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!
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…