Sunday, May 25, 2008

Battle @ The Bear/Front Range 50 (May 17, 2008)

My first Blue Sky Velo blog post (no pictures, sorry) ...

A few words on my experience in the Front Range 50 MTB race follow. But first, a listing of all the Blue Sky Velo racers who took part in the Front Range 50 or Battle at the Bear last weekend:

Rider/Cat/Place/Race(Front Range 50 or Battle at The Bear)
Phil Murray/M40-49/41/FR50
Darrin Sharp/M40-49/42/FR50
Charles Musgrave/M40-49/DNF/FR50
Pamela Dobrowolski/F Exp30-39/DNF/BTB
Rob Love/M Exp30-34/5/BTB
Grady Huff/M Exp40-49/7/BTB
Susan Prieto/W Sport40+/4/BTB
Cindy Vanover/W Sport40+/8/BTB
Dan Farrell/M Sport35-39/12/BTB
Dave Kilmoyer/M Sport40-49/17/BTB

As you can see, Blue Sky Velo had an excellent turnout with 10 racers participating in either the Front Range 50 or Battle at the Bear. I also noted at least one BSV cheerleader/photographer in the form of Marty C. This was certainly a good way to kick off the MTB racing season with a bang!

Now for my take on the FR50 ...

I had originally planned to ride the Battle at the Bear. Last year, the Sport riders (my cat) did a couple of laps of about 12 miles each. This year, however, the course was changed and in addition to the BTB, a new race, the Front Range 50 (miles) was added. The races were structured as a number of 10 mile laps. Beginners in the BTB did 1 lap, all the way up to 5 laps for those riding in the FR50. Since I'm focusing on endurance races this season, the FR50 was the natural choice for me.

Lap 1: The field was huge. All the FR50 male riders took off together. In a way this was good, because the crowd on the single track kept the pace down to something reasonable at the beginning. It was nice not to have a crazy fast start off the line like so many other mtb races. Since I hadn't been able to pre-ride it, this was my first look at much of the course. I have to say I really enjoyed it; it was mostly smooth singletrack with a few rollers, one relatively big hill (maybe a 3-6 minute climb) in the middle, and a couple of short (<2 minute) climbs in the last 3.5 miles. I felt good at the end of the first lap, finishing it in about 51 minutes. The numerous goatheads on the course had begun to take their toll however. I saw many racers fixing flats on this lap (turns out I ran into several racers, including our own Charles Musgrave, who DNF'd because of double flatting or worse). The tubeless setup on my brand new Maverick Durance (which I had taken delivery of 8 days before) worked perfectly, however. No flats for me! Life is good!

Lap 2: I was still feeling good and started to settle into a comfortable pace on this lap. I tried to pick a pace that I thought would put me mid-pack in my cat (my goal). By this time the field had spread out quite a bit. I was never alone on the course, but never really felt crowded either. Life is still good!

Lap 3: I think it was on this lap that some of the BTB racers started to catch me (the FR50 started at 8:30, and BTB cats started between 9:30-11:30 or so). And, some of the fastest FR50 riders started to lap me. Needless to say, it got a little crowded at times on the course. My lower back was also starting to ache on this lap. It got to the point where I got off and pushed up the smaller hills just to give my back a little chance to stretch out. This obviously cost me some time, and it became apparent I was slowly falling off the mid-pack pace I had wanted to keep. Life is OK.

Lap 4: Uh-oh, things are not going well for me. My back is really bothering me and I suffered hamstring cramps for the first time _ever_ in 20+ years of riding (and 3 of racing). I also just feel like I'm generally running out of gas. The BTB Pro/Exp racers caught me just as I got to the bottom of the big hill. I ended up pushing up most of the big hill, otherwise I would've been off/on my bike a dozen times as I let them blow by me. And, I was regularly getting lapped by FR50 riders who were obviously on their last lap (I could tell who was who because everybody had their race and cat marked on their right calf). I pass the start-finish line at 3:48 (and was thinking a 40 mile race would've been just about right for me today). Life is fair.

Lap 5: A suffer-fest. I walked/pushed all the hills due to a combination of hamstring cramps, a sore back, and general fatigue. As I ground past the golf course and watched all the guys riding around in their electric carts drinking cold beer I started to think maybe I was participating in the wrong Saturday afternoon recreational activity. But then I realized anybody can do that, and that I'd really much rather be racing my mtb today, even if it does hurt this much :^) I finally limped across the finish line in 4:54 (1:06 for my last lap, a full 15 minutes and 30% slower than my first lap). Oh, I'm _really_ glad I'm done.

Aftermath: I ended up finishing 42 out of 52 in my cat. Well off my goal of mid-pack, but in no danger of DFL either :^) Although I was pretty cooked at the end of the race, I did recover quickly. Almost a quart of Recoverite/water later I was starting to feel somewhat normal again. Even though I was following all the nutrition/hydration advice I've read to the letter (no more than about 28 oz of water/hr and no more than about 300 cals/hr), I think I would've done better with an increased water and cals consumption. Given that I made no pit stops between 8:30am and 4:30pm, all the while drinking almost 5 qts of water in that time period, I'd say I was at least somewhat dehydrated. Something to experiment with in training and future races I guess. And, I think I need to do some longer training rides at higher intensities. Maybe near race-pace for a couple of hours, then finish up with 3-4 hours in zone 2/aerobic.


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