Friday, December 31, 2010

Another year

2010 has been a great year, exceeding my expectations in many ways.  This was my first full year of mountain bike racing and I did pretty well against some excellent competition.  

The highlight as far as racing came pretty early in the year with my 3rd place finish at Syllamo's Revenge.  That was the result of some very hard off season training, some early distance racing and a lot of luck. I rode about as well and as hard as I could and it paid off.

The highlight for riding was the Durango to Moab Hut-to-Hut trip in July.  It was an amazing experience with an awesome group of people.  I plan to do a detailed write-up of the trip, but needless to say, I'd do it again in a second.

I did my first adventure race this year, the Castlewood 8 Hour in early December.  I raced in the 4 person co-ed division with Luke Kuschmeader, Jamie Wynne and Dee Anne Sheridan.  I loved it and I'm looking forward to doing more of them.  We're planning on doing the Bonk Hard Chill in February.  

2011 will be a mix of mountain bike and adventure racing.  I'm doing a lot of running right now which cuts into my time on the bike, but I really enjoy it and it's necessary to do well in AR.  I also hope to travel more and ride in more parts of the country.  I got a taste of riding in Colorado and I want more of that.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Man, no posts since RIM?  Pretty sad.  I've got several saved as drafts but I haven't found the time to put up anything halfway coherent.  Anyway, I got a pretty cool package today.  Turns out I finished 2nd in the 30-39 class of the Arkansas Mountain Bike Marathon Series and they sent me a nice plaque.  

The series consisted of the Spa City 6 Hour, Ouachita Challenge and Syllamo's Revenge.  I did fairly well in the Arkansas races, so it's no surprise I plan on doing all of them next year.  

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rapture In Misery recap

On Thursday last week I decided to head up to Trenton MO for RIM, a 6/12 hour mountain bike race that's part of the Heartland Racing Series.  I'd never ridden the trails at Crowder State Park but I'd heard it was a really fun race and I hadn't done a long (for me) mountain bike since since Syllamo and figured it was time since I've got some long ones coming up.  I felt bad because there was a party on Saturday that I had been planning on attending, but I really wanted to race and that desire won out.

I arrived at the park a couple hours before the race and saw Zdenek and Adam from St. Louis.  They were both doing the 12 hour solo but I signed up for the 6 hour and saw I'd be racing against Jeff Winkler, Aaron Elwell and Travis Donn among others.  I had my work cut out for me. The pre-race rider meeting was full of warnings about the various trail hazards which was a little unnerving.  When they are talking about the "bone yard" and "widow maker" it doesn't sound good.  The trail was roughly 9 miles per lap and Jeff won the race last year riding 8 laps.

The weather was hot and humid but nothing crazy.  I really felt as long as I stayed hydrated it wouldn't be an issue. Before the race I noticed that my right quad was kind of sore and massaged it a bit trying to losen it up. I figured it would be fine once I got on the bike.

The race started with a short run which wasn't very fast and I was sitting in about 6th when we hit the trail.
I made my first mistake early on.  Jeff was right in front of me and I rode the first lap on his wheel at his pace.  I know that in order to do well I have to ride my own race and not worry about other riders until the latter stages of the race, but in the excitement and wanting to do well I figured I needed to hang on to someone that I knew would be in contention for the win.  It didn't feel that fast but there was no recovery that lap.  I was pushing pretty hard the whole way.  The course has a technical rock garden early in the lap (the "bone yard") some steep non-technical climbs that last a few minutes but overall the course is relatively flat.  Unfortunately I had to ride hard on those sections to keep up.  The downhills were a bit slick from rain the night before so there was no relaxing there either.  I finished the first lap in 48:47 sitting in third, grabbed a fresh bottle of water/perpetuem and headed back out.

I had dropped off Jeff's pace by the second lap and tried to settle into something I could maintain for the long haul.  Unfortunately the damage from riding out of my comfort zone for too long the first lap had been done and even when I backed off I wasn't able to recover and get my breathing under control.  Travis passed me on the last significant climb of the lap as I was spinning in my granny gear. I was really struggling and just didn't have the energy to do antyhing else. The second lap wasn't very fun and I finished it with a time of 53:54.

My third lap was hell.  On the first real climb I had to drop to my granny gear right off the bat and about halfway up my right quad seized with a cramp.  I had to get off the bike because of the pain but it hurt if I tried to straighten or bend my knee so there was no relief.  I must have looked bad because another rider climbing behind me asked if I was okay.  I just had to wait a bit for it to go away.  When I got back on the bike I realized I was sweating like crazy and I couldn't catch my breath.  I rode a mile or so until I got to the aid station that's about halfway through the lap and I just got off my bike, went over there and ate a couple cookies and drank some water.  It was frustrating watching riders fly by.  A few other people stopped (including JP Brocket) complaining of cramps so I wasn't alone with my issues, but I felt didn't make me feel any better.  I eventually started back up but at the base of the climb where Travis had passed me the previous lap I just stopped at the bottom and leaned up against a tree.  That's the first time I've ever gotten to a hill where I just didn't feel I could make it to the top.  I was exhausted and I think I officially bonked.  I eventually finished the lap with a 1 hour 13 minute lap time but as I crossed the start/finish line I told them I was taking a break and went and sat down.  I figured my day was over but I didn't say that, I hoped that I could keep going since I've never quit a race.

As I was sitting in my chair sipping a diet Dr. Pepper I saw Jeff and he came over to chat.  The heat had gotten to him and he was already showered and cleaned up.   He offered me some encouragement but he said his shower felt really good.  I was tempted to throw in the towel but instead just sat there and rested.  JP had stopped after that lap feeling like I did and while we were talking he suggested I drink some pickle juice to help with the cramping.  At that point I was willing to try anything so when his son brought me a big cup I downed it.  It actually tasted pretty good.  Watching people ride by didn't.

After sitting for over an hour I decided to get back on my bike and finish the race.  I felt better so I figured I'd go out, ride a nice easy pace and just try to have fun.  I don't know if it was the pickle juice or the relaxed pace, but that was a really fun lap.   The trails were great and I was feeling fine.  I didn't cramp at all.  With the break time included my lap time was 2:11:26.

I only had time for 1 more lap so I went back out riding like I had the previous lap and again, it was pretty fun.  I stopped at the aid station to eat a cookie and chatted with the guy manning the station for a minute or so.  He was a really nice guy and I know everyone that stopped appreciated him being there.  I ended up finishing my last lap in 1:05 which landed me 14th in my class.  I was glad that I got back on my bike and my reward was a pretty sweet t-shirt that I'm sure I'll be wearing proudly.

While I was hurting, Zdenek was putting the pain on everyone else in the 12 hour solo.  It was his first 12 hour solo race and he won by almost an hour completing 12 laps.  He was a machine out there and it was very inspiring.

Aaron Elwell won the 6 hour solo and actually came in 2nd overall counting the teams.  Travis Donn had an awesome 6 hour debut coming in 2nd.  He raced a very smart race and if he keeps doing the distance events he will do very well.  I hope he does the BT Epic later this year.

Overall I think Heatland put on a great race at a great venue.  It was so cool to be able to shower after I finished and the atmosphere was up there with the best race experiences I've had.  I'll be back next year for sure and hopefully I'll do better.  I've just got to remember to ride my race and not get sucked into the competition early on.  As Travis said it's much more fun catching people than getting caught.

Here's a link to the results, and below are some links to photos I've found:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wheels of Fire

Springfield Dirt Crits Race 2 report

This weeks race was a bit kinder to me.  I came in feeling pretty fresh after taking Monday off and I think it helped.  Ryan was there taking pictures and all the ones in this post are his. 

The number of racers in both the beginner and open classes are growing which is great to see.  Once the weather cools off a bit I expect it to get even better.

Leading up to the race it looked like my competition from last week wasn't going to make it.  Neither Cale or Jerred were there.  Then about 5 minutes before the race was set to start Cale pulls up, registers and gets in about a minute of warmup before toeing the line.  He had been on the road for most of the afternoon and was rushing to make the race.  I was glad he made it.

At the start I was thinking I could take advantage of Cale's lack of warmup and try to push the pace and see if he would back off or burn too many matches early.  I got the hole shot and rode as hard as I could.

I stood up on the climbs to keep my speed up and I was feeling pretty good.  Cale stayed on my wheel the entire first lap.

On the second lap at the top of a climb coming off of the bat cave trail Cale passed me but I was able to hang on and kept him from getting away.  He would put some distance between us on the flats and descents, but I would catch up on the climbs.

On the forth lap I went around Cale at the top of a hill right before we entered the bat cave trail and I just went for it.  I was feeling the fatigue from the 20 minutes of hard riding but felt like I could keep the pace up.  When I looked back at the bottom of the hill near the start/finish line I could see that he wasn't hanging on.  After the fifth lap I couldn't see him behind me and they called out there were only three laps to go.  At that point I just tried to cruise and not make any mistakes.

The last 3 laps went by pretty quickly and I ended up finishing 8 laps in about 43 minutes.  2 minutes faster than last week.

Luckily Ryan was not at the finish line taking photos.  About 20 feet from the start/finish line there is a mound that the trail goes over.  I decided I'd try to catch some air since there was a nice size crowd standing around, but unfortunately I'm not that good at catching air.  Somehow after the jump I got tilted to the side and I biffed the landing.  I had to walk my bike across the line.  At least I got some good laughs.

My nephew Trevor wasn't able to make the race because of work but he's planning on being at the next one in two weeks.  Hopefully it will be a bit cooler.

There won't be a dirt crit on the 17th.  Instead everyone will be at the waffle road race.  I might have to put the slicks back on my bike.....

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Springfield Dirt Crits Race 1 report

Tonight was the first race in the A&B Cycle Dirt Crit series.  I've been looking forward to it since I first heard about the series in June.

I'm not a really fast rider, but I can hold a decent speed for a long time.  These crits are a chance for me to work on that weakness.  Plus racing is fun.

The format for the Men's Open class is 30 minutes plus 3 laps.  The course was a little more technical and hilly than other dirt crits I've read about and each lap was approximately 1 mile.

When I arrived at Sac I discovered both of my tires were flat.  They each had a gash in their sidewalls.  I tried to patch them on the outside hoping it would be enough for the Stans to seal them but after a pre-ride lap they were both near flat again.  So I put in tubes hoping I could avoid the thorns.

I took my Stumpjumper FSR to the race because my nephew Trevor said he was willing to ride in his first mountain bike race.  He did well and ended up winning the beginners class.  He said he had a good time and he'll be back next week. 

At the start of the race I got the hole shot and was in the lead when we reached the singletrack. Right after that Cale McAninch wrecked behind me when his crank hit a stump.  It created a bit of a gap between me and the field but he closed that gap before long.  I was riding as fast as I could near my redline and couldn't pull away.  I finished the first and second laps with Cale on my wheel and on the 3rd lap he passed me.  I tried to stay with him but he just pulled away.

I felt like I was riding well so I just tried to maintain what I was doing and see what happened.  With 3 laps to go Jerred Brackett caught up to me.  Now I had a race.  I rode the last 3 laps as hard as I've ever ridden.  I was able to hold him off until the last turn about 20 yards from the finish.  It was a banked turn and when I came out if it for some reason I started coasting.  I don't know why but I did.  He got on it and before I knew it he was next to me.  I tried to speed up to hold him off but he had the momentum and beat me to the line by half a wheel.  It was an awesome finish.  My mistake cost me but I learned a good lesson.

Cale won by a pretty good margin.  It's going to be tough but I'm going to work hard to try to give him some competition in the coming weeks.

This was so much fun and I can't wait until next week.

Here's my Garmin data from the race (note the 101% max heart rate):

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Springfield Dirt Crits

Okay boys and girls, it's official.  The Springfield dirt crits kick off on Tuesday, Aug 3 at Sac River trails.  There will be 2 classes: beginners and everyone else.  Beginners will race for 20 minutes plus 1 lap and everyone else will race for 30 minutes plus 1 lap.  The course will not be technical but that doesn't mean the race is going to be easy.  You will get a great workout and you will have a great time!

The racing will be every Tuesday evening and will run for 8 weeks!

Starting times and entry fees to follow.

Tell all your friends!

UPDATE:  There is a facebook page with more information.  

Monday, July 12, 2010

OMBA Caramba recap

This weekend was the OMBA Caramba mountain bike race at the Sac River Trails in Springfield MO.  The race is part of the Midwest Fat Tire Series.  It was pretty cool because most of the Springfield bike community pitched in to support the racers; Springfield Bicycle, A&B Cycle, Queen City Cycles, Cycles Unlimited, Sunshine Bike and Kuat Racks were out in force.

I've been looking forward to this race for a long time.  Several years ago I learned how to mountain bike at the park and one year ago I did my first XC mountain bike race there which got me hooked on the sport.  I really wanted to do well and have been training on the event's course for the last couple months.  I was probably more nervous coming into this race than any I've ever done.  I've done more important races but I wanted to win this one more than any of them.  

We got some rain in Springfield on Thursday which was just what the course needed.  It had been so dry that the trails were getting pretty dusty and the corners were getting a little loose.  It's a trail system with few straight lines and if you can't carry your speed in the corners then you'll wear yourself out quickly and feel like you're fighting the trail. 

I knew going in that the 8 mile laps were going to take over 40 minutes and with the heat I didn't think one bottle of water+heed would be enough for each lap, so I took my folding table out onto the course at the 4 mile mark and set it up next to the trail with 3 bottles.  That meant I would get a bottle at the start of the lap and another at the middle of the lap.  I would not be dehydrated and could save weight at the same time.

I was hoping for a great turnout with a field like we had at the Mo State Championship games in St. Louis a few weeks earlier.  There are a lot of really fast guys in St. Louis but they have so many races on their home turf that they don't have to travel to race and many of them don't. But a handful did show, like Tim Kakouris  (who won Brommelsiek 2 weeks earlier), and Rock Wamsley.  Travis Donn  and several others made the trip from KC and Dan Miller from Columbia.  Also my Revolution Cycles Racing teammate Jeff Yielding made the drive from Herman.  Some of the Springfield notables in attendance were Cale McAninch and Brad Huff. I think there were 15 or so total Experts that signed up.

At the starting line I was between Tim and Dan.  When we took off the 3 of us were at the front and Tim let me take the lead heading into the singletrack.  For me that was huge because I know those turns so well I can ride them without braking and I didn't want anyone in front of me.  I hit the first section of switchbacks pretty hard and was at the top of the hill by the barn in about 8 minutes.  I was winded but I knew there wasn't anymore climbing for a few minutes.  On the steep climb to the outer loop I lost Tim and I was alone for the rest of the first lap.  I just rode everything as fast as I could trying to take clean lines and gaining as much time as possible.  It was pretty cool because Beau and PJ were at the junction by the barn where we passed by twice per lap.  They were there to give out water if anyone needed it and they were cheering me on like crazy.

Near the end of the lap on the turn that leads to the levy trail, I took it at full speed really leaning into it.  For some reason my rear tire washed out and it caused me to oversteer. I laid the bike down but not before running into a tree.  The tree struck the head tube on my carbon fiber bike and it scared the crap out of me.  Luckily it didn't do any damage, so I jumped up and ran up the hill to the top of the levy.  Unfortunately there were people there taking pictures so I felt a little embarrassed and wanted to say "I can ride that section, I really can!".  I finished the first lap in 41:14 which was the fastest I've ever recorded.

On the second lap I continued to ride hard and built up a couple minute lead.  Then on one of the turns about 25 minutes into the lap as I was really leaning the bike I rolled my front tire off the rim.  That's a testament to how well the rocket rons hook up.  I run a fairly low pressure on the front (about 20psi) and that tire just sticks like glue.  So I flip my bike over, pull the wheel off, check for thorns, find one, pull it out with my teeth, take the stem off the rim, put the CO2 together and hit my only spare tube with some air before putting it in the tire.  As I'm doing this Travis, Cale and then Tim ride by.  They each offer me some encouragement.  After getting the tube in the tire I re-seat the tire bead in the rim and fill it with my remaining CO2.  Luckily the tire holds air so I put the wheel back on, stuff everything in my pockets, flip my bike and off I go.  In 4th place.

I used my only tube and CO2 in the repair so if I flat again I'm done for the day.  I ride the rest of the lap as hard as I can without further incident and finish it with a time of 49:51, so I figure I spent at least 5 minutes on the repair.

At the start of the 3rd and final lap there is a long straightaway with a gradual climb and I could see Tim in the distance.  I didn't know if I could make up much time but my goal became trying to catch him.  I was feeling pretty good but I had to focus on staying on the trail in the corners since I couldn't risk another flat.

I caught up to Tim right where I set up my table with the water bottles.  I followed him for a while and when we got to a hill climb I made my move and passed him.  I rode as hard as I could to get out of his sight and he didn't try to hang on.  Then, about a mile later I saw Travis.  When I caught up to him he pulled to the side of the trail to let me pass.  He said Cale was only 30 seconds ahead and asked where Tim was.  I said about 30 seconds to a minute back and took off to try and catch Cale.  We were getting near the end of the lap but there was a section of tight twisty singletrack just ahead where I usually ride pretty fast and I thought I could catch him there.

I was right and I caught up to Cale about 2 miles from the finish line.  He sped up to hold me off and there weren't any good passing places so I followed him for a while.  I didn't want to have to sprint to the finish so right before the section with the drop, I hit it hard and made the pass.   It was a little sketchy because right after I passed I had to cut him off to avoid a tree next to the trail.  I apologized for the move and got a little worried because the effort made my left quad twinge with a small cramp.  I rode hard to keep him from hanging on but couldn't go all out because I didn't want my leg to seize up.  After a few minutes I looked back and he wasn't there so I slowed a bit and just focused on finishing.  On the last climb before the finish line the cramp on my left leg flared back up and my right one started talking to me as well.  It was worth it though because I won the race.  My time for the 3rd lap was 45:26 for an overall time of 2:16:40.

As usual the post-race festivities were fun and since there was a big raffle just about everyone stuck around.   I had an awesome day and even though I would have preferred not to have had the stress of the flat, I'm glad I was able to come back from it.  Granted I had a HUGE home field advantage knowing the trails so well, but I'm very happy to come out on top.

Ryan and everyone did a great job with this race.  Made me proud.

When I find any photo galleries or official results posted online, I'll update this post with links.

I'm going to miss the next couple races on my schedule because I'm leaving Friday for the seven day Durango to Moab Hut to Hut.  It should be an epic journey.

My next xc race will be 8/8, the Trailblazer Blitz at Spanish Lake

There's some great news on the Springfield Dirt Crit front, but it deserves it's own post.  More to come.....

UPDATE:  Queen City Cycles has posted some photos on Facebook.:!/album.php?aid=191633&id=67598378356

UPDATE2: Tyler Meinecke found some great pictures from the event.  Here's me at the drop:

Check them out:  

Saturday, July 10, 2010

OMBA Caramba trail update

Just left sac and the trails are perfect. The sun is shining and the trails have been groomed.

Its going to be a great race

Friday, July 9, 2010

OMBA Caramba trail conditions update

From Ryan Meschke (via facebook):
Omba course is looking good. It should be a good time. Let people know there is a free kids race at 11am. There will be burgers, brats, drinks, etc..
I'll be riding out there tonight and will post about the conditions; it's been so dry and dusty lately that the rain yesterday should have helped pack things down a bit.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

OMBA Caramba rumor

Word on the trail is that Springfield's own Brad Huff will be competing in this weekends OMBA Caramba at Sac River trails.  That still leaves 2nd place unaccounted for, let me know if you want it.

Come get some!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

OMBA Caramba info

I know all you die-hard racers are chomping at the bit, scowering the interwebs looking for scraps of information on the upcoming (July 11th) MWFTCS OMBA Caramba mountain bike race at Sac River trails in Springfield MO.  Well, rest easy because I've got you covered. The secret is out and the course has been marked and although I'm not supposed to let the "out of towners" know what the exact route is, I'm going to break the silence and help you prepare yourself mentally and physically for what is going to be a true test of your mountain biking mettle.

Last night I went on an after-dark reconnaissance ride carrying my trusty Garmin 500 (I was patted down at the gate, you don't want to know how I got it in there), riding extra slow to make sure it recorded every twist, every turn, every elevation change and each time I dodged a tree.  Many spiders were killed in order for me to get this for you so here is the map:

Here is the elevation profile (yes, that's FEET):

The lap distance is 7.25 miles (or 11.69 kilometers) and you can count on it taking about an hour to complete for beginners (if they make it at all), and 40 minutes for expert (not counting tire changes and resting periods) with sport somewhere in between.  The race will have Beginners do 1 lap, Sport 2 laps and Expert has to suffer through 3 laps. 

Oh, and either load your tires with Stans or bring lots of tubes.  The thorns are out in full force. 

Don't say you weren't warned.

If you don't hear from me again then Scott or Ryan reads my blog.  Luckily I think I'm safe with that.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Springfield Dirt Crits

I am completely inspired by the Alpine Shop Short Track Dirt Crit series at Castlewood state park in St. Louis.  It is a series of Thursday night races during the month of July where everyone can come, race their bikes on a fast, fairly flat, wide, non-technical course and just have a great time.  It's as much of a social event as it is great competition.  Plus with the short laps and open field chicane it's a great spectator event as you watch the riders fly by while navigating the sharp turns though the ribbon maze.  It's become very popular and is getting people to ride more and to try racing when they otherwise wouldn't.

I want to do one of these in Springfield so bad.....

So, to get this started, I propose having an informal fun FREE series of races every Thursday in the month of August starting on the 5th.   I have no idea how many people would show up so initially there will be no classes, just one group.  I haven't decided on an exact course but it will be on the west side of Sac River park, on the older and wider trails and will have a chicane in the field north of the parking lot.  It will be a 30 minute race, plus 2 laps.  The laps will be fairly short so there will be lots of laps and hopefully lots of fun. 

Of course the park will still be open to everyone but most of our action will  be taking place in the field next to the parking lot so it shouldn't disrupt anyone.  Open to all skills and abilities.  No prizes, just bragging rights.  And a good anaerobic workout.  Let me know if you think it's a good/bad idea or want to help. 

markgullett (at) gmail (dot) com

Monday, June 28, 2010

Brommelsiek Challenge race recap

This weekend was the 5th event in the United Federation of Dirt eastern cross country series, the Brommelsiek Challenge.  It took place at Brommelsiek Park in St. Charles MO on an approximately 4.5 mile course.  The weather was hot and the turnout was a little thin compared to many races recently, but the folks that did show up are fast and I knew I had my work cut out for me.

On Saturday I met my Revolution Cycles teammate Jeff Yielding for a pre-ride since I'd never been to the course and was really taken back by how nice the place was.  It was a beautiful park.  Everything looked brand new and there were bathrooms and covered pavilions all over the place.  There was lots of parking and overall I think it was the nicest race venue I've ever seen.

As Jeff and I headed out to check out the park, we met up with Mitch Johnson and his Ghisallo crew as they were heading out to take care of the last few touches to get the course ready for the race.  He told us which way the race was going to run and we set out.  After an initial rocky climb the course turned into a mostly smooth, twisty and relatively flat course that was very fun to ride.  I don't like to call any trail "easy" because if you ride as hard as you can then nothing is easy, but I will call this trail fast.  The tight corners, steep dips and sometime loose trail made the speed a little hairy at times but the pre-ride was a blast and it made me really look forward to the race.  Mitch and everyone (including St. Charles County Parks and GORC) have done a great job building an excellent trail system.

I knew going in that with the heat, hydration was key so I drank plenty of water the day before and morning of the race.  I also packed more water than I thought I'd need, which turned out to be a really good thing.

When we lined up before the start of the race I had Dan Miller on his S-Works 29er single speed on my right and Tim Kakouris, Chris Ploch and Bob Arnold on some big wheeled Gary Fischers on my left.  In the second row were Jeff, Tom Albert, Drew Black and Matt James.  I think that rounded out the expert field for the day.  While we were standing there I found out it was going to be a 6 lap race.  I hadn't planned on 6 laps....

After the mass start I hit the singletrack in 4th behind Tim, Chris and Bob with Dan nipping at my heels.  After the first mile or so, Dan passed me, dropping me to 5th.  We were riding a very fast pace and I was having to really work to stay with the pack.  When I looked over my shoulder I could see that we gapped the rest of the field so I decided to just hang on as long as possible and hope that everyone would slow down.  Being at the back of a pack of 5 riders on a dry dusty trail isn't very fun.  I was breathing a ton of dust and they weren't slowing down, so before the end of the first lap I decided to back off a bit and ride at a pace I could maintain.  My time for the first lap was 20:23.  I wasn't very far off the lead pack and the chase group was only about 30 seconds back.

One of the great things about this course was the quarter mile or so of out and back off the main loop to the start/finish line.  At most races you have no idea where anyone else is.  You don't know how far ahead the next rider is, if he's struggling or how much of a lead you've got.  With the out and back you get to see the guys ahead and behind.  You can look in their faces and see if they are charging or are just trying to hold on.  It makes for much better racing.  When you know the leader is only a minute ahead you keep charging.  You can't hide just around the corner, out of sight.

On the second lap I rode hard but not as fast as the first lap; I really used it to recover from the effort I put out trying to hang with the lead pack.  I just focused on riding as smoothly as possible and with such a twisty course I was having to constantly watch my line to keep from drifting off the hardpack trail into the soft stuff.  My time for the second lap was 21:03, about 30 seconds off the lead group, and about a minute ahead of the chasers.

At the top of the climb near the start of the third lap, I saw Bob Arnold had dropped of the back of the lead pack so I concentrated on reeling him in.  I caught him on one of the wooded uphill sections and he immediately offered to let me by.  That's something I always do in the middle of a race.  Once I'm in the flow I don't want to ride someone else's pace.  I figure if they felt good enough to catch me then I need to let them go and hope to see them again if they wear themselves out.  For that very reason unless I come up on someone very quickly I never ask to pass; I'd rather push them out of their comfort zone for a couple minutes so when I do pass they don't feel like hanging on and will sometimes go slower than they were originally.  After passing Bob about halfway through the lap I ride up on Chris Ploch standing on the side of the trail messing with his bike.  He jumped on right after I passed and said he had bent his front derailleur.  I didn't want to go any faster than I was so I asked him to pass.  As I watched him ride away I learned a little about how he races.  I noticed that he wasn't going any faster than I was on the straightaways or in the turns, but coming out of EVERY turn he would duck down into a power position and hammer to get back up to speed.  It was probably only a second or two  faster than I was coming out of the turns, but the time really added up and after a dozen or so turns he was out of sight.  I'd never really thought of that as a way to gain time and will have to try to work that into my riding.  My time for the third lap was 21:03, a minute off the lead and a minute in front of Bob.

My fourth lap was pretty uneventful, but I realized that I need to figure out a way to keep my bottles cool during the race.  There's just not much relief when you ride by, grab a full bottle of water and find it's near boiling.  Maybe if I drank coffee during races...  I wonder how that would taste with Heed?  My time for the 4th lap was 21:24.  Chris had caught back up to the leaders and I was about a minute and a half back but I had put almost 2 minutes on Bob who was sounding a little upset (jokingly) when I saw him ride by.

The fifth lap was interesting.  Dan had fallen off the lead pace and I started seeing him not too far ahead in the grassy field sections of the course.  Near the end of the lap I caught up to him and noticed he wasn't riding as well as I normally see him.  He was not taking good lines and was drifting off the trail in the corners and as a result was braking more than necessary.  When we got to a wider section of trail he offered to let me by.  Soon after I had to go off the trail to pass a marathon or sport rider and I got a stick between my chain and crank.  It didn't break anything but I had to stop and remove it.  While I was stopped they both rode by.  After I got going the other rider let me by and I rode behind Dan until the final field section where he pulled over to let me by.  I finished the fifth lap in 21:44 about 2 minutes off the lead and 3 seconds ahead of Dan.

Then at the top of the first climb on the sixth and final lap I saw Chris standing over his bike under a shade tree.  Just standing there.  Resting.  Baiting us, I thought.  As I rode by I offered him some of my warm water but he said he had plenty.  So I took off.  After a short distance in one of the fields I looked back and saw him and Dan not very far back.  It was time for a pep talk.  I told myself that I could keep the same pace and they both would pass me and I would end up fourth.  Or I could dig a little deeper, ride a little harder, put up with a little more pain and maybe hold them off for a second place finish.  I chose pain.  The rest of that lap I gave it everything I had, looking over my shoulder at every turn expecting to see them chase me down and feeling great relief when they weren't there.  About midway through the final field section I looked back and saw Chris coming out of the woods.  I knew he couldn't catch me at that point but I still rode as hard as I could to the finish.  My time for that lap was 21:21.  I ended up in second place about 2 minutes behind Tim and 30 seconds ahead of Chris.

Here's a link to the unofficial results.

I talked to Chris after the race and he had pretty bad leg cramps due to the heat and extra effort he put out to catch back up to the leaders after his mechanical.

All in all I'm pretty happy with my performance.  I rode within myself and it worked out for me.  Plus I learned a few things I can work on to become a better racer.  Good times.

Springfield was pretty well represented with Jesse Livingston taking 3rd in Cat 2 19-29 and Meg Comte winning Cat 2 Women Open.

My teammate Jeff ended up 7th overall.

I think Brommelsiek would be a PERFECT venue for a 6/12 hour race.  First class all the way.

Here's my Garmin data from the race:

Next up is OMBA Caramba on July 11th at Sac River Trails in Springfield.  The trails are better than they've ever been and I'm hoping for a great turnout.  We need the STL, KC and BOCOMO guys to come tear it up.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lost Valley Luau recap

This weekend was the rescheduled Lost Valley Luau near St. Charles, MO, that's part of the United in Dirt racing series.  The race was originally scheduled on the same weekend as the Ouachita Challenge, but was postponed because of muddy conditions.

Last weekend, after the Mo State Champ race I headed out to Weldon Springs to check out the course since the only other time I'd ridden there was at the 2009 CXmas, where I didn't remember much trail.  I found a nice mixture of gravel double-track and sweet flowy singletrack that would make for a unique race.  On Saturday, the day before the race I headed back to Weldon Springs with my St. Louis neighbor Dave to get one more lap under my belt before Sunday.  The trail was in good shape with some standing water in places but it was just enough to make a mess, not slow me down.

Since I had pretty severe dehydration issues at the race the week before, I was determined to drink lots of water leading up to and during this race.  While sitting in the parking lot at the mound I downed 3 bottles of water and I took 6 bottles of water to a spot near the finish line where I could get them during the race.

The race started with all expert classes together on a wide gravel path  for about half a mile, then down a steep hill where we joined the loop course near the finish line.  Each lap started with a big gravel hill climb followed by a mile or so of gravel double-track before turning onto fairly new singletrack.  That lasted a couple miles, then a good downhill, a couple more miles of doubletrack, a mile or so of fairly technical singletrack and another mile of nice flat trail to the finish line.  Basically a very fast course. 

On the first hill climb a lead pack broke away and at the top of the first hill climb I found myself in a small group behind them with Drew Black and Tom Albert.  We rode pretty fast, pace-line style with Drew doing much of the initial pulling.  We reeled in Dan Miller who was riding a single-speed and he hung on until we reached the first section of single track.  At that point we caught up to another rider that had fallen off the lead pack and he rode with us for a while.  He went down in a turn but jumped up and only lost a few positions.  At that point it was Drew, Tom, Dan, unknown guy and me.  On a climb leading to the pine trees the dude who is currently nameless let me by and fell back off the pace.  We then had a really fast downhill and started the second section of doubletrack.  I was behind Dan and he was letting a gap develop between us and Drew/Tom so I passed him expecting him to hang with me but I think the spinning on the singlespeed was getting to him and he fell back.   That left me, Dew and Tom to take turns pulling for a couple miles.  I find it truly amazing how much of a difference there is between riding in the lead (or alone) vs. riding in someones draft.  It literally felt like I was coasting when tucked in behind the other riders, and when I went to the front I was working my ass off.  It was a blast.  On the last section of singletrack Drew got a flat so that left just Tom and I.  When we got to the flat trail that finishes the lap I let Tom pull a little longer than I should have but when we got to the end of the lap I felt totally refreshed and ready to hammer up the hill.

I grabbed my 2nd bottle and rode as hard as I could up the hill, expecting to work with Tom on the gravel section ahead but when I looked back he wasn't there so I rode on by myself.  I went as fast as I could and felt pretty strong on both the flats and singletrack.  The only issue on that lap was encountering an angry hissing snake in the middle of the trail after rounding a turn.  It scared the crap out of me; it was rared back and jumped at me as I rode by.  I unclipped and raised my feet in the air, but it took several minutes before I calmed down.

After grabbing my 3rd bottle and chugging up the hill on the final lap I just focused on maintaining a good pace and picking good lines in the single-track.  I passed a few lapped riders but I didn't catch anyone from that lead pack that got away on the first lap.

I finished in 2:07:22 in 7th place overall and 4th in my age group.  Here's a link to the results (not fully updated as of press time);

Here's my garmin data from the day:

Next up is the Brommelsiek Challenge this Sunday in St. Charles.  Supposed to be a flat "dirt-crit" style course that will reward the bike handlers.  That's not my strength, but we'll see how I do.  If it's like last year's Cape Race I might be in trouble.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Missouri State Championship race recap

Saturday was the Missouri State Championship mountain bike race.  It was held at Castlewood state park and was part of the United Federation of Dirt series.  I love riding at Castlewood and was really looking forward to this race; especially after my DNF at Warsaw the week before.  I needed redemption.

I made the trip to St. Louis on Thursday and was able to pre-ride the course Friday morning.  I knew it was going to be a challenge but I did a couple laps and felt pretty good.  It sprinkled a bit during my ride but it didn't effect the trail and everything was mostly dry and tacky which is perfect for racing.

The turnout for this race was great with some of the best riders from all over the state.  There was Ploch, , Breslin, Kakouris, Elwell, Rines, ect.  You get the picture.  Lots of fast people I've never beaten.  I started sweating as soon as I stepped out of the car.  It was going to be a tough day.

I caught a ride to the park with Rock Wamsley which caused me to pack much lighter than I normally do.  I tried to bring only what I'd need which I figured was 4 16oz bottles of water with 2 scoops of Heed in each.  It was a 4 lap, approximately 2 hour race, so 1 bottle every half hour should be plenty.  Or so I thought.

Walking around and warming up pre-race was causing me to sweat quite a bit so I started "stealing" from my race bottles by sipping out of them to try to keep from starting the race dehydrated.  I did go over to the water fountain and drink quite a bit there, but I don't think I was getting enough.

This race was using the same chip timing system that was used at last year's Burning at the Bluff race.  It is a pretty cool system and I wish more races would take advantage of it.  Now if they could set up a large screen LCD at the start/finish with realtime results and splits that would be even better.

The start of the race was a mass start for all experts (and one sport rider) which I really prefer.  They sent us up the double track hill on Lone Wolf which is a fairly short but very steep climb.  It's so steep that they won't let anyone ride their bike down it.  I wanted to go hard up the hill but I didn't want to go too hard and blow up.  It was going to be a two hour effort and as long as I didn't get behind too many people I would be fine.  I was pretty shocked when I looked over on the climb and saw Chris Ploch;  I guess we had the same idea.

I made it to the top of the hill in about 15th place and here's a video of the sketchy descent after you crest the hill.  I come through at :43 (there's a couple wrecks and near misses of you watch the whole thing).

Right after that climb/descent we came through the start/finish area and soon started up the Grotpeter trail which isn't nearly as steep as the starting hill but much longer.  I went pretty hard up this hill and passed several people.  All of them dropped back except one; Travis Donn.  He hung on and each time I looked back he was keeping me in sight.

Grotpeter lead to the roller coaster which is one of the funnest trails I've ever ridden.  It's only shortfall is that it isn't longer.  I love that trail.  After that we took the Mountain Ridge connector back towards the main park road, followed by a CCW loop around Lone Wolf and back to the start/finish.  All told the laps were a little over 5 miles. 

My problems started pretty early.  Before the race I set up a table near the start/finish line to hold the bottles and planned to pick up one each lap.  When I finished the Roller Coaster trail on the first lap I ran out of water in the bottle I was carrying.  That was less than halfway through the lap.    I had Travis dogging me the entire lap and I was riding really hard but I really needed some water.  When I finished the first lap and grabbed my second bottle I immediately downed over half of it which didn't leave me much for the rest of the lap.   I finished the first lap in about 28 minutes.

Going up Grotpeter Travis passed me and I tried to hang with him but I couldn't.  I just felt weak.  I soon ran out of water (again) and was just hanging on, trying to go as fast as possible.  Then I was caught by Dan Miller racing in Sport Single Speed (who started at least a minute after we did).  He was riding really well and again I tried to hang on but couldn't.  The Lone Wolf climb was very difficult and when I finished the second lap (around 30 minutes) I stopped at the scorers table and asked if anyone had any water or anything to drink.  The event promoter, Ralph Pfremmer tossed me a water bottle and I downed it on the spot.   Man that was a lifesaver!

When I picked up my own bottle I didn't need to slam it and it actually lasted me until the Lone Wolf climb.  But I still felt like crap and just wanted to finish the race.  Again, Lone Wolf was hell.  My lap time was over 31 minutes.

The forth lap wasn't so bad because I knew I was almost done and that is a huge mental boost.  The lap wasn't any faster (31 min) but it wasn't as painful as the 2nd and 3rd lap.  I didn't have anyone chasing me down so I just took my time and rode it out.

I finished the race in 9th overall and 7th in the Cat 1 30-39 class.  I'm pretty happy with that result.  I think I could have done better but everyone that beat me and several that didn't are all very good riders so I feel good being amongst them.  There were lots of racers that weren't able to finish the race due to the heat and demands of the course.

I found lots of pictures of from the race.  Here are the galleries and below are the ones of me.

This creek was the most refreshing part of the lap.  I wanted to lay down in it.
Smiling because it's almost over!

Here's a link to my garmin data for the day.    You can find most of the chip timings here.

Thanks to the promoter (especially for that bottle of water) and volunteers for putting on a great and challenging race.  The post-race food was excellent!

Next up is the Lost Valley Luau.  I plan to take much more water to this one.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Down and Dirty recap

This weekend was the Down and Dirty mountain bike race in Warsaw Mo, on the banks of Truman Lake. The event is part of the United In Dirt cross country series. I’ve been looking forward to it after several weeks without racing. The trails in Warsaw are not terribly hilly but there is a good variety of terrain and some long flat sections where you can open up and lots of tight twisty switchbacks.

I arrived at the park around 10:30 for the noon start time and there were quite a few cars in the field near the starting area and lots of people milling around. I was supprised when I registered that I was the first person signed up for the cat 1 30-39 class. I wasn’t seeing hardly anyone from St. Louis, most of the riders were from Kansas City. By start time only 3 other riders had signed up in my class; Rock Wamsley (STL), Travis Donn and Bryce Lawarence (KC). With Travis and Rock there it was going to be a tough day.  It was a sunny day with the temperature in the mid 80's so it was going to be warm but not horrible.

I was supprised to see 4 S-Works Epics at the race; that’s the most I’ve ever seen at one event. Travis was on one and Rock was riding a 22 lb Giant Anthem SL so I wasn’t going to have any advantage there.

Mac Vorce, the race promoter and organizer started all experts together which I perfer over the minute delay between classes. We took off down a long double track section for about a ½ mile before the trail narrowed into singletrack. I was sitting in about 6th just a few places behind Rock. As the trail narowed one of the riders in front hit a tree and went down pretty hard. I saw him after the race and he had a nasty mark on his leg.

Before long I was able to pass the people between Rock and I and I fell in on his wheel. Rock is usually a very strong starter that leaves me at the beginning of races whereas I am more of a 2nd half guy. My plan was to latch onto him for the first lap or so of the 3 lap race, hang on for dear life and see what happened. The only problem was that he was not riding like he usually does. When we would come up on another rider he seemed content to sit on their wheel and I was having to urge him to pass them. A couple times I found him taking it easy on a climb and when I asked him to pick it up he just offered to let me by. I didn’t want to pass, I wanted him to push me!

One of the neat features of this course was that it went out from the starting area for 5 miles or so, then crossed back past back next to the starting line, back into the woods for a couple miles of brand new trail then a powerline climb back to the start/finish. Rock and I passed the start/finish area together before hitting the new trail. The new trail was pretty tricky because it was loose, had several off camber turns and a few very tight switchbacks. On one section Rock lost sight of the trail and missed a turn so I went on around. At that point I put the pedal down and finished the first lap alone. I rolled through in 38 minutes with Travis about 1:20 ahead and Rock about 30 seconds back.

On the second lap things did not go so well. I’ve been having problems for the last week or so where I’ve been dropping my chain when I ride through rough stuff. I have an XX drivetrain where I’m in the front big ring 98% of the time so the chain drops to the outside. I’m always able to fix it without stopping by down shifting on the front and pedaling lightly and it brings the chain back. On the first lap this happened several times but I was able to bring it back without any problems. Near the beginning of the second lap I passed a female marathoner and asked her how far back I was from the leaders and she said I was in 3rd (overall) so I started going all out trying to catch up to Travis and whoever else was up there. Then on one of the many dips in the trail my chain dropped but I didn’t realize it so when I mashed on the crank to climb out of it my chain got bound up and I snapped it. The powerlink that was holding the chain together came apart and I wasn’t carrying a spare so my day was over. I stayed there to wait for Rock and let him know I was out. He came buy, I told him he was in 3rd overall and to go get them. Luckily I was near one of the powerline clearings so it was just a short walk through the weeds back to the start/finish area where I let them know I was DNF.

I decided to stick around and do something I wish someone would do at every race; call out your place and the split between you and the person in front of you. When you’re out there riding you pass lots of people that you aren’t racing against and it’s easy to lose where you’re at in the overall scheme of things. I guess it shouldn’t really matter but I tend to race other people, not the clock and if I’m in or near the lead I want to know about it. Somewhere along the way Travis flatted and Rock moved into the overall lead. When they came by the start finish area during the last lap Rock had a 50 second lead and ended up beating Travis by 20 seconds or so. That’s a good race and I think Rock's strategy for the day paid off. I just wish I could have been in the mix….

My teammate Jeff Yielding did well; he finished 4th in the 40-49 class and 6th overall only about 6 minutes off the lead.  It was a very closely contested race.

Next up is the Missouri State Championship race at Castlewood on June 12th.  I can't wait.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Nixa bike ride recap

Today didn't start well.  I planned on getting up at 5, having a nice bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and arriving in Nixa well before the ride's 7am start time.  Those plans fell apart when I jumped out of bed a little after 6, dressed as quickly as possible, mixed my perpetuem, made a cup of coffee, loaded the bike and was somehow on the road by 6:35.  I arrived at the staging area about 10 minutes before the start; plenty of time.

There were TONS of people there for the ride and during the slow roll out, I met up with Dennis Rathke, spoke for a bit with Cale McAninch, and generally stood out being the only person on a mountain bike.  I stayed in the lead pack for the first few miles but once we got on the rolling hills of the highway, I started drifting back.  My legs weren't warmed up yet and I was feeling it in my hamstrings.

A little later I fell in with a couple other riders and was able to draft and build my speed back up.  There was a rider that wrecked on a curve right before the second aid station.  Dennis had stopped to make sure the wrecked guy was okay and that allowed me to catch up.  I rode the rest of the day with Dennis.  We'd pick up another rider from time to time, but we worked together and I had a really good time.

The ride took us to Aurora where we turned around and doubled back quite a ways before turning and going through Republic and back to Nixa.  For most of the ride I had NO IDEA where I was, but Dennis has been riding those roads for years and gave me a heads up whenever we were approaching a sharp turn or big climb.

I got a great workout and we finished the 70 miles in just over 4 hours.

The post-ride Buckinghams BBQ was great and really hit the spot.

It was a beautiful day for a ride and I'm really glad I went.  The aid stations were very well stocked and staffed with friendly, helpful people.  Good job St. Johns!

Now I've got to put some knobby tires back on my bike so I can hit the trails tomorrow.

A&B is having a demo day and BBQ at Sac!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Nixa bike ride

I haven't done a 4+ hour ride or race in a few weeks so was planning on spending quite a bit of time on the bike this weekend when I found out about the Nixa bike ride this Saturday.

I signed up for the 70 miler and last night put some semi-slicks on my epic.  I won't be able to keep up with faster roadies but hopefully will find a group I can hang with.  I intend to push myself pretty hard.  The worst part is the 7am start but it's supposed to be in the 80s by mid-day so that might be a good thing.

The good people at A&B Cycle offered to let me demo an S-Works Tarmac during the ride, but last time I did that I bought one.  I'll stick with the Epic.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rhetts Run cop-out

Normally in this space you see my race recap from the weekends activities.  Not this time; I didn't do the race.   I planned to do the race and I really wanted to do the race, but common sense prevailed and I stayed on the sidelines for this one.

I was in the Columbia area from Thursday to Sunday.  On Thursday I stopped by Cosmo park (site of the race) and tried to ride some of the trails.  They had standing water from a recent rain so I decided I'd come back Saturday for a pre-ride.

On Friday I drove up to Kirksville to ride the 13 miles of trail at Thousand Hills state park.  The trails there were way too muddy and I couldn't cross the lake spillway so I ended up riding around the paved section of the park for an hour.  The beavers didn't want me to ride the trails either:

On Saturday I went to Cosmo and rode the race course a couple times in the rain.  It wasn't a downpour but when I was finished this is what my bike and I looked like:
The trails were not fun to ride and I knew they wouldn't get any better once 50 or so people started churning it up.  During the ride I talked to the race promoter who was there marking the course.  He sounded upbeat about the race and was hoping for a decent turnout.  I just decided I didn't want to take the chance of breaking anything trying to ride those conditions at race speed.

I went to the race Sunday to watch and think I made the right decision.  I left when it started raining.

Next race is the Down and Dirty in Warsaw Mo in 3 weeks.  I've got some training goals to keep me busy in the mean time.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Greensfelder Challenge race recap

This weekend was the Greensfelder Challenge; the second race in the UFD West cross-country series.  It took place on the east side of Greensfelder County Park and consisted of 3 laps around an 8 mile course.  The race was set up as a fundraiser for GORC who builds and maintains mountain biking trails in the St. Louis area.

The weather was great for racing; low 60's and mostly sunny.  There was a huge turnout drawing riders from the eastern, central and southern part of the state; I registered for the 30-39 Cat 1 (expert) class and it was packed with lots of talented fast guys.  I had no real expectations going into the race, having never ridden the course and knowing who the competition was, but I wanted to ride well and I was once again reunited with my old nemesis Rock Wamsley.

When the race started, the 15 people in my class took off on a short section of pavement leading to the single track.  I was in the second row and was in about 10th place when we got to the trail.  It was not a very good start for me and after a long technical rocky decent the accordion effect started on the switchback climbs where you bunch up approaching a turn then sprint out of it.  I didn't really warm up prior to the race and I was feeling pretty crappy on the climbs.  I had Rock right behind me and I felt like I was holding him up so I told him to go on by.  I hated to do that but I didn't want to screw up his race.
(picture of me, Rock and Ira Brown)

It was a pretty tough course.  It had some really fast rocky descents, some nice flowy sections with pockmarked trails, good big ring flat doubletrack, a short rocky hike-a-bike section and some LONG doubletrack climbs.  There were not many places where you could let up and recover.

I passed a couple people on the climbs near the end of the first lap finishing it in 43:06.  Eventually I started getting my legs back and attacked the second lap pretty hard.  I was riding really well when on a switchback climb I encountered Ryan Pritle, Dan Miller and Rock stopped on the side of the trail while people on horses slowly rode by.  I only had to stop for a few seconds and when we got going I passed Rock going up the hill and while Ryan and Dan started to pull away I was able to keep them in my sights.  I finished the second lap in 44:11.

I spent most of the third and final lap chasing Dan and running from Rock.  Dan let me by at the top of one of the downhills near the end of the lap and I was able to catch and pass Cale McAninch on one of the last hills.  Dan was riding well but a mechanical problem was keeping him out of his big ring so he couldn't keep up on the flats leading to the finish line.  As I approached the end of the lap I saw Ryan Pritle and was somehow able to chase him down and pass him right before the end of the race.  I felt bad for making a pass that close to the end, but he saw me coming and that's racing.  The time on my third lap was 43:36 for an overall time of 2:10:54.  (here's a link to my Garmin data).  Somehow I managed to squeeze out a 6th place class and overall finish about 20 seconds behind Bob Arnold.  Here's a link to the results.

I think with a better start (and a pre-race warmup) I could have done better, but who's to say Bob or anyone else wouldn't have gone harder if I had been breathing down their necks.  Besides the "what if's" I'm pretty happy with the results considering the competition and I've got lot's of motivation to train harder and get better.

The payout went to the top 9 finishers and they all came from my class.  That's pretty cool.

GORC and DRJ Racing did a wonderful job with this race.  It was well run and the post-race food and beverages were top-notch.

Here are the photo galleries from this weekends race:Next up is a MWFTCS event;  Rhett's Run.

    Tuesday, May 4, 2010

    2010 Syllamo's Revenge recap

    This weekend was the 6th annual Syllamo's Revenge mountain bike race near Mountain View Arkansas.  I've been looking forward to this event all year; I'm still fairly new to racing and I hear people talk about this race more than any other.  Plus I really like the trails there and wanted to see what it would be like to race all of them.

    After my 9th place finishes in the Spa City 6 hour and Ouachita Challenge and 4th at Bone Bender 6 hour I expected a top 10 finish and was hoping for a top 5.  But I counted at least 7 people on the registered rider list that I'd never beaten (and MANY I'd never seen) so it was going to be tough.

    The plan for the weekend was to arrive mid-day Friday, pre-ride the first few miles of the course, camp in Jesse's pop-up, race Saturday and drive home Saturday evening.   I didn't plan for the tornado's.

    I arrived at the Blanchard Springs recreation area/campground with Chris and his wife around 3 pm Friday and found a spot to camp.  The campground is the staging area for the race and there were already lots of people there.  As we were pulling in I spotted Dwayne Goscinski, last years winner.  He was resting.

    After setting up the camp a little, Chris and I set out for a pre-ride of the first few miles of the course.  We rode up a mile long hill that starts the race and is supposed to string out the riders, then over slippery rock that bunches them back up.  The trail was in good shape but the foliage around it was overgrown and in many places you had to ride through it and couldn't really see the trail very well.  We rode for about 45 minutes and turned around.  The trip back with the long downhill was a blast.

    After a pasta dinner in Mountain View the storms came.  Before it started raining a sheriffs car drove around the campground with his sirens on yelling "a tornado is on it's way, take shelter in the bathrooms".  So we huddled in the bathroom with lots of other people for the next hour and a half.  Luckily it only rained.

    Around 10pm the rain had stopped and Jesse, Jared and Lori FINALLY arrived with the pop-up.  While we were setting it up in the dark I didn't see a 2 foot drop-off next to the parking pad and fell off it.  I tweeked my left ankle a little but I think the boots I was wearing kept it from being worse.  We finally bedded down around 11 and I slept pretty well considering that I probably lost 5 pounds from sweat.

    I woke up at 5am and made coffee and oatmeal with a coleman stove.  It was still dark out but the temperature was great and it felt like it was going to be a really good day.

    Lori and Heather agreed to SAG for us by taking whatever we needed to the various aid station/checkpoints during the race.  I decided that instead of mixing 1 hour bottles of Hammer Perpetuem+Endurolytes Powder like I had for Ouachita I'd instead make it thick like pancake batter and fill 2 gel flasks that I could carry the entire race.  Then mix 1 bottle of water and Perpetuem+Endurolytes to get me to the first aid station where I would pick up bottles of plain water.  That way if I couldn't find the bottles Lori and Heather were leaving I could just fill the bottle I was carrying with water from the aid station.

    Registration was SUPER fast and easy.  One thing I liked was that they gave us a Hammer Gel Flask and had a table with lots of bottles of Gel to fill it up with. MUCH better than the single serving sample we usually get. They even had Espresso flavor which is my favorite.

    There were lots of riders showing up and filling the parking lot.  The time before a race is always fun.  There's an excitement in the air and everyone's pumped or nervous or just happy to get to ride their bike.  I went around and chatted with lots of the people I've met in the last year of racing.  I think the 2 best types of people are Jeepers and MTBRs.  They are different groups but share MANY qualities.  They'll tell you to suck it up if you're complaining but will give you the shirt off their back (or their only spare tire/tube) if you need it. 

    I skipped the pre-race meeting since there were lots of people heading to the starting line and I didn't want to get stuck in the back.  My plan was to be in the lead group at the top of the hill and I didn't want to have to pass the entire field to get there.   I don't know how many people made it but there were 370 people that paid.   I didn't see some of the people I expected to be battling for the win, but there were lots of good riders there and I knew I'd have to have my best race to compete with them.

    Once the race started I held my position in the upper third of the field for the short road section leading to the gravel road hill climb.  Once on the climb I began passing people, riding as hard as I could and when I turned onto the single track I was in 8th place.  The trail at the top of the hill was fast and flowy for about a mile, then there's a half mile with several hike-a-bike sections, then the trail gets much better.  I was at the back of a group with 3 other riders, all of them on single speeds.  I noticed we were starting to gap the group behind us so I started yelling encouragement to get them to ride faster, which they did.  Then we passed 2 riders wearing Specialized jerseys on the side of the trail fixing flats.  That meant we only had 2 more riders in front of us.  On one of the switch backs the leader of our group endo'd on the turn.  He jumped up but dropped off the back.  On a couple hill climbs I was yelling at my group to keep the pace up.  I wasn't trying to be an a-hole, I just wanted us to work together because when you ride in a group you keep a more consistent pace and it's usually faster than you'd do by yourself.  Then they both started waving me by.  Maybe they didn't think they could maintain the pace or they didn't like me; either way I went by and surprisingly was soon on Dwayne's tail.  We were going down the steep rocky trail that leads to the awesome lookout point (me posing there last winter on the right).  I asked Dwayne if he thought we had time to stop to check out the view and he started laughing and then he and the guy in front of him missed the turn on the trail.  A photographer there pointed it out right before I passed the turn, so I made it and all of a sudden I was in the lead (photo taken from online gallery).
    I rode the next couple of miles as hard as I could.  It was strange because I was taking out all kinds of spider webs and I kept telling myself that something wasn't right.  I shouldn't be in the lead; I was going too hard or something.

    I maintained the lead for awhile and was then passed by Wiley Mosley; he was one of the riders that was fixing a flat a few miles into the race. I was able to stay within site of Wiley all the way to the first checkpoint/aid station. When we got there I downed 2 cups of heed from the aid table, grabbed the bottle Lori had left for me and took off. As I pulled out and climbed the gravel road leading to the next section of trail I was passed by Scott Henry (the winner at Ouachita) and he asked me how far ahead the leader was. I told him about a minute and after he pulled away that's the last time I saw him.

    The trail after the first aid station was really difficult with lots of flat slippery rock and I ended up walking my bike over a lot of it since I didn't want to wreck.  Somewhere on that trail I was passed by a rider with an Arkansas jersey and finished that section in 4th.  After we passed highway 5 and the 2nd aid station I was able to catch back up to the Arkansas rider and passed him as he was walking his bike up a hill.  I was feeling pretty good and was going as fast as I could since I expected to be caught and passed by Dwayne or some other fast dude at any time.

    The climbs after the second highway 5 crossing were the hardest of the day for me.  I rode most of it but I was wearing myself out.  I was breathing so hard I was drooling on myself and my legs were dying on me.  I just kept telling myself that all I had to do was make it to the Red trail and I'd be okay.  I eventually made it to the last aid station at the start of the red loop which meant I only had 15 or so miles to go with no major climbs left.  After a fresh bottle and a couple cups of heed I took off.  One of the volunteers told me that 1st place was 4 minutes ahead and 2nd was 1 minute.   I was really only worried about not getting caught since I was in no shape to chase anyone but it was nice to know I was hanging in with the leaders.

    On the red loop I recovered quite a bit and about halfway I started to see the 2nd place rider Wiley Mosley.  A couple times I even caught him at the top of a hill climb only to lose him on the descents.  It was amazing how fast he could go downhill.  I was going as fast as I could and feeling like I was a little out of control and he kept pulling away.

    After the red loop I was out of water and ran over to the aid station for some heed; I didn't want to let Wiley get more time on me but I needed the water.  The volunteer said it was all downhill to the finish but I'm not sure he's ever ridden the mile or so of trail that was left.  I usually don't have to drop to my granny gear going downhill.  But I made it back to the road we came out on and after a THRILLING downhill ride (where my rear brakes were squealing because the pads were worn out) I finished the race in 3rd place about 30 seconds behind Wiley and 6 minutes behind the winner Scott.

    I talked to Wiley after the race about how he descended so fast and he said he simply doesn't touch the brakes.  Well, he's got a lot more skill (and guts) than I've got, that's for sure.

    The post race spaghetti was great and I had a really good time talking to the other riders.  I met some new people, caught up with others and eventually packed up and headed back to Springfield around 8pm.  Jared, Jesse and Chris all finished the race.  Here is a link to the results and here are the picture galleries I've found so far:

    A lot of people had mechanical issues and that's one reason I placed as high as I did.  But I prepared and rode well so I'm not going to give up the rock (and $50) they gave me.  I earned it.

    Thanks to the Syllamo's Revenge promoters and volunteers.  It was a great race with so many friendly and helpful people I can't say enough nice things.  I'll be back next year for sure!

    Next up is Greensfelder.

    UPDATE: Here's a link to my Garmin data from the race.