Just some thoughts and experiences from a mountain bike endurance racer who likes to ride and race his single speed mountain bike a long long way on remote single track in the mountains and desert.

Monday, May 9, 2011

12 Hours of Mesa Verde 2011, 3rd place finish in the singlespeed solo class

Photo credit: http://www.wildcatstudios.com/
I just finished 3rd in the singlespeed solo category at the 2011 12 hours of Mesa Verde race last weekend in Cortez Colorado.  115 miles and 13,601 feet of elevation gain.  While I was hoping to repeat my previous years win it wasn't in the cards.  I gave it my best shot considering the challenges and issues I dealt with prior and during the race but in the end I was just happy to finish and still end up on the podium.  I can honestly say “that is the most pain I have ridden through that I can recall”.  Kevin Thomas and Steve Reiter really road a strong race and were faster to the finish and I'm sure they had their own mishaps and challenges throughout the day that they overcame to finish on top.  I setup my bike with a Schwalbe Racing Ralph tire in the rear and Schwalbe Nobby Nic tire in the front and they performed great!

The race started out well for me.  After involuntarily having a significant amount of time off before the race with a cold then a rib and upper body injury from my crash three weeks prior my legs really felt good and it felt great to finally be able to let them loose.  I wondered if my legs felt good because I just hadn't been able to ride fast for a while so anything would seem better or if I really was riding faster after the long break.  I led the first 60 miles or so with a pretty good lead but watched it slip away mid race.

Toward the beginning of the second lap my grip came loose after the turn onto Lemon Head.  I was still able to ride but I couldn’t pull on the bars during the climbs which started to take a toll on my legs.  This perplexed me because I had actually used a torque wrench to check the bolts on the grips prior to the race and they were fine.  I thought I could make it through the lap and tighten it in the pit because it was only moving with moderate force.  My lap time was still looking really good but about half way through as the grip got looser and looser I decided to try and fix it so I didn’t crash and also to save my legs some abuse.  After digging my tool out of the bag the bolt appeared to already be tight and I just had to finish the ride with a loose grip and extra leg effort.  That was disappointing since I just burned a couple minutes messing with it and getting no benefit.  My plan would be to grab my backup bike and try and recruit someone to try and fix the problem while I was on my next lap.  During the remainder of the lap I tried to go over every possible cause for the problem.  The en-cap was missing so maybe it popped out and the end of the carbon bars was damaged.  Toward the end of the lap while looking at the end of the grip it appeared that it wasn't installed all the way on properly because I couldn't see the end of the bars.  After pulling into the pit and checking things out my theory proved true.  I ended up loosening and moving over my brake lever twice to allow the grip to move far enough on to clamp to the end of the bar.  Luckily Dan Durland came along and helped me out.  Looking at how far the grip was overhanging off the bars (1/4"-3/8") it’s hard to believe it even held in the first place.  After getting the grip on properly after losing a significant amount of time I rolled onto the trail to continue the race.

I was still in first and the lap stated out okay.  Midway through it however I started feeling pain and began to slow down.  During the Fourth lap my legs really started cramping up which usually never happened to me except in really hot races on climbs toward the very end but this was not even half way.  It was getting hot out but this was unusual.  I surmised that maybe I was using my legs more than normal to compensate for my lack of upper body strength due to the injury.

In the fourth or fifth lap Kevin Thomas flew by me and I ended up 2 minutes behind him at the end of the lap.  The next lap I tried to step it up and felt it was going well but on the second half my kidneys and back were really hurting on the rocky sections because of the jiggling which slowed me down considerably.

After that I entered survival mode.  I tried to get off and walk up some hills but the pain was almost worse.  At the start of my seventh lap I knew that Steve Reiter was 11 minutes behind me on the prior lap and given my previous laps poor time he had to be currently less than that.  Up till the seventh lap I had been able to ride through the cramping and just deal with it.  But during the seventh lap it was obvious that I had to stop and give my legs a break after suffering through a flat section if I was going to ride the climbs ahead.  Every bump really hurt my upper body and just pedaling hurt my legs.  I laid there for around five minutes and saw Steve Reiter ride by which I already knew was probably going to happen unless he was feeling as bad a me.  As bad as I wanted to I couldn’t get up and chase him right then and I had to let him go.  When I did get started I was able to ride all the hills up to the Moki Climb where I had to hike up it which I had never had to do in any of the three previous 12 hours races.  I suffered through the technical rock section on stinking springs and it was obvious then that this was going to be my last lap with the time cutoff approaching to quickly.  I knew that Paul Adams was somewhere behind me but I wasn’t sure how far.  At Hang bone I couldn’t see anyone who was in striking distance behind me across the canyon and was comfortable that I could hold my position for the remainder of the lap.  Entering into the finish I could hardly walk through the building.  It turned out Paul was under two minutes behind me at the end just knocking at the door.  If he had known how close he was I'm sure he could have pulled out a strong finish but maybe I could have reached deep inside and mustered up the strength to keep him behind me. ????

In the end I was happy to still finish on the podium.  Last year I was able to squeeze out the win with Kevin Thomas coming on strong at the end.  This year it was Kevin's race.  Kevin is really a strong rider and it was a consolation that the rider who ended my six race winning streak is the same guy who won the Vapor Trail 125 singlespeed.  Kevin road off the trail first overall then got passed by a geared rider on the flat pavement back to Salida, one of the toughest races around, much tougher than the Leadville 100.  I knew Steve Reiter would dish out some serious competition as well.  He has finished in front of me in the past and was riding strong in Gallup and really put in a great effort at this race.

Immediately after my crash three weeks prior while I was laying on the ground unable to breath and I distinctively remember Kiviok say "you just opened up the door for some competition at the 12 hours of Mesa Verde". Maybe so, or maybe it was the heat or the lack of training before the race from the injury.  Could have been from hardly eating anything during the race or not enough liquids or just having an off day.  Maybe my grip problem but most likely a combination of everything.  Anything can happen on race day!

Check out the video on my blog of the crash.  It is a couple of posts below this one.