Mountain Lake Dirty Dawg race report
This was going to be titled the race report that almost wasn't because I was waffling back and forth till about the last possible moment. I'm so glad the way it finaly waffled and that we went. It was a wonderful event
The location was idyllic at the Mountain Lake Hotel. The course was unlike any around, challenging technical rocks, but also some power fire road climbs, loose shale off camber, twisty single track, and bomber fire roads. With trail names like Moonstomper and Toejammer which ironically lived up to it's name in my case
Thanks to Ben, The Mountain Lake Conservancy and the Mountain Lake Hotel. For putting on such a great race. Putting on events takes such effort, and we wouldn't have races to go to without people like that. Race or no race, the riding up there is super fun and they are committed to creating more and more trails.
On Wednesday, I got this GI stomach bug that has been going around town. A terrible stomach upset then low grade fever that just put me in bed. The fever went away after a day, but the stomach has been on strike since then. I had no appetite and if I did, no food irregardless of type felt right. It wasn't getting that much better into the weekend, and was thinking that racing might be out of the picture. The event was billed as a weekend festival with campout, bonfire, etc. My buddy and I and some of our kids went up there Saturday night to just say hi.
While up there my son started to haze me about racing. What to do, my own child, who seems to have reached a new level of maturity, is razing me, while the violins are playing in the background as I remind him of the stomach thing I've got.
It was pretty much decided to go that night. I'm really glad, and have been jonesing for some of that fullfilment that comes from racing. I'd made a conscious choice to not race much this year due to other commitments. I'm glad to have other priorities and not be so uber focused on cycling to the point of nausem, yet have also missed that good feeling that comes from voluntarily putting yourself through physical hardship. Running the gauntlet and coming out the other side feeling like utter crap, yet feeling empowered and fulfilled at the same time. That is mountain bike racing. If it was easy everyone would do it.
In the morning I tried to eat some serious carbs but nowhere what I'd use to eat prerace. It sat ok, but I could tell things weren't 100%. The legs were primed though. Two weeks ago, I performed my standard peaking protocol of doing three consecutive days at high intensity, with duration decreasing across each day. Due to the stomach bug and other obligations I'd had no saddle time from Wed to Friday prior to the race. But Saturday I did some zone 2 on the trainer and some 5x1min on, 2off on the trainer. The legs felt a dead, and later that night they felt tender to the touch. Typically that would be cause for alarm. But I've learned that this tender feeling after a wake up the legs effor t is the tellatale sign that something's going to happen...something wonderful.
The start was uncharacteristically mellow. I think many had either preridden or heard how much harder it was than last year and took it slower out of the gate. My goal was to take it easy and not get sucked into the start frenzy. I've not been training like years past or racing for months so doing that would be a recipe for disaster. As we turned to the single track, I actually started to catch a few. This one crazy foo' on a rigid single speed was practically going backwards. But when we hit the dirt road, I was sprayed with gravel off his rooster tail as he light it up.
The course leads to some off camber shale sections. Flat city for many. Then into the hardest climb out to the start of the technical single track, Moonstomper. I actuall got my foot wedged into a rock within minutes of starting this track. My pinky toe got munched. I thought I might have broken it. But racing is racing, and it didn't keep me from riding. Throughout the day,I sometimes pressed it down in my shoe to get a jolt of pain to wake up.
After passing someone on the rocks I was alone for a long time. Trying to just stay steady. For about an hour and a half I was riding strong. Right around the 2hr mark the energy stores were fading and the first dose of sport legs was waning. My in race dose was taken at the 1hr mark and didn't kick in until 2:10 or so. Would't you know that right around the 2 hr mark Dave passed me. We'd traded spots in the rocks where I chose to burn many matches pinballing off rocks while he saved some energy.
More often than not I don't really race my bike. I just ride as best I can, but don't often dig deep to hang onto wheels or bridge gaps. I was proud to focus hard and stay on the wheel as he passed. But just as we top out on the golf course road, the leg locking cramps hit. So I had to back off a tad. These days I ride through them as best as I can cause I know they'll go away as soon as the Sport legs kick in, but I lost the wheel though had him in sight.
On the last major climb through a grassy jeep trail I'm slowly chasing. Grinding the middle ring and see him get off and walk. Grinding and grinding and the gap is barely closing. It was like that scene from Monty Python where those knights are running and running and aren't getting any closer to the castle. All of a sudden I finally crawl by.
I'm thinking that if I can make it to the last technical singletrack downhill maybe I can gap enough to hold him off. Look at me, thinking all competitively and tactically. Through the last single track alone and onto the fire road climb. I'm dying. Knowing I'm being chased. Trying to just get through this last road. Big ring as much as possible then middle. Ahh the last checkpoint meaning that it's just a grinder hill away to the finish.
God that hill hurt. Oh then there is the climb to the stables. Just as I'm near the top of the fire road, who but that rigid single speeding yahoo blows by me. No way possible to hang onto the train. Rolled through to the finish with snot hanging down my nose, stomach in knots. I heard my name but couldn't even think to look around. My wife and kids had come up but didn't even see them till after I'd crossed the line.
Look how old my kids are getting
See my face. To the untrained eye it could be seen as a smile. Grimace is the correct term. I used the large picture so you could get the full effect. That is the face I came here looking for. For the next 4 hours my face looked like that. My stomach was in utter rebellion. It wasn't that sickly over carbed feeling but more of general turmoil.
Great day, great organizers, great competitors. So glad I came. In the end I got 5th with 4th less than a minute and 3rd less than 2 minutes. Way way better than I would have expected given this year and the last week. The top two were like 20mins ahead. I'd love to see those two dancing through the rocks.
Please come next year when they have it. And to the mtn lake crew keep building trails. But if I could make a request, make some smooth but twisty single track that can be enjoyed by rank beginners as well as experts. We need to grow some new bikers so they can go after those rocks.
Notes to self
-haven't been keeping a training log the last few months. So not exactly sure about what has worked so well
-Combo of some hard rides back to back. Good tough routes:
-460 to mtn lake, jenelle road, woodland hills, pearman, Old brush and hills in the neighboorhood, up beast, up OF. And lots of rest and not riding.
-Want to bring back one trainer session a week. lead outs to get my leg spinning ability up and/or butt kickers.
-Peaked well two weeks before
-Have lost weight. Combo of PD4A which I'll be writing more about soon (good and bad), and just plain not eating crap, and just plain not eating much the last week with the stomach thing. No doubt about it weight matters. My power numbers are all down from last year but the weight is lower and I feel good on the bike.
-I was pushing a bigger gear an lower cadence most of the day. Still seems counter intuitive that it works but I think this course combined with the Sport legs worked better with that strategy
-I don't like being dependent on those things in races, and I don't like that they take away snap and ability to spin up on demand. But damn do they work on my cramps, and damn if I can't just keep pedaling middle when I should be in granny.
-Still can't start fast. But caught a few people after in several minutes.
-Technical skills were big factor today. Needed em.
-Skills felt on today. I did a skills session with the cones last week and another a few weeks ago. It takes several days for the feelings to get ingrained and I could feel the rear wheel breaking and coming around on turns w/o it freaking me out.
-Bike had no problems.
-Stans is key in this terrain
-Had a competitive fire today. Rode it like I stole it for some golden moments.