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.