Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Strike Two

The Cohutta 100 may have been my first "official" race of 2009, but it was the second race of the season so far. And so far things have not gotten off to a good start. I have one question...DO THINGS REALLY HAPPEN FOR A REASON?

As I mentioned in my report from the Ouachita Challenge Race, my bike didn't show up on the arriving flight and had to be delivered to my hotel room the night before the race, and I suffered 8 flats. In the Cohutta 100 race, once again my bike wasn't on the plane (this time I even had to spend $175 to ship it one-way) and I suffered only one flat. So as I am sitting here reflecting on these circumstances, I am still trying to figure out why they happened. I guess one day it will all make sense.

I left Portland, OR Thursday morning at 7am and after 3 layover flights I arrived in Tennessee Thursday night. Then after a 1 hour drive I arrived at my hotel at 12:15am Friday morning. What a long day. The next morning as I waited for my bike to arrive, I sat outside the hotel room and chewed the shit with some fellow cyclist (Tanguay and Kuhn) who were staying next door. Bike finally showed up around 3:30pm Friday.

Race started Saturday at 7am at the Ocoee Whitwater Center (site of the '96 Olympics whitewater kayak event). There was probably 100 riders competing in this opening race of the Nue Series. Some big names on board (Schalk, Bishop, Eatough, Koerber) who would all make a run at claiming the opening round victory. As the sound of the horn went off the race began with a steady 2.5 mile climb on pavement. Eatough was the first into the singletrack section and would enjoy the lead for approx. 8 miles. This section was fast and fun; too bad there wasn't more of this. After 17 miles the race would remain on jeep/fireroads for nearly 65 miles. Although the amount of time spent on the fireroads wasn't necessarily the most exciting, it sure as hell wasn't easy. This was definitely a climbers course, and my climbing legs stayed home in Oregon. I knew there would be a descent amount of climbing but not 12,700 ft. of it (almost of that within the 65 miles on fireroads).

Between Aid #1 and Aid #2 I found myself riding solo. The roughly 18 miles of ups and downs was only a taste of what was yet to come. When I reached Aid #2 I had to stop and adjust my seatpost as it was slipping down a little, and get my first feed bag. By the time I was ready to continue Sologoat and Prosser pulled into the Aid Station. We all took off together, but I slowly pulled away on the climb. Sologoat slowly caught up to me right before the summit and as we were getting ready to descend I flatted. Again using the Stan's another flat. Is this bad charma? Didn't have any CO2's so using the mini-pump took longer than normal to inflate. Once I reached Aid #3 I grabbed a hand pump (realizing I only had 24 psi) and began to inflate to 38 psi. For the next 15-20 miles the course became a little difficult. This is where the steepest climbs were and the roads were a little more exposed to the sun (temps were reaching record highs of 90 degrees). I settled in to a comfortable rhythm and took each climb one foot at a time.

Reaching mile 80 my legs were starting to feel better and knew I had only one or two climbs left. When the final singletrack section began around mile 88 it was a huge mental relief. With the temperatures reaching their high point most of the remaining trails would be sheltered from the sun by the trees. I had kept a bottle in my cage full of plain water to periodically dump on my head to cool my body temp. As I exited the forest for the final mile of pavement riding I was left scratching my head wondering why there wasn't more of the singletrack throughout the race. The two sections that were included were wicked and fast.

My finishing time was 7:33 (1:10 behind the winner Jeff Schalk). My goal was to finish between 7-7:30 so I am not too unhappy, but definitely know I could have done much better.

I left 90 degree Tennessee to arrive home in 40 degree Oregon and this.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Start of the Season

With the first race of the Nue Series this weekend (Cohutta 100), my season will officially begin. I was hoping to have at least two-three races under my legs before this race but needed to take care of some business with work which didn't allow this to happen. In any case, I feel like my training workouts are right where they should be and fitness has been improving slowly.
With a good field of riders showing, should make for a fast first race in the series. Looks like the weather should be ideal with temps in the 70's.
Traveling to the east coast for the majority of the races will definitely get old real quick. From Bend, there are no direct flights anywhere (a little exaggeration) and I seem to have scheduled most of my flights out of Portland, OR to save some cash. It's not the flying that bothers me, it's the length of layover time, and lack of nutritious meals available at the airports.
Bike is dialed. The only thing I am contemplating is which tires to run. Knobby or smooth?
Pics and a race report to come after the event by Tues or Wednesday next week.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Health/Nutrition Tip #2

Have you ever gone to your local grocery store, or local farmers' market and purchased produce? Great!
Now, have you spent all that money only to see the produce get too ripe before you are able to eat it all? Not good!
I love to eat lots of fruits and veggies and do not like to throw any of it away, especially considering how expensive produce can be. I have come across a product that YOU may already have heard of, or already use, that preserves your produce much longer...saving you money. Have you heard of Debbie Meyer Green Bags? You need to get them if you want fresh fruits and vegetables to last longer. I started using them last month and am sold.

These bags are made with a natural mineral called "Oya" that extends the life of produce by absorbing and removing the ethylene gases that cause natural deterioration. Best part about these bags is that they are re-usable up to 8-10 times. I can honestly say that my bananas last twice as long as before. I use them for almost all my produce (tomatoes, peppers, grapes, lettuce, etc)
Get em, try em, and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ouachita Challenge - 80, 8, 4, 5, 3, 9...6

First race of the season!
You may be asking yourself, "What do these numbers mean"? Follow along and I will explain.

Let's start with the flights on Friday. All flights depart on time and arrive on time. Left the house at 5am and the first flight left at 6:30am. Small layovers gave me time to grab some food in between flights. I arrived at the Little Rock International Airport around 6:30 pm after 3 separate flights. As I wait for my items to show up I think to myself what would I do if my bike didn't show up. Well not only did my bike NOT show up but my bag of supplies and clothing didn't show either. I think there were about 4 other passengers whose items didn't show. I should have realized at this point that the weekend wasn't going to turn out for the best.

After a call to the airlines' (I won't name any names) baggage specialist I am told that my luggage and bike will be delivered to my hotel. This happened to me once already before the 2006 Dirt Sweat and Gears 12 hour race down in TN. Fortunately, everything showed up, but on the morning of the event...little extra stress involved.
My bike and bag arrived Saturday night (race on Sunday) around 5:30pm. This left me little time to build the bike, get in a short pre-ride (around the trails by my hotel) and try to rest.

Moving on to race day.
Here is an explanation of the numbers listed in the Title:

80 - Race distance
8 - Number of flat tires
4 - Number of slashes in both my tires
5 - Number of minutes I beat the final Aid Station cut-off time by
3 - Numbers of miles throughout the race that I walked my bike while waiting to get tubes from other riders (it was harder to walk than ride on the rocks)
9 - Number of total hours it took me to finish the race
6 - Numbers of times I dropped the "F" bomb on the trails

Going back to old-school days of mountain biking, the Ouachita Challenge consisted of either a 60 mile or 80 mile one-loop option. At least 90% was true singletrack trails. Race started on Sunday at 8am with a neutral roll-out on pavement for roughly 2 miles before reaching a dirt road. Pace was mellow. On the first short hill before reaching the doubletrack the pace began to pickup. I was told that there were lots of sharp rocks and that a durable sidewall was a necessity. I was running Stan's in my Schwalbe N.N tires and figured that that would be ok. Damn was I wrong. About a mile on the doubletrack I suffered mt first of flat. Rear tire slashed! Out with the Stan's rim strip , in with a tube. After watching at least 30 riders pass by, I was back on my bike and now without a tube for the next 10-12 miles...the first of 4 Aid Stations.

Trying to bridge back toward the lead riders I was victim of yet another flat. I realized after this flat that my tire had a nice 1-inch slash on the sidewall and that the tube was actually protruding through the tire. After a 3rd flat tire I finally reached Aid Station 1. Contemplating pulling out of the race, I made the commitment to finish this race no matter how long it would take me.
By the time I reached Aid Station 2 I had a total o 5 flat tires. There however, I was able to get some assistance from the volunteers (one in particular whom I can't remember his name, but looked like Napolean Dynamite) and we jerry-rigged my tire by reinforcing the sidewall with ClifBar wrappers and duct tape (if you can't fix it...duct it).

Off I go in pursuit of the next Aid Station. My goal at this point was to make it to each Aid Station without a flat; didn't happen. In total, I flatted an avg. of 2 flats per Aid Station (15-20 miles apart). There were a few other riders having similar issues that I had because we kept passing and each other every few miles. It actually became quite comical, almost like a really bad joke.

Upon reaching the 3rd Aid Station I was told that I made the cut-off time by 5 minutes. It was now around 3pm and the temps were now beginning to drop while the winds began increasing (upwards of 20-30 mph) and I was getting pretty damn cold. Every time I had to walk my bike I got a little colder. Finally I reached the final Aid Station and the final 8 miles was on gravel/paved road.

I reached the finish line around 5:15pm (just over 9 hours) making for one long,"epic", memorable, depressing, awesome ride. That's how I would sum it up. You have to take the good with the bad in these ultra-endurance events because you never know what can and will happen. All I can hope now is that my bad luck for this season has been all used up in this race. It would have been easy to quit after 1 hour, but that's why these early races are called "training" races. Instead I was able to get in 9 hours, knowing that I had one of my worst days on the bike, and still was able to finish.
With all that happened I would highly recommend the Ouachita Challenge race to anyone who is looking for an "epic". The event is well organized, has very friendly volunteers, has some of the sweetest singletrack, and is located in a beautiful part of Arkansas (40 miles west of Hot Springs). Lake Ouachita - viewed from my hotel