Thursday, July 5, 2012

2012 Cream Puff Race Report

Quick Stats:
Place:  3rd Place Open Singlespeed
Time:  12:34:05
Conditions:  Mild temps, high humidity, & muddy singletrack
Gearing:  32x20

Humid & Muddy are the two adjectives I would use to describe the 2012 Puff
It has been a wet spring in central Oregon and rain has been the norm throughout June instead of the typical warm temps.  Having watched the forecast all week, I knew it was likely that we would get wet at some point but I had no idea that we would be in for the epic slog that Mother Nature dished out.  We got rained on in the 2009 Puff and the trails held up very well.  This year, it rained hard the afternoon before the race and throughout much of the night.  With the trails already saturated from a wet spring, we were greeted by serious mud when we hit the Alpine Trail for the first time Sunday morning. 

The first hour+ of the race gets sorted out on the long climb of FS Road 1910 before the race is funneled into the famous Alpine Trail singletrack.  I felt great on the first climb and when we turned into the dark forest, I was ready to get my singletrack shred on.  I was not mentally ready for the abrupt stop that occurred when I hit the first muddy incline.  The Alpine Trail was deep, greasy mud and I was struggling to ride it on the singlespeed…so I pushed.  I was only 1:15:00 into my race and this was part of my plan.  I felt SO slow and inefficient and it was fucking with my mental state early in the game.  

This little section of the Jedi Forest was "dry" and tacky
 Toe Spikes
This year’s race routed us onto the steep singletrack of Tire Mountain and Winberry Divide and these trails were challenging to ride on my geared bike in 2009 when they were mostly dry.  I remembered how tough these trails are and when I saw rain in the forecast I added ¾” toe spikes to my shoes to help when I had to push my bike.  When we hit the first sustained pitch of Tire Mountain, the footprints told me that most riders were pushing their bikes and sliding backwards a little with each step.  I smiled…and began to push harder.  As I saw the geared riders around me pushing as well, I felt even better and I quickly wrapped my brain around the fact that it was going to take me longer to finish than it did in 2009.  It took me 20’ longer to get to Aid #3 than it did in 2009.  Oofta! 

Everything circled in yellow was very muddy
Get your gravel climb on
I look forward to the long gravel climbs in the Puff and I was stoked to get through Aid #3 and begin the two hour climb up to the Jedi Forest.  I used the riders ahead like carrots and tried to reel them in while staying at the very high end of my sustainable pace.  I had long stretches of “alone time” in this year’s Puff and I was able to look around a bit and notice the scenery while climbing.  The flowers were absolutely going off this year and one hillside in particular looked like a giant quilt covered in tiny pink flowers.  Gorgeous stuff.

Mr. Green Socks 
On my second trip over Winberry Divide, I caught a singlespeeder.  I hadn’t seen another singlespeed since the opening climb and as I got closer I recognized his green striped socks.  He rode away from me on the opening climb and I remember thinking that he looked very strong.

We were both pushing/riding our way through Winberry mud and I finally caught him when he had a minor bobble and went off trail.  I tried to put the hammer down and get a gap but it was so slippery that I too went off trail about five minutes later and he passed me. Doh!  A few minutes later, we repeated the drill and I was in front again.  Although we both laughed about it at the time, underneath the laughter we were sizing each other up and I had a feeling we would battle for the rest of the day.  We left Aid #3 together and chatted a bit on the paved FS road before I upped the pace and got a gap that would stick for the remainder of the race.  I knew he was never far behind and would catch me if I let up at all or made a single mistake.  Sure enough, Mr. Green Socks finished in 4th place, just six minutes behind me.  Nice work!

The Last Climb
In my four previous Cream Puffs, I have always had a little left on the final climb and been able to reel in a few riders.  Not this year.  Although I did not get passed on the last climb, it took every drop of energy I had to keep the pedals turning over on FS Road 1910.  I was more than a little excited to grab the delicious de-fizzed bottle of black goodness (Pepsi) that was in my drop cooler at the bottom of the final climb.  With just a mile to go to the top I tried to up the pace, knowing that I could empty the tank before the final downhill.  My legs cramped in protest…first the left inner thigh cramped and then my right hip flexor cramped.  Fuck!  I was sure that Mr. Green Socks would catch me in my pathetic cramped-up state.   

Supply & Demand?
The Cream Puff had 90 racers signed up this year and only about 70 took the start line.  This is a big drop from 2009 & 2010 when the Puff had close to 200 racers.  Is it the $225-$250 entry fee?  Has the High Cascades 100 in Bend, OR taken a big bite out of their field?  I sincerely hope that the new race directors have success with the race and build upon what has made the Cream Puff an incredible event.        

My Lower Back; the key to finishing the 2012 Cream Puff
Just three weeks before the Puff, I had to DNF the Boise9 to 5 because of low back pain.  In fact, I questioned whether I should even attempt the Puff after the Boise 9 to 5.   

I made an appointment with Dr. Nate Spangler of Trailhead Chiropractic immediately following the 9 to 5 and we went through an evaluation.  Dr. Nate put me through a battery of range of motion tests and made a simple diagnosis:  My hips are so immobile that my lower back flexes to compensate while on the bike. Your hips should be mobile and your lower back should be somewhat stable.  In other words, I need to work on hip flexibility (Hip Flexor, Pirformis, IT band, Quads) as well as Glute strength to take some pressure off of my lower back. 

In addition to a heavy dose of foam roller work & specific stretching, Dr. Nate did three sessions Graston Therapy on me which seemed to really make a difference.  I immediately started feeling the results of this simple new program and I was cautiously optimistic after my pain-free 6.5 hour singlespeed training ride in Jackson two weeks before the Puff.

Lastly, I took extra time during my 8.5 hour drive to Oakridge, OR to stop and stretch.  I also stopped in Bend, OR and did some stretching & went for a short run.  I arrived in Oakridge feeling pretty good and I will incorporate this routine into my long drives from now on.

For the first time in a long time, I was not limited by lower back pain in a race and was able to use the muscles in my legs that I work so hard to train.  I still have a lot of work to do but at least I have a solid plan of attack.  Thanks Dr. Nate!

Selma was looking a little rough after this one but she got some love once we got home


Dave Harris said...

Nice work DB! Fingers crossed the low back demons have been exorcised. Now there is nothing holding you back. Look out.

Adam Meyer said...

Congrats on a great result Dave, especially in tough conditions!

Daniel Zvirzdin said...

Glad to hear the back is better. Nice job powering through the muck.

Ed said...

Hey Dave - congratulations and great work getting the lower back issues under control - that's been a huge battle for you.