Sunday, October 24, 2010
I had made a critical mistake which was not preriding the course at all. This was to have a big effect on my race. The gun went off and the pack shot up the road to the a short ATV trail climb that had me at max heart rate immediately with tons of skinny dudes in spandex passing me. This is bad. Then there was a downhill right away that was about the scariest thing I have done on a bike due to all the yahoos around me that don’t know how to ride down hills. I thought I was going to be hit by, or run into, someone any second. Bad course design to have a congested downhill 2 minutes into the race. They need to start with a longer climb to sort out the pack.
Right away I noticed the TOTAL LACK of course markings as we rolled down a big dirt road to the flats. And then, I saw a marker that pointed straight ahead, but everyone was turning left!!! What the ....! I followed the group and started a good climb past some houses and into the woods on trail. Again, barely or nonexistent markers. This is the part where you would expect spray paint on the road with arrows. Nope.
Up this first real ascent I labored trying to not go too hard since I knew I had to do this for the next 6-8 hours or so. I saw a few marking flags at one point and figured they were saying I was on the right trail. At the top of this climb I saw a bunch of racers yelling and running around apparently trying to find the race route. No markers. No tire tracks. Three trail options. So much for the awesome course marking I heard about the night before! In the hectic mindset of the race start I followed a group up a trail I KNEW was the wrong way, but I had no way to find the right way. In hindsight, I should have backtracked the way I came up until I found the turn, which was at the flags I had seen earlier. In the heat of the moment I just felt I had to keep moving, and thought that we would get back on track pretty soon based on some comments from some of the group. It was pretty demoralizing to have this happen this early in the race. Anyway, it ended up that we did an extra hour and maybe added 8-10 or so miles to the race course, including a LOT more climbing. When someone had said “We can get back to the road this way” I figured they meant 15 minutes or something, not an hour plus. I was pretty angry at this point.
The misdirect really messed things up in my fueling plan and I didn't bring backup calories for such a contingency. My one bottle of Perpetuem didn't last the 3 hours it took to get to the first aid station. My water just barely lasted. So in the first leg I already was bonked. I refueled at that first station, ate a clif bar, took two Endurolites, drank two bottles of water, refilled my camelback, and mixed another bottle of Perpetuem. The second section was STEEP AS HELL right out of the gate and I was redlining hard. It was also hot as hell out like 95 degrees. It was 3 miles of mostly pushing up a sandy two track. During this section I was thinking I should turn around and quit. I was going SO SLOW and just redlining my system it was really ridiculous. The leaders in the 100 miler started passing me in this section, looking like machines cranking up this stuff that was killing me. Tinker Juarez, a mtn bike racing legend, and local endurance master Bill Martin passed me on the steepest hill of the whole course so far. Tinker was pushing his bike, which gave me a small bit of satisfaction, and close behind him was Bill cranking in the granny gear. "This is brutal...." croaked Bill. I kept pushing till the top of the sand hill/hell and then hit the Continental Divide Trail singletrack which was where things got a little better. Fantastic trail. Not as steep climbing. Somewhere in this part I started getting leg muscle cramps which was a new experience for me. Super painful. Had to get off and walk or pedal super slow. They went away pretty quick but scared me into going slower still. At 5 hours I kind of got a second wind and settled into a rythym for the rest of my race. I also ran out of water and Perpetuem at 5 ish hours. So for the last hour I had no water. Doh! It was rainy by then though and not quite as hot.
I finally made it to the second aid station. I was a little out of it but not too bad. I was cashed for any sort of steep climbing though, and the next section was called the 8 MILES OF HELL. All up. Steeply. I could have kept going but it would have been pretty dumb to push my bike for the next 8 miles at a snails pace. I had already done what I could tell was a TON of climbing with my 200 pound self. I decided to call it good as I had done 33 miles in 6.5 hours. I figure if I hadn't gotten on the wrong trail early and added a bunch of miles (6-10 depending on who you ask) and climbing I may have made it up the next 8 miles and THEN quit...haha!
We staked out a campsite up on Homestake Pass about a half mile from the race start. Some other friends showed up and we made a big fire, cooked a bunch of food and had some beers and stories around the fire. I made the mistake of trying to “carbo-load” and ate about 2 pounds of pasta with sausage and a burrito. I was also trying to “hydrate” and drank at least forty two water bottles before going to bed. This overindulgence produced all sorts of problems for me that night. I had to get up at least 5 times to go to the bathroom in the woods and had to pee every 15 minutes it seemed. It was terrible. My stomach was totally freaking out and I barely slept. Of course this is after I proclaimed haughtily at the campfire how “I NEVER get stomach issues like all these delicate XC racer types....” HA! So it was up early on no sleep and still having digestive problems all morning.
E-Mule was doing the Butte 100 and was decidedly more prepared than I was. He had done a lot of 24 hour races this year and trained specifically since like January for this type of event. His bike was a full rigid Niner Air 9 set up 1x9 running tubeless tires. I took it off my bike rack when we go to camp and was astonished at how light it was. I think it weighed as a complete bike as much as my wheels alone did on my bike. Uh oh.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
After I decided to do the race, I think I had three weeks or so to tune up my training for the event. I had been splitting my time between road biking and mountain biking and continued to do so. I knew the course would have a ton of climbing: around 9000 ft for the 50 miler. Every Tuesday I ride the road bike up Bozeman Pass from Livingston on the frontage road. It is a 12.5 mile climb at a pretty mellow grade. I usually get up it in about an hour. I kept that up, and added going down the other side of the pass to Jackson Creek and got another half hour of climbing in. I also made sure to do some moderate intensity intervals on the long climb. I was doing 4x6 minute cruise intervals and then going real hard up any of the shorter steeper sections.
I also did some 2-3 hour road rides. The weekend before I did big mtn bike rides back to back on Saturday and Sunday. From my house I rode the highway to Suce Creek and then up and over and came out Livingston Peak Road to Swingley and then home. That was about 25 miles and three hours and 3600 feet of climbing. I felt good and strong for the most part. Sunday I did Bangtail Divide as a loop from Brackett Creek. 4:20 ride time, 31 miles, and 4000+ ft climbing. I felt pretty good on that one too. I had done it in June and gone 40 minutes slower, so that was good improvement.
In a colossal failure of judgement I decided NOT to preride the course at all. In hindsight this was a major error, given that it is only a 1.5 hour drive away. I was relying on course maps and descriptions, both of which proved to be woefully inadequate.
I felt I had basically done the bare minimum amount of training to be able to survive and perhaps finish an event like this.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Sometime in early July 2010 I decided I would do the Butte 50 portion of the Butte 100 endurance mountain bike race. I had been riding and training from 5-12 hours a week since May and I decided I had enough fitness to warrant a try at this type of race. I knew I had NO chance of doing well, and also a big chance I wouldn’t even finish but I figured regardless of outcome I would know if this type of racing is something I wanted to do. I had a bike that was totally wrong for this type of race, I was over 200 lbs in bodyweight, and the longest I had ever ridden any type of bicycle was about 5 hours. But I wanted to do it, and I had been riding more than I have in years in the spring and summer.
The Butte 50 Part 2: The Bike
I had one mountain bike at this time, which is a 07 Santa Cruz Heckler full suspension bike with 6 inches of travel. It weighs about 35 pounds which is ridiculous for any sort of race bike other than for downhill. Using this bike for this race is like racing a bobsled in a XC ski race. You basically push it uphill, but the downhills are pretty fun! But it is my only bike so I am using it. I decided to prep it as best I could for limited funds and time.
I figured the drivetrain was most critical and had to be basically new to ensure no problems out on the course. I go through bottom brackets pretty quick being 200 lbs and my current BB was toast and making bad noises. I had crappy Shimano XT Octalink cranks/BB but they never seemed to last or not make noise in some fashion. So I got a whole new setup with Truvativ Stylo GXP’s, and a new chain and cassette. Also I redid my shifter cables. The Stylo’s with the outboard bearings felt solid as hell, but time will tell if they last.
I got some new ODI Rogue Lock-on grips, which are softer large diameter grips which are good for my bigger hands. I had ODI Ruffians on before, but they are too hard. I replaced my 90mm stem with a 120mm I had lying around, as the size Medium Heckler frame is actually a little short in the top tube for real XC riding. I have dealt with it for years but any steep extended climbing was pretty unpleasant. Downhill of course was super fun having a shorter bike to whip around so I had always tolerated the less than optimum fit. The longer stem stretched me out over the front more and weighted the front wheel enought to really help the climbing. The final cockpit modification was some bar ends. I got the smaller Serfas type which really helped by giving me alternate hand positions during climbing. I have issues with carpal-tunnel and hand numbness and need all the help I can get to be able to move them around during rides and not keep them in the same position for too long.
Tires: My rear tire was a slow rolling Maxxis Minion 2.3 which is kept on there. I had a Maxxis ADvantage 2.4 on the front which I replaced with a WTB MutanoRaptor 2.4 which is actually like a 2.2 in width. In hindsight I really should have replaced the rear but I didn’t want to spend any more money than I already had. The WTB front I had laying around from when I did the 24 Hours of Rapelje, a fantastic event, a few years before which was also the last time I had raced my bike.