Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Arkansas State Time Trials.

I am both happy with the result and a little disappointed with my time at the Arkansas State Time Trials. I finally won my age group after finishing 2nd the last two times I did this race. This was kind of bittersweet since the time I posted was the slowest of my 3 attempts.

The first year I did the TT I posted a 58:58, then last year I was 1:00:10. This year I posted a 1:01:40. I was hoping that my long distance training would just carry me throught the time trial and it pretty much did. I rode nice and easy at 24+ MPH. I wasn't tired and I didn't hurt, in fact I rode another 70+ miles after the race. The problem was that I could not longer push myself to get almost aerobic and ride at 26+.

I rode just like I have been training to ride for the last 8 months: Strong and consistant. So I guess I just shut up and be happy with my win and maybe throw some more TT training days into my ride schedule to work on speed.

Friday, June 25, 2010

My first 24 hour Race.

Well, it was time to tackle my first 24 hour race. On Thursday morning, my family and I packed up the van and the trailer and headed off to Middleville, MI. My first 24 hour would be the National 24 Hour Challenge, which is one of the largest 24 hour events in the US. This meant I knew that there would be some pretty stiff competition. But, I was headed there to win. That was what I put on the entry form when answering, "Why are you doing this race?".

The trip up to MI was a chore in itself. I had planned on taking an easy day and a half to get there. The road construction and stopping every 2 hours to gas up (the van only got 10 MPG while towing), turned into a long day and half. We made Champaign IL about 8 pm on Thursday and were ready to get started again at 7 on Friday, but we had to wait out the tornado warnings.

We finally made it up to Middleville about 1:00pm and began the setup process. N24HC has a special place for people with trailers - about 1/2 mile away from where everyone else gets to setup. So we dropped the trailer in the parking lot and started mixing the bottles, assembling the bikes, and all the other little prep stuff necessary to the race. Number pickup wasn't until 5:30 so we took off to pre-drive the course. I had heard that the road conditions weren't the greatest and wanted to visually verify the status of the course. We found some fresh chipseal near mile 15 and one section just after the 2nd checkpoint that weren't great but other than that the course was pretty nice.

We got back to Middleville at around 5:45 - timed perfectly so that the line was nice and small - and went thru packet pickup. Then we loaded up and headed to Grand Rapids and my favorite prerace meal at Outback: Rack of lamb with mashed potatos and 2 loaves of their great bread and two big blokes of Fosters to complete my carb loading.

Saturday started out too early with a wake up call at 4:30 - Me and the first shift of the support crew, Trisha and Allen, were up and headed out to the race site by 5:30 and at the trailer way before 6:00. I had the bike loaded with food/drink and the van loaded up with everything Trish would need by 6:30. Oops, race doesn't start until 8:00. This is a bad habit that I picked up from racing tri's - always get there early to get the prime TA.

Since I was ready to race with more than an hour to spare, it became social hour. I talked with Jim Hlvaka (from PAC Tours), Paul Danhaus (Big Dogs), and Bryan Kortness (Facebook) and just did a little riding around to loosen up. Trish and Allen hit the Crew prerace meeting at 7:30 and were on the frontline to start the race at 8:00.

We started at 8:00 straight up with no delays and I was off the front to lead the pack out. I know that Larry told me to draft, draft, draft and when you get tired of drafting to suck wheel, but I still like to lead the race out :-). The first section of the race was rather uneventful with a group of about 35 or 40 riders in the pack and about 8 -10 of us doing all of the pulls. At about mile 10 we hit a couple of hills and 2 riders went off the front, but the group, at the urging of Chris Ragsdale, (last year's winner), sort of let them stay about 1/8 mile ahead of the group. They rode out there for about 10 miles when I decided that it would be fun to break away from the group and ride them down. You got to play games or it gets boring. So I rode them down and the group caught up and we rode off toward checkpoint 1 were they had 4 lanes for you to get punched.

Once we hit checkpoint 1 the fun ended. We turned south into a 15+ mph wind from the southwest which would be with us all day. The group rode together down to checkpoint 2 with the same 8-10 people doing most of the work. As we were pulling into checkpoint 2, the group started attacking hard. This checkpoint only had 2 lanes to get punched, so it was a big cluster and I was the last person thru the station, but Trish and Allen were there with everything I needed so as soon as I got punched I was ready to head down the road. I was afraid this cluster in the checkpoint had cost me the main group, but I was wrong. Just after stop 2 is the unofficial Pee break. So the only thing that I lost was a chance to take a leak.

We cruised on toward checkpoint 3, riding the the roughest section of the road and dodging a lot of tree debris that had been blow down from the storm the previous night. At mile 80 the debris caught me, or I caught it, and the front tire made the s's's's's sound as air was escaping. I knew it was my wheel, but it was funny to watch all the other rider's start looking a their bikes to see if they had a problem.

Time for a quick tire change. The race had just been lost. There was no way I could win without riding with the lead group into the wind. Oh well, I had a new goal. How many of the 30+ rides could I catch and pass riding on my own? Someone had said that there was often a 2nd group that forms and works together, but I never saw them. I just rode my own pace, pushing as hard as felt good, and made it back to the finish of the big loop in just over 5:30 for 121.6 miles.

I had talked with Larry Graham before the race and he said that you wanted to do as many middle loops as you could before getting put on the short course at 7:15. I started pushing hard because I wanted to make sure I completed at least 5 middle (23.7) loops. This part of the ride was rather uneventful until the 5th lap. During the laps 1 thru 4, I would ride by people but never was passed. My support crew kept me flying around the track giving me bottles and food every lap, but I was waiting for the fast group to catch me and put me 23.7 miles down. About 1/2 way around lap 5 I was flying down a downhill section at about 25 when a car passed me and started to make a right turn in front me. I screamed F!!!!!! Thankfully, they stopped and I didn't become imbedded in the side door of their car.

About 5 minutes later, a group of 5 riders including Charles Knott came by me. So, I jumped on with them and started chatting with them. They said they were the second part of the fast group with the fastest 6 riders riding in a group ahead of them. This sort of confused me because nobody had passed me. Then I found out that I had passed these guys in transition. I had worked my way up to a top ten spot by mile 240. They were also impressed that I had ridden alone and was in front of them.

Charles, one other rider and I rode away from the rest of the group to finish up our last middle loop with 240.1 miles and start riding the 5.5 loop. As I transitioned to the short loop, my night crew showed up for work. Trish had taken Allen back to the hotel and picked up Rachel and Katelyn to work the night shift. Support on the night section of the race wasn't nearly as set as the day section. When I wanted something, I would tell my crew the lap before that I would stop and what I needed.

Night riding was mostly a mind game of setting a goal of the number of laps to do and counting down while continuously riding hard. My goal when I started was to get 40 laps. So I just kept counting down and riding. I switched from Boost at the stops to Starbucks coffee and my food went from sausage to a slice of pizza, but only one - it didn't settle all that well. I also downed a bag a frito's.

I was passed once during the night by Chris Ragsdale (494.8) and Chris Gottwald (483.8) and jumped on and rode with them for 3 laps before they stop to refuel. I hadn't told my crew I was stopping so I kept riding, then on the next lap I told them I was stopping. Just as I was pulling in to stop, the Chrises caught me so I lost the fast group again.

The rest of the night was pretty uneventful. Just riding and getting a little slower. Once the sun came out a lot of the riders that had stopped to sleep came back on the course, so there were more people again. I got together with Charles Knott a little after 6:15. He was on mile 399.6, about 16.5 miles behind me. He said his goal was to set the new 55-59 record and he needed to do 5 more laps, so he and I started working hard and pushed. Charles had the record with 20 minutes to spare. We took the last lap pretty easy, (20 minutes), and we came in with 20 minutes left. I decided to go out for one more lap. I time trialed the last lap in under 16 minutes, which was probably my fastest of the day, to end up with 449.1 - 38 short laps - 2 short of what I had set for my goal about 12 hours before.

I had come to win or at least challenge for the win. A pretty lofty goal for a first time 24 hour race. That went out the door with the flat. I set my new goal and passed all but 4 of the racers

ending up as 5th overall finisher and 1st in 45-49.

The Competition was pretty good.

1st - Chris Ragsdale, (494.8), Furnace Creek 508 Winner

2nd - Chris Gottwald, (483.8), Solo RAAM Finisher 2009

3rd - Bryce Walsh (460.1) Solo RAAM 2006

4th - Dennis Delong (454.6) RAAM Qualified

After the race is pretty hazy. We waited around for awards until 9:00 - then went to pack up the trailer to head back to the hotel, but we couldn't find a key for the trailer hitch. After searching high and low, Trisha found it in her shirt pocket. We were all really tired. We finished hooking up everything and drove back to the hotel at about 11:00. I went to the front desk and said I needed a wake up call for 1:30 and she looked at me like I was crazy. I explained the reason for late check out, (it's good to be a member of their club), and crashed for a couple of hours.

At 2 o'clock we were on the road heading for Ludington and the Ferry to WI. We had a 3 hour drive up to Ludington during which I slept again. We had enough time to have a picnic with KFC at the park then drove up to the dunes north of town and walked on the beach. We got on the ferry at 8:00pm and I walked back to the state room and slept until we reached Manitowoc around 11:00pm . I then drove 1 mile to the nearest hotel and fell back asleep again :-)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hobbs Mountain Bike Race.

I needed a change of pace from my ultra distance riding and the Hobbs MTB Race just happened to be the right thing to do at the right time for a number of reasons. It fell the weekend before National 24 Hour Challenge so I'm tapering and I won't feel guilty about only getting in 4 hours of riding this weekend instead of 16. I hadn't seen all my MTB Racing friends since last November and need the comraderie and it was also a great race for my son, Allen, to ride in because the course is sweeeet.

Since I hadn't been on my MTB since the fall, I added a couple of MTB sessions to my training schedule so I could try to get back some of the handing skills that you lose if you don't use. Allen and I put on about 40 miles of short track laps in the week leading up to the race and I was able to hit Burns Park for one lap. This would prove to be enough training for a Junior 12 and under racer, but not enough for Cat 1 40-49.

Trish, Allen and I loaded up Saturday morning and headed north to race. I just got a new Van with a built in GPS so I let it guide me up to Hobbs. This proved both to be good and bad at the same time. The route it took us on brought us up from the south through War Eagle so we got to see the old mill and bridge. Pretty cool. The problem was that when we got to Hwy 12 it had me turn east instead of west. So we added a few extra miles to the route.

Once we were up at Hobbs, I took Allen for a preride of the Junior course and we worked on some of his biking skills. Then I took off and did a warmup lap around my course. The people putting on the race had done an excellent job of trail maintenance - the course was fast. Maybe even a little too fast. After the preride we drove back into Bentonville to the hotel for a shower and then on to Phat tire to register. Phat tire is a cool little bike shop in downtown Bentonville and you should stop by if you get the chance.

Once we left the bike shop we used the GPS to take us to the Outback for my standard pre race meal. The only problem is the GPS couldn't find the Outback. The Outback in Rogers is hidden behind some hotels with an address that the GPS wouldn't even let you enter. So we went to O'Charleys instead. Good dinner, but not my normal meal. We saw the Outback sign as we were headed back to the hotel.

Race morning started out well with us back out to Hobbs at about 7:45. This gave us a decent parking spot and plenty of time to get setup for Allen's race which started out at 8:30. During the preride we had determined that Allen's brake levers were tipped too far down for him to reach them easily, so we adjusted them and we bled a little air of his tires to give him a little better traction.

Allen took off on his 2 lap race at about 8:40 and did a kick butt job finishing up about an hour later with his first MTB win. He has been doing races on and off for about 3 years and this was his first win so he was happy. The race timing worked out well because it gave me time to watch him start and finish and still get to my race on time.

Cat 1 - 40-49 went off at about 10:05 in the moring with the temp already up to 90. It was going to be a hot one. The race started out with a 500 yard sprint to the trail entrace on a gravel road. I took off down the road and led the sprint to the trail head, but Richard decided that he was in such a hurry that he cut me off going into the trail head. Good move on his part because he is so much faster on the trail. I was on the trail 2nd and being pushed really hard by the group. The trail starts out pretty twisty and windy and I was riding faster than I could corner so less than 1 minute into the trail I had my first crash as my front tire slid out from in front of me. The bike slid left and I jumped right and everyone sort of rode between me and the bike.

I get back to the bike and have to get the chain back on and get back on the trail. I've gone from 2nd back to 9th and a minute behind the lead group with my confidence already shaken. Back on the bike I go. Next we hit the quick downhill and across the bridge to the 1st climb. I can see 3 riders - Scott Dollar, Bob Ocken, and Scott Shoals, ahead me on the climb so I keep working to catch them. After making the climb, you get into a set of rollers along the west side of the course that is very fun and very fast and I rip through this section working my way back up to 6th place. I can see Eli just ahead of me so I try to catch him and get very close while we are on the top, but then we hit the downhill on the back side of the course and he disappeared again.

The downhills on the course are very sketchy in the turns. I love this course and if I lived near Rogers I'm pretty sure that I would have the lines thru them to make the downhill as fast as the rest of the course, but it was my weakest point of the race. After the downhill you cross a bridge and hit the hard climb of the race. Eli was on a single speed so I was able to catch him at the top of climb and he followed me into the fast and flowing last section of the trail and passed me back just at I was getting my hand off from Trish at the feed zone.

The 2nd lap wasn't a great lap either. I caught Eli again on the 1st climb this time, but he caught me back on the downhills on the back side. Then I crashed again on the downhills. This crash was alot harder that my first crash so I resolved that I was now riding to not crash with my 24 hour race coming up next week. The 2nd time up the big climb I got off and pushed the hard section and was working on keeping my head up and looking ahead and was getting faster on the sweeping parts of the course. I was creeping on the downhills though and the climbs were eating me alive. To give you an idea, my garmin was turning off and back on. (3mph threshold).

I worked my way around the 3rd lap with no incidents and feeling pretty good. I finished the race in 6th place and had a great workout - probably much more effort than I would have put into a century ride.

After the race we hung with the ACF crew - (Dan is actually building a good race team) and the Bell and Company Crew, (thanks for the food!), for about an hour then head back south to recover. I will probably do an easy century ride on Tuesday, then start driving up to MI for an 8:00am Saturday morning start for a little 24 hour ride.

Congrats to Allen on his first win and to the whole ACF team - I'm pretty sure we scored the team win yesterday.

What I've learned from the race. 1 - Follow your prerace feed schedule do not vary it - ask Scott Penrod about bad food choices. 2 - If you're going to do a MTB Race you need to train on a mountain bike.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tour De Hoot.

I caught a blurb about the Tour De Hoot on facebook yesterday, so I decided that instead of a long day of riding by myselft I would opt for a more high-intensity workout with a group. So this morning I jumped in the van and headed for McGehee.

The drive down was rather uneventful and arrived at the start at about 7:30. I had plenty of time go get registered and get everything ready for the start. Especially since the race director was giving out road ID packages and the ride started 10 minutes late.

We left out of McGehee headed east with me pulling the group for the first 4 miles. We countinued on toward the first rest station at between 22 and 24 miles per hour and the group quickly broke down to 5 people in the lead group. We pulled into Arkansas City and the first stop at mile 12. This is where the road markings were very iffy.

Note to promoter - Don't mark the stops with arrows leaving the route - just put up signs. We weren't stopping but couldn't figure out where to go. I was entering the rest area to turn around, but the rest of the group continued down the road. So, against my better judgement, I followed them for 3 block to where we had to turn. I turned, went a block and turned back toward where I knew hwy 4 was located and took off.

I got out ahead of the group and decided that I wanted to be the rabbit so I put myself in TT mode and started to hammer north toward Dumas. After about 5 miles, I couldn't see the group of 4 anymore, so I kept pushing. I hit Dumas at mile 50 with a 22.5 MPH average. This is where things got a little more interesting.

I tried to shift and to my dismay - nothing happened. I had broken the head off the shifter cable so I was down to 2 gears (53x11 or 39x11). This was ok since on the way out I had a tail wind and rode 53x11 to the turn around at Arkansas Post at mile 65. Then I switched to 39x11 for the return trip. If I had to break a shifter cable, I was lucky it was on this ride because there was only 997 feet of climb.

The turn around for the ride was at Arkansas Post at mile 65. Up to this point I was still over 22.5 miles per hour, but it was about to start dropping on the return. The return trip was from Arkansas Post to Dumas then down to McGehee. This section was extremely tiring since it was into a 10mph head wind and could only use 1 gear so I couldn't change up the resistance while standing, sitting or aero. So I stayed areo and pushed back.

I ended the ride with 101.2 miles in 4:40:51 for a 21.6 mile average. Pretty fast day, fast enough to be able to catch a shower and drink my recovery mix and jump in the car without seeing the next finisher. The Rabbit Won :-).

On the way home I continued to push the speed and had to take a time out in Gould for doing 78 in 65. OOPS.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

My First Ultra Cup Win.

This is my race write up for the Balltown Double. Thanks Joe and Dave for putting on a fun event.

The race weekend started with a road trip with my daughters, Katelyn and Rachel. We drove up to St Louis on Thursday before the race. We got into town about 7 and stopped to see the arch up close and personal. Rachel decided that she really needed to go to the top of the arch so we grabbed a close hotel for the night. We returned first thing Friday morning and took the trolley ride to the top and then headed on our way to De Witt - via Monmouth to visit college.

We got to De Witt about 4:00 on Friday which gave me enough time to do a 11 mile leg stretch in the early afternoon to recover from two days in the car. I rode out with Wendel Hyink and got a chance to talk with him about his riding. After this quick preride, I took a quick shower then we were off to "Happy Joes" for a group dinner which was quite enjoyable. I was hanging with Larry, but also met Steve Wartenburg who is writing a book about ultra racing.

The race started off at 5:30. It was already light enough that we did not need our lights so it was a great time of the morning to ride. The temp was in the low 60's but wouldn't stay that way for long. We headed east thru town and then turned north. I pulled the group out for about the first 5 miles then started working in a group with Steph M and a couple of others. For about the first 35 miles I did about 1/2 the pulls and Steph did about 1/4 with everyone else working in as they were able.

At mile 37, I decided to go it on my own. We had hit a couple of hills and I got out in front of the group, so I decided that now was the time to go. We had a couple of more hills and I was completely away from group. The first stop was around mile 50 when Katy and Rach had me all set and I was in and out of the stop in less than 2 minutes.

I continued to cruise along until mile 80, where a pot hole met my rear wheel. I just had a feeling that I would be flat in the next mile and, as predicted, I was on the side of the road changing my tire in 1/2 a mile. Since nobody caught up to me during the tube change, I decided that I really had a chance to win the race. I got on the bike and kept pushing hard, keeping a 20+ MPH average.

At about mile 90 we hit a road detour and had to take a gravel road. That would have been just fine, but a farmer had just oiled the part of the road that went past his house so we had a 300 foot stretch of road full of fresh oil. Time to suck it up and ride thru it and keep going. The 2nd stop was at about mile 105 and the girls were ready again. This stop was going to take a little longer though because I needed to pump up my rear tire, get a new tube and inflator, and completely reload my camel back and food stash for the return trip.

Just as I was leaving the 2nd station, a group of 5 riders pulled in including Paul C and Steph M. As they were pulling in, Steph said this is probably the only time we'll see you and she was right. I was thru the first 105 miles in just over 5 hours but the return trip was going to be much harder.

The return trip was much harder due to two factors - wind and heat. When we left in the morning the wind was from the north east, but had switched around to the east during the ride up and now was from the south east for the return trip. It also went from 5 to 15 mph. The day had started out mild and was supposed to stay in the low 80's but had reach 90 in the early afternoon. Both of these factors made the return trip much harder and take longer.

At around mile 107 we hit the steepest climbs of the day, which hit around 15%. The biggest problem was that after the climb the downhill section that followed was kind of sketchy. This meant you couldn't get aero and fly down the hill. You had to stand and maneuver around the pot holes. As I was standing and weaving - I took a direct hit from a bee/wasp (some stingy son of a b. about 2" from dead center). This made the downhill so much more interesting.

We had a couple more testy climbs in the next 10 miles, then the course leveled out to rollers again so I was just fighting the wind, the heat and a new enemy - the black birds. Somewhere between mile 125 and 130 I had the not-so-pleasant experience of having a bird hit my helmet. The first time it happened I really wasn't sure what hit me. The second time, the bird tried to lift the helmet off my head. So if you need a reason to wear a helmet - it's for protection from crazed starlings.

The race proceeded from here as more of a test of survival than a race. My average speed kept dropping as the wind speed and temperature kept increasing. Stop 3 at mile 150 was another good stop by the sisters - who had done a great job in keeping me going. At about mile 170 Joe passed me on the way in and asked if there was anying I needed. I justed wanted to know if anyone was close. He said everyone was quite aways back. This made me feel pretty good and I kept pushing on and looking back every 5 miles or so. Don't know what I would have done if I had seen someone, because I don't think I had any more to give.

I finished in 11:06, about 1 hour more than I thought it should have taken, but 40 minutes ahead of the next finishers.