Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A pro CX wrapper on an amateur CX season -- (By Dwaine)

I fell off the blog wagon for a couple races. This post will include two short race reports followed by a more detailed account of the recent Waves for Water UCI Pro Cyclocross event.

Ribbons of Enumclaw mud

Enumclaw Fairgrounds hosted the second to last Cross Revolution event. And the longest run up of the season. Winter rains had saturated the ground and the majority of the course turned to slop by the second race of the day. By the time the Category three classes started race strategy had evolved to picking a safe line through the deepest sections of mud and minimizing energy or time sucking mistakes. I started well enough and stayed in the top three for a couple laps. The course continued to evolve and on the third lap the descent turned extra slimy, a rider fell, and a couple of us tangled avoiding him. In the process my cantilever style brake was knocked askew and I lost about five seconds fixing it. A lap later, right in front of Mark, I tipped over at two miles per hour. Neither incident cost much time but I did loose track of the riders around me. Without knowing what position I was in I turned my attention to riding the course instead of racing the other riders. I kept my head down, chose the safest lines, and just keep the pedals turning. When the chips fell I had a forty second gap over second. No one was more surprised then me.

Pick your line. Any line. They are all mud.
Frontier Park, just West of Purdy, is comprised of a creek that splits the property into a rolling field on one side and a hillier field on the other. I believe this was the first event at this venue. The ground was frozen solid on the morning of the race and pre race course reconnaissance revealed a bumpy course devoid of many technical challenges. As the morning sun began to warm and thaw the soil the course did not get any smoother while it certainly softened up in areas. Not muddy soft but power robbing soft. The uphill start straight certainly fell into this soft soil category. I started on the front row but chose not to contest the start. By the first corner I was DFL. Within just a few corners I started to catch some of the riders that were not maintaining their start effort. And then slowly worked my way forward over the next couple laps. On the third lap Mark reported my split to the lead group to be just eight seconds. I could see them. I was riding at my limit.

Until the run up. Which featured three low barriers and could be ridden by just a few riders. Of which I was one. Except on lap three. The spectators hollered 'we got a rider' on laps one and two and then cheered again when I cleared the last barrier. Except on lap three. When they were uncharacteristically silent while I picked myself and my bike up off the ground. That fall used extra energy and sapped my spirit. I did not see the leaders again and began to loose time to them. My legs and lungs usually ache a bit during a cross race. But the bumps were working my back muscles into spasm. By the end of the race I was a mess. After finishing I laid on the frozen ground, let the sun warm my face, and waited for my aching back to unbend. It was a brutal course for me and others and it blew the field apart. My effort yielded fifth out of 21 starters. A third of the starters finished a lap down. Only finish positions second through six lost less than three minutes to the winner.

The 'Cheesy Chrismas Sweater' team? Maybe.
They don't yet know just how much the Frontier Park
course is gonna make them suffer.
At Frontier Park I felt some pain. But I also tasted some sweet. That event wrapped up the Cross Revolution season and also locked up my season points lead. I was unable to attend the awards party but was awarded, as a trophy, a Cross Revolution and Phil's Bike Shop branded cowbell. Along with a swag bag of other bike goodies.

The 'Waves for Water' events were scheduled pretty late in the season. Although not originally on my race calendar, this USAC/UCI event at my home course of Fort Steilacoom was too good to skip. As many of you know the event was designed as a UCI event for regional pros needing to earn points towards the UCI championship event.

In addition to the UCI pro races local ameteurs were invited to race under USAC organization. I chose to forego the Saturday event at the Marymoor Event Center in Parkland and race only on Sunday at Fort Steilacoom park. The course shared the same general layout as an MFG event held earlier this year. An event where I struggled to keep pace with the 'Power Brokers' on the long climb and numerous straightaways. Yet the playing field was tilted even further by the removal of a few of the grass infield corners making a fast course even faster. I was the guy holding a knife at a gunfight.

I studied the course before my race in hopes of unearthing a secret line or other magic. I found just a few corners where technique might play a factor. I also found two places where bottlenecks might occur. One bottleneck opportunity was at the bottom of the second descent. I had good luck there last race and took a good long look at the braking zone going into the tight right hander. The other bottleneck would occur where the first corner funneled the riders between a barn and a grain silo.

To my happy surprise I got a front row callup! I had competed in one USAC event this year where as many others hadn't. I was the last rider to take a front row slot.

Some folks claim that cyclocross is the only form of bicycle racing where the sprint starts the race instead of ends it. But at my level I don't think many of us truly sprint off the line. We each use as little energy as possible to get as far up the field as is prudent. My general plan is to round the first corner in the top five. But the first corner was fast and the second corner was narrow. So I pulled the trigger, used some extra effort, and pedaled up to second before the first corner. This worked well and I was never held back by traffic. Half way into the first lap we started the long climb and I looked like I was in reverse. And so it would be every lap. These guys were strong. I would loose positions up the climb and then gain some of them back on the descent. In the early laps I'd usually get two positions at the bottom of the descent.

About halfway through the race I settled into a group of four riders. We stayed together until the end. Roger Burton pulled us down the straight every lap. The rest of us drafted behind and rested while he worked. I'd sometimes get by him on the descent and then he'd power by again on the flats. I pegged him to win the upcoming sprint finish. When we entered the final straight I stayed on his wheel until we were just past halfway down the straight. As soon as I sensed him thinking about accelerating I powered right around him confident in my timing and energy reserve. Just as he disappeared behind me the two tailing riders came by me with even more speed. I finished third in my group, twelfth out of 26, after clearly underestimating the strength of the two following riders.

A fellow racer Colin had a great day. I've raced against him all season and generally been able to keep him behind me. But at Fort Steilacoom he unleashed some whoop. After his third place finish we chatted and he professed to doing well when the course includes some climbing. He wasn't kidding.

My family joined me and we took in the Elite Women's race. Those ladies were fast. The field seemed to split up pretty quickly with the top riders setting a pretty hot pace. Our personal favorite was a woman with a damaged bike that did not give up. She ran, with her bike shouldered, for a good portion of the course. We watched her enter the pits, hand off the damaged bike, and then mount it's replacement without ever breaking out of a run. We rang the cowbell for that bit of tenacity.

Mud Rider at Enumclaw
The Men's Elite race was different. Within about a lap there was a lead group of twelve off the front. And they stuck together. The lead would change, different riders would take a pull down the long straight, but they stayed together lap after lap. Through the tighter sections of the course they rode as if on rails. They seemed to be glued to the soil yet going faster than seemed possible. Only on the final lap or so did the group split with five of the twelve opening a small gap. The finish did not include a wild bunch sprint. Instead an orderly high speed single file finish.

The Waves for Water event brought with it the close to my cyclocross season. I've already starting planning next year's bike and body improvements. And scheduling a proper off season rest. A big 'thank you' needs to go out to the folks that run all the local cyclocross races I've visitted this year. A lot of hours are invested in making sure a CX event goes smoothly. Another 'thanks' to those of you that came out to an event and yelled at me to turn the pedals faster. Just to make sure I didn't forget that part. And I appreciate that the Puyallup Cyclopath's blog is still willing to publish my writings.

See you all next Spring.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Two races in two days OR Horses for Courses -- (By Dwaine)

Authort:  Dwaine Trummert

This weekend was my first attempt at a two race weekend. Saturday took me to Tumwater for the Deschutes River CX. Sunday saw me in Graham at Frontier Park. I had seen neither course nor ever raced with less than a week of recovery. It was a fine learning opportunity.

Both promoters supplied aerial approximations of their courses.

Deschutes River CX course aerial preview

Graham's Frontier Park hosted CX Revolution
Compared to previous courses both seemed to offer more trees than fields. The weather was cold with frozen ground expected and experienced at both venues. Fortunately the sun came out both days to warm my skin when I could get away from the shade. But that is about where the similarities ended.

Saturday's preride in Tumwater showed a course that, at first, seemed to offer some technical challenge due to the partially frozen landscape and enough corners to keep the course interesting. But as the sun's shadows moved different sections of the course would thaw. On some freshly thawed sections of the course the traction might get better. Or it might get worse. And although there were some corners in the trees there were also plenty of straights in the trees.

Sunday was warmer and the dryer Graham soil was nearly unaffected by the cold temperatures. This translated to better and more consistent traction which lead to higher cornering speeds for those that were willing to let it hang out a bit. The park, although lacking any long climbs, contained many small undulations that upped the technical factor for the racers. And the CX Rev course designers threw in at least a couple off camber corners to keep us on our toes.

Saturday's course evolved quickly. My preride course recon info lost value over time as the ground thawed and the best lines changed.

Sunday's course was consistent. This favored me and others that had studied the quirks of the course.

Yet another layer of difference was the structure of the race organizations.

Saturday's race was WSBA/USAC sanctioned event that required USAC membership and required riders to race in their USAC category.  This prevents riders from sandbagging or from entering races well above there talent level. A side effect is that it seemed to attract a smaller more serious group of racers. Only eight riders raced men's 35+ cat 3.

Sunday was organized by CX Revolution which has chosen to not to be USAC sanctioned. Riders self seeded into categories and no annual race license was required. Sixteen riders raced men's 35+ cat 3.

Saturday's start presented few issues. With only eight riders on the line it was not a challenge to round the first corner in fourth. At just twenty seconds into the race the rider in third washed the front end directly in front of me. I swerved to miss the fallen rider's body but struck his bike instead and was launched into the bushes. He apologized profusely. I checked that we were both OK and said 'Let's get going'.

Falling is not fast. But worse is that it can affect my concentration level afterwards. I worked hard the remainder of that first lap and found myself on the third place rider's wheel. He seemed to be riding at about my pace and I stayed on his wheel for a couple laps. During this time the course was changing rapidly. It was apparent to me that I was racing the course as much as the other riders. The racing line was precariously narrow in places and I spent most of my mental energy on keeping my wheels inside the narrow safety zone.

At the beginning of the fourth lap something changed. It felt like the rider ahead stepped up his pace. Later I also learned that I slowed a bit according to my Garmin. Either way third place quickly disappeared up the course. During this fourth lap I also realized that the thaw was softening some of the frozen grass and bark sections which then required more power to get through.

Somewhere during the fifth lap I noticed a rider behind me. I kept my pace as high as I dared without risking blowing up. Then I fell again. A particular corner was frozen and slick during course recon. By race time it started to thaw and the softening soil gave decent traction. But by the end of the fifth lap the soft soil must have been pushed aside to reveal another layer of frozen ground. Either way I pushed the front tire a good long time before finally finding terra firma with my left elbow. Unhurt I jumped up and remounted. The bike was fine save the twenty degree difference between where my bars and front wheel pointed. I checked over my shoulder and still had a little gap on the rider behind.

Despite having some challenge in steering smoothly I survived long enough to start the last lap where I relied on my six minutes of extra effort to keep me ahead of that chasing rider. Finishing fourth out of eight was just barely in the top half of my class. I felt thoroughly beaten by both the competition and the frozen soil.

I spent the next twenty-four hours feeding my body, elevating my tired legs, unmudding Blue Moon, and preparing to do it all over again. But do it much differently, it turns out.

Sunday saw me starting from the front of two rows and metering out my effort to keep me in the top five going into the first corner. I held my position until we entered some of the technical sections and then patiently snuck past when opportunities presented themselves. By the end of the second lap I found myself riding with Jose Ramirez, the winner of the previous day's race. We were riding in our (relative) comfort zones, leading the race, and slowly pulling away from the field.

Jose is an extremely powerful rider. He sprints from corner to corner. My style is to glide into each corner hoping to carry as much speed as possible. Yet we were quite well matched most of the way around the course. He was clearly superior on the straights and over the barriers. I could usually close the gap on the descents or through some of the twisties.

On the third lap he jumped going up the front straight and gained a sizeable gap. I did not respond but instead rode my own pace making sure to listen to my body and avoid overextending. It took a full lap but I eventually caught Jose and we rode together again.

With about two thirds of a lap to go I clicked up a virtual gear. Most observers would never have noticed but I allowed myself to unleash a few more watts at each acceleration. I went past Jose just before we entered the trails and continued to hold the lead until we caught a slower rider. I gave a couple verbal warnings that he was holding up the leaders. He gave me just enough room to squeeze by but then tangled with Jose. Jose must have given a huge effort as he was back to within five seconds of me less than a minute later. But we were entering the most technical section of the course with just a couple minutes to the finish line. I was out of the saddle for every acceleration and kept the pressure on the pedals on the straights. Jose did not catch me and I was able to take my first cat 3 victory.

I was elated to have worked and achieved this goal. There is no doubt that the Graham course favored my skillset. And that I'm not likely to win the next less technical event. So, in the moment, I reminded myself to enjoy the moment.

When I look back at the two events I cannot discount the affect that the courses had on my day and my feelings about the events. Saturday's course could not be trusted; the frozen ground felt like racing on pins and needles hoping to avoid the next frozen patch and the crash that would follow. Sunday felt more like the course was studied, learned, and then used as a tool in managing the race and ultimately orchestrating a win.


Cyclopath Mark was able to attend Sunday's event at Frontier Park. The layout was not spectator friendly yet Mark did find a spot that allowed him to cheer me on a few times each lap. Thanks Mark. And some advice to any other Cyclopath racers: Invite Mark to your race! I've only visited the podium on the days he has attended. (I'm just sayin...)

After writing my race review the results for Saturday's 'Deschutes River CX' were posted. These results show me finishing third instead of the fourth I expected. In retrospect I did see a rider who was on the side of the course making a bike adjustment. And maybe that rider was the 3rd place racer that disappeared up the road. A different finish position changes nothing. I still feel like the Tumwater course didn't care for me.

The CX Pro's are coming to my home course at Fort Steilacoom on December 7th! Amateurs, including myself, will race in the morning. Pros race in the afternoon. I'll be there. Hope you are too.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

LOTOJA--Part 6--The final Intallment (by Rob Critchfield)

In the last post, I had just ridden through Alpine and was just about to embark on the last segment of LOTOJA.  In my two prior LOTOJAs, I have not ridden this section very fast.  My first year, I was riding with a friend who struggled through this section.  Last year, I stopped too long at both feed stations in the canyon and had a flat through this section.  This year, I really wanted to feel good about my effort through this section.  

After riding through Alpine, I made the right hand turn from highway 89 on to highway 26.  I believe this is called Alpine Canyon.  Just as you make the right hand turn, the feed zone starts.  I rode to the very end of the feed zone to number 9.  I was confident that my food had made it to the feed station because when I was about 10 miles from Alpine, my family passed me as they drove by.  When I pulled up, my family quickly handed me my scratch mix bottles.  I also got some of the food I had prepared.  I was still eating the food I started the race with, which had been in my back pocket just under 8 hours.  It was nice to get some fresh food, although I didn’t end up eating any of it.  I also had frozen two snickers bars.  It turned out that the snickers bars were all that I ate the last 46 miles.  The following you tube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQW5GyJwxT4 from 7:29 through 8:15 shows the approach to the Alpine feed zone.

As I have talked about in a prior post, those that agree to be your support group do so much to help you.  I am grateful for my family helping me.  There was another funny story that happened with my support.  I can laugh about it now, but it is another experience where I was rather rude as a rider.
As you may remember, I really wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the Afton stop.  By the time I got to Alpine, I had forgotten all about it.  My sister felt bad that they didn’t have a sandwich prepared for me.  So, she went to the store and purchased bread, peanut butter and jelly.  Because of traffic and the difficulty of parking and getting to the feed stop, she got to the feed stop just as I was ready to pull away.  I remember seeing her standing there with a shopping bag and her asking me if I wanted a sandwich, but I told her something like I didn’t have time and then I rode off.   My brother was laughing at the whole experience.  He said her face was priceless as I heartlessly road away.

I didn’t realize at the time what had happened.  I didn’t know she had sacrificed time and effort to try and get me my sandwich.  I didn’t realize she had just gotten there the same time I did.  I just saw her there holding the bag and knew I couldn’t wait for her to make me a sandwich because I would miss riding with Jonathan and the others.  My sister was a good sport about it.

After picking up my food and water bottles, I looked for Jonathan.  He pulled up and invited me to ride with a group that had gotten to Alpine just after we did.  This was a group of 6 to 8 riders.  Most of them were from the Masters +45 and +35 group I had been riding with and chasing all through Star Valley.  Curtis, the rider that I help pull back to his race group was also in the group.  He had gotten dropped again from the lead group again due to leg cramps.  There was also the guy in the red jersey who I rode with on the Salt River Pass descent.  One of the guys was a cyclosupportive class rider like me, who left in the group just after me, which meant he had made up the 6 minutes on me at the start.

One of the rules of LOTOJA is that you are not supposed to ride with ear buds in your ears.  I typically ride with one ear bud when I ride by myself.  On some of those stretches through Star Valley when I was riding by myself, I put an ear bud in my ear.  I turned the music off when I would ride with another rider, but I never took the ear bud out of my ear.  I had forgotten all about it. 
When this group got a look at me, I could tell there were several of them that really didn’t want me riding with them.  My guess is they judged my size and thought there was no way this guy can ride with us—Strike 1 against me.  Then because my ear bud was still in my ear, one of the guys bluntly told me to take it out and told me he wouldn’t ride with anyone that had one in.  I don’t blame him, he was right—Strike 2.  I wondered if there would be a third strike.
We pulled out of the feed zone and started up the canyon.  The ride up the canyon is beautiful. It has always been a mental challenge for me.  My body always feels like Alpine should be the finish of the ride.  Because of the scenic nature of the canyon, it is easy to get lulled into enjoying the ride and not riding as hard as you need to.  In my prior two LOTOJAs I never had the opportunity to ride with a group like this.  In fact, with the exception of riding off the back of the Cat 3 group, this was the first group I was able to ride with all day.  I was hopeful it would help me ride the canyon so that I could finish under 10 hours. 

I would have loved to have ridden with Rex through this canyon.  We complement each other when we ride.  The canyon is suited for our strengths.  Maybe next year we will be able to stay together and ride the canyon as a team.  Rex taught me how to think about this last stretch.  Last year, he thought about as if he was just riding to South Prairie and back, because it is about the same distance as when we ride to South Prairie and back from our homes.  I adopted his way of thinking about this stretch and I think it helped.

The majority of this group had ridden together through Star Valley.  We had a headwind in the canyon and so the group preferred a continuous rotating pace line.  This seems to be popular among the racers at LOTOJA.  I am not convinced it is better than the normal linear pace line I am used to. 
The way the continuous pace line worked is that the pace line would start up the left side.  Once a rider on the left side got to the front, he moves over to the right and starts soft peddling.  The riders in the right line that are soft peddling drift back until they are the last rider.  Once a rider is the last rider on the right side, he moves over to the left line and follows the guy ahead of him.  So the pace line really turns into two side by side pace lines with the one on the left going harder than the one on the right.  Because you have riders moving over to the right on the front and then to the left on the back, the pace line is more like a circular pace line than a linear one.  

I suspect this makes everyone go faster with a lot less effort.  There are no long pulls on the front.  You are on the front only for a few seconds as you move past the rider on the right and clear enough room to move over.  I struggled with this type of pace line because there is a lot of finesse involved.  I need someone to explain to me the different pace lines and what are the strengths and weaknesses of riding the various ones.  I always feel like this continuous pace line neutralizes my power.  I am used to getting on the front and really pulling.  That, however, is not the object of this pace line and when I do that, I blow it up.  

The guys I was riding with were very patient with me.  Despite getting off to a seemingly bad start with them, they were all very helpful in coaching me how to ride the continuous pace line.  They were constantly telling me to take it easy.  I kept wanting to go hard.  It was difficult for me to hold back.  If I used my power for this type of pace line I could leave the guy following me in the lurch.  So, they would coach me on backing off the power.  The second area where I struggled was when I got in the right line I needed to soft peddle.  Again, I am used to peddling harder than what I needed to in this pace line.  After several miles, I started to get the hang of it.

The road is about 100 feet above the Snake River.  You can see the river down below you as you ride up the canyon.  There are quite a few rapids through the canyon and there are plenty of groups floating the river.  The you tube video I keep referencing shows this really well from 8:22 until about 9:00 minute mark.  You can see the Snake River far below the road https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQW5GyJwxT4

Coming out of Alpine, the road has a bunch of large rollers with the net effect of you climbing higher towards Jackson.  I enjoyed riding in the pace line.  I could tell that I was conserving a lot of energy, but I also felt like I wasn’t going as hard as I could on my own.  Understandably, I hadn’t ridden as hard as most of these guys for the first part (unless they really benefited from riding in groups).  Most of them had ridden the race 30 minutes or so faster than I had at this point.  I think it was the right choice to ride in the pace line but I will wonder if I could have gone harder on my own.  I just don’t know if I could have sustained it.  

After about 10 miles, I must have impressed some of the riders with what I was doing because the rider who told me to take my ear bud out asked me “Where do you get your power from?”  I responded, “I train on Mount Rainer.”  He then replied “It shows.”

The disadvantage of riding this type of pace line is I am used to getting on the back and eating and drinking while I am on the back.  It was difficult to do that because you are constantly moving in the continuous pace line.  I am not smart enough to figure this stuff out on the fly.  I think what I really needed to do is eat and drink as soon as I got in the right hand line as I drifted back and not wait until I was on the back.  I didn’t realize this and made the mistake one time of eating once I drifted to the very back.  One of the problems with eating real food instead of getting my calories from gels or from a drink mix is that it is more difficult to get the food out of your pocket and eat it.  

As I drifted to the back, I tried to get a snickers bar out of my pocket.  It just so happened my timing was bad.  I did this just as we came to a hill.  The group hit the hill but I only had one hand on the handlebars and was caught off guard.  They dropped me because I wasn’t ready.  I quickly recovered and got to the top of the hill as fast as I could.  A gap had developed, but I used the power I had been conserving and soon caught back up with the group. 

We rode this way through the canyon.  When we would travel downhill, the pace line would straighten out and then we would begin the continuous rotation again.  The following is a picture of me on the front as we are headed down one of the hills in the canyon.  You can see that I don’t really fit into this group.  I am much larger than the rest of them :)  http://www.lucidimagesutshop.com/2014-Races/LOTOJA-Classic/Snake-River-Canyon-130200pm/i-gmp2LZs

As we approached Jackson, there were many sections where we were unable to maintain the pace line because the shoulder was too narrow.  About 12 miles from the finish, there was a little bit of climb.  I thought this might be a challenge for me to stay with this group because all of them can climb well.  The past two LOTOJAs I have struggled on this incline.  I had plenty of power to stay with the group and the hill was not a problem for me this year.

As we approached Jackson, I had to deal with my last challenge of the ride.  On longer rides when I approach about the 150 mile mark, I start to develop hot spots on the bottom of my feet where I have been pushing on the pedals.  As I understand it, this is probably something called metatarsalgia.  I believe what happens is the metatarsal bones of the feet have been pushed together so much during the ride that it causes nerve pain.  The feeling for me is an incredible painful sensation in the balls of my feet.  It really hinders my ability to apply any power.

I had two strategies to try and combat the pain.  My first was to take some ibuprofen.  My second was that I purchased some shoe inserts from specialize that have something called a metatarsal cushion.  The concept is that this cushion pushes against the bones in the feet to keep them separated so that they don’t pinch the nerves.  I was a little nervous about the inserts because I had not used them on a prior ride.

It ended up that I think the inserts really helped me and kept the pain away for longer.  But, the pain still eventually came.  I started to get some twinges as I approached Alpine, so I took some ibuprofen and that seemed to help.  I was alright until about 10 miles from the finish when the pain came on strong and I couldn’t stop it.  I tried taking some more ibuprofen, but it didn’t seem to help.  As a result, it became incredibly painful to pedal.  I would end up pedaling to get my speed up and then coast to let the pain subside.

At about seven miles from the finish, you turn off one road onto a bike path.  The bike path takes you to another road.  As you approach the other road, you pass through a tunnel.  The transitions are tricky and you need to be in the right gears.  Just after the tunnel, you turn into an uphill climb.  You can see this transition at 9:22-9:45 on the following video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQW5GyJwxT4

I was on the back of the group when it went through the tunnel.  It was just too painful for me to pedal as hard as I needed to stay with the group.  I was dropped on this hill, which was 7 miles from the finish.  For the next 7 miles I rode by myself, which was fitting for the sort of LOTOJA I was having.  I could see the group up ahead, but it was just too painful for me to put the kind of pressure on the pedals that I needed to in order to catch the group.  I felt like I had plenty left in the tank and if it wasn’t for the pain I think I could have caught the group.

I just continued to pedal hard for a few strokes and get my speed up to 27 to 30 mph and then I would coast for 30 seconds or more until it dropped down to 25 mph or so.  This would give my feet some relief from the pain I was feeling.  I really started watching my total time.  I realized at this point, I still had a solid chance of finishing under 10 hours, which was strong motivation to ride through the pain.  

The finish line at LOTOJA is really neat.  The last several miles you see the Grand Tetons in the background.  The approach to the finish is also flat.  This allows you to see the finish line a couple of miles away in the distance.  They race organizers have signs that count down the last 5km of the race.  You can see the last KM in the you tube video starting at about minute 10 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQW5GyJwxT4

The last 7 miles I rode all by myself.  I was able to maintain a strong pace albeit not as strong as the group I was dropped from.  No one passed me during this stretch.  I was grateful when I saw the sign that told me I only had 5 KM to go.  I looked at my time and saw how fast it was taking me to ride a KM.  When I hit the sign for 4 KM to go, I realize I was likely to finish in under 10 hours.  At that moment, I felt great despite the feeling of pain in my feet.  The last 4 KM I reflected on the past year of training.  I thought about all of the early morning rides I had done.  The great rides I had done with the Cyclopaths this past year, and of the many other fun training rides I was able to do.  When you accomplish a goal that you have worked hard for it is always rewarding.  LOTOJA is a great race but you really have to prepare for it, which takes a lot of time.  I started to pick up the pace and finished at a strong pace.  

I ended up riding in 9 hours and 54 minutes.  I finished 2 minutes behind the group that dropped me.  As a comparison, Jonathon and Curtis, both of the riders I road with between Afton and Alpine, respectively took 11th and 12th in their Masters +35 race.  They finished in 9 hours and 13 minutes.   There were over 60 riders in their group.  Several of the other riders that I rode pace line with took 5th through 8th in the Masters 45+ race.  They finished in 9 hours and 31 minutes.  

I had the 12th fastest time through the canyon for the non-relay Cyclosportive group.  As it turned out, I rode from the top of Salt River Pass to the finish (which is about 97 miles) in 3 hours and 58 minutes.  If you add on three more miles, which would be most of the king of the mountain climb, I rode the last 100 miles in approximately 4 hours and 15 minutes.

Because the racers ride 3 miles less than I did, it is not really fair to compare my time with them.  If I normalize my time, which basically means I replace my Logan to Preston time with their Logan to Preston time, I would have finished in about 9 hours and 41 minutes.  All of this means that I think I could become competitive enough to ride with one of the race groups next year. 

After finishing, I spent time with my family and waited for Rex to finish.  During this time, I talked with some of the guys that I rode the pace line with through the canyon.  They rider who bluntly told me to take my ear phone out of my ear asked me if I drank because he wanted to buy me a beer.  I told him I didn’t drink, but thanked him for the offer.  Apparently, I did something right riding in the pace line and it does not look like I ever earned that third strike.  I think whatever I did I earned some of their respect.  

 I believe Rex would tell you his 2014 LOTOJA was disappointing for him.  After recovering from his problems early in the race, Rex didn’t have stomach issues but he battled cramps most of the day.  Whenever he went to put some real power down, he would cramp.  As a result, he could not go as hard as he felt he should have been able to go.  Rex told me he rode well through the canyon and toward Jackson.  He was on the front of the group doing most of the pulling.  But, it just wasn’t his day again.  In the last couple of KM, Rex broke a spoke.  He was riding his low spoke count wheels and he was afraid he might taco his wheel.  He had to ride rather gingerly to the finish. 

The finish gathering place is right next to a creek that is mountain fed, which means it is cold.  Many cyclists just sit in this creek after LOTOJA.  I have a picture of Rex cooling off after his finish.   

I really enjoy LOTOJA.  It is one of those epic rides that you will never forget.  What I enjoy about it is that it makes you use all of your skills as a rider.  You have to be able to climb, ride in the flats, and ride rollers.  

On the whole, I was satisfied with my ride.  There are several areas I need to improve on.  I was a little disappointed with the last 10 miles of the ride.  The pain in my feet kept me from riding as hard as I thought I could.  I felt like I still had some fuel in the tank when I finished.  If I ride LOTOJA again, my goal will be to try and ride it under 9 hours and 30 minutes.  

What this ride did for me was give me the confidence that I think I could race this in the future.  I think I have had about as much fun riding with the Cyclosportive group as I can.  I will only ride again with the Cyclosportive group if I am riding with friends and do not care about how fast I finish the race.

You register for LOTJA sometime in March or April.  The registration fee is nonrefundable and nontransferable.  If you get in, because it’s a lottery, you are committed once you register.  If I register next year, I will likely race it in one of the race groups.  I wish we had more rides like LOTOJA closer to Washington.  RAMROD, although not a race, is the closest thing I think we have to LOTOJA in the northwest.

I would highly recommend putting LOTOJA on your bucket list.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cyclocross at Sprinker -- (By Dwaine)

Greasy. Not cheap diner greasy. Not mechanic's overalls greasy. But greasy where there is a thin layer of slippery slimey mud covering the hard packed soil underneath. That was the theme for the Cyclocross Revolution course at Sprinker Recreation Center.

There was some chill in the air and rain showers on and off all day. I arrived early for my second weekend using the trainer during my pre race ritual. In a nutshell the new ritual is:

1. Preview the course for one lap.
2. Get completely geared up and then stash backup wheels in the pits.
3. Preview and pre warmup on the course for about 20 minutes.
4. Finish warming up on trainer until about 'ten to go'.

So far this is working well for me and the time on the trainer helps calm my pre race jitters.

Another Cyclopath, Mark this time, was present at the race. We chatted about the course and I steered him towards the best viewing areas which were all on the opposite side of the park from the parking lot.

The layout was especially spectator friendly this year. The back side of the course has a ridge running down the center of it. The layout had racers riding up and down the sides of the ridge but left a good area at the top open for spectating. The elevation of the ridge gave the spectators a panoramic view of various parts of the course.

I lined up in a position to be on the inside of the first corner. My launch was good and I easily stayed in the top 5 going into the first corner. The third corner was especially slick and claimed a rider in front of me. By the fourth corner I was into second and content to follow the wheel in front of me.

The race was adequately intense with riders including myself continually gaining a little here or loosing a little there through each challenging corner. But my race was almost scripted. I would gain a position or two in the slimier sections and through the tight turns in the section called 'the pit'. Then I'd reign in my ambitions on the straights to keep my heart rate under control and watch a rider or two slip past. I slipped as far back as fifth as the race wore on and also found myself in the lead a few times.

From my perspective my pace was consistent with the position changes being attributed to extra effort being made by the riders around me. But my Garmin took the weekend off so I do not have lap time data to substantiate my claim.

At the end third lap a rider came by with authority going into the barriers. He disappeared pretty quickly. He must have been biding his time and I correctly presumed the rest of us would be racing for second.

Near the end of the fourth lap I quickly went from second to fourth as two riders came by. As we crossed the line and '1 lap to go' flashed on the board the intensity clicked up. Going from the paved section back onto the dirt I found myself between these two. The lead rider came in hot, hit the brakes hard, and I slid right up next to him while the third rider brushed past on my other side. We had worked too hard to be risking a foolish tangle and I backed off and followed these two for a bit. When we reached the tree section  the rider in front of me stepped off and then cheered me on as he righted his bike.

The tree section ends where 'the pit' section begins. There were a couple corners where I was the only rider taking some pretty bizarre lines. But these lines were keeping my tires on the fresh grass, out of the grease, and getting me through the corners faster or with less effort. By choosing one of these off grease lines I dispatched the rider in front of me to regain second place. At the next corner I clicked into six minute mode.

Six minute mode wasn't discovered in six minutes. I've been mentally recording my last lap perceived effort and respiration rate since about December of last year. This year I'm refining what my 'go all race' effort feels like. And I've learned as long as I've not exceeded my 'go all race' pace that I have about six minutes of 'go harder' before my body surrenders.

Six minute mode allows me to ride like the stronger racers around me. Out of the saddle to accelerate. Keep the pressure on the pedals down the straights even if it means wasting those precious Joules with the brakes. Looking for seconds instead of looking to conserve energy.

When we exited 'the pit' I had a couple seconds on third place. Over the next minute or two that gap doubled. It felt good to hammer a bit with the confidence that I could hold this pace through the end of the race.

At about two minutes to go I estimated the gap behind to be ten seconds but I did not relent as I could now see the leader ahead. As I entered the last set of barriers I could see him remounting. I accepted my finish position and ran the barriers carefully. And just as I remounted my breathing went into overdrive. I pushed the last couple hundred yards to cross the line with my respiration rate at 'eleven'. During my cooldown, as the oxygen deficit was being replenished, I was filled with the satisfaction of having played my cards well.

Mud faced Cyclopath

Much to my surprise my friend David had worked his way through traffic and finished third. From a third row start. On his single speed. Impressive.

After the race Mark and I walked to the pits together and talked about the race. He had figured out how to use the viewing area to his advantage and it was encouraging to hear him cheering for me multiple times per lap. Thanks Mark. He also mentioned that my speed through 'the pit' section was a big advantage over my competition. I wished I could have witnessed the race from Mark's perspective. His race review would certainly be better than mine.

After wiping the mud off my face and chipping most of it off my shins I put my muddy kit and bike in the back of the truck and headed home. On the short drive I thought about how cool it was to have another Cyclopath attend the race and share the experience. And how nice it was that I could have my best race of the season with Mark in attendance.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Grand Canyon Rim 2 Rim Run

Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Run
by: Brent Moody 

The Grand Canyon – One of the most majestic National Parks in the world.

"In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it." – Theodore Roosevelt

Grand Canyon Fun Facts:

·         Average Depth is 1 mile

·         Narrows width of  Grand Canyon is 600 yards to its widest of 18 miles

·         Grand Canyon lengths strings along for around 275 miles

·         There are 6 different kinds of rattlesnakes in the park

·         Average of 12 people die per year, but 27 year to date in 2014

·         Between 700 and 800 people a day attempt to cross  The Grand Canyon

And a bunch of us nuts really got the nerve to attempt to run…yes RUN across the Canyon. WE actually found 5 of us total that had enough marbles to do this. I know when I was asked about 6 months ago if I wanted to run this I first said, “heck yes!” But, I know in my mind for a few months after, I was self talking saying “Brent, what did you do, you idiot! You really think you can do this?” The last time I was there was when I was 4 years old, I still remember this. My parents took my brother and I. I still remember driving from Nebraska to the “4 Corners” where 4 different US states corners touch. You can actually get on your hands and knees and be in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah all at the same time, very cool. I remember as a kid getting close to the canyon, say 20-30 feet and being scared to death then! LOL. What would change now?
Well, it was time to start training for this. I had already started increasing my running mileage, as on our vagabond journeys, we have to exercise the dog.  Hes a restless boy! I figured if I was able to get in about 20-30 miles a week and start building up my 1 long run per week, I should be good.

This Grand Canyon Rim to Rim run, starting from the South Rim and running to the North Rim is 22 miles across. Elevation start is about 7100ft. Run down 6 miles, roughly an 18% grade, then rollers at the bottom for 9 miles along the river, then trekking back up the other side, approx. 7 miles with 22% grades. Tops out at 8200 ft.   That is enough to scare anyone, right?

The descent into the Grand Canyon (South Rim Kaibab Trail) 

The climb out of the Grand Canyon (North Kaibab Trail) 

The time had come so quickly, Saturday ,October 4th was the date. My wife and I was already in Phoenix, Az, so the drive up thru Flagstaff and the onto Grand Canyon was only about 3 hours. What a beauty of a drive, love FLAGSTAFF.  High Desert area turning into Alpine, around 8000-9000 ft.  I finally made it into the Grand Canyon Village..Oh my had it changed, at least what I remember since 40 years ago! The hotels were all booked, so thankfully we all booked months ago. Holiday Inn… $255 night! You have to be crazy, WOW! The Holiday Inn was the ghetto hotel in the neighborhood, so I wonder what the other hotel room rates were?  The plan was to meet my Colorado buddies about 4 pm on Friday, go gran some dinner, then get to bed early. We were planning on getting up at 5 am, and on the trail at 5:30am.  Well 5 am came very quick, only thing was the Colorado guys meant 5 am there time.. They ahd already been up an hour cause I was on Arizona time. I was late, now in a hurry and still asleep. You know what I mean? Not a great way to start a 22 mile journey across the Canyon on foot. I made it, we all hopped in my truck and off we went! We were trying to get within about 1 mile of the Canyon rim, then just jog over to the starting edge. IT WAS COLD!! 34 DEGREES. I hadn’t been in that kind of cold for 6 months or more! My teeth were chattering as I didnt want to overdress as it would get hot really fast as the sun came up. I was in a t-shirt, arm warmers, glovers, hat and shorts.  Definitely a little bare for that chill in the air.  We made it to the start line. My teeth were still chattering, but I didn’t know if it was the cold or knowing Im looking out in the deep abyss of black hole, knowing its 1 mile down, and were trusting that 2ft wide path!

Steven K and Me!

Well we were off. WE all agreed, no superman efforts, lets all stay together the til we get to the bottom and see how we all feel. Lets take in the beauty and breath taking experience this Canyon offers. I was in the back to start, knees shaking, teeth chattering, very excited, but then also moments of sheer terror as Im scared to death of heights like this. Im a pilot too, but that doesn’t bother me, weird huh? The paths down literally switchbacks about every 100 yards going down for at least the first mile, lots of rocks, steps. There were many times as we were jogging down that we all tripped stumbled. I did as well but I think if you would have looked at me I would have looked like the comic book character of “stretch man.” My arms were about 10 feet long and hold on to the canyon wall as I ran down the path.  There were A LOT of other people hiking on the trail that we passed by or walked behind for a bit. We were al lfor sure like little kids on Christmas morning, laughing and giggling with some much fun and excitement. WE couldn’t wait for it to get light out to see what the Canyon looked like. One of my favorite pictures as the twilight was arriving.

My Favorite Shot of the Trip!

It seemed like it took forever to get down, but it didn’t matter. I cant even really explain it as well as the pictures do all the justice . The Canyon just kept going down and down and down. I couldn’t believe how step it was. I had a back pack on and was carrying 50 oz of water, 8 E Gels, 5 Waffle Cookies and 2 packets of Hammer’s Perpetum for fuel. I also had some TP, gloves, extra socks, extra shirt, and some trekking poles. The good thing about the Kabib Trail, which we were taking, had water at the bottom at mile 7, again at mile 14, and mile 20. So, even though we had to plan accordingly for food and fuel, we could get water! That was a blessing as we would have had to really carry a lot of water.

Check out those Switchbacks!

 We pretty much kept all together until about half way down, a couple of the guys wanted to take off and at least bust it to the bottom. Uh Oh, I thought, here we go. I didn’t want to rip it out too fast as I knew it would thrash out the hip flexors and I would be paying for it around mile 17-22. Of course, the macho part of me couldn’t resist, and off I went to catch these guys .  Oh was it tough.. My hip flexors were already on fire about a ¼ mile after sprinting.  The sun kept coming up and showing the Grand Canyons Splendor.   I kept wondering if we would see some wildlife, and around one of the corners, wholla! A Rocky Mountain Sheep!  
Rocky Mountain Sheep just hanging out

Check out the sunshine on the Canyon Walls! Everywhere you looked, it was majestic views. This will be mostly pictures.

As we wound down to the bottom, we could finally see it, Colorado River! We knew we were there. I was so happy, Im not a super great downhiller, so now the fun was starting! As we twisted and turned, we had to come thru a tunnel and cross a suspension bridge. As we were running across the bridge, there was a river rafting company going under us with a few boats, hooping and hollering! That’s the next adventure!

Tunnel before bridge
Suspension Bridge across Colorado River

The flats were now upon us and just up around the corner was our first water stop and re-group, see how everyone is feeling….and let these hip flexors rest!
These guys were all a great group of guys, all have excelled in life! Dennis, lived most of his life near Aspen, CO and now retired and lives on a ranch in northern Colorado Southern Wyoming.  Steven K. lives near Denver and is one of the craziest guys I know. Hes the culprit always getting me in these crazy runs and races. He has a zest for life for sure! Stephen M lives near Denver as well, and is a life coach and recently wrote a book, which he gave me a copy. Wonderful book, titled “Get Real,”  read it in a few days! Tom lives up above Denver and was on search and rescue for a long time in the mountains. He had some really great stories to share.  It was great getting to know these guys during the run.
Dennis, Me, Steven K., Stephen M., Tom
After rest for a few minutes, fill up with water, it was time to get r done again! On our way were were. This stretch of run was another entire type of beauty. It was along the canyon walls and river, so lots shade, cooler, and Garmin coming in and out of signal. This was a great chance to pick up our pace a bit, and rest and relax, preparing for the gigantic climb coming up real soon. 

Creek along the very bottom of the Grand Canyon
This was a real chance to catch up, cool off, and just hear the sounds of the river coming down along the trail. This little river you see is some stream that runs into the Colorado River. From here on out, rolling hills and the start of the climb up! The next pit stop was approximately 9 miles. This was for sure a challenge as it was deceiving. Tom and I ended up taking off together after about 5 miles into this second leg. We decided we would regroup again at the next stop. A couple of the guys decided to take a dip in the stream to get that ice feeling and stop the swelling. I decided not too, too cold for me at the moment. I would change my socks, change my shirt, eat and fill up. Was starting to get a little stiff since waiting for the rest of the guys, so heres where we decided to split up.  It was about 8 more miles to the top, so Tom and I decided to hit the trail. Lets see how it goes and we would run our own last leg of the Canyon on how we felt. It was hard to get going on this leg as we had rested for about 15 minutes. It took about 1 mile to get the legs going again. Tom and I had a good chat, getting to know each other better. He was telling me about cougars in the mountains in Colorado. That would put chills on your skin, and for sure picked up my pace! It was about 3.5 miles to the next water stop, so we decided how we would feel when we got there.  WE made it to the water stop, of course after seeing so many runners and hikers coming from the other way! A lot of pleasant and encouraging people! We hadn’t used much water and thought we would skip this one and make it to the next one, which was about 2.5 miles up. Heres where the 22% grades starting kicking in. I stopped and pulled out the trekking sticks, it was time. These are one of the best investments to get for running or hiking. Make sure you buy a set that folds up real small so you can pack inside your backpack, and not have to attach them to the outside. If you’re a hiker, not as big a deal. If you’re a runner, you have to worry about those trekking sticks bouncing around… Not good! I was in my rythym and off I went. I decided I would go about a ½ mile, then wait up for Tom. Why not enjoy, get a work out, and take some good pics!

Getting the trek poles out for the climb!

Tom ready for climb!

It was really starting to get hot, and the water was going more quickly. The hot desert plays tricks on you, thinking that things are closer than they appear… On the way up, I went thru the water like it was going out of style. Had to go from running to fast walking to slow walk. Murphys Law at that time, didn’t see anyone coming down that I could ask for water. What seemed like an eternity , and some Good Samaritans I met on the trail shared some water. Boy, that was a life saver with 22% grades uphill and now temps approaching 80 degrees. I ended up finding 3 good people that shared water, was able to get me to the next water stop. Its amazing, the water is piped down in the canyon from up top! That last water stop I filled my 50 oz water bladder in m y backpack to the rim. The next 2 miles was the steepest part, rocky, with stairs, mule trains coming down. This is where my true grit would come.

Trying to find the top, where is it?

The paths didn't have much room for error!

The last tressel bridge across the canyon, 2 miles straight up and done!! Can you imagine riding a mule train down this canyon, full faith in that mule. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of the mules.
Last bridge to cross

The top is at the very little green tree

We all started trickling in at different times, as that last climb of the 7 miles strung us out. I was happy with my time, 4:59:47. Tom was next around 5:15:00, Steven K. around 5:25:00, Stephen M. around 5:45:00 and Dennis around 6:10:00. We made a run to the store up the road about a mile, grab some soda pop and salty chips, we were all craving. There was even a group of guys that had a bunch of Coronas, that shared amongst us…Beer never tasted so good!!

We made it! Beer never tasted so good
Now the shuttle bus ride back to the South Rim. The Grand Canyon is so big, and limited roads, it takes the shuttle bus over 4 hours to take us back! We could have run back at least ½ way in that amount of time. We figured and have planned for next year Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim… This is over and back, 44 miles.

Put this on your bucket list, whether you run or hike it. It is so worth it and what a wonderful memory you will always have of nature’s beauty. Remember, mind of matter. What you believe you can achieve!