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.