“Practice makes perfect.” Luckily, the 2013 Barkin’ Dog was a “practice” race for me this year. I’ve participated in this race as relay team member since 2006 or so, including five or six years partnering up with Kirk. In 2012, I raced for the first time as a solo participant in the fat tire division – no pawning the running off to someone else. I finished a distant second that year to a guy wearing a full length CSU triathlon suit that probably cost more then my 15 year old bike. For 2013, the Barkin’ Dog represented my first race on my new Blue Triad EX, so I was excited to see what I could do on a “real” bike (turns out I still need to find a “real” engine). The course for 2013 was very different from 2012, starting on the south west side of the Cherry Creek Reservoir.
I entered the race last minute when my friend, Hector, told me he was going to give multisport a try. He was on a borrowed bike, and we were trying to change out his pedals before the race when we noticed the elite runners go blowing by. Hmmm… we were supposed to be in the wave after the elites. As we scrambled over to the start, we heard the gun go off and saw our wave take off. Whoops! We dashed around the starting corral barriers and made our way through the next wave to the front. After a quick discussion with the race director, we were off… what appears to be 1 minute and 7 seconds behind our wave.
Hector is a phenomenal runner… sub 17 minute 5Ks were no problem for him just a year ago. Since this was his first multisport race, he backed off and paced me well and we were picking off people from our wave pretty quickly all the way into transition.
I jumped on the bike and, after a few miles, I felt like I was getting my groove. Unfortunately, there were still a lot of guys blowing by me. Just before mile 5, on an uphill climb, I noticed that my left clip-on aero bar was about 4″ lower then my right bar. It had worked itself loose and would continue to get worse as the race progressed, and it made shifting between front rings a little sketchy.
As the bike came to an end, I started pulling my feet out of my shoes, something I hadn’t done since last season on a bike I borrowed from Kirk. I forgot to shift before all this, and got caught in the wrong gear going uphill. In struggling to keep the bike upright and mash in a bad gear, I managed to catch one of my shoes on the ground which caused the bike to hop and me to hop off. I would be running the last 100M to transition. As I accepted my fate, there were a number of spectators signaling to me… apparently my shoe had gotten launched off my pedal in this little mis-adventure, so I had to retrieve that. ”That kids, is how you do NOT do it.”
I made my way to transition and managed to get out on the second run without any more drama. Anyone who has ever run off the bike knows it is a bit of an awkward feeling for the first mile or so. This was no exception, and I couldn’t help but scold myself for skipping a number of brick runs in my workout plan mostly due to lack of planning out my workouts. My legs loosened up and I felt mentally stronger as I started picking off people again. Since I didn’t start with any particular wave, and there was a lot of traffic from short-course participants, I wasn’t sure who was in my division. Figuring I had cost myself any chance of a podium finish with all my mistakes, I decided to punish myself on the last mile. Luckily, the last mile is a brief uphill, then a nice gradual downhill to the finish, and it turned out to be my fastest mile on the day.
The good news is I finished second in my age group. I had made the podium… but now I had something else to dwell on. The guy in first beat me by 30 seconds. Bring it full circle to where I missed my wave start by 67 seconds, and I had a chance to contend for the age group win. Looking at the bright side, I can only get better on the bike, and I am very excited that Hector seems to have really enjoyed the duathlon (a gateway drug to triathlon). He says he wants to head over to Foxtrot this weekend and look at bikes.
Lessons learned: give myself plenty of prep time pre-race, work even harder at improving on the bike, practice getting shoes off while on the bike, and do a more thorough inspection of the bike the night before the race. Then, run like the zombies are chasing me…
Jon Maule and I drove over to Eagle on Saturday for the Firebird 40. I believe this is a first year event but it was put on by the folks who put on the Breck 100. We arrived a bit after 12:30 for a 1:30 start. There was a good sized expo area but I wanted to get dressed and warmed up on the bike so I didn’t check it out. This race was a spur of the moment addition to my calendar. I didn’t have any goals for the race but was looking for a good workout. There were two options starting at 1:30, 22 miles or 38 miles. I wanted to get in a good long workout so I signed up for the 38 – a decision I’d come to regret.
We had a neutral rollout from town that climbed up to the course. The first lap was different from all the rest. After the first lap the 22 milers had 2 full laps left and the 38ers had 4. The course had a little of everything. A nasty dirt climb I wasn’t able to ride, quick descents and singletrack with nice flow. There was too much time doing extended climbing on paved bike paths for my taste.
Coming into the race I didn’t have a good idea of time per lap or average speed and hadn’t pre-ridden. I guessed the race would take 3 and 4 hours. I got overexcited by being in a race situation and bumped my HR target up 10 so I could hang and move forward in the race. Things were fine for the first two hours. Had I raced the 22 mile race I would have been 7th or 8th. As I started the 3rd lap my legs cramped up without warning. Both my quads were completely locked up in knots. As soon as my quads relaxed my hamstrings knotted up. It was the worst muscling cramping I’ve ever had, on or off the bike. I was reduced to a slow and painful walk. After about 15 minutes of walking up climbs and free wheeling down descents I was able to ride again. Riders who’d been pacing themselves more wisely were passing me right and left.
Given the sorry state I was in I wasn’t up for another hour of pain. I pulled the plug after the 3rd lap. My totals were around 3 hours and 3600 ft of vertical over 30 miles. It was a well run race with some fun terrain. I learned a hard lesson about pacing and attempting to race a distance not supported by my training.
So i need to state up front that for the time being, all of my long-course mountain bike rides are really about survival and finishing so they’re not really “racing” per se.
Today I raced the Koppenberg with the 35+ 4s. Here is a segment map of the course: http://app.strava.com/segments/641397
As you see, it’s a bit lumpy with one steep ass climb, aka the Koppenberg. What you might not recognize is that 40% of the course is dirt roads. The dirt portions of the course today were loose and borderline treacherous, with the except of the Koppenberg, it was hard packed. Riding in a cat 4 pack is always entertaining, riding in a cat 4 pack on loose gravel is comical. I felt as though my bike handling was an advantage as a result of CX, mountain biking and having pre-ridden the course many times.
My group was doing 4 laps of the 5.1 mile course. I hung with the lead pack for a lap and half. Just after the second climb of the Koppenberg I popped like a balloon. Even though it was flat to downhill I watched at the group, now reduced to 20-ish, rode away from me. Try as I might, there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. I did the rest of that lap and most of the third lap solo. The only consolation was during that period I only lost one spot.
A group of 4 guys caught me for the fourth a final lap. For reasons unknown they didn’t want to work together much. I knew I was racing for pride and fitness today instead of results so pulled more than my fair share. Our mini group of 5 whittled down to 4 at some point. I rode with the other 3 into the finishing stretch. I was spent and all 3 of them rode away from me. I ended up the day in 22nd place, not what I had in mind for the day. My bike handling was fine all day, my bike was mechanically sound — my motor wasn’t up to the task.