Ashwin posts pro racer interviews on his site and this week it's my turn. Check it out.
Ashwin posts pro racer interviews on his site and this week it's my turn. Check it out.
It happens every year. Some sort of encounter with the ground to let me know I'm a feeble fragile human...it often is in the springtime when handling skills are at the yearly low...but never before has it come as early as January 8!
The day started much like yesterday, bike pointed up a 3,000' climb. There are actually a lot of big climbs down here in AZ. If you don't mind motorcycles, 4 wheelers, 3 wheelers, jeeps, Suburbans (aka mormon assault vehicle), hummers, the smell of castor oil, dune buggies, 6 wheelers, lots of guys in camo shooting stuff in all directions, bow hunters (they seem pretty cool so far), more guys shooting stuff - then southern AZ is your place! Want to see a war zone? No need to head to Iraq, just come on down here.
On the way up there is a lot of cool desert scenery. This route (
Up top, here's looking towards Pinal peak, just south of Globe.
The object of the day was to find where the Arizona trail crosses FR650 near the top of Montana mountain outside of Superior. I've done this ride (the jeep roads) before, it's got super steep climbs, well over 25% grade in spots. There was even a race here in the early 90's, Mark Gullickson was riding for ProFlex at the time and cleaned up winning by a fair margin. I wasn't able to clean all the climbs back then. Now that I'm an old fart it's no problem carrying 160 OZ of fluids, things sure do change. Much to my surprise, the trail was easy to spot and has had recent work. It looked sweet!
Fresh trail work, it's gonna be sweet, right? Hmmm...its a sucker trail. There's fresh trail work at the ends, but in the middle there's 1,500' of sketchy, loose, cat claw infested descending. Don't get me wrong, it was fun in a twisted way, but when I bailed on a switchback sticking my foot down into some grass - there was no ground to meet my foot, just 6 foot tall grass...here's the landing pad:
Crap, that hurt...gotta get up off this prickly thing...oh something ain't right...right foot doesn't really hurt, but it won't work either. What? Wasn't quite prepared for what I saw next - 6-8 inch long thick needles buried all the way in various tendons, one of them even nailed my shoe to my foot. Pulling them suckers out was pure fun, let me tell ya...
Front view, not too bad:
Back view. The "dots" are where the needles were pulled from...
Advil is my friend for life, and is always with me on long rides. Today it was useful!
On the upside, the new Fuel is now dialed in. It always takes a hard learning experience to dial a bike in. The bars are a touch too high and the Reba rebound was too fast. Couple on-trail adjustments and it is sweet - handles faster than it did with the SID.
After the forever descent, it was time to go back up the back side jeep trail, on up to Montana mountain, and descent back to the start.
Darn sweet epic, something to write about. Maybe if I didn't bring the camera it'd been a boring ride ;)
My main project this winter has been to build some muscle back onto my legs after six years of hypotrophy and a side benefit of that is I've become ripping strong. Feeling like I could use this juice for something fun I slipped my entry into the frey just before the solo field closed out, so it's a double Team HealthFX solo pit at
This will be my second solo 24-hr effort.The last one I did a bit off the cuff and went with zero support. Let's say I learned many things during that 24-hours. The biggest thing I learned was that if I want to win, a solo 24-hour race is not really solo at all but a team event with a mechanic, chef and anyone else that will tend to my many needs. I did the first 24-hr truly solo - no mechanic, friend, helper, cheerleader or masseuse. Just me, a tent and a couple of bikes. It was maddening to be in my pit working on my bikes during the race while the other ladies were out pedaling laps. The ladies who finished in front of me had clean bikes every lap, hot food handed to them at night and feedback of where they were standing in the race. I had bikes breaking, a stove that wouldn't light when when the temps dipped below 30F and a dark lonley pit. Get the violins out now!
The race was
I ended up third. That's me on the right wearing the hat to hide 24 hours of helmet hair. Check out this podium of ladies. You are looking at some small and fast chicks here. I'm 5'2" and 110 lbs and was the biggest thing standing on this podium. Second is Team Maverick's former 24-hour World Champion and ultra mtb bike racing legend Kristina Begy and defending her Global solo championship title was Brit Jen O'Conner who smoked us, and herself as she limped on and off the podium. Notice her in this picture weight bearing on her right leg only. She looked a little messed up after. She was gripping my hand in this photo like she was about to fall over sideways. I had her fingermarks imprinted on my hand after - or maybe that is an affect of the bloating caused by 24-hours of gels and Gatorade - ack!
The start list for Old Pueblo not out yet but it usually draws a competitive solo field.
I haven't found a mechanic for OP yet and that is somebody I seriously, badly, desperately need on my team so all's I have to do is pedal fast. If you fancy staying up all night watching Dave and I make ourselves very tired and tinkering with our rides let me know - I'll make it worth your time :-) and anybody else too who wants to come on down and help with the Team HealthFX pit. Let me know and we'll make a place for you and give you a job. I know Dave needs someone to sort his chammies.... The more the merrier, people that is. What else is going on Presidents Day weekend?
Note (added 2/3/06): comments to this post have been disabled due to malicious spammers. You know who you are. Contact me through the "contact me" link if have something you'd like to add. If there is enough interest, I'd consider opening a public forum for the issue.
Note (added 2/12/06): this test looks at comparisons for climbing relatively smooth but variable pitched long dirt road climbs. For an analysis of rolling, twisty singletrack, check out
Which one of these are faster? This is the question of the hour. Every 29er fan would have you believe 26" wheels are "kiddie" wheels and also that 29" wheels are faster. Time to cut through all the subjectivity and put some numbers on the problem. The short answer: for this comparison, the 26" wheels outperformed the 29" wheels, but it's not an overwhelming difference. Then again, the margins between winning and losing are often quite small...
I've got a Salsa Dos Niner and a Trek Fuel 110, both setup with power tap hubs. In the past week I did the same ride twice (4 Peaks road from hwy 87 to hwy 88 and back), a 60 mile dirt road/jeep trail route with approximately 11,000 feet total climbing. Two sections of the ride are compared: the first climb, which is partly rolling with some steep climbs and one long climb, rising about 4,000' in the process. The second section climbs from hwy 88 back to the high point; this climb is quite steep, climbing ~4,000 in 8 miles. There are a few short descents.
Bike setups: The Dos was setup with Specialized Fast Trak tires, tubeless ala Stans. The Fuel was setup with a tubeless (plus Stans latex) Panaracer fire XC pro rear and a WTB Weirwolf 2.3 front, tubeless ala Stans. The Dos is .6 lbs lighter than the Fuel, as measured by a Tanita scale (.2 lb increments). I started each ride with the exact same amount of water & food so as to eliminate rider weight changes. I assumed my weight to be the same on both days.
First off I just went out and rode the routes. I made no attempt to ride even paces for any sections of the ride, and in fact, the latter ride (on the Fuel) was done at a more spirited pace. I just planned on sorting out the data post-ride.
Next, I had to come up with correction factors for the power meters. Power taps are strain guage devices, and as such, have a small but significant precision variability. I performed a stomp test for each power meter (including my road bike PT), here's how they turned out:
Based on the stomp test, the 29" PT measures .86% high, while the 26" PT measures 1.75% high. This leads to correction factors of .9915 for the 29" and .9828 for the 26".
Now there's nothing left but to look at the data for each climb:
The road surface is sandy in spots, rocky in others, and fairly loose decomposed granite throughout.
Conclusion: in this test, the 26" wheels outperform the big wheels. The first "climb" has a lot of rolling terrain, I was interested to see how this would turn out. In the end, though, a consistent advantage exists for the 26" wheel, whether rolling or straight up climbing. On the steep climb ("climb 2"), one would expect a linear decrease in time for a linear power increase. IOW, a 10% power increase should decrease time by 10%. This is because the major resistance to overcome is that of gravity - a constant. Yet the Fuel saw greater speed increases than linear with power increases. I could feel this on the ride - any change in speed necessitates wheel accelerations, and the big wheels are simply slower to accelerate. The smaller bike feels much more "lively" or "responsive".
Another interesting detail is how closely the kJ tracked for each climb. Identical for the big climb! This is somewhat surprising given that the Trek was .6 lbs heavier.
Clearly, a test on a dirt road is only valid for similar conditions...so I'll do more tests off-road. But I'm becoming biased now. The acceleration issue of the big wheels is tough to overcome...I suspect they will be best suited for rocky/tech stuff.
One more data point: at Moab, I did a lap each on the Fuel, Dos, and the 292. I never did a lap on the 292 that was within a minute of the Fuel's lap time...
More to come!
Oh, that's a tough one. But in the end sponsorship arrangements made the decision for me...the team is sponsored by Trek & Gary Fisher. Trek doesn't yet make 29ers, and GF 29ers, although super fun really are better for trail riding, not so much racing. The Sugar 292 is currently the only FS option, and at near 30 lbs stock that's a lot of extra KJ over the course of a 24.
On the flip side, the Trek Fuel has been an awesome bike for me for 3 years now. It feels harsh compared to the Reba equiped 29ers I've ridden - but I think that is a result of the SID forks. They are designed for minimum weight, not maximum performance. As such, that's what you get - the lightest production fork. It feels like a jack hammer in your hands after awhile though...that's one of the biggest take home lessons of my foray into 29ers. Been riding SIDs for years - didn't know any better - but now I've seen the light. It was not lost on me that Eatough was riding a Fuel with a Reba fork rather than the stock SID when he won worlds 24 this year. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!
It'll be interesting to see how more travel affects the handling of the bike. If it's too slow, I may end up shortening the travel a bit, for for now I think it's set at 115mm. Free-ride front end, baby!
I've come to really prefer the XO gripshift. Fast, precise shifting. The Dos was setup with XO and has worked flawlessly ever since. Still have XTR on the older Fuel - that option will be good for rain events.
The bike you see here will likely be the bike of choice for Trans Rockies. I've been considering the 29 option, but because of sponsors and a probable scarcity of 29er specific parts in Canada, the Fuel is going to be the machine. She weighs in at 24 lbs even with the Reba.
Test rides all weekend!
While the majority of cyclists turn to winter sports this time of year, or worse ride their bikes through the winter months (hi Mitch!)...I like to fly south for the winter. Call me soft if you will, but trust me I've logged plenty of snowbound fender weather miles. It doesn't make me any faster to do so and it sure is more fun in southern Arizona.
Wednesday I got reacquainted with one of my local faves, 4 Peaks road:
One of the coolest things about coming back down to lower elevations is that what was previously L5 power is now L4 power. You'd never know it was that much of a difference without a power meter! Here's the file:
Here's what my office looks like in AZ. A lot different than in CO!
Here's the mastermind behind the decor (pick one):
All in all, '06 is getting of to a smashing start.
Anyone have any New Year's resolutions you'd like to share? Here's mine: spend less time on the computer.
Happy New year's y'all, here's to great things in '06!
Christmas Eve was MY day. That's when I had all the fun. I lined up a baby sitter and went out mountain biking for 5 hours with two of my roadie pals who have turned to the dark-side and gotten themselves mountain bikes for Christmas. This was only the second ride in the dirt for Dave so I took it easy on him and planned out a mostly jeep road loop. Used to skinny rubber Joel's quote of the day was that his 2.4's were probably wider than me - so he got in my good book :-) That comment and the fact he traded half of his white chocolate raspberry scone with one of my pop tarts. He can come ride with me any day. On the road Dave always turns the screws down hard on Joel and I but we got to punish him a bit today he he! After about 3 hours he was the one fading off the back and mentioned mountain biking was hard!! He even ate the stale Clif bar that has been lurking in my Camelbak for months waiting for a desperate moment.
It is a treat to have some one to ride with sometimes as my usual MO is just me out in the boonies solo or towing the kids around.
Christmas Day was all about the kids.
Look ma Santa got me a scooter
If it's not pink, don't bother
Boris, you are a sick, twisted, sadistic man. Just look at these numbers:
Stage 2: 18.98 mi with 4229 ft. of vertical gain
Stage 3: 22.09 mi with 4204 ft. of vertical gain
Stage 4: 16.73 mi with 2463 ft. of vertical gain
Stage 5: 21.56 mi with 4259 ft. of vertical gain
Oh yea, and it's better than 95% technical singletrack. Here's the map. Lots of switchbacks, even in the map.
You know we can't resist a challenge...so when you put something like this together, we'll come in droves to suffer on your hillsides.
But seriously Boris, thank you. You are a visionary in the world of MTB event promotion. You have helped to fill the void for endurance racing in the Rocky Mountain region. I can't wait to see what manner of creative torture you'll cook up for '06. Make us suffer boss!
It's probably no secret that I consider the E100 series the highlight of my '05 season. There were certainly other highs - Steamboat and Moab come to mind - but something about Boris' playground keeps me coming back. The sweetest alpine singletrack, and not just a little of it - miles and miles of interconnected trails. The challenge of repeated 2,000' climbs. The rush of repeated 2,000' decents. The welcome given racers by Boris and his family. Each of the events presented some sort of lasting memory, the kind that have you waking with a glimmer in your eye. This is what endurance racing is all about.
This is going to be a long, sprawling post. I suddenly have lots of free time for the next 10 days...There were 3 events in the series, the beta for each follows.
The 12 Hour Event
TM Stats: CTL 123, ATL 98, TSB 25
The series begins with a 12 hour race. This is supposed to assist E100 hopefuls get into shape, prepare for the rigors of the 100 miler in August. A 12 hour event? Again Boris, you're a touch off kilter. If you want to do this race justice as a solo rider, better show up with your A game cuz it's no walk in the park. 12 hours is a long time to be hammering away. The course is sweet singletrack. Big guys would say there's a lot of climbing; I thought it was perfect with 1300' climbing in slightly under 10 miles ;) If you've ridden in the Durango area, the trails are very similar to Horse Gulch. Think Telegraph repeats...dry, rocky in spots but buff in most & fast.
The event uses a Lemans start at 7am, then it's on to the bike. Here we are cruising through the S/F for the first time.
You can see the dust kicking up - there was plenty of that until things spread out, which acutally didn't take long at all. I was feeling good, but wasn't sure how good...3 weeks prior I had a breakthrough performance at the Steamboat 24, but CTL was still high at about 123 for this race. I wasn't certain I'd rested enough, so after a hard charging run, I backed it right down once on the bike. Craig had just built up a sweet lightweight powertap MTB wheel, so I even had the PT to play with today. That can be fun in long events - at least until it gets discouraging!
Anna was doing support and we were a great team this day. Wow it was all clicking so fast. Coming in for the first pit I looked at her all wide-eyed and said "OMG the magic legs are here!" It doesn't always work out this way, of course, but on this day all 8 cyclinders were firing and then some. A float day for sure. We kept the pits to under 60 seconds average over the course of the event. I was riding the Trek Top Fuel 110 and it was working flawlessly. A little T9 to the chain about every 3 laps and that's all she asked all day. Anna had camelbacks filled with ice ready to go each time I came in. Filled up a jersey pocket with a few banana chunks, grabbed an eFuel and off I'd go.
And that's how it kept on rolling, just like clockwork. There were issues though. We had no idea what my position was in the field. The timing crew was using new equipment which was really sweet RFID anklets, however, they didn't have any software to make sense of what the RFIDs were reporting! So it seemed everything was getting done by hand. 8 laps into the race and I still didn't know my position. I knew it couldn't be too bad cause I was in the top 10 overall - but you never know if all the fast riders went solo or what...then on the 9th lap, I stop to water a particularly dry looking bush, and here comes a guy looking super fit & fast. He was riding for Scott and looking pro. OK, get back on the bike and go investigate. By the top of the final decent, he was right there, but then he dropped me like a hot potato on the decent. It's hard to explain what happened next...but getting dropped like that provided more motivation than you can imagine.
For lap 9 I pretty much unloaded my gun. I attacked climbs with impunity. The day was unreasonably hot, but during lap 9 there was the smallest of clouds hovering above that kept me shaded & cool. Intuitively, I knew that I was racing the Scott rider for the win. Don't ask me how, I just knew. Lap 9 was a barnburner, one of my best efforts of '05. Before heading out for lap 10 the guys in the next pit said the Scott rider was Todd Tanner. I knew the name, but didn't yet know Todd.
From there forward I just kept up steady pressure, consistent smooth riding. It felt good. The effort you put in at the end of long events, well, it's a special thing. It's that part of the race where you are way past the bonk, way past glycogen depletion. It's the part of the event that defines ultra endurance athletes. Can you handle the slow drain, the negative thoughts? Can you find power where there is none? I thrive on the sensations brought about by the end of (good) long endurance performances. It is something I eagerly look forward to - even in long training rides on occasion. It's something that must be preceded by many hours of hard riding. It's probably not healthy, and certainly not something I'd want to do too often, but these are key times in the growth of ultra endurance performance. I finished lap 13 shortly after the cutoff of 6:10, winning my second ultra endurance event in 3 weeks, and finished 7th overall. This will surely become the defining moment of '05 in my mind.
The 50 Mile Solo
TM Stats: CTL 123, ATL 99, TSB 24
It wasn't my plan to do this event. On the schedule the following 2 weekends were the
The legs of the 12 hour went on haitus, not to return until October...but riding was still fun as can be. Starting at 6am, there was barely enough light to see. It had been very hot, but today we were treated to a thin cloud cover that kept us cool.
As it turned out, the 50 miler was a good shakedown for both riders and promoters. You see, the course is marked with these little flags stuck into the ground, where for each stage the color of the flags match the stage color on the map. You gotta know what color to follow when, or else you'll end up in timbuktu. At the start line Tinker asks me about the course markings - yea, at 5:58:30 am he asks me how the course is marked...doh! I don't think he got it straight, cause he took at least 2 wrong turns in the race, one of which was on the first stage. That put him in chase mode for the rest of the day.
My ride was not so dissimilar. Todd, Tinker, and Heinrich (local Park City stud, the guys a hammer!) were all ahead of me coming into the first transition - or so I thought. Emma told me only Heinrich was in front of me though. Hmmm...where'd they go? Upward and onward, the big climb of stage 2 is long, scenic, steep, and very pleasing. I could see Heinrich on some switchbacks, I think were about 2 minutes apart. A quick transition through T2 and it's off for the final leg of the race. As usual, I was really looking forward to unloading my gun on the final climb up Tour de Homes, hopeful I could catch Heinrich. I gave it everything, but he never came into view. 2nd would have to suffice today. But wait! After coming across the line, Park City TV comes over and interviews me, asking for race details and was I happy with the win...what??? Then I tell Boris I never passed Heinrich. The waiting begins. Some 20 minutes later he makes it in. Boris asks him "what happened, why so slow?" He was baffled. "What'dya mean, I won didn't I?"
Apparently I had taken a wrong turn somewhere on the course. Stage 3 of the 50 only does about half of the full stage 3 (for the 100 mile course), the markings were confusing and vague. Of the front 4 riders, only Heinrich, a Park City local, stayed on course for the duration. In the end, Boris had to determine a fair finishing order. I wouldn't have wanted this job...it went like this:
1. Heinrich Deters
2. Dave Harris
3. Tinker Juarez
4. Todd Tanner
It was a messy ending. Heinrich left frustrated, Tinker took off ASAP to fly to Europe, and Todd left disgruntled as he was listed as DNF (it was later reversed to 4th). As it turned out, this finishing order was pivotal when it came time to detemine the overall E100 series winner.
Grand Finale: The 100 Mile
TM Stats: CTL 122, TSB 96, TSB 28
With no racing since the Durango MTB 100, I was feeling fresh and ready to go. The 50 mile intimidated me in spots from a technical standpoint, mostly because it was rough on the mid-mountain trail, and some of the stage 2 decents were challenging. At the same time, I was flirting with the idea of 29ers. They had become so popular with the endurance crowd, so what the heck, I pulled the trigger on a Gary Fisher 292. Riding this bike was a breath of fresh air! The big wheels rolled over stuff so easily and riding took on a newfound child-like aura. The harder sections of the E100 course were going to be sooo much easier.
Anna has been a great supporter of my racing all season (actually since '03), so I booked a condo for the week preceding the event. I made it a working vacation, but Anna had plenty of time to roam the trails of the Wasatch. She's a geek too and would come back talking about all the numbers produced by her Garmin...elevation climbed, % grades...next best thing to a power meter for a runner :)
The week in PC gave me time to pre-ride some of the course. In particular, I wanted to see where stage 3 *really* went, and to ride stage 4. I'd heard rumors the Black Forest section of stage 4 was super tech, big drops & tree roots. Tuesday: tried to ride stage 3 (supposedly it was marked) and got lost. Aw no, not again! A quick call to Boris "dude, you said this was marked!" "yes, it is marked!" "uh, I don't think so"... Wednesday: head back out to stage 3. I'm gonna ride it if it kills me. Well, I'm getting lost again. WTF? I ride past a guy with a happily bouncing *** hanging from his saddle. No, not his own, but it sure did require a doubletake to figure out what it was supposed to be! This was Greg Roth, the man in charge of course markings. He had one helluva tough job. There must be some local PC anti-mtber sentiment, or at least one very PITA non-mountain biker, cause they were stripping course markings as fast as his crew could place them. Not good! In the end, I gave up on stage 3. Never did ride it before the race - but later that day went on to check out stage 4. It was longer than I expected; total ride time for the day was about 4 hours, way sub-optimal in the week preceding a race. Oh well, it sure was fun and the 292 was a freakin blast.
Race start: dark:30. The 292 and I were ready to go, despite some tripidation about the markings of stage 3. After 3 attempts, I had yet to complete the 20 mile circuit without getting lost.
A few riders chose to use lights, including myself. It turned out to be a good thing too, because when it got steep I found myself quickly alone. Not at the front, just alone. Most riders were depending on the lights of others to get through the initial dark climb.
It was going to be along day, so I started relatively easy. Winning time last year was over 10 hours, so no sense in attacking that first climb. Todd, Tinker, and Gillespie quickly faded in the twilight up ahead. But when I hit the top of the initial climb the sun began to rise and trail tilted downwards - the true strength of the 292 - and things began to feel really, really good. Too good...heading up the climb for stage 2 I knew things were deteriorating already. Sometimes alls you can do is alls you can do. I rode some with Alex on the S2 climb, a talented rider out of SLC. He eventually rode away from me on the climb, came back to me on decents, and rode away for good on the final climb. He rode a great race...don't really know him, but his progression this year was impressive.
After stage 2 comes stage 3. Makes sense, eh? I opted to ride the Fuel for this stage. My perception of what I'd seen of stage 3 was that it was less technical, but more rolling and the lighter Fuel & smaller wheels would be more responsive. Staying on course was the biggest concern - and I gotta hand it to Greg and Boris - they did a fantastic job of making sure nobody got lost on stage 3. Course marshalls were everywhere, so even if all the flags were pulled, we'd still get directions. Thanks guys! So *thats* where stage 3 goes. Ah, I see...
This guy had a great day, stayed on course, and obliterated the field busting it wide open on the stage 2 climb. We knew he could do it, and today he did. At 44 & getting stronger in long events, he is an icon to anyone interested in endurance racing for the long haul and a great example of how to do it in style. A fine wine, so to speak.
Coming in after stage 3, I decided to take a break, hanging from a chairlift for a bit:
You can see my two favorite kidz laying on the ground, and Anna doing what she always seems to do when I see her in races: hustling!
It was all for naught though, cause I died a thousand deaths on the way to the stage 4 summit. And then I got passed from a SS guy - and with authority I might add. Oooo, that guy is good, and I'm hurting! Such is endurance racing.
But alas, a big climb for stage 5. It went on for an eternity, but I was coming back. Something about the end of long races, you just gotta rally no matter what! Up the Spiro trail...damn this is steep...breathing hard...oh good, here's the mid-mountain trail...but noooo, straight up Crescent grade road the route goes...damn, and I thought Spiro was steep...thank god, downhill...back to mid-mtn trail - all downhill, right? Not exactly. It goes on a long ways and starts climbing again as you get closer to the finish. Where's that decent?? Finally, an abrupt right turn and down to the finish. On the way my chain not only breaks, but breaks only half way so that a link gets lodged into the rear mech, meaning I have to run any short ups for the final 3 miles. That sort of matched how I felt today!
The big question as I was coming down that final decent was "where is Todd?" I wasn't too concerned with race standings today, just placement in relation to Todd. We had a tight race for the points lead. If he was 2 spots in front of me, we'd tie the series. If he was 3 spots in front of me, he'd win the series. Not that I had set out initially to win the E100 series, but after the 50 mile it seemed well within reach. So the first question to Anna as I finished was "where is Todd?" The answer: he was 5th, a few minutes in front of me. I was 6th. It's a wrap.
With a 6th place finish, I became the first E100 series winner. It was immensely satisfying. Not because I rode well that day - I didn't - but because despite the obstacles of the week and less than good legs, I kept it going, always pushing, and achieved my goals. It was a tight race and Todd is a fantastic rider. We've never spoke of it, but had the course markings of the 50 been different, the series could have had a different outcome...