Friday, November 28, 2014

Oak Ass 50 2014

Last year was the first year for the Oak Ass 50 and 100 mile race and went really well. I didn't race so I could work the crazy split section between Jekyll and Hyde and the BUMP trail. Everything went fine but it was a tricky section to ride AND work with constant vigilance needed to keep track of who was coming from where and help resolve any issues that oxygen debt and fatigue tend to bring out from people racing bikes. That sentence was too long for any decent book but that was the deal...

This year I had accepted again I would not race and stand in the cold all day at the same spot. As a course designer people getting lost on your course is generally a bad thing which I did not want to happen. A week before the race Pete Foret offered to cut a quick connector trail from the Firepit trail to Blood Rock. This made my day. I was free to race! Kind of. Volunteers were still needed and I wanted Lee Neal to be able to race also so we set on doing the 100 mile Duo and switching off volunteer stations when we were not on course. This was all tentative and I still was ready to work all day if needed.

I put a lot of work into this race going well with the most time consuming part being the course marking. The loop is 25 miles and crosses over itself near Johnson's Mountain meaning course marking is a long process. I took the Krampus (the Krampus is Surly's 29Plus format bike. Mine is setup as a rigid singlespeed with 29x3.0 tires and all sorts of nice stuff...full post on it to come) out Friday for 5 hours to cover the whole loop again and tie up any loose ends. I am glad I did since I ran into the fella from Southeastern Trail Runs who was doing a 50K run race at OM the same day as Oak Ass. We had a nice chat and went on our ways. Oak Ass is a fun loop but the pack full of tools and marking supplies really zapped my energy stores. The climbs were an all out event and the descents were fun but a bit awkward.

I have lost hope of ever having a night before a bike race that is well suited to racing a bike well. Couple too many brews and up a couple hours too late but I felt fine race morning aside from general exhaustion from course marking Friday. I should mention here that Oak Ass is the only bike race I have done in 2014 and my longest trail ride this year was the 25 mile ride the day before the race! Not the best prep but I'm pretty stoked with how I rode given my ill prepared state. To anyone doubting their ability to do Oak Ass or the like without "enough miles" can do it, it just hurts!

"Well, that was a mistake," I mentioned to Chainbuster racing honch Kenny Griffin as I entered the 7 Bridges opening singletrack. I spent the first mile of the race lollygagging on a singlespeed and earned myself spot number 122 of 125 racers going into the singletrack. I was not set on any real competing as Lee and I were the only 100 mile Duo racers and I really just wanted to get an idea of my course from a racing perspective. Mistake made, I settled into the line and bided my time.

I was more careful than normal making passes. No need to be an ass during the race I help put on. Making passes was wearing me out but by the top of the climb I seemed to be settling into a good spot in race traffic. I found myself with Michael Long, who I rode with most of the race on and off. Michael was also on a SS and the guy behind the 5 Points 50 race in TN. I made up some lost time and made it through all of Jekyll and Hyde clipped in. I knew the climbs would hurt me so I just made a goal to ride all the tech stuff clean during the race, which I managed fine thanks to the 3.0 tires on the Krampus. Talk about increasing your margin of error.

I wasted a good bit of time stopping to chat with folks during the race and fiddling with the seatpost on my bike which I could NOT get to stay in place. Such is life racing a bike with only a handful of rides on it. My bread had been thoroughly buttered and I was now eating it. I was 17 miles into the race when I realized ,"Wow, my body is beat." The ride time Friday was rearing its ugly Fatigue Head and made me pretty cautious pacing myself up Peavine Falls Road. Riding a bike to work a few times a week and training to race are two different things and I had done not enough of the latter.

I had a good rip down Blood Rock and finished out the first lap in 2:25. Meh. Not great but not awful either. I had clear trail to ride the next lap and had a great time just riding the awesome trails at Oak Mountain. I am still getting used to the handling of a semi fat bike so more ride time was just what I needed. My legs and back were really starting to complain and I worried I was too tired to ride Jekyll and Hyde safely. As soon as I entered Hyde I passed another singlespeed fella and suddenly got back into my zone. I was wide awake again and felt great until it was time to head up Peavine Falls Road again. This was a real test for me to make it up without walking and I searched my brain for helpful sayings or mantras to easy my pain. I took in another Snickers bar and a view from the top of the mountain which lifted my spirits. I have done lots of racing and have nutritional stuff fairly dialed at this point, which kind of sucked since I had nothing to blame my dead legs on except lack of fitness and WAY too much riding the day before racing.... I had been in this place of unhappiness before and was happy looking forward to how good it would feel to be finished.

I realized during this lap how freaking hard the Oak Ass course is. This course is tough! You are either climbing or descending something technical. It is fun and challenging but it is for sure a tough 50 or 100 mile. I finished with a ride time of 4:50 and an actual race time of 5:06 that thoroughly reflected my time wasting out on the trail. I was honestly just happy to finish the 50 out as bad as I felt that last lap! Lee went out on his laps and not long after came walking up to Pete Foret and myself at mile 17 with a broken chain. He politely declined my offer to finish out the race on the Krampus and called in our DNF. We had a great time hanging out on the side of the trail and yelling at everyone that came through. This race really made me appreciate folks encouragement while I was hurting. Thanks everyone!

We ended up as a DNF but after some staring at the results sheet I would have landed on the podium in the 50 mile SS category. Not bad for a lazy commuter. I'm really happy with the Krampus so far and thing it has some solid potential for a race bike.

I can say with confidence what I heard from numerous others after the race - "Oak Ass kicked my ass!"

Thanks again to everyone that helped with the race and came out to test themselves on course. See ya next year.

Guest Post: Oak Ass 50 '14 by Evan Koch

Before we get into Evan's account of his race a little back story is in order. I gave away a fit during this years Bump 'N Grind XC race for one random volunteer. Evan won the fit which we ended up doing at his home while I was juggling shop options this summer (I am now happily back at the shop I spent many years wrenching in college - Cahaba Cycles in Homewood).

Part of my original intention in beginning Oak Ass as an official race was to push people out of their comfort zone and try something new. Evan stepped up big time and I really enjoyed reading his account of the race as well as watching his progress leading up to the race this year. Enjoy!


Oak Ass 50. Evan Koch

Just to set expectations, this won't read like most of the posts I've seen about peoples' Oak Ass experiences, this is more about how I prepared for the event. For some people, doing Oak Ass might not have been a big change, but it was definitely outside my comfort zone and I wanted to share what I did so that other people might be encouraged to give it try. Before I decided to do Oak Ass, the longest distance I had ridden on my mountain bike was 18 miles and the only event I had participated in was the Bump n Grind Cat 3 race. I had seen the name Oak Ass a few times, and when I found out that it was a 50 mile race, I pretty much dismissed the possibility of ever competing. Over the years I've done a bit of mountain biking, but only since March 2014 have I stuck to it with anything close to consistency. I jokingly mentioned Oak Ass to a friend in October who said we should give it a try, theorizing that even we could do 50 miles in 12 hours. Turns out he was right, but it wasn't without preparation.

Luckily I live and work close to Oak Mountain, so it was easy for me to keep trying the course. I hadn't been on the other side of Terrace Dr in years, so it took some time for me to get familiar with the course. I worked my way up to doing the full course - one weekend I did South Trailhead, Seven Bridges, red road, and J&H back to Peavine Rd and stopped. The next week I did that plus the rest of a loop - going up the road, coming down Blood Rock and then Johnson's Mountain. Each time I added more, I was getting a sense for how long the real event would take me. The weekend after that, I did one lap, and got through J&H on the second lap before throwing in the towel - I just didn't have the energy. Which leads me to the next topic…

Turns out I was a bit naïve in the ways of endurance events. I thought I could just throw a few power bars into my water pack and that'd be good enough, and that water was all I'd need to drink. When I spoke with my sister and brother-in-law and later John Karrasch, they said I'd need to take in a lot more calories than that for long rides and mentioned things like Gu, Nuun, and Skratch Labs. This lead me to the Feed Zone Portables cookbook, which does a good job educating the reader about how the body works during endurance events how to properly maintain your energy levels. So two nights before Oak Ass, I was in the kitchen with my wife making the blueberry and chocolate chip coconut rice cakes in preparation (I had planned to test out the rice cakes prior to that, but I had two sinus infections in October/November that limited my ability to do much training).

Most of my riding had been in summer, late spring, or early fall, so I never had to put much thought into what I wore, but Oak Ass was November 22 and we'd already had one period of extreme cold, so I figured shorts and a t-shirt wasn't going to cut it (for me, anyway - I saw people in their kits with arm sleeves on). I ended up with a base layer, softshell jacket, riding pants, and a thermal skull cap under my helmet. I tested this out a few weeks before when the temperature was 38 at the start of my ride and it worked very well, and the temperature at the start of Oak Ass was in the 40s, so I wore the same gear. The jacket would allow me to take off the sleeves if I got too warm and the forecast said it'd reach the mid 60's by mid-afternoon, so I expected to do that or leave the jacket in my car when I made a pit stop after the first lap.

Oak Ass
Other people's recollections talk of trying to keep up with people, who they passed, flat tires, etc. - my experience was a bit different. I intentionally started in the back because I knew I wasn't going for the gold; my plan was to stay at the back and not get in anyone's way. Based on my training, I expected the first lap would take me about 3:30 and the second lap would take me more (I didn’t know exactly how much since I had only gotten partway through my second lap before), but I was hoping to be done in 8 hours. I tried to eat a rice cake periodically, which turned out to be a little bit harder than I imagined - not because of the taste, but when I unwrapped the tin foil, it was still fairly mushy, so I ended up stopping each time I ate (every 45-60 minutes). First lap was fairly uneventful but I was tracking pretty well to my estimates - first lap took me 3:36. As I stopped by my car to restock and ditch the jacket, I heard the announcer over the PA say that he expected the race leaders to finish their second lap in the next three minutes if they kept up their pace from the first lap. Second lap went about like the first- I saw a friendly face from BUMP along the camp road, got passed by a few bikers, and then I ran into some girls on J&H who had lost the yellow trail. While I'm fairly familiar with the mountain bike trails, I've never been on the hiking trails, so I gave them my map of the park and cautioned them to watch out for other racers. More friendly faces (Corbin Camp at Blood Rock and John Karrasch at Peavine Rd/Johnson's intersection) helped keep me going and I finished the second lap with a total time of 8:22.

Next Year
I've proven that I can do it, so next year's about improving my time. I plan to actually read the
Feed Zone Portables book and not just skip to the recipes section, and also figure out what my caloric intake should be while doing endurance events. I also intend to get better at climbing so I don't have to walk up parts of Peavine Rd up to the fire pits trails, because I had plenty of people stop and ask me if I was okay. Knowing the course in advance and having an idea of how it'd take allowed me to be comfortable doing the event - I have no idea how those riders who had never been to Oak Mountain before did it.

I'd like to thank all of the people that put the race on - Kenny Griffin, John Karrasch, BUMP volunteers, and countless others, as well as the people who put up with my constant questions while I prepared (mainly John, my sister, and my brother-in-law), I couldn't have done it without you. I look forward to competing again next year.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

2014 Oak Ass 100 Course Description and Strava GPS

Still getting lots of interest in the upcoming Chain Buster Racing Oak Ass 50 and 100. Course is almost identical to last year and will be marked Saturday Nov 22!

For those curious check out the strava link below and forward to any outta towners you know coming in to pre ride. Thanks!
Turn by turn here:Start at South Trailhead and turn L on Terrace Drive.
*Mile 1- R on 7 Bridges (Red Trail)
*Mile 2.5 - R on Group Camp Road
*Mile 3.5 - L on Garret's Gulch
*Cont. on Red Trail through Rock Garden, The Chimneys, and Cat Dog Snake
*Mile 7 - R at North Trailhead, go up Red Road Climb
*Mile 9.5 - Peak of climb, First Lap KOM!
*Mile 11.5 - R on Bump Connector
*Mile 12 - R on Jekyll and Hyde at intersection with BUMP trail
*Mile 16 - L on Peavine Falls Road and begin climb
*Mile 19 - Slight L on Firepit trail after passing lookout area with picnic tables. Do not go through gate onto fireroad. Do not continue on paved road.
*Mile 20 - L on BUMP trail.
*Mile 21 - Cross road and continue on Johnson's Mountain
*Mile 23 - Cross Road and continue on Foreplay and Mr Toads Wild Ride
*Mile 24 - L on Rattlesnake Ridge
*Mile 24.5 - L on Family Trail
*Mile 25 - Straight through 4 way to stay on Family Trail. L on Paved Road to return to South Trailhead.
This is one 25 mile lap with 2300 ft of climbing.