Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Capitol Forest 50 race report

Damn, what can I say other than the fact that riding (yet alone racing) in the Capitol Forest area is still at the top of my list as "best places to ride your bike".  I was looking forward to this race for a few months because     when I lived in Seattle I used to ride down there a lot.

Capitol Forest is located in Washington State just south of Olympia, WA.  You exit off I-5 at exit 95 and head towards the town of Littlerock.  Another 5-10 minutes and you reach the pristine forest known as Capitol Forest which is full of pure singletrack.  Of the 50 miles included in the race, 43 were on singletrack trail that was just wider than handlebar width.  I didn't remember the trails like I thought I would so each switchback and descent was foreign.  The forest is so dense that at times it was difficult to see more than 5 feet in front of you.  I opted to wear sunglasses (as opposed to clear lenses), and there was a moment in the beginning of the race I couldn't see anything except the riders' white jersey in front of me.  Scary, but fun!

The race was staged at the Evergreen Sportman's Club.  Jenny and I drove up on Friday and spent the night with her folks in Covington, WA which turned out to be just over an hours drive away.  Left the house at 6:30am (hot coffee in the cup holder) and arrived at 7:50am.  This was definitely later than I was hoping.  The temps were chilly (low 60's) but sunny and humid.  After a short warm up I headed to the start line.

start of the race

As a result of a short warm up, I didn't get as good a start as I would have liked.  The race began with a short road/gravel section before reaching the singletrack.  I entered the singletrack section in 4th position, and because it was so narrow there was no room to pass.  After a few miles I could see 2 riders in front getting a little gap on the rider in front of me.  I wanted to pass, but couldn't.  At the first opportunity I was able to get around and begin my chase of the 2 leaders.  I quickly caught 1 rider but didn't know how far the leader was ahead.  We slowly climbed, sections exposed to the sun and others in deep forest.  The trails were so sweet, and most of it was rolling terrain so keeping your speed high was easy.  After some more miles, we came to a clearing and I could see the rider in the lead (Logan Wetzel) a short distance in front.

As we approached Aid Station #2 I had caught up to him but he didn't stop and I did.  I was stopping at each Aid Station to refuel and it was costing me time.  I lost sight of him after the Aid Station and had been caught by the rider behind me.  Since their was no "bag drop" for the 50 milers (stashing items in a bag to be picked up at Aid Stations) I had to stop at refuel each time.  It seemed like Logan had someone in the Aid Stations handing him bottles to save him from having to stop. More singletrack miles ticked away, and each mile I was reminded just how damn good the riding is here.  The course was much dryer than I expected, it seemed like every time I rode down here it was always wet and muddy.  The start was a bit dusty, but as we climbed higher and rode deeper in the forest the trails were perfect tacky dirt.  Much of the course was smooth, but also included plenty of roots and rocks.

Around Aid Station #4 (mile 27), we began a 7 mile fireroad climb.  It wasn't until about mile 31 that I could see Logan up ahead.  I could tell I was gaining ground on the climb.  At mile 34 we entered back into the singletrack and the remaining 16 miles would be some of the best singletrack around.  I didn't know how far behind Logan I was at this point, so I just put my head down and tried to push it as hard as I could.  Having some fatigue still in the legs from the Breck Epic I could tell they were starting to get a little tired, especially on the steeper climbing sections.   There was a climb around mile 40 that seemed to really slow things down.  I felt like I was crawling along and every time I looked down at the odometer it seemed to say the same thing.  The last 10 miles of the race were rough.  When I crossed the line I thought I was only a few minutes behind Logan, but I checked the results to day and saw that I was just 7 minutes behind.  He's a strong rider and rode a good race.

Results here

To go along with a great event venue, the crew at 4th Dimension Racing know how to keep you feeling happy after a hard day in the saddle.  There was a huge post-race feed of burgers, pizza, beer, and other snacks...and a live band.  All in all a fun day on the bike and a reminder of why I love to ride at Capitol Forest.

After some grubbing and hanging out with some old friends, I was off to Seattle for a wedding.  Trying to "make good time" in the Seattle traffic is never a good thing.  After picking Jenny up at Southcenter Mall (probably the busiest mall in the Northwest) we were on our way with minimal time to spare.  Ahhhhhhhh!!!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Upcoming Race - Capitol Forrest 50

This weekend I am heading up to Washington State for the Capitol Forest 50 race near Olympia, WA.  I mentioned in a previous post that Capitol Forest is one of my favorite riding areas; it's full of pure singletrack and lots of roots and rocks.  The one thing that I don;t miss about riding there is the mud.  I think about 80% of the time I rode there it was super muddy and it really is the kind of mud that gunks your bike up.  Hopefully this weekend will be dry.

Here is a great sampling of what Capitol Forest has to offer. Thick lush forest with narrow singletrack...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Random Breck Pics

Now that all the chaos of the Breck Epic race is over, here are some other photos taken during our trip to Breckenridge, CO.  It was certainly one to remember.

this is awesome!

what a goofy couple

the sign says it all

can you see the Billy Goat's?

overlooking Blue Lake near Hoosier Pass

Friday, August 17, 2012

Breck Epic Stage 6

The final stage of the race!  Today's word of the day..."pssssss" (yes it's a word in my vocabulary, damn it)

Today we started at the Ice Rink and rolled up Boreas Pass Rd for a few miles before turning left onto a singletrack trail.   As with most xc races, there was a cluster f _ _ k as we entered the singletrack.  As in the previous 3 stages, I had a hard time getting my breathing under control.  Once things settled down it was once again Shawn Bunnin, myself, and Nathan Brown riding together.  We eventually caught up to Ryan Clark and Zeke Hersh.  It stayed this way for a while until we popped out of the trail and onto a fireroad, which would be the first of 2 long steady climbs.

 Nathan, Ryan, and myself began to pull away from the others and settled into a fast pace that was making it difficult to get a deep breath in.  I knew today was going to be a shorter day, so I wasn't too concerned about burning the matches so to speak.  We continued climbing and eventually reached the summit and Aid Station #1.  Grabbed a bottle and pushed on.  We entered a fun singletrack descent that was filled with burms and turns.  There must have been about 100 swooping turns in this section.

We then popped out onto another fireroad and continued climbing.  This is when I noticed I had a slow leak in my rear tire.  Slow leaks to me are the worst because it's tough deciding whether or not to keep riding.  I stopped and filled the tire with some Co2 to top it off hoping that  it would fill and let the Stan's sealant work it's magic.  Well it wouldn't, it continued to slowly leak (aka:  psssss).  So over the next 5-8 miles or so, i stopped a few more times just topping the tire off rather than completely fixing the flat.  I eventually lost contact with Nathan and Ryan but could still see them a short distance away.  This climb would turn out to be a brutal climb due to the headwind.  I'm not sure how strong it was blowing but it sure felt like at least a 20-30 mph wind.  Riding solo into this wind was extremely tough, would have been nice to have others to draft off.

After pushing myself in and out of the pain cave I finally reached the summit and Aid Station #2, with the Duo team of Blake Harlan and Bryan Alders shortly behind.  Grabbed another bottle and a PBR (yes today someone was handing out cans of PBR).  Man, the things we do during bike races, first it's bacon at 12,200ft, then it's a PBR at 11,000ft.  I took 2 big sips and tossed it to the side and began a fast descent down the fireroad we climbed the first time.  3-4  miles on this road and then we made a left turn into a rocky descent.   I stopped once again in this section to top off the rear tire.  I could hear the rim banging against the rocks and being a carbon Enve rim I was getting worried I was going to ruin the rim.  After cautiously manuevoring my way down this trail Harlan and Alders passed me and once we reached the bottom that's when I decided to fix the frickin' flat.  I had had enough and didn't want to ruin the rim.  While fixing the flat I was passed by at least 5-6 more riders and there was only about 2.5 miles to the finish.  As they say, "timing is everything".  I was mentally defeated and the remaining few miles to the finish were demoralizing to say the least.

I had lost my Top-10 placing anyways as Jake Wells had a stellar day today finishing in 3rd place.  This I believe moved him into 10th.  I finished 11th overall.

All I can say is that I rode my ass off this week and didn't leave anything on the table.  Riding at altitude is definitely a new challenge, each day seemed to be a new hurdle.  I was hoping to finish in the Top 10, but results are not everything.  The experiences I encountered this week, the pain I endured, the trails I rode, and the people I met totally out weight a result.  This is the type of race that makes you or breaks you...and I can honestly say I was close to being broken a few times.  Super tough event and would recommend it to anyone who had above average bike skills, and wants to suffer, alot.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Breck Epic Stage 5

Well well well, the queen stage of the race, Wheeler Pass.  The word for today's stage was "hike-a-bike".

congregating before today's start

We staged today's race at the Beaver Run Ski Lift and immediately began what turned out to be a 40 minute'ish climb up Wheeler Pass.  Included in theis climb was a 3 mile hike-a-bike section that would eventually bring us to the summit at over12,200ft.  Trying to breath while pushing a bike at that elevation after already feeling tired is torture.  The cool thing about it was the views.  Fortunately, due to the low speed of pushing a bike, I was able to look around and soak in the views of the mountains that surrounded us.  It reminded me a little of the Trans Rockies race a few years ago when we crossed the Continental Divide., panoramic!  Upon reaching the summit, there was a guy handing out strips of cooked bacon (that's right, bacon) and damn did it taste good.  Being handed bacon at 12,200ft on a bike ride is something I am not accustomed to on a regular basis...:-)

Great stage highlights once again from Thom Parsons.  Check it here.  Don't mind my lame bike skills thru the rocks.

As with all climbs there is always the reward of a descent.  And by descent I mean a 20 min screamin' descent over loose rocks and along a ridge.  Make a wrong move or turn and the result could be ugly.  No wrong turns for me ...:-).  By the time I reached the bottom of the descent my hands had gone numb, and for the remainder of the stage I had the feeling of needles in my hands.  Shawn Bunnin and I rode the remaining miles to the finish together; which when you are out in the middle of nowhere it's always nice to have another rider nearby.  We continued descending from Wheeler Pass along a bike path from Copper Mtn. towards Breckenridge.   We were able to trade pulls which allowed us to keep our speed high and conserve a little energy.

This path lasted for about 5 miles before we reached Aid Station #3.  We both grabbed a bottle and continued on to the finish. and for the next 8 miles or so we rode some of the best technical, rooty singletrack around.  We paralleled a river and the trail was constantly undulating, however, it sure felt as though we were just climbing more.  Roots covered the trail and occasionally we came across some rocky sections and log bridges, but mostly just roots.   I rode the full suspension bike today so riding over the roots was much more enjoyable than it has been the last few days.

Near the finish Shawn took the lead and I dropped my chain so he crossed the line a few seconds ahead of me.  Shawn and I raced against each other a few weeks ago at the Furious 3 event up in Fernie, BC.  Today's stage was very reminiscent of that race as he and I finished 1,2 at that event and always were riding together in the lead.

Finished 13th today and held on to 10th overall in GC.  I am up 7 minutes on Jake Wells who is sitting in 11th, and am only 6 minutes behind Zeke Hersh who is in 9th.  The fight for the overall win is even closer between Matt Buekes, Ben Sonntag, and Ben Melt Swanepoel.  As Jerry (the awards announcer) put it, it's gonna be a dog fight tomorrow.  Throw them in a cage and lock the door.  Should be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Weather the last 2 days has been nothing but ideal with temps in the 70's and sunny.  It seems as though I can sense the fatigue amongst other riders and that everyone is looking forward to the final day.  Looking at last years' results, the final day seems to be a shorter distance, less climbing, and less total ride time as well.   

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Breck Epic Stage 4

Today's word of the day was "suffer"...'nuff said

Check out this cool video of today's stage, of course it looks much easier than it was.

I'm going to keep this short and simple.  Stage 4 was all about climbing and epic singletrack.  When I woke up this morning I was feeling good, however, once I started climbing all things changed.  I was having a hard time breathing and my legs felt like they were filled with cement.   The total mileage today was just over 40 miles, and from about mile 18 I was hurting.  I couldn't get into a rhythm on the climbs and seemed to struggle on the technical descents as well.  I guess it was one of those days, and unfortunately, I lost a few minutes to the rider behind me (Zeke Hersh) so I am now in 10th overall in the GC.

I hope my body responds better tomorrow because we will be climbing up to Wheeler Pass over 12,000ft.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Breck Epic Stage 3

I will stay with the theme I have going.  So, today's stage word of the day is "altitude", as in very high and near 12,000ft.  Breathing was a little more difficult at times today as we crossed the Continental Divide I believe.

There was talk last night during the racers meeting that if the weather had continued as it was yesterday that they would possibly cancel the stage.  Fortunately, the weather gods cooperated with us and provided a prefect day with sun and mild temps.  Seeing as though we climbed up to nearly 12,000ft the temps definitely dropped near the summit but not too bad.

More great race highlights from Thom Parsons

We rolled out as we did yesterday only adding some more dirt road mileage.  It started out nice and smooth but quickly turned to typical "Colorado rocky".  The leaders quickly began to pull away and I had nothing in the tank at he moment to redline the HR.  I was able to maintain a steady pace along with Nick Truitt and one other rider as we began to climb on Minne Mine trail I believe.  This was a nice flowing trail that traversed along a ridge before dropping down a very technical rocky road.  A couple gravel roads mixed in and a few Aid Stations preceded the epic climbs of the day.  The first was to the highest point on the course.  There were a few hike-a-bike sections as well for good humor.  Trying to push your bike up a 30 degree pitch above 11,000ft is harder than it sounds.  Oh and just to make it even more fun the trail was flooded with rocks.  Upon reaching the summit I took a few deep breaths and began what was so far the most gnarly descent.  Not sure how long it was but it was a super narrow trail with raised grass edges on each side.  If you didn't keep your tire in the trail you were in for some trouble.  I nearly ate it twice, just barely keeping the rubber side down.  As I always like to say, "out of control, yet in control".

descending near the finish

After wiping the groin off my face at the bottom it was time to put the frown face back on as it was time to begin yet another steep climb.  This one however was as bad as most of it was on a relatively smooth fireroad.  There was a group of 4 of us working together on this climb (Jake Wells, Nick Truitt, Zeke Hersh, and myself).  We were caught by singlespeeder Macky Franklin and I worked to stay on his wheel.  As I did this I separated myself from the other 3 riders.  This climb lasted a good 20-30 minutes and then we began another frickin' sweet descent.  This time we descended the Colorado Trail.  It began as a smooth switch-backy trail that turned to a rooty (BC style) trail and finally finished as a gnarly rocky trail.  I think this was the most fun section of the day.  I love when you have to concentrate so hard to choose a good line; the consequences could be pretty damn bad if you were to choose a bad line.  I was caught by Truitt and I stayed on his wheel as we passed a few other riders.  At the bottom Hersh joined us as we picked up another bottle in the Aid Station and began the final climb of the day.  I thought this would be a little easier looking at the course profile, but this climb (mostly fireroad) seemed to be the hardest.  It might be due to the fact that there were some very steep sections that I could just muster enough strength to turn the pedals.  I think the only thing keeping me going was the Hammer Nutrition in my bottles.

hanging out post-race

After finishing this climb the final miles left were a combination of rocky jeep roads, and more singletrack.   I could definitely feel the legs beginning to lose energy and it became harder to turn a bigger gear.  I was just hoping there would be any surprise climbs left on the course.  With about 2 miles to go, Hersh (10th overall) slowly opened a gap on me that I wasn't able to close.  The time he put on me today narrowed my lead on him for 9th place in the GC.

I think I finished around 9th or 10th today but will know for sure later tonight.

I think this video sums up yesterday's Stage 2.  It's from Thom Parsons who has been out on the course shooting lots of video and sharing post-race interviews on cyclingdirt.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Breck Epic Stage 2

Yesterday's word of the day was "rocks", today's stage 2 word of the day was "rain", and lots of it.

Great video stage highlights from Thom Parsons

The race began with a neutral roll out on pavement  for a few miles before taking a left turn onto a jeep/rocky road.  This was when the race officially began as was noted by how quickly the pack separated.  We climbed this road for a few miles before leveling off and descending a bit.  Not before long though we were to climb what the locals call "heinous hill", a steep, rocky, loose, kick on the balls climb.  Not sure how many miles the climb was but definitely too long to remember.  Lots of heavy breathing, un-clipping from pedals, and profanity was heard during this climb...good times!

Once we crested the top we were rewarded with some sweet singletrack twisting in and around trees.  this lasted for a while allowing me, and others I'm sure to get their breath and drink some fluids.  Around this time is when the rain began falling; starting off as a mist at first and then turning into a downpour.  It would continue for the remainder of the race; very reminiscent of Furious 3 Stage 2.   We were fortunate enough to ride part of the Colorado Trail today which is a buff section of trail (think Pacific Crest Trail but for riding your bike on).  The trail was so fast there were times where I just couldn't help but coast and enjoy it.  

By this time my hands and feet were beginning to get pretty damn cold.  The trails were lined with puddles which was splashing mud onto my face making it very difficult to see.  I had bagged the sunglasses at Aid #1 for clear lenses, but those didn't help much either.  So riding without glasses and wearing contacts is a nightmare when it rains and it's muddy.  I remember one experience riding at Capitol Forrest in Washington State where the same thing was happening but that time my contacts actually fell out.  Shit, I couldn't see anything and I slowed way down.  Fortunately, today things worked out alright although my eyes are quite dry at the moment and took a while to pry my contacts out of my eyes.

After we reached Aid #2 I grabbed a rain jacket that I placed in my "drop bag" and it was a welcome treat.  For the next 2-3 miles we rode on pavement and the combination of rain, cold temps, and wind would have dropped my body temp even more, so the jacket was hugely critical.  We reached some more jeep/rocky roads followed by more technical/rooty singletrack climbing before the final descent to the finish.  See the finish today was another sense of relief and getting my cycling clothes off as fast as possible and into dry clothes was priority #1.  I finished with a time of 3:34 and in 11th place.  I am currently sitting 9th overall in the GC (:38 min back).

Great article here worth reading

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Breck Epic - Stage 1

I would say that today's first stage was a "survival" stage.  Looking at the course profile on paper it looks nothing like a difficult day; and by difficult I mean one that you are looking forward to it being over.  We covered 40 miles and climbed just over 4600 ft.  A tough day but, much tougher than I had anticipated.

  early on during Stage 1

Going into the first stage my plan was to be a little conservative, and I can honestly say that I stuck to my plan.  After looking at my GPS device I noticed my average HR was 145 and my max HR was only 157.  I wanted to stay right around or below my threshold and those #'s reflect that perfectly.  I am hoping that this will pay off towards the end of the week with my legs still feeling fairly fresh to put in a surge during stage 4-6.

I didn't have too many issues today other than 1 flat within the first 8 miles.  At the time I was with the lead group but had to stop and fix the flat and saw many riders pass.  I eventually passed most of those riders but wasn't able to catch back to the lead group, nor did I expect to either.  I settled into a good tempo rhythm and hoped for the best.  Finished 8th overall, 21 min back from the winner.

local Breck rider Josh Tostado

descending near the finish

pushing on near the finish

The word for today was "rocks".  I don't think I have ever ridden 40 miles having my tires hit so many rocks.       I don't think that there was a section where I didn't see a rock.  I would say that the hardest section of the course were the jeep roads; loaded with loose rocks the size of a helmet.  Without being able to choose a good line I tried to ride straight through the rocks but just ended up getting bounced around like a pinball.  There were even a few hike-a-bike sections, which I do feel are a necessity in a true mountain bike race.  The mindset of the day though was "please don't flat again, please don't slice a tire, just get to the finish".  And that's why I named this stage a "survival" stage, just finishing and not loosing too much time.

an easy section of singletrack with rocks

Overall I felt that my breathing didn't have any effect on my performance, however, it definitely felt like my legs would not respond as I wanted them to.  Picture Uma Thurman in the movie "Kill Bill Vol. 1 sitting in the car and trying to get her big tow to move.  That's exactly how I felt with my legs, trying to get them to spin a little faster but just wouldn't.

Well it was an epic day in the saddle and the best part is that there are 5 more days to come.

video from Blake Harlan - Stage 1

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The storm before the storm

Getting ready for what should be an adventurous week of riding here in Breckenridge, CO.

While the storm of the race approaches, so did the rain gods as heavy rain and drizzling rain soaked the ski village; even a few thunder crackles were heard during the afternoon.  Much like the high dessert in Central Oregon, the high alpine trails here in Breck seem to soak up the rain quite well, so this should make for some pretty sweet  trail conditions come race day/s.

If you are interested in following the race, you can follow along with the gang over at Cycling Dirt  who will be covering the event with highlights from each stage (including results, interviews, and videos).  Here is their 2012 Breck-Epic Preview.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Breck Epic

I found this article and thought it was appropriate to include in my report since I am competing in one of their "toughest" races in the world, the Breck Epic.  A few other races on the list that are familiar among us Americans is the BC Bike Race, Leadville 100 Run, and Kona Ironman Hawaii.  Another race that was listed on the site and one in which I hope to participate in next season is the Trans Pyr; an 8-stage mtb race through the Pyranees mountains in northern Spain.  The race covers over 500 miles and almost 67,000ft of climbing...Ouch!  Hopefully more on this later

For this article here is the Breck Epic...

The 12 Hardest Races in the World

Breck Epic - Colorado
The crux of the six-day Breck Epic mountain bike stage race comes on day five during the grind up Wheeler Pass, a craggy ribbon of trail that rises above treeline on the west side of the event's host city Breckenridge, Colorado. While much of the trail is rideable, there's a sustained section of soul-crushing hike-a-bike. "That's the moment of dread for most of our racers," says event director Mike McCormack. "The sense of accomplishment from surviving that is pretty huge." Same goes for the rest of the 240-mile race, which never dips below 10,000 feet, has 37,000 feet of total climbing, and crosses the Continental Divide four times.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Heading to higher grounds

In just a few days, I will be embarking on a completely new experience.  I will be heading to Breckenridge, CO, which site at an elevation of 9600 ft., and competing in the Breck Epic.  The Breck Epic is now in it's 3rd year and offers a 3-day and 6-day option.  I am doing the 6-day race; which when it's all over I will have climbed over 37,000 ft (the same amount as the Tour of Utah...but on a mountain bike) and rode over 240 miles (all between 9600 - 12,000 ft elevation).  I have only competed in one other event above 8000ft.  (Brian Head Epic 100 in Utah).  Racing for one day at high elevation is one thing, but to repeat racing efforts for 6 days will certainly be a new challenge.

My home town, Bend, OR, sits at an elevation of only 3600 ft..  I've been told that in order to really benefit from living at elevation, you need to live at at least 5500 ft.  I have raced in five (5) multi-day MTB stage races (the longest being 9 days), so I am confident in my abilities to push myself for several days. The only question going into the Breck Epic will be if my lungs can withstand the lack of oxygen while trying to push myself like I normally do.  Day 1 will be a good gauge of how I respond, and will set the tone for the rest of the week.

Here is a You Tube video of what I can expect to see in a few days.

Stay tuned for race reports beginning Aug 12th.