Thursday, September 6, 2012

2012 Park City Point to Point, Part 2

My friends often tease me for my tendency to build spreadsheets before big races and for my tendency to pace conservatively.  Basically, I am a planner.  Execution is one of my strengths and I rely on it to make up for the lack of VO2 max I was dealt.  As I was climbing the Team Big Bear singletrack to the top of Deer Valley I was constantly analyzing whether I was going too hard and whether I should slow down or speed up.  I was wondering whether the pain I felt in my quads was normal for this point in the race.  Should I really be breathing this hard and should my HR be this high?  Jens Voit is famous for his “Shut up Legs” quote.  Moving forward, my new mantra is going to be “Shut up Brain”. 

Note to self:  Turn the diagnostic machine off and race your bike.  This is easier said than done for me.

I do think that for me to have a “breakout” race, I am going to have to self-analyze less and race more.  I read an interesting article before the PCPP and there was a quote that stuck in my mind:

"The human body is so complex you can't reduce it to single numbers," says Noakes."Kenyans don't know what their VO2 max is. They train to win; they train to beat the person next to them."

This is an interesting thing to contemplate.

Ok, back to the bike race.  I am a fan of the route that we took this year to get to the top of Deer Valley this year and I hope it remains a fixture in the race.  I am not 100% sure that I know all of the trail names but I think we took Team Big Bear to Flagstaff to Deer Camp (?) to Bow Hunter.  When I got to the beginning Bow Hunter, I got a little snap back in my pedal stroke.  I love that trail for its primitive nature and its remoteness.  I also love it because I know that after completing it, we will be going downhill for a while.  Woot!

Speaking of downhill, the upside to all of the thunderstorms prior to the race was “hero dirt” on most of the course.  I went into this race thinking that we would be riding a very dusty and loose course but we ended up with incredible conditions.  Even newly cut trails like Boulder were riding great.  The Park City trails can handle moisture very well.

I would say that the crux of the race is the climb up Drift Rd to The Steps to Apex and around the Shadow Lake Loop to an elevation of 9,200’.  I was mentally ready for this section and I kept my foot on the gas the whole time knowing that I would have a 25’ descent to recover before the Park City aid station.  As I rounded Shadow Lake I could feel my mojo rising and I was ready to rip the shit out of the CMG singletrack…so I did.  The dirt was a perfect level of tackiness and the grass lining the singletrack was not overly tall which allowed us to see far enough ahead to absolutely “send it”.

 And then I made a wrong turn.  The CMG singletrack crossed a steep service road and for some reason my eyes thought the orange arrow pointed down and not across so I veered left and took this steep-ass road down to a ski lift where it was immediately obvious that I was off course.  My Garmin would have also told me this but I was going 30 mph on a steep gravel surface so I couldn't look down at the Garmin.  At the time, the wrong turn felt devastatingly catastrophic and temporarily took the wind out of my sails.  After the fact, when I look at the actual total time & distance in Topofusion it actually only cost me 7’, 250’ of extra climbing, and a HR spike of 171 to get back on course. 

Note to self:  Shit happens in a race.  Get over it immediately and get back to racing.

Needless to say, my stop at the Park City aid station was a little shorter than originally planned because I wanted to make up for lost time.  I grabbed a new pack pre-filled with Carbo Rocket Kiwi Lime, a flask of EFS Gel, and a Honey Stinger waffle and I was out of there to tackle the Spiro climb.  Oofta…that climb was steeper than I remembered.

Near the top of Spiro, I came upon my buddies, and friendly rivals, Paul Nash and Hamilton Smith.  Hami had torn his sidewall and Paul had stopped to help him MacGyver (verb) a tire boot out of a wrapper in his jersey pocket.  They were putting the rear wheel back on just as I rolled up so we were riding together shortly.  I was in the lead and riding with my homies was a nice boost.  We rallied the rocky Mid Mountain trail and passed several riders along the way.  I didn’t even notice that the skies had turned gray and it began to rain again as I was on a mission to get this thing done.  At some point Paul and I lost Hami and we rode wheel to wheel along the Mid Mountain Trail towards the Canyons.  Paul decided that he needed a Coke at the Guardsman aid station but I kept moving forward…ok, maybe I even stepped it up a notch in an effort to stay ahead of Paul ‘til the end.  There, I said it.

The Ambush climb (what a perfect name for that trail and its position at the end of a very hard race) didn’t disappoint and seemed longer than ever but I was able to stay on the gas and I even passed the legendary Kenny Jones on the climb.  This was noteworthy to me only because Kenny has passed me more times than I can count over the years.  As if to maintain the theme of the day, the final descent on Holly’s also had a few surprises in the form of newly-built rock features (rough speed bumps) just to keep us on our toes.  I managed not to endo on any of them.  At roughly 4:13 PM I rolled onto the grass at the Canyons to a big crowd, music, and a great finish line scene.  It wasn’t exactly the race that I had hoped for but I put down a solid effort and I think I got the most out of what my body had to give on this day.

Sweet Finishers hats from Smartwool
I will absolutely be back in 2013.   

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

2012 Park City Point to Point, Part 1

Race Morning
Is someone running a washing machine at 4:45 AM on the 5th floor at the Canyons on a Saturday morning?  What else could that sound be?  When I opened the curtains and the saw that the sound was accompanied by flashes of light I immediately got a big lump in the pit of my stomach with the realization that we could be starting this race in a storm.  Fuck.  The parking lot lights illuminated the sheets of rain that were blowing across the property.

Take a deep breath and stick to the routine:  Make coffee.  Eat rice and eggs with parmesan cheese.  Do a short session on the foam roller & stretch.  Try to poop. 

When I looked outside again at 5:45 AM it was raining harder. Fuck.

I was walking out the door with my pre-race bag over my shoulder and my two drop coolers in my hands when my phone “pings” with a new text message from Amanda Carey:  “Update from Shannon, race delayed 1 hour”.  All of a sudden I felt calm and I liked the idea of having a little more time to assess the conditions and mentally get ready for a potential slog-fest.

As I drove into the Round Valley parking lot, Jay Burke was in his truck telling racers that we are definitely delayed and possibly racing tomorrow. Tomorrow?  I like the sound of that…or do I?  Shit, I don’t know how I feel about any of this.  I really wanted to race the entire course under sunny skies but that wasn’t in the cards any longer.
It is 6:35 AM and I am sitting in the truck, in the dark, in a hard rain, and I am checking Twitter, Facebook, and the PCPP website for updates.
All of this uncertainty has put my GI system into overdrive and I had to scramble for a rain jacket and make a mad dash across the parking lot to the porta-john.  Thank you Jay Burke for having porta-johns at the start line. 
The next ten minutes were a blur.  There was a quick meeting, then a vote on whether to race a shortened course Saturday or a full course Sunday, more discussion, and then finally confirmation that we were racing a shortened (by 12 miles) course at 8 AM. 

I immediately put on too many clothes because my brain was still replaying images of the apocalyptic storm from 5 AM that morning.  All of a sudden it was 7:50 AM and I still had to warm up.  In one of my better decisions of the day, I stripped down to shorts, jersey, and arm warmers just before start and stuffed my tiny Montbell wind shell into my center jersey pocket where it would live all day.  

Photo by Cotton Sox Photography

The Race

I distinctly remember having the following thoughts during the first hour of the race:

How fast can I go without paying the price later? Not this fast you dummy… ok, maybe this fast. (which in reality was 98.5% of the speed I was going to begin with)  

You aren’t drinking enough.

Get your HR down… but don’t slow down.

My hands are numb and I can’t feel my waffle in my jersey pocket.  I really want that damn waffle.

Wow, these trails are incredible right now.  This is fun. This is awesome.  I am ripping.  I am the greatest mountain biker in the world...oh wait, there are a lot of people in front of me.  Strike that last statement.

There goes KC Holley, passing me in yet another race. 

As we entered the Deer Valley property, the course sent us up a steep service road climb that is used in the ICUP Deer Valley Pedalfest races.  I was steadily grinding my way up this climb, just trying to keep from tipping over sideways, and Mark llinares goes flying by me like he just started his race.  “That was rude of him”, I say to myself as he passes about a dozen riders in the next 200 yards.  I want to climb like Marco when I grow up.

Overall, my race was going pretty well at this point.  I was riding right on the edge of my sustainable pace and I wasn’t having any issues with the mud.  Due to my Raynaud’s, my hands had been numb from the start but that was manageable now that I have 10-spd gripshift on my bike.  Without the gripshift, I doubt I would have been able to shift at all.     

I rolled into the Silver Lake aid station in 1:59:00 and immediately found my drop cooler to swap my pack and grab more calories.  I also ditched my sunglasses since they were fogged up and not doing me any good anyway.  My split time of 1:59:00 “felt” like I was on track given that the course had been shortened by about an hour and I had originally planned on 3 hours to arrive at Aid #1.  

The hardest part of this race was still ahead of me.