Category Archives: Race Execution

Trans Rockies SS style

In '06 we killed TR.  It was the season's #1 goal.  Coming back for the second time we had no such ambitions.  In fact, our sole goal was to finish.  Of course, we were riding SS bikes - and to my knowledge a 7 day stage race has never been done by a woman and not so many guys.  Modest tho it was, it wasn't a given.  The first day's route climbed 4k' out of the gate at an average 12% grade. How in the heck do you gear for that???

The views from that climb were spectacular.  The Canadian Rockies are massive, one range after another that just keep coming.  Trans Rockies sends you deep into the heart of it all. We started way down in that canyon below.

The descent off that high point featured loads of new singletrack on a top of the world ridge. Much of that was hike a bike. It was snowing. You could say we were out of our desert element ;) We started at the back of the field, worked our way to 3rd (in our field) by the top, finished 7th on the day. There were tough moments but overall a good day was had.

Then came day 2. The most bizarre thing I've seen in a race....2/3 of the field taking a wrong turn, hiking up an avalanche chute (2k+ vert hike a bike) and then flipping it when the mistake was discovered - this sent head size rocks flying in all directions. A few savvy teams bushwacked back to the route from the top rather than flipping it and made massive time gains on the rest of the lemmings.  Of course, they did miss part of the route too.

We spent a good hour on this hike, maybe more. Head down focused on the next foot placement, nobody noticed the orange flagging off to the side of the chute 50 feet at the edge of the forest...

But when the mistake was discovered, faster folks descending merged with slower folks climbing and the field was turned upside down - the back 1/3 of the field had made the turn and entered some slow, largely unrideable new trail. All those faster folks coming down from above stood in line for an hour. Motionless. In a race.

Hestler shouting for his lost partner...Shep, where are you man?

The entire scene was hilarious.  It was obvious to me this day would not count towards the GC so we took it real relaxed the rest of the day.  Gottta keep our eye on the prize - the finish.  We even had a couple of picnics.  Some flatish downed moss covered logs beconed and we had a little snack while cheering on other riders.  Thing was, the hiking plus SSing super steep terrain had done some damage...we were feeling the effects already and the finish was anything but certain at the end of this day.   Can you say achilles strain?

 Canadian Stick boy and Mike Garrigan were one of the finest teams in the event.  Super strong, positive, these guys were a lot of fun to hang out with at the race.  They pulled the win day 2.  Too bad for them it didn't count on GC, but they did get the stage win.  Congrats fellas.

Day 3 we entered the fantasy world of Nipika resort.  Deep in the middle of nowhere but there...trails to die for, a late start team time trial format and lots of time for eating, sleeping, relaxing.  They nailed it with this easier day.

Even our bikes looked happy in Nipika.

I'm pretty sure we had the longest bars of anyone there. Certainly the fewest # of gears ;)

We did not get the honors of the most difficult bike though, that went to Gina and Phil.

Phil also nipped Lynda in the puffy coat contest.

The time trial day 3 went ok for us. It was a perfect course for SS riding, but we were still coming around from the efforts of the first 2 days. Steady was the name of the game, and we completely enjoyed the individual start. Starts on a SS really suck in big fields of gearies and I doubt either of us will do that again. The individual start meant we had our little bubble for the whole day and we made the most of it.

Strategy. Um, yea. Lynda was the one with the goals of just to finish, but I knew she would be kicking some butt from day 4 forward. She always does. My secret hopes included 1 trip to the podium during the event. Her mojo was rising day 3, it was obvious (to me) what was next. It wasn't obvious to her, and when I started talking about "racing" (remember, we were just trying to finish this beast) she didn't like it at all. So, I just zipped it, said nothing and would let nature take it's course. A perfect plan ;)

Day 4. The start was not so unfriendly as the first 2 days for us. On the first climb we had a clear view of 4 mixed teams at one time and all the gals were being pushed by their guys. That was a red flag to my firebrand partner and we were off like a shot. It wasn't long before we caught the 2nd placed mixed team Luna (Steve Wallace/Katarina Nash) and we yoyoed with them a bit as they surged to keep pace and the terrain rolled. On the next climb we left them and put in a solid effort. It was a beautiful climb! River crossing, new singletrack, big climb ending in hike a bike. We were having a great day...and suddenly riding with folks we usually only see at dinner time as Dicky likes to say. On day 4 we passed all the leaders jerseys aside from the Italians.

From the top of this climb was a 45 km downhill dirt road. Ugh. Could we possibly hold off the Luna juggernaugt for that distance? We didn't know but we were gonna give it a whirl. There was no way to hold on to passing teams draft with our gearing. But, there were some sections of rougher terrain and towards the end even a slight headwind - both favorable for us. It was amazing to be passed so few times. We were in the top 20 overall and I was certain we'd be passed by 20 teams on this section. Towards the end Lynda says "I see purple!" I say "no way" (purple is the color of the mixed leaders jersey) but sure enough there was Norm and Wendy fixing a flat. They were super positive as we went by at 180 rpm, telling us we were hauling ass. Our virtual lead lasted all of 68 seconds, they came flying by in their big rings as we knew they would. We were still working it for all we could to hold 2nd...which we did with 10 min to spare. I was shocked when I saw the splits. Best of all, we rocketed up to 3rd on GC on that day's performance - and we were just getting warmed up.

Day 6 looked like a real toughy, so we decided to take it easy day 5. Easy being a relative term on a SS, we still rode right up to Luna on the first climb. I was a bit ahead of Lynda when that happened, and I didn't want to get into a dog fight with them today so I got off the bike and whipped out the camera.

Lynda on an easy day, hot on the heels of day 3's 80+ stage winner ;)

An enjoyable cruise that day, and without working very hard we landed 3rd.

Day 6 had something over 12k' vert, a paved uphill start, big climbs and some elevation - we figured it would be favorable for us so we hit this one hard. No camera in tow this day. It was funny how the initial fatigue days 1 & 2 had us wondering if the finish would be attainable, and the eve of day 5 we were deep in 2-epic thinktank strategic mode. It's definitely one of the things I love about us :) We are happiest when racing. As we were flying up the first big climb we both recognized that no matter the outcome of the day we were living large, it was a day to remember. We did give this one our all. As it turned out the route wasn't as favorable for SS as we thought - lots of spun out stuff in the middle after racehorse pass and then some stuff just a tad too steep to ride with our gearing at the end. But when I saw the splits, that we were only 13' adrift of Norm/Wendy on a 6 hour day - riding SS bikes - well I was ecstatic. Our teamwork this day was top notch and we dug deep into the well. It felt great at the end of the day.

Until the awards, that is. We were passed by a mixed team in the last few miles but since she didn't ride the first 2 (hard!) days after getting food poisoning, forcing her team into the unclassified ranks, we didn't imagine they would be reclassified after she rejoined the race. But alas, it was a Canadian team...so we ended up a dissappointing 4th on the day.

Day 7 started with some nosebleed steep climbs and hikes, featured endless rolling roads in the middle, with a touch of sweet singletrack for the finale into Fernie. We didn't ride hard at all this day, all we had to do to protect our 3rd GC spot was a consistent ride, and that's what we did. We were both a bit tired but would cheer each other up by noting that we were gonna finish this beast - on single speeds.

Does this gal look tough enough to SS TR?

Blissed out on the Kaibab

Last Saturday was the annual running of the Kaibab Monster Cross on the Kaibab plateau.  We had tossed around several incarnations of how to do this one...how it ended up was that I raced, Lynda & the kids explored the North Rim, then the day after the race we switched roles.  It was a blissful, perfect weekend.  We all got home exhausted and smiling.

Carrying on with the year's theme, I raced SS.  That wasn't my first choice, but a few days before the event Brendan showed up with the new Siren SS 29er, and I couldn't resist.  The first ride on it was like a magic carpet...it fits like a glove, is a perfect balance between sharp handling and stable, and even though it's aluminum it's more compliant than the Explosif frame.  Go figure.

A picture is worth a million words.  'nuff said :)

This years was more fun than last year - maybe it's the SS factor, maybe it's the slightly cooler weather (or maybe I'm just adapted to heat living in St George), maybe it's cause I knew what to expect.  For sure last year's event was affected by the Grand Loop fatigue 2 weeks prior.  In any case, I love racing SS.  It's easier.  There is lots of spun out time in a long route...and that means you get to take in the views, relax a bit more, burn fewer calories and not get as wiped as with a steady geared pace.

5am AZ time start.  Here's the gang ready to go.

 Nathan was another SSer present.  He totally ripped the Sedona Big Friggen Loop, so his presence meant there was a SS race to be had.  Dave, Chad, Andy, Brian, Calvin and Rob rounded out the field.  How often to you know the entire field by name? 

I rode with Brian and Calvin for the better part of the first 2 hours.  I was most surprised to be able to keep contact on descents and fast sections - after an initial short climb, the route descends for oh, at least 10 miles.  My cleats loosened up so I had to stop to tighten them up...but other than that we stayed together.

Mile 30 or so there's a long, gradual climb/false flat that was perfect for my gearing and I started to motor on.  The threat of 2 weeks in CA (business trip) was a real possibility, so I decided I was gonna give this thing some punch so I wouldn't even want to ride for at least the first week ;)

Rainbow Rim trail is such a treat.  Sweet, buff singletrack on the rim of the GC, doesn't get much better than that.

This pic is from Timp point about 1/4 mile from the trail.  Click for big to see Thunder River.

From RR is the dreaded climb to ~9200' on exposed, dusty roads.  But for whatever reason, it went by in a blur this year.  Cool breezes and tailwinds...before I knew it there was Deer Lake....

Yes, Deer Lake.  There is a store about 3/4 mile off-route, but I forgot cash.  Dipstick.  But the emergency kit always contains chem tabs and I didn't need more calories.  So, in Carol Ann's honor this year I drank Deer Lake water.  It's a stagnant pond full of swimming creepy things, moss, and ringed with hoofprints.  Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.  Shoes off, I waded out a ways to get the water away from the shore.  It was cool and felt great!  What was even better, the water had a not so displeasing "extra" taste factor.  Nutrient dense!

AZT was next.  Quite possibly my favorite part of the course, the flowing woodsy singletrack on the East Rim. This can't be AZ!

The drop to the infamous East Side Game Road was extra rubbly this year, and the game road was tough for the first few miles then became a very enjoyable cruise through dense wildflowers in a burn area.  White, yellow, orange, blue, red - all represented.  I was racing my ass off through here.  The next climb was going to be mostly hiking so I'd use that to recover.  Turns out some of the climb was rideable on the SS and it went by quicker than I expected.  Cool!

Visions of a sub 11 hour ride started to pop into my head and I drilled the last 9 miles as hard as I could, but it didn't quite happen.  11:09 - 1:08 faster than last year (geared!).  I'll take it.

 A conundrum, no?  I NEVER expected to go this fast on a SS on this route.  How is this possible...

Sunday Lynda got to taste the singletrack sections of KMC while I went exploring with the kids.  Wes just couldn't believe that a white patch a mile off-road was snow...had to be rocks.  It's 100+ in StG, there can't be any snow in the whole wide world, right?

So let's go find out!

Yep, it was snow afterall.  Power slides with candy in hand.  Broken arm be damned, power slides were ON.

Don't be fooled by the barbie, that hand with the snowball means business!

All in all, a weekend the likes I've never experienced.  Makes a guy want to freeze time and space.

KT his & hers

On Sunday Lynda and I set out to put in a fast time on the Kokopelli trail on our single speed Konas.  The punchline:  we both finished in record time, LW @ 15:21 and DH @ 13:19.  It was a day of 2 Epic love!  Here's the nitty gritty.

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Last weekend - when many riders had set their sights on a Kokopelli trail ride - we stayed local for some important events that had been on the calendar all year.  I never imagined I'd be excited for such things...but what can I say.  Life has expanded lately and I'm finding room for all of it.

May 25 was the date we had set aside for our spring KT run.  When we first planned it, it was to be a SS mission for speed.  Then events seemed to get the better of us.  LW had to back off the training for awhile, then I got a last second request to be in LA for business all last week.  A week in gridlock at sea level is rather lousy prep for KT!  Honestly, we had scrapped the KT idea a month ago.  Well, verbally between us, anyway.  I had my secret hopes to keep the ride alive...and had actually tailored my training for the push.

I got back from CA Fri night.  Sat morning we looked at the forecast for Moab/Fruita and it looked perfect.  What do ya know, LW was all fired up to do it, too.  Our KT rose from the ashes of burnout and city dwelling...now the question was how to put the logistics together  and get on the road ASAP to get'r done?  A $250 shuttle, that's how...Sun 12:30 AM we arrived in Moab with enough time for a 2 hour nap.  LW blasted off at 3:10 AM, I left at 4:17 AM.

Initially it was all familiar.  Heading up Sand Flats in the dark, how many times have I done that now?  What was completely different though this time was the tension in the legs caused by 34.18 gearing and 225 oz fluids on board.   And, Lynda was riding ahead of me.  Just past the turn off of Sand Flats road she had drawn a big ol heart in the sand in a spot I couldn't miss...who knew such experiences awaited on the KT?

LW had similar gearing - 34.19 - and we both thought the La Sals were waaaay harder than with gears.  Yes, we are human and both of us ended up walking on pavement - more than once too.  Between the SS challenge and the extra weight I was hauling for this one (my water filter is AWOL!  Anyone seen it?) I hit the top of the La Sals 15 min later than normal, 3 hours.  I wasn't too concerned though as I figured since I wasn't going to filter I was actually already ahead of schedule.  What an optimist ;)

The N Beaver descent was fun as always and before I knew it there was RGH.  A short climb later and it was time for probably the toughest part of the ride, the rubbly Cottonwood canyon climb.  This thing kicked my ass.  I whimpered.  I walked.  Whimpered some more.  Stopped and stretched my back some.  I cursed no less than 6 false summits.  It was less than 40 minutes but felt like a lifetime.  In '06 Jon Brown set the SS KT record and won the OA as well.  He said he walked most of this section, now I understood why.  I descended the Shandies somewhat shellshocked by the difficulty of the La Sals with a sudden respect for anyone that has SSed this thing.  Some courses seem easier to me on SS, but not this one.  Not by a longshot.

At the bottom of Cottonwood canyon there was Lynda filtering water.  Record attempt be damned, I couldn't just ride on by an encounter with my dream girl now could I?  Of course not :)

6:16 to Dewey.  Or, should I say what was Dewey.  45 min off the pace of my last two rides here.  Hmmmm.....could I cover the next ~76 miles in 7 hours?  I wasn't so sure.  I thought about sticking my feet in the swollen Colorado river until LW got here then finishing with her.  But I wasn't yet ready to throw in the towel.  I ramped it up for Yellow Jacket, felt great and did it in 57 minutes.  How about that.  Game ON.  It was going to be close, but I now recognized the sensations....a challenging goal, a ticking watch, 75 miles of trail and a deadline.  I suddenly felt great.  Towards the end of Yellow Jacket an ATVer asked me if I had a minute:  "sorry, I don't" and kept on motoring.  I was on a mission.  Hey, if LW only gets 4 minutes this guy gets nothing!

The KT is a biatch to gear for.  In the La Sals you want small gearing for the long, sustained steep climbs.  In the rolling to flat east section a big gear would be great.  What is fastest?  The challenge beyond McGraw bottom was maintaining concentration to rev it up to 19 mph, coast to 14-15, repeat...for miles on end.  It wasn't that hard to do being a high cadence guy, but it was easy to forget to do it.  Kinda strange, eh?

I wondered where LW was and how she was fairing...

There was a surprise appearance of Chris and Marni at McGraw bottom.  What a nutcase, he just did the KT SS a week prior and was back out there touring it with friends.  Manic!  I slowed as I came up to them but they told me not to lose my flow so no unclipping occured.  Being cheered on during a self-support event was confusing and welcome all at once.

Water.  I had to make a call:  head to Westwater for a refill as I was getting quite low, or continue on at risk of dehydration but without the 15-20 min time penalty.  I knew there wasn't much time to spare, if any...I'd been rationing water for quite awhile which was affecting ability to fuel.  It was all getting rather thin, but I had a lot of cytomax gels that didn't need much water.  Then I remembered the chem tabs in my first aid kit.  No brainer:  no WW detour, treat some Salt Creek brine if I really have to.

Last year I did the desert section of the KT many, many times.  It has great flow and I was really looking forward to it.  The part between Westwater and Rabbit Valley in particular is full of fun terrain, great for the SS, lots of rolling short climbs and fast descents.  It did not dissappoint!  OK it was Memorial weekend and the ATVer factor was pretty high.  LW was even harrassed by one of them.  Evidently it made him feel good to harrass a 105 lb gal on a SS.

The difficulty of doing a blog for the two of us when we didn't ride together should be obvious...but here's one piece of her ride I do know about.  There's this short hike a bike and there were some ATVers there, watching her  hike this thing that the ATVs have beat into dusty oblivion.  One guy has the gall to tell her she needed a motor, to which she replied "Honey, I've got only one gear and I started at Moab 3am this morning!" 

Spunky!  But that's nothing coming from this gal.  The other day she noticed a bunch of cigarette butts in her yard, obviously they came from the neighbors flicking them over.  She picked them up, took a big handful over to the neighbors door, knocked, and when he answered said "here these are yours" after which he put his hand out and she filled it up...and he was clammoring on the ground picking up the ones that fell through his fingers, stammering all the while...

They don't call her Mighty Mouse for nothing!

Right, so this bike ride....forward progress continued...the Salt creek drop in was surprisingly rideable.  I arrived dry.  Gawd I've never done a KT in the Moab to Fruita direction when I didn't drink this nasty thing, it always makes me thirstier.  I had something like 1:35 to match the current record leaving from Salt Creek.  I was pretty sure nothing short of a catastrophe would get in my way.  I could taste success.  Then, shortly after the first hike a bike, wow my legs were just noodles.  It was an unfamiliar sensation for sure.  I could barely pedal and felt sort of strange.  Maybe it was the chem tabs from Salt creek?  LW tells me it's something called a bonk.  Well anyway, gels, figs and salt creek brine chased it away...and then the snake episodes.  Snakes!  Not once, but twice I had to climb around snakes that wouldn't leave the trail, and I wouldn't roll over them.  It was steep rocky and not much fun...more time burned.  Now it was getting tight.

Troy built just is never that much fun after 138 miles.  That climb was a hike.  But from there it was fun ripping tech singletrack to the finish.  Mary's was never ending, mostly cause I was watching my watch - 14 minutes...12...10...9...oh thank gawd there's that last climb! 

13:19, a meager 7 minutes faster than Jon's '06 ride, but hey, I'll take it.

 LW rolled in shortly afterwards.  That girl is so gritty...doing KT in a day requires some prior planning.  We both paid the price for the last minute decision to do it.  My price was a lack of a water filter, hers was forgetting to swap out her saddles.  I'm not going into details, other than to say her price was much higher than mine ;)  OUCH! 

Oh yea, we both rode our PowerTap MTB Disc wheels laced up by MC.  They both worked too!  My stats were:

6987 kJ
156 W ave
207 W normalized power
VI: 1.32, just about what every SS ride turns out to be...
11.3 ave speed
12:42 rolling time
13:19 elapsed time - which means stopped time was 37 min, but actually less cause the rolling clock stops when carrying for hike a bikes.  So prolly under 30 min time stopped.  That's as good as I've done on the KT.

With this ride, I think I can speak for us both that this obsession has found closure.  The KT is beautiful, wonderful riding.  And so are many other places...the quest moves on to new pastures.

Mesa Verde 12 hour

We had been planning on going to DS&G all spring...clearly we didn't make it out to TN this year.  There have been enough curveballs of late to make a rigid schedule not so alluring or practical.  Notwithstanding, I still had the urge to put down a race effort.  It's been awhile since going to the well and I was thirsty. 

The 12 Hours of Mesa Verde was a first time event last spring when I lived 45 miles down the road in Durango.  The timing didn't fit with my GLR obsession at the time, but this year it looked super tasty.  It was just what the crack doctor ordered. 

Of course I had to go singlespeed.  So what gear then?  Tom P was kind enough to share his GPS file of the course from last year to help dial in the gearing.  The file in TopoFusion showed short climbs generally under 6% grade - that initially led me to think a really big gear would be the call.   But I've ridden on those trails and common sense told me otherwise.  The trails are super twisty, rarely straight and require constant accelerations out of corners.  It's a real power course in every sense.  I decided to stick with my beloved 32.17, but then the last local ride before leaving the 17 cog was suddenly so worn the chain was sticking to it.  Wow, you can wear out SS cogs!  I didn't have another 17 but did have a 34.18 which is almost the same so went with that.

 Part of the gear selection criteria was to pick a gear that I'd stick with for the race.  No gear changes allowed - I drove out there alone and rode self supported and changing a gear takes forever...everything is so fussy on the back end of my bike ;)  I arrived in Cortez late Fri afternoon and buzzed a lap of the course before sunset to confirm the gear choice.  The gear felt fine...I still considered going 32.18 but decided not to mess with it.  There are a few steep grunters that I knew were going to leave their mark by hour 6 or 7. 

The best thing about that pre-ride tho, was the course!!!  It was one of those rare instances where I pre-ride a lapper and am grinning ear to ear.  The routes flow is impeccable, especially for SS.  Every time you hit a steep hill, you can just go as hard as ya like cause they are all so short.  There were fast, twisty uber buff sections; sections like "Rib Cage" and "Vertebrae" with monstor bmx style whoops that had me whooping like a kid; steady short climbs; technical rocky bits; and nice views - an overlook to Cortez and big views of the La Platas.  That pre-ride set the stage.  It was gonna be a hoot to ride that roller coaster dream route for a day.

It was a long night.  Sleeping open in the back of the truck didn't prove to be a great idea as it sprinkled rain several times, waking me up.  Gah.  An hour before the start it was raining lightly...and rain was  not in my plan.  Not having seen it for months I forgot it actually happens ;)  Dumb shit, spring in the rockies is wet!  By start time it was all good to go tho.

Self-support is so easy on a SS.  I had bottles and food all set up and didn't end up having to pour a single drop into anything during the race.  I opted to go with 3 hours of stuff each time and only pitted every other lap and that worked great.  Gatorade, water, cytomax gels, pepsi at the end, and enduralytes liberally throughout was about the extent of it.  Solids weren't going down and I didn't seem to need food this day anyway.

Running sucks.  More specifically, *my* running sucks.  I lined up behind Matt at the start.  The run was on flat gravel around a few buildings...Matt loped away from me immediately, as did all the other 150 folks lined up behind me ;)  The broken heel has been ok but I was not willing to push it and just poked along.  And then I learned the real challenge of racing a SS - a flat start with gearies.  Let's just say it wasn't anything like any 12 hour I've done before.  I was in the back half of the field and the course bottlenecked almost immediately into endless singletrack.  Congo line for 45 min...settle in and chill.  I rode with Lenny quite a bit.  He was much more experienced with this situation than I and he never got off his bike that I saw.  There were maybe 3 times tho where I was too close to a geared rider who would bobble on a hill and I'd end up walking/running for a bit.  Lenny was smart enough to give the geared riders a gap before the steeps.  I'm learning, thanks for showing how it's done!

Maybe 45 min into the lap, suddenly everyone dissappeared and the course opened up.  It was a really strange phenomena, and looking back I still don't know what happened...but passing was not an issue at all for the rest of the day.  The first time through Vertebrae the bar clamp on the stem came loose and about broke my wrists - weird.  Fixed that up and came through lap 1 already 10 minutes down.  I sure need to start running more...

The new PT Disc was on board.  Using a power meter to pace is somewhat difficult, especially on a SS.  But I was somewhat nervous about holding up at the muscular level as I've never done a 12 hour SS before.  I rode the pre-ride at a pace I figured was sustainable for 12 hours and that was about 1:26 and 212 average watts not including zero powers.  Why not include zero powers?  I've found that in most MTB races if you exclude zero powers in the PT averaging, the displayed average comes very close to normalized power, and that is a good pacing guage for me.  The zero powers of course are still in the downloaded file, they just don't factor into displayed averages during a ride.

After the first lap with the slow congo line start the average power was well below target - around 200.  I picked it up in lap 2 though which turned out to be my fastest...and stopped looking at the pave.  After lap 3 it was 224, then at the end of lap 4 it rose to 226 - oops time to back it down.  Another factor today was elevation.  I used to live at 6500', but these days I'm a lowland dweller and my hematocrit has dropped from 48/49 to 44.  So keeping a lid on it was even more important...

Racing on.  What can I say, it was just a super day on the bike.  On lap 3 I came up to Matt - we rode together for awhile.  The course was full of little gotchas, it demanded full attention at all times.  Twisty, turny, and lots of cut off branches that kept going for your shoulder, arm, head.  You had to look up and down.  Well, Matt was paying more attention to our conversation than the trail and one of those branches nailed his shoulder and sent him down.  It made me really queasy cause it looked violent.  He assured me he was ok so I continued on.  I was a bit rattled for a few minutes after that.  Some way to take the lead, eh?

Then on lap 4 I had my turn.  Ripping some fast section my bike came to an abrupt halt and OTB I went, landing on my head and recently injured shoulder.  I had just passed the 2nd placed geared solo rider and as he rolled by my yard sale exclamed a big "uh oh!"  Thanks Brian ;)  No damage done that I could tell, I was rolling within seconds.

Lap 5 was sorta tough.  I was beginning to feel some fatigue so backed it off.  Then lap 6 I was back on and just kept it motoring till the end.  At one point I had thought it might be fun to go for the solo overall, but I had no clue who, if anyone, was in front of me and in self-support mode nobody was giving me info.  The finish line crew made big fanfare each time I came in about being the SS leader, so that was good enough.  I just kept on keepin on and loving the flow of the course.  The last lap was a blast.  Perfect temps, the legs felt awesome and I had a lot more to give so did for a few minutes just cause...and of course thoughts drifting to my crack buddy and how I knew she'd love this course and race.  Next year!

Finishing up I learned there was one solo geared rider about 3 minutes in front of me.  We both mused about it after the race - neither of us knew during the race how close we were to each other.  Jens is one strong rider, that's for sure!

More highlights...

Being passed by Travis Brown on lap 3.  Wow.  OK so it was his first lap and I was on hour 4 or 5...but sheeeeet was he hauling the mail.

Being passed by Andrew Ferguson on his new Trek 69er.  He was part of the all-star team that pulled 10 laps, including Miles setting a course record of 1:10.

Finishing 6th overall, behind a few 4 person teams and Jens and ahead of all duo teams. 

And that's a wrap.  720 TSS for the event and that has left a big mark, mostly in my shoulders and upper back!  The legs are fine, SSing is exposing some other weaknesses to work on...

Ridin’ rims with grins

We've been looking forward to RimRide for a long time.  The plan from day one was to ride it SS, not hard, and together.  After Vision Quest, 1/2 of 2 Epic had a tendon injury that made riding SS impossible...there were a few weeks when we just didn't know what we'd do.  Gears?  Skip it altogether?  Then the injury cleared up and we were able to do what we most wanted:  SS!

We strategize for just about everything.

Lynda:  Let's be chill.  Go easy, ride together, just have fun.

Dave:  Right.  Sure.  Whatever.  I know you.  I know me.  There will come a point where crack will overtake us no matter what the plan.  It's how we work.

The 2 major strategic issues for this epic are water and naviation.  It's a complex route through arid terrain.  Last year I got by on about 80oz water - but it was raining most of that time.  This year the forecast was 70ish F with S winds gusting to 30+ mph - can you say dehydrating?  200oz fluids was our call - 200 each.  That's a lotta weight to put on a little 105 lb gal, but it didn't seem to slow her down much.

On the mapping side we had some help.  Fred sent Lynda a map with the route outline, and Brad K shared his GPS file from the weeks previous ride as a starting point.  A few hours with Topofusion and I had a perfect GPS route in the Garmin.  This was critical, even though I had done the event last year - everything looked different this year.  It was sunny!!  What a difference that makes.  I didn't know there were so many views and rims in this ride last year.

Finally, what gear to choose for the SS?  We decided to gear more for everything but Gold Bar.  Gold bar is granny gear stuff on a geary, and to put on a gear that would allow riding all of it would mean going really slow everywhere else.  32.19 for me, 34.20 for Lynda.  We were totally happy with the gear all day.  Others were actually on bigger gears....but when it comes to going fast on a SS it's not about whether or not you can clean with a given gear but how fast you go.  It's a race afterall ;)

 6:20ish AM we all left as the new day began.  About 40 riders took the start this year.  Last year the darkness hung on forever...this year light was dawning at the start, and by the cliff option of BarM it was daytime.  I was surprised by the 500 foot cliffs a few feet to our right...I didn't even see that cliff last year.  Bad place to pass.

We stuck with our plan, going pretty chill early, and at the end of Rockin A stopped to take lights and jackets off.  On Circle O Lynda had a bottle mount failure and some other futzing had us motionless for quite some time.  It seemed like 30 riders went by, but it didn't really matter cause we were just chill today, right?  Sure....  Through all of our futzing about Jeff stopped and waited for us.  It was a bizarre thing actually, to be in a race setting and have a guy waiting for us, motionless, taking pictures and whatnot.  Brad Mullen cruised on by us more to his surprise than ours.  I think that jazzed him up some...and I rode his wheel for a little bit.  He was looking smooth and calm - ok maybe a bit giddy.  Others would dart ahead of us, stop and bust out a camera real fast to get some pics.  There are more pics of this event floating around than any event I've been part of!

Onward.  Sovereign was fun and we were still just cruising along.  We were settling in to an easy pace and enjoying it all.  We rode with Marko quite a bit, that was pretty cool.   Heading under 191 and towards 7 mile rim suddenly we had a view of 2 riders ahead.  I didn't think anything of it cause I thought there were 20 or so riders in front of us...but Aaron Potts, who was with us, was certain that the 2 in front were the *only* riders in front of us.  I was in disbelief, that just couldn't be right.  But sure enough, counting tracks there were only 2 sets...and they were SSers, Chris Plesko and Steve Cook running big gears.

Red flag to a bull.  Lynda will swear to her grave she was keeping a lid on it but she fired off the canons on that 7 mile rim climb and we were with Chris and Steve in short order.  The lead group was a mishmash of 4 SSers and 2 gearies.  We cruised nice and easy through the sand to Monitor/Merrimac.  I chatted with Steve a bit about GLR and was really impressed by how strong he was riding.  On the slickrock bit before 313 there was a stiff headwind.  LWs 7 mile rim assualt got the juices flowing, and now the race was on.  It became tactical.  This group of 6 needed to be thinned before the long headwind section of 313 pavement...and it could not have worked any better.  Heading up the pavement I looked back - and then there were 3.  Lynda, Jeff and I worked together up to the Gemini turnoff and eveyone else quickly dissappeared.

 The view from Arth's Rim was fab.  It was the warmest part of the day and we all used a good bit of water in the previous hour or two...

It was just a joyride from there on.  What can I say?  We were feeling good, loving the SS and riding this race together, Jeff was great company, the views were off the charts.  We'd ride froggy in some spots, totally chill in others - it's the SS way.  There were times when Jeff could have easily rode away from us when we were spun out, but he never did.  Maybe the froggy parts kept him in check - or maybe it was Lynda's smile he couldn't leave behind?

 

Earlier in the day I lost 2 bottles - they bounced out of my cages.  That put a bit of a hurt on my fluid supply, and we all stopped at Gold Bar to take stock of our collective fluids.  Jeff was down to near nothing, I was down to 60ish oz, LW had 75+.  Yikes.  Tough call for Jeff!  I think he had a coke in there too, maybe that kept him alive.  A pivotal spot in the ride, we all continued onwards. 

The views from the top of Gold Bar are silly.  The geography is immense, complex, corrugated, rippled, canyoned, mountainous.  There were mandatory camera stops. Somewhere up there I looked back and didn't see Jeff.  It had been a long time since I looked back and didn't know when or where he lost contact...near the beginning of blue dot I think? 

Jeff was strong as a truck all day. It was bittersweet to lose him. Must have been more sweet than bitter cause we didn't wait ;)

In any case, now there were 2.  The notion of finishing together at the front of the race had never crossed my mind as being possible, especially on SSs...and I was filled with emotion.  Goose bumps.  We picked up the pace a bit, and hit Poison Spider pretty hard.  I had my biggest power values (under 30 seconds) on this stretch.  Oh yea, did I mention we both rode with power taps?

Potash road.  Would a geared rider reel us in?  We spun our legs off down that road maintaining about 17 mph with the tailwind assist.  We looked back occasionally...and saw no riders.  Finally, we relaxed and hit the finish line, elated by an enormous route, enormous effort, a day of flow, a day of riding together.

Here's Lynda racing hard.

 

Since we are 2 Epic, we went into town shortly after the finish to load up for the next days adventure, a SS White Rim lap as the weekend's dessert.  We are both still giddy from the weekend.  We both know we can do these sorts of things individually, but to do them together?  It's beyond previously conceived possibilities.

Pinch me!

2 min power

2 min power is still heading in the right direction. 321w for me this week, which is another PR - nice...

Next week is Vision Quest. 56.5 miles with 11.5k of elevation gain - wow.

I've never ridden the course on my bike but there are some very cool pre-ride tools available for this one with gps data from an actual rider racing the course along with course photos. A virtual pre-ride. Watching this guys speed as he races has been helpful in figuring out what gear to come with.

We have been looking at the course using topofusion to see the gradients of the climbs to figure out what gear to come with. Along the way are sustained pitches of over 15% - wow! I've been practicing standing up a lot on my single speed!

So what gear should I come with? It is a whole new part of race strategy having to choose one gear.

Along with the usual:

Tires  Specialized Adrenalin or Maxxis crossmark in the front? The Crossmark rolls faster, the Adrenalin rails corners.

Power  Power meter or no power meter? The Power-Tap is heavy and requires V-brakes. I think I'd like less weight and my disc brakes for this one. But post race power analysis is so fun and the power meter will keep my pacing on track on the first big climb. But if the power meter is on board not working right it will drive me crazy = make me slow. blah, blah

Heart rate  The heart rate strap bugs me and I feel lighter and can breathe more easily without it. If the HRM isn't working right it will bug me. I know how fast my heart is beating in a race by the sound of it pounding in my ears. Hmm, heart rate is off the race plan too.

Speed  Definitely. Speed has turned out to be a keystone metric  on the single speed. I watch the mph and know when to come out of my tuck to pedal, know what speed to do the bursty accelerate and tuck pedaling style and when it is more efficient to pedal at a smooth constant cadence.

Time  Yup I need to know when to put scoobie snacks in my mouth. I also have some time goals that will motivate me to go to that deep place near the end of the race if I am close to them.

Distance Yup, it will tell me where I am on the course

Altitude  Yup. I like knowing where I am on the climb and how many feet it is to the top. Helps me pace the end of a climb faster knowing there is some descending recovery on the near horizon. There are three big climbs and I'll put the top out elevations on a sticky on my stem.

The call for this race looks like my simple old Garmin 201, with a pair of nice light race wheels, some fast rolling tires and a disc brake.

Guess I'm racing this one then :-)

See y'all there. I'll be on a green Kona Explosif. 26" wheels for me now.

Virtual VQ Recon

Vision Quest is just around the corner.  Never having ridden in the region, it seems like a good idea to figure out what I'm in for.  As it turns out SoCal riders post a zillion GPS files of routes, races and training at GeoLadders - the VQ course is up at http://www.geoladders.com/show_route.php?route=489.

The first part that grabs attention is this: 

Course Description 56.5+- miles, 11,500 +- ft. of elevation gain

+/- a few feet, I like that ;)  IOW, it's got a profile like half of the E100.  Up or down.  OK, the climbing comes in 3 climbs so that makes for longer climbs...

Nice profile, eh?  By mile 30 accumulated climb is over 8k'.  At mile 41ish comes a ~30 min hike a bike.  No wonder it sells out so fast!  Enduros are a curious bunch for sure.

We tried to emulate that first 30 miles Sunday with some Blakes laps on the SS.  It actually comes pretty close, about 7k' in 29 miles.  Not too shabby!  I was running a 32.18 on the 26er and it seemed about right.  It got a bit boggy in some muddy/steep areas, but otherwise worked great.  VQ might have some similar stuff awaiting...there was snow up there last year 10 days prior to the event.

I'll prolly give the 32.17 a shot this weekend and see how that goes.  If I can shave a few lbs off my bike and butt it should work just fine ;) 

Speaking of bikes, DC is working  some magic for me today.  Today has that excitement of Dec 25 when you were 6...but I gotta stop there before I jinx the deal.  A double chocolate frapaccino goes a long ways to making your mechanic happy.

Based on my previous testing and looking at the VQ profile and pics at GeoLadders, my bet is a 26er will be the call (not that I have a choice anyway).  What say you, members of the jury? 

So many unknowns.  So juicy.  Let the boxing begin.

Rim Ride Moab: the new classic

As Fred W and I stood waiting for the start of Old Pueblo this year he was telling me about a different epic ride a month later in Moab.  It was hard to think of doing the RimRide 2 minutes before starting a 24 hour effort...all I could think was the timing was bad, I really needed to be in a good training groove at this time.  That is pretty much what I had been thinking all along, until about 4 days before the event.  But, I knew I'd cave in...how much sense does it make to pass up an epic event for the sake of training anyway?  Yea, I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed sometimes, but eventually I come to my senses.  And holy muther, what an event it turned out to be.

Springtime came early this year.  March up to a few days ago has been unusually warm and dry.  Well, that changed in a hurry.  The weather gods knew there was a race to be held in Moab so sent the clouds and storms to Moab - desert and drought notwithstanding.
But hey, what's a little rain in the desert?  It just makes the sand more rideable, right?  Yea, that's what we thought at Moab 24 last year too :)

Food:  let's see...in my platypus bladder (100 oz) I had 7 scoops of drip and 2 packs of eFuel plus a few enduralytes.  In pockets, plenty of eGel, mini-snickers (my new favorite), 3 bananas, and 4 organic Ostrich sticks stuffed in the elastic of my shorts.  In total I had about 4500 calories with me.  I expected a 10 hour ride but planned for 12 just to be safe.

I shared a hotel for the weekend with Adam and the Holleys.  Adam had done his scouting and after some time wrestling inner demons was excited to get going.

Chris wasn't stressed at all as he and KC weren't really planning to ride the whole thing.  They were doing Porc rim and Flat pass the next day so were going to save some legs for those.

Meet Tex.  Tex loves people, and really likes to burrow under your covers at 3am ;)

 

KC and Chris were rippin last year at the E100 12 hour, almost winning the overall.

Back to the race start.  Checking in with Jenna.  Henry Horrocks there in the blue/orange kit.  He was super strong on his single, but one of the hypothermia victims of the day.

Fred W the man, Adam's bike, and my GPS.

So, race details.  Off we went up the paved bikepath with a neutral start until Fred said "go."  Nobody was willing to go any faster than our conversational pace...so I just had to go.  It was a fool's folly as I knew I'd get lost.  Anyway, the sight of the lights behind me quickly faded, but there was an almost imperceptible hum of tire on pavement behind me.  I look back and ask who's on my wheel.  Yep, it was Sly as he had promised.  No lights and traveling light, he was taking advantage of my light.  "What's your fueling plan?"  "I'm gonna eat when you eat."  So we're cruising along, and my GPS wasn't set up quite right and I couldn't get it done riding, so I stopped.  Hey, we're at the front, I have the only light, what's he gonna do?  Leave me in the dark?  Naaaa..."there's 4 guys coming up on us."  At minute 15 of 600 it didn't seem relevant.  I continued to fiddle, purposefully wasting time...changing clothes, taking a leak...shenanigans to be sure.
Rolling again.  The other riders had caught us but we slipped away again.  As we were cruising down a dirt road, we heard Fred yelling at us that we missed a turn.  Doh!  Backtracking through sandy washes in the early dawn, I decided to stick on Fred's wheel until 191.  There were a lot of turns on the Sovereign trail and I just didn't trust my GPS or mapreading skills.  Sly did a lot of yo-yoing off the front, but there were 5 of us that more or less stayed together to a bit past 191:  myself, Fred, Henry Horrocks, Chris Peters, and Sly.  The clay-mud hike-a-bikes were the great neutralizers and kept us all together.

Once we had passed 191, I was more comfortable with the upcoming navigation.  It also was very obvious Sly was just cruising along.  The pace wasn't enough to soften him up.  If he was fresh at the end, I'd be in trouble...so the Seven mile canyon climb is where I upped the pace a bit.  Well, after the really crappy muddy hike, that is.  What would have been normally rideable was a hike with a 80 lb bike on my back.  Yuk.  I even said a bad word or two directed at my heavy ride, to which Henry told be to be nice unless I wanted to walk back.  Good point!

From there on Sly and I rode at a good clip for a loooong time together.  We chatted a little, but not much.  He wasn't much for words so I put on the MP3, which dropped PE and upped the pace some more.  All the better.  Riding between Monitor/Merrimac was dreamy, and the subsequent slickrock was pretty cool too.  We got a bit lost, cliffed out and had to backtrack.  At one point I stopped to put lube on to stop the chainsuck, and to my surprise Sly stopped and waited for me.

Pretty soon we're at 313, cruising up that pavement into a headwind and steady rain.  The weather was looking sooo ominous.  Pretty soon we were descending Gemini bridges road in a very cold rain.  It was hard to see as the glasses were a no-go most of the day and mud was in the eyes.  There was an adventure race going on in the area which provided many slow moving targets...folks running and riding, all looking beat.  We must have been at the back of the race. 

After 20 minutes of this, I had myself a situation.  My forearms were cold, hands numb and barely functional.  I made the call to stop and put on drier, thicker gloves and a jacket.  Thanks goodness I had them with me, otherwise it'd been ugly out there.  It also meant I was now in chase mode.  Sly wasn't showing any signs of slowing down...I had my work cut out for me.  This was turning out to be quite the epic race.  I wasn't too concerned as the end of these things is where I can really turn it on - and I was feeling great once I warmed up.

But, alas, between some bad luck and dumb mistakes, I never saw Sly again - before the finish that is.  It didn't really matter though, cause the experience up on Gold Bar was priceless.
Shortly after the glove stop my right cleat got a bit loose.  It'll stay put, right?  wrong.  The cleat fell out of the shoe.  Finding those screws in the sand is some fun, let me tell ya.  That was the first time that happened.  It happened again before getting to Gold Bar, and they loosened up again on Poison Spider but held on for the finish.

Then on Gold Bar my chain broke.  A day of chainsuck, mud and the like had taken it's toll.  Just ask Henry how many times he got stalled out while I botched shifts ;)  But still, I was feeling GREAT, no pain and riding strong.  There was a lot of time left.  If Sly was weakening at all, I'd catch him mechanicals or no.  But then I really goofed.  In my head, the route had us doing all of the blue dot trail, a techy, granny gear, routefinding challenge along the top.  Very tricky, very slow, very scenic.  Then I realized there were no tracks - I was breaking new ground since the last rain.  At first dissapointed cause I figured Sly was lost or bonked somewhere, I got over it.  Coming to the top of the Rim on the blue dot trail for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the scene spreading out below.  Billowing mists were swirling up the canyon rim, obscuring the view below, and looked soft as if you could step out there into the softness.  First I yelled.  Then I busted out the camera, thinking of you.

The effort, the chase, the fatigue, the epic scene - they all combined into a poignant moment up there on Gold Bar Rim.  It was one of those moments that happen once or twice a year with luck...and for the record, the type of moment that has never happened in a XC event.  It's the kind of moment that validates the addiction.

OK, so maybe you can't see those pics through my eyes...but I hope you can.  It was damn cool up there. 
As it turns out, we were only supposed to do a small portion of the blue dot trail.  I lost way too much time...but I didn't really care.  The above scene wasn't part of the course, and if I'd have been on course I would have missed it.  I rolled into the finish at 10 hours, right on schedule.

When all is said and done, the Rim Ride is an epic route.  Mad props to anyone that towed the line, and moreso to those that finished.  And Fred - my friend you've just created an instant classic.  It inspires me to do something similar in Durango...