Sunday, December 22, 2013

2013 Cross Season Wrap-Up

My 2013 Cyclocross season ended with a whimper last Sunday at Kringle Cross.  This was the BIG weekend for cross racing here in Boise.  The Idaho State CX Champs were on Saturday, followed by Kringle Cross, the last race in the Waffle Cross Series, on Sunday. We had cold temps, snow, ice, mud, beer, a Food Truck Rally, waffles, costumes, and Waffle Cross Series championships up for grabs .  There were plenty of reasons to be mentally and physically “up” for this weekend.

And they're off!  Masters 45+ Race Start
The whimper?  I simply felt flat and raced poorly both days last weekend and it is still eating at me.

You know that feeling when you can stand and hammer out of every corner, easily stick to the wheel in front of you, or respond when a rider accelerates? Yeah, I didn't have that feeling last weekend. You know that feeling when you go into every corner with confidence regardless of the surface or angle?  Yeah, I didn't have that feeling either.  Feeling flat and lacking confidence is no way to go through a cross race.

Givin' her all I've got Captain...but it wasn't enough

The Cat 1/2, 3, 35+ Race was muddy!
 Ok, let’s turn this frown upside down, shall we?  In contrast to my racing performance, the State Champs / Kring Cross weekend was rad! The Idaho Waffle Cross crew did a great job with the “Big Show” and created an awesome atmosphere for cross racing.  They took their already excellent event promotion & organization up another notch.  There was a giant heated tent for registration, great course markings, sponsor & event banners throughout the venue, a dedicated timing tent, and of course plenty of good food and beer to keep the spectators happy...very PRO.  Overall, racer attendance was a little less than I thought it would be which begs the question:  Should the Idaho State CX Champs be held at the end of November?  Just wondering out loud whether some folks lose their cross mojo once we get into December.

Nancy Odle rocking the Gingerbread Cookie costume. Best costume winner!

Kringle Cross was festive!

Mike Kennedy sporting a Tu Tu, bows, and nipple bells! Nice!

We had an Abominable sighting at Kringle Cross!
 Prior to the State Champs weekend, we had several great weekends of racing to sharpen our skills and tune the engines.


Dec 7th - Eagle Island CX @ Eagle Island State Park
Snow!  We woke up tp 2-4” of cold, dry snow on Saturday morning and temps stayed in the low 20s all day keeping things wintry throughout the races.


Conditions were cold & snowy for Eagle Island CX
Team Real Theater put on a great event in challenging conditions and the venue at Eagle Island State Park is just gorgeous.  I was excited to race in the snow and felt pretty confident ripping around the course despite the slippery conditions. The crux of the course was the steep run up and if you didn't have toe spikes, you were in for a long day. I had toe spikes. :-)


Twisting through the trees
 The Masters 45+ raced with the Cat 4 men and we had a decent sized field sharing the course. My personal race sorted out very quickly at the front as I battled with three Cat 4 racers who I traded the overall lead with several times before opening a little gap on the last lap and taking the W.


Ron Miller with a PRO shoulder-carry up the run up. Toe Spikes!
Nov 23 - 24 - SICX #6 & #7 @ Sandy Point
Frozen grass and failing SRAM Hydros was the theme for this Sandy Point weekend.  My goal was simply to race as hard as I could for 60’ each day and try to stay with the fast Masters 35+ group as long as possible.  The timing of this race made it good training for State Champs.

Remount on top of the SICX Flyover
As much as I love the venue at Sandy Point, I have yet to have a good race there. I struggled Saturday with a few off-camber corners in particular as well as the beach run up. I just never got in a groove and made several little mistakes that cost me time. As the sun got higher in the sky, the frozen grass began to thaw and things got increasingly more slippery with every lap during the race.


When I got home from Saturday’s race, I noticed that my rear brake was a little mushy. Not bad, but not crisp either. A little voice in the back of my brain said “bleed it!”...but I didn’t.

We had overnight temps in the low 20s and as I was warming up, my brakes were losing pressure. As we are now learning, SRAM Hydro Road Disc brakes don't like sub-freezing temps. With 30’ until my race, I had no rear brake. I was ready to call it day early but Steve (Dirt Dart Mobile Bike Service) and I attempted a last-minute brake bleed but we missed a step under pressure (with no manual or YouTube available) and I was out of luck. I got SRAM’d.


Steve and his Dirt Dart Trailer are a regular fixture at the Boise Cross races. Thanks Steve!
 Nov 9-10 - Idaho Waffle Cross Series, Turkey Cross

The theme of my Turkey Cross was chilly, dry, and one bunny-hop gone wrong.  I had a solid race on Saturday and battled with Ron Miller and Rob Burke for the top three spots in the Master’s 45+ race. I was able to hold off Rob for 2nd place but Ron was too smoove (yeah, I said smoove) and rode off the front for the win.


Turkey Cross - Staging the Masters 45+ / Cat 4 race


Trying to hold off a determined Rob Burke

A little post-race interview with Brian Price, co-organizer of the Idaho Waffle Cross Series

Sunday was new day and I was ready to rock. I got to the venue early and planned on doing several laps to get my lines dialed in. My first practice lap was mellow...just scouting things out and seeing what the Waffle Crew changed overnight. On my second lap, I came into the 10” double barriers and thought, “I am SO bunny-hopping these”. I backtracked a bit, and then got up some speed before hopping the first barrier...but I clipped my rear wheel and endo’d into the frozen grass. My left shoulder and head took the brunt of the impact. As I layed there in heap, Zach came down from the parking lot to help as he had seen the whole show from above. My left arm wasn't working.  Ruh Roh. My first thought was “broken collarbone”, but Zach said my shoulder looked out of whack.  Luckily, Dr. Lori Smith was in attendance to race and came over to check me out. She sat me on my tailgate, had me hold my arm at 90 degrees, and then calmly put my shoulder back into its socket. Holy Shit! I could immediately move my arm again. She must have seen a twinkle in my eye because she immediately said, “You are NOT racing today.” I was very fortunate to have Lori put my shoulder back into place just minutes after my crash because the swelling wasn't bad yet and this made it easier on both of us.   

Fidee Cent made the trip from Jackson to race Turkey Cross and took the Men's Cat 3 WIN on Day 2...in his sweet new Athlete360 skin suit.
I have a lot to learn about how to prepare for, and then race, a full cyclocross season.  It is a tricky balancing act between resting enough to be fresh for racing and not losing fitness as the season goes on. I also have a long list of CX-specific skills that I want to work on before next season. I learned a ton this season and I am already looking forward to applying it next year.

To everyone heading to CX Nationals in Boulder, CO, best of luck and Hup Hup!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

2013 Cyclocross Season - Week 4 - Waffle Cross #1 & #2

The Idaho Waffle Cross series kicked off this past Saturday at the Eagle Bike Park under sunny skies and pleasant temps.  Over 110 racers showed up to tackle a challenging course and enjoy the festive atmosphere created by the Waffle Cross crew.  In addition to an awesome, technical course, we had Bob's Red Mill waffles and delicious adult beverages from Payette Brewing to look forward to post-race.

My Waffle Cross almost didn't happen.  I woke up the Wednesday prior with the first signs of a nasty head cold and I tried to nip it in the bud by taking Wednesday off of the bike and keeping the rides short on Thursday & Friday.  I REALLY didn't want to miss Waffle Cross, but I also didn't want this cold to go "nuclear" on me and leave me unable to function the following week.  Armed with a handful of Hall's Menthol cough drops and embrocation, I decided to give it a go Saturday morning.

Dropping In! Photo by Reed Cycle
Masters 45+ Race - Waffle Cross, Day 1
The Waffle Cross course at the Eagle Bike Park is no grass criterium race...and I dig that!  This venue rewards bike handling on a variety of surfaces and forces you to think about what you are doing out there.  After a couple of recon laps, I felt good about my strategy for racing this course. 

With a front row call-up, I decided to step on the gas and try to stay in front of the inevitable carnage that was going to take place in the first tricky section.  Rob Burke was glued to my wheel and made a quick pass when I bobbled in the sand early on. Rob and I would be locked in a tight duel for the remainder of the race.  I was able to make a pass on the 2nd lap but Rob was always right there, waiting for me to make a mistake.  And this course was a mistake waiting to happen!

As we rode through the finish line and I saw "1 Lap To Go", I got a little nervous.  I am not used to being at the front of a bike race.  I needed to stay smooth but also stay on the gas.  I made it through the trickiest sand sections and steep hills just fine but Rob was still lurking a few bike lengths back.  Into the grass section, I ran the big double barriers pretty well and was feeling good about my gap over 2nd place...and then I crashed.  I lost my front wheel on a grassy downhill, left-hander and went down in a splat! Shit!  I scrambled to my feet and remounted as quickly as possible and was relieved that Rob did not pass me in the process...but now the gap was tight.  I stomped on the pedals, bunny-hopped the final section of short barriers before the paved finish straight, and crossed the line in first place. Holy shit, I just won my first bike race! 

Masters 45+ Race - Waffle Cross, Day 2  
We would race the same course, but in reverse, on Day 2.  The reversed course presented several new challenges because there were now several sections that were possible to ride, but potentially faster to run.   

Pushing! Would a shoulder carry have been faster? Photo by Reed Cycle
We also had a new rabbit to chase. Ron Miller, who didn't race Saturday, line up with the Masters 45+ on Sunday. 

Ron Miller, smooth like butter. Photo by Reed Cycle
I took a similar approach to the start on Sunday and was the first rider onto the grass and through short double barriers.  I was able to bunny-hop these each lap and keep my momentum through the following corner.  Ron was kind enough to let me lead through most of the grass but then flexed his quad muscles on the grassy climb-to-pavement and passed me handily.  Ron is wily veteran of cross and was riding really smooth. I think he made one small mistake, on a very tricky course, the entire race.  Speaking of mistakes, I tried to ride the steep, loose "S" turn on the first lap and paid for it. I bobbled mid-turn and had to dismount while losing all momentum. Ron's gap instantly went from 10" to 30"...and I would never get it back.

Lurking not far behind was my nemesis from Day 1, Rob Burke. Every time I looked back, Rob was not far behind so I had to stay smooth and on the gas.  Day 2's course kept you on your toes and made you think on every lap. Should I try to ride this section?  Should I run it?  If I run it, should I push my bike, suitcase carry it, or shoulder my bike? I have a lot to learn in terms of which technique to use at a given time during a race.

Ron Miller opened a solid gap by the end and easily won Day 2. I finished in 2nd and Rob Burke placed 3rd on the day.  I am looking forward to several more close battles when the Waffle Cross series resumes on Nov 9th & 10th. 

Random Gear Note:  The 10spd SRAM S-700 Hydraulic Levers appear to be more durable than the carbon 2012 SRAM Red Levers I rode last season. I crashed a couple of times over the weekend and I am happy to report that I did not break a lever! I broke two SRAM Red Levers last year crashing on grass and their fragility led Tim to nickname them "SRAM Breakaway Levers".  

Post-race recovery waffle!
The registration tent...PRO
Eastside Cycles was onsite with a full arsenal of Ridley Cross bike to demo
Take your Cyclocross cheering to another level with a bell from Donger Mfg
Huge thanks to the Waffle Cross crew for putting on a GREAT event.  This year's Waffle Cross was unofficially the biggest cross race to date in the Treasure Valley and I think that trend will continue.  It would be great to see my friends from Sun Valley and Teton Valley / Jackson make the trip over for Turkey Cross in November.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

2013 Cyclocross Season - Week 3 - Moose Cross

Moose Cross is a race that I helped start six years ago in Victor, ID.  I remember planning the race that first year and wondering whether anyone would come to Victor, ID to race cross.  Now the race draws over 100 racers from all over the west.  I know first-hand that it takes a ridiculous amount of work to put on a quality cyclocross event and I sincerely appreciate the great job that Victor Velo and the Fitzgerald's Bicycles team did this year in putting on Moose Cross.

Heading into Moose Cross weekend, I was feeling a bit over-stressed and over-cooked.  It was the perfect storm of "life stress" and fatigue.  In fact, had it been any other race than Moose Cross I would have pulled the plug on the trip and stayed home to recharge the batteries.  In hindsight, my perception of being over-cooked was dead-on because I came down with a cold the Tuesday after Moose Cross. Doh!  

Saturday's Master's Race
A big field lined up on Saturday to contest the Masters 35+/45+/55+ race and I had a first row call-up based on registration order. Woot! Why not pin it off the line and see what happens?  I will tell you what happened:  Sputtering, black smoke coming out of the tail pipe, and a massive slow-down halfway through the fist lap...that is what happened!  As a result, I think most of the field passed me.  And nothing kills your mojo faster than having most of the field pass you. I wanted to quit only 10' into Moose Cross, Day 1. Ha!
 
Everything changed when I saw Fitzy on the grassy knoll.  In classic Fitzy-style, he had launched off of the front on lap #1 in an impressive display of fast-twitch ability and took the first lap preem but was now riding mid-pack.  With about four laps to go, he had a good 30" on me.  From this point on, all that mattered was catching Fitzy! It was ON!

Trying to shake Fitzy through he Grassy Knoll
With two laps to go, I had closed down the gap and was on Fitzy's wheel.  Strategies were bouncing around in my head as I calculated where I was faster vs. where he was faster.  I really didn't want it to come down to a sprint between Mr. Fast-Twitch and myself if at all possible. Just before the end of the lap I made a pass on the short pavement section.  As the lap bell rang signalling one lap to go, Fitzy was right on my wheel.  I gave it everything I had up the railroad tie run-up because I know Fitzy has an advantage there with those long legs of his. And then came the grass. There was a tricky little single barrier on the grass that was hop-able but I chose to run that section while Fitzy hopped it. He was like a skinny piece of velcro...I couldn't shake him. With a hard right-hander before the finishing straight, this was going to be tricky.  After clearing the final corner, I sprinted for the line and expected to see Fitzy pull along side for a bike throw...but I crossed the line alone, well in front of my nemesis. Evidently when Fitzy stood up to unleash his own furious sprint, he cramped. Doh!

That was some serious mid-pack drama and made for a memorable race despite not feeling my best at the start.

Sunday's Masters Race
Sunday's course was the reverse of Saturday, with a few minor changes. To make it interesting, we had rain overnight and the grass section was very slippery for our race.

Where's Fitzy? As I scanned the start line, the black Fitzgerald's Bicycles skin suit was suspiciously absent. Sunday's race would present a new set of adversaries shortly.  I took a conservative approach to the start and didn't blow myself up right off of the line.

As the race quickly unfolded, I found myself in a battle with Pocatello Idaho's wily veteran of cross, Bob Walker, and a rider from Montana wearing a red jersey who, from this point forward, will be respectfully referred to as "Big Red".

Bob, Big Red, and myself were very evenly matched in terms of power. Whomever made the least mistakes would win this little mini-battle.

The slippery grass claimed its victim when Bob aggressively tried to ride an off-camber section that we had been running on previous laps. Bob lost his front wheel, went down hard, and Big Red and I squirted by on the inside.

Note to self:  Just because you can ride a section doesn't mean that riding is necessarily faster. Try both in practice.

Big Red was a monster on the power sections and I could barely stay on his wheel. My only shot was to get around him on one of the technical sections and hope I could stay away. However, Big Red was having none of that. In fact, he had his own trick up his sleeve. Big Red was pinching off every inside corner through the grassy knoll and left no room to pass...none, zip, zilch, nada.

Once we got through the grassy knoll for the final time, Big Red dropped the hammer and I was not on his wheel when he dropped it. The gap went from one bike, to two bike lengths, to more than three bike lengths very quickly and that is how it ended. Good job Big Red!

After the race, Bob Walker and I relived our glorious duel and he jokingly accused me of taking him out on the grassy knoll. Ha!  Fun battles mid-pack in the Moose Cross Masters Races for sure!

Be sure to put Moose Cross on your 2014 Cyclocross Race Calendar and "Like" the Moose Cross Facebook Page to stay in the loop.

Lastly, check out the Moose Cross album from Cody Downard Photography.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

2013 Cyclocross Season - Weeks 1 & 2 - Avimor & SICX #1

9/28/13 - Boise Cyclocross Season Opener, Avimor

Avimor's grass was a touch wet
This year's cyclocross season kind of snuck up on me.  I had planned to race one more mountain bike race, the Draper 50, on Sept 21 but "life stuff" got in the way and I didn't make the trip. Since I had planned on being totally blown from the Draper 50, I hadn't really considered racing the first two local cyclocross races.  With no Draper 50 in my legs, there was no reason not to jump into the season opener at Avimor.

The Avimor race proved to be a great kickoff to the season.  There was an informal clinic on Friday that was good for some barrier practice and a course preview.  One thing was immediately evident during the course preview; Avimor has some crazy-thick grass.  I felt like I was in slow motion.  As an added bonus, the course designer threw in a little section of buffed singletrack that was a nice break from the grass.

The "Corkscrew of Death"
The Race
My USA Cycling racing age is 45 this year and Avimor would be my first time lining up with the Masters 45+ group.  This just in...these guys are fast!  The twisty nature of the Avimor course allowed you to see where the competition was most of the time and it was fun trying to gauge the gaps and then trying to close them...or stop them from widening.

Did I mention the mud? Evidently the sprinklers at Avimor run ALL NIGHT on Friday nights and nobody thought to shut them off so we had soaking wet grass, which turned to mud, on most of the course.  The file treads that I thought were "money" on Friday afternoon were marginal at best on Saturday. Doh!

My race was fun as I was locked in mortal combat with Troy Nichols for the second half and we traded positions many times. I had a little extra zip over the last barrier and was able to hold him at the line...barely. I think Troy and I will have some fun battles later in the season.

The CX bike was a little muddy after the Avimor race

10/5/13 - SICX #1, Sandy Point

The SICX Flyover made an appearance at the first race
I typically love racing at Sandy Point.  Ironically, I have yet to have a good race there and the SICX kickoff race was no exception.  Captain to engine room, "Scotty, I need more power!"    

The highlight of my race was my little "race within the race" with Michael Shaw.  "Shaw-Zam!" typically crushes me on the mountain bike so I was a little surprised to gain some ground on him and latch onto his wheel near the end.  On the last lap, he dropped me like a bad habit and left me alone in no-man's land.  That really wasn't very nice of him.  I am looking forward to future rematches with Shaw-Zam! at future SICX races.

Mmmm...sand in the drivetrain
Gear:

One of the coolest pieces of gear I have used in a while is the Billie Rack.

The Billie Rack slides out to make access SO much easier. The hand-brake is to prevent the rack from moving while traveling or while parked on a hill.
Billie Racks are made here in Boise by a couple of great guys who genuinely want to build an innovative product.  The single biggest benefit so far is NOT having to crawl into the camper shell to load heavy items. I can simply slide the Billie Rack out, place the items on the cargo top, and slide it back in.  The cross bar in the front is 1 1/8" so it is compatible with all Yakima crossbar accessories. Nice!

I will do a Blog post on the Billie Rack soon.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

2013 Park City Point to Point Race Report

It has become evident that The Park City Point to Point is my “Eleanor”. 

In the awesomely-bad movie 'Gone in 60 seconds' starring Nicholas Cage, Eleanor is a beautiful Shelby GT Mustang.  Eleanor is also the one car that Cage’s character Randall “Memphis” Raines has never been able to steal successfully.  Memphis had unsuccessfully tried to steal the same model car numerous times in the past, but each attempt ended badly.

Nicholas Cage & Eleanor
Eleanor Quote from ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’:

Donny:  Eleanor’s Memphis's unicorn.
Freb:  What's a unicorn?
Donny: Fable creature… you know the horse with the horn…impossible to capture.  It's the one car no matter how many times you try to boost something always happens.
Freb:  What’s he doing?
Donny:  He's talking to her man…trying to get reacquainted… they had a rough history.  She almost got him killed a couple a times.
Donny:  Flipped one on the Harbor Freeway.
Kip:  He went off the long beach pier once.

Why is the Park City Point to Point my “Eleanor”?  I have signed up to race the PCPP every year since its inception in 2009. Out of five attempts, I have completed it only three times.  In 2010, I came down with the flu the day before the race and did not start.  In 2011, I came down with the flu the week before the race (no, I am not kidding), tried to race anyway, and pulled out at Deer Valley.  In the three times I have finished the PCPP, I have yet to execute a “perfect” race.  Leg cramps, small mechanicals, weather, and going off course are some of the little things that have stood between me and perfect PCPP.

Have I mentioned that I friggin’ LOVE the Park City Point to Point?

Going into the 2013 race, I felt ready to shake the monkey off of my back.  I had a good race plan, felt rested, and had the extra boost of having Michelle there to support me throughout the day.

Race Morning
Conditions don’t get much better than they were this year on race morning.  Cool temps and tacky dirt from thunderstorms earlier in the week made for perfect racing conditions.  It was nice to start this race in shorts & short sleeves for a change!  However, I did apply a nice layer of Mad Alchemy embrocation to take the edge off of the morning chill.  I love the smell of embro in the morning! 

Mmmm, embrocation
Start to Deer Valley Aid
The big question every year for me at the Point to Point is “which wave should I start in”?  With a revised course for 2013, I decided to err on the fast side and I lined up in the 7 – 8 hour wave which started after the Open Men, Open Women, and Sub- 7 hour waves.  This was perfect.  The Round Valley section takes about an hour and it is important to settle into a good group of riders that can move around the loop efficiently.  The Round Valley section flew by without incident and I had a blast!

Lined up with the 7 - 8  Hour Wave
Once you leave the bike path and begin the climb up Skid Row, the real suffering begins and this is where you will quickly know whether you have it, or you don’t.  The group I was riding with was awesome and I was right at the top-end of my sustainable endurance race pace.  My friendly rival, Paul Nash, had managed to get onto my back wheel despite my efforts to lose him in bike path traffic.  Doh!  He wasn't bashful about telling me that I was basically his “pace mule” and I was already wondering whether I could stay with him beyond Deer Valley.

Ping! That is the sound of a rear spoke breaking just above the hub flange.  I had to make an evasive move in a rock garden and evidently it was more torque than that little Sapim spoke could stand.  My wheel went out of true, but not fatally. However, now I had loose spoke whacking my carbon chainstay every revolution so I decided I better stop and deal with it. I stopped on a flat section and twisted the loose spoke around a good one, but I lost contact with Paul and the group I was in.

Leg Cramps!  WTF?  I was only 2.5 hours into the race when I had my first twinge of leg cramps.  My hydration and fueling were on track but I think the steep climbing + race intensity were taking their toll early.  I was able to lock out the shock & fork, drop two cogs, and stand and pedal.  This changes the muscle groups I use to pedal and allows me to keep riding instead getting off the bike.

I rolled into Deer Valley a little frazzled and feeling the hard effort of trying to catch back on to the group I was in.  M was there and ready for me with a rice cake & new hydration pack + fuel for the next leg to Park City.  I took one big bite of a rice cake, a swig of Pepsi, and got out of there in a hurry. 

Deer Valley to Park City
I love this section of the race and was looking forward to seeing the new-to-me trails:  Corvair & Sam’s.  However, Eleanor was about to deal her second blow of the day.  In the dark twisty forest before Flagstaff Loop I missed a turn. It was marked…I simply had my head down, following Sarah Kaufmann’s wheel, and wasn't paying attention to the course markings.  Several of us missed the turn, caught our mistake quickly, backtracked to where we left the course, and kept on going.  We lost about 4-5’ total.  Eleanor, you are a bitch.

The Corvair + Sam’s descent, which AJ appropriately named“Carve-Air”, instantly became my new favorite section of the race.  I was fortunate to follow a speedy local down it in the race…we were En Fuego!

The John's 99 descent
Just in case you have done the Park City Point to Point in the past, but your memory is a bit foggy:  Yes, the John’s descent is still hard on your upper body and makes you wish you were climbing again. And yes, the Drift Road + Steps climb is still a kick in the junk at the hottest part of the day. Ooofta!  I had to nurse my leg cramps on-and-off through this section of the course and it definitely affected how hard I could ride. 

And then there is the greatness of Shadow Lake!  I didn’t quite have the juice I was hoping to have at this point in the race but I was able to stay on the gas AND thoroughly enjoy this section. Woot!

Jay Burke threw a nice little surprise at us just before the PC Aid.  Instead of descending the shitty service road directly into the aid station, we descended the super-fun lower section of Jenny’s (or was it Loose Moose?) and it was rad!  Good call Jay!

Drinking water, eating rice cakes, NASCAR style, Photo by Grizzly Adam
M was ready for me at the Park City aid and we had a NASCAR-like pit stop.  I had my mojo back and I was on a mission.  I ate ½ a rice cake, took a few big gulps of plain water, grabbed new hydration pack + fuel, and a stuck bottle of Black Gold, aka Pepsi, in the bottle cage.  This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco… 

Park City to FINISH
The Armstrong climb is nice!  It is like the Yin to Spiro’s Yang.  Sorry Spiro, you have been replaced and I won’t miss you for a second.  The cruel reality of this section is that you think you are done climbing once you are at the top of Armstrong…Ha!  You still have two, that’s right two, substantial climbs left before the finish.

The section of Mid Mountain between Armstrong and Red Pine Lodge can punish you.  It is rocky, served with a side of rocks, and a sprinkle of gravel.  This section of the race makes the choice to ride a full-suspension bike an easy one for me.  I was able to stay aggressive vs. simply surviving this section thanks to my Scott Spark29.

Home stretch
Mentally, I treat "Red Pine Lodge to the FINISH" like my home stretch.  Jay Burke, thank you for having a course marshal on the other side of Red Pine Lodge!  This area has become very busy with increased bike park traffic and we rode through the middle of it. Seeing a course marshal on the far side waving a bright orange flag was a nice reassurance that I was on track and aiming in the right direction. 
  
Ok, systems check:  My legs have been cramping for the past several hours and my low back hurts, but overall, not too bad.  HTFU and let’s rock! 

After ripping the Rob’s descent and shredding the sagebrush singletrack of Rosebud Heaven, you know what is coming next.  It has been in the back of your mind all day.  Are you going to go out fighting or are you going to soft-pedal the last climb like a sissy-boy?  I hate you Ambush!  I swear that climb was longer this year.  Did the trail beavers add an extra switchback over the winter?

I really tried to finish with authority but the reality is that I just survived Ambush.  The leg cramps prevented me from truly stomping on it and the body simply didn't have much left. 

I crossed the line in 8:25:17 and was greeted by M’s big smile and hug, and high fives from Brandon & Sarah!  How could I not smile? 

Crew Chief & Best Friend

High five from AJ, who killed it at the PCPP!


Close, but not quite...
When I finish an endurance event, I can't help but self-grade my race.  This is not about my placing.  I ask myself:  Did I absolutely empty the tank?  Did I execute as well as I could have?  Was I able to go as fast as I think I should have been able to go (I realize this is totally subjective but I did say I was “self-grading” here)?

I absolutely emptied the tank at the 2013 Park City Point to Point.  However, I would have to mark myself down for execution since I went off course.  Lastly, I thought I could go faster on this day…I wanted to go faster.  I simply couldn't.  My legs lacked the “depth” I needed to make a significant improvement relative to my category.  For these reasons, I will have go back at some point and try again. 

What worked for me?

Tires with sidewall protection:  This is not a race for flyweight race tires.  I am not exaggerating when I say that I saw at least 25 racers changing flats during the race this year.  It was so prevalent that I thought someone put tacks on the course at one point.  I ran Schwalbe tires with Snakeskin sidewalls and fresh Stans.  I also carried a small roll of Gorilla tape, a Panaracer Tubeless tire repair kit, a tube, and a Big Air.  Flats happen…be prepared to fix it when it does. 

SRAM XX1:  I continue to be impressed by SRAM XX1.  It is so quiet and simple and just works.  I ran a 30T front ring and that was perfect for me.  I read that the “fast guys” ran a 32T or a 34T. 

Original Carbo Rocket:  There is a huge battle for your water bottle waging out there in the Sports Nutrition marketplace.  The original Carbo Rocket was one of the first low calorie/high electrolyte drink mixes to the market and it still stacks up well against all of them.  No matter what else I try, I always come back to Carbo Rocket for race day.  I used Kiwi Lime & Orange in my hydration packs during the Point to Point and my tummy stayed happy the entire race.