Friday, April 15, 2016

2016 Leesburg Bakers Dozen, Part II

Part I here

I popped out of the woods into the main pasture heading back toward the start/finish and pit area at the end of lap 1. I was running hot, but didn't feel like I was burning out. My speed was good, the trail was good, and the traffic jams of all the riders from the start were already gone.  I made a quick stop at my pit area to lose my jacket and skullcap and I was off again. Everything appeared to be smooth sailing.

About five minutes into lap 2, though, two riders came up behind me. The first guy asked to get around me and I obliged. He was a geared rider, so I knew he'd outpace me on the flats, especially if he was coming around me this early. And that was true ... but the course isn't entirely flat, now, is it? This guy was definitely quicker than I was as long as we were on fast and flow singletrack. But the moment we hit anything even remotely technical, he was getting hung up. The first two times I thought that's okay - one of those was the massive rock drop that challenges even the most technically skilled riders. But then on the third rock section, I realized he just didn't have much skill. And I wasn't alone in that. The other guy who'd been riding with him turned out to be the first solo single speeder I encountered on the course, a guy named Chris Lane from the Joes Bike Shop Team, and we were both getting a little frustrated with the stop/go nature of following this guy around the course. He was a nice enough guy - he apologized every time he screwed up - but it was pretty disruptive for anyone riding behind him. We ultimately did get around him once we reached the tree grove halfway through he lap, and after we'd passed by, Chris laughed and said, "Finally!" (As a post script, that guy would later take me out when he insisted on getting by again and immediately slid out trying to ride over a rocky section. At that point, I put in a big effort to get away and stay away from him for good.)

I rode the rest of the lap with Chris and we were chatting as we rode along - I was on the front, so I didn't get much chance to actually see his set up, but he told me he was riding rigid and I knew that would eventually catch up to him. The course is very fast, but there are enough rocky sections that your upper body will take a beating even with a fork. I did the race rigid my first year and I was recovering for a week afterward. I told Chris that might get old fast, but he was a strong dude, so I thought that was maybe more wishful thinking on my part. He pulled around me and took off at the end of the lap. About a lap later I caught up with him, and passed him when he stopped at his pit (I didn't have to stop so I kept on rolling.) And that was the last I would see of anyone in my class until much later in the day. I should note that even when I was riding with Chris I had no idea where I was place-wise. I just knew there was at least one behind me or one in front of me depending on where the two of us were.

In the meantime, I had a few other things to deal with. By the third lap, it was raining again, and shortly after that the rain turned to snow for a bit and then finally around noon or so, it started to sleet. I didn't mind the snow at all, and even the rain was okay, but I have to say the sleet was rather unpleasant. It was hitting me in the face whenever I was in the opening and that kind of sucks.

But even with the sleet, I felt like I was moving well. The course remained unaffected by the weather. In hindsight, I can't say that I experienced anything that I had heard about vis-a-vis the course condition in bad weather. The weather was, to my estimate, about as bad as it could be at times, but the course held up like a champ. Aside from one or two small muddy sections, it was pretty much pristine. I had replaced my tires two days before the race and maybe that helped them hooking up in the clay-like dirt, but the fact is the course was holding up very well.

I rode most the afternoon nice and steady, and kept most of my pit stops under 20 seconds. I was keeping a pretty good pace overall - just about all of my laps were holding under 50 minutes and I even had one guy in the pits yell at me that I needed to slow down or I'd blow up. But I wasn't feeling stretched at all and I just smiled when I heard that. Before the race, I had set one sort-of-goal for the day - if weather allowed, I'd like to shoot for 18 laps. I figured that would guarantee me a spot on the podium, and it would be a definite stretch goal for me fitness-wise. By mid-afternoon weather was starting feel like the only real wild-card. By around 4:00 or so, we had gotten the rain, the snow, the sleet, and even some sun. But by far the most impactful element of the weather was the wind. BY 1:00, it was gusting over 40 mph and I was nearly blown off my bike a few times in the pasture sections.

But even with all the crazy weather, I was still rolling pretty strong by the time early evening rolled around. I was into my 15th lap before I needed to use my lights, so I started doing the math in my head and realized that I was going to be very close to being able to do 18 laps. And to be honest, I also realized that what I really wanted was to have the option to do 18, but not actually need to do 18.  Because it was cold and I was tired. As I finished my 16th lap, I realized the I would need to do my next lap in about 45 minutes to get an 18th. That would be tough this late, but it wasn't impossible. If I raced a really solid lap, I'd have a tough call to make at the finish line.

For the most part, I had a pretty good 17th lap. I went out, kept my pace nice and steady and even pushed a bit through the tech tree grove climb. And as I came through the campground and entered the last two miles of singletrack, I still had no idea if I'd make it or not. Ultimately, I realized with about a little more than half a mile to go that it wasn't going to happen, and I shut it down. I crossed the line in 13 hours and 4 minutes with 17 laps.

Normally, I'd probably ask about where I was placewise, but that's not what I did at that moment. I've been through enough of these races at this point to know one thing: after I finish, I need to get to a warm place fast because my body is about to crash. This happens every time - I start to shiver so bad that I can barely function. It always starts about five minutes after I stop. I don't know anyone else that this happens to, and I think it has something to do with my "strategy" in races like these. I pretty much never stop. My pit stops probably average less than 20 seconds. It's stop, swap bottle, and go. When I need food, I grab a Clif Bar and eat it as I ride away. I never stop for any longer than I have to all day because I worry about whether it'll start to feel too good. So when I finally do stop, it's usually just a matter of time before my metabolism stops working for me and my body starts to realize that it's done. So after I finished Saturday, I didn't bother to ask about results or anything - I just made a beeline for my pit area to clean up and get into my car to warm myself up and change. I was able to avoid the full crash by doing this (I was running the car with the heat on full blast and I put on every stitch of clothes I had in my bag, including three shirts, a cycling vest, a down jacket and a neck gaiter.) Then I checked my phone and found that a friend and former teammate had been tracking me and few other folks all day on the scoring company's website and she knew more than I did about the results. I didn't even know you could track the race online!

And that's how I found out I had won the SS class by quite a wide margin (4 laps.) This made me even happier, by the way, that I didn't do an 18th lap. After a call to my wife to let her know I had survived the weather gamut, I stepped out of the car and ... instantly began to shiver uncontrollably. The wind was still blowing and it was 30 degrees out. I immediately climbed back into the car and drove over to the closest point I could get to the bonfire before getting out and sprinting over to it to get warm.

The bonfire that saved my ass!
I hung out at the fire until the awards ceremony, and then bailed as soon as possible to go get some food into me before my entire system shut down. Its funny how you can feel fine as long as you are putting in an effort in these kind of events, but as soon as you stop, your body reminds you that it's just not normal to ride a bike for 13 hours straight.

All in all, I couldn't be happier with how LBD turned out this year. As it turned out, none of the solos did more than 17 laps. In fact, my finish was good for second overall among solos, behind only Jake Wade, who did 17 laps about ten minutes faster. I've raced with and against Jake going all the way back to my very first race and he's always been a crazy strong rider. He's a genuine pro talent. To be on the same lap as him at the end of an event like this is about as much as I could hope for.  Overall, I felt good all day and could have kept going if I needed to. And that's encouraging because I've got an even longer event coming up in May. The highlights of the day included my fastest ever off-road 100 miles (8:47), some nice consistent lap times all day, and with the win, I've completed the trifecta on podium positions - 2 years ago, I took third place, last year I was second, and this year I got the win.

The LBD is a special event that I'll return to as long as I am able. Despite the weather, I didn't experience the horrors of a bad course the I'd heard about, so I can't really think of much that would keep me from coming back. It's a great race put on by really cool people with a great vibe from the fellow racers. If you ever thought you might like to give endurance racing a try - either as a solo or on a team - definitely give this one a hard look. It's just a great way to spend a Saturday!

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff man. I'm glad you take the time to write down these race reports. I love living vicariously! LOL.