Sunday, March 13, 2016

Green Gobbler 6 Hour Race Report

Photo Credit:  Captions by Mary

This was the second race in ChainBuster Racing's Southeastern Endurance Cup.  I am using these races as prep work for Marathon Nationals (Single Speed division). The courses are very similar to what I will be racing on in Augusta in June:  fast and flowy to tight and twisty with little elevation gain.

After completing a power test a couple weeks ago and hitting an FTP that I had not seen in well over a year and a half, I was ready to put this wattage gain to a real world test.  So I threw on a cog one gear harder than I have used in the past at Conyers and was pleasantly surprised during my pre ride. I was able to clean the climbs and go a bit faster on the flats.

Race day was going to be hot!  I do love the heat and humidity, but only after being able to acclimate. One day is not quite enough. I prepared my bottles accordingly, adding Elete Electrolytes to my Torq energy drink.  The guys at Torq would most likely say that their product contains just the right amount of electrolytes, but after having lived in this body for 47 years and pushing it to its limits for the past 15 years, I know what works for me ... and keeps the cramps at bay.

Here is a summary of how the race went for me:

Lap 1:  Running a 32/19 made it a bit easier for me to enter the single track in a decent postition.  At this point I knew there was at least one woman in front of me, possible two.  Not burning any matches, I passed when the trail opened up.  The flat sections I used to refuel and spin the legs out. The two climbs were a 4/10 on the pain scale.

Lap 2;  A friend told me I was a minute and a half behind first.  Whoa! Either that chick was crazy fast and powerful, or (I was hoping) she burnt a few matches.  I did not change my game plan, but continued to cruise along, knowing that consistency is key, and the single speed makes it easy to be consistent.  I began to feel the heat on this lap ... and drank accordingly.  The two climbs were still a 4/10, and I passed several SS'rs who were pushing.

Lap 3:  As I passed through the transition area, my friend said that I had closed the gap on first a little.  The fisherwoman came out in me: time to slowly reel her back in.  I stopped briefly, swapped out bottles, and motored on.  Feeling the flow of the trail, it seemed like I was on autopilot.  The first two laps had warmed the legs and they found their happy place.  The two climbs were still a 4/10. Towards the end of this lap, I caught up to first.  I could tell by her posture that she was hurting.  I slowed a bit, wanting to be cat-like and watch for weakness.  She pulled away during the final 10 mile flat sandy stretch to the start/finish area (it was only 1/2 mile, but for a SS'r, seems to go on forever).

Lap 4:  I had to now stop by my pit area each lap as I was downing a 24 ounce bottle each lap.  I caught back up to first, made some small talk, and then slowly pulled away.  I was still in my happy bubble on this lap, and began to start making the mental calculations of how many more laps I was going to have to do.  3-4 more were going to be necessary.  The two climbs jumped up on the suffering scale, now a 5/10.  After passing through the start/finish and seeing that I was 4:03 into the race, I knew I had to do 3 more.  So I chugged my traditional Red Bull, and awaited my "wings."

Lap 5:  It was here that I began noticing the little pains:  low back, left big toe, outside of my right foot.  I began to feel every little bump and root on the trail.  What I thought was pretty smooth in the beginning now became teeth chattering.  Tons of braking bumps on the descents began to annoy me! To take my focus off the pain, I began to talk to people as I came upon and passed them.  I was very surprised at the women.  I followed one on a long descent who was buttery smooth through the corners.  And I admired those that fought for every inch of trail on the two long climbs.  At this point those climbs jumped up to 7/10 and it was about all I could do to turn over the pedals ... but I did.

Lap 6:  I felt pretty confident in maintaining first as long as I did not have a mechanical.  I had lost sight of second place in the twists and turns of the course.  I now just focused on riding smooth, especially through the creek crossings, which caused many flats on the day.  I noticed that each lap the line through the creeks changed as rocks were flung about.  The climbs jumped up another notch in intensity to 8/10, mostly due to fatigue, but they were also getting a bit chewed up, and finding traction got harder.

Lap 7:  I was now 7 minutes ahead of second and at least could rest a little easier mentally.  The last lap was relatively enjoyable.  All the body pains diminished in intensity and I focused on body position, carving the corners, and seeing how little I could use my brakes.  The long single track climb, I thought about going for it, but felt a twinge in the quads about 1/2 way up.  So I wisely chose to dismount and run up the last 30 yards.  I did manage to clean the powerline climb, but it was not a pretty site.  I hit my limit of pain at a 10/10.

I rolled through on my final lap in 5:19.  This was not easy.  The heat and taller gearing had me hurting at times, but with Coach Lynda's guidance, I had a perfect lead up in training to this race.  I am looking forward to burying myself in some L4/L5 work outs in the near future.

Sandwiched between a fast Floridian and Canadian

My power is coming back and I am feeling good about building up to my "A" race.  I definitely learned a hard lesson last year about overtraining.  It has taken me a full year to recover from digging a hole I almost did not climb back out of.  "Less is more" is my new motto.  No more back to back or back to back to back foolishness. Although I have been training less, the quality is better.  Recovery has been a bigger part of the picture as well.  I am turning into one of the "old people," who rise and set by the sun.  Pretty soon, I will be in the 4 pm supper crowd.

Stealing "cloud Pop Tart" from Karen Jarchow, as I am pretty sure I had the same feeling as her yesterday.

The other piece to this power puzzle is the functional fitness class I have been taking since December.  2-3 times per week, I take a 1 hour class that focuses on mostly body weight only exercises and high intensity cardio, although we do use barbells, dumb bells, and kettle bells, too.  I have seen tremendous gains in high power output.  I absolutely love this class and Coach Joshua is am amazing motivator.  I almost cannot take it when I have to cut these classes out during the week leading up to a race.

I must give a huge shout out to the local SORBA chapter for all the bridge work they put in to make this course fun and mudless.  My bike thanks you.  Eddie has done a wonderful job in getting sponsors who give away awesome, usable product.

Have I said how awesome Mulberry Gap is?

Looking forward to Fort Yargo in May!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Assault on Mount Curahee Race Report

Loving this February with bluebird skies and springlike temperatures.

This is Chainbuster Racing's first gravel race in the Southeastern Gravel Series, a 3 race series.  I had not planned on racing this one, but it fell perfectly within a training block.  There is no better way to suffer through a threshold work out than this, along with those of like minds and legs, so I made the journery over to the comfy, cozy little town of Cornelia last Saturday.

I began to doubt my weapon of choice, when I started seeing an unusually high number of mountain bikes.  I had taken Lisa Randall's advice and brought along my Industry 9 equipped Cysco.  Well, at the very least, it would be a good day of skills work.

The start was on tight, twisty narrow pavement, followed by a long descent.  Having not raced in a pack for some time, it was nerve-wracking.  I chose to back off and not fight for the top 20 positions in the first miles of the race.  Although only 36 miles long, there was plenty of time to make a push. I chose to await the gravel and the climbs.  Besides, my legs were slow to come around, what with the punishment they took earlier in the week.

When I hit the first bit of dirt road, the pack was still thick.  I slowly weaved my way through racers as they struggled with the stutter bumps, pot holes, and millions of sweetgum tree seed pods.  I saw more than one racer go down on Mother Nature's "marbles."

My legs came around after 8 miles and I was slowly able to reel in the women ahead of me.  I had no idea how many there were, but focused on putting the power to the pedals.  There was a 1 1/2 mile section of single track to keep things interesting.  It was pretty mellow, save for a deep creek crossing and a grunty climb afterwards.  Fortunately, there was a racer just ahead of me who was my "gauge" for how to approach the water crossing.  It was deep!  The water was above my cranks and hubs, but I powered through.  Then I  had to keep the hammer down to make the technical climb back up to the ridgeline.  Thank God I have been single speeding and could muster the strength to push the pedals over the top and keep the bike moving forward.

On the 1 mile climb up to the top of Mount Curahee, I envisioned myself in full battle gear with a 30 pound pack, M-16, and boots provided by the lowest bidder, shuffling up to the top (been there, done that at Fort Jackson, Fort Leonardwood, and Fort Bragg).  That mentally made it a helluva lot easier to claw my way up on a 18 pound bike.  On the way up, I saw two women in front of me.  Carrots!

Making my way back down the mountain was more difficult, what with all the stutterbumps.  I thought my eyeballs were going to rattle out of my head!  Finally a smooth surface, and my brain could quit sloshing back and forth in my cranium.  The next few miles were a mix of smooth gravel road and rolling double track.  Somewhere along mile 22, I began doubting as to whether I was still on course.  I was pretty sure I was, but not seeing any confirmation tape had me a little worried.  I hate this feeling as I tend to come off the gas a bit and spend more time looking at the road's shoulder rather than where I wanted my wheels to go.  Finally, I saw a large mud bog with enough bike tracks to convince me I was on course.

Soon afterwards, I saw a competitor up ahead about 30 seconds.  I put forth a little more effort, despite my legs disapproval. She was with another racer and staying tight on his wheel. I also had a partner and together we worked to reel them in. We would catch glimpses of them as the road straightened out and were gaining precious seconds.

At mile 28, we came to an intersection in the road with nary a sign.  Oh ... crap!  There were 3 possibilities.  I quickly dismissed the far left as it did not look well used.  So I was left with the opportunity to go left down the hill or go right up the hill.  After what seemed like an eternity, but was really only 20 seconds, I chose to follow my the racer I was working with down the hill.  For the next few minutes I was dreading having to climb back up this road if indeed it was the wrong way. Finally I saw a ChainBuster sign!

The gravel turned to pavement as we made our way through the Lake Russell Recreation area.  My cohort and I continued to work together, but I could tell he was tiring.  I about blew through the right turn up onto an old decommisioned road bed, thinking that the turn was further up ahead.  How I could think that despite ALL the signage there along with hay bales, I don't know.  I suspect it had something to do with a zone 5 heart rate.

We pulled each other up this road and then hit the main road back to town.  Still going up!  I could see her and her cohort again, still about 30-40 seconds ahead of me.  The climb was brutal and my partner popped off my wheel. I could dig no deeper and watched her crest the hill for the final descent back to town.

Thankfully I did not get stopped by the train (which came by a minute after I had crossed the tracks). I rolled under the Maxxis finishing banner in 2:33:23, 29 seconds behind her.  At this point I thought I was in third place, but when the results were posted, I was second!  I can only assume that one of the women who I saw bombing down Curahee Mountain had gotten off course.

Apparently some "waste of my oxygen" hooligans had taken down the course markings at the intersection at which I had stopped. There were many who had gone off course.  I really hate that this happened, but know that this possibility exists.  I was lucky I had chosen to go left as I had not pre ridden the course, nor had downloaded it to my GPS.  I know that Eddie was extremely frustrated and upset over this.  As much as it is up to him to do everything within his power to reduce the risk of shit like this happening, it is as much our responsibility to do everything within our power to know the course.  I am sure that next year Eddie will probably have more confirmation tape and perhaps send a volunteer out to drive the course and check the course markings the morning of the event.

Afterwards, all racers were treated to free Terrapin beer and an awesome meal at Natalie Janes, which I took home and my daughter devoured!