Tuesday, May 11, 2010

12 Hours of Mesa Verde Race Report

The fact that I DNF’d this race last year definitely added to my pre-race nerves. I re-read my notes from last year’s race and knew there was a lot of room for improvement.

My plan was to average 1:45:00 laps, including pit stops, and do seven laps. It looks so simple on paper. The looming question was whether I would have any drama along the way. 12 hours is a long time to ride non-stop and odds are pretty good that something will go sideways during that time. Would my “Hot Foot” issues from last year resurface? Would dehydration be a factor this year? Could I avoid a time-sucking mechanical?

Git' sum!

Let’s light this candle!
I lined up on the front row for the Lemans start and planned to “pin it”. Now let’s be clear about this; “pinning it” during the run is relative. Damn, some of those boyz can run fast. When the gun went off and the thundering herd lurched forward, I channeled my inner Bo Jackson and rumbled, bumbled, and stumbled as fast as I could around the barn to my strategically placed (thanks LW) bike so I could begin riding as soon as possible. I was in the front 20% of the race when we hit the race track so my mission was accomplished. Phew! I wanted to go fast, but not too fast on the opening lap.

Everyone is fast in the beginning
When you pick up your packet at Mesa Verde they give the solo racers an orange ribbon to put on your saddle so that everyone knows who the solos are. Whenever I got passed early in the race by an orange ribbon I would make a mental note and ask myself “can he keep it up?” Mesa Verde attracts a deep field in all categories so there is very little “fluff” floating around the course. This is especially true during the first two laps when everyone thinks they have a shot at the title and their espresso hasn’t worn off yet.

The 16.4 mile course at Mesa Verde has a way of slowly, almost sneakily, beating you down. I learned this the hard way last year. Much of the course is sinewy, buffed singetrack but a few sections, like Green Lizard and Tuffy’s Rim, take their toll on your body. All of a sudden that hardtail isn’t feeling as good as it did on the first lap is it? In contrast, I can’t think of a better lap-race course anywhere. Even after the late-race pains had set in I was smiling through the Vertebrae and Rib Cage sections. You can pull some serious “Gs” through the Rib Cage if you dare. By about the 4th lap, the course noticeabley thins out and you can tell that some folks are taking longer breaks in their pit.

Mr. Blue Jersey
My race was ticking along nicely through four laps and I was right on schedule. Yeah, my lower back hurt, I had a few twinges of hot foot, and my hands were getting a little sore. Experience told me that every little pain has its moment and will eventually pass. Somewhere in the middle of my 5th lap I got passed by a solo racer in a blue jersey. He passed me easily but never quite rode away. I could always see him ahead, a few corners up the trail. Of course I wondered “can he keep it up?” He was now my rabbit. Mr. Blue Jersey was a fit looking fellow and was riding solidly. Not too “bursty” on the climbs and steady downhill…a worthy adversary indeed. My pit stop between laps 5 & 6 was quick and I unkowingly passed Mr. Blue Jersey but before long he was back. He passed me again about halfway around lap 6 but this time the gap would stay much smaller and I consciously tried to keep it that way. The great thing about a mini “race within the race” is that you inadvertently pass other racers along the way as well. Mr. Blue Jersey and I passed several solos during lap 6 before coming into the timing tent wheel-to-wheel.

Last Lap
There was no way I could finish lap 7 before the 6:30 pm cutoff time so I knew this was going to be it and there was no reason to leave anything in the tank. Michelle had finished her race and helped me make a quick pit stop and get right back back out there. Based on how strong he was the previous two laps, I just knew that I would battle Mr. Blue Jersey til’ the bitter end and I was already calculating my options for a glorious last-lap attack. But it was not to be. Just before entering the singletrack on the last lap I saw him straddling his bike, drinking from his water bottle, and his body language told me that he was not going to chase me. I still looked over my shoulder every few minutes throughout the lap but there would be no drama. My last lap was one of my best despite puncturing my rear tire with four miles to go. The Stans goo did its job but I lost too much air and a squirmy rear tire was dangerous on this course. I quickly hit it with a CO2 and finished the lap without having to add a tube. I finished my last lap with a total time of 11:49:00 which means that I missed the cuttoff to go out for a final lap by 20 minutes.

The Stats

Being consistent and finishing strong always feels good as does executing a race plan.

Lingering Thought
Do you need to blow up spectacularly once in a while in order to learn how fast you can truly go?

The 12 Hours of Mesa Verde is a great, great race! I felt lucky to be racing on such incredible singletrack and the organizers do a great job. Oh yeah, I will be back next year looking for those 20 minutes...


Lynda Wallenfels said...

Congrats on NAILING the race plan Dave! Awesome.

We learn the most from our worst races. Sometimes it is equipment and nutrition based and often it is pacing based.

I do believe testing your pacing limits and looking at the other side of the redline is necessary every now and then. Once you have blown and bombed a race with some over-pacing you can fully commit to and believe in an accurate pacing plan to take you to the finish line as fast as possible with success. Belief in your race plan is required to commit and execute it at your *A* race.

You are the master of race execution :-)

Some riders need to blow up in one race EVERY season. I schedule it into their plans before their *A* priority race so we can get that one out of the way!

Hamilton said...

So, on which laps did you swap in the new Air 9?

(great job, by the way! Your consistency is uncanny.)

Dave said...

Thanks LW! Bombing this race for any reason after DNF'ing it last year would have been a real bummer. This one might have been my best execution yet.

Hami-I unleashed the Air9 for only one lap, on Lap #6, and was thinking I might be faster...but I wasn't. That course is deceiving.

Dave Harris said...

Nice race Dave, those are some consistent lap times! I know you've been waiting a year for redemption on this one, looks like you found it aplenty.

BrandonC said...

Nice Dave. Sounds like a fun race to be a part of.