Monday, March 29, 2010

Part 1: The Run.

Just made it through one heck of an eventful weekend. I never realized I could do what I did this weekend, but once you get in the flow, it all seems to work itself out.

First off there was the Charleston Cooper River Bridge Run 10k. This event in itself is a handful for most. Last year, I had planned on doing the run and then the Ride after the Bridge Run Century hosted by Charleston Bicycle Company. Unfortunately, running was not as easy as it seemed as I pulled my calf muscle badly enough to have me out of commission for about 2 months afterwards. This year, I set my sights on the same 2 back-to-back goals....

As the date for the Bridge Run came near, I found myself nowhere near ready to run the Bridge. After hearing some "hype" from friends stating they were also doing the run, I motivated myself to continue with my plans. I did minimal training for the Bridge Run as I knew as long as I ran slow n steady, I would be able to complete the entire run. Wifey pulled me out for a nice long run and this had me wondering if I should be running at all. Coming up on the day of the event, my long time friend from Myrtle Beach, Jeff Dekleva told me me might not be able to run the event due to a previous running injury. This left me bummed as everyone else I knew who was running the Bridge had backed out or simply decided not to run it. I kept with the plan as I knew once the run started, it didn't matter who else ran since it was just me against the Bridge. Thursday, I received the great news that Jeff was running the Bridge so, Wifey, the Raven and I met up Friday night for dinner with Jeff, his brother David, Kristen and another couple of friends whose names I cannot recall. There was some smack talk as to who was going to win. Based on the motivation factor, my money was clearly on David. We planned on meeting up at Starbucks in the morning, but that was a silly plan altogether which will be explained in a moment. Upon waking early at 6am Saturday morning, I sat there slowly getting my morning started thinking about how smoothly everything was going when I realized I should already be in my car on the way to the event to find a parking spot! I panicked, grabbed my bag of clothes for afterwards, and bolted out the door. I rushed to Old Mt Pleasant arriving around 6:30 am and a ton of traffic! Some of the office complexes had turned into fast cash parking lots and I had no cash, so I went off in search of a secluded place to park the Prius. After finding a spot some blocks away, I jump out into the 45 degree weather and hurry down to Starbucks which was crowded beyond belief. Realizing there was absolutely no way to find Jeff and Co., I hang out close to the crowds for warmth and await the start of the run. 15 minutes before the start, I see the lines at Starbucks diminish and grab myself a small cup of coffee. It went down smooth and easy. I felt great and ready to go! Upon the 5 minute warning, I am walking down the sides looking for a place to jump in when all of a sudden, the announcer simply yells out 3-2-1 GO! I was surprised there was not more of a readiness count, but immediately my lines of entry were cut off. Walkers & runners mixed together and before I knew it, I was jumping the fence to mix in with the rushing crowd. This was eerily similar to last year. I immediately told myself to maintain my excitement and just walk until the start line. The only thing that counted was the chip time anyways. After passing through the start gates, my adrenaline rushed and my legs started running. I held myself in control for the first 2 miles doing a light jog with very little passing unless needed. Upon seeing the Bridge coming up, I noticed large gaps in the crowd because of people who had pushed it too hard in the first mile and decided to open up the legs a little. I started running smoothly up the Bridge with little hesitation. My body felt great and my mind was clear. Passing tons of people at this point, I made the gameplan up to run a strong, but steady jog up to the top and then fly down the backside. Good legs, good plan; it all came together. I reached the top in excellent time, and started my mad out of control dash down the backside. The controlled fall I had discussed the previous night with David worked out to my advantage. The load on my legs was very light as long as I kept the flow moving along. The only problems would be walls of people, which were starting to thin out because of their exhausted efforts getting up the Bridge. I felt great and moved along to the bottom. Reaching the left turn off of the Bridge, gravity took over once again and I felt a little worked from my free-run. I throttled my pace down to a light jog and took the time to recover and get my heartrate down. Reaching the first right turn in the city, I felt once again light on the feet and started a nice steady strong stride passing lots of people once again. Going through the streets felt great and I actually was able to notice the throngs of people standing on the sides yelling and cheering this time around. It was great to not be in pain like I was last year around this time in the run. I was able to enjoy the last few miles with a overwhelming sense of accomplishment and the realization that I can set my sights higher next year timewise. As I reached the quarter mile stretch, I opened up my stride and sprinted to the end just to give it a last second punch. Running through that gate with that amount of energy on reserve was an amazing feeling! I had a grin on my face and my body was humming. I let the post race endorphins rush through my body as I went in search of food and anyone I might know...I found the food, but never found the others...As I wound down, I realized it was still cold and I had to get ready for soccer, so after a 30 minute cool down, I went off in search of a shuttle to my car and ended my Bridge Run 2010.

58:00 runtime was recorded in the official books. I had it marked at 52 minutes by my watch, but that is that...either way, I had a great run!

Go home to rest? Nope.

2 hours later, I found myself standing up running up and down the sidelines coaching at the first of my daughter's 2 soccer games scheduled for the day...Then dinner out with friends that night. That was the longest Saturday, I can recall ever having.....

Part 2: The Ride.

Saturday seemed to never end. After arriving home from soccer and dinner, I set out to get my stuff ready for the Ride after the Bridge Run century the very next day. A century is a 100 miles. 5 water bottles, 4 with Infinit, 1 with water, Honey Stinger Gels and Chews and minimal riding clothes were set out. I was going to be on my road bike for a very long time Sunday and was not sure if I would be able to do it based on the previous day's run, so I decided to simply ride it on my own, not use any of the support services and just tag onto the ride drafts when they came whizzing by if possible. This was done primarily because I ride these roads all the time, and I needed to get some training in for the 6 hours of Warrior Creek next weekend. Because of the nature of this decision, I would be skipping out on the first and last 10 miles to the finish, totaling my ride miles at around 80 miles/4 hours which is more than enough for me to know if I could do more. Having a draft help out is just icing on the cake.

Sunday comes quickly and before I know it, I am rolling along with some local friends who are also going along for training rides of sorts. We ride all the way up to Huger before the Bridge Run Ride pack is upon us. It was a crazy, exciting feeling to get swept up by hundreds of riders all of a sudden. Before I know it I am leading the pack for a few miles at 28+ miles per hour and adrenaline is pumping through my body. To picture this, you have to realize I am in front of about 75-100 very strong riders with fresh legs all pedaling as hard as they can inches from each others back wheels! What a rush! I smoothly pull to the left after a few miles and let someone else take the pull, feeling very satisfied that I helped pull the pack along. I make my way to the back listening to friends advise me on where to fall back to and when to make my way to the front once again. I pull a few more times and start to think about ways to conserve energy for the entirety of the ride. I fall back farther into the mass and am surprised to see how deeply the line of riders really is. I find that many riders simply lurk in the back and never actually take their turn up front to pull. Either way, they are making a draft for someone else, so it all works out I guess...I slide in midway into the horde and maintain my position for a great many miles. Then as the weaker riders start to fade, I feel them peeling off little by little. After one or two more major turns, sections start to gap and separate. I lose 2 water bottles in this period because of the rough road conditions. I barely recover in time to make it into the second section as a lead breakaway group of about 10 riders pulls away. It's pretty cool to actually be close enough to the front of the action to see it going down! Those lead riders had to be pushing it extremely hard to get away from our group which was chasing them down at 25+ mph! This went on for the next 20 miles...Then upon reaching the 50 mile mark, I hear a rider mention my tiny Park hex wrench tool had fallen from my bike bag. Thinking about losing the water bottles earlier and now my tools, I decide to pull out of the pack. I smoothly exit left and pedal out to the opposite traffic lane and watch the pack fly away at breakneck speed. I wonder if I made the right choice to get out with 50 more miles left to go. I feel really worried that I should have stayed in place as I pedal alone back to locate my hex tools with a wind pushing me along. Then as the fleeting pack is almost out of sight, I hear shouts, yells, brakes squealing and cleats scraping asphalt! I turn around and look hard to where they are at and notice them all bunched up almost on top of one another. I realize someone has crashed hard. As I stare in amazement, I notice the entire pack pickup their bikes regroup and take off like a mad pack of animals on the run. The pack thins out and all that is left is one rider crushed into the ground and one rider staring at him deciding what to do. I race back to the injured rider and assess the damage. He is hurt really bad. Major scrapes on his forehead, twisted neck, possible spinal injuries, arm pinned under his back, legs tangled in the bike, possible broken bones, etc. I slowly untangle just his bike and urge for him not to move. I ask him if he can breathe and he replies yes, and I tell him I am going for help. I get back on my bike and race back to the support station to notify a rider is severely injured. I start to feel a bit tired riding back and forth, worrying that I may be out in this wind for the rest of the day. I race back to the rider who is now being helped by many and let him know help is on the way as an EMT arrives. They start to take over and I exit out of the way to let them do their job. Shocked by what I have just witnessed and the amount of energy expended to get help flowing, I fall into a sluggish crawl for the next few miles. It doesn't help that the wind is howling into my face and I have so much on my mind now, such as the fact that I almost ended up in that crash if it wasn't for my decision to go back and get my tools. After getting my thoughts back on my pedal spin and energy consumption, I get some Honey Stinger chews and gobble them up. I finish off my third bottle of Infinit (wonderful stuff) and feel my energy reserves stabilize. As I drift into the death march home, I hear a group come up on me and a rider mentions for me to tag onto the back and enjoy the ride. I smoothly enter their draft and trail them for a few miles letting my legs clear out the fog they were in from stopping for so long. I take charge and start pulling the group, noticing their speed increase as I pull them on longer and longer periods. Slowly, we start hitting 20mph averages and develop a nice smooth cruise. We pick up a few more riders and really start kicking it into high gear. Before I know it I am on the final 15 miles home and just open hammer it all the way to Clements Ferry Rd. I politely thank them for letting me tag along on their ride and they thank me for the extra pulls I contributed to get them back home. I cut out and spin out the last mile home satisfied that I had made it back with energy in the tank to spare. Surprisingly, I had enough energy in my legs to possibly squeeze out another 50 miles.

3 hrs :58 mins 82 miles

It was a great day for riding!
My weekend mission was a success!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Snake Creek Gap #3

After my last experience at Snake Creek Gap, I was not too enthusiastic to return to Dalton and give it another go, but with the promise of nice weather and the option to carpool, I made the solid decision to return and face the Snake once again....

It was a smooth ride up to Dalton until we decided to listen to my Garmin Nuvi GPS which siderailed us with a 1.5 hour delay because of poor alternate routing...Once in Dalton, everything was once again under control and relaxed. Matt McMaster and I met up with Mark Sackett, Mike Pierce and some friends from Charleston, Ken Privette and Mike Wagers who were there for their first battle with the Snake...During dinner we shared information on how to handle the mountains all the while thinking of how we were going to ride it ourselves. I went up with a plan to keep it slow for the first 20 miles and then increase my power output incrementally. I stuck with the plan and did not deviate as I had also had similar advice from Dave Hall in regards to how to tackle this 34 miles of trail. My friends weren't so sure it was the best plan, but it was my plan and I wanted to try and stick to something which has been working well for me lately. After a great night's sleep at the Quality Inn, we went down and had some free breakfast and hit the road. Upon arrival for registration, the weather was already looking positively better. I was still cold and had several layers on, but not as many as in February. After some chatting around the fire and loading up our bikes on the transport trailers, we hopped in the big bus and rolled upwards towards our 34 mile destination...No sooner had we gotten comfortably numb on the bus, we were dumped out and made ready to ride....Not wanting to stand around and wait for my legs to start tightening up, I quickly jumped in the takeoff line and before I knew it, I had started my challenge on Snake Creek Gap once again!

I felt a bit mentally cloudy and not yet entirely responsive...but some quick climbs and rapid downward acceleration made sure I was in the game for now... After a few miles, I noticed my tire pressure was too high and my new I9 wheels were definitely stiffer than my old ones...I also think I may have used the wrong tire for the current condition of the trail as it was loose and sandy, nothing like the conditions in February. Cruising along on a open fireroad climb, I come across Mike Wagers who had the deer in the headlights look in his eyes...been there, felt that-not a good feeling...I arrive at the dreaded raging creek of doom and discover that it is a little less than knee deep and pull a wicked wheelie and charge right through it. I come out fairly dry with nothing soaked at all! I continue onwards and keep picking my way through early casualty traffic, always checking my speed and keeping a steady pace...I come up on Ken Privette who is hunched over, grunting, and pedaling like a man on a mission. I mutter something positive to him and continue onwards. I reach the 10 mile mark and clean lots of climbs I had previously walked up. I find a few that I still had to walk on, but most of my walking time was spent running up those climbs to keep my time low. My plan was working well and I was well and working. Upon hitting mile 15, something seem to have messed up the strike plate underneath my shoe cleat and it would no longer engage in the right pedal. I did not want to stop, so I kept pedaling along trying to think of what to do. After doing a fast and messy one footed descent at mile 17, I decided to pull over into the woods and fix my cleat properly. Tools were pulled out, cleat was removed, faulty strike plate was removed and disposed of. All parts reassembled and I was back under way, but with a massive time loss. Matt caught up to me while working on my show and he looked strong. Shortly thereafter, Mark came flying by trailing Namrita Odea who seemed to be having a stellar day. I really wanted to keep up with everyone, but my plan was to keep it slow for a few more miles and on top of that, my legs were cold again from the maintenance stop. I got back into a rhythm and just kept cruising along focusing on the ride and the scenery....After a few more miles, I ran back into Matt who was having some possible hydration issues with severe onset of cramping. I urged him to eat and drink and pace himself for awhile which he did, but shortly caught back up with me. For a while, he was moving along and seemed to be having a good recovery. I reached my first planned destination which is the 21 mile gravel road climb which meant I was "allowed" to increase my attack speed a little based on my overall feeling. I felt great, so I started a nice tempo climb up the gravel road passing a few geared riders along the way. After a few minutes of this, I mentioned to Matt how nice this climb is when the weather is right, but heard nothing behind me. I looked back to realize I had dropped Matt never to see him again until after the race. I knew what had happened as it has happened to me several times in the past. Matt's cramps onset and then returned much harder than before, not allowing even the slightest pedaling to occur. I pedaled onward pushing those thoughts of him suffering out of my head just wanting to keep myself together for the next 10 miles...I rode onwards at a nice clip, playing in the switchbacks, taking on the rock gardens whenever safely possible and passing lots and lots of riders cramping and near cramping in the woods. I started to push myself harder only to find out I did not have a lot to give at once, so I eased up a little and then held on to whatever cadence I had. I would attack climbs, and hug the closest tree near the top of each one for about 30 seconds to recover and then move forward. I did this for the next few miles pulling myself off trees and hugging them to hold me while my heartrate was back under control. I trudged onwards until I saw the 4 mile mark at which point I started pedaling like a madman! I ran up climbs which I could not pedal up and quickly worked my way through lots of small rock gardens and tight singletrack. The descents worked my arms and the neverending 4 miles of trail left worked on my mind. I kept looking for the radio tower on the mountain which meant the race had only 2 more miles to go, but it would not come up! After some major frustration and some near falls on the sharp rocks, the radio tower appeared and the rest of the way was sprint history for me. I worked as hard as possible knowing I could rest on the downhill return on the highway. I hit 40 mph on the downhill straights and really felt glad to have finished.

Upon arriving, I jumped in line for food, water and sat back in the nice warm sun and soaked it all in. What a well organized event! Great volunteers, very nice and approachable. The crowd at the end was thick with talent all having completed their time trials in much less time for certain. I received my results with a time of 4hrs:26mins and deducted my previous time was 45 minutes longer than this time around. I felt great about the improvement and just smiled for the rest of the day....its good to have closure.

Cheers to Matt McMaster for a great ride although he worked much harder this time around... Hang in there Matt, its good to learn this stuff early in the season.
Cheers to Mark Sackett for another consistent result time. Man, you are getting STRONG!
Cheers to Mike Pierce for a good solid ride with only a rear brake! INSANE!
Cheers to Ken Privette for entering and completing his first Snake Creek Gap Time Trial...
Honorable Mention to Mike Wagers for attempting the Snake...some more offroad time in the saddle will transform you into a mountain loving kinda guy, my friend...don't give it up!