Methany.  A couple of local pros riding on their home turf.  They were going to be hard to beat.  They were the ringers.

The race started with a le mans style start: a run to our bike set up across a field.  Surprisingly, I was at the front of the run.  I hopped on the bike and rode the front of the field up the pavement toward the singletrack.

Front of the field

Front of the field

The first lap was really fast.  Lots of short, punchy climbs, technical drops, twisty singletrack and step-ups.  I finished the first lap and handed the chip timing bracelet to Jeremy.

Between each lap I had about an hour to refuel and relax.  I started off drinking some recovery drink and trying to eat a little something.  After the 2nd lap I at a huge brat covered in onions.  That gave me some pretty serious heartburn.  Jeremy’s family brought us some pizza so I started eating pizza between laps followed by a couple of rolaids to stave off the heartburn.  The waiting is always the hardest part.  It is too quick to really sleep and too long to stay warm.  Beyond that, you have to get to the transition at the right time so that your partner isn’t left waiting.  When your partner rolls in, you have to grab the timing chip and get your lap started.

Textbook CX remount

Textbook CX remount

Jeremy and I kept our laps really consistent.  We were riding strong, but the Honeystinger team was faster.  By around the tenth lap, they put us under a lap.  With no sign of slowing down, we just put our heads down and kept pushing it.

In a 24 hour race, or any multi-lap race for that matter, you get to know the course intimately.  You anticipate every technical section, every sand pit, every climb and every descent.  There are sections that you love and hate.  On this course, I dreaded a climb about 2/3 of the way through the lap.  It started with a road climb, turned to sand and eventually wound its way to another road.  That began my favorite part.  A fast climb that lead to a technical descent/climbing/descent/climb that ultimately dropped you into the staging area. 

On my third lap, I rode the section with Cameron Brenneman and Russell Kappius.  We rode wheel to wheel and just jammed it.  Every time I rode that section I remembered that lap and tried to emulate the speed and style that we rode on the third lap.  That section saved me on every lap.

As the fatigue mounted, I started to concentrate on spinning the climbs and riding super smooth. The lap times were surprisingly consistent even with spinning the climbs.

I rode both the sunset and the sunrise laps.  The views were spectacular.  East to the plains and West to Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak.  We rode hard but Honeystinger kept pulling away.  In the end our ride was good enough for 2nd place.  Once again, Jeremy and I made a great team.  Our laps were basically mirror images.  We are both fairly low key so we were able to avoid the drama that some teams are prone to.  Plus we just have a blast doing it.

24 Nationals Duo Podium

24 Nationals Duo Podium

Big thanks to Erick Erickson who kept my bike going and my wife Lacey for getting me everything that I needed in my sleep-deprived state.  Mountain bike season is basically over and now it is time for some CX and relaxation before the snow flies.

Posted in Hurt Locker, Trek Bicycle Store | Leave a comment

Vapor Trail 125

This was a big one.  125 miles.  Upwards of 20,000 feet of climbing.  Several times over the Continental Divide. Hiking to a summit almost 13,000 ft high.  Endless climbs.  Endless descents.  10:00pm start.  Riding through the night and through the next day. The Vapor Trail 125 in a nutshell.

I thought about racing the VT125 for the last couple of years, but really wanted to race it since missing it last year.  I didn’t enter last year.  Maybe I thought that I couldn’t finish a race that hard.  I told myself that I wouldn’t be able to race such a demanding race on a hardtail.  I didn’t have lights and half the race is at night.  Basically I just made some excuses and decided not to apply.  A year ago I was training in Salida the day of the 2010 VT125.  After a 4 hour ride, I stopped in Salida Cafe for a post-ride coffee.  I ran into Shawn Gillis, the owner of Absolute Bikes.  He asked me if I was in town for the race and assured me that there were spots available if I still wanted in.  I didn’t take him up on the offer and instead, Lacey and I trekked to the Silver Creek aid station and watched an on-fire Kevin Thomas blaze through ahead of Jeff Kerkove.  Kerkove would end up beating Kevin once they hit the pavement, but the disappointment in not participating made me: 1. promise to race the VT125 in 2011, and 2. Solo the 24 hours of Moab. That one hurt.

So there I was at the start of the 2011 VT125  and I still couldn’t decide what to wear. The temperature in Salida was around 60 degrees at the start and the temperature would likely drop below freezing during the night.  The climbs would be hot and the descents would be wicked cold.  Add to that the need for light sufficient to navigate unknown and challenging trails and 5 hours between Aid station #1 and Aid station #2.  Planning for this race is a difficult mix of traveling as light as possible and carrying enough supplies to safely make it through the night given weather, nutrition, and lighting requirements.

The race started on the F Street Bridge in Salida.  There were almost 50 crazies that signed up for this race and a large crowd massed at the start to see us all off.  We headed out to the Airport and stopped for a mandatory pee break right in front of an electric fence. We then continued the neutral rollout until we turned off Hwy 141 towards Blanks Cabin.

Jon Davis and I both had big plans for this race.  We talked about breaking the 14 hour mark.  We talked about riding together like we did in Moab.  Unfortunately, as soon as the neutral start was over, I realized that I needed to rethink my plans.  Once the moto escort pulled off, I realized that I didn’t have any legs.  I was pedaling and making a big effort, but bleeding places.  Familiar faces were passing me and I couldn’t hang on.  I could only climb at a snails pace.  This did not bode well for the next 15+ hours and thousands of feet of climbing.  I quickly realized that I would need to reevaluate my goals.  I needed to mentally switch from trying win to trying to finish.

Once we climbed to Blanks Cabin and hit the Colorado Trail I was able to move pretty quickly on the singletrack.  I managed to pass a bunch of the people that caught me on the climb and make up a little time.  This would be the story of my race.  Bleed positions on the climbs and then pull some back on the downhills and singletrack.  I arrived at Aid #1 and filled my bottles and ate some fresh fruit salad.  I quickly jumped on my bike and started up the railroad grade towards Alpine Tunnel. Off the railroad grade and on to the road, I began climbing slowly once again.  Soon Curt Wilhelm caught me.  I had lost him on the singletrack of the Colorado Trail.  I tried to hop on his wheel, but he dropped me like I was standing still.  This was the last time I saw him until the finish.  As with all the other climbs, I put my head down and mashed the pedals up and over Alpine Tunnel and Tomichi Pass.

After Tomichi pass, there was a quick descent and I could see on the horizon some red blinking lights heading up to the summit of Thunder Peak.  I didn’t know we were going to summit a peak on this one.  I should have studied the description.  Summiting the peak required some really steep hike-a-bike.  Good thing I wore the X-Alp shoes – carbon soled but treaded for hiking.  As I was slogging up Granite Peak, I looked down and somebody was closing in really fast.  It was a singlespeeder named John Fulton.  I couldn’t believe how fast he was hiking.  I mentioned it when he passed me and he gave me a  “thanks wierdo” look.

After a steep ascent, there was an endless descent down towards Aid #2. It started rocky and loose and turned to a perfect pump track contouring down a wash.  It felt like it would never end.  Then the trail turned left and I started climbing again with a final sucker punch hike-a-bike to lead me into Aid #2, Snowblind Campground, where Lacey was waiting for me.

After reevaluating my goals, I resigned to stop at each of the legendary aid stations and take advantage of the spreads. I knew Aid #2 was tended by Dave Weins, a mountain biking legend, and had pancakes and sausage.  Throughout the climbing and the hiking, all I could think about was the sausage and pancakes.  I rolled into Aid #2 and handed my bike directly to Dave Weins, wearing a coonskin cap, for a clean off and lube.  Incredible.  This guy was in Mountainbike Action Magazine when I was 13 (and still is).  He has won the Leadville 100 6 times and beat Lance Armstrong.  He is one of my heroes.  He just touched my bike. I could see Lacey with a big smile on her face.  She knew that I was suffering.  She already had seen Curt and he must have told her that I was not having a good day.  The first thing that she did was give me a huge hug and tell me that she was so proud of me.  My eyes started to well up as all the tension from the past few hours started to release so I took a seat at the fire to busy myself changing my shoes and eating some pancakes/sausage/coffee.  I was hardly able to give Lacey and the volunteers the thanks they deserved as I knew any words that came out of my mouth would probably sound like a squawk followed by tears so I silently set myself to getting back on my bike and taking off for the climb up Old Monarch Pass and the comfort and monotony of slowly turning the pedals, willing myself into the rising sunshine.  I don’t think that I have ever been in that kind of place while riding my bike, but I guess that is the magic of the VT125.  For me it was so physically difficult and mentally draining that it had completely broken me down.  And it was only half over.  Spot of bother indeed.

The trip up Old Monarch was a long grind up a dirt road.  Towards the top I caught a couple of riders and got picked up by a resurgent Jarral Ryter.  We entered some singletrack that descended to Monarch Pass and through the woods we could hear the cheering of the crew at Aid #3.  Aid #3 was manned by the high school Mountain Bike Team.  They immediately grabbed my bike like a pit crew and started cleaning and lubing everything.  James Haarmeyer, Fred Maxwell and race director Heidi Slaymaker were at the top to chat me up and make sure I got bacon/eggs/sausage/pbj/coffee while my bike was sorted and my bottles were filled and that I didn’t have to do anything at all but rest and eat.  Jarral and I would leap frog until he finally dropped me at Starvation Creek.

I was feeling better and knew that one of the best pieces of singletrack was ahead of me so without much delay, I hopped on and began the grind up to the Monarch Crest Trail.  The Crest trail was buff and fast and I was able to enjoy the ride.  All the day-trippers that I passed were extremely enthusiastic and cheered me on.  I felt like I reached Marshall Pass in no time.  Lacey was there to change out some bottles at Aid #4 and send me on my way down the cruel loop that is Starvation Creek.  Excellent singletrack followed by a 7 mile climb back to Marshall Pass to Aid #5.

Starvation Creek.  The climb up starvation eclipsed the descent but I was able to grind it out.  I later heard that people finishing faster than I had walked portions of the climb.  I rode the whole thing and passed a rider that had passed me before Alpine Tunnel.  The climb was so long and slow that I pulled it up on the GPS so that I could watch the little arrow follow the path to gauge how much climbing remained.  Eventually, like all things, the climb ended.

After refueling at Aid #5 it was on.  Silver CreekRainbow Trail.  I know these.  This is my territory.  I didn’t have a chain. I fucking flew.  I planned on stopping at Aid #6 to eat some Dinty Moore.  I got there, got off my bike grabbed an oatmeal cookie and hopped back on.  I hammered the Rainbow Trail.  It is packed with punchy HC (beyond category) climbs and I climbed every one of them but one.  I think I would have had it too, if not for a rider in front of me stopping my progress up the steep and loose trail.  I pulled back two spots.  I popped out on 285 and pulled back another spot.  Then I made a wrong turn and lost it.  I didn’t care.  My race was over.  I was done.  11th place.  At least there is a 1 in there somewhere.

I found my smile on Silver Creek.  I found my shit-eating grin on the Rainbow Trail.

Beers and burgers followed.  Jon Davis set the course record.  Wow. Curt Wilhelm and Tim Lutz had excellent races.  All around an incredible weekend.  An incredible race with the best people.  I’ll be back.  Hopefully my legs will too.  The volunteers at this race were amazing.  Extremely helpfull.  My wife was amazing.  She knew exactly what to say to keep me going, and when not to say anything.  I couldn’t have finished without her.

Time for CX season.  Hup, Hup.

Posted in Backcountry Adventure, Gunnison, Hurt Locker, Rainbow Trail, Salida, Trek Bicycle Store | Leave a comment

Leadville Trail 100 – The Race Across the Sky

The Big Buckle

 For those that have not raced the Leadville Trail 100 on a mountain bike it is a three day undertaking.  The original purpose of the race was to bring money to the town and bring money it does.  Mandatory medical check-in on Thursday or Friday, mandatory meeting on Friday, race on Saturday and awards on Sunday.  Can’t blame them for trying to stoke the embers fo the Leadville economy, but it is a bit daunting for those that are trying to race on the cheap and have already ponied up the $275 race entry fee. 

Lacey and I boarded Tucker Thursday morning and headed to work with donuts for our coworkers.  After work we hightailed straightto Leadville in order to check in by 7pm.  That way we could stay in Salida and skip Leadville on Friday.  We originally planned on camping in the Element, but I felt that sleeping in a bed and making the 1 hour and 15 minute drive Saturday morning would be worth it.  I would have to wake up at 4am in order to eat something prior to the race in the hope that at least some digestion had occured by the 6:30 start whether I was freezing at a campsite or warm in bed.  So I chose the warm bed.  We made the medical check-in, which means that they put your name and emergency contact on a bracelet.  I also picked up my race number.  Much to my chagrin, my race number was around 2900.  When looking at the color charts hanging everwhere, one might notice that the racers are corraled by their number and that my number was one of the last numbers given.  That meant starting behind about the entire field of just shy of 2000 people  Not what I was hoping for or promised by the organizers.  I spoke to the race director and she was not very sympathetic.  She said she had honored the promise to move the top 25 from the Alpine Odyssey to the front.  I politely said that was not the case.  She made us wait for around 30 minutes and then gave me number 936, moving me up to the 12 hour finishing corral.   Awesome!  Only about 700 people starting in front of me.

I waffled on what I wanted to eat for my pre-race dinner and finally landed on a Moonlight Pizza , spinach salad and a 24oz PBR.    I woke up dark and early on Saturday morning, had breakfast and my lovely wife had me on the road by around 4:30am.  We arrived at the start with plenty of time to spare and I proceeded to the middle of the pack staging area where I was corralled.  

There were sooo many people.  I didn’t recognize anyone.  Charlie Hayes and Dan Durland were in the first corral.  I decided that I had to gun it from the start and do everything possible to pass and try to get close to those guys during the neutral rollout.  Only problem was that there was no neutral rollout.  The start was largely downhill or flat and was completely balls to the wall fast.  Add to that almost 2000 racers trying to get to the front and you have a recipe for disaster.  One poor slob went ass over tea kettle fast and hard on the pavement within the first 1/4 mile.   I managed to survive the high speed, gravel strewn turns to make it onto a sandy road that brought us to the first obstacle: St. Kevins. 

I couldn’t see the climb of St. Kevins through the thick dust, but I knew it was there because all of a sudden the whole group of cyclists that tried to get to the front basically hit a brick wall when the going went up.  That is what I call gettting caught in the scrum.  I tried to pass groups of 10-20 people by taking the outside line which was at times sandy, rutted or full of baby heads.  All the while I kept spitting for some reason.  I noticed my spit was thick and brown.  I thought it must be from the coffee.  Then I realized that it was the dust and the rest was going into my lungs.

I pushed it hard on St. Kevins.  Every time you redline in an endurance race you take a risk.  As they say in France, you only have so many matches to burn.  I decided to burn a bunch to get past the scrum.  On a single speed you don’t have the opportunity to sit and spin.  When a group climbs slow, like on St. Kevins, single speeders are forced out of the saddle peddaling so slowly with so much torque that their wheels are likely to lose traction and spin out.  The only way to avoid that is to gas it and shoot through whatever holes arise on the narrow doubletrack clogged with hundreds of racers.  I would hit it hard on the side of the trail and pick off a bunch of racers each time.  By the time I hit the top, I had passed enough people that I was basically in with racers from the first two corrals.  Mission accomplished, but at what cost I would surely find out later.

There was a nice long downhill that followed and led to the Sugarloaf climb.  Sugarloaf started with a pavement climb that turned to dirt and then led to the Powerline descent.  The field had spread out by Sugarloaf and I was able to pass huge groups of people in clumps.  I was still on a mission.  I soon passed a group that included Dave Ochs.  Dave was riding a geared bike, but he destroyed me at the Growler on the SS.  What was he doing here?  I’ll find out later.  I began the Powerline descent one person behind a leader that turned out to be Ricky McDonald.  Ricky is featured on the LT100 movies and is riding his 18th LT100 on a 20 year old bike while wearing a denim shirt and a skateboard helmet.  We started down the tricky descent and someone yelled “Show us the way down Ricky”.  This person started yelling a lot of things.  Ricky wasn’t going very fast, but too fast to pass on the rutted descent and he eventually yelled that he had a flat.  The guy behind started yelling “Ricky has a flat!”  He yelled that about ten times then started directing it at someone named Jon or Ken or something.  I couldn’t figure out why he was yelling.  Does Ricky have a pit crew that has stockpiled 20 year old wheels and posts up all over the course?  Maybe they should just put their money together and buy Ricky a helmet that breathes.  Or a new bike.  I almost yelled “If Ricky has a flat, then he should fix it.”  I bit my tongue. Ricky, flat and all, led us to the end of the descent and we popped out on a 10 mile section of pavement by the fish hatchery.

Those flat sections are a Single Speeder’s nightmare.  I spun out at around 15mph.  Other groups of riders would blow by me and there was nothing I could do but spin.  Luckily the monotony would be broken up on the return trip by a well placed PBR handup.  Eventually, a group passed me and they said to jump on.  The last guy was on a SS in and Herbalife kit.  I figured I would try to hang on.  My heartrate immediately readlined so I backed off after about 1/2 a mile.  Pretty soon we were at Pipeline and once again spinning up an easy slope.  A moment later I passed Herbalife.  Apparently he redlined too. Then Cameron Brenneman passed me.  What was he doing here?  Flat tire.  Another bummer.  They guy was trading blows with Lance Armstrong at the Alpine Odyssey.  Cameron blew by me and we descended some singletrack to Twin Lakes. 

I met Lacey at Twin Lakes and dropped off my three bottles, taking onboard a coke and two bottles.  That is when the climbing began. Columbine was a long, slow climb that took a little over an hour and a half.  It was painful.  I got to see the leaders coming down.  That was awesome.  I rode when I could and walked when I couldn’t.  The SS’er in the herbalife kit leapfrogged me again.  Charlie Hayes passed me on his way down.  I figured that he was in second.  Then Dan Durland passed me probably about 5 minutes ahead of me I guessed.  I got to see Brian Sells and Ken Boyer.  That is what makes the turnaround pretty cool.  I never saw Herballife after that.  He must have stopped at the Columbine aid station and would end up finishing a few minutes behind me.

I blew down Columbine and hit Twin Lakes for a second time exactly 5 hours into the race.  Those coming up Columbine were the last to make it before the cutoff.  It looked like a war zone or a trail of tears or something.  People slowly climbing up the road.  Some were walking, some were crying off in the woods. They were out there, giving it what they had.  Can’t ask for much more than that.  We are all out there trying to conquer something whether it is beating the cutoff time, beating our opponents or vanquishing our self doubts.  Those people are more courageous than I am.  They begin the race with no idea whether or not they were going to finish.  If I were in that position would I even start?  Would I even put in for the lottery?  Probably not.

At Twin Lakes I took another Coke and three bottles of perpetuem and I was on my way.  Dave Ochs passed me and said he had a few flats.  Ahh…that is why I passed him.    Then up and over pipeline when another SS’er passed me.  He stopped at the Pipeline aid station and I never saw him again either.  That is one thing good about never stopping.  Back on the pavement stretch, I saw Dan Durland up ahead.  It was obvious that I was going to catch him so I just used him, and the aforementioned PBR handup, as motivation to hammer. 

I caught Dan right before the Fish Hatchery and we rode to the beginning of Powerline together.  I was in front of him on Powerline, which was a mistake.  He later told me that he watched me and sensed weakness.  We both started hiking and his long legs had him destroying me on the hike.  Right before the end of the steep I started running, passed the four hikers that he had put in between us and did a perfect CX remount and got back on his ass.  What I didn’t anticipate was that there was another several mile of climbing.  He dropped me and I said goodbye to my short stint in third place for good. 

About burning those matches on St. Kevins … This is when I began to really feal it. The rest of the race was pure survival.  I pushed hard when I could and rested when I had to.  I passed a bunch on the hills and they passed me on the flats.  Didn’t see any other SS’ers and rolled into the finish mostly alone in a time of 8:35 and change.  4th place.  Big Buckle.  Mission Accomplished.

As always, my wonderful wife Lacey was there to mix my bottles and hand them up at Twin Lakes.  I couldn’t do it without her.  The Superfly SS worked perfect.  My race nutrition was dialed ( maybe could have had a bigger breakfast).  My legs felt pretty good.  That is about all I could ask for.  I stuffed my face with cookies and PBJ, changed clothes and we bolted to Salida to grab dinner at the Fritz and a Single Speed Red or two. 

Overall it was fun to be a part of the spectacle that is the LT100.  The BS you have to deal with to get in the race and then to actually race is a bit of a put off.  Will I do it again?  Probably not.  Races like the Breck 100 are more appealing to me.  I gotta hand it to the CEO of Lifetime Fitness though… He gets it.  He is a real mountain biker, races the LT100 trail run and MTB.  It was actually pretty impressive to hear him speak at the awards.  Next up is Vapor Trail 125 on September 10.  That one is going to be a doozy.

Posted in Backcountry Adventure, Hurt Locker, Leadville 100, Single Speed, Trek Bicycle Store | 5 Comments

Crested Butte 401

Lacey and I decided to hit the 401 trail since she had never been biking in Crested Butte.  It did not disappoint.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Crested Butte Alpine Odyssey – or – How I didn’t qualify for the Leadville 100 – Then got in anyway

 

Crested Butte Alpine Odyssey - Finishing Stretch

Crested Butte Alpine Odyssey - Finishing Stretch

I would like to say that I was really excited for this race, but for some reason I wasn’t.  The race description read like, well, the Leadville 100.  Something like 70% dirt road, 20% singletrack and 10% pavement.  A far cry from pure mountain bike races like the Growler or the Breck 100.  And a shame to have a race in a place like Crested Butte without hitting some of the best singletrack in Colorado.  Its almost criminal to ride past the 401 and not sample the goodies. But this race had a purpose… to get into the Leadville 100.

For the last three years I have tried to get in to the Leadville 100 through the lottery.  I have never gotten picked.  I’m not sure why, but for some reason it always irked me.  Maybe its the perception that the lottery is rigged.  Maybe just sour grapes due to the feeling that I’m being left out of an exclusive club.  I don’t know.  I keep on putting my name in and feeling disappointed when I get the rejection letter.  This year was different.  This year they offered a qualifier series.  I was either good enough to qualify or not, but either way it was up to me.

Or not.  The race was about 63 miles and I put absolutely everything that I had into it.  There were lots of flats, a singlespeeder’s nightmare.  There were also some really steep climbs that went on for almost an hour a piece.  To finish each lap there was a section of really nice singletrack.  The riding was not spectacular, but the views in Crested Butte never disappoint.  The singletrack was lined with flowers at chest height that bounced off your handlebars.  The flat sections were perfect for pacelining, the pacelines would catch and drop me on Gothic Road as a spun out at 130+ RPM. Then I would catch them on the singletrack into the finish.  The first lap there was a paceline of about 10 people that blew by me.  I caught and passed the group at the end of the lap and climbed the second lap with some of them.  Once again, I dropped them on the descent.  When the paceline caught me again, there were only 3 riders in the group.  A really strong Yari Kirkland was in the paceline again.  The women that race for Alpine Orthopedics are ridiculously strong.  I rode with her teammate Jenny Smith for most of the Growler and just barely finished in front of her.  I caught her on the final singletrack and followed her into the finish.  The race ended up being a blast.  I took 2nd in the SS category, about 6 minutes behind the winner and 25th overall of the men.  A super fast Rebecca Rusch took 4th overall and none other than Lance Armstrong took the W.

I checked the results and unfortunately the SS category was so small that only 1 qualifying position was offered.  So I didn’t qualify.  All for not.  I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t extremely disappointed.  But hey, another second place after racing some really fast guys in an extremely beautiful setting.  It could have been worse.  Plus I got to get my podium face on.  Woot! Woot!

CB Alpine Odyssey Podium by Kevin Krill

CB Alpine Odyssey Podium by Kevin Krill

Lacey and I had some beers and chilled in the sunshine at Crested Butte Mountain Resort for a few hours until the awards where eventually I got a belt buckle for my efforts.

CBAO Buckle - 2nd Place SS

There was supposed to be some additional lottery for some additional starting spots at the LT100 following the awards, but the storms were moving in and I frankly didn’t feel like entering another lottery so we headed back to Salida.

On Wednesday, I got an email stating that since I finished in the top 25, I would get a starting position in the front Corral at the LT100.  Really… Might as well pack the wound with some salt or maybe even some lemon juice.  I couldn’t resist at this point so I emailed AEG and told them that I appreciated the preferential placing in the starting grid, but I didn’t qualify for the race.  Well, I got a return email stating that if I wanted in, they would give me a spot.  So… I’m in.

Posted in Backcountry Adventure, Crested Butte, Hurt Locker, Leadville 100, Single Speed, Trek Bicycle Store | Leave a comment

Breckenridge 100

Where to begin…  I had been dreading the B100 for the last few weeks.  I knew that my form was coming back again, but I had never raced a 100 and I did not know the course beyond what little was shared with the Firecracker 50.  I had a fairly mellow weekend of riding in Salida the weekend prior on some of the Colorado Trail up above Twin Lakes on some incredible singletrack.  I had a pretty easy training week last week with just one day of intervals and I felt well rested.

The B100 stages out of Carter Park in Breckenridge.  The race is in a clover leaf format.  The first loop goes up Breckenridge ski area, over the Continental Divide via Wheeler Pass, down to Copper Mountain, along the bike path to Frisco,  along the Peaks trail and into Breckenridge.  30+ miles done and 4000 feet of climbing.  Word from the race director was that there were three snowfields that would require some fairly substantial hiking. The second loop climbed out of Carter Park, connected to the Colorado Trail dropped into Tiger Run and climbed back up before descending to Carter Park.  This was supposed to be the hardest lap at another 30+ miles and 4000 or so feet of climbing.  The third loop went up Boreas Pass road, dropped into some trail that snaked up the pass and dropped into the town of Como before climbing back up Boreas Pass and descending back to Carter Park for the finish.  You guessed it… 30+ miles and give or take 4000 feet of climbing.  That was the course.  Now the deets:

I got some new Shimano XTR pedals after my debacle at the Firecracker.  I put them on the SS on Wednesday and didn’t have time to try them out beyond a spin around the block. I lined up the cleats similar to my old Crank Brothers and decided that should be good enough.  Charlie Hayes gave me some intel that Mark Thompson, the two time B100 SS champion ran a 32×22 gear.  I’ve never run a gear that low, but I figured if he could ride fast on it, maybe I could too.  It is always a tough call and most single speeders obsess over which gear to run.  To high and you will really hurt on the climbs and towards the end of the race.  Too low and you might spin yourself into cramps or fatigue or just spin out too often.  This being my first year racing the SS, I started out running a 32×16 and basically added a tooth each race.   Run what you brung.  Thats what they say.

Jonathan Davis had set up his Transit and tent for a staging area.  I left a cooler with 7 1-hour bottles of Perpetuem and three 12oz. bottles of Coke.  The strategy was to take three bottles each lap and a Coke to sip when necessary.  The Coke adds a boost of simple sugars and caffeine and the Perpetuum is mixed at about 250 calories per bottle with 3 scoops of electrolytes added to each bottle.  Thats it for me for 9-10 hours of racing.  Nothing solid.

The gun went off (not literally like at the Growler) bright and early at 6:00am because with race times anywhere from 8-13 hours there is a distinct possibility of racers finishing in a lightning storm or in the dark. I lined up beside Jon, turned on my Garmin and noticed that it only had 33% battery.  Oops.  I thought I charged it.  That would take me through the first lap.  Besides allowing me to download the course map and elevation profiles, the Garmin Edge 500 allows me to see my heartrate and cadence. Heartrate is pretty helpful because if you know your numbers you can make sure you are not going too fast or too slow.  In the end it didn’t matter because my heartrate didn’t work.  I think it was from too many signals from the other racers.  That meant I was doing this one by feel rather than watching a computer.  Probably a blessing since I seem to do best when I crash and break my Garmin so that I can’t see it.  If it hurts too much go slower, if it hurts too litte, go faster.

Anyway, the race began with a “neutral rollout” for about 4 minutes.  What that means is that the geared riders ride casually while the singlespeeders spin their brains out and spike their heartrates.  When we hit the ski area it was up the cat track we went.  I climbed more or less with 3 other single speeders with last Mike Melley and Mark Thompson ahead just about out of sight.  We all sort of traded places for a while up the hill and hiking through the snow.  The snow fields were not that large but there were safety crews set up with ice axes and ropes to catch any fallen cyclists.  I would like to say that my mountaineering skills came into play, but it is almost impossible to finesse a snowfield wearing skinny toed Sidis.  The four of us topped out together and I was third in line starting the descent.  The two in front of me were fairly tentative on the descent so as soon as there was a wide spot, I zipped by and pinned it.  I probably gaine almost 2 minutes over the rest of the SS’ers on the descent and hit the bike path alone.  The path was ever so slightly downhill.  A SS’ers nightmare.  Can’t pedal because you don’t have the gear.  Just have to aero tuck and hope for the best for the next nine miles.  Tons of geared racers started passing me, but there is not much you can do except laugh, which I did. Finally the downhill stopped and we hopped on the Peaks Trail.  Pretty sweet singletrack all the way to Breck to finish the first Loop.  At that point I was pretty sure that I was in 3rd with Mark and Mike ahead.  Curt Wilhelm picked me up on the flat and told me that there was a group of SS’ers a minute or so back.  I made an extremely quick pitstop, grabbed my bottles and a Coke, dropped the vest and arm warmers and tried to tighten my water bottle cage that was rattling.  I had the wrong size wrench and it looked like the rivnut had pulled out of the frame.  No dice.

The second loop, as promised, was probably the most difficult.  We climbed through the woods for what seemed like forever.  I traded spots with Curt the whole time.  I fixed my water bottle cage with an extra “Awesome Strap” and my Garmin died.  That meant I had no concept of time or anything else.  Along the way, I passed Mike standing on the side of the trail with his bike upside down.  Not good.  His breaks were rubbing or something.  The loop had lots of great riding with lots of punchy climbs and descents that led us to Tiger Run where I passed Curt for the last time and noticed Mike Melley less than a minute behind.  Crap.  I gassed it on the next few climbs and kept looking back.  First, I didn’t want to see him.  Second, I didn’t want him to see me.  If he saw that he was gaining on me, it would be a psychological boost and I would be his carrot to chase down.  I didn’t see him again and came to the end of the lap right in front of Curt.  The announcer said that I was in 2nd, about 10 minutes behind Mark.  I had my work cut out for me.

On the final lap, I planned to grab a jacket but forgot.  Shortly thereafter I heard thunder and it started to sprinkle.  I had visions of riding down Boreas Pass in a downpour with lightning striking around me, cold and shivering.  Luckily that didn’t happen.  The rain was intermittent and the only bother was that the rocky climb up the 4wd road was slippery so I had to dismount twice when it got steep.  As a SS’er you dismount whenever it gets really steep because it takes less energy and is faster to walk rather than grinding it out like a tough guy at 20rpm.  Trust me, that blows your legs up by the end of the race. So at this point, a little walking is welcome.  I was happy to pop out of the woods onto the real Boreas Pass road and crest the top of the pass and ding my bell as I sped past the aid station.  Just off the top, I dropped into some steep singletrack that eventually turned into this wicked flume of peaty dirt that just zig-zagged through the woods for what felt like forever.  It was awesome.  However, shortly thereafter, I came to this flat rocky section that made me decide that I had had enough singletrack for the day.  It was impossible to get a rhythm going and I was sure I was going to pop a tire.  It was at that point that I got passed by the leaders of the B68.  They both rode for Honey Stinger and were flying. Eventually the singletrack ended and I popped out on a road that brought me to Como.  The Como that is on Highway 285. It seemed like Breck was 100 miles away.  I turned back up Boreas Pass road and started spinning up the hill.  It was mostly a railroad grade, which I have come to love as a SS’er because I can basically spin up it without standing up and grinding.  That was exactly what I was looking for.  The final climb took forever but I knew (or thought) that once I was back over Boreas Pass, it was downhill until the end.  Spinning up the hill, I saw some riders gaining on me.  Eventually Bryan Dillon, 3rd place in the B68 caught and passed me. I was a little worried about the riders behind me so I upped the pace and caught him to ask if there were any SS’ers close behind.  He didn’t know, but offered to pull me up the hill by setting the pace if I could keep it.  We rode together for a while until I couldn’t keep up and he went on.  Then I had another burst of energy and caught him again and we topped the pass together.  That little bit of pacemaking up the final bit of climb made all the difference.  I crested the climb and started the descent in an aero tuck.  At one point someone had moved a route marker to point off to another trail so I spent a few minutes riding in circles trying to figure out if it was legit.  It wasn’t.  Dick.  Another heartbreaking climb and rocky descent led me to the finish.  In the end I took 2nd place in the SS category and 20th place overall. Curt finished right behind me.  I was 9 minutes behind Mark and 4 minutes ahead of 3rd place, Jeff Carter.  I finished in around 10 hours and 4 minutes.  It felt good.  It was my best singlespeed effort to date.

Awash in adrenaline and excitement

Awash in adrenaline and excitement

Podium Breck 100 Singlespeed Open

Podium Breck 100 Singlespeed Open

 

 

Mark “The Judge” Thompson won for the 3rd year in a row. The competition was stiff and the course was really demanding but everything went about as well as it could have. There were times when it hurt.  My back.  My shoulders. My shin. My hands.  But in the end, none of it mattered as it all left my mind the minute I finished.  I defended my leaders jersey and it looks like I will take the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series.  Next up is the Crested Butte Alpine Odyssey where I get a chance to see if I can qualify for the Leadville 100.

PRESS:

http://www.cyclingnews.com/races/national-ultra-endurance-nue-series-breckenridge-100-ne/results

http://www.mtbracenews.com/view_article.jsp?id=370

http://www.mountainflyermagazine.com/view.php/a-new-champion-at-the-2011-breckenridge-100.html

http://singletrack.competitor.com/2011/07/news/schalk-beats-tostado-at-breckenridge-100_18760

 

Posted in Backcountry Adventure, Breckenridge 100, Hurt Locker, Rocky Mountain Endurance Series, Single Speed, Trek Bicycle Store | Leave a comment

2011 Firecracker 50

For the last three years, I’ve spent the 4th of July in Breckenridge racing the Firecracker 50.  It was my first 50 mile race in 2009 when I started racing mountain bikes.  It is a great course with a significant amount of climbing.  The route description claims almost 11,000 feet in 50 miles, but it seems that Garmin puts it at closer to 7000 feet.  Either way it is hard race with a lot of climbing and technical descents on gravel roads or singletrack covered in baby head sized rocks.  For the past two years, the Firecracker 50 was also the Marathon National Championships.  Last year, one of my goals was to podium at nationals.  I suffered through three flats in the first lap and came back strong to finish third.  I was psyched, but thought I could finish stronger.

Fast forward to this year and I planned on riding the geared bike so that I could see compare my fitness with last year and race some friends like Kurt Kropp and Scott Wilkonson.  My plans changed when I was at the Trek Bicycle Store getting my Superfly SS frame swapped out and I ran into Charlie Hayes and chewed the fat for a bit.  When I got home, I looked at the registered riders and saw the the single speed field included Charlie, Dan Durland, Mark Thompson and Travis Ekenberg.  All strong guys that I have raced at various times this year.  I couldn’t resist the challenge and decided that it was on…. I was bringing the single speed.  I also decided to follow my one louder rule and ride a 32×20 since what I wanted to ride was a 32×19.  The  Trek Bicycle Store pulled through with flying colors and delivered my an perfectly built and tuned Superfly SS with Michael Scott-proof carbon armor and veloskin coating to make sure the frame could take a beating.

The weekend was a long one with a vacation day on Friday.  Eric Coomer, Lacey and I paddled the Deckers Chutes on Saturday.  The water was high and fast.  The Chutes were a blast.  Pushy and continuous, but we all stayed upright (at least through the rough part Coomer!) and got in some good practice.  I swam a rough section after hitting a slightly submerged rock and bashed my knees pretty bad.  That left me a little worried about the race, but it didn’t turn out to be a problem.  We had a nice mellow Sunday and headed to Breck in the afternoon to stay with some friends.

I woke up early on Monday and had my usual breakfast of mini wheats/banana/yoghurt/milk then headed out for a spin.  Great warmup with about 45 minutes of spinning and several hard efforts.  The start of the race is like no other with the racers starting off the 4th of July parade so the sidewalks are lined with cheering spectators.

We started off fast with a rabbit off the front and Mark and Travis setting a quick pace for the rest of us.  By the time the climb turned to the singletrack, I was in about 6th place a little behind Charlie and Dan.  They distanced me a bit on Little French Gulch, but they remained in sight and I resigned myself to riding within myself so that I had something left for the second lap.

I started the second lap feeling good and working my way up Boreas Pass and passed a Single that has passed me earlier.  I was feeling strong and was happy to see the Whiskey Jump was set up again this year.  I hit the jump and took the shot of Wild Turkey and then swigged some coke I had in my jersey pocket to wash it down before it made me puke.  I kept on plugging away feeling good.  After hitting the singletrack, Scott Wilkonson picked me up.  I was surprised to see him, but really impressed by his riding.  We traded places until Little French where I took the lead again.  Single Speeders generally have to walk at least three sections of Little French.  After the first section, I got back on my bike, took a couple of pedal strokes and my pedal ripped off the spindle.  Broken.  Crap.  Race Over.  Well maybe not.  I have never failed to finish a mountain bike race.  I didn’t want to start with the Firecracker.

I hiked to the top of Little French and started limping along the rolling singletrack.  I was careful to get out of the way so that I didn’t ruing anyone else’s race too.  The downhills were terrifyingly bumpy but I did the best I could to keep my foot perched on the pedal.  The climbs were equally as challenging since, especially on a single speed, you pull up on the up stroke to get more power.  There were times when I wanted to quit, but I just kept plugging along.  Every so often I would get picked up by another rider that offered me encouragement, which kept me going.  I ran into Tim Lutz and a few others that I knew and it just motivated me to keep on plugging.  On the final climb, Colin Mckernan caught me with Anthony Manina close behind.  Colin asked me what was wrong, I told him I was missing a pedal and he commented that I was a beast.  That was the type of comment that just fired me up to keep digging.  It was right at the top of the hill so I did everything I could to stay glued to his wheel.  He dropped me on the downhill and rolling section as spinning was impossible with one foot loose.  However, I did manage to stay ahead of Manina despite a pedal-slip induced crash at the end to ultimately finish 9th.  Not the finish I hoped for, but a finish that I worked hard for so it felt really good.

Not the ideal point of contact on a technical trail

I was greeted at the finish by Lacey, who had a really strong ride on her team lap.  Eric Coomer ended up finishing super strong to secure a 5th place for him and Lacey.  Afterwards we imbibed on the free beer and food at the finish.  Got to chill with the team, meet some new friends and catch up with old ones.  The course was better this year, if four miles longer.  They re-routed to miss some snow and hopefully the course adopts the new route in the future.  32×20 was the perfect gear and I would not have changed anything.  Next up is the Breck 100.  And it is a doozy.

 

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Birthday Weekend (not mine)

This weekend was the end of Lacey’s birthday celebration. We decided to take her official birthday off and head to Salida with the dog, the boats and the bikes and see what adventure we could scare up. We made the obligatory stop at The Fritz when we got in town and were greeted by Brett manning the helm as well as P.T. and Lonnie at the bar. P.T. was talking about heading up Marshall Pass to Silver Creek to try and punch through to the Rainbow trail. Read: explore the trail and see how deep the snow is at altitude. We went to pick up our Moonlight pie and I decided to join the fun.

I met P.T. at his house at 8 a.m. and saw a Tour Divide racer in town. I had forgotten that we should expect to see some racers in town since Salida is right on course. We headed up Poncha Pass and picked up a racer that was walking up the pavement. We stopped and said hi and he was beyond exhaustion and falling asleep on his bike. He remounted and rode with us for about 30 minutes.

One tired Tour Divide racer

He was exhausted, slurring his speech and drooling, but his spirits were high. It was awe inspiring to see someone pushing themselves to such an extent and just suffering alone. Truly impressive and makes me want to try out some bike packing. Chapeau and godspeed Jeffrey.

We managed a 5.5 hour ride that had us only crossing about 4 small snowfields and two downed trees. The rest of the ride was a barely trampled Silver Creek trail and nearly perfect Rainbow Trail. Silver Creek was a little bony from the snowmelt and needs a little work or some more traffic to smooth it out.

Sunday, Lacey and I headed up Bear Creek to check out the Bear Creek to Methodist Mountain section of the Rainbow Trail and scope out the bandit trails leading back to Little Rainbow.Lacey on Rainbow TrailM and L on Rainbow TrailBlood Trail begins

We found Blood Trail and it extracted a small blood toll from Lacey’s leg. Steep, loose and narrow, it was a nice alternative to the usual dirt road descent.

Monday, we headed up towards Turret to ride Cottonwood Gulch. Another bandit trail with a little bit of everything. Steep descents, side cut, rock drops, flowy berms, the works. I brought us home through this steep side cut trail that Lacey walked last time we were there. This time she nailed it! Not a bad Monday and much better than working any day. Next up is the Firecracker 50 on the 4th of July.

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RAMPAGED AT THE RIDGE

The Ridgeline Rampage was the third race in the Rocky Mountain Endurance Series. This one was in Castle Rock, Colorado and was described as being harder than the Front Range 60. After feeling nauseous and running an on again, off again fever for the few days before the race, I should have taken it as a sign and not raced on Sunday. Unfortunately it didn’t cross my mind as I had a leader jersey to defend. Instead, I towed the line with bouts of sweating and chills. I had told Lacey that my new scheme for picking my single speed gearing was to figure out the gear I wanted to run and then run one lower. Well I chose to run a 32×18. Lacey reminded me that, based on my rule, I should run a 32×19. I told her not to worry, I had this one. Of course I was wrong. Watching Charlie Hayes change his gearing at the last minute and hearing Dan Durland call me a hos should have sent me to the toolbox in a last minute scramble. Unfortunately it didn’t. The course had a few long steep climbs and tons of really steep punch climbs that really put the hurt on after 30 or so miles. Dan told me that I would either win or die.

Well, I died. Basically. I started off in the front group, but soon realized that my legs were not there. I ran in fourth place for the first 3 laps, but just barely. Going into the fourth lap, I was officially done. At that point I just set my sights on finishing. I’ve never DNF’d a mountain bike race and wasn’t about to start in Castle Rock wearing a leader jersey. I got passed by seven more single speeders before the end of the race. I walked the longest hill on the last two laps. I stopped for water at an aid station twice. I planned to stop at the end of the sixth lap and take a minute to sit down but if I had I might not have continued. I felt like I couldn’t put any power to the pedals and that I was always on the verge of puking so I put my head down and kept going. It was miserable but I was determined to finish. I finished in 11th place, about 35 minutes after the leaders. It was a humbling experience to say the least, to wear the leader jersey and get passed like I was standing still. However, in a strange way, it was also inspiring. I saw all these racers, single speed and geared, fighting their fatigue, mechanicals, the terrain, whatever and pushing through it. That, coupled with seeing Lacey at the end of every lap, inspired me to finish. The prize for finishing… I kept the leader jersey. Sometimes it pay to just show up. I also got to see Curt Wilhelm and Brandon Newcomer take leader jerseys in their respective fields and fellow teammates Lance Rise and speed freak Jeremy Young tear it up in the half marathon, dring some free beer and eat some burritos from Wahoos. I guess a bad day of racing is always much better than a good day at the office.

Posted in Ridgeline Rampage, Rocky Mountain Endurance Series, Single Speed, Trek Bicycle Store | Leave a comment

GROWLER IV

Another Original Growler is in the books. For me, Growler IV began immediately after Growler III ended. I wanted to love that race. It had everything that I like about racing mountain bikes. The requisite tight and twisty singletrack, technical rock steps/drops/ramps, steep punchy climbs and ripping descents. What is not to love? Well last year, I found it nearly impossible to keep the rubber on the trail. I was uncomfortable from the start. I washed out. I crashed. I endoed my Superfly 29er several times. I had never before or since endoed a 29er. Several reasons why things went bad come to mind. Lacey and I decided to start paddling that weekend. We rafted the 14′ oar raft in the swollen Arkansas River on Friday. Then, the day before the race, we spent 8 hours on a lake, in the sun, learning how to kayak in an intro to kayak class. We woke up at 4:00 a.m and made the journey to Gunnison for the 7:00 a.m. start. Basically, I did not set myself up for success. My body was tired and my shoulders were really sore for the whole race. When switching bottles after the first lap, I told Lacey that I had never felt so bad on a bike. That was until the second lap. The second lap started on a trail called the Ridge. I could not stay on my bike. Things continued to get worse. I needed some redemption.

Just getting into Growler IV was a race. It sold out in 9 minutes. Lacey got in to the half Growler and I got in to the full Growler. This year the race was to be run in the opposite direction. This meant two trips up the Ridge. Growler staff sent multiple emails explaining the difficulty of the event and encouraging people to be afraid and/or drop out.

In order to prepare, Lacey and I decided to pre-ride on June 16 when the trails opened after seasonal closures. 1/2 mile into the singletrack on Rattlesnake I took a high speed crash after bouncing over a roller. I managed to miss the large boulder that encroached on the trail, landed on my face and forearms, and threaded the needle between two rocks. I was dirty and bloody with only 30 more miles to ride. Shortly thereafter, Lacey lost a bolt to her rear brake. At least we found the bolt. The preride took us 5:30 hours with all the routefinding, crashing, and bolt-searching.

Final prep was an XC race in Salida called the Riverside Rampage. It didn’t go well. More crashing and more blood. I wasn’t feeling very good about the Growler at this point. For some reason, by Superfly 100 did not want me to ride it. My Racing Raplph front tire would not stick on the trail. The week before, I made the call to race the single speed. Not only was I going to race the single speed, I was going to put on a Maxxis Ardent front tire, substantially meatier than my typical front tire. I was not going to wash out and crash. Not this time. Rubber side down.

We camped in Gunnison at the KOA on the eve of the race and got a big pasta dinner at Garlic Mikes. Slept well in the Ecamper and got to the start around 6:30 a.m. Temperature was about perfect, about 50 degrees at the start. Two shotgun blasts had us off an racing. The pace was a little fast for the single speed. Rapid pedal, coast, rapid pedal coast, repeat. We hit Kill Hill and I was out of the saddle cranking the 32:18. Beside me, Dax Massey hopped off and started walking. I thought “nobody walks in the beginning of a race”… oh I have so much to learn. I blew up on the hill and just settled in on the false flat leading to rattlesnake. I was initially the first place SS’er but got passed by several SS’ers on that false flat as I tried to recover. Oops. I began lamenting my gear choice. The Growler never really lets up. It keeps hitting you with short impossibly steep climbs and doesn’t let you rest on the descent.

I nailed the initial technical sections, railed the corners and still got passed by a few more times by SS’ers on the first climb. At that point, I just focused on riding my own pace and riding smoothly. I never felt fast, but I felt comfortable. The whole time, I just thought that I would keep it safe and smooth and see if I had energy for the 2nd lap to ride fast. I nailed the descent on Skull Pass and got a coke at the aid station. Still didn’t see any SS’ers. I made it to the Ridge and it was easier than I anticipated. On Tailpipe, I passed 2 SS’ers on the run up. When I crested the top for the descent down Collarbone, someone told me I was in 5th. I hit the first lap finish after 3:04 and switched out my 3 bottles, jumped on my bike and headed out. This was going to be my fast lap. I passed a SS’er on the first run up section. I passed another on Rattle Snake. I passed Andy Feeney who was puking at the side of the trail. Then I passed another in no-man’s land somewhere. They were all literally standing still when I passed them. Not sure what was going on. Pain and suffering I guess. I was tired but feeling good and picking off riders.

I rode back and forth with Jenny Smith, a super strong rider that never let me get too far away. I took two more spots on Skull Pass and someone told me I was in 3rd. Hadn’t seen any SS’ers for a while, but at this point it was just survival. Jenny finally passed me again and I just focused on riding smooth and keeping her in sight. On the Ridge I passed her and then got passed by Zeke Hersh, someone that I had commiserated with during 24 Hours of Moab. I rode behind Zeke for the final push up tailpipe and to the finish. Feeney was waiting on the side of the course with a beer handup so I was able to finish in style. I finished in 6:17 and change, in third place. No crashes, no stomach problems.

Family was there waiting for me at the finish. My nephew Conner was waiting with some spray neosporin, which he insisted on applying to my old scabs. Lacey had an awesome race, finishing 4th in 4:10, beating her target by 50 minutes. Super proud and impressed with my wonderful wife. Lots of beer and food followed by a day of boating and hiking rounded out a pretty terrific weekend. Next up is the Ridgeline Rampage where I try and defend my leader jersey.

 

Medical Support Staff

Medical Support Staff - Is this guy licensed?

Posted in Growler, Gunnison, Hurt Locker, Single Speed, Trek Bicycle Store | Leave a comment