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Downtown Temple,NH

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hampshire 100 Mountain Bike Race

When I signed up for this race a few months ago, it seemed like a good way to get my endurance fix in. A 100k single loop mountain bike race through the hills of Greenfield, Francestown and a few other hilly New Hampshire towns. True, I've been cycling a lot (for a runner), but not enough to consider myself a cyclist or biker or whatever they call themselves. So for my first mountain bike race ever, why not go big? Honestly, I never looked at the Hampshire 100 as a race. I just wanted the experience to ride 100k on a mountain bike. Just finishing would be good enough the first time out.

With the venue only about 40 minutes from home, the ability to sleep in my own bed was a huge plus. Deb was nice enough to get up at 4:30am and drop me off (thank you!), and after a quick DD stop for coffee and a sausage-egg-cheese sandwich (breakfast of champions), we arrived just before 6am. We met up with fellow acidotic RACING teammate Andy Corrow, who would be riding in the same class (Novice Veteran II - 40-49) as me. After a brief pre-race meeting, we settled into the 5th wave and waited patiently for our turn. Shortly after 7am we were off.
Waiting for wave 5 to start

We were warned the first 20 miles were fairly easy and fast (whatever that means). Although I generally don't ride very long (my longest ride all year was around 50 miles), I wasn't really worried about the 62.5 miles we had to cover. I was more concerned about how much time it would take. My guesstimate at the start was 8-9hrs based on well, pretty much nothing. My longest ride in the history of riding was probably only 1/2 that. Not to worry, no negative thoughts entered my mind. I would not be fooled into thinking this was a race so at the 'go' command I just rode easy. Probably too easy. Even starting with a huge novice group, I basically got passed by nearly everyone in the first few miles (at least it seemed that way). I rode with Andy for about 10 minutes but then he was gone too. Sure, I could have ridden a lot faster, but on a hot and humid day, on a course with probably 7000ft of climbing, I decided to take it out easy.

The first few miles were mostly on dirt roads before hitting some ATV type trails and eventually riding down the side of some rail road tracks. There's something a bit unnerving about riding single file at 15mph along side exposed RR ties, with your pedal just inches from taking you and everyone behind you down. Soon enough we were back on same real trails again. I rode by the first Feed station around mile 10 since I had my Nathan pack with about 40oz of water. I was adding Gu Brew electrolyte tablets (lemon lime) to my water to hopefully keep the cramps at bay. At about 12 miles we rode into the base of Crotched Mt Ski area. It was a bit intimidating considering I thought we were going to the top. Thankfully after a brief climb we circled back down a fairly steep slope, crossed the parking lot and headed back into the woods. I heard one of the guys near the front crashed hard on this hill (I was told he broke his back, yikes). As of today, he was still in the hospital. Around mile 16 we came into Feed station #2 (which was well stocked). I stopped and filled my pack, had 1/2 a banana and a handful of chips and was off in maybe 2-3 minutes.

In a few minutes (after a screaming tar downhill ride) we jumped on probably the worst section of the entire course (IMHO): 5 miles of flat, straight rail trail. It just wasn't any fun, especially the 3 miles of soft sand in the middle section. Oh, but the fun stuff was just around the corner! Shortly after the rail trail, we turned onto a dirt, loose gravel road that appeared to go straight up (Hedgehog Mt). Steep doesn't do it justice. I rode as much as I could without hurting and then decided to walk. I heard the average grade was >14%, with sections approaching 25%. I figured it was a good time to call home and give an update. About 1/2 was up I saw Emily Trespas hiking down. I think we were both surprised to see each other out there! Andy was already more than 5 minutes ahead.
Hedgehog Hill - photo credit Emily Trespas

22 miles in about 2hrs and I guessed the easy part was done. I was feeling pretty good (as I continued to ride well within my limits) and was drinking plenty. I wasn't eating much though and that would be a problem.
Power Line Trail - photo credit David Alden St Pierre
I saw the fiddler around mile 23, just before the power line trail. I'm pretty sure the entire field walked sections of this trail. Incredibly steep, wet and muddy and that doesn't even include the total exposure to the sun. Needless to say, it was a tough grind up the power lines. From the top it was mostly downhill all the way to Feed Station #3 at approximately mile 25. Again, I refilled my bladder, had a 1/2 a banana, some Coke and some chips. It was one of two drop stations (stations where you could have bags sent in advance with whatever you wanted). I just put a spare tube (in case I flatted early) and a spare pair of socks in case I got wet in my bag. I never even looked for it since it wasn't needed. I was tiring of the Lemon-Lime flavored water and grabbed a coconut water as I left the aid station. The trail immediately climbed again (what a shock). A long slow, steep (but rideable) climb up a dirt road before cutting across some fields at the top and eventually heading back down the trails. The next 15 miles were mostly a blur, good solid riding, more climbing and definitely hot. If I remember, it was also pretty slow, I'm guessing because the course was getting a bit more technical. I was still drinking plenty of GU Brew though and generally felt good.

I arrived at the Feed Station #4 (~40 miles) around 4hrs and 30 minutes. I finally caught up with Andy too. I had another banana, a candy bar, more Coke and refilled my bladder...again. I also called home once again with another update. The next 10 miles went by so slow. The riding was hard, lots of technical single track, lots of climbing. I'm sure the single track would have been more fun if I hadn't been riding for nearly 5hrs already. All in all I was doing well. No pains, no cramps, butt didn't hurt, nothing. Feed Station #5 (and the second bag drop) was around mile 50. I grabbed a couple of Honey Stingers out of my bag, refilled my water (and added a couple of Gu Brew tablets), had some Ginger Ale, M&M's and a couple of Figs. Generally I only stayed at the feed stations long enough to fill my bladder (2-3 minutes). I think I caught up with Andy again and would trade places with him over the next 10 miles. The next 7-8 miles to Feed Station #5 (~ mile 57) were some of the hardest and slowest. More climbing, more single track, more climbing and more climbing. I'm so thankful I didn't go out hard in the first 20 miles. I was beginning to walk more of the hills but even that was hard. It ain't easy pushing a 30lb bike up a hill either you know!. For a while thought I could break 8hrs but this course just gets harder and harder (and slower and slower). I think I may have called home one more time but honestly I don't remember. I do remember I was tired of drinking Lemon Lime flavored water. I also remember my nutritional choices weren't the best. I KNOW I didn't eat enough. I'll have to work on that next time. I also need to mix up the fluids (maybe carry a bottle of Coke). In any case, at some point I switched to just water in my bladder (no GU Brew mix). I think this helped a bit.

Somewhere in the mile 50's the thunderstorms came in. It got very dark in the woods and then it poured. It would pour all the way to the finish. I think I passed Andy around mile 60 for the last time. For 60 miles I've been out for a ride generally  (never considered it racing). However, once I passed Andy and a couple of other riders around mile 60, my demeanor changed. Finally, I felt like I was racing. I picked up the pace, rode hard and generally felt like I was racing for the first time all day. At this point, I was more concerned with not getting passed in the last few miles as opposed to beating anyone in particular. The last 5 miles were mostly smooth flowing single track but the combination of pouring rain and 8+hrs of riding made it not so much fun.

After a very long day, I finally crossed the road by Greenfield State Park and was on the track around the field for the finish. 8hrs 26minutes of riding and I was done. That wasn't so hard (ok, maybe a little hard).
Andy finished just a few minutes back in 8:31 I think. We both did well in our group, finishing 3rd and 4th in the Novice Veterans II category.
So happy to be done!

Novice Vet II Podium
Although I was tired and hungry, I wasn't really sore and I never cramped up. Of course, it helps not riding hard for most of the day. I'm pretty sure I'd do this race again. I learned a lot (I think) and I'm pretty sure I would ride it a bit differently (faster) next time. If I can figure out a better nutrition plan I'm also confident I could ride under 8hrs as well (assuming similar conditions). If it rains, all bets are off.

Friday, August 19, 2011

24 Hours of Great Glen - 2011 Version

I am so thankful I got involved with this race 3 years ago. It is by far the event I most look forward to each year, and that's saying a lot considering I'm more of a runner than a rider. This is as close as it gets to being relaxed and stress-free in a 24hr race (if that's even possible). Most of that is due to my incredible friends and teammates who joined me for 3 days of camping and racing at the base of Mt Washington. Of course it also helps to have near perfect weather once again!
I have to admit, acidotic RACING is pretty close to a well oiled machine when it comes to preparing for this event. From our reserved primo campsite, dedicated camp cook and sponsors galore, we generally have our act together. Everyone is supportive, everyone contributes something to the experience and everyone has fun, no matter how much experience you have riding. With three 4-person teams entered, there were always acidotic riders somewhere on the course and our presence was clearly visible to all.
So if you've never done this race, pencil it in for next year and I promise you won't be disappointed. Ok, I'll step down off my soapbox and put down the acidotic RACING flag for a while.

 I'll start off by saying the only negative thing that I can think of all weekend was my total lack of sleep. When I say total, I mean from Friday when I woke up until Sunday night when I went to bed, I probably slept less than 2hrs (and I think even that is a stretch). Fortunately (I guess), I'm used to very little sleep (4-5hrs per night is typical). Yes, I was tired even before the race began but all things considered, it went pretty well.

My teammates on aR-GOLD were Steve Sprague, Brayden Dunn and Jay Dunn. I was the 4th rider my 1st year, 3rd rider last year so it was only natural I take up the 2nd position this year. (I guess next year I'll ride lead-off?). Of course riding early also increases your chances of riding additional laps (which was ok with me). On paper going into this race, I thought we could squeeze out 26 laps (meaning everyone would ride 6 lap and Jay and I would ride 7).
acidotic GOLD (Steve S, me, Brayden, Jay D)
In the past I've raced the first lap pretty hard (my standards). My goal this year was to ride hard but leave some in the tank. I'd rather have 7 fairly consistent laps than one fast and every subsequent lap slower and slower. I was pleased to be able to ride the entire 8.3 mile lap (with nearly 1,100ft of climbing each lap). No hike-a-bike this year if I could help it. A couple of changes to the course made it a little easier to ride (Blueberry Hill up to the Honeymoon Cabin, Whiplash and the final single track leading to the "plunge"). The key being 'easier to ride', but not necessarily 'easier'. These were hike-a-bike sections for me in the past. I rode Whiplash every lap but it was a slow, rough ride (aka organ grinder). Same with the last single track section. I rode the new switchback section nearly every lap but it was a lot of climbing on tight switchback turns. The rest of the course was in great (albeit dusty) shape with no mud to speak of (until the last lap.....more on that later).

My first lap was 51:23, which turned out to be faster than any lap I've raced in the last 3 years. I was perfectly happy with it until I realized it was the 10th slowest opening lap of our 3 teams! Yikes! These guys are serious!
Exiting the 'plunge'
My second lap was 51:53, with consistency paying off so far and I continued to ride 100% of the course. My next two laps would be the beginning of the night laps. I chose to do my double night laps early because honestly, I was exhausted from a total lack of sleep. I just wanted the chance to lie down and hopefully get some sleep (or at least rest). So for the next 2hrs (and 16.6 miles) I rode in the dark. My first lap was a respectable 59:00 and the second just a tad slower at 1:01:44. I continued to ride 99% of the course, only getting off my bike a couple of times for some short sections.
When I got back to the campsite, I decided to see if I could rest in my truck (as opposed to the camper). The camper was 'base camp' and saw a lot of action, being near the food and fire pit, and was where most folks hung out between laps. I really needed some peace and quiet so I thought the truck would be a good choice. Turns out, not so much. For starters, even my small frame couldn't fit in the backseat. The awkward fetal position turned out to be incredibly painful when both my hamstrings (at the same time) cramped up. As I struggled out of my truck and wobbled around the campground clutching both hamstrings I could only imagine what the other campers were thinking when they saw me. This painful hamstring dance repeated itself for the next 1/2hr or so and there was nothing I could do to stop it. When they finally settled down, I climbed back in the truck to lie down. Unfortunately, now my hamstrings and calves were twitching almost nonstop. I laid there for the next couple of hours waiting for something to cramp up. Thankfully it never happened. At 2am Brayden knocked on the window. I was on deck for my next ride so I got up and got ready. Having just gone through hours of painful cramping, I had no idea how I was going to ride another lap....at night no less.
So at 4am sharp, I headed out on my 5th lap and 3rd night lap. Surprisingly I felt good. Really good. I was riding everything. Blueberry Hill, Whiplash, 'Jeep road', the final single track and even the plunge (which is tough at night). In fact, I rode 100% of the course and finished in a time of 53:49! Heck, I was so fast, Steve S wasn't even ready! Only Austin and David had faster night laps.
The 'race' between aR-BLACK and aR-GOLD was fairly close near the end but we couldn't keep the gap closed. I finished my 6th lap in 51:30, my 2nd fastest lap of the day. Although tired, I was feeling surprisingly well. Not sore at all. Just tired.
For 25 laps we had great weather. All that changed on the last lap. Just prior to me going out for my 7th lap the skies opened up. It poured. Since it was my last lap and Austin had a 9 minute lead and it was raining and I was tired, I decided I wasn't going to kill myself on the last lap. Enjoy it as much as possible, ride as much as I could and don't get hurt. The rain made the course considerably harder. The roots and rocks were slick as ice, the trails turned greasy and the 'plunge' turned into a muddy slip and slide. Thankfully I managed to get around without injury (only wet and muddy) and finished up in 58:38.
Me and Austin waiting for the boys on the 6th lap
In the end team aR-BLACK finished in 34th overall and aR-GOLD a few minutes back in 35th overall (out of 180+ teams). Awesome weekend!!

Here's a few pics, mostly from the start that I took.
Here's some more pics from Gianina.
And here's some pics from Great Glen.

Next up: Hampshire 100 this weekend, a 100k single loop mountain bike race. Yeeha!

photo credits - Gianina Lindsey

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Let there be Light!

I had a small glimmer of hope today regarding my running. Ok, technically I haven't run since early June (probably some sort of new injury record but I don't keep stats like DD). In the past week I've been to two doctors; a sports medicine doctor and a physiatrist regarding my side pain while running. Technically it hurts more while running but the pain has been in my side (between the top of the iliac crest to the bottom of my 12th rib) nonstop for over 2 months. So much for rest healing all aches and pains.

The physiatrist was excellent. She was very patient and described in detail the area that's been hurting. She suspects some sort of bursitis with one of the gluteus muscles (medius I think?). I got a cortizone shot in my side and will wait a week before attempting to run.

She also commented that the distance between my bottom rib and the iliac crest is very small (ie they are very close together). This could be aggravating the muscles in my side. Weak ab muscles would lead to a more hunched over running posture which would lead to my rib and iliac crest being even closer. Apparently my 12 pack abs weren't very impressive. So, work on the abs and run with a more upright 'taller' posture. Got it.

I'm far from cured but for the time being I have some hope. Now, back to the bike!