Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hellhole Gravel Stage Race

my race number
The race was in the Francis Marion State Forest in Cordesville, SC and consisted of a prologue on Friday night and two 65 mile stages taking place on Saturday and Sunday.  This was my first time racing a stage race of any kind.  I knew going into it that it would be fast since it was flat.  My buddy Kelly and I drove down early Friday to give us time to get to the KOA and not rush to ge to the Prologue.

"Camping" at KOA
The Prologue was a 6 mile course that we were sent off in thirty second increments.  Nothing exciting happened except I was hoping the guy behind me wouldn't catch me and pass me.  He caught me, but I kicked it the last few hundred yards to keep from getting passed.  I will say that had the legs on fire from pushing the red line for the seventeen minutes it took.

prologue warm-up joke

Stage One was going to be a combined start of those of us racing the two stages and those racing the one day and those racing for 35 miles.  It was a mass start and had no clue who was racing the what distance.  I jumped into a nice pace line, but with this being gravel roads
there were potholes that you needed to watch for also.  Three miles into the race I paid for attaching a third bottle holder on my seatpost.  I hit a pothole and it turned the third bottle holder into a bottle launcher instead.  I had to change my game plan now from going all 65 miles without stopping to hitting the only aid station at mile 27.  I rotated to the back of the pace line a few miles later and drilled another decent pothole that sent another bottle launching into the brush on the side of the road, so I had to stop and find it.  I squeezed the metal bottle cages tighter to prevent this from happening again and it worked.  Now, I had to give chase to this group of 10-12 racers that dropped me.  I kept pushing my pace, but couldn't catch back on.  I came across a couple riders ahead and they jumped on my wheel to work together and then we gathered a couple others.  We were coming up to the aid station and I let them know I was stopping and asked what they were doing.  The response from all but one of them was, "going right."  That was not good since right meant they were the 35 mile racers, so I took off on my own.  For the rest of this stage I was on my own except for about 5 miles where I worked with another racer.  With about 9 miles to go one of my bottle cages on the bike worked a screw out, so I was stopping again to take the cage off to put in my jersey pocket.  Lesson learned, check bottle cages for day 2 and put the third one in my jersey pocket.  I crossed the line in a timeof 3:28 that I was not happy with, but could have been worse.

Photo taken by Brian Fancher
Stage Two I was hoping to be a better day than the previous.  We were warned that after 5 miles of gravel road we would be dumped into 3-4 miles of singletrack.  My goal was to be as close to the front as possible going into the singletrack to help my buddy Kelly out who was sitting 3rd in the GC.  When the race started I was about halfway in the pack on the left side of the road when I made the jump to the right and pushed hard to the front.  I know two jumped on my wheel and Kelly was sitting 4th behind me.  We pulled ahead of the group on the right and Kelly and two others went around us on the left.  They missed the right turn into the woods and I started yelling as loud as possible to try and get Kelly's attention.  The motorcycle guy gave chase to them, and I went into the woods.  I was at least 20 back going into the woods now when I heard Kelly letting me know he was behind me, so I moved out of the way, so he could chase the leaders down.  About another mile or so I caught a branch between the wheel and derailleur, so I stopped to remove it and lost the lead group again.  I kept having shifting issues on the singletrack, so when we finally dumped out on the road I stopped to look at it and bend the derailleur in just a little which seemed to improve the shifting. Positive was I never lost a bottle on the singletrack.   Here I am again 10 miles into the race and the lead group was over a quarter mile up the road.  Nothing I could do to catch them, but watch them slowly pull away.  I was again in no man's land for the next 30 miles until a group of 5 racers caught up to me.  I jumped in with them taking pulls and my average speed was increasing since joining the group.  With about 15 miles to go I saw a racer pushing his bike and knew him from previous races, so I started yelling at him for what he needed.  I stopped to give him a CO2 and the inflator.  We were off and Brian is a strong rider and in exchange for my stopping he pulled me the next 5 miles until he had to adjust his seatpost that had been slipping all day and I went on.  I got within eyesight of that group, but couldn't close the gap.  Today's stage I crossed the line in 3:38.

This race was awesome and well run by the promoters and as flat as it was I am looking forward to returning next year to have a better go at it.  I ended up finishing 10th in my age group over the course of the three days.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Savage CX and more Recipes

This is the inaugural year for this event and it will should grow into a huge event.  It is held at a great venue,
and all the logistics were great also.  The course is one of the best I have been on.  I got there the night before and went with my buddy to check out the beginning of the first climb since it was going to be a brutal climb, and found out quickly it was going to be a brutal one.  The 50 mile course was one large loop in the mountains of NC and it was not easy, especially the first 17-18 miles of nothing but climbing with grades of 20-22% at times.  Going into this race I knew it would not be easy for me since rolling my ankle 1 week prior and advised by the doctor it would not be in my best interest to race.  I put on the sports brace and decided to race.  Right off the start we have a short climb on the grass before going through a parking lot and up a nice steep 200 ft hill before being dumped out on to a fairly flat 2 mile gravel road.  Once you make the left hand turn onto Old 105 the climbing began after rolling on the pavement for about a half mile.  I never knew we had any climbs in NC that could go up for 15+ miles until this race.  It was hard to decide whether to sit or stand because of traction depending on how steep it got at times.  My gearing wasn't tall enough, and my ankle would hurt if I tried to mash really hard on the pedals, so I had to hike-a-bike a few times.  I was around the same group of guys for this part of the course and would end up leap frogging with them depending on the terrain of the course.  Once at the 1st rest stop at mile 17 was the first true downhill section on gravel until it dumped you out onto pavement which running the cross bike was an advantage unlike some of the other guys around me on mountain bikes.  When I came up to the next section of gravel it was a slight downhill that I was caught again by the guys on mountain bikes and passed.  This is where they had the advantage from the amount of rain we have had this year the gravel roads had lots water breaks or ruts that ran horizontal across the road which the guys with suspension forks just flew across.  I caught these guys again on a short pavement section right as we came up to the 2nd rest stop at mile 30 which dumped us down this blown out trail that was more singletrack for the 1st 5 miles then anything that resembled a road.  This is where the guys on the mountain bikes got away from me again.  Miles 35-40 were uneventful for I couldn't see anybody and in every turn were baseball size rocks that were so loose it had you slowing down through them.  Finally I hit the hard packed dirtroad at mile 40 and turned it on until the finish since it was nice and smooth that transitioned over to pavement.  This is where I ended up passing 8 riders in the last 10 miles.  I finished 29th in the under 50 category and 38th overall with a time of 4:12:23.  Not to bad for having a bummed ankle and looking forward to next year.

The first recipe that I made out of the new Feed Zone Portables cookbook were the Bitter Chocolate and Sea Salt Rice Balls.  This like most of the other recipes are easy to make and taste great.  I used these during the Savage CX 50 mile gravel grinder as my only source of food during the race along with Skratch Labs Hydration Mix.  I made these two nights before the race and kept them in the fridge at home.  Then as you can see in the photo I wrapped each individually in plastic wrap and had them in a container that I kept in my cooler while camping out the night before the race.  When I wrapped them I folded all the corners up and twisted them to make it easier to open with one hand and my teeth.  Had to make it easy since I didn't know if I would be on gravel or a road while eating.

My meal before the race was the Angel Hair Pasta with Sweet Corn and Bacon recipe.  One of the only changes I made was to the type of pasta used instead of angel hair.  I cooked the pasta, bacon, chicken at the house and had them separated out in containers to cook on the gas grill at the campsite the night before the race.  For the pasta I added the olive oil to the pasta in the container to make it easier once at the campsite and didn't have add anymore to the pan.  It made this easy to just reheat these ingredients and it cut down on the prep time that night.  While these ingredients were reheating I cut up the cherry tomatoes and basil.  The one ingredient that I left out was the corn and only because I forgot a can opener.  Once all done I combined  the items in the pan and it was time to eat.  To add a little spice I used Sriracha to give it some heat.  This is one of my favorite meals out of the Feed Zone Cookbook.  For breakfast the morning of the race I used the French Toast recipe, but I unfortunately forgot to take a picture of it cooking that morning.

I did a Labor Day group ride that was roughly 40 miles, so this was a good time for me to try another recipe with this being the Sweet Breakfast Burrito.  For the oatmeal I made it the night before with the overnight refrigerator oatmeal recipe.  This is just adding dry rolled oats with vanilla greek yogurt and some milk to get the consistence you want.  Stir it up, put it in the fridge and it is ready the night before.  I like making a large amount of this that can be used for 2-3 mornings if needed, especially with kids.  For my burrito I added the overnight oatmeal, chopped almonds, banana and honey.  I had this about two and half hours prior to the ride and only used the Skratch Labs on the 2 hour ride.  Never got hungry on the ride, but once home I was ready to eat.  Another quick recipe that it took me less than 3 minutes to put together since I prepped the overnight oatmeal and chopped the almonds the night before.

These two cookbooks have made me change how I eat while training and racing.  I have no stomach issues during or after them.  My next race is at the end of the September at the Hellhole Gravel Grinder Stage Race.  Since I will be camping out again for this I will be using a few of these recipes for my meals during the days and definitely the recipes for on the bike.  If you have not tried any of these recipes then you should because I think it will make a difference in how you use real food versus all the prepackaged stuff out there for athletes.

Thanks for reading

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Meltdown at Harris 6 hr Race

This is one of those races I enjoy and dread at the same time.  Running the rigid fork here is brutal.  The trail at Harris Lake has lots of roots and is tight and twisty.  Just when you think you have some flow going you are battling roots and turns at the same time.  The course was 7 miles and knowing you will be doing numerous laps is just as much mental as it is physical.  The field was small with solo and duo teams.  Once they gave the go I went hard to get into the woods as close to the front as possible.  I ended up going into the woods 6th overall and 2nd in single speed category.  About halfway through the first lap I made it past 2 racers and fell into a comfortable pace.  I knew the 1st place single speeder was strong and was leading the race, so I knew pushing it wasn't going to help me at this point.  More worried about possibly being caught by the other single speed guys or anyone else since I was close to the front of the field.  I ended up getting passed on lap 7 by a guy who was flying down the trail, and come to find out he was on a duo team.  As I started lap 8 one of the guys I know that was ahead of me was just sitting in the pits.  I ended up passing the other 2 single speeders and put them a lap down.  Not bad that only 1 duo team was ahead of me out of 11.  I finished 9 laps in 5:48:01, 2nd in SS category and 4th overall.

Monster Cross 50 2013

This is one of my favorite races to date.  It may not have any single track, but it is fast.  With nearly 400 racers and only 24 of us being in the single speed mountain bike category I knew this would not be easy.  I lined up somewhere close to the front to hopefully jump on with a fast group of geared riders I could jump on with for the flats and downhills.  The first mile was a neutral roll out, but still a good place to weave through the traffic.  I stuck to my plan and once we were let loose I jumped in a group of riders and we were off making up ground on a group ahead of us.  We were within 100 yards of them when a rider went down going across a bridge, so we had to slow down to go around him.  Just when we were making good time again we were held up at a road crossing for the ambulance to pass to pick up the injured rider.  Once we started rolling again I jumped out front of the group and pulled away until we started downhill or long flats and they would pull back up to me.  This went on for the majority of the race.  I would catch up to small groups of 2-4 riders at a time when hitting the inclines and leaving them behind.  Roughly 38 miles into the race me and 2 other racers came to an intersection and followed the sign straight instead of left.  We came to another intersection about .4-.5 miles down the fire road, so I started asking riders coming up from our left what mileage they were at and they were only 35 miles into the race.  We turned around and started pedaling as hard as we could go.  I kept this crazy pace for the next 7-8 miles until the leg cramps started creeping up.  I backed off the crazy spinning I was doing and just started dumping everything I had left in my last bottle and a GU.  I was hoping to catch another single speeder, but it never happened.  I ended up finishing 9th in the single speed mtn bike category in a time of 3:22:34.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

North Bend Rail Trail

Up here in WV visiting my wife's family, and since we celebrated Christmas yesterday I took some of today to check out North Bend Rail Trail.  Lucky for me they live about 10 miles from the Happy Valley Parking on the West end of the trail system.  It has rained right much the last two weeks here with some snow mixed in and it was raining yesterday.  The trail was very soggy as you can see in one of the photos which made for a slow trip and in some areas lucky to be doing 9 mph at times.  I ended up going through five tunnels and that is where I had my highest speeds with it being dry in there between 16-18 mph.  I ended up doing a round trip of 62.5 miles with my turn around in Ellenboro.  For a rail trail it had more elevation than I thought it would after looking at the elevation profile on Strava, but it is in a mountainous state.  I look forward to riding the entire 72 miles one-way and turn around for a 144 mile round trip this summer when the trail should be dry and fast.  It is a beautiful trail and well maintained.  Here is the new bike (Cannondale Super X Rival) I got about a week ago, so this was the biggest ride on it and it is comfortable and worked like a charm.  Here are a few photos from the trip.
Eaton Tunnel (first tunnel)

Country Trail Bikes in Cairo, WV

A little soggy made for some hard pedaling
Another tunnel
Ellenboro - nice to place to refuel on  future trips


It was a dirty ride
Had fun getting it dirty

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fool's Gold 100

I had been putting in lots of miles for this race with it being my first 100 miler and was ready for this race.  Mark Farnsworth and my endurance running buddy Ryan Liska headed up on Friday and did all the normal pre-race check-in.  We drove out to where Aid Station 2,3,5 and 6 were going to be located since they were all the same location.

Saturday morning came quick and we were out the door by 5:30 to head over to the race.  We got a few sprinkles of rain, but they quickly went away.  We lined up for the start and we were off.  The first 5 - 6 miles were all on the road leading us out to the big climb that would last for 9ish miles.  I was nervous about this climb since I had never climbed for that long and not knowing how my legs would take it.  Mark and I were together on this climb passing other racers going up and we had a good pace of 9-10 mph.  I knew it was suppose to get steeper the closer we got, but my legs were feeling great.   After about 7.5 - 8 miles I backed off because my legs were feeling it and somewhere around 8.25 - 8.5 miles into the climb I was not turning my cranks as hard and jumped off and started pushing the bike knowing I would save some energy and hopefully catch back up.  I got back on once it flattened out and started making up my time I had lost.   I caught a few of the guys that passed me while walking.  I skipped the first Aid Station at mile 18 and kept rolling to Aid Station 2.  The decent from the top was roughly 2.5 miles with 1500 ft of elevation loss and parts of it were steep and was winding down the mountain.  Had some more climbing and another hike-a-bike section that everyone had to push their bikes up.  I could see Mark about 50 yards up the trail, so I knew the walking didn't hurt me earlier.  I hit Aid Station 2 (27-28 miles) after some good singletrack trail and Ryan was there waiting to help get whatever I need.  Having someone there with you to be support crew makes endurance races go smoother.  I knew I would be coming back around on the other side of this Aid Station area which was number 3 (40 miles into the race).

There was some more fire road that we were on and then it dumped off onto the single track and it was more good flowy trail.  I was coming into a downhill section around miles 37 when another rider was standing there having us slow down for an injured rider.  There was only 2 other riders standing there and I stopped not knowing if they needed help moving him or what the deal was.  Come to find out he was going fast into this blind turn and went wide left and hit a good size bump that sent him over his handlebars landing hard on his hip area.  We were figuring out where all the injured rider was hurting when he said he had a warm feeling in his pelvic region, his leg looked to be shorter than the other, and over the next 2 hrs of waiting his leg was changing colors.  One of the other riders there Eddie is a ER nurse and Robin was an anesthesiologist which it was great to have those guys there to keep an eye on Marcus's vitals and any change that most people may not have picked up.  We talked to the rider a lot because Marcus was in some serious pain and was trying to make him as comfortable as possible until EMS got up to us.  We were trading off between us on standing up the trail to slow riders down coming down the hill and around the blind corner.  After my buddy Ryan running the 3 or so miles from the Aid Station and he hung  around for about 30 minutes.  He told us that EMS had been at the Aid Station for at least 15 minutes before he made the run and by this time they may have been there for at least and hour.  We decided that he should run back down and grab a litter since the EMS down there seemed to not be making there way up even though they were trying to have a John Deere "Gator" come up a different way which would not work in this terrain.  You should know it is a lost cause with the Gator when you are having to cut trees to make it down the trail.  It took Ryan and 2 other guys to get this litter with some big wheel under probably an hour to make that mostly uphill climb to us.  In the meantime a couple other volunteers had made their way to us also.  It was time to move him and they got him loaded up and we started the trek down the mountain with roughly 6 people on the litter at a time constantly rotating out.  It took well over an hour to go the 3 miles.  While another volunteer and I hung off the back of the group by 10 yards or so to keep riders from running up on us we came across a yellow jacket nest and both of us got stung at least 2-3 times.  We got him down to the Aid Station and my buddy Mark was coming through with roughly 21 miles left to the finish.  It took close to 5 hours from his accident until we got him to the Aid Station and then EMS took him to the helicopter.  There were so many more details, but this was the Reader's Digest version.

Ryan filled a couple bottles for me and I took off on the bike to catch Mark and give him some company to the finish.  I ended up catching him after a good 6-7 miles and he was very appreciative of that extra push, and I would have been the same way.  He cross the line in 9:45 and next thing you know they were calling him up for 5th place in the single speed category.  He rode a good race and was well under what he had expected for his finishing time.  This course was great that I had ridden and Mark said the other parts were awesome also.  The promoters put on a great race and had done all they could do with the situation from placing the phone calls and there were some great volunteers that made multiple trips and helped get Marcus off the side of the mountain.

Unlike the local EMS that sat on their asses for at least 2+ hours at the Aid Station instead of making the effort to hike up there and do their job.  They are willing to put on the uniform of a civil servant then they should uphold the oath they took to protect the injured. Maybe they need to go back and read what they have on their website:  "It is our mission that the men and women of Lumpkin County Emergency Services provide protection of life, property and rapid emergency response services to the citizens of Lumpkin County and its visitors. Above all, be courteous!"

On Sunday we got up and went over to the Fool's Gold Trail Race for Ryan to run the 6 mile course of hills.  Ryan didn't know how he would do after putting 12ish miles on his legs the day before going up and down the side of the mountain.  He ended up placing 2nd overall and 1st in his age group.  As Mark said, "Those 12 miles were like priming the pump for the race today."

I'll be back next year to race it again.  Great location and well organized by 55nine.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Huck-A-Buck 2012

Another Huck-A-Buck at Lake Crabtree is in the books and for once it was not 100 degrees.  The race is put on by Happy Fun Racing and they do one hell of a job.  This race always draws a pretty big number of riders and the Single Speed Category isn't lacking either along with the competition in it.  The trail got some rain last night which helped tighten it up since it has been dusty and slick, but the trade off was slick roots and bridges along with 80 degree temp with about 85% humidity.  We had three 7 mile laps to sort it out on the trail.
Rockin' the 29nsngl kit
Photo by On the Mark Sports
They let the Single Speed Category loose on the course at 12:20 and it was on from the start when the siren went off.  The start line was maybe 40 yards from the entrance to the trail, so I had to mash on the pedals hard to hopefully get the hole shot or at least be close to the front.  I hit the trail running 3rd, but there was a nice line behind me that was pressing hard.  It seemed 1st and 2nd were trying to keep the pace down and with really no passing areas on the trails were going to be tricky.  So, I thought I would be nice and ask to pass, so that is what I did.  I can't blame the guy when I asked I got the response of, "what?" So, I asked again and he said sure at the next time that it was possible.  I went around in the first 2 miles and sat on 1st places rear wheel until about 5.5 miles when it widened out and was smooth, so I took a drink from the bottle and let 3rd go around me.  We crossed the start/finish line nose to tail and stayed like that until about 10 miles when 2nd made his move and he was gone.  We tried to stay with his pace, but backed off since 4th on back looked to be maybe a minute behind us.  I spent the rest of the race seeing 2nd through the woods and looking back and seeing 4th and 5th not that far behind me also.  There was no letting up for the entire 3rd lap for it looked like 4th was trying to close the gap and he was.  I crossed the line in 3rd at 1:32:19 for 21 miles (3 laps). 

I only ended up drinking one bottle of fluid and two Gu packets the entire race.  After uploading my Garmin 500 to Strava it really showed what kind of suffering was going on during the race for me by my heartrate.

For placing 3rd I got this nice poster of vintage Tour de France image of the racers drinking that I plan to frame and hang in my office at work.  Along with it was one of these handy dandy recycled bike parts bottle opener key chain that will get plenty of use.