Monday, March 30, 2015

MARC in the Park

March 28th was the MARC in the Park relay race.  4 hot laps by the team at McDowell, just under 18 miles per lap.  It was a fun day riding for about 1:11, then chillin' out whilst the team brought it all home.  The course was fast -- 6 mile climb to start, followed by 6 mile descent, then 5 miles of desert rollers just to see if you have any juice left.  I turned in a lap five minutes faster than last year, and so I was happy.  Our team did well, 14/26.  Considering the top team had 3 legit semi-pros, and did not lap us, I say we were going fast.  Also happy that I did not get taken out by a deer on the course.  Because that happened.
More important than the details of my 1:11 pain fest where I managed to drop my water bottle 15 minutes in was the other stuff I learned or was reminded of on Saturday:
  • Relay races are awesome, because the post and pre-ride hanging out happens the entire day
  • I have some awesome friends.  Randy, Trina, and Pat are great teammates.  We had enough food and "hydration' for a 24 hour race...and we were there for 5 hours.
  • Adrienne is a cool chick.  How many people say stuff like "when I was white water kyaking in Bhutan..."  Not many
  • I suck at descending
  • Girls on singlespeeds who drift the corners at 23mph with cactus on the outside of the turn are not going to let you catch them on the next climb...or the climb after that.  Or in the 100m sprint to the line as you try and make up that last bit on them
  • People in Arizona are crazy fast
That is all.  Here are some pictures...mots courstesy of Randy, though I didn't ask him.  Hopefully he's not mad.

Desert mornings -- its a tough life sometimes
Early morning starts in the Sonoran
Race Plate!

Post lap Chillin with Adrienne

Randy, you happy?

Look -- Pat can sit like Adrienne.  I cannot

Iceman Jersey makes me look fat at the dismount line

Barry-Roubaix by Captain Slow

So there's a Bad Dad who has chosen to be named Captain Slow.  I asked him to share this story on the blog because it occurred to me that despite the fact that we are getting older and more decrepit, the gang continues to do some cool stuff on bikes that we might want to remember one day.  And since the internet is forever...

Of course, there's another captain slow, but this ain't him.  I've been running with this guy since we were 12.  Captain Slow has the essence of what it takes to be a great cyclist.  Dude knows how to suffer.  Then, when it seems like there's no more suffering to happen, dude hits the reset button and suffers more.  While I was riding in the desert this weekend enjoying my 80 degrees and clear blue skies, this man was riding a gravel grinder in Michigan where it was just a little colder.  People here in Arizona may be hella fast, but the dudes in Michigan take the cake for crazy.  Two of the biggest off-road events of the year are up there, Iceman and BR.  Both are in shit weather.  Both are sponsored by breweries.  Both are just a little bit of awesome.    

I'll leave the rest to him:

Captain Slow Rides Barry-Roubaix

First off I need to say that I had no plans to do this race.  I don't know shit about gravel riding, those dudes are crazy.  What happened was that in January I started trying to get in shape, promised myself a new bike as a reward for the winter trainer miles, ended up showing up 4 days early for a sale because I am a genius, got the bike on sale anyway, and looking for dirt to ride on (our trails are still in full fat bike mode), decided to go check out a newbies clinic and pre ride for the BR that weekend.  What a great day.  Sun, 50 degrees, new bike, good hills, I kept up.  Way more interesting than my scheduled trainer ride, and a better workout.  I got all psyched and signed up for the race.  

But because I am not a gravel racer, I figured this should just be another training ride, and since it is time to start doing longer rides, I decided to sign up for the 36 mile race, instead of the 24 mile course that I had just ridden and thoroughly enjoyed.  What?  Yeah, that's what I did.  

So I had to get up a little early on race day because the day before, when I saw the forecast low of 9 and high of 32, I got so depressed that I went to bed without getting any of my crap together.  I got up at 7, sorted everything by 7:30, and got to the race and checked in and parked with plenty of time to sit in the car before the start.  It was beautiful and sunny and 10 degrees outside.  Everyone in the parking lot was camped out in their cars and every now and then someone would venture out to use the porta-johns or to put a number on a bike or something and then dash back in.

By the time my race started at 10:12 the temperature had soared to 12 degrees and at the line I was actually pretty comfortable.  That ended about a minute into the ride, because my lungs apparently cannot tolerate 12 degree air in any significant quantity, so I started wheezing, which made it hard to get oxygen, to which my body's response is apparently a feeling of impending projectile vomit.  This is mile 1 as I am trying to stay in the opening surge.  

So I dropped out of the pack, dialed it back, and went into survival mode for a few miles that I don't remember.  But one thing I've learned in years of doing races for which I am ill-prepared is how to do survival mode (the other is how to pack a car quickly).  And, it turns out that I can survive faster than I used to, so by the time conscious thought returned, I realized I was still ahead of pace and feeling really not too bad. 

But kinda cold.  At one point I realized I was in my small ring by accident and went to shift and had trouble, and realized that was because I could neither feel nor move my left thumb.

It turns out that several miles of the added distance for the 36 loop are paved, which helped my speed, but not my temperature.  Halfway into the race when we got back to dirt, and it had finally warmed up a little, I realized that I felt about 10 times better than at the start.  After a long slog up a road that has ruts deep enough to earn it special mention on the map (during which I made a major tactical error in staying right in an attempt to keep out of the way), we got back to the part of the course that I knew, and the rest was no problem.  My legs got a bit sore toward the end, then I got a huge cramp as I was dismounting in the finish chute.  I guess that is a better time for it than most.

Time wise the ride was good.  I averaged faster than on the pre-ride and was hoping for 2:45 and going to be pissed if above 3hrs, ended up at 2:40.  Still only good for 85th of 104 in my age group but I was legitimately with people the whole time, instead of my usual race situation of late, which is off the back and/or walking a broken bike along the trail to the nearest out.  (So much for "training ride".  Already justifying...)

I definitely need to keep working on endurance.  I think I could have pushed harder on hills but may not have made the distance.  I am a lot faster on the flats than I used to be so I was yo-yo-ing back and forth thru the same group for quite a while.

[Captain slow did this race on a Salsa Spearfish.  Most people do it on cross bikes.  I pointed this out to him...]  I was trying not to play up the bike issue but yes I'm sure a couple pounds and a bit more stiffness could have helped, perhaps at the expense of comfort.  And an increased risk for mech failure as I saw a lot of those.  Either way 10-15 mins would move me a long way up the standings and I think that with a less disastrous start I would be part way there.  So we'll see about next year.

There were some nice flat stretches where I was spinning along at 20 mph passing people with no particular hassle. That is road bike speed for me so hopefully I will be even faster on the road - though maybe not so much, this is a good bike.

It was up to 33 degrees (!) when I put the bike back on the car.  That was better but still a bit chilly for hanging out solo at the beer tent, and the crowd/line situation was dense, so after double fisting 2 beers I decided to ditch my 3rd ticket.  (sad)  My body was feeling some effects.  I bought some chili and it was not good so I threw it out.  Should have braved the line for the pulled pork.  Or maybe not.

So the take-away here is that I owe beer to my bike shop guy, because if he had followed the rules, none of this would have happened.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fat Tire 40 -- 2015

It's March in Arizona.  The 12 and 24 hour events are done for the year, the MBAA series is winding up, and racing is ready to move north to Prescott, Flagstaff, Colorado and Utah.  Nestled between the 24-Hours of the Old Pueblo and the Whiskey Off Road is the Fat Tire 40 (not to be confused with the Chequemegaon Fat Tire 40, or many other 40-mile races in the universe).  Lots of folks treat the race as the last longish ride of the season, perhaps a tune up for the Whiskey in a month.  For me, it's really the start of the season.  A chance to see if I gained any fitness over the winter, or (more likely) if I'm really just a slug mounted on a bicycle.

The Fat Tire 40 is also the first mass start race I did in Arizona.  in 2012, when I lined up for the 40, it was the longest mountain bike race I had ever done, and would be the most miles I rode on one day all year.  fast forward to 2015, and that 40-mile monster of a race is now just a morning ride.  The fact that there's a race plate on the bars and a start/finish just makes it a little more fun.  Here's to a little bit of clean living, and a little bit of being lucky and living in paradise. 

The race is contested on my home trails -- about 6 miles as the crow flies from the house.  Of course, that crow has to fly over some mountains, so it's more like a 25 mile/40-minute drive around the mountains to the start line.  The course is 40 miles of mostly single track -- sometimes true 18-24 inch single-track, sometimes it's more like a fire road.  It's all well ridden, mostly buffed out, and people riding the race knows the trails well - so the pace is super-fast.

New twists for this year included no time trial (yeah!), wave starts by age (yeah!), no reverse short-loop (yeah!) and leg markings (huh?)

The race is pretty casual -- no fancy build ups, just the usual collection of awesome people lining up and seeing how fast they can make their bikes go on a Saturday morning.  (as a total side note, many shop owners were noticeably absent from the race...perhaps they were making some money, perhaps they were sleeping in...those guys work their tails off, so any minute of rest they can get is well deserved).

As the race stated we entered the McDowell competitive tracks -- a race course right here in the desert.  Super tight, fast single track.  Little opportunity to pass or be passed...just put the hammer down, hold the line, and keep the pedals turning.  I mostly held the wheel of the rider in front of me. As expected falling back a bit on the downhills or the twisty sections, and catching up quickly on the climbs.  I felt really good -- never really out of breath, only pushing super hard on the T-bone ridge climb, and not crashing (key...)

About 6 miles in, the race turns off the competitive loops and onto a service road.  First real opportunity to pass, and I followed 2 riders passing about 4 slower folks as we went up the approximately 1-mile climb before getting to the Pemberton trail. We were all riding fast enough to be a little uncomfortable, but no danger of burning any precious matches.  A great Saturday morning in the desert, finding the right cadence, settling in, and getting that awesome feel of flowy desert single track under the wheels.  I happened to be in front of the line, but we were only going 15-17mph, and we had a tail wind, so the lack of a wheel to follow was not too painful.

As always seems to happen at this stage in a race there was "that guy".  "That guy" who even though the pro-ish level racers destined to finish 30 minutes in front of us were way off the front decides to ride the group like he's mounting a charge for the finish line on the Champs Elyse.  So this guy comes up, clips my bars (the trail is like 10 feet wide here) and cuts in front of me making some snorting noise about "holding the pace".  Looking over my shoulder there were like 6 guys on my wheel just hanging I settle in behind Mr. "Hold the Pace", and see where this is all going.

He pulled us along for the next 3-ish miles as the race turned into the wind.  We were happy to let Mr. "Hold the Pace" do just that.

We turned off the Pemberton trail (and out of the headwind) onto some twisty and slippery (aka loose over hard) single track.  It's a ton of fun, mostly downhill 1.8ish miles.  I'm not so fast through the twisty stuff, so Mr Hold The Pace started to gap me in every corner.  I heard the guys behind catching up on every approach and every turn, but I accelerated out of every corner and never got in their way.  

Turning Left onto Escondido, again few opportunities to pass.  Newish singletrack cut into the sides of ridges and traversing (dry) washes for about 4 miles.  I passed a couple more guys here, and got passed by some of the younger racers who had started about 10 minutes behind us.  Soon enough, we started one of the main features of the race, a 7 mile climb at about 2-4%. Not real steep, but enough to let you know it was there.  Up Escondido and Up Pemberton we went.  This is where I put the hammer down.  Long, steady climb without a whole lot of technical moves?  Add two gears, and hang on if you want to draft...this is my section to shine on.  

Having done my research (and this being the 4th year) I knew this 7 miles would help me immensely in driving my time down and my average speed up.  The climb topped out just past 1/2 way in the race, and was followed by a nice long downhill pretty much to the next aid station than enabled recovery.  The climb felt awesome.  I passed 2 more folks, got caught by 1 more guy from a later wave, and hit the top of the climb averaging about 12.9mph, having improved about 1.5 mph from when the climb felt awesome.  

It also felt a little tiring.  I was starting to feel my quads fatiguing... the tiniest of craps beginning to make themselves known as I accelerated out of corners on the downhill.  I slugged some more Carborocket333, and kept the pedals turning confident I would work those kinks out over the next few miles.

Off the Bluff trail climb and back onto Pemberton, we were hammering the downhill again.  Put 2 more guys behind me, and came into he aid station at 30 miles with empty bottles, and feeling pretty good.  2:15 at the aid station.  I was really hoping for a 3:15 race...and the last 12 miles were very do-able in an hour.  One last big climb in the race, then some ripping downhills to the last 5 miles on the "Long Loop".  I loaded the 2 water bottles, left my Carborocket333 single serve in my jersey pocket and headed out.


Go back and read that again.  Yes, 30 miles of riding hard in the desert sun had fried my brain.  I had the ultimate endurance drink in my pocket, in powder form, and somehow my little brain through it was a good idea to leave it there instead of put it in one of the bottles I HAD JUST FILLED WITH WATER!

Well my dear friends, you know EXACTLY what happens next.  I started hammering up the 1.2 mile approximately 5% climb...and about 2/3 of the way up I started to lose power, get some cramping in the right quads, and slowed waaaaay down.  You can see me slow down on Strava actually.  There's a little man with a sign on the segment.  The sign says "ROHIT LOST HIS MIND AND PAID FOR IT HERE X".  OK, I'm lying.  What you can see on Strava is me PRing every segment up until this one, and no-PRs for the last 10 miles of the race.

From that point, the race turned into a bit of a slog for me.  Legs were tiring, so it was hard to stand and absorb the bumpy technical sections.  The last 5 miles on the "Long Loop" are super roller-coaster ups and downs, lots of little drops, and several wash crossings.  Awesome when you're fresh, pure hell when you're tired.  I started hitting big rocks with the rear wheel, further slowing myself.  about 2 miles to go I finally got passed by the lead woman, who had started 30 minutes behind me.  Losing by 30 minutes to Kata Skaggs, is nothing to be ashamed of -- in fact, losing by 30 minutes to women in general is nothing to be ashamed of, but I did have this little sub-goal of somehow staying in front of them.  What I WAS able to to was get the heck out of the way so I did not interfere with the race.  That I took solace in.

I crossed the line in what I thought was 3:25.  Turns out it was 3:26.  that's not too bad.  12.5mph.  I was 13.3 mph at 30 miles when I forgot to add the nutrients and paid the price.  Overall, a great day on the bike,  Randy, Pat, and Trina all rode well.  Trina managed to get herself on the Podium for the 40K race -- and I love having friends on the podium!

It was a short celebration as I had to run for the airport to go help Priya in the LA marathon...she did awesome, and that is a story for another day

Looking forward to the MARC in the Park!  

86 -- hopefully not "done"!
Leg Markings!  Where's the Triathlon?

I should probably buy this one
On the plane to LA....seemed appropriate