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

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