Sunday, July 21, 2013

Race Report: South Kettle Classic

After a bunch of races with big climbs and long descents, I was hungry for a change of pace.  I was craving some good old Midwestern singletrack.  The South Kettle Classic has been on my radar for quite awhile, but since it relied on flying stand by through my lovely wife's flight benefits (I have mentioned this before, but she's a flight attendant) I didn't list it in on my race schedule.  South Kettle State Park is located between Madison and Milwaukee.  It is also only two and half hours from my hometown of the Quad Cities.  This meant I had a couple of options available.  Milwaukee flights quickly filled up so that was out.  Madison was looking good until a couple days out, so that dropped off the list.  The only option left was the Quad Cities.  Although it was a little more driving, it was the cheapest option since I had place to stay and a vehicle thanks to my supportive parents.  I'm truly blessed with great parents.  I flew in on Thursday night, got about five hours of sleep, and worked remotely on Friday from my parents.  After a long work day and a nap, I went for a ride at one of local trails, Scott County Park.  These trails are tight, twisty ones without a dull moment.  I snaked around the turns brushing by bushes and trees like ski gates.  This was perfect practice for the South Kettle Classic.  

I showed up at the south kettle trailhead ready for some fun.  The start was “lemond” style where you run to your bike.  A tri athlete's motto is swim, bike, run.  My motto is bike, bike, and bike some more.  Notice how 'run' isn't in there.  I prefer it that way.  My 'run' was more like a light jog.  I don't know how far back I started out, but it wasn't anywhere near the front.  I slowly picked off riders whenever I could, which in this twisty singletrack coarse was a bit of a challenge.  I wasn't in too much of a hurry though.  After all, my only goal for the day was to give myself one more beating after a hard block of racing to earn some vacation time off.  It's been a long time since I've ridden in Wisconsin, and I honestly didn't remember it being so rocky!  There was some great rock sections that made my Colorado heart sing.  The trail was so much fun, but I have to admit I was a little out of practice of the twisty stuff.  The locals had the advantage for sure.  I did my best to stay off the brakes and find my flow.  The fact that I was down to the last millimeter on my front brake pads was more inspiration to stay off the breaks.  Didn't realize that until I unpacked the bike.  I never really knew when I was climbing so I just tried to push hard on anything that felt like up.  I heard the locals talk about the “big climb”.  I think this was a short section that was a little steep and full of loose rock.  I just blasted it every time.  After five laps of clipping trees and bushes I felt pretty cooked, and so were my brakes that were completely depleted during the last mile.  Ended up fourth among the local pros.  I happily took it and got out of there before awards to hang out with more friends and family back in the home town.  The trip ended with an added bonus of a first class seat back into Denver.  Not a lot of sleep, but had a lot of fun seeing some familiar faces and riding some once familiar trail.  I also was able to try my brother's strawberry blonde that he home brewed.  Absolutely delicious.  I'm not the only one in the family with a talent.

If you haven't already, I strongly suggest checking out one the races in the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Series (WEMS).  Like I overheard the race director saying, there isn't a bad WEMS race.  I surely enjoyed mine.  Now it's time for some relaxation on an Alaskan cruise, and then back at it with the Leadville 100.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Race Report: Breck 100

It was a chilly and moist morning in Breck.  I started the first loop of three with arm warmers.  It took me a couple pedal strokes up the first climb to analysis it was going to be a long, long day.  My legs were already sore after racing the last two weekends.  They felt like they were already going to cramp.  I don't train for 100 milers so all I was really looking for was to finish.  I wasn't too bummed when I realized there was no way I was going to push the pace.  The race was full of fantastic singletrack showcasing what Breck has to offer.  Absolutely amazing downhill sections, flowly singletrack, and enough techy to keep you on your toes.  Not to mention all the amazing views.  I thought for sure that by the end I was going to be cramping and I would be deep my pain cave.  Surprisingly, there wasn't a moment in the race that I felt too terribly bad.  I was able to go out there and really enjoy myself.  I had a lot of fun.  Even when it started running during the last big climb up boreas pass I was in good spirits.  Sure, I didn't place that high with only getting 6th in my age group and 26th overall, but it was nice to go into a race without the pressure of ripping my legs off.  I finished with a respectable 10:07:41.8 and didn't feel like dying trying to do it.  I'm confident that if I hadn't done the Firecracker 50 I could have been standing on the podium, but I just couldn't resist doing such a fun race.  Last year I did the Breck 68 and felt like my legs were going to fall off.  This year I did the whole 100 and felt solid all day.  I have made some amazing gains in this last year.  Hopefully that trend will continue for 2014.  One more thing.  I did do well enough in the race to gain enough points to place 3rd for the RME series even after skipping two races.  Wasn't my intentions to go for podium status in the series, but it was a pleasant surprise to end a great day of racing.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Race Reports: 40 in the Fort and Firecraker 50

 After a solid training block in June, I started my second round of races.  The first up was the 40 in the Fort.  The wife tagged along for the trip up to Fort Collins and because of our awesome friend Chelsea who lives up there we had a place to crash.  Friday night we went downtown Fort Collins to meet up with more friends and for dinner had the best pre-race fuel ever...sushi!  I woke up Saturday ready to race... well after a quick stop for coffee at a gas station I was ready.  There was no age classes so I was in the open class.  I started out strong and stayed with the pack.  The course definitely catered to the locals in order to pick the right lines.  After a good portion of single track, there was a long dirt service road with some crazy steep sections.  Next, an insane downhill section with a loop back to the service road for a bit, and then down another insane downhill.  It was all roots, rocks, and unsustainable rutted downhills for miles.  I've done many races and I've never seen such difficult downhill sections in an endurance race.  I really worried about the safety for myself, and other riders that were less skilled.  Somehow, I avoided danger and ended up with a 5th place finish.  No blood and a top finish equaled a good day to me.

Next up was the Firecracker 50.  I love this race, but unfortunately it hates me.  The first year I did the race, I cut a sidewall which was then quickly followed by cutting up my arm.  Last year, I was lucky enough to find a nail from a old mining shoot in my tire.  This year was my forth year of doing the race and I came with a new set of rubber and fresh sealant.  I started strong with at least fifty high fives!  The start of the race is actually the beginning of the fourth of July parade in Breckenridge.  I keep on forgetting to bring tootsie rolls to throw out.  Next year for sure.  After the fun, neutral start it was straight up the first and biggest climb of the race.  I hung on the lead pack and was fourth to the singletrack.  After some sweet singletrack with a fun downhill section it was big climb number two up french gulch.  I made it up the steep rocky section feeling good.  Next was a long section of singletrack with sharp shale rock and the old mining shoots with nails.  I avoided the nails this year, but the shale rock not so much.  A particularly sharp one punctured my tire right through the thick tread.  The hole was about a quarter inch and too big for sealant to patch.  I pulled out my spare tire and changed it out quickly.  When I went to fill the tube with my CO2 it was apparent the spare tube was bad.  I had just used the tube a couple weeks ago for the Growler and it was good so I have no idea what happened.  My only option was to hike my bike until I ran into crew or someone gave me a tube.  I hiked for about 15 minutes before that happened.  With a fresh tube in I was once again off... well almost.  For some reason I was ghost shifting badly and had to readjust my rear wheel several times before it stopped.  To make things worse, I was behind most of the field and bottle necked badly.  I didn't want to hurt anyone with unwise passing so I kept my patience.  After the first lap I grabbed another tube and CO2s.  I also chugged down half a bomber of delicious Belgium beer.  Thanks Eric Coomer!  I was back to climbing the big climb to start lap two.  I hung onto the wheel of a friendly Boulder resident named Scott who was doing the race as a team so he was fresh.  We chatted up the hill and were able to pass quite a few people including some in my age group.  After cleaning French Gulch and making it through the trail of nails and shale rock I was feeling pretty good.  I was flying down rocky descents and crushing the climbs.  Then it happened.  There's a reason we run tubeless out here in Colorado.  The dreaded pitch flat.  The tube I grabbed after my first lap was a 26 inch.... I of course ride a 29er.  After fighting it into the tire I went to fill it up.... faulty tube number two.  Lucky I didn't have to wait too long before someone bailed me out once again.  Repeat the weird ghost shifting and having to stop several times to readjust the rear tire and I ended up losing well over an hour.  I rolled in to the finish feeling absolutely defeated.  For a little more salt in the wound I found out that my front rim was so out of whack it needed replacing.  Pricey day after a new tire, inner tubes, C02s, and a rim.

I was sitting top six of the expert class, and in a podium spot for my age group.  Then with one unlucky passing over a shale rock I was out of the race.  I was frustrated and angry, but mostly I was depressed.  I know flats are a part of racing, but I just couldn't shake the depression.  We racers train so hard year round for a hand full of races.  When things go wrong it's sometimes hard to let it go.  After about four days of torturing myself by labeling myself as a failure I needed to move on to mentally prepare for the Breck 100 next weekend.  I went for a short ride today with a freshly repaired bike.  I needed that ride to help me get back on track.  I've faced a lot of defeat over these four years of racing and have never quit.  I still crossed that finish line, and I have plenty more to cross in the future.  Hopefully I can get some redemption at the Breck 100.  It'll be the hardest race I've ever done.  It's go time damn it, and I have something to prove.  Here's hoping luck will be a lady on Sunday.

Huge hole from shale rock.