Sunday, August 30, 2009
First off, it is now a fact that I do not do well without a proper night's sleep. I can work all night on software projects and really fascinate myself with some of the solutions I come up with, but I cannot actually go to sleep and then wake up in the middle of a heavy REM cycle and start performing properly again.
The Rivers Edge 50 Mile Marathon at US National Whitewater Center was not a race I was planning on entering, but being that I knew the course so well, I was curious to see how it would go for me racing from memory. Well, with no real preparation, the battle was over before it started...
I left the house at 4am on Saturday morning and drove my caffeinated butt up to Charlotte, NC for the race. I was prepacked and very organized before getting to bed and left in a seemingly awake state. The drive up was very uneventful. So far, so good...
About 10 minutes before I arrive at the USNWC, I start to feel groggy. Not good..I park, start unloading my cooler and simply stare at my equipment before me for about 5 solid minutes in complete and utter indecision. This was the first sign! (I definitely was not entirely awake).
I finally start toting some of my stuff down to the feed area since this was a lap race and I had to setup my station for my bottles and food. I find a spot way down at the far end and upon returning to my car to suit up, I run into Stephen Janes of Siren Bicycles! He greets me and offers me a spot under his feed station tent and I move my stuff over there. I meet his friend OJ and his lady friend whose name I cannot recall. Then Mark Sackett shows up with Mike Pierce and his lady friend Krystal...all good friends ready to have some fun racing. At this point, I find out the race has been postponed because of the prior night's rain by an hour, and I simply start to settle back under the tent and forget to start preparing. I start checking out all the cool bikes everywhere, and find out this is the largest single speed group I had ever raced in. I watch everyone shuffle around and suddenly snap to attention, run back to my car, suit up and head back not knowing what to do next. I realize I am in a groggy haze.
Before I know how to snap out of it, the race is being started in a stretched out mass group format...basically a free-for-all! I suddenly wake up knowing if I am not in a good position entering the woods, I will be hike-a-biking, so I start flying up through the pack and find myself a few nice temporary spots and then catch Mark Sackett up ahead doing the same thing...I catch his wheel and start pacing him flying right into the woods on his tail. We find a steady flow for the first 5 minutes and then start encountering lots of mass traffic. Mark starts navigating traffic really well, so I slipstream into his wake and flow past most of the stragglers undetected. This works really well and we end up passing well over 30 people in the process. I know we went into the woods upper lead pack so I start thinking about how hard I am going and try to set my own pace at this time. Mark also eases off the throttle and we find a smooth group of riders cruising at about the same pace. Body feels good, legs feel great, bike is handling perfectly...Now we are racing! Too much fun!
Reality check: This would have worked well if it were not for how eel-skin slippery the trails were because of the rain. People were slipping left and right on any little root in any given spot.
I had not realized the severity of this critical situation even after watching a guy go down nearly 10 riders in front of us (and find out later he had broken his hip)! In my mind, my only concerns were to set and keep my pace, drink often and ride a strong first and second lap, backing off on the third and punching out the last. All of a sudden, I am flat on my left side, helmet grinding across a root face, with my body soaking up the entire blow. The air being forced from my body let out a massive bellow and I simply slid right off the trail into the bushes. I had slipped on a massive angled root. It was over before I knew it and later I would realize the damage that had been done. Some riders from behind witnessed it and stopped to make sure I was alright, shocked by the hard crash they had seen. I simply said go on, I will be fine...(not!) I let/watched 5-6 riders fly by me and limped my way back on my bike hoping I could shake this off. For the time being, I lost my entire focus on the race and simply ghost pedaled my way through the remaining few miles left in lap #1 thinking I should go ahead and DNF. Upon arrival, I decided to not DNF and try and ride a slow second lap to find my pace again. Did not happen...I entered the woods for my second lap and really started to feel the pain setting in. Left hip, elbow, neck, mid back...all over the left side...pain. I cruise through lap# 2 in good form, but the pain was really wearing on me. I enter lap# 3 and think I should have stopped to relax a bit before taking off again, but I really wanted to find my speed again. I lose a ton of energy from my body at this point trying to manage the pain and stop to pop some Advil to help out with that. It seems to make things worse as my legs start locking up and I start getting wicked cramps. Nothing seems to help with the pain and onset of fatigue...
The downward spiral begins...
1/3rd of the way through lap# 3, I start to feel a rush of riders start passing me. I simply had given up the fight. It was not my day to race. I hadn't felt this terribly during a race since Cowbell and only because of extreme heat had that happened. I decided I did not want to DNF, so I start the deathmarch. It was some ugly deathmarch...Stephen Janes catches me at a open spot in the field as I was waiting out some debilitating cramps and looks in great form! He asks if everything was ok and if I needed anything, I say no thanks quickly to him to allow him to keep his speed and he flies by as I cheer him on! A few minutes later, Mike Pierce comes up on me crawling up goat hill and also checks on me. I basically tell him I am not going to quit and will figure out a way to finish this thing...He is also moving along at a great pace! I start back up and do the cramp dance every 2-3 miles pissed at myself for falling, not sleeping enough, not eating enough, possibly overdrinking too much fluid, etc...simply pissed. Fully upset with myself, I feed on that energy and get a little momentum going. I finish Lap# 3 and stop to guzzle down some cold water. Before I let myself relax, I go out for Lap# 4. I find routine in this lap and also a little comfort knowing I won't have to trudge up this trail anymore today. I find myself climbing areas I had not earlier and although still shaky, I am not cramping up as often. I actually clean the clay hill climb from earlier which I had only cleaned during lap# 1. I am shocked that my legs are actually semi-working again. Pissed at myself again for coming back to life so late in the game. I actually felt more in control during this lap than #3. I finish Lap# 4 satisfied I had not quit.
Total Time: 5:58:41
Place: "DFL" (last place SS) :(
Pain factor during race: 85%
Overall in-race fun: 90%
Hanging out with friends after the race: Priceless...(Beer and Advil really helped)
Today I am truly feeling the after effects. MY hip is purple. My elbow slightly bruised and tender and my neck muscles are super sore...my back keeps spasming and my body all over has a truly worked over feel to it. I haven't really felt this poorly after a race in a very long time. Not to mention the scores are posted and I left thinking I was in 15th place to find out I am in DFL place...
This might mean a little time off the bike to let things work their way back into place...but I think its for the best...(we shall see how long that lasts)
more thoughts on this race fiasco to come I am sure...
Friday, August 21, 2009
Local Blueberries for dessert!
Good thing I stayed as a guest of the Hall's or I would have never had any relevant information on the town hosting this tough endurance race. Did you know Dahlonega was site for the first real "gold rush" in the US? If you are a Deadwood buff like myself, then this is a neat fact! Anyways, Dave's mom & dad were a treasure trove for information and I really enjoyed their time while there. I actually stayed right down the road from "Dahlonega Square", which is a really nice little square with lots of shops and antiquities nested with restaurants and lots of churches. I was amazed by the number of people frequenting about on Sunday throughout the square. It was filled with motorized mountain goers, family members and lots of casual tourists all centered around a building labeled the Dahlonega Gold Museum.
Speaking of Gold, during the race, I had my head down plenty enough during my long arduous uphill hikes to realize there was a reason for the name of the race. Mostly everywhere I looked, pyrite was littered into the rocks strewn along the trail. Fool's Gold! It was beautiful in the noonday sun. I actually brought home a small nugget for my daughter's rock collection.
Dahlonega is definitely a must repeat experience!
Monday, August 17, 2009
To better define an "endurance race" as "fun", it would be better to add descriptors like: pain, intense, excruciating, anguish, fear, suspense, pain, dehydration, nauseous, excitement, speed, hiking, loss of hope, optimism, stubborn tenacity, and more pain...
This race hurt bad....I do believe Dahlonega Georgia has some of the tougher mountain bike trails out there...Bull Mountain to be exact...my lower insides still hurt!
I rode up to Ga with Dave Hall of Terrapin Beer and found ourselves arriving early on Friday with some time to pre-ride the course...It turned out to be quite a wakeup call for me since I was not expecting such tough climbs...33x21 seems too tall now, but I stuck to my choice. The first ascent up Bull Mtn was kind of like a water runoff line going down the mountain with just enough of an edge to dig into with lots of roots and rocks thrown in for a good challenge. I found it immediately impossible to keep my heartrate down and just redlined it all the way up stopping to catch my breath at the top. Dave had charged way ahead of me and falls back to see where I am at and asks if I was also having trouble keeping my heartrate down and we both conclude that this is some pretty relentless climbing...After 10 miles, I finally find my legs and we wrap up 10 more miles including some great rolling singletrack, calling it a day..good fun stuff..
After an excellent night's feast and wonderful quarters as a guest of the Hall residence, 5 am arrives and it is time to race the 50 miler...Of course, this is when everything happens so fast that your head starts to spin, so before I knew it, I was suited up, energized, and sitting in a large pack of racers ready to do the challenge...I roll up to the pack with Mark Sackett and we soon find Stephen Janes awaiting nervously for the start. The 100 milers had just taken off and we were up next. After some chatter, we hear 3-2-1 GO! We are off like a bunch of frantic bees trying to find a way out of the grassy start field...Immediately, there is a crash right before the grass meets the gravel and holds up a massive pile of riders behind...After some joking and anticipation, we are off and rolling up the primary gravel road...I "switch on race mode" and start finding a spot in the crowd to settle into my pace...I am soo far in back and notice their pace is so much slower than mine, so I spin up further and after about 50 or more riders passed, I find a nice open spot to settle into. I start focusing on heartrate and a relaxed cadence. Pedal, drink, relax...so far, so good. I find the first hour climb to start getting steeper and steeper. I finally adjust my pedal stroke and start to standup climb...Man, this hurts! Estimating the climb to be about 5 miles, I start to fall into a zone. I look back and realize there is noone behind me for quite a ways, so I ease back on the energy output and try to focus on conserving. It was too quiet for too long...all of a sudden Mark comes up beside me and says hey Joel! Surprised, I lose my momentum for a moment, but realize many others are closing in on me...Mark and I pull ahead and simply ride along smoothly uphill for a mile or so. I get bored and frustrated with a few gearies passing by so fast, that I fall in behind them and start trying to draft them. This works for a good while and I end up lowering my heartrate as well. We arrive at some downhill sections and start flying along with some full suspension gearies buzzing right past me.. I always play it a bit more held back on downhill gravel road descents. SAG#1 is fast and I switch bottles out and blaze on...total stop time:20 seconds. We enter some tight, twisty, fast singletrack and I open it up and quickly gain positions on more than 4 gearies in the woods. My bike is meant for exactly this kind of terrain and I find myself finally having some fun! It is around this point in time I realize I am finally racing, and not just trying to survive an endurance race. Mark is a daredevil and entered the woods ahead of me, but I track right up on him in the singletrack and we end up riding back and forth like this for about 20 miles...I skip SAG #2 charge up Bull Mtn exactly like yesterday's preride. This is where the music stops and the record scratches because my wonderful legs just decided to go on an abrupt strike. It was totally my fault. I started conserving water after skipping SAG#2, but forgot to eat entirely and started making up for that mistake too late in the game I believe. I physically stopped, popped some endurolytes, washed it down with water, and started walking to flush out the legs, but the pain kept my legs twanging like banjo strings. Every wrong move up a climb at this point had me encountering a new muscle group in my legs. After giving the salt a chance to get me out of my rut, I switched to Honey Stinger Gels...wonderful product. These little shots of natural sugars, really kicked in and helped bring me back to life, but the bursts were short and I was really forcing my legs to give me more, not to mention, that the climbs at Fool's Gold were relentless and unforgiving. I ended up bonking and entirely considering giving up more than once. I switched out bottles at SAG#4 and trudged my bike up the loop thereafter. I definitely walked/hiked a lot on this section since the climb was so unbelieveably steep and rocky...At the 40 mile marker, I reached deep into my head convinced my body that I was almost done. Somehow, I was able to mount my saddle again and start pedaling over all the climbs which presented themselves on the way to the finish...48 miles in I was flying along legs back to normal and excited that I was going to finish this race...52 miles later, I was deliriously happy to be crossing a creek at Camp Wahsega realizing it was all over. Finishers received a bar of personal travel soap from Sudstress which I put to use shortly thereafter!
My official GPS trip time was 5:46.25. Overall, I am very happy with my results and see a large amount of improvement in time next year since I "plan" on doing the 100 miler... Unfortunately, that is all I have in terms of placement results since the official results people at this event very not organized at all. Surprisingly, only top 3 in all categories received awards/mention, WHAT? Too bad for them since I was not the only one disappointed by this glaring omission in results feedback which does not fall well within expectations when based on a unusually high entry fee...Hopefully they will get their systems together by next year...or the quote "A fool and his money are soon parted" will ring more true than ever @ Fool's Gold
Nonetheless, BIG thanks to Terrapin and Sweetwater for all the beer I could possibly drown in after this mentally exhausting event. Thanks to the event promoters in charge of nutrition, as there was great food available throughout the day! Delicious subs and tons of high-end pasta!
Congratulations to Dave Hall on the 5th place finish...(MTB Race news mentioned top 5)
Congratulations to Stephen Janes for kicking it into high-gear and making it through the 50 miler!
Congratulations to Mark Sackett for building a rigid singlespeed beast the week before the event just to race against me and kick my butt...That was too much fun man!
Monday, August 10, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
While this was my second 5k in a series of 4, I wish it was my second in order to simply be able to drop this time from my results...27:45! 5 minutes lost from my last time!
However, I do believe after talking with my personal trainer/wifey, that I did a ton of wrong things leading up to an event like this.
First, I haven't really been running lately. I was actually knee deep in trying to finish up a software project which is way overdue.
I have been riding my bike when and if I can, but it is sooo different from running.
Worst of all, I rode 30 miles a few hours before running my 5k, in near 100degree weather...
I also ate a bowlful of potato salad right after my ride and before my 5k. Big MISTAKE!
The strange part is I felt fine starting the 5k run, then hit a wall nearing the 1.5 mile mark. The course had also been changed once again and felt oddly longer than last time...I was not the only one to comment on this...
I actually had to stop and walk during a certain point since my legs felt like weights and my heart was jumping up my throat, not to mention the stitch in my side probably from eating earlier...it was a bad feeling...I knew my time would suffer, but not that badly since I was fast walking when I did stop.
Upon finishing, I asked a few runners if they felt the course was longer and most everyone agreed the course felt much longer...and everyone's times were off by around 2.5 minutes! ODD?
Anyways, I felt like crap and couldn't even get in a cooldown walk, so I jumped in the car and went home...
Upon getting home, I showered, changed, crawled downstairs made myself a huge chocolate milk protein shake and started grilling dinner and playing with the dog...feeling tired and fine, but not destroyed. Then as dinner was completing, something went funky in my body and I felt as if every bit of energy from my body had been instantly zapped. I crashed on the couch, forced down dinner and sat there suffering...my head started hurting beyond understanding, my body felt queasy, and I thought I was going through caffeine withdrawals again, but I have not been drinking a ton of coffee lately! I asked wifey to make me a hot cup of coffee to try and quell the strange feelings, but the coffee did not make a dent in my current status...I decided to try and just go to bed. Took 2 advil and I sat in bed for 30 minutes, feeling nauseous, before I ended up in the bathroom and losing last night's dinner. After washing up and once again retiring to bed, I felt much better and finally found sleep. Woke up refreshed and ready for the day...
Was this heat exhaustion? I don't know as I have never directly experienced it...either way it was a terrible experience and will have to monitor myself closer during stressful exercise...
2010 Events Schedule
- Nov 7: Swank 65 (Pisgah)
- Sep 18: Pedaling For Peanuts (TEAM) (6th place)
- Sep 14-18: Pisgah Stage Race (CANCELLED)
- July 25: ORAMM (Pisgah) (40 miles+ DNF)
- May 23: Catawba Riverfront Classic XC(4th SS)
- May 8: 6 Hour Grind on the Greenway (12th Mens Open)
- May 1: Tour de Cure (Little Mountain, SC) (CANCELLED)
- Apr 3: 6 Hours of Warrior Creek (12th Place SS)
- Mar 28: After Bridge Run Ride (82miles 3:58)
- Mar 27: Cooper River Bridge Run (58:00)
- Mar 6: Snake Creek Gap Time Trial#3 (4hrs 26min SS)
- Feb 20: 12 Hours of Santos (Ocala Florida) (5th Place SS)
- Feb 6: Snake Creek Gap Time Trial#2 (5hrs 11mins SS)
2009 Events Schedule
- Nov 8: Swank 65 (87th 5:46:06)
- Oct 10:Dirty Spokes 12hrs of Unicoi
- Sep 6: Shenandoah 100(cancelled)
- Aug 20: Daniel Island Twilight Fun Run 5K Series #4 (32:43)
- Aug 15: Fools Gold 100 (50mile-10th SS- 5:43:00)
- Aug 6: Daniel Island Twilight Fun Run 5K Series #3 (27:45)
- Jul 26: Off Road Assault on Mt Mitchell (7:49:00)
- Jul 23: Daniel Island Twilight Fun Run 5K Series #2 (skipped)
- Jul 9: Daniel Island Twilight Fun Run 5K Series #1 (22:00:00)
- Jun 20: Cowbell Challenge Marathon (8th SS)
- Jun 13: Tour de Cure Century (4hrs:45mins)
- Jun 7: Catawba Riverfront Classic (3rd SS)
- Apr 25: Cohutta 100 (cancelled)
- Apr 5: After Bridge Run Ride Century (cancelled)
- Apr 4: Charleston Bridge Run 10k (52:59)
- Feb 15:Myrtle Beach Marathon Bike Ride 63 miles (28th)
- Feb 21: 6 Hours of Santos (35th-Overall, ?? SingleSpeed)