Sunday, January 8, 2017

Snake Creek Gap TT #1. Snowblind.

So. Snake Creek Gap.

I have wanted to do this race for well, the entire time it has been a thing. Problem is, it is a thing that usually starts New Years weekend. Busy weekend for many, including me, so I usually just whine and moan about doing it "next year"...

Last year I realized it was a more attainable schedule with 2 races done in January and February with the first one the weekend AFTER New Years. Also included was the addition of a 50 mile option with an initial 17 miles of the  Dry Creek trails added in. I will admit, none of this means a damn thing until you have been there!

I committed to The Snake a few months ago...along with PMBAR...and the Cheaha Ultra. I have been accused of overdoing things before and it is just my way. Pick what you love and get to work. With Snake Creek on the horizon I got in a few good weeks of training. Lots of work on West Ridge and chatting with anyone who had raced Snake Creek before which is, well, pretty much all my riding friends. I have learned that nothing is for certain, and as they say...Shit Happens. The Shit in my case was a case of Strep 10 days prior the the January edition of Snake Creek. I will mention here this is not the reason I didn't win. I wouldn't have won if Brian Toone loaned me his legs for the weekend. Backstory is fine in the context of a backstory but once it becomes a Shoulda Woulda Coulda, everyone has their own. Sickness, bad weather...it is a rare thing to go race and everything go by The Plan.

10 days of no riding hurt me some but my main concern was the weather on Friday morning. I left work at 11 AM with my car and bike covered in ice. Once home, I was quickly joined by the Angel and Devil on each shoulder. Melissa was full of reason and good judgement, which I am always thankful for. Pete Foret sat on my left, brimming with confidence with his Subaru's AWD system. With too much pressure building in the house, it took a trip to Mr. Chen's to lock down a decision. Go to The Snake.

The drive up was pretty uneventful and I enjoy any chance to chat with Pete. Once in Dalton we quickly found out the 50 and 34 mile options would be doing only the last 17 miles of the course...which is nice in the fact it is the highest regarded portion of Snake Creek Gap but sucked because we came to ride 50. I was happy to see a beagle in the Snake Pit as well as plenty of friends from Birmingham, along with some new ones from other places.

Explaining Rule 5 

 Tony's Italian was the spot for dinner and I cannot help but mention I don't really know what carb loading is. People ask me about it all the damn time and I just don't know. I sign up. I go to the mountain town and go wherever everyone wants to eat and I eat. End of story. As I have said before, I am not a nutritional role model. Trying to sleep was a real treat. Pete is a champion snorer and the folks behind the wall were definitely not arranging gear for Snake Creek...

As predicted, it snowed overnight and we woke up to an ice covered Dalton with a "clear and bitterly cold" 5 degree windchill.



Snake Pit parking lot. 8 AM


 For those in the dark, Snake Creek is a point to point race, so you either depend on the race shuttles or make your own. We went the DIY route with Pete, Jeff, and Matt Ward driving us to Snake Creek Gap for the start. The drive was pretty icy and generally awful road conditions. The countryside was awesome to take in and I was pretty stoked to ride still. Our Plan was to warm up in the parking lot before the start but after 3 meandering laps I realized the stupidity of this "warmup" and checked in to start. We started out with a pretty decent climb where my hands immediately went numb with cold.

Well fuck. If they are this cold at 170 heart rate how could it improve?!

Turns out just fine and I was totally warm the rest of the race which ranged from actual air temp of 15 to 19 degrees F. Clothing list at the bottom of this post.

I passed a good many people up the first hill then saw Jeff McCord stopped. After a chat about his mechanical issues I grabbed some of my Nuun slushie and headed on. The entire bottle lid was already ice and I made a mental note to watch them closely so I could actually drink later. I set out at this point to simply go for a nice, snowy ride in the woods and not worry about Racing. My priority was to not do anything dumb and get done when I got done. This was thoroughly evident in the 13 minute addition in stopped time to my 2:25 moving time for the race....Oops.

The views were awesome and I was enjoying the trails, up and down. I hiked a ton but I expected to. The climbs are pretty steep and on a singlespeed you WILL hike a bunch. The first 7 miles I thought were quite easy but got tougher after the Sag station. I used a heart rate monitor and was rewarded with lots of blinky lights confirming the aerobic impact of my recent sickness. I had no idea what to expect from the course and the snow cover on the trails made the rocks tougher to see. Jackson and Frank both passed me around mile 10 and were looking very good.  The descents were steep and covered in either leaves or snow. I figured walking would be dangerous too so went ahead and rode. Heavy feet, light hands, hope for traction. Braking with heavy gloves on was pretty weird and I spent an hour or so trying to decide if my brakes were failing. Turn out, no, the only failure was my perception of them.

Once into the harder climbs of the course Stewart Miller caught me and we rode/ hiked together a bit. I rode, in retrospect, very conservatively, most of the race to pace for the unexpected. On top of the ridge I came to appreciate the full fury of The Snake. Very technical, very slick,  and I had never seen  any of it! I rode where I could but hiked a bunch. I had some real issues with cleats icing over which took lots of stick poking to remedy. I finally started to figure out the rocks some and ride more once I was alone. I messed up and rode behind a nervous and somewhat frustrated guy for too long but eventually scooted around. The scenery was amazing and I took plenty of  time to look around at the snow covered  valleys. While anticipating more rocks and elevation gain, I popped out onto  a very long road descent. For some reason, I looked over my bike before heading down and saw the rear through axle flipped open from one of many rock hits. I snugged it up and headed down the icy road to the finish. I felt a bit dumb as I realized I could have ridden a good bit harder until this point. Safety first, I guess.

I finished mid packish and had an awesome time. I am more excited for the full 50 with a better idea of the trails. Once finished I felt the cold for real in the Snake Pit trying to change into warm clothes.

After 15 minutes of thawing time

 Matt Ward popped up around this time with a wet belly, and some frosty looking track pants. We heckled him most of the way back to the start area to swap cars around. Good company makes a good race even better!

As I mentioned, I rode 2.5 hours in 5 to 10 degree windchill and didn't get cold much at  all. From the bottom up, what I wore:

Feet: Shimano MW81 winter boots with Hot Hands things in the tongue. Ice Breaker mid weight  socks.

Legs: Twin Six bibs with 12 year old Polartec ski tights.

Torso and arms: Defeet SS wool base. 626 aero jersey. Thick Defeeet wool arm wamers. Gore Phantom Windstopper jacket.

Gloves: Giro Merino base liner with Gore Thermo thick gloves over that.

Way up top: Rapha (I know...save it) neck gaiter. Castelli Windstopper X hat.

The race was for sure a learning experience and aside from getting sick, I prepped for it pretty well. See everyone again Feb. 11!



Friday, November 18, 2016

Strength Foundations for Climbers by Markham Tuck

And now for something a little different.

Below is a guest post by my friend and rock climber, Markham Tuck. Although this is focused towards climbers, it has relevance to those in many other sports as well.

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If there is one thing you can count on a climber for, it is being injured. If not currently climbing through an injury, you can damn well bet they have a laundry list of issues or a few scars for show and tell. By nature, climbers tend to be pretty intense & possibly a bit of a masochistic bunch. Once the climbing bug bites, psych for the sport is high & time dwindles so that there is not much else outside of climbing.

The same tenacity that leads to success can lead to problems over time.

One:  Climbing relies on the strength of connective tissue (tendons, ligaments, fascia, etc) in addition to muscle tissue. “Great!”, you say. Well, connective tissue has a limited blood supply compared to muscle or skin. What this amounts to is connective tissue adapts to load significantly slower than muscle tissue. Around ten times slower. “Shit!”, you say.

Two:  Climbing as a sport is on “the fringe” & relatively young. There is not a lot of training information out there & many climbers lack any formal training from other sports. Ultimately, the foundations of athleticism are highly under utilized.

I grew up playing all the typical American sports & even enjoyed some of them! I found climbing during my undergraduate studies. Needless to say, it has stuck & like most climbers, I have sustained a few injuries along the way. Fast forward to my doctorate studies where I learned to love weightlifting just about as much as climbing. I have consumed more literature than I care to recall on both of these disciplines. What I will review here is what I believe every climber should be doing to have a long & healthy climbing career.

  • “Do No Harm” - D.F.Y.U – see reference below

  • Go on a walk daily, take the stairs, & make a habit of the 5-minute flow – see reference below.

  • Practicing the specific without the general usually leads to short term gains followed by injuries. Sound familiar?

  • Spend your time wisely - 80% on your sport, 10% on strength, 10% on everything else.

  • Getting strong is easy, so do it the easiest way possible.

  • Your strength regimen should deliver great strength gains without exhausting your energy or time.

  • Aerobic conditioning has value for all types of athletes, but dose varies.

  • There is value in bilateral lifts, unilateral lifts, & bodyweight exercises.

  • For self trained athletes, some level of coaching has value. Don’t totally go it alone.

  • “A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link.” Get screened & tested.

  • Be careful mixing up sport specificity and strength training. If you aren’t sure, do your sport & get stronger in the basic lifts/movements. Skip all the junk.  Do the basic human movements listed and go climb. Anything added to that, you should be more wary of.

  • Keep the goal, the goal.

  • Train barefoot when possible or as close as possible. (i.e. vans, converse, etc.)

If you have made it this far, you are probably wondering, “Now where the hell should I start?” Let’s go through this stepwise to ensure you leave with something actionable.

Logistics: Time & Equipment.
Okay, what do you have? This part I cannot answer for you. Take stock of what equipment & time you have available. You do not need much of either to develop & maintain a strength foundation. Remember, keep it simple. Ideally, access to a set of rings, barbell, dumbbells, &/or kettlebells would be great, but you can get away with little else outside of your bodyweight. If you are looking to purchase equipment of your own, nothing is superior to a couple kettlebells & a set of rings. They are cheap, portable, versatile, & compliment climbing well. Will you be training at home or in a gym? How many times a week will you go? 2 times a week is a good minimum and you can even do a 5 day a week program like Even Easier Strength.

Programming:
This will go hand in hand with your time commitment. Remember how total training time should be allotted: 80% climbing & 20% for strength, mobility, & flexibility work. Let’s say you climb 3-4 times a week for a total of 6-8 hours. Roughly 5-6.5 hours should be spent dedicated to climbing & the rest should be spent on your strength, mobility, & flexibility work. For instance a gym session could be: you warm-up with strength, mobility, & flexibility work, climb, & then finish with strength, mobility, & flexibility work as well.
How Much:
  • A total of 10-30 reps of any movement broken into a few sets is fine. Don’t go to total failure on any set.
  • Do mobility work in between sets of strength exercises – bird dogs, stretching, joint circles, anything from the Groundwork category below.
  • Get the technique correct, THEN start adding weight or difficulty.
  • Remember, to perform your lifts AFTER climbing so that you don’t pattern poor climbing technique.

For more information on programming, consider the “Easier Strength” & “Even Easier Strength” from Dan John. These could be done year round & I am willing to argue this is all an athlete needs during their “on season.” During “off season”, focusing more time on strength gains may be beneficial, but that is outside the focus of this particular article.




Movements:
Below you will find a list of the fundamental movements everyone should be training. A session should have a mix of ALL of these movements with proper technique. There is no need for isolation of body parts unless you are looking to compete in bodybuilding. If that is the case, then this article is not meant for you.

  • 1. Push – Push Ups, Bench Press, Kettlebell Shoulder Press.
  • 2. Pull – Batwings, Pull-ups, Chin-ups, Rows, IYT’s.
  • 3. Hinge – Bridges, Bulgarian Goat Bag Swings, Deadlift, Kettlebell Swings.
  • 4. Squat – Goblet Squats, Front/Back Squats, Split Squats, Pistol Squats, Lunges.
  • 5. Loaded Carry – Farmer Walk, Suitcase Carry, Waiter Carry, Sled Push/Pull.
  • 6. Groundwork – Bear Crawl, Crab Walk, Get Back Ups, Bird-Dogs.
  • 7. Core – Ab Wheel, L-Hangs/Sits, Windshield Wipers, Windmills.
  • 8. Climber specific – Forearm Antagonist Work & Shoulder Work.

***The majority of these exercises are able to be performed in some variation no matter the equipment you have access to & if done with proper technique, “core” will be worked in all movements. Using tension properly will transfer over to climbing. Climber’s should be doing forearm antagonist & shoulder work daily or at least before & after every climbing session. Climbers typically have pull covered, stick with IYT’s, especially on climbing days.

During a climber’s (or any type of athlete’s) “on season”, “Even Easier Strength” by Dan John is king. Find more on this type of training in Dan John & Pavel Tsatsouline’s book “Easy Strength” – see reference below.

Testing:
Are you getting better or just tired?
  • Progression in climbing grades; Ease/Efficiency of movement.
  • Standing broad jump. Should jump body height. Landing measured at heels.
  • 30” dead hang to strict pull-up. Repeat. How many can you do?
  • “Know Thyself: A Climbing Self-Assessment” – Steve Maisch
  • Strength Standards

Strength standards to strive for – see Dan John’s article for progressions.
Movement
Male
Female
Push (Bench Press)
1.25x bodyweight
.75x bodyweight
Pull (Pull-Up)
bodyweight + 75%
bodyweight + 50%
Hinge (Deadlift)
2x bodyweight
1.5x bodyweight
Squat (Single Leg Squat)
5 reps at bodyweight
5 reps at bodyweight
Loaded Carry (Farmer Walk)
.5x bodyweight per hand
.5x bodyweight per hand
Strict Hanging Leg Raise
10 reps at 3 sec count
10 reps at 3 sec count
***Groundwork – you either do it, or you don’t. No standards to measure.

In closing, I want to touch on a few last items:
  • Remember that you don’t need to feel exhausted in order to gain strength. In fact, it is better to leave a little in the tank. Why exhaust yourself in the weight room when you really want to be performing while climbing?

  • Check your ego at the door. Is lifting heavy rewarding? Hell yes. Is lifting heavy with poor technique rewarding? Hell no. Poor technique with load ends with injury. The whole point of this is to prevent injury & perform well. Do not be afraid to regress or re-learn the basics. The best of the best know the basics better than anyone. “Move well, then move often.” - Gray Cook.
  • Remember to be intentional about what you are doing. I often see climbers performing antagonist movements with limp wrists, lazily flopping around weight. If you cannot execute technique, then back off the weight. Once again, check your ego. I can assure you, no one gives a shit how much weight you are using for wrist extensions.

  • Developing & maintaining a foundation of strength will aid with injury prevention & promote endless health benefits. Strong is healthy.

  • Climbers like to think climbing is such a unique sport, but we have a great deal to gain from looking at what has worked in other sports. Especially when it comes to foundations. When it comes to sport-specific strength training (i.e. finger strength) trust the experts who have excelled before you. I focus on foundations here since they are largely overlooked in the climbing community.

  • Keep a training journal. For yearly planning, write out goals, dates, & a general plan based on what has worked in the past & what has worked for others. Acknowledge times of year you cannot train much. Make checklists and follow them. Keep your brain free.

Countless discussions with John Karrasch have inspired me to put this down on paper. I owe him a great deal of thanks for contributing to this & for always engaging in a good conversation.

– Dr. Markham P. Tuck, PharmD












References:
“Easy Strength” – Dan John & Pavel Tsatsouline


“Intervention: Course Corrections for the Athlete and Trainer” – Dan John


“3 Flexibility Exercises Everyone Should Do” – Max Shank

“D.F.Y.U.” – Andy Kirkpatrick http://andy-kirkpatrick.com/blog/view/d.f.y.u

“Climb Strong: Strength: Foundational Training for Rock Climbing”  – Steve Bechtel

“Know Thyself: A Climbing Self-Assessment” – Steve Maisch

“Strength Standards” – Dan John

Videos for forearm antagonist work, shoulder work, & IYTs https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLWiV7qiUuf1-cRcH61Kc-2rMK6njwa9on

Basic Movements and Mobility Work Guide from Dan John https://www.youtube.com/user/dj84123/playlists


Monday, October 24, 2016

2016 Oak Ass 50. DFYU.

D.F.Y.U.

That is probably the number one rule leading into a race or any important event, really. It is why people say to not change things on the bike or try new supplements before a race. People ask me about carb loading before a race and I always laugh a bit. I have no idea how many carbs are in my dinners any given night and am not sure how I would go about further loading that upwards. Eat until full, have a beer or two, go to sleep. I'll be opening my nutritional coaching services any day now, thanks.

But anyway, D.F.Y.U. If you don't get that look at Andy Kirkpatricks article here: http://andy-kirkpatrick.com/blog/view/d.f.y.u

I wasn't totally sure I would be racing or volunteering Oak Ass (Cahaba 50 for you tender eared folk) but in either case, a jacked up back is a bad thing. I woke up in the middle of the night early Friday with exactly that. Wonderful...Saturday left me pretty sore still and I had unintentionally broke my rule of not messing myself up pre race. We had an influx of NICA teams to help with the race which meant I was off to race. I chose the 50 mile option so I would have time to help volunteer afterwards.

I chatted with Jason Bierly and Nick Kirby pre race. They were both worse off than me with some cracked ribs so I kept my pre race excuse making to a minimum. Nobody really cares how anyone slept or ate before a race. That is why prizes are given for placings...not stories!

We had a smaller field this year with about 7 riders for the 100 mile, 50 or so 50 milers and 20 or so in for the 25 mile option. I promised myself I would go hard at the start to avoid the ever frustrating singletrack backlog. I ran a 34/20 gear on my new Superfly and it was pretty perfect for this course. I am not in great shape right now but didn't want to waste my technical ability piddling behind nervous riders. I sucked wheel pretty hard all the way to the singletrack. One geared rider even laughed at me and gave me a push on a slight downhill! The group had some tension to it and that helped break it up some.

Once into the first mile or two of seven bridges I was happy I made the hard effort on the road as I only had one SS rider in front of me: Chad Brandon. I have not met Chad but when I rode at Monte Sano recently his name came up pretty often with nothing but good things mentioned. I made a few passes and was amazed by how dusty the trail was. Hm. I hadn't worn glasses but I think the only helpful kind would have been ski goggles. One rider I passed had a loud, loosely affixed seat pack which was amplified by an erratic riding style. Stiff as a board this fella was. As unsure as he was of the trail, he was pretty set on making me work to make a pass. Thanks, Loose Jangly Seat Bag Guy. Never ride behind someone with a carelessly installed seat bag. You'll wish you hadn't.

My back and hamstrings were really sore and stayed that way most of the race so I won't mention those items again. I focused on the task at hand: not getting passed by Jason Bierly.

Jason is a good rider and I was happy to be in front of him. I was feeling good so went hard through the rest of the singletrack and up the fire road climb. The dust and cool temps were really hurting my vision once we entered Jekyll and Hyde. Hyde was as miserable as I expected. I could barely see where I was but know the trail well and only unclipped once each lap through the rockier parts. Total dusty moonscape action up there. Jekyll brought its own challenges with some loose pine straw about. I have crashed through there before so took it easy and popped out on the road with the lone 100 mile singlespeeder. He was from ATL and we had a good chat up to the top of the Peavine climb. He had a good 100 pace going but I dunno if he finished.

I got away from him and Robin Wilkes on the Blood Rock descent and rode through to the end of the 1st lap alone. 2:09. Oops. Too fast. I started feeling some heavy leg fatigue about 30 miles into the race...you know, like you are racing a bike. That sort of feeling. It sucks but is the price of actually trying and not just surviving. I realized soon enough why I felt so bad...not enough food. My calorie math was off and it was time to play catch up. I grabbed the Lemon Larabar from my pocket and was pretty bummed to see it had been sitting unwrapped for at least a few weeks in my car. A couple bites and I tossed it in a ditch where it belonged. I walked part of the climb. I felt so bad. I never really walk the fire road but it seemed appropriate and nobody was watching, so what the hell...it was a nice walk and I felt a bit better after. I saw Lon Cullen at the top walking his broken bike. He gave me some kind words and really lifted my spirits. I felt grateful for being on a bike in the woods regardless of how shitty I felt.

Jekyll and Hyde was much better this lap but I rode totally alone the 2nd lap. Pretty weird for middle of a race. The Peavine climb sucked again and I was happy to have my TOGS thumb rester things. The extra position really helps on longer rides. My legs came back around for the last 45 minutes or so and I was feeling good once back in the singletrack. Still no Jason or singlespeeders and I wanted to keep it that way so went a bit harder than my legs were happy with. I have been passed in the last couple miles of races before and it is never a good spot to be in. Out on the road and over the timing mat for a 2nd place Singlespeed spot and 10th or so overall. 2nd lap was a 2:30 which felt incredibly slow. It felt like the hardest race I have ever done but I think they all feel like that and I forget the pain really fast or something like that. I had a pretty awesome time and it felt good to get a solid placing on the course I designed. Eddie and Chainbuster did a great job keeping things smooth as always and the volunteers I came across were all awesome.

I have no idea what will happen with Oak Ass next year...I'll update everyone with info as it comes to me but springtime might be a nice spot with it slotted as a training ride to prep for Skyway Epic.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Skyway Epic 60

Well, I have not seen a Skyway write up this year so I'll get it started.

I feel like I don't see many actual stories of races anymore with the popularity Facebook/Insta/Tinder whatever...a quick plug to 30 sponsors, some hashbrowns, and all is forgotten a week later.

A race as cool as Skyway deserves a few words. Brent Marshall of Bamacross fame came up with the Skyway Epic race and although it has existed for a few years, 2015 was the first year I had a chance to do it. I pre rode some of it in 2012 and loved the remote and rugged terrain. Any race where you actively consider your chances of being hurt by a hunter or escaped convict has my attention. Don't let my hyperbole scare...just sign up next year.

Once at the race venue I talked to some folks, ate 3/4 of a Pop Tart and paced around. I don't really ride much before start time or have any real warm up plans so I didn't want to get fancy and mess up a known routine.

I met Jami from Sylacauga ( I think) who also had a Krampus. His was a good bit lighter and carbony than mine and this would not be the last I saw of him. Yes, I was one of the dummies that rode a singlespeed with 3 inch tires a bunch of miles at Skyway. It was fun.

Brent told us some really cool stories about mud holes and bikes and we rolled out. I started fast as I tend to do and was in the top third of the 60 mile folks into the singletrack (100 milers started 30 minutes prior to us). I had no idea I would be in the singletrack for 45 minutes to an hour and was not quite redlined but knew my body would pay for the effort later. I was riding clean and didn't want to give up my spot in line. I'd rather regret going out a bit hard than riding like a bitch and being last into the singletrack. My legs are gonna hurt either way, but this method makes it easier on the mind.

Mary Sickler passed me about 30 minutes in and was going fast enough I didn't realize she was on a singlespeed also. Props to her on clean riding and a kickass race in general. After the singletrack, I found myself on some sketchy doubletrack with fires burning in the nearby woods. I locked up the rear brake around a pine straw covered turn going down a short but 25% grade hill and my concern grew - was I in an endurance race or a Brent Marshall Bamacross Special?

I rode a good bit with some folks I feel I've known a really long time, Phillip Thompson and Joseph Greenway. We got to a steep section and saw Phillip hop off to walk. I thanked him for his wisdom and followed suit. I would walk a bunch during the day but was Enduro level stoked on my new Enduro approved Shimano shoes. I could shred downhills AND walk with no problem. Like I said. Stoked. I realized about halfway up the big Bulls Gap climb I was tired. I didn't get out of breath the whole race but my legs were sure enough crushed by the hills. I realized about 20 miles in my computer mileage was off. Not by a ton but enough to make me not look at it again til the finish, where I clocked in at 65 miles. I calibrated it really close pre race but who knows...

I rode most of the way to the halfway point with Joseph and briefly saw Gavin Lansden. He had been on the side of the trail sick 5 minutes into the race and I was a bit surprised he was still riding. The climbs were going well but I knew better than to push hard as the day was long and one of the first 80 degree days this year. Translation: I was kinda scared I would cramp and I doubt I was alone. I took some serious chances on the downhills and made up lots of time. If you're gonna run giant tires at 11 psi, make good use of them.The views from up top were incredible - much nicer than last time I rode Skyway in 40 degree rain with about 50 feet of visibility! About 2.5 hours in the leaders were coming back from the mid point and it was fun to see everyone, even Hardwick.

 I realized a couple things at the halfway check point.
1. I was dehydrated.
2. I was actually doing well in the SS race.

I ate a bunch and drank a Coke at the aid station. I probably stayed too long but I needed the mental rest from all the climbing and the sun. The climbs on the return to Lake Howard seemed even harder than going out due to the steepness. I rode a bunch with Paul from Bike Link Racing on the way back and enjoyed his smooth riding and enough conversation to distract me from my angry legs. I was surprised with myself. I was in fear of cramping on every climb but I got into a good pedal rhythm and felt better than earlier in the race. All I could think about was Big Nasty- the last big downhill on the course. After a bunch of steep, rutted uphills I was rewarded with a glorious 3 mile descent back to Aid Station 4 for us. Bo Nolen was lounging and I wasted enough time for Jami with the carbon wheeled Krampus to catch me. I knew this would happen and I also knew he would drop me on the way back to the finish.

I had a 32/21 vs his 32/20 and he pulled away on the fire road out of the aid station. I should also mention he was riding better than me, that always helps sort out podium places! I was in a bit of damage control and tired again at this point. I wanted badly to be back on the singletrack that had hurt me only a few hours earlier. I saw a rider laying beside the road up ahead and knew who it was before I saw him.

"You sick again?" I asked the prone Gavin.

"Nope, just cramping...go ahead."

I was curious how/when he would make it to the finish. The area of the race is pretty remote and it's not real convenient to bail out. I formulated a plan if Gavin got up and caught me. I would ride every uphill til one of us cramped again. This never happened and I didn't see him again til the finish. The multiple dam crossings on the way back in briefly made me wonder if I had somehow doubled back on the course but I kept pedaling and soon was back in the twisties around the lake. I had a blast with the last few miles of singletrack but was really ready to get off my bike! Skyway was my longest ride of the year so far by a bunch but I was still feeling much better than I expected. I popped out of the singletrack and was so exhausted I almost crashed in the wet grass near the finish line but managed to stay rubber side down.

Post race. Krampus meeting.

Oh, and the results. The race made me happy and tired, like all good races should. I somehow ended up 3rd Place (RESULTS) and got to stand up on the podium and get a paper bag of some Octane coffee and other goodies. Jimmy Smith beat me by a good bit and Jami Smith showed me who was the stronger Krampus rider. Stronger by 6 minutes to be exact.

Photo cred: Jacqueline Hodges Marshall (I think)

Thanks so much to Brent and everyone that helped put this race on. Really one of the coolest races I have done, ever...great course, lots of strong riders, and a cooler of beer waiting at the finish. Nothing fancy, just awesome grassroots racing as promised. I'm in for next year.