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.