Tag Archives: Racing

2014 Yak Attack Stage 4

Valley Views
A long way down

Stage 4 was another combination of stages from previous years. It was to be another epic day in the saddle- 51 miles and about 9,000′ of climbing. It’s all up, with a nice spike of steepness coming in around mile 16. The down bits are few and far between, so I knew my chances of making up time were slim.

Something just wasn’t right in the morning. I was ready to go with plenty of time before the start, but then realized I wasn’t quite ready. Things got away from me quickly and suddenly I was racing to meet the whistle as the other riders started to leave the hotel grounds for the start about a mile or so down the road.

I was flustered, and foggy-headed. I strapped on my pack, and as I was heading down the steep rocky hill in front of the hotel, I suddenly found myself spread eagle, face down in the dirt, bleeding from my knees and elbow. I had wrecked trying to turn my Garmin on- caught a bad rock or dip, or who knows what. That definitely hurt and rattled me pretty good.

I limped my way to the start and when the whistle blew again, I knew I was in trouble. My legs were replaced with leaden replicas. I could not pedal worth a damn and saw the main group peel away from me quickly and I had nothing to offer in return. This was going to be a long day. As Tyler started to pass me, Garrit rode up next to me (he was playing photo-tourist today), looked over and shouted, “Don’t make it so easy on him, out of the saddle!” as he started to sprint away begging me to suck his wheel. I tried, but it was a miserable effort. I settled in to a slow rhythm again and was caught by Phil who usually runs sweep, “uh-oh.”

“I’ve got nothing Phil, this is gonna be a long day.” and he too pedaled away from me. I didn’t want to start wallowing in self-doubt so I just lowered my head and pedaled on. We were still only a few miles in, and I knew there was a long way to go.

Somewhere around the time the trail kicked sharply, I suddenly found my legs. I found that hilarious since historically, I am absolute shite climbing, but there I was starting to reel people in as the grade got steeper, more loose, and somewhat techy and chunky. I had caught and passed Phil, and was now trading back and forth with Tyler, and I think at some point even passed Wendy for a bit. I was starting to feel pretty good for the first time that day. I was still with Tyler and Wendy as we pulled in to the aid station at the half-way point. I downed a quick slug of water, and ate a few biscuits and followed Wendy out of the aid leaving Tyler behind. The trail got very steep and very loose again, and Wendy started to pull away.

Aid Station before the fall
Aid Station before the fall
Start of switchbacks
Start of switchbacks

We were switch-backing our way up the valley side and the heat was really bearing down. I was definitely red-lining but wanted to keep Wendy close and pace her as much as possible. The track I was on was getting way loose with big bowling ball rocks so I started to move over to a clearer track. At some pointe I stalled a bit and was about to un-clip when suddenly my cleat would not release. Yup, the mental notes from stage 1 and 2 came back suddenly- it was clear my cleat had rotated again. This all happened in a flash, and suddenly I was falling on to my right side- SLAM! I landed on the wrong end of my handle bars straight to the solar plexus just to the side of my sternum. My full body weight came crashing down on my bar end.

Yeeouch!
Yeeouch!

The wind was completely knocked out of me- I find this one of the scariest moments, especially after redlining up a steep hill to suddenly have no ability to breathe. I tried to remain as calm as possible reminding myself that breath would return soon. I hunched over, finally free of the bike and counted, desperately waiting for my diaphragm to start working again. From behind me I could hear Tyler asking if I was okay.

I was decidedly not okay. Finally a short gasp came, I heaved, groaned, and waited for a second breath, “Ohhhh fuck!” More short shallow breaths followed. Adrenalin started to take over. I righted myself and my bike. Things were hazy, but I started to walk, stopping to straighten my bars, Tyler still checking on me.

Then I noticed the “click.” It felt like my ear bud was bouncing off my heart rate strap, or maybe I had broken my heart rate monitor around my chest. I pulled up my jersey, and angry welt almost the perfect shape of my bar end smiled at me. My strap was fine, and my ear bud was nowhere near it. I pushed on my ribs, “snap, crackle, pop”- my fingers melted into what is normally solid bone.

“I fucking straight up broke my rib.” It was matter of fact- anxiety flooded me, was this the end of my race?

“Do you want to go back to the aid station- it’s just down the hill.” That hill had cost me too much to retrace. No way was going back down.

“Hell no!”

“Do you want me to stay with you?”

“No, go on, nothing you can do.”

There was probably a bit more yelling, a bit more cursing. I was pissed and didn’t really know what to do but keep moving my feet. Tyler took off and I continued to walk my bike up the steep grade. When it started to kick back, I got on and pedaled. This was suffering at its worst. I pulled over to readjust things. I ditched my heart rate strap as it was not helping things. I readjusted the straps on my camel bak. I pedaled some more, then I stopped to fix my cleat; I definitely didn’t want to take another tumble. I went on like this for a while. Time crawled to a standstill. I stopped again. People were now catching and passing. It was hot, dusty and endless.

I stopped for a longer stretch, poking and prodding my chest. First Paul appeared and offered help, then Phil came around the corner. I told them what happened and Phil looked at me, “Are you going to wait here for the sweep vehicle?”

“Fuck no!” the anger wasn’t at Phil, or the question, but at myself, for being in this spot. Just over halfway through the 4th day- the days only getting harder from here. I did myself in good. What the fuck was I going to do- ride in a jeep? Take a bouncing metal deathtrap all the way back to Kathmandu? Give up? No, I was pushing on.

Then the jeep appeared with the race Doctor sitting shotgun.

“I’m all fucked up.”

The doctor agreed I likely broke something, but there wasn’t much to do. He gave me some paracetamol and asked if I wanted to ride in the jeep. This wasn’t happening.

I waved everyone off, and got back on my bike. It was going to be a long day, and I needed to move if I was to see the end of it.

Trudging along and getting views
Trudging along and getting views

I don’t really remember much from here. I do remember some stunning views- we were getting deep into the mountains now. I think I pulled away from both Phil and Paul, and traded back and forth a bit with the jeep. There were waterfalls, and glacially cold water crossings. My feet were soaked and cold. Rickety bridges appeared across scary river crossings. It got steeper and steeper. Alcoves of waterfalls dropped the temps a good 20 degrees inducing some slight shivering. I pedaled on. Then a massive snow-capped jagged peak appeared and I stopped to take a photo- this may be my last chance.

Getting views
Getting views

I plodded on, turning the cranks, willing myself into Chame. I passed a couple more people before finally hitting the outskirts of Chame; I spun the prayer wheels as I went through the arch. It felt like forever to reach the finish line at the far end of town. I pulled in to the courtyard and collapsed in a heap on the stairs. It was cold. This was a forbidding place. I was mentally wasted, but I was at the finish.

My mind never really returned the rest of the day. I struggled to get my bike cleaned and shit put away. Every movement was a supreme effort. I gobbled down the ibuprofen and paracetamol. I tried for a shower but regardless of the signs, there was no hot water to be had anywhere. Then I grabbed my flask. It was full of 18 year Jameson whiskey- a celebration for a far off race finish that was now in serious doubt. Might as well kill the pain. I sat in the eating area and soothed my aches.

BOOM! View from "downtown" Chame
BOOM! View from “downtown” Chame

Tomorrow was a shorter day, but we were getting up there in altitude. It took everything I had to finish stage 4 and I really didn’t know if I could continue, but there was only one way to find out.

Stats: 51 miles, 6,900′, 7:07, 20th 2:51 off lead

Chame Shangri-La
Chame Shangri-La
Hand cutting stone
Hand cutting stone
Lots of wood, but no warming fires
Lots of wood, but no warming fires
Downtown
Downtown
Local residents
Local residents
Town water tower
Town water tower
Don't Believe the Hype
Don’t Believe the Hype
Warmth will not return anytime soon
Warmth will not return anytime soon

2014 Yak Attack Stage 3

Start line jitters
Start line jitters

This is the only stage that starts with a downhill close to the hotel. I had done this same downhill and taken 3rd during Trans-Nepal. We ran a staggered start with 30 seconds between each rider starting with the slowest. My goal was to catch as many rabbits as possible before we hit the road at the bottom of the downhill where the route turns uphill for a while before upgulating along on a fair amount of sealed road. I manage to real in a good 7-8 riders, and while I probably burned a match or three doing it, I really enjoyed the downhill. I’m not sure why I pushed so hard but I had an absolute blast railing this downhill for just over 5 miles. I certainly paid for it later on in the day, but I came here to have fun, and fun is what I had.

Cooler spectators than The Tour
Cooler spectators than The Tour

I was caught pretty quickly by some of the last riders I’d passed, but it took the leaders at least a little while to catch me given my head start. It was humbling to watch them pass by like I was standing still. Suck a wheel? Not likely with these cats. I was eventually caught on the road by Tyler, and was able to hang on to his wheel into the finish where I just nosed him at the line. The day ends with the steepest climb of the stage, after the finish line- typical Yak Attack!

Still looking fresh
Still looking fresh photo by: GuaravMan Serchan

We’re now getting in to parts of the race I didn’t get to see during the Trans-Nepal. Day three ends in Besi Sahar, the gateway to the Annapurna circuit. you can just start to get good glimpses of the high Himalaya. It was one of the easier days but still clocked in with a respectable mileage, and some decent climbing- even the easy days are hard in Yak Attack. One rider was claimed on the day when Johan, already suffering with a torn back muscle, broke his seat post and finally had drop the race. To his credit, he completed the rest of the stages on foot including the pass. This race brings in the tough ones for sure.

Stats: 37 miles, 3,545′, 3:21, 23rd 1:03 off lead

Finish line congrats
Finish line congrats photo by: GuaravMan Serchan 

2014 Yak Attack Stage 2

Gearing up for stage 2
Gearing up for stage 2

I think the idea for upping the ante on The Yak Attack had been in the works for some time. Phil (race director) mentioned during Trans Nepal that he was considering combining some stages for future races. This year stages 2 and 3 were combined into one long stage going from The Famous Farm all the way to Gorka. I’ll be honest, I was a bit concerned. Even though it is not a horrendously long stage, clocking in around 51 miles, there is over 8,000′ of climbing. My knees were not feeling the best, and this is only day 2 of 8 days of riding with another monster stage 2 days later (combined stages 5 and 6 for a new stage 4). We also hit the low point of the race in elevation, and temps were going to be warm. But first, we needed to descend a narrow busy, sealed road for 5 miles and then, of course, climb a steep bit for a good mile or so to the start. This is Yak Attack, no freebies allowed.

Terraces
Terraces

The stage wasted no time in getting started as you climb an ever steepening grade for about 6 miles- all told, about 2,500′ of elevation gain. I was getting passed but settled in and just made sure I kept turning the cranks. At some point near the top, I started to reel some folks in, and then we got a great downhill. which of course led to another even steeper climb. At the top it is standard, beautiful upgulating (undulating, with more up than down, always up…) Nepali riding before another even longer downhill. I think it was here that I caught Tyler sitting on the side with a flat. I offered the obligatory, “are you good?” but the response was not positive. I hit the brakes and helped him get his valve core unstuck so he could put in a tube. From there I continued down and eventually came to a rickety suspension bridge across the river. Nothing much to do but ride it- better to spend as little time on this bridge as possible.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Enp-pjBYbLc

Bridge traffic
Bridge traffic

After the bridge was some steep hike-a-bike on loose dirt. It was hot but I felt okay. I caught at passed another rider (Thomas maybe) and was surprised to be pulling away from him on the climb that followed. The first aid station was only 13 miles in but felt like forever. The next section to aid 2 was rolling, occasionally up, occasionally single-track, and occasionally very rough. I was putting some time on a few riders from stage 2 but was caught by Tobias just as I was leaving aid 3. As I was taking off, I suddenly noticed John Salskov sitting on the threshold of the shack/shop. “You ok John?”

Snapshot(2)

Working the fields
Working the fields

John was decidedly not ok. Heat stroke, Nepali stomach bug(s), general body break-down. He looked like shit and was talking of having to bail. I told him to rest, there were hours before the cut-off, and try to recover before I took off. Unfortunately, John ended up having to take the jeep from just past aid 3 to the finish. He was not the first or last casualty of the race.

Phenomenal course markings- Snow Monkey does an incredible job!
Phenomenal course markings- Snow Monkey does an incredible job!

I found another gear leaving the last aid station, and felt the freshest I felt all day. It seems maybe I am finally learning to pace a bit, and also benefitting from doing a lot of long rides. This is good because you set off on yet another long climb from the day’s low point, up, up, up. I did some walking, some riding, some grinding, and once again took a good tumble going up hill when I failed to release my right cleat- mental note. It was a dusty landy, and I was covered in fine silt now reddish brown where I had been black lycra.

Walkin' bushes
Walkin’ bushes

Mind your line

The stage finished with more rolling, upgulating riding with stellar views everywhere. We were riding through centuries old terraced valleys and ridges. And then the finish line came in to view. I felt great as I crossed the line- it was a beautiful stage. It would make a great one day race all on its own. The knees ached, but nothing debilitating and I hoped I hadn’t dug too deep a well for the following days. Besides combing old stages 2 and 3, there were some significant reroutes to reduce the amount of time spent on roads. The race is all the better for it. Good job Phil Evans!

Stats: 51 miles, 8,300′, 7:04, 22nd, 2:30 off lead

Snapshot(6)

2014 Yak Attack Stage 1

That's a lot of gear
That’s a lot of gear

The awesome Videographer was working his way among the racers, “What are your expectations for this year’s Yak Attack?” if I had been asked this a couple months ago, my answer would have been a lot different than this day. What are my goals- to finish. Of course, it’s a race, and once the pedals start turning, even knowing I have no shot of doing “well,” I can’t help but push myself as hard as I can.

Me and Raj Kumar with Yuki and Rob
Me and Raj Kumar with Yuki and Rob

That’s the real deal isn’t it? At the end of the day, will I feel like I did my best- did I push hard enough? Did I leave too much in the tank? Did I crumble mentally, or did I put in an effort I can be proud of. Podiums are awesome, don’t get me wrong, but the Yak Attack is a different sort of race save for the very few, extremely gifted riders at the front of the class. This is an adventure.

Stage 1 starts with a long “group ride” uphill to the start line at Shivapuri National Park. It is pretty common for Yak Attack days to either start, end, or both with an untimed stage, usually uphill. We reached the top and regrouped for a short few minutes before the whistle blew and we were off on the extremely steep rocky start that eased back to some great single-track.

Waiting game
Waiting game

Not the first or last of the mud

I had ridden a lot of stage 1 during the Trans-Nepal. The short but techy rock garden was as fun as I remembered, and there was some mud, rocks and then a fabulous first view of the mountains- absolutely stunning.

Once the Himalaya came into view, we deviated from previous courses. Instead of a fast sealed road descent, we climbed further up and right on muddy jeep road to a new, gigantic, brake burning descent. It was the kind of descent that starts to just destroy your hands and legs, even though you’re going downhill.

Leading Tobias
Leading Tobias

I was screaming down the descent with Thomas- a German living in the Yukon, and another German, Tobias. I had just started to open a gap on Thomas when I came up on Tyler (fellow Coloradan now living in Kathmandu) and Ram- of the Nepalese army riders. Ram had taken a big spill, was repeating himself a lot, and had some big contusions and scraps on his face and a broken helmet. Did I mention that Tyler was the one that found me after crashing out at the Breck 100 last year? Is this good or bad luck? Tobias and I stayed with Ram and Tyler for several minutes to make sure things weren’t desperate. We were a good 10 miles from either the start or the first water station, pretty much in the middle of a nowhere on the steep sides of the Kathmandu valley.

I eventually took off with a goal to update the docs at the first water station. It took longer than expected. My knees started to act up on the remaining downhill and I was actually looking forward to some flatness. We pedaled along cobbled, bouncy primitive roads until aid 1. I updated the docs, and gave some info on location and Ram’s state. There really wasn’t any easy way to get transport to where he was located, but I left the particulars to them before heading off. Keep this in mind, we were at the start, very close to Kathmandu and it was still a huge proposition to afford any reasonable care in the event of shit getting serious. This is no joke, and only gets more serious the further along the route one goes. This is committed.

The day finished with a horrendous, hot, and normally dusty hill climb to the finish. Last year my cranks were literally falling off on this climb due to a loose spindle, and I had to walk a few sections. This year I was determined to get it clean, which I did, but I lost a good amount of time to Tobias who pulled away from me near the bottom. This hill cracked more than a couple top riders in the heat- but the recent rains at least meant the dust was minimal. I crossed the line in 23rd that day- not stellar, but about where I belonged.

From the finish it’s a short, uphill march to the Famous Farm- the best accommodations in the entire race. At the entrance to the farm, I fell over when I failed to unclip from my pedals- mental note…

Stats: 30.3 miles, 2,907′, 3:15:32, 23rd

Well earned beers and Kind bars
Well earned beers and Kind bars
The Famous Farm
The Famous Farm
Chillaxin- Rajeev, Tyler, John and Rob
Chillaxin- Rajeev, Tyler, John and Rob
Race prep central
Race prep central
Mr Marcus strolling
Mr Marcus strolling
The bounty
The bounty
Best eating of the trip
Best eating of the trip
Awesome views everywhere
Awesome views everywhere

Point the Way

Heading towards the goods
Heading towards the goods across the High Plains

When I crossed the finish line in the 2011 Point-to-Point, I was so lame in my right knee due to IT Band Syndrome that I would have been shot on sight if I was a horse. I couldn’t walk without a limp for 6 weeks and it was over 8 weeks before I could ride my bike again. It was my first big race and I was just lucky to finish at 11:28. I knew the minute I crossed the line I’d be back.

2012 was better- or at least I felt better at the end of the race, but it was more apple than orange as heavy rain in the morning forced a postponed start and shaved the route down to only 68 or so miles. I placed better overall but not significantly. I couldn’t wait to sign up again for 2013.

Following my epic crash at the Breck 100, I was not able to do a whole lot of riding. I did manage a couple high-country days so all was hopefully not lost, but overall I had no idea where I was at when I jumped in line at the start. My “goal” was for a sub 10-hour race. Looking back at some pacing from the Breck and Tatanka, a 9-hour race was not completely out of the question. I set my Garmin for a 9-hour pace.

Trepidatious- always the same pre-race look...
Trepidatious- always the same pre-race look…
And they're off
And they’re off

This year I took a spot higher in the start order in order to reduce the usual cock-blocking on the Round Valley loop. It worked great as I had to deal with few, if any riders on the downhill sections (only a couple towards the end) and was able to easily let a few folks pass me unhindered on some of the opening climbs. I must have completely zoned out at one point because I was expecting another stiff climb in Round Valley when the end of the loop suddenly appeared- sweet! From there it was up Skidrow to Lost Prospector. I love Lost Prospector- such a fun trail. Last year it was as sloppy mess with rain and mud and chain-suck. This year was perfect tacky dirt. I was more hesitant than normal on the downhill to Solamere, but I was sticking remarkably close to my target pace.

Awesome volunteers at a road crossing- P2P volunteers are awesome!
Awesome volunteers at a road crossing- P2P volunteers are awesome!

Riding in to Aid 1 Riding in to Aid 1

Once into Deer Valley the new course changes started to appear. I really liked the 2013 edition. I hit the first Aid at Silver Lake still on target. However, once I hit Team Big Bear I started falling off pace. I’ve seen a few people lamenting the exclusion of Bow Hunter from this year’s race, though I was pretty happy. The views are stunning, but I have just never found my groove on this bumpy, hot, primitive trail.

What it is ALL about- Putting the Single in Singletrack
What it is ALL about- Putting the Single in Singletrack

The new TG to Corvair link-up was awesome. While I tried to make up some time on John’s, the shoulder was having none of it. I am not a fan of this trail. It’s a rooty, twisty, jarring trail that has me wishing for a full-suspension bike every time I ride it. I wouldn’t cry if this disappeared in the future either, but then, it probably wouldn’t feel like the p2p if it was cut. All races need some epic suffering to be worthwhile.

I swapped back and forth with a few riders I had seen throughout the day but then got dropped hard on the long climb to Shadow Lake. Once I crested the top though, I really opened up on the long descent back to Park City and finally felt comfortable at speed. I absolutely pinned it most of the way down. At the top of shadow lake I was a good 15 minutes off pace- by the time I rolled into the PCMR aid station, I was even again. I swapped out bladders and realized if I could continue pushing, sub-10 was all but guaranteed as long as I kept the rubber side down and didn’t completely blow up- 9 hours was still a remote possibility.

The new course in this area was another real improvement over past years. Climbing up Spiro was always an epic sufferest and while there was still plenty of climbing on the new route, overall I felt it was a better track. The chunky section of mid-mountain still did its best to loosen all of my fillings and fatigue was setting in hard. My pace continued to slack, but sub-10 was still looking good.

All day views
All day views

Up and over- Rob’s and Rosebud’s Heaven are so fast and flowy- the only worry is coming around a corner too hot and flattening some poor hiker or biker out for a leisurely holiday weekend stroll. All too soon I hit the soul crushing turn UP Ambush and away from the finish, the beer, the end. It was all I could do to keep turning the cranks- my legs were spent. Somewhere along Ambush my Garmin virtual partner finished and I knew 9 hours was out of the cards, but it gave me a bit of a charge to get to the top and I finally crested the last high-point. From there it was another burner run down Holly’s- my hands had gone numb and I wasn’t sure I could brake hard enough if I needed so I tried to put that thought out of my mind completely.

And just like that, I could see the finish. I polished off the last few turns into the grass, skipped the hollywood jump at the end and rolled across the finish line in 9:19:10. Goal achieved. Another p2p in the books and good enough for 26th (out of 89 starters) in 40+.

This was just about the best race I could have hoped for all things considered. I improved substantially over past years, and really had a blast out on the trails. I was cooked at the end, but not to the point of being unable to walk which is huge. The Fool’s Gold 100 is just 2 days away and after that is the Enchilada Enduro which should be an absolute blast. From there it’ll be time to start thinking about the Yak Attack- the start is a scant 6 months away. Giddy UP!

And oh yeah, seems I *just* missed seeing Gilly out on the trail- my teammate Nate got a dollar from him and was about 10 minutes in front of me most of the race. I was pretty bummed at the finish because well, I’ve ALWAYS dreamed of getting a Gilly dollar hand-up. As I sat sipping my beer… up through the crowd came the myth, the legend. I got me a dollar!

Gilly cash
Gilly cash
Homeward Bound (for now)
Homeward Bound (for now)

Nail, Meet Hammer!

Room with a view
Room with a view

Ah… those moments leading up to being awake… the faint voices from the radio transition from cloudy fog into crystallized sharpness. This isn’t my bed… I’m talking but I can’t quite make out what I’m saying.

“Thank you” was definitely in there somewhere. I’m vaguely aware of moving my head back and forth- maybe I’m looking at multiple people- I don’t really know.

Oh… we’re in a car? Or is it an SUV? Are my eyes open? I should probably be more freaked out considering I have absolutely no idea what the hell is going on. Roll with it. Or do I know what’s going on… I thank “them” once again. I think I crashed… I think I’m on my way back to Breckenridge- I could still be asleep back in my bed somewhere in Denver.

We continue to chat- about what, I still don’t know. Now we’re walking, we’re definitely outside- feels like Carter park. “I crashed hard.” Wait, who said that?

“We have you on file- is your current address still 120 Kohl St.?”

“Yes, yes it is- I guess I’ve been here before.” I finally notice I’m cold as I start to peel away my jersey and bibs. Maybe I’ve been shivering this whole time.

The hours in between my last memories of cresting Boreas Pass- hucking hard into the sweet downhill that starts The Gold Dust trail and this moment of finally realizing I am sitting in a bed in the ER in Frisco are gone. I have some snapshots of crossing some wet bridges, some initial pelting of rain, and *maybe* a brief sense of getting the wind knocked out of me- though this last “memory” could be entirely manufactured. I do not remember Tyler finding me back on my bike riding along the trail. I don’t remember how I got to Como and the aid station- I don’t remember getting in the SUV, and I don’t remember much about the conversation(s) I had along the way.

I do remember the trip up Wheeler Pass and absolutely loving the single track off the back side. I remember making great time in to Copper, grinding away on the Peaks Trail, and being a bit shocked to hear Larry Grossman call out that I was 8th in my age group as I passed through the pits in Carter Park after loop 1.

I remember a slow grind up to the top of Little French, a fair amount of B68-ers that were gracious enough to pull over to the side for me to pass on the flume trail off of Little French. I remember my back wheel losing traction on the fast corners down American Gulch, and the soul-sucking climb up West Ridge to more ripping fast downhill towards the Dredge Boat trailhead. I have vague recollections of pitting at the end of loop 2 and still being on target for a sub-12 hour finish (goal) for the day and feeling not altogether that bad. I remember thunder and suffering along Indiana Creek and finally Boreas Pass road.

From there it’s all a bit hazy. I do know it was wet, I do know that I was gunning to make up time down Gold Dust, I do know I eventually crashed and got KNOCKED THE FUCK OUT! This last bit I know like I know facts I’ve read in a book.

Pinky Swear
Pinky Swear

And I do remember that just like that, my race was done. After a couple CT scans, a few x-rays, and some general poking and prodding, the prognosis was: concussion, broken finger (mallet finger), deep bruising, and a very sore shoulder. Two days later, my shoulder is most problematic. It’s hard to sleep, and raising my arm above shoulder height is a no-go. The splint on my pinky prevents most of the pain however, and the headache is only very mild. The stiffness on the other hand, is pretty profound.

Yum-tastic
Yum-tastic

I want to get back on the bike. I know I need to take it slow and that a repeated head injury at this point is a serious risk- but I want to get back out- to pedal my bike- to get back on the horse, and make sure I’m ready once its time to line up at the next race (currently Steamboat Enduro-X on 8/17).

I was planning on Pierre’s Hole on 8/3 to secure official ranking in the 2013 NUE, but I don’t think I’ll be sufficiently healed by then. Instead, it looks like I’m going to have to suck it up and make my way to Georgia for the Fool’s Gold 100 the weekend after Park City. I know there is some irony in there somewhere…

 

BIG UPS and HUGE thanks to everyone that helped out- Tyler McMahon- a dude I met on the side of the road outside Kathmandu back in December- you saved my bacon! I know Lauren Constantini was on-site at some point- thanks. If anyone else helped along the trail- I’m sorry I don’t remember you, and thank you! Thanks to the SAR/med staff in Como for getting me safe and sound back in Breck. Thanks to Amber for driving me to the ER and eventually home. Thanks to Nate Collier for collecting my bike, and Jeremy Woolf for taking care of all my shit from the pits. Thanks to anyone else that helped out- I don’t remember you, but I thank you. And thanks to all the volunteers that staffed this awesome race, and the promoters that put this on every year. The Breckenridge 100 is a brutal race, and I know I will be back again next year- not just for redemption, but because it is that awesome.

WTF is Bro Style?

Stylin’

I’ve spent most of the day learning (poorly) how to edit video… but I didn’t leave enough time to figure out how to *embed* said video… Here’s a link! D’Oh! Was a long day yesterday, video embedded (uh… yeah, you just paste the damn link- wordpress seems to have figured out there are people like me in the world).

Right before heading out to run support for the team in the Firecracker 50, and to race the 3rd installment of the Big Mountain Enduro Series at Keystone, I saw a post from someone wanting to “ride downhill Bro Style.”

I still don’t know what this means- and I’m not sure I want to ever know. The “gravity” scene seems to have its own vernacular- I guess most niche disciplines do.

Is Enduro part of the Gravity scene? I think it is… I dunno, I’ve now raced 3 days of Enduro, and I’ve definitely spent most of the time going very fast downhill and sometimes holding on for dear life- and unfortunately, occasionally crashing. All in good fun.

Four of us from Pedal Pushers Racing met on Friday t

 

o pre-ride the stages… it quickly became quite clear that Keystone was no joke. Long rock gardens, drops, gaps, tight twisty technical descent through the trees. This was pretty much some of the most technical terrain I’ve been on.

I was starting to worry a bit… especially once I started to realize that a whole lot of people had full-on downhill rigs out for this race. We spent the rest of the day hitting some of the hairier lines including High Speed Dirt and Wild Thing. I managed to clean the left line on High Speed Dirt, but this section stuck in my head for the next 2 days until I would eventually blow the sharp left at the bottom and end up IN the dirt on stage 5…

Being *very* new to this scene, and this race being part of the North American Enduro Tour AND 3rd stop on the Big Mountain Enduro tour, I really had no idea what to expect finish-wise. I got it into my head that I’d be happy with a top 20 finish for the old guy category.

KeystoneBME3
Nearing the finish

Stage 1 felt so much longer on race day. By the time I hit the bottom, I was hammered- no heavy technical terrain, but my heart rate was absolutely pegged… Top 20 was looking out of reach already and there were 5 stages to go.

Stage 2 went slightly better except for having to pass someone in both rock gardens. The bridge section nearly sent me as I lost contact with the back tire a couple times due to too much speed, but I kept the rubber side down and that was good enough to feel good enough… Stage 3 felt okay, but the tight, technical turns through the trees on Wild Thing really baffled me- I just never felt smooth, though I cleared everything on the way down.

At the end of the first day I was sitting right on the bubble of my goal in 20th place. The really fast guys were WAY ahead and it is impressive how fast some of these guys can move.

We lounged about Sunday morning instead of waiting in line at the top like on Saturday. However, this turned out to be a bad move as I saw another racer in my category coming down the mountain having already completed stage 4, “Yeah, they’re almost done as it is” Uh… I guess they worked out the kinks from Day 1. I jetted up the lift and at the top could see only a few guys still in line followed by all the women riders. I managed to run to the start and have just enough time to get my helmet and most of my pads on- I wore the left elbow pad as a glove down stage 4. I had a great run and definitely picked up some time. However, I was already over-thinking the roller on stage 5.

I over-thought it so much that I nearly got sent on the opening drops. I was definitely not “on” for this run when I crested the top of the roll down. It went ok until right at the bottom where there is a sharp, loose left hand turn- it was pretty blown out from all the people in front of me, and I apparently committed the mortal sin of grabbing front brake because as soon as I knew it, I was ass-over-teakettle in the middle of a huge cloud of dust.

I right myself as quick as I could and made a fairly quick remount. The rest of the ride went uneventful. At the bottom a guy behind me asked if I’d lost my go pro… why yes, yes I did- it had sheared right off the mount. He had found it in the dirt as he hiked down the roller. I owe this dude a beer or three for sure!

We then had the only uphill pedal transition to the final stage- it was only 1.5-2 miles but it felt good to pedal. I was a little rattled by the tumble but was looking forward to being done. Stage 6 was some very fast downhill to another go at Wild Thing. I was cooked and having trouble keeping momentum and just holding on to the bars through all the gnar, but I once again made it clean through the run. At the end of the day, my time was good enough to put me in 18th in the Master’s category. As arbitrary a goal as it is, I was super happy with that finish.

Now, if I could only figure out how to jump the table top lines, I think I could substantially improve on my placing… gotta have goals… but before I’ll get to practice getting my air on, it’s time for the Breck 100 this coming Sunday… somebody hold me…

[youtube APkd7chHlxQ] (case unsensitive)

Delivering the Goods

Expansive
Expansive

June was a long month… highs and lows. May ended with a somewhat disappointing, but still awesome Full Growler. Two weeks later was the sufferfest of the SBFL– again, an amazing day on the bike, though my “race goal” was not achieved. The following weekend included a podium at the Rawhide Enduro-X in Steamboat. That was an eye-opener for sure. I never expected to be so pinned going mostly downhill. I may not be a fast endurance guy, but I definitely settle-in to the low-and-slow routine better than the high-end revs of full-on sprints. I do dig the Enduro craziness though…

Rawhide Enduro-X Master's Podium
Rawhide Enduro-X Master’s Podium
Gettin' the Goods on Rawhide
Gettin’ the Goods on Rawhide

June closed out with the Tatanka 100 – NUE #2 for me. It has been 21 years almost to the day since I was last in the Black Hills of South Dakota- it has been far too long. I remember being somewhat surprised back in ’92 rolling in to Custer State Park- this is the west of the old frontier for sure- dense forests, verdant hills, raging rivers and creeks, the echos of the old.

"An Azure Sky of Deepest Summer- you can rely on me Fred"
“An Azure Sky of Deepest Summer- you can rely on me Fred”
Gnarly
Gnarly

The Tatanka takes a 103 mile grand tour of the Black Hills starting and ending in the fabled town of Sturgis. I had been looking forward to this race since I read about it last year.

There was just the hint of chill in the air at 5:00 am when the pack took off on the neutral start to a long 5 mile dirt road opener before hitting single track. The race was on. This is real single-track riding- barely 3 tire widths wide in some spots, in others, only a faint depression in the grass. Twists and turns were often completely obscured by overgrown vegetation. One description of the early section of the race described it is the “forest moon of Endor”- I agree. Lush, tacky trail winding through beautifully dense forest. We crossed a creek several times and both shoes were soaked when the route started to climb up out of the drainage.

I was zoned out at some point when a few riders came zooming past in the opposite direction- was there a 50 miles version of the race? They didn’t say I was going the wrong way so I kept pedaling till I hit a gate, there were no tire track on the other side. I was going the wrong way… guess they were too “racer” to give a short holler to turn around. Oh well. I kept my good karma later in the day when I shouted out to a few people taking wrong turns. Guess that’s why I I’m not a “racer” and just enjoy racing.

The first 50 miles are almost all single track, and share the trail with the Black Hills 100 running race that starts an hour after the mountain bike race. As such, the route is stacked with aid stations. I passed most by but stopped at Dalton lake at mile 29 or so. Ever-helpful volunteers offered to lube my chain, and passed out food. I stuck to my plan to fuel only on Carbo Rocket with an occasional banana or watermelon slice. I didn’t want a repeat of SBFL. Throughout the day, I kept seeing the same couple of volunteers at each aid station- it was a bit surreal- “is that the same dude?” yup, same people kept moving along the route- dedication.

The route had a bit of everything- baby heads the size of full-grown adults, chunky-funky techy riding, smooth fast twisting trail, loose off-camber side-hills. I was whooping pretty good on last steep section before the half-way point as I rolled into Silver City (how “west”) right at 6 hours.

My stretch goal for this race was sub-11, but my realistic expectation was sub-12. At 6 hours for mile 47 of 103, I was a bit worried. I grabbed my second bladder full of Carbo Rocket and headed off at 6:11 into the race. I knew from the course description that I was embarking on the long, steady climb of about 1800 feet over the next 20 or so miles including some “mandatory hike-a-bike.” I settled in to a good rhythm on the first few miles of winding single track until I hit the hike-a-bike. Holy crap this was steep! Barely a goat path up the side of the hill, and then some slogging to a saddle in the ridge. Down the steep opposite side and we hit the Mickelson Trail. I settled in for the next 18 miles. Part-way through a strange thing happened. I passed a couple of people. This doesn’t usually happen for me. And then, another rider caught me, and we ended up riding together for most of the rest of the climb up the Mickelson.

I swapped pulls as long as I could with Monte and his company definitely helped me push my pace. I’m accustomed to riding alone on these long races and it is easy to slack off on the gas when there is no one else around. Towards the top he started to pull away and I just couldn’t push any harder to stay with him. I would see him periodically throughout the rest of the race, but Monte would end up a good 5 minutes in front of me by the finish.

I cranked through the 5 miles of downhill to the next aid station before the “final” climb of the day. I was watching the clock and now a sub-11 hour finish was looking possible. I was happy to be done with the climbing, but that illusion ended pretty abruptly, and rudely, as there were many, many more punchy, not exactly short climbs throughout the remaining 20 miles or so.

I pushed as hard as I could over the last couple miles to cross the line at 10:35- all-in-all a pretty fantastic race for me. It was good enough for 18th out of 40 in the Men’s Open. I stuck to my fueling plan even passing up tasty bacon at the 2nd to last aid station. I had absolutely no cramping and while exhausted, I could still find just enough energy to make the drive back home to Denver that night. I was psyched to finally have a race where I felt like things just clicked.

I was a bit saddened to be leaving the Black Hills so soon. It will definitely not be as long till I return again to that frontier.

To return soon
To return soon

 

 

 

 

Whistling Dixie

I wish I was in the land of cotton
I wish I was in the land of cotton

Driving back from Moab after a day of awesome powder and two days of desert riding, I tried to convince myself that the on-coming sneezing was simply desert spring allergies. By Monday I was a wreck. Less than two weeks out from a major race was not the time to catch a serious cold. I tried my best to nurse myself over the next week while packing for a 2,000 mile road trip capped off with racing the True Grit Epic- 90 miles of sweet, technical desert single-track racing in Dixie- yup, the Land of Cotton…

In Utah. Apparently, early settlers tried to grow Cotton in the area. It doesn’t sound like it was too successful but the name stuck. Personally, I like this Dixie more than the other one.

Friday rolled around and while I was just starting to feel better, my road-trip partner, my brother Michael, was in the middle of the sick. We loaded up and started out on the long haul to Jackson.

Road Trippin'
Road Trippin’

We rolled into Jackson just around sunset. They had a decent base, but no snow in the forecast. But it’s hard to complain about Jackson- one of my all time favorite places to be.

Rollin' into Jackson
Rollin’ into Jackson

We spent two days skiing under perfect blue-bird conditions.

Earn Your Turns- Top of the Headwall
Earn Your Turns- Michael Atop of the Headwall
Perfect "Spring" conditions
Perfect “Spring” conditions

I just moved back to skis after 13 years on a board- one of the last places I skied was Jackson Hole back in about 2000. I’m definitely hooked. I have a pair of Atomic Blogs that are mid-fat at 110 mm under foot with a reverse camber profile. Basically light years from where skis were last time I owned a pair. They are floaty enough in powder, but precise enough on hard-pack and in bumps that they are pretty much as close to an all-around ski as you can get.

On the third morning, a freak, not-quite predicted storm hit in the morning and dumped about 4″ of snow during the opening hours- Bonus!

Hiking Fresh towards the Expert Chutes
Michael Breaking Trail towards the Expert Chutes

The original plan was to spend 3 days in Jackson, and then a day in SLC to ski Alta- but with the snow coming down, we re-arranged plans to spend a 4th day in Jackson. By the time I re-booked rooms, the snow had stopped and there were blue skies opening up. Oh well. We had a final blue-bird day on Tuesday that definitely did not suck.

THE View
THE View

We booked out towards SLC so my brother could catch a cheap flight back to Denver. I crashed a night downtown before finishing the drive to St. George.

Night time in the Desert
Night time in the Desert

I spent the next 2 days doing “easy” recon riding Zen and Barrel Rolls on the first day, then checking out the opening stretch through the Barrel Cactus ride on Day 2. I am really no good at pacing but did ok at holding back on the recons and not raising the effort too much. But on Zen, that’s a bit tough. It’s a brutal, physical loop which doesn’t soft pedal real well.

Odd finds in the Desert
Odd finds in the Desert
Even Odder Finds
Even Odder Finds
Words escape me- Ok… RAD!

After scouting Barrel Cactus and deciding it was better to walk the big drop, I cleaned up the bike and packed up my crap. I hadn’t been sleeping too well in the back of the truck the last few nights and needed a good rest for race day so I headed off to a hotel.

The Drop- red line marks the way down
The Drop- red line marks the way down
Packing up
Packing up

Last year I did the True Grit 50, and was super nervous leading up to the start of the race. Let’s just say little to no winter training will do that. So this year, I thought, let’s sign up for the 100, and that will for sure keep me motivated to train. Training has gone a *bit* better this year, and the Trans-Nepal in December helped keep a decent base, but I’m still far from “in-condition” due to continued travel and a hectic work schedule. Oh well, I’m definitely in better shape than last year so (almost) doubling the miles should be jusssst fine. Several other Epic riders were concerned about the 7:00 am start as it is still quite dark at that time in Dixie. They convinced the Promoter to move the start time to at least 7:15 and were pushing even harder for a 7:30 start. “For the couple of folks that will miss the cut-off it’s not worth the lead guys getting hurt in the dark.” I agree wholeheartedly, even knowing full well I had a very good chance of being one of those few that failed to make the cut-offs. I initially set my Garmin course for a 10:30 pace giving a cushion of 30 minutes for the final cut-off. Moving the start time up 15-30 minutes obliterated that (the cut-off times were not moved) so in the morning I reset my course pace at 10 hours. This did not help the nerves.

Crack-of-Ass Early
Crack-of-Ass Early
Warming up dark-style
Warming up dark-style

As I said, I suck at pacing almost as much as I suck at training. As the race started and the ultra-fast field took off, I tried to keep to the pace I had set my mind to. Did I mention this field was ultra-fast? This was a stacked field including Alex Grant, Josh Tostado, Drew Edsall, Johnathan Davis, Cheryl Sornson, Gerry Pflug, Cary Smith. The list went on. I settled in and just tried to pedal consistently. Only 10 miles in I started to have chain issues and dropped it off the front ring twice. The second time ended up seriously bending a link requiring me to break the chain and drop in a replacement. Another Epic race stopped to help me hold the chain in place which was really awesome so early on in a big race like this! For the life of me, I can’t remember his name… anyway, if you’re out there reading this- THANKS! Less than one hour in and I had already lost a good 5-10 minutes- it’s not that much time in reality, but with my nerves of making the cut-offs, it didn’t help.

Keyhole Wash
Keyhole Wash

Soon the relentless up was replaced with the fast down leading into the meat of the Barrel Cactus drops- I had already decided to walk the main section but then before I even knew it I was past the biggest drop. I think someone near by even shouted some encouragement- just in time for me to blow the last little drop and crash narrowly missing an eponymous Barrel Cactus!

I made up some good time on the descent and settled in behind two riders (Lee and Brenda Simril) heading up the Zen Trail. This loop is no joke- hard, technical, fast downhills, brutal short climbs- basically it has it all.

Zen View
Zen View
Sweet Desert Singletrack
Sweet Desert Singletrack

I think I pulled away from the Simrils near the bottom and cruised through the aid station out to Stucki Springs. I was basically alone for quite a long time. It’s pretty eerie back there- you feel really far out there in the high-lonesome desert. I was pretty much alone on this stretch last year as well.

Somewhere Out There
Somewhere Out There

By the time I hit Rim Runner for the first time, I was trading spots with a few people- always getting passed on the uphill, reeling folks back in on the downhill. That ended as we started the 2nd lap up Keyhole Wash. Although I was pretty much keeping close to a 10:00 finish pace, I was definitely starting to slow way down on the climbs. By the time I finally reached the big drop on Barrel Cactus again, I was alone and stayed that way till almost the end.

I walked the big drop the 2nd time around and then promptly crashed again on the last drop once I remounted. Fatigue was setting in. My Garmin was now useless in pacing because it obviously has a bug in the course logic when you cover the same ground more than once- it assumes you’re always on the first time through when you pass the same point multiple times- poor programming for sure. I focused on just pedaling, finishing, entertaining myself with misery, pain, and a full 5 hours of Scott H. Biram tunes.

It was HOT! Africa Hot… I had a few heat-induced auditory hallucinations the 2nd time through Stucki along with several more dropped chain incidents, and finally, a bit of walking on the steep punchy climbs here and there. Last year I cramped so ridiculously hard in the 50, but this year, even when I could feel the cramping coming on, I was able to soft-pedal a bit and they never got completely out of hand. I was starting to think I might even finish. I rolled into the Aid at the start of the second set of 2-laps around the Barrel Roll and even saw some other people on bikes! I refilled my CamelBak with more Carbo Rocket (THE most awesome shit around- it’s the only nutrition I can stomach during races and it is THE BOMB!) along with a shorty can of coke. The small kick of caffeine had me feeling good through the lap on Barrel Rolls and I was at least serviceable enough on the 2nd lap (4th total). I hit the aid out of Barrel Rolls and down another shorty can of Coke to get me through the last 10 or so miles. It was bout 4:45 and I finally felt I’d finish as long as nothing catastrophic happened on the last stretch. Last year, the ride back from the last aid felt like it would never end. It didn’t exactly fly by this time, but I don’t think I felt near as shot. I walked one ultra-steep section, but other than that, I pedaled my way across the finish line in 10:11- good enough for Dead Fucking Last- but a finish and ultimately, in a faster time than I realistically should have expected. I’m in complete awe at the winning finish times- insane.

Jonathan Davis quickly met me at the finish and offered me a icy cup of coke and a plate of awesome barbecue- Thanks JD! My goals for the year are not lofty, but they are challenging. It feels great to have the 1st NUE race of the season done, and I’m already looking forward to the second one in Sturgis at the end of June.

Podium shots for the Epic

L-R- Cary Smith (2), Alex Grant (1), Josh Tostado (3), Jonathan Davis (5)
Open Men: Cary Smith (2), Alex Grant (1), Josh Tostado (3), Jonathan Davis (5)

 

Cheryl Sornson 1st place Open Female
Cheryl Sornson 1st place Open Female
Alice Drobna 2nd place Open Female
Alice Drobna 2nd place Open Female

 

Single Speed (INSANE): AJ Linnell (2), Gerry Pflug (1), Shannon Boffeli (3), Jamon Whitehead (5)
Single Speed (INSANE): AJ Linnell (2), Gerry Pflug (1), Shannon Boffeli (3), Darrell Roundy (4)
Masters: Jodi Bailey (2), David Jolin (1), Charles Buki (3), Brian Hobbs (4)
Masters: Jodi Bailey (2), David Jolin (1), Charles Buki (3), Brian Hobbs (4)

 

Sex Machine!

What is is- my Sex Machine! JB for short
What is is- pure sex, my Sex Machine! JB for short
IMG-20130130-00212
The Black Ghost

The particulars:

2013 Scott Scale SL frame black-on-black size medium

  • Rock Shox XX-World cup fork 15mm
  • SRAM XX cranks 2×10 (26/39-11/36)
  • Shimano XTR Brakes
  • SRAM XO shifters and ders- rear is a type II
  • Stans ZTR Crest on DT-Swiss 240s Maxxis Ikons
  • Crank Brothers stem (90mm Iodine 3), bars (Cobalt 11 cut narrow), seat-post (Cobalt 11 0-offset), and pedals (Egg Beater 3)
  • Ergon Saddle (SM3 Carbon/Tinox rails), GS1 Grips

I’ve put in just over 100 miles on the new bike and I friggin’ LOVE IT! I’ve done a mix of chunky techy single track, smooth flowy downhills, and even some pavement grinding. The bike handles beautifully, and I’ve been just a bit off my personal record times on several sections of local trails which is pretty awesome considering it is only mid-February.

From below, you can see that the geometry isn’t a whole lot different from my old Air 9 Carbon. The top-tube/reach is a bit shorter on the Scale, plus I am running a shorter stem (90 vs 100) than I did on the Air 9. This has me in a bit more upright position which I’ve found pleasant on longer rides and I hope will be a bit more comfortable during this seasons 100 milers. The only other major difference is the head tube angle on the Scale is a bit more slack.

Air 9 Carbon Scale 900
Top tube 606 600
seat tube 419 440
chain stay 439 438
wheelbase 1091 1096
bb drop 54 60
head tube 110 105
head tube angle 71 69.5
seat tube angle 73 72.5
reach 414 405
stack 617 618

 

Geometry Specs

The ride feels a lot more “plush” than on my Air 9- not completely sure why- and it is still a hard-tail so “plush” is a bit of a mis-nomer . Oddly, I think some of that feeling is directly related to running the X0 type II derailleur. This baby has completely eliminated all chain slap. Ramming through chunky sections is now almost eerily quiet. The previous rattling of chain on chain-stay replaced by the natural sounds of rock, dirt and rubber. It’s much more organic and I think it has my brain thinking that the ride itself is much smoother. I also find the Scott frame, despite the oversized seat post (34.9 vs 31.6) is more compliant overall than the Niner Air 9 Carbon. I’m also running a different seatpost- Crank Brother’s Cobalt 11 versus an Easton EC 70 which may have something to do with it.

The other major improvement over the Air 9 is the shifting. The Air 9, due to the particular cable routing, always had a lot of friction in the front and rear derailleurs- I tried new cables multiple times, new shifters, but there was always a serious amount of drag inherent in the lines. The Scott also has internal cable routing, but the bends aren’t near as severe and the drag is non-existent. The Scott just shifts so much easier than the Air 9 ever did.

Nit-picks:

The routing of the rear brake cable is under the bottom bracket- it seems very exposed there… time will tell I suppose.

Unlike the Air 9- both bottle cage mounts are inside the front triangle Yay! The Niner had one inside, and one on the underside of the downtube. The cage under the downtube on the Niner was pretty much unusable- it was either impossible to get to the bottle while moving at speed, or I would lose a bottle during super-chunky downhills. I broke several cages before giving up. Back to the Scott… the placement of the cage mount on the seat tube however is too-high which means I can only fit a small 20oz bottle in the cage- a 24oz bottle will not fit. In addition, the cage mounted on the downtube is a bit too low, so depending on the cage used, the bottom of the 2 bottles end up interfering – I should probably post a pic of this when I’m feeling less lazy. I still need to try some different cages and I’m sure I can find something that works, but regardless, I’ll have to swap to 20oz bottles…

I could have built the bike up lighter, but it’s pretty svelte at just over 21 lbs including pedals and cages. It’s a good 1/2 to 3/4 of a pound lighter than my A9C which is an added bonus. It isn’t entirely fair to compare the handling since I was running a slightly different cockpit on the A9C, but I am really, really digging the way the Scale handles.

Thanks to the team at Pedal Pusher’s Cyclery for building up an awesome ride for my 2013 season. The first NUE race is just over 4 weeks away and I am completely terrified, but I’m also really looking forward to slaying some technical desert single track on my Sex Machine!