I put together a quick run down of my race highlights from 2016 and some lessons learned. I had some new experiences as I dove into fat bike racing. I raced multiple 100 mile mountain bike races and backed out of a couple others after a rib injury. I had some good races and some bad races. I did have some bad races, but also showed that I have gotten stronger on the bike and feel like I have potential for more gains. That being said, I still have a lot of work ahead to continue stepping things up, especially as I add additional sports to the mix.
I wrote some short thoughts or takeaways from each race and then shared some overall lessons learned at the end of the article. I also provided links to the mentioned race reports at the bottom of the post.
Fat Bike Race Highlights
This was some good times and I was real happy with my finish here. I am not historically real strong in single track and I have been rolling the heavy and knobby stock Specialized Ground Control 4.6 tires. I rolled out well, held my own in the singletrack the best I could and then finished really strong with a 26th place overall finish.
Fat Bike Frozen Forty
This did not go well at all. I wasn’t really feeling it at the start anyways, but had an ok rollout. I had problems with water freezing, gear issues and some crashes that caused me to stop and lose a lot of spots in traffic during the first lap. I had banged my knee in one of the crashes and fought some pretty severe knee pain and thought about dropping out of the race.
The knee was relaxing when I came around to finish my 3rd lap, so I went ahead and finished the 4th lap. I was probably almost an hour off of my planned finish time at the end of the day. That night, my knee was locked right up on me and I couldn’t even walk. Anyways, I need to give this one another shot, but I don’t know if I will fit it in the schedule for 2017.
906 Polar Roll
I was having a really good race here until I missed a turn, repeated a mile and half loop of the course and found myself behind a bunch more traffic that had torn up the course and I ended up doing a whole lot more walking after that. I still had an ok finish and came in 32nd place. However, for a short period after missing my turn, I did take on the attitude of a 12 year old ready to take his ball and go home. I eventually snapped out of it and got back in the game. This was a really good event and I am planning to go back again.
Fat Bike Birkie
I really had a blast at the Fat Bike Birkie and it was a great way to end my first season of Fat Biking. I had a decent race, but I did start fading the last few miles. I was still able to squeak into the top 100 and finish 92nd overall. I think this is a great race, but I am not sure I will make it in 2017. Now that I have a pair of skate skis, I am seriously considering doing the Great Bear Chase XC Ski Race on the same day instead.
Mountain Bike Race Highlights
True Grit Epic
This was a pretty wild experience and a totally new kind of riding for me. I would definitely like to go back, now that I have ridden the course. I finished just under 10 hours, but also had some bad nutrition problems after going out too fast the first 10 miles. I like going out hard to test myself, but I went out a notch beyond what I could safely recover from. I think my stomach shut down on me and I couldn’t eat anything for a couple hours after that. It took some time for things to come back around and then I finished strong. Regardless, that is how we find our limits and learn.
This one really did not go very well at all. I went out a little too soft from the start line and then burnt some matches working thru traffic in the early singletrack. After that, I had a couple broken spokes, that cost me quite a few spots in the early singletrack traffic that I had just burnt matches working through.
My biggest problem though, was a knee issue and some severe cramping only 25 miles into the race. I was feeling strong, but had some ridiculous cramps that locked me right up. My nutrition fell completely apart and I had some major knee pain that took me to pedalling with one foot for some periods.
I still finished just under 10 hours, but I would really like to think I should be sub 9 hours there and with a good rollout and placement going into the singletrack, find myself close to 8 hours. I doubt it will be in 2017, but I will definitely be back for another shot at it sometime in the future.
Ore To Shore Mountain Bike Epic
This was a really great event and might be something I try to fit in each year. It was 48 miles, but extremely fast. I did not have a preferred start, but still managed to finish in the top 100, just under 20 minutes back from the leader. I am looking forward to going back to this one and getting faster. I think after the next one, I should be able to earn myself a preffered start.
Marji Gesick 100
There is a lot that I can say about this one. I missed the belt buckle goal, but I was overall happy with my 12:25 time and 25th overall finish. That thing was a beast and I proved to myself that I was still getting stronger and each race I am hanging with a slightly faster endurance racing crowd. I am getting older, but I am still young enough to keep making gains and that I am doing.
Fast Race Starts
I think this probably was different only a few years ago, but the envelope continues to be pushed with endurance and even the ultra endurance events start out with a fast pace. Bottom line, if you are going to get in the game competitively, you have to learn how to get out of the gate fast. Plus, I am becoming a believer in that your power is going to drop as a function of time, regardless of how easy you take off from the start line. Yes, I realise there are some limits here and I am not talking about blowing yourself up type of fast start. You have to try different things and dial it in. My point is is that whether you like it or not, you will have to learn how to deal with a fast start at somepoint if you start working your way toward the front pack.
I did put some focus into dialing in a better race nutrition plan and think I am getting it dialed in. I am becoming a big fan of all in one liquid fuel, such as Carbo Rocket in my 70oz hydration pack. I have gone away from the 100oz pack as it is just added weight on my back and I can get away with the 70oz bladder in most cases. I also carry a large water bottle filled with water on my frame to wash down occasional solid food. I do like some occasional solid food, but can get through the first few hours on liquid. If the race is under 3 hours like the Ore to Shore, then I can go all liquid. Plus, it’s likely that I will be much closer to threshold on a shorter race and it is not likely that my stomach will even process solid food.
Off Season Reset
With the ability to race year round with biking alone, not to mention getting into skiing and running in the future… it is becoming quite obvious that a forced downtime will have to be planned out. I am still working on when, but I feel like the fall time immediately after the Marji Gesick race is the best bet, in order to be ready for the winter sports. I think I was getting there, but I just didn’t dial back the effort nearly enough on my fall rides, especiallly with getting into running during that same time.
I have said this many times before, but I can’t say it enough. If you are going to get into Endurance Mountain Biking, you have got to take care of your upper body. I was in really great shape with my upper body in the spring and then I got lazy with my strength maintenance as summer hit and then gave it up all together after my rib injury. I paid for it dearly after the Marji Gesick 100. My elbows and shoulders felt like they were moving in a box of bolts for many weeks following the race. I got back into some of my stretch routines and a little bit of strength work and things feel pretty good again, but I can’t let myself go back there again.