Sunday, July 27, 2014

2014 High Cascades 100 Race Report

Quick Stats:
Place:  17th out of 116 finishers in the Men’s 40 -49
Time:  9:11:41
Elevation Gain:  9,949’ (My garmin) 

What is the single most important item of business prior to the early-morning start of an endurance mountain bike race?  Eat breakfast? Drink coffee?  Apply sunscreen?  Listen to Hip Hop?  While all of these are very solid options, I would argue that THE single most important item of business is POOPING!  I cannot overstate the importance here.  I often get up extra early to ensure that I have enough time to get things moving properly before I leave the hotel.

Seven minutes before the scheduled 5:30 AM start of the High Cascades 100 my stomach gurgled…in a bad way.  I had already “taken care of business” (twice) back at the hotel, but my system decided it needed to go again.  I guess the combination of strong coffee, beet juice, and pre-race nerves were the perfect storm.  Houston, we have a problem!  One of my biggest fears is hearing the start gun go off from inside a porta-john.  At 5:25 AM, the waiting line for the porta-johns was pretty long and I was sure I was going to miss the start…but “holding it” was simply not an option.  Luckily Mike Ripley delayed the start by five minutes to give racers more daylight so I was able to take care of business, get re-dressed, and squeeze into the start grid for a decent start position.  Phew!  That was WAY more drama than I wanted before the race even got started.

Just before take-off
The High Cascades 100 starts with a chunk of pavement and this year the pack rolled up the highway at comfortable pace in a big pack. There were a few nervous moments and a few tire skids but overall the pack was well-mannered.  It was the calm before the storm.  

Early Miles in the dust
In a new twist for 2014, Mike Ripley sent us up dirt road 300 and then up the Duodenum Trail in the first 9–14 miles.  This was a HUGE improvement over last year because it meant we were climbing dusty road/trail instead of descending and therefore the visibility in the dust was manageable.  However, once the trail pointed down at around mile 12, the dust was insane and you simply had to use the force.  I was not comfortable “sending it” and got passed by a few fearless riders.  I am not exaggerating when I say that I could not see the ground in front of my bike.  The dust is simply a unique aspect of riding in Bend, OR in the summertime.

The first 25 miles went by very quickly and I was at Aid #1 under my projected 2-hour split-time.  However, I was already having concerns about my physical state.  My legs just felt heavy from the start and my nemesis, low back pain, started to fire up just one hour into the race. WTF?  

Let’s assume that you tapered properly for an important race.  Is it unreasonable to expect to have fresh, snappy legs for at least the first couple of hours of an endurance mountain bike race? Or is it perfectly normal for your legs to feel crummy early on?  Is this just part of racing and pushing yourself?  I absolutely expect to have all sorts of body parts hurt as the race goes on but I would LOVE to feel good for the first couple of hours of a big race.

Despite early physical concerns, I stuck to my plan and arrived at the first two aid stations ahead of my estimated splits.  Michelle & Kenai were at Aid #2 and met me with a fresh hydration pack and reloaded my race fuel.  Our friend Beth jumped in and lubed my chain and I left Swampy with new energy and a smile on my face. Stoke!

Off Course
After leaving Aid #2, I fell in with a good group of four riders including fellow Boise racer Joe Feider.  It was nice to have a solid group to ride with to help stay focused and on the gas.  I remember descending some fun singletrack, and then coming out into a large intersection where I passed Joe.  Evidently, there was supposed to be a large log with two arrows marking the turn onto the Skyliners singletrack.  However, the log was gone and I blew by entrance to Skyliners and proceeded to haul ass downhill on a dirt road for five minutes.  Sadly, Joe followed me as well.  We caught two other racers who also missed the turn and we stopped to get our bearings.  At the time, I had no idea where I had missed a turn but the others were sure that we needed to climb back up the hill we just descended.  Fuck!  I shouldn’t let things like this bother me so much but I really wanted to execute a perfect race and going off-course for 20’ was not in my plan.  This was serious blow to my mojo.  After climbing back up that fucking hill, I did see one orange & white ribbon in the tree above the Skyliner trail…but it was tough to see if you weren’t really looking for it. Mike Ripley later confirmed that this was a tricky intersection and that is why he uses a big log with two arrows on it to “funnel” racers into the singletrack.  I would recommend a couple of wrong way "Xs" beyond the Skyliners turn if this intersection is used again in the future.

Off Course Adventure at Mile 48
Since my little off-course adventure occurred at mile 48, I needed to pull my head out of my butt and get back to business but I struggled for a while.  Arriving at Aid #3 a few miles later, I took on more water and then was coated with mosquito spray by an awesome volunteer as I left. There were hungry mosquitos lurking in the woods ahead.   

Happy Valley 
During the 2013 HC100, Happy Valley was my happy place. I felt good, and the area was simply gorgeous.  Last year I wrote the following about Happy Valley:

We rode through giant Douglas Fir trees, huge green meadows, snow drifts just off the trail, high mountain river crossings, and loamy dirt.  When I visualize riding my mountain bike in Oregon that trail is exactly what I will think of from now on.

For 2014, Mother Nature decided to throw us a curve ball.  A heavy winter combined with  less than normal spring rains meant that snow was still hanging around up high.  The trail was intermittently covered with snow drifts and mud and was much, much slower than last year.  Some snow patches were rideable but many required a cyclocross dismount, running/slogging, and a remount on the other side.  This sport is called “mountain biking”…and it does snow in the mountains right? Ha! 

The Home Stretch
The stretch from Aid #3 to Aid #4 took me 2:22:37…which is longer than it should have taken me but I was still in a funk from my missed turn for some of it.  Arriving at Aid #4 was like hitting the reboot button.  Our friend Sara Schafer was at Aid #4 volunteering and supporting her husband, Markzilla.  Sarah was awesome and quickly helped me find my drop cooler and swap out pack and reload my calories.  Most of all, Sarah was a bundle of positive energy. Thanks Sarah!  Knowing that the majority of the climbing was behind me didn't hurt the mojo either.

I was surprised to roll into Aid #5 just 45 minutes later. Nice!  I stopped just long enough to slam two Dixie cups full of cold Coke, aka liquid crack, and I was off to finish this thing.

The only section of the course that I was somewhat familiar was the last 17 miles. The last section was similar to last year and used the Tiddlywinks + Storm King trails before sending us onto the pavement for 5.5 miles of road riding before the finish line. Tiddlywinks and Storm King are awesome trails…but at mile 80 of a 100 mile race, they can swat you down in an instant.  Big berms, tabletops, and double jumps taunt you all the way down Tiddlywinks.  I would love to say that I “shredded” that final stretch of singletrack but it would be more accurate to say that I “negotiated it safely & efficiently”.  

The Finish
I knew that the race finished by veering off the pavement onto a short section of mostly downhill singletrack before the finish line.  I also knew that if I was “racing” anyone, the first one into the singletrack would probably win.

As I entered the pavement, a group of three other racers were just ahead and I made an effort to latch onto their wheels. Our group of four quickly absorbed another rider, my friend Chris Gardner from Hailey, ID, and we rolled down the pavement in a little 5-person peloton.  Joe Feider was also in the group and was drilling it at the front like Jens Voit at the Tour of California.  I was third wheel and I kept waiting for the group to start rotating…but Joe just kept drilling it at the front.

When riding in a small group, is it A) your responsibility to accelerate to the front to take a pull? or B) wait until the guy in front decides to pull off to take your turn? Lastly, if the guy in front never pulls off to rotate, are you a jerk for not taking a pull?

With about a mile to go, a guy from the back rode to the front to take a big pull and relieve Joe. But the group still wasn’t rotating.  There was no flick of the elbow or look behind to see if anyone was coming through.  I will admit that I never spoke up and suggested out loud that we rotate.  In hindsight, I guess I should have insisted we rotate.  Basically, two guys pulled our group for five miles down the pavement.  I was willing to do my share but I was still racing and trying to save energy where I could.  When we got within 50 yards of the singletrack, I jumped the group, was first into the singletrack and rode across the line ahead of the group.  It was a weird ending to less than perfect day on the bike for me.


Random Post-Race Thoughts
I will be back at the High Cascades 100 in 2015.  It is a well-run event with great support and wonderful volunteers.  And, I have unfinished business to attend to.  Having said that, I do think the 2014 course was a letdown compared to the course we raced in 2013 and I hope to see a better course in 2015.  I realize that Mike can’t control Mother Nature and I am certainly not blaming him for the snow & mud above 6,000'.  However, the long sections of sandy Forest Service road absolutely sucked…and we got to ride them twice in 2014 since we used the same route in and out of Aids 2/5 @ Wanoga.  I also feel like the course was too easy this year.  I think the 94% finisher rate supports my feeling.  I would like to see more climbing, more singletrack, AND the soul-crushing climb out of Lava Lake in the 2015 HC100.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

2014 Knobby 9 to 5 Race Report

Quick Stats:
Place:  3rd, Solo Men 40+
Laps:  10
Time:  7:36:50 (New PR)
Miles:  91.5
Elevation Gain:  Between 12.3k' & 14k', depending on whose Garmin you believe

Men's 40+ Solo Podium, minus Joe Jensen
Fast forward to lap #8:  Following a speedy pit stop, I tried to stay on the gas all the way up the Spring Creek climb.  By this point of the race, I had been riding alone for a while and was just trying to stay steady and focused.  Various body parts had been sore for a while by this point.  Near the top of the climb I spotted an Eastside Cycles kit and I knew the battle was on.  Andy Filler had ridden away from me on lap #3 but I had closed the gap.  There was a LOT of racing left so I didn’t allow myself to get too excited and I just kept doing my thing.  Andy let me pass and then jumped on my wheel where he would ride for the remainder of the lap.  I had a feeling he was toying with me but I was on my limit and couldn’t do anything differently.  After another drive-by pit stop for fresh CarboRocket and a Honey Stinger waffle, we were back it for lap #9.  Andy let me lead up the Spring Creek climb and the silence was deafening.  We were both working hard but I was well aware of Andy’s climbing ability.  I was having flashbacks to many Thursday Night Rides where Andy would drop me like a stinky sock on our local climbs.  I tried to open a gap on the rolling terrain and any downhill I could…but he was like Velcro.  Three-quarters of the way through lap #9, on the steepest climb on the course, Andy punched it and came around me.  Just like that, Andy put 25 yards on me.  I was able to keep the gap to a reasonable amount but Andy had more left in the tank than I did. I had been on my limit for laps 8 & 9 and I simply didn’t have another gear.  Andy’s 10th lap time of 45:29 was very impressive and secured his 2nd place in the 40+ Solo race.  I tried to stay on the gas, but a 47:44 (my slowest lap of the day) was all I had left for my 10th and final lap.  That was a hard-earned 3rd place in the 40+ Solo race and I was very pleased with my race.  10 laps in 7:36:50 was a new PR for me by 15’!  

2014 Knobby 9 to 5, Men's 40+ Solo, Top 3

Going into the Knobby 9 to 5, I knew it would be a dogfight.  The 2013 40+ Solo winner, Joe Jensen, was returning and Andy Filler added to the small but talented field of 40+ Solo racers.  More than anything, I wanted to put down a solid race and see if I could improve on my 2013 race.  I had a very good race in 2013 so I knew this would be tough and I was nervous leading up to the race.

It is always fun to race in your backyard against your homies and this year was no exception.  Hal Miller and the Knobby Tire Series crew do a great job with the race and Avimor is a great venue for a lap race with its plush soccer field for pit row and fun trails.

Although I had a great race and set a new PR this year, my race was not all rainbows and unicorns.  My nemesis, low back pain, was constant issue for me during this race.  I wonder what it would be like to race my bike without low back pain.  I might need to re-evaluate my core & stretching routine…again.  I am also going to take another look at my bit fit and see if there are any small tweaks to be made there.  This race definitely left a mark…I basically felt as if I were in a XC MTB for 7:36:50 and I felt the effects several days later. 

Through trial & error, I have settled on a handful of products that I have come to rely on during every endurance race:

Hydration & Electrolytes:  I continue to rely on the originalCarboRocket mixed at one scoop per 24oz. I alternated between Tropical Orange & Kiwi Lime for a little variety during the 9 to 5 race and tried to drink 24oz per lap.

Hands & Butt:  If your hands & butt aren’t happy during an endurance race, it can make for a long day. Ergon GS1 grips & the Ergon SM3 Pro saddle kept my hands & butt happy.  Over the years I have alternated between the original GP1s and the newer GS1s.  The GP1s are heavier and chunkier, but have a slight edge in comfort.  The new GS1s for single twist shift are a great option for XX1 users.

Tires:  I didn’t see too many flat tires during the Knobby 9 to 5 but I am always surprised to see people running paper-thin tires at endurance races.  Flats suck.  Getting a flat during a race that you have trained your ass off for, and traveled along way to get to, really sucks.  I have had great luck with Schwalbe SnakeSkin tires and I am more than willing to pay the slight weight penalty (and ridiculous price) to have the extra protection.

Cockpit:  Anyone who knows me knows that I am a geek when it comes to training, numbers, etc.  I love the data.  During the 9 to 5, I was constantly paying attention to my split times…not only lap times, but split times to certain points on the course.  It was nice to have my Garmin out in front of my bars where I could easily see it. The latest K-Edge Handlebar Mount for Garmin computers is rock solid, looks bad-ass, and keeps the Garmin out front where it is easy to see.

Next up is the High Cascades 100 in Bend, OR on July 19.  Prior to that, I will be in Sun Valley for Marathon Nationals to support Michelle and cheer on my peeps who are racing in the big show. Woot Woot!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

2014 12 Hours of Mesa Verde

Quick Stats
Laps: 8
Place: 7th, Men's Solo
Time: 12:31:02
Miles: 131.2

Bittersweet. That is the word I keep coming back to when I think about my race at the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde this year. Before I jump into my race report, how about a little background first?

Rockin' it through the Rib Cage
This was my 6th consecutive year racing the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde, solo. After several years of being stuck on seven laps, I finally broke through my personal ceiling and completed eight laps in 2013. My race at the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde last year remains of my best performances on a bike. Of course I wanted to improve on it. I thought about this year’s race all winter and it was the first “A” race on my calendar in 2014. My goal for this year was to make a small improvement over 2013 and complete eight laps in a little less time and hopefully move up on the podium. Realistically, I thought I could shave 10 to 15 minutes from last year’s time if I executed a perfect race.

Why does bittersweet describe my race this year? I had high expectations. On one hand (the sweet side), I absolutely emptied the tank and left it all out there on the course. I honestly don’t know if I have ever gone that deep in a bike race. I really wanted to stop riding my bike after lap #7. However, I didn’t drive 11 hours to Cortez, CO to do seven laps…I went down there to do eight friggin’ laps! As a result, I am proud of the way I finished the race. On the other hand (the bitter side), I did not accomplish my goal of completing eight laps faster than last year and I finished two spots off of the podium.


So, what happened? There were several contributing factors but I keep coming back to one key factor: I was flat and got off to a slow start. The solo field is so competitive at Mesa Verde that every second counts. As a racer who needs to have a perfect race in order to have any shot at the podium, I cannot get off to a slow start and hope to make up time later on. I need to haul ass from the moment the cannon fires (more on the cannon in a minute) and then keep my foot on the gas pedal for the next 12+ hours. My race strategy was all about saving seconds everywhere I could.

I had a great block of training leading up to Mesa Verde and my power meter was confirming that I was right on track so I had reason to be optimistic. However, with one week to go, things started to unravel. Let’s just say that tired & stressed is no way to go into a 12 hour race. It was the perfect storm of pre-race anxiety, work stress, and very poor sleep as a result. I left for Mesa Verde in a funk and lacking my usual high level of stoke for racing.

My Race

The boom of the cannon caught me totally off guard….again! I should know better. I should have been lined up with my game face on much sooner. Instead of channeling my inner Bo Jackson and running with the leaders, I was immediately swallowed up by the thundering herd. As a result, I stood (as in stopped, standing next to my bike) waiting to funnel out of the rodeo pen as the leaders sped off. Crap!

The first lap at Mesa Verde is always an exercise in patience unless you are at the very front. There are only so many places to pass on a course that is comprised of twisty singletrack. I simply tried to conserve energy and go fast wherever I could.

By the second lap, things started to open up a bit but I was still riding in heavy traffic for most of the lap. Although not horrible, my first two laps cost me any chance I had at a podium finish. For perspective, 5th place finisher Jefe Branham of Gunnison, CO put 11+ minutes on me during the first two laps. Yikes! Our lap splits for the remaining six laps were very similar. Nice work out there Jefe!

By the start of Lap #3, I was roughly three hours into my race and various body parts were already starting to hurt. As usual, it was my low back that was the worst…no surprise there. On a side note, Mesa Verde hurt more this year than any other year I have done it. I must be getting old! I remember making a conscious decision sometime during Lap #3 that I was going do whatever it took to complete eight laps. Period. Before the race, I had written “FOCUS on the PROCESS.” on a piece of waterproof tape and stuck it to my handlebar. This was my mantra for the day.

On a side note, I missed seing a lot of friends before, during, and after the race. Racing solo doesn't lend itself to a very social day unless you run into friends on the course...which I usually do at this race. I can't believe I didn't get to ride with Jefe, Shannon and/or Jen, Chris and/or KC Holley, or Brad Mullen?

What worked well?

I feel like my hydration & fueling at Mesa Verde was the best of any endurance race I have done. I didn’t do anything crazy or totally new. I simply tweaked a proven formula with the help of Coach LW. Lynda and I have been fine tuning my fueling plans for quite a while now and I think we nailed this one. The cornerstone of my plan was original CarboRocket Kiwi Lime & Tropical Orange in my hydration packs mixed at one scoop per 24 ounces. I have tried all of the new drink mixes out there and I keep coming back to Carbo Rocket. It tastes great, keeps my tummy happy, and has a great electrolyte profile. Speaking of hydration packs, I think they are a key item for racing solo at Mesa Verde. There are just not many places to reach for a bottle on that course.

What’s next?

Regardless of fitness, bring a HIGH level of stoke to the Knobby 9 to 5.

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...again.

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 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.