Friday, May 17, 2013

Cascade Chainbreaker 2013

This past weekend I had the Cascade Chainbreaker - an XC race in Bend.  We took this opportunity to make a quick camping trip - staying overnight at Tumalo.

We packed up the Prius and headed out, driving from sunny Corvallis to cloudy Bend.  hmmm... we were greeted by thunder clouds and a sprinkling of rain.  This was not in the plan.  Luckily, the rain was light and only lasted 10 minutes.

We set up camp, got a fire started, and set down to have a delicious dinner of hot dogs roasted over the fire, salad, crackers and cheese, followed by (of course) s'mores.  After cleaning up we took a short walk along the river and enjoyed the sunset.

The next morning Simone woke up at 5:30, but let us snooze until around 6:30.  We packed, ate some breakfast and headed to the race at the very prompt time of 9:15.

At the race, I did all the usual registration stuff, and Mary and Simone got ready to hang out.  The race course actually loops through a central area three times in a short distance - which is great for spectators.  They could hang out in a shaded area and watch riders constantly streaming in and out, up and down over obstacles.  It's probably the best race from a spectator point of view.

I started warming up and did the start lap and the looping through the central area, then did a second start lap.  I had plenty of time to warm up and felt relaxed.  The start lap reminded me that on the narrow, windy singletrack in Bend, you have to pay attention every second because otherwise you'll end up off the path and crashing into a bush or rock.

The start was staged along the road with signs for each wave.  Clydesdales, fat bikes and all the CAT 2 men were a part of the same wave.  I got in line about 15 minutes before the race was to start and was in the middle of the pack of CAT 2 guys.  I'd have liked to have been closer to the front, but wasn't worried about it - I knew we were all in the same situation.

I felt a little anxious/nervous before the start, which was unexpected, but what could I do?  I ate my banana, a little bit of a clif bar, finished my electrolyte bottle and swapped in the energy bottle.  I was getting tricksy - different mixes in each bottle.  Mary and Simone came up to the start right before the race began and cheered me on.

The gun went off, and we started up like a herd of wildebeast.  Other people seemed to know about my secret game plan of starting off strong to get good position heading into the singletrack, and they tried to do the same.  I passed some people, and luckily was able to avoid two guys who took eachother out on the initial climb.  The pack stretched out a little bit by the end of the dirt road climb and we headed down the dusty doubletrack.

Man was it dusty.  On that initial down section, I gave up any thought of passing people and tried my hardest to follow the line of the guy in front of me - in the hopes he was following a clean line from the person in front of him.  For long sections I literally could not see the trail.  It was a little freaky, but there really wasn't choice.

At this point, I caught sight of a guy I figured was a Clyde and stuck to him.  I'd have tried to pass him, but I was pushing my hardest and couldn't go any faster.  I stuck with him as we rolled in and out of the looping finish area.  At some point we caught up to/were caught by another Clyde, and the three of us stayed close for a while, leap frogging each other and passing other folks.

As we headed out on the main loop, it turned more into me chasing the two of them.  I kept them in sight, until the larger Clyde slowly gapped us (that's what happens when someone else gets between people).  Then I just focused on staying close to the smaller Clyde.  I wasn't feeling super strong, and definitely not zippy.

I figured I was in 3rd place at this point - there was no point in worrying about any Clyde that was way in front, and we were passing people - not getting passed.

Unfortunately, the smaller Clyde had two guys between himself and me, and I knew I needed to make a move to catch up as a gap was forming.  I was right on the tail of a slightly slower rider, thinking, "gotta pass, gotta pass", when we got to a corner and he fell.

I ran right into him, falling.  I heard my front tire lose some air as I went down.  We both got up, apparently physically OK, but I knew I had a near-flat front tire and I was angry.  At first I was angry at the guy for falling, but it's just easier to be angry at someone, rather than the situation.  He took off, and I started digging for my pump.

Prior to each of the past two races, I've thought, "gee, I rode all winter with the pump strapped to the frame of my bike - exposed to all the mud and water of winter, I should really check to ensure it still works." And now I had that chance to check.  I put the pump on the valve, started pumping, nothing.


I let out a very frustrated scream and set to work.  I unscrewed the pump, brushed off the caked on mud, put it back together, and started pumping like a madman.  The pump is so small, the tire is so big, it was like filling up a bathtub with a turkey baster.  Meanwhile, many masses of people flew by.

After what seemed an eternity, the tire felt full enough to ride - about 25 pounds of pressure.  I put the pump away and hop on the bike, hoping that 25 pounds would be enough.  I generally ride at 35-40, and most resources show I should have a minimum pressure of 30.  A little nervously, I rode off.

I resigned myself to being off the podium and came up with a new game plan.  I decided to just work on catching people and passing them.  So, go fast, catch and pass - repeat until I finish the race.

I got up to speed and started riding.  I finished the lap, passing a few people along the way.

I entered the looping start area with people cheering.  I heard Simone and Mary cheering me on, but couldn't really respond because taking my hands off the handlebars would just be courting disaster.  They had a spray station set up, and Simone got to spray me with water as I rode by.

I started the second lap, determined to keep on going.  As I left the start area and passed the water station, I sucked on the CamelBak only to find it empty.  sonofa!!!!  An entire lap, of dry, dusty trail, and no water.  I had most of my water bottle with solution left, but I couldn't believe I'd drunk my entire CamelBak (turns out, I still had water left, just a kink in the hose... but I found that out when I got home).

I slowly overtook people, but felt pretty far behind.  At one point, early on in the loop, the trail is split in two and the two directions pass close enough to touch.  At that point I saw the 2nd of the two Clydes I'd been following zip by in the other direction - which meant he was nearly 2 miles ahead of me (and only 10 miles left).  sigh...

Oh well, I continued on, attacking where I could.  I gritted my teeth, grumbled, and rode up the "Boneyard" for a second time - a football field length of trail with an average grade of 15% (peak of 34%).  At the top I passed another person.

It kept on like that for about 6 miles of the 2nd lap.  I got a thumbs-up from a Clyde when we passed each other going opposite directions at that section of trail I'd seen the other one - kinda odd, but encouraging.  I also caught and passed Mike Ripley, who seemed to be really slogging it out slowly.  Lucky for him, he was racing as CAT 1 and had an extra lap to go...

I was feeling pretty parched, I had mud stuck on my teeth (dust + saliva = yummy!), and my only hydration was stuck in a bottle on my bike.  I caught a big guy on some double track, passed him, and then realized it was a good opportunity to get a drink.  I pull the water bottle out and notice that the double track was ending shortly.  I took a quick drink and didn't get the bottle back in time for the turn - so I decided to crash.  gah.  My handlebars went sideways and I went down, hitting my chest, hard, on the handlebars, with my chest.  ouch.  Worse yet, the big guy I'd passed, nimbly bypassed me and headed out hard.

I spent a long time, several minutes, working hard to catch the big guy.  I finally did.

Other than that gaffe, I actually felt pretty relaxed for the second lap.  I wasn't having to gun it the whole time, and I was actually catching and passing people - which I hadn't done more than a couple times in the earlier races.  Even on the downhill sections!

Right about the spot where I'd crashed into the

With about 6 miles left, I noticed I was catching more and more people, it seemed as though folks were really slowing down.  I started to see people with tags on their backs bearing the number "15" - the indication of Clyde, and I was passing them.

As I worked my way up through the ranks of people, I decided that I'd finish the race passing as many as I could, and going fast enough that nobody would pass me.  That was my mantra for the last 20 minutes.

I entered the looping area for the last time, paying close attention to every detail so as not to fall.  I think I heard Mary and Simone cheering me, I don't really remember.  Over and around and up and down, I passed a couple people, and turned out for the last, tiny out and back.  I caught one person after little the hill climb, and caught a lady person about 150 feet from the finish, and after checking my flank, I relaxed and rolled across the finish line.  There were two people right in front of me, but they were obviously not Clydes, so I didn't stress out.

Simone and Mary were there at the finish line, waiting for me.  It was good to see them, though I felt pretty spacy.  The race workers took the slip of paper with the "15" off my back and took it over to the results board.  They walked it over and stretched up tall to stick it onto an empty board... empty, until my name went up.  I got first!

I was shocked, surprised, and pretty excited.

I walked around in a daze as Simone bubbled on excitedly about how she just knew I was going to win (I appreciated the support).  Mary laughed at the mud on my teeth and did her best to see that I started my recovery with whatever I needed.  I ate some chips, drank a bunch of water, a couple Cokes, a PB&J, and rested up a little bit.

Long story short, we headed back home, eating dinner in Sister's, and got home safe and sound.

I really appreciate the support of Simone and Mary, and was very glad that the race course was set up so well for spectators.  The camping trip was short and sweet: Tumalo is really pretty.

At home, I looked at the results, and I was first of 11 Clydes that finished.  I was but 1 minute and 15 seconds ahead of second place.  I looked at the race data on Strava and figured out that I spent over 5 minutes on the flat tire.  I was very close to not finishing first.

Also, I actually had a negative split on the race.  Of course that was due to the 5+ minutes I rested while fixing the front tire on the first lap - everyone else had positive splits for the race.  I don't know how to manage a race with that plan - I think I'd be too nervous to get stuck behind slow people and not be able to make up the gap.

The looping start/finish area was fun, but the course overall was probably my least favorite of the races so far.  I did have a good time on the trails, and there wasn't anything bad... just no views, no real tight single track, no steep descents,

The whole time I was using the pump I thought about a C02 pump...

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Great Ride

While Mary is out of town for a conference, Nana is down here helping take care of Simone.  This morning she managed the whole morning routine (hey, I cooked dinner and did bedtime duties) and I took off for an early morning ride.  I was riding by 6:15am.

The sun was just rising in the sky, and though it was a bit chilly, it looked to be a great day for riding.

I biked past the barn at Dimple Hill and headed toward Skillings.  I've had a goal to ride up to the top of McCulloch peak in under 40 minutes, and recently Scott threw down the same challenge to folks.  Today was the day I'd give it a go.  The climb is up the south side of the mountain, and is entirely on gravel roads.  It's 3.3 miles and has over 2000' of elevation gain.  It's a real grind of a climb.  My previous best had been over 42 minutes, and taking 2.5 minutes off that seemed doable.  So I put some Depeche Mode remixes on the iPod and started up.

40 minutes is a long time, especially when you're trying to push it the whole time.  I didn't have anyone with me to keep me honest.  Every couple of minutes I'd realize I was spacing out and had slacked off, so I'd up the tempo again.  The whole thing averages a 9.6% grade, and it ends with the last 0.7 miles being nearly 16%, with brief spurts of over 25%.  I gritted my teeth and pushed on.

The view from the top was mediocre as there was some haze in the distance and I couldn't see the Cascades.  I cracked open a Clif bar and caught my breath.  I hadn't really paid attention to what time I'd started, so I wouldn't know the result of my climb until I got home and put it on Strava.  ooh, the anticipation.

I threw my coat back on and headed down the new singletrack to the north of the peak, thoroughly enjoying the sun beams streaming in, lighting my way.  I headed over to Iris Meadow (oddly named because there's really no meadow, and I didn't see any Irises today) and I hit all the single track I could, descending down into Sulfur Springs.

I tried a singletrack trail that juts off Road 720 that Joe had pointed out and was treated to yet more idyllic trails.  These pictures don't do it justice, but this is the kind of trail I rode down for the majority of the ride from McCulloch:

The whole time I was riding I just couldn't stop grinning.  The trails were perfect, the weather just right, and I felt strong and fast on the bike.

Once in Sulfur Springs I had to do yet another climb.  It's just a third the length of the McCulloch climb, but is almost half again as steep.  I took it "easy" and tried to relax my way up.  It looks like I kept my heart rate down, but it didn't feel very relaxing going up.

I had one last goal - and that was to push myself going down the Horse trail.  As I've mentioned, my descents are my weak point in racing, and I'm working on them as much as possible.  I blasted down Horse, climbed out the little bit of a hill toward Timberhill, and then cruised on home.

This particular ride has to be about my favorite loop through the forest when the trails are dry.  I'll try to hit it a few more times before the summer is out.  I did the Dimple Hill/Dans loop probably 30 times this winter and I need to give it a little bit of a rest.

It turns out, I crushed my goal climbing up McCulloch and did it in 36:44, nearly 6 minutes faster than my previous best - and 9th best overall (woo-hoo!).  I also jumped into 3rd place on the "Two Bridges" trail, and into 10th going down Horse trail.  A pretty good day overall.

Wouldn't it be great if I could get paid to ride?