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Wilderness 101 Mountain Bike Race Report

wilderness 101

This Wilderness 101 mountain bike race was on my to-do list, but I wasn’t planning on it for this year. I was thinking I could fit it in next year with a family trip out east or something. Anyways, after doing a bunch of shorter races this spring and then getting through the Lutsen 99er, I was itching for some longer and more epic rides. I also love getting out to new places and it looked like I could fit it into my schedule. The anticipation and preparation for a trip out to a new place is just as much a part of overall experience as the race day itself.

Podcast of Race Report

The Podcast version has some additional thoughts and commentary. However, I still suggest reading through the written report first and getting a look at the course maps/elevation profiles before listening to the podcast to enhance your listening experience…!

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Race Venue

I guess I don’t always mention the race venue in my race reports, but this one was a bit unique. I suppose I should probably talk about the venue set up regardless in the future. Anyways, the start/finish was in a little park in a very small town. The Wilderness 101 race took over the park starting Friday afternoon until Sunday morning. Everybody pulled in, set up their tents and hung out for the weekend. I could see the start/finish line from my tent. Friday afternoon and eventing was taken up by racers getting their gear ready and just hanging out talking. Saturday evening after the race, was racers hanging out, eating some race provided food and having a couple of beers. It was a really cool set-up. If you head out to this race, I suggest camping out in the park. There were no showers and only porta-jons, but racers were able to clean off with some hoses that were set up. I even soaped up a little and was clean enough to make it through the evening.

Wilderness 101 Course Layout

wilderness 101

The course had a lot of gravel on it, but the singletrack was very rugged and rocky. The singletrack on this course probably had larger rocks and a higher density of rocks of any other course I’ve ridden, aside from True Grit. Marji Gesick 100 does have a lot more rocks, but the Marji also has way more singletrack. Like I said, the singletrack on this course was full of rocks, making for very little smooth singletrack riding. All of the smooth riding was out on the gravel roads.

wilderness 101

For the most part, you were either going up or down except some gravel early in the race after the first climb and a couple sections of rail trail in the final miles of the course. Any flat stuff mid course was where you found the rugged singletrack, but even most of that was downhill. There were also some really high speed gravel descents. I hit 40+ mph at least a couple times.

Training Peaks is reporting an elevation gain of 13,345 feet, while Strava is reporting 10,850 feet. Strava is likely to be the most accurate on this one. I ran the elevation correction in both apps as well. I can see a very jagged edge on the elevation profile of all the climbs within the Training Peaks elevation profile and that is likely being represented as additional elevation gains that aren’t actually there.

Wilderness 101 Race Goals & Objectives

Over the past few years I have learned to set different types of goals for races vs just aiming for a finish time or place. That would be different story if I was at the level to hit the podium every time, but I’m not there, yet… I keep getting getting faster and I’m only 38, so I’ve got some time yet if I’m patient and do things right.

Anyways, when you’re headed out to a brand new race for you on new trails, terrain etc… You don’t know what to expect anyways, so setting a finishing time goal can be a bit arbitrary for your first go at a new to your race. That being said, I had heard that it can be really key to a good race if you can stay with the lead group through the first climb as it is all gravel from their to the first aid station. There is another hill prior to the first aid station that I would normally call a climb, but is dwarfed by the rest of the climbs on this course.

I should add that this was not a primary target race for me, especially since I didn’t even register till until a few weeks before the event. I also had been heavy on my training for the Marji Gesick 100 in September leading up to the Wilderness 101 and was carrying quite a bit of fatigue into this race and not in very good form at all.

Goal #1 – Stay with the lead group through the first aid station at mile 19.

I prioritized this goal over my finishing time. I just wanted to see what it took to stay with the lead group and then if I came back to do the race over again, I would know whether that was a good choice or not when chasing an overall time. The second time I go back to a race, I am more likely to prioritize my finishing time…

Goal #2 – Finish in 8 hrs, but would be generally satified with 9.

This is always a tough one, but I just took a look at previous years time and try to ballpark where I think I can realistically come in at. This is always a tough one to set a goal for, but at minimum it helps in planning  drop bags, nutrition, etc… for the length of the race.

The Wilderness 101 Mountain Bike Race

Start to Aid 1 – Mile 19

wilderness 101

The rollout eased out of the park and down a couple miles of paved river road, before making a left turn to start the first climb. Nobody busted out aggresively when we hit the climb, but it definitely wasn’t relaxed. During the first half of the climb, there seemed to be a little more moving around. I believe we were all just trying to make sure we were in a comfortable spot and didn’t want to get pushed off the back if the group were to split in front of us. At least, that is where my head was at.

I pulled myself up to sit in about the top 15 or so riders and dropped into a comfortable gear. There were 3 spots on the climb where the grade let off a bit, but definitely not leveled out. You can see the red line in the elevation chart where my heart rate did rise up. I burnt a match or 2 going up, but not significantly. I think it was about 3/4 of the way up when I noticed a split in the group happening behind me. I was not on the rivet yet and since I had made the climb on Thursday; I new at this point that I was going to stay on.

I would do this same thing all over again when I go back to this race a second time. Sometimes, these are just little tests as you progress through your racing to see where you are at. I think you have to do things like this, even if it could be detrimental to your overall race. Like I said, this wasn’t my primary target race, so why not see if I can learned something extra out of it.

The descent on the other side was fast and at some point we came to a hard left, which I was ready for because I had driven the first 19 miles of the course in my car the previous day. There seemed to be a hard effort on the hill out of that hard left and the tail end of the group almost got strung out a little. I made it my business to stay on as I knew there was going to be a handful of miles with not much elevation change until we got closer to the first aid station.

There was some point in here and I can’t remember if it was before that previous left turn or after it that it seemed like everybody just kind of sat up and backed off. I guess it probably started with a few guys at the front that didn’t want to get stuck pulling the entire time. There was a few small conversations happening as we rode along and I had the chance to chat with Gordon Wadsworth quickly. I always enjoy his social media posts, but never had the chance to chat with him in person. I’ll toss a link to his blog at the bottom of the report.

You never really feel like you hit a solid hill prior to the first aid station, but at some point you do start heading up hill again. You start feeling the work again and then it does come to a bit of a steep grade before descending down to aid station 1 and I could see folks looking like they were getting ready for the second game on to begin as we made the right hand turn into aid 1. I think there were about 15 of us, maybe 20 when we made the turn.

Aid 1 to Aid 2 – Mile 33

wilderness 101

There were volunteers handing out fresh bottles if you wanted to drop yours, but I still had plenty of water and kept riding. I intened to get to aid station 2 at mile 33 before I refilled anything.

After the first aid station, we started climbing up a 2 track and that’s were the lead group started blowing apart. It wasn’t instant, but I dropped off fairly soon after the aid station and then could see some others behind me, along with others up ahead getting strung out. I felt a little flat going up the 2 track, even when it started to level out for a little bit. This make a little sense with how much focus I had been putting into strength work and my lack of doing much spinning up fast with high speed anaerobic work in the past few weeks. That being said, even the part that felt like it had leveled out, didn’t really level out… It was a false flat and we were still climbing.

There was a crazy fast decent down some rough 2 track. It was still wet from the rains the night before and my glasses were getting splashed with mud. It was one of those, let it rip and trust your bike descents. I got caught by a couple people on this section. Maybe me a bit too much of a chicken…

There was another gravel climb, which I was strong on and believe I pulled a couple people back in on. We finally hit some singletrack and it was wet and rocky. It wasn’t the rockiest part of the course, but the rocks were big rocks and this was not flowy IMBA style trail. I finally hit a section that I later came to know as 3 Bridges Trail where a big long pile of rocks follow 3 bridges if I remember correctly. I quickly recognized this section as the big rock garden from previous DIRT WIRE TV videos of the race. I’ll throw some links to those old videos at the bottom of the report. I’d recommend checking them out if you decide to head out to the Wilderness 101 at some point.

There was another gravel climb, where I think I lost a spot or 2 and then the gravel took a left up more of a 2 track or lighter jeep trail before hitting Aid 2 at mile 33.

Aid 2 to Aid 3 – Mile 50

wilderness 101

I wasn’t at mile 33 long at all. I did hang my bike up quickly, filled my water bottle and then got back in it. Leaving Aid 2 was single track that quickly turned into really rocky switchback descending. It was awesome! I was actually fairly amazed that I rode the entire thing. I actually yelled out a big “woohooo” or something toward the end of it. I suppose for some folks, it might not have been that big of a deal, but this was new stuff relative to the singletrack that I get to ride.

I believe I dumped back out on some gravel again for another climb after that. Once at the top of the climb, I believe this where I was dumped back into what people were refering to as the river later that evening around the finish line party. It was a rocky and steep downhill, with holes that you had no idea how deep they were going to be when you hit them. I lost a couple spots in traffic here. I was brave, but also fearful of hitting those holes too hard and going over the bars.

Each one of them had a little berm on the other side that look like you were just going to lose your front tire in the hole and hit a wall. I think there was some purpose to this whole set up to avoid complete errosion of the trail. If I remember correctly, it looked like these holes were there from water routing off the side of the trail versus water running right down the trail. That being said, there was a section of the trail going down hill, that was rocks and deep flowing whitewater. It was crazy.

At the bottom of that was more gravel that still went downhill for a short period before making another gravel climb up to Aid 3, right around the 49 mile mark. I lost some time on one of the previous climbs and then got caught fast in that last “river trail”, but was still on a strong pace for the day as I was nearing the halfway point.

Aid 3 to Aid 4 – Mile 69

wilderness 101

At Aid station 3, I grabbed the small shot bottle of Pickle Juice that was in my drop bag and then had my water bottle refilled. I also refilled my hydration pack with water and my CarboRocket powder that I was carrying with me and then was on my way. I grabbed my extra shot of Pickle Juice because I had actually used my first one earlier. This was actually the first time trying this product, but I had felt my left calf start to tighten up earlier in the race and cracked the Pickle Juice at that point. The cramp never came back, but I thought I should go ahead and grab my other shot of it for the rest of the ride.

The road headed up another climb out of Aid 3 and I remember it getting steeper as I got a littel outside the Aid station. I think this is one of the first times, that I really started to feel the fatigue in my quads from the last few weeks of training start stacking up on me. My legs started feeling flat here and I was moving really slow up this climb and watching my pace drop off. At the top of the climb, there was a slight downhill before dropping into some singletrack if I remember correctly.

I really struggled in this singletrack if I am remembering back to the right time and place. It was scattered with lots of rocks and I was not making very good time on it at all. I got caught and passed by a few guys on this trail that seemed to be busting through it and handling the rocks really well. I just couldn’t get a good flow going on it and it worked me over. It eventually turned into steeper downhill and a wider path that I could carry enough speed to not worry about what line to ride and just go. I should mention that there really never was a good line to follow through any of the rocks.

There was more gravel road after this before hitting another section of singletrack. I believe this is where the trail that was refered to as No Name was at. It was a stupid narrow bench cut, full of rocks along the edge of a steep hill. I almost stopped and walked it, but then I commited. It was actually more than a half mile long though. Not only was it narrow and rocky, it was actually a fairly steep grade going down as well. I was nervous going down it from the standpoint of knowing that if I crash, I would likely end up tumbling a little way down the side of the hill.

At the bottom of No Name was a wet bridge that I hit at too much of a angle and lost the front end. Thankfully, I was most of the way acrossed it when I went down and didn’t drop off the side of it and managed to crash into the ground on the other side, right in front of the photographer. I was ok and the photographer actually showed me the picture that he took of me coming across. He said, 1 more frame and he would have gotten me hitting the dirt. I was leaning in the picture, but still upright. I jumped on my bike, laughed and told him “only him and I know the truth of how that one played out, haha” and was on my way. The later release of the picture, would obviously show that I was well on my way to hitting the dirt though…

I hit a gravel road again, made a left on some pavement and found myself at Aid 4.

Aid 4 to Aid 5 – Mile 89

wilderness 101

I had a slight hiccup at Aid 4. I was just going to fill my water bottle up and grab my spare gels and waffles out of my drop bag. After doing so and jumping back on the bike, I decided I better top off my hydration pack and throw a little more CarboRocket powder in it. The volunteer helped me top off my pack and then I went looking for my drop bag, which was gone. They’re efficient at the aid stations and had already thrown my drop bag in the trailer, thinking I was done with it. Anyways, one of the volunteers realized I needed my bag back and helped me grab it from the trailer. I grabbed my back up CarboRocket out of it and added some to my pack and then was finally off.

Leaving Aid 4 was a long Jeep trail type climb. It really wore on me. I mentioned earlier that I was carrying quite a bit of fatigue into the race and my quads were just tired and flat at this point. I worked my way up the jeep trail at a really light pace, where I got caught by another rider. In hindsight, I really regret not pushing this climb harder.

There was some downhill at the top, but I believe this was on a 2 track or jeep trail as well versus gravel road. It wasn’t very long and I came to an old bridge that was missing everything but the steel beams, with arrows that took us down below it and right thru the creek. It felt nice and cool, but I really didn’t need my shoes full of water again.

My shoes were in bad need of replacement and I’ve actually been Gorilla taping the velcro straps closed for races this summer and all the mud, water and rocks wasn’t helping. I had actually cut the tape on one of the straps from each shoe earlier in the race while banging off of rocks in one of the rock sections and they’d been flapping around since. I try to get a full life’s use out of my gear, plus a little more…

Back to the race… I dropped another overall place shortly after the creek, which happen to be to the Men’s Master (50+) winner that day. He was looking strong and motored away from me up the old road, jeep trail or whatever we were on.

I think I came back out on some actual road at somepoint after this and can’t remember if this was the little pavement section that went by a few houses or not. It may have just been another short section of gravel, I can’t quite remember. Anyways, it wasn’t very long and then I think there was another section of trail. I’m having a hard time picturing what this section looked like, but it worked it’s way uphill for awhile according to the elevation profiles and it might have been a bit sandy. I would error on the side of saying it was rocky, but I can picture some sandier type of riding at some point and this may actually have been that section. Which, is a fair chance since the section on Strava is named Sand Mtn.

I remember feeling some fatigue really starting to hit me at this point and was going really slow. I had been climbing for the last 7 or 8 miles, aside from the one short downill at the top of the jeep trail and it was stacking up on my legs. Much of the training I had been doing in the 3 weeks leading up to this race was actually climbing, but was really short, very low cadence and very high efforts. My legs needed some rest at this point.

Back to the race again… I hit a section that was fairly wide and looked like it was actually a maintained type of trail. I remember laughing a bit, because I swear there was a sign at the start of it that said “no motorized vehicles”, but then shortly after that, seeing a sign that said ATVs must give right away to foot traffic… Anyways, it was a faster section of riding and I think started going a little downhill at some point. I got up to speed at one point and washed out the front end in a corner and went down hard on my left side.

I laid there for a minute and got up slow, stretched and checked myself and bike over as it rung my bells pretty good. My left shoulder is what hit first and I couldn’t tell if I had actually hit my head or just got one heck of a jarring out of my shoulder hitting the dirt. I had a little bit of a headache and eventually jumped back on my bike and soft pedaled away, taking awhile to get back up to speed.

I was back out on some gravel at the end of this and on another really steep gravel climb. It wasn’t super long, but I was ready to start heading downhill soon. My wish was granted shortly after and I was sent downhill to hit the fastest speeds I’ve ever hit off of pavement. Based on my GPS file, it was right around 3 miles of downhill and it was steep. It was loose gravel, pretty much the same gravel that was on the rest of the gravel roads and it twisted it’s way down out of the hills. It wasn’t super twisty, but there was a couple turns that you had to get into the brakes heavy and well ahead of time or some bad stuff was likely to happen. I hit 42 mph coming down this hill according to my GPS. It was awesome and scary all at the same time.

At the bottom was a left hand turn up a paved section of road with a nasty headwind, or at least it felt like a nasty headwind. It wasn’t flat for very long and then I was working back uphill again for the next 5 miles on gravel roads if I remember correctly. After the climb, it was back downhill again on gravel roads and I knew I was getting close to the next aid station.

At some point as I was making my descent down the gravel roads… 2 guys on dirt bikes came around a corner hot and wide, right in front of me. I had to get into the brakes and they left a skid mark themselves. I soon came to a camping area and saw the arrows for a right hand turn where I found the last aid station.

Aid 5 to The Finish of The Wilderness 101

wilderness 101

I stopped quickly at Aid 4, filled my water bottle and downed 2 cups of coke and then took off. Soon after the aid station, I believe this is where I entered a fairly long railroad tunnel. The surface was paved and when you entered you could barely see the opening, so it was pitch dark. After the tunnel, I hit a nice gravel bike path that was an old railroad grade and picked up the pace.

I made really good time of the bike path and then was turned up a gravel road to a switchback up another jeep trail climb. I was thinking this had to be the last one as the mileage was in the 90+ mile range now and I knew what the last mile or 2 looked like. My legs were flat, but I stood up and forced some extra effort into the pedals, knowing that it was likely the last climb.

I don’t remember exactly what the descent looked like, but I believe it was the same type of 2 track or jeep trail that I had just climbed and I let it rip. I came to the river and then hit the arrows to the singletrack that I later heard folks refering to as Fisherman’s Trail. It was a complete hike-a-bike over big rocks. There was joking at the finish line that some local guy that rides with no helmet and cut off shorts can ride it, according to legend…

Fisherman’s Trail was followed by a railroad grade that I assumed would hit the final narrow bridge. It was in fact it, but the railroad grade seemed to go on forever. At least it felt that way. I finally hit the narrow bridge over the river and dismounted. The bridge was barely wide enough to fit your handlebars, so I stood my bike up on it’s rear wheel and ran across the bridge with my front wheel in the air. I had rode out to this bridge from the finish line the previous morning and knew I would have to dismount for it.

Across the bridge was another old railroad tunnel, but this one wasn’t paved and it was rocky. I had checked it out the day before also, so I knew what I was getting into. I jumped off my bike to lift it over a couple rocks and a log that was laying across the entrance. There were 2 older ladies walking around and checking out the tunnel and they looked at me confused as I jumped back on my bike in the tunnel and started riding. There was a good ridable line with only a few rocks in it and the tunnel was short enough to give a little bit of light. I’m not sure if they knew there was a race going on or not, but if they were there for more than a couple minutes, they saw more than me going through the tunnel.

I popped out of the tunnel and was in the home stretch back to Coburn Park for the finish line. I stayed on the gas, right back into town and into Coburn Park. As I pulled into Coburn Park, I dropped my chain again off the bottom of my cassette, locking my pedals up as my chain jammed between the cassette and my chain stay. I got it to free up with a few back and forth pedal strokes and pedaled across the finish line.

I ended up finishing in 8 hrs and 33 minutes with a 26th place finish in the Men’s Open Class and a 36th place overall finish. The 10 place difference in the overall finish was to the winner of Women’s Open, winner of the Men’s Master (50+) and 8 of those crazy single speeder guys.

Closing Thoughts On The Wilderness 101

What I would do different

Climbs – I should have pushed myself harder on the climb coming out of aid station 3 near the 50 mile mark and also again on the jeep trail climb coming out of aid station 4 at around the 66 mile mark. My legs were flat, but I had more in me based on how I rode the last 10 to 15 miles and should have pushed it more. I lost a lot of time on those climbs.

Nutrition – I still haven’t gotten my nutrition nailed. I feel like my body responds well with Coke, but I didn’t drink any until the last aid station. I think I could use some more simple sugars throughout the race for those high effort bursts and steep climbs.

What I would do again

I would definitely go up the first climb with the lead group again. I’d actually set a goal to hang with them up the following climb as well.

General Thoughts

I liked the race. There was a lot of gravel, but the single track was rough. I just like getting out and experiencing new races, trails and terrain. Those climbs were much more than what I am used to. It’s a different approach vs the short punchy stuff that I ride here that you can bursts up in less than a minute. I wasn’t quite sure where to dial in my effort for those long and steady 20+ minute climbs.

Would I do The Wilderness 101 Again

Yes, I liked the whole set up of the race. Although not an actual campground, the camping at the start/finish line was included in registration and fun, the course was marked well overall and the racers were well taken care of after the race with food and beer. I’ve been to a lot of races where the after party and awards are scheduled later in the evening. I enjoyed the fact that I didn’t need to leave the race site and the party just commenced on from the time you crossed the finish line. It wasn’t really a party atmosphere, but just a some good hanging out and camaraderie. I met some really nice people as well at the race because of the camping at the start/finish line that I otherwise would not have met.

Relevant Wilderness 101 Links & Files

Aid station split times…

wilderness 101

Strava file (feel free to follow me on Strava)…

Some photos from the weekend…

Other links…

Shenandoah Mountain Touring – race organizer

NUE (National Ultra Endurance Series) – series organizer

Bob’s Photo Gallery – race photos

Dirt Wire TV – videos of previous years

Quadsworth – Gordon Wadsworth’s website

Facebook (endurancepath) – follow me on Facebook

Instagram (endurance_path) – follow me on Instagram

Twitter (hamlinsm) – follow me on Twitter

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Lutsen 99er Race Report

lutsen 99er

Another Lutsen 99er race weekend and another muddy mountain bike… There is always some water or mud somewhere on the course, but this year was the wetest and muddiest Lutsen 99er that I have personally done with rain coming down almost all day. This race has been growing every year and I believe this year was the largest finishing field of the 99 mile race with over 500 racers finishing within the cutoff time of 11 hours. I had some aggressive goals, which I failed to meet, but I still beat my previous fastest time by about 10 minutes with a finish of 6 hrs and 49 minutes. Enjoy the report!

Strava file, photo gallery and reference links at the bottom of the report

Lutsen 99er Race Course Layout & Elevation Profile

lutsen 99er race

The course is laid out in a big single loop format, with the exception of a section of course that you ride twice. This lap section starts at mile 24 and you are at mile 59 by the time you finish the second lap of the loop. It’s a mix of gravel roads, atv/snowmobile trails and a little bit of singletrack at the finish. Some of the gravel can be a little loose and there are a few sections of the snowmobile trails that are a little bumpy with some scattered rocks or just uneven hard ground.

That being said, I had my front shock locked out for most of the course and I ran a lot of air in my rear shock with the damping cranked all the way over. If I had the extra cash for multiple bikes… I’d probably run a fully rigid 29er for this race.

lutsen 99er race

Training Peaks is giving me an elevation of 5,482 ft and Strava shows me an elevation of 4,618 ft. A big chunk of the climbing is a few miles into the race on the long Caribou Trail road climb and the rest of the climbing is spread amongst the gravel road and atv/snowmobile trail hills that are more typical of what you’d find in your typical rolling hill gravel riding. There are a few sections throughout the course that don’t hit you immediately as going uphill, but are long false flat sections that grind on you after awhile until you realize you’ve been steadily gaining elevation for the last half mile.

Lutsen 99er Race Start to Aid 1 – Mile 24

lutsen 99er race

I was close to the front as we dropped out onto the main highway at the bottom of the hill when they let us loose. I continued to sit in near the front top 20 to 30 as we worked up the highway, which is a bit of a false flat. We made our left hand turn onto Caribou Trail to start the long climb and I expected things to start blowing apart, but they didn’t…

I felt like things stayed extremely tame. We went up faster than my previous fastest time, but I felt like people were holding back. My heart rate was well under control for a climb and I felt very comfortable. When I looked back on Strava, the lead groups in the previous couple of years, when Steve Tilford won the race in 2015 and Jordan Wakely won it in 2016, were definitely faster than this year.

1 guy on a fat bike with aero bars did go off the front in a lead, but nobody seemed interested in chasing him. I assume the big hitters in the race on traditional mountain bikes, knew they would run him down at some point regardless. I sat in and moved around between the top 10 to 20 racers for the length of the climb until we made our right hand turn onto the gravel road around the 9 mile mark.

The pace picked up as me made the turn onto the gravel and I felt like it continued picking up as we worked up the loose rocky two track. I managed to keep my heart rate under control on the climb and felt like I was doing a good job of pacing myself and keeping things under control. I figured I should keep it that way for now and let myself slowly drift off the pace of the lead pack that was pulling away. I got passed by a couple lines of riders in the process, but I wasn’t giving up a bunch and was pacing well. I also assumed some of them were 69er racers.

I lost sight of the front of the group as we were now strung out working up the loose gravel two track. I looked back at some point and could see a break happening behind me as we were reaching the peak of the gravel 2 track. I eventually ended up finding myself split between the 2 groups, which was fine, as I knew there was a little bit of climbing again soon. In hindsight, I wish I would have pushed it a little harder and just stayed on with the larger group in front of me. I think I was being too conservative as I look back at my ride data.

We hit the right hand turn that sends you up the bumpier snowmobile trail. I made really good time through this section, felt strong and was able to catch and pass back a few positions. I was now interested in seeing if I could somehow bridge back up to the tail end of the group that I dropped off of, but they were out of sight and/or things were now strung out.

Out on the gravel, a couple folks caught back on my wheel and then another guy took a pull. As we crested one of the hills, I could see a group of riders up ahead and I pulled around the lead wheelman and asked if he wanted to try and bridge up to them… He said yes and I took another pull, but underestimated the headwind that we had gotten into as we headed west and I didn’t last very long. When my pull was over, the other 2 guys ended up getting away from me with 1 of them making the bridge and I think the other getting caught in the middle. I ended up catching up to the guy caught in the middle and another guy that had fallen off and the 3 of us worked together to Aid 1.

Aid 1 to Aid 2 – Mile 42

lutsen 99er race

A 4th rider jumped in with us as we rolled through Aid 1 and now we had 4 of us working together up the gravel to the next section of trail. We all kind of sat up when we hit the trail and randomly dropped in with nobody fighting for position. I hit the trail in the back. 1 guy got a big tree branch caught in his derailer up the first hill in the trail and had to pull off to clear it. Then the guy on the fat bike got a flat or was losing air. The first guy had pulled away at that point and I was on my own to finish up this section of trail.

I hit the gravel solo and can’t really remember when or how I ended up joining up with other folks on the gravel road to Devil’s Track. I think somewhere in there, I must have joined up with a few other riders, whether they caught me or I caught them. I’m pretty sure I remember trailing somebody as we made the turn and then putting my hands out to signal to a couple folks behind me that we were turning.

I actually never really liked this section of trail. It always feels like its completely energy sucking, whether its wet or dry. There’s no big climbs on it, other than a few hills that a couple years ago felt like they were a lot bigger than they felt this year. Today it was wet. I think I gave up a couple spots and also picked up a couple spots in this section.

I popped out on the gravel road again and found my wife with a fresh water bottle for me at the Devil’s Track spectator location. There was a lot of people standing out there in the rain and cheering on racers.

I soft pedaled out of the spectator spot, kind of looking around to see if there would be a few other riders to work with up the gravel and ended up falling in line with a few folks. The pace was a little slower than I wanted to go and it seemed like the line of riders was growing behind us as more folks were latching on. Like I said, a little slower pace than I wanted to go, but it was a good opportunity to get some recovery in.

I sat in a few spots back for about a half mile or so until we hit the first hill where I carried a little more momentum up it and ended up taking a pull at the front. I took my turn pulling and then flipped my elbow to rotate back. There was a decent line, but it looked like it was splitting up a few spots back, so I jumped back in line at the split about 3 spots back. We hit another hill soon after where I carried good speed up it and ended up in the the lead pull again.

I looked back as we were free rolling down the long downhill about halfway back to the aid station and noticed that I had dropped the pace line. We had a few miles of gravel yet to go and I had no reason to hammer down at the moment and enjoyed some coast down the hill and a few of the riders ended up catching me again before we got back to the aid station at mile 42. In hindsight, I wish I would have stayed on the gas as I left the spectator spot and also stayed on the gas in that last section of downhill grave back to the aid station.

Looking back at the results page, it looks like I was in 27th place overall at the 30 mile mark. My wife later told me that she thought I was in the top 30 for sure and was thinking 28th when I came through the spectator point at mile 35.

Aid 2 to Aid 3 – Mile 59

lutsen 99er race

I rolled through the aid station with a few of them and we took turns pulling most of the way back to the trail, where we all blew apart. I was near the front and can’t remember if 1 of them went off in front of me or not. I know 1 or 2 of them were not far behind, but I made fairly good time through the trail and was coming up on a lot of traffic from folks on their first lap and 69er racers. There was 1 guy that was close behind me as we were making our way through the traffic.

Again, I can’t remember what the situation was when I hit the gravel, but I think I was working up the gravel solo most of the time and making my way around a lot of the lap traffic. The rain had let up slightly at some point in the race and I can’t remember if it was raining at this point or not. I just remember it letting up a bit for a short period on one of the gravel sections. Outside of that it was raining most of the time.

Anyways, I started feeling like crap on this gravel section. Not like physically bad, but my stomach felt like it was turning over. It felt like I had a mix of hunger pains, but really wasn’t quite sure. I had a Honey Stinger energy bar with me for an emergency, which I ate before hitting Devil’s Track. That did not go down very well and I washed it down with the water I had left in my bottle. I think I was out of Carbo Rocket at this point as well, which was good timing, because I was going to swap hydration packs with my wife at the spectator point.

I popped back out on the gravel road, sat up and did some stretching as I rolled into the spectator spot. I had been messing with my seat angle the previous week as I was trying to fix some saddle pain and think I might have tipped it too far forward. I didn’t have any saddle pain, so I opted to keep it the way it was instead of stopping to adjust it. In hindsight, I whish I would have stopped to adjust it as the forward tip on the saddle was really pushing me forward and putting a lot more weight on my arms than I should have. I could feel that fatigue by the end of the race.

Back to the race… I swapped hydration packs and water bottles with my wife and then rolled out of the spectator point. I slow rolled for a bit as I looked around for some other folks to work with, but found nobody at the same pace, so I eventually picked up the pace and rolled out. About halfway back to the aid station, 2 guys caught me that were on the lead lap. I jumped in behind them for a very short period, but  they eventually pulled away from me. They were working together well and on a strong pace and I rolled the rest of the way to the next aid station on my own again.

According to the timing results, I had given up 6 positions from mile 30 to mile 47 and came through mile 47 in 33rd place.

Aid 3 to Aid 4 – Mile 70

lutsen 99er race

I didn’t really need to, but I topped off my water bottle before leaving the aid station. My stomach was still feeling like crap and I thought it was best if I had some plain water to drink. I didn’t feel like eating anything or drinking anything other than water. I really didn’t know what was going on with my stomach. I had not gone too hard at any point in the race yet and had kept things pretty conservative, relatively speaking.

I made my right turn up the jeep trail and made a quick stop for the first time to drain some excess waste fluid and then got going again. My legs were feeling pretty good and this is the section of trail that has really wore on me in the past. This year, I made really good time of it and felt strong, even though I still had this nasty stomach feeling.

I also started getting this deep cough that almost made me feel like I was going to throw up. It was all really strange. It was enough that I almost stopped and tried to throw up on purpose just to get it out, but I was afraid of that making me feel even worse, so I pressed on and tried to work through it.

I hit mile 70 at 4 hrs and 36 mins. This was almost 2 and a half hours faster than the first time I did the Lutsen 99er and about 15 mins faster than my previous PR in the race.

Aid 4 to Aid 5 – Mile 80

lutsen 99er race

I filled up my bottle again and kept moving. It seemed like the rain was coming down harder now and I was starting to get a little cold. I worked up the road fast and then made my left into the atv trails. I had to stop again to relieve some fluids and then got back on the trail. I was passing quite a few 69er racers and the trail was getting wetter and wetter with more and more people off their bike walking.

The trail eventually turned into what seemed like a river of flowing water, where I felt like I was riding in a muddy river vs a trail. This is my 4th time riding the Lutsen 99er race and I can’t remember their ever being water in this section of the course that was now completely flooded. I continued passing by 69ers in this section, with many people pushing their bikes. I avoided shifting up to my granny gears and stayed on the gas to avoid coming to a standstill that would force me off the bike.

By the time I reached mile 80, my hands were crazy cold and shaking. I left my hydration pack with my wife at the aid station and grabbed a fresh water bottle. That last section of solid water, took a toll on me and I swear the temperatures felt like they dropped. I could barely see out of my glasses anymore and had been using my water bottle to spray my glasses off.

Aid 5 to Aid 6 – Mile 93

lutsen 99er race

I felt like I had a little spirt of energy when I got going again and made good time up the gravel road of Sawbill Trail. I made my left on Honeymoon Trail and started the long grind up the hill. It’s not a big climb, but it’s a little more than a false flat. It makes you work and it’s long enough to turn into a little bit of a grind. A few 99ers came by and asked if I wanted to jump on their wheel. I said I would try, but I fell off shortly after before we made it all the way up the hill.

Over the other side and now on the decent with higher speeds, the wind on my cold soaked body got to me bad and I went into some bad shakes in my upper body. As in it was a little scary and I was actually riding my brakes down the hill that in previous years I was pedalling hard and spinning out my gears. The shakes were so bad that my handle bars were shaking back and forth and I was afraid of crashing.

I couldn’t get the shakes to go away. My heart rate had dropped significantly now and the shaking was getting bad, even when working back up the hills. I took my glasses off as I couldn’t see anymore out of them and I couldn’t keep up with trying to wipe them off or spray them off with my bottle anymore. I was going slow enough at this point, because of the shakes, that I was not as worried about getting stuff in my eyes. It felt like the temperature had dropped and sure enough, when I look back at my Garmin, it shows that the temperature had dropped slightly to 46 degrees during this period.

I was well off my goal for the race, but I was still on pace to beat my previous best. Until now, I was having a good ride overall, aside from the stomach issue that seemed to be going away. However, I had pretty much stopped fueling because of it and could tell my legs were running out of gas.

It felt like the rain might have let up a little bit and I started working up the hill toward the last Lutsen 99er aid station at mile 93 and felt like the shakes were going away a little bit. I pulled into the aid station and even though it was only 6 miles to the finish, I stopped and grabbed one of the Gu waffles and then pulled up past the aid station as a few riders went by and I ate the waffle. According to my Garmin, the temperature had came back up a couple degrees around this point.

Aid 6 to The Lutsen 99er Race Finish

lutsen 99er race

I got back on the trail, that quickly turns off into a muddy atv section that is always muddy, even when the rest of the trails are dry. I chose a good line and was able to ride all of it. I don’t think that was the case in past years. In the past, the trail has mostly been dry after that, except for a couple mud hole sections after crossing the river, but everything was wet.

Speaking of the bridge, the downhill to the bridge was really sloppy and I rode my brakes all the way down it. I still had some of the cold shakes and was concerned about bike control in the slippery rocks and mud. The rest of the trails around the ski hill were soaked as well.

I hit the wooden ramp that goes up into the singletrack to find the singletrack completely soaked and muddy. I took it fairly easy on the singletrack as I didn’t need to crash only a mile or 2 from the finish. The trails were not rutted, but rather a consistant top layer soup of mud that was sloppy enough to flow back into any rut that was formed.

I popped out of the trail and got passed by somebody who was hot on my tail through the singletrack. It is so weird mentally and difficult to get back in race mode, once you go through a tough point in a race and fall out of that race mode. I find that the times that has happened to me, I go into this just riding along mental state where I am no longer racing and I’m just trying to make the best out of the ride and get to the end. I didn’t have that push like I should for the finish line with it only being a mile away after racing for 98 previous miles. This is something I need to work on…

I rode my brakes down the hill, crossed the river and started the grind up the finish line climb. I got passed by a guy on a fat bike who was looking strong. He hit the new bi-pass bridge in front of me and then we both had to jump off in the mud on the other side as we spun out. He went up ahead of me and I just did a bit of a slow grind to the finish line.

I ended up finishing the Lusten 99er race in 43rd place overall with a time of 6 hours and 49 minutes.

2017 Lutsen 99er Race Final Thoughts

I still think I’ve got a low 6 hour Lusten 99er race in my legs at some point, but it certainly wasn’t going to happen for me with Saturday’s conditions and I just didn’t have the mental fortitude on Saturday to push through. My average heart rate for the entire race was 150 bpm, which is on the low side of where I should have been for the Lutsen 99er. I’ve actually been very close to that same effort in other races lasting 10 to 12 hours. At the end of the day, I didn’t race hard enough and didn’t leave everything out there that I had in me.

Another interesting piece of data… My average heart rate from my prevous best Lutsen 99er race of 6 hrs and 58 mins was 152 bpm, when my threshold heart rate was lower than it is now. Meaning, I was working much harder at the previous 152 bpm than I was at this years average of 150 bpm. Coincidently, my Training Stress Score for this race was more than 200 TSS lower than it was during my previous best Lutsen 99er. This is all a very good sign… My fitness has drastically improved and I was able to go faster with less effort in worse conditiona and a whole lot less stress on the body.

I need to continue working on my leg strength and muscular endurance, along with working on my mental toughness. I also need to go ahead and get some rain gear. It has now been twice this year that I’ve raced in the cold rain and I just haven’t been well prepared for it.

As far as great overall race weekends… This is one of my favorites. The Lutsen 99er race weekend is well run and the whole weekend is a nice festival type atmosphere from check-in on Friday afternoon till the finish of the kid’s races on Sunday morning. There is a big field of racers for a big race weekend, but not too many racers to jam up the trails. It all makes for a great overall experience.

My kids also have a blast at the kid’s fun races on Sunday. They proudly where their Lutsen 99er race t-shirts year round. Big thanks to the Lutsen 99er team for putting together the fun races for the kids on Sunday morning. They don’t have to do it, it’s free for the kids and all the kids get t-shirts and finisher medals. It makes it really easy to take the whole family up for the weekend!

Reference Links

Lutsen 99er

Lutsen 99er Results

Lutsen Mountains

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City of Trails 10k Trail Run – Race Report

city of trails 10k

The City of Trails 10k Trail Run in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin was my first true trail running event. I ran a little cross country in High School in the 1990s and have done a few other offroad events, but none of them consisted of true singletrack hiking trail like The City of Trails 10k course. I enjoyed the event and running on technical singletrack made me want to do more true trail running events. There was also a 1k trail event for the kids, a 5k run that was all pavement and then a tough half marathon trail run that will be high up on my potential event list for next spring/summer.

Strava file, extra photos and reference links at the bottom of the report

City of Trails 10k Course Layout

city of trails 10k

The race started next to the St. Croix Falls Middle School with a very short road section to another short section of paved trail, before hitting the Ice Age Hiking Trail. The first 4 miles was true hiking trail, followed by a little over a mile of gravel path and another mile of pavement. My gps file shows the actual race distance at 6.5 miles vs 6.2 miles. Another racer had confirmed the same 6.5 mile distance as well on a different gps device.

For those interested… The half marathon course started from the same location, but headed over to Interstate Park for some challenging singletrack and elevation changes before hitting the full 10k course to finish off the half marathon mileage. From my understanding, the first half of the marathon course was more challenging than the second half. The second half being the 10k course.

city of trails 10k

Training Peaks is showing an elevation gain of 400 feet, while Strava is showing an elevation gain of 447 feet. I don’t have enough experience in trail running yet to say whether this is a lot of elevation or not for a trail run. It definitely made you work, but also didn’t feel overly climby. The overall elevation drop, probably made it feel less climby than it actually was.

Regal Park

Regal Park Trail Description – This section of trail was a lot of fun and very technical when it came to foot landing over some of the rocky sections. It was pretty much all uphill with a few short rocky drops.

city of trails 10k

We split off from the 5k folks after a short distance on the paved bike path and I hit the Ice Age Trail in 4th position. We were fairly tight and I had another runner right on my tail. As we headed up through some of the rock gardens, I could see the 1st place runner was strong and slowly creating a gap to the 2nd and 3rd place runners ahead of me. I badly wanted to make a pass and see if I could hang, but 2nd and 3rd were on a great pace and I didn’t think I had the legs to get around them at the moment, so I sat in and paced off the back of 2nd and 3rd.

Fairgrounds

Fairground Trail Description – This was the smoothest and cleanest singletrack in the entire race (outside of the gravel path and road in the last couple miles). It was switchbacks uphill and then a longer downhill on really nice singletrack through the woods.

city of trails 10k

I knew I had went out hard and was starting to feel it, only a mile into the race. However, I also knew that the race was going to be less than an hour and I could go really hard for an hour, treating this race like a full blown threshold test. I was confident my lungs could handle it, but my running legs were the question.

I continued to sit in 4th position as I watched the lead runner pulling away from us, but we had dropped the 5th place runner off my heels at this point. About halfway through the fairground trail, I felt like I was getting ready to make a pass, but continued to sit in and relaxed on the downhill. I knew we would be coming to the Oregon St. crossing and hitting a wide path where I could more easily make my pass with less effort. We dumped out at the road crossing and I saw my wife and kids there cheering me on!

Zillmar Park

Zillmar Park Trail Description – The Zillmar Park trail section had a mix of everything from across the course. It started with a climb up through a field on a wide path before hitting the woods. Once in the woods, we encountered some rocks, singletrack, tree roots, etc… with a couple of tight turns and short uphills. It finished off with some more exposed rock similiar to that of Regal Park and then some wide path out to the road crossing.

city of trails 10k

We hit the wide path heading up the field where I made my pass and put in a hard effort on the climb up through the field to the woods. I approached the hill, much like I would approach a hill on the bike — Get after it and get it over with.

I hate slogging up hill climbs as they mentally beat you up and I learned to attack hills and crest the top with physical and mental momentum. Momentum plays much less of a roll while on foot versus the bike, but I think there is a bit of mental momentum that is largely in play while on foot if you put the hammer down and get up the hill. You beat the hill instead of the hill beating you.

Once in the woods I came up on a few of the marathon runners who had started earlier in the morning. I also felt like my shoes were loosening up a little. I made quick work of the technical stuff, up a couple of the short hills and was out on the wider path with exposed rock when I realized my left shoe was actually untied.

I had no choice, but to stop and retie it. My right shoe felt looser, but it was still tied up with a tight knot so I chose not to mess with it. Just as I was finishing up… 2 of the 10k runners, that I had passed at the start of this section, came running by and I was now back in 4th position again.

I got back on the trail and worked my way down the wider path with some exposed rock that eventually turned into mowed grass before popping out at the trailhead and another road crossing. There was an aid station set up and my wife was also there with a water bottle and cheering me on. I stopped quickly to grab a shot of water and then got back at it.

Mindy Creek

Mindy Creek Trail Description – Mindy Creek was not as technical as all the exposed rock like in the Regal Park trail section, but it was composed of the steepest sections of trail on the entire course and it made you work. You really had to be careful to not let your feet get away from you in the downhills and the 3 uphill sections were steep. Although not as rocky as some of the other sections of trail that I can remember, it still had plenty of rocks and roots to keep you focused on your footing. It was probably my favorite or more fun section of trail on the course.

city of trails 10k

I went into Mindy Creek really fast and wanted to make up the time from having to stop and tie my shoes. I came up on the now 2nd and 3rd place runners as we came down the first section and they let me by quickly. The terrain here was very steep downhill, with a tight switch back and then a little dry creek crossing over some rocks with a steep uphill on the other side.

I attacked the uphill, much like I would on the mountain bike again and hammered up it quickly before loosing momentum or giving my mind enough time to realize I was going uphill. Mindy Creek was mostly downhill though and I was carrying good speed. The 3 punchy uphills definitey caught up to me by the time I dropped out at the road crossing and I was ready for some flat running.

Lions Park to the Finish Line

Lions Park to Finish Trail Description – It started with an out and back gravel pathway that was about a mile and a quarter in total and finished with a tad over a mile of asphalt road. The road dumped onto a very short section of asphalt path up to the finish line.

city of trails 10k

I hit the out and back section and was catching quite a few of the marathon runners now who had started earlier in the morning. The trail was a wider gravel path with a couple light rises and falls in it, but feeling mostly flat. I saw the 10k leader coming back and knew I had to be getting close to the turn around point, but he had a little more time on me than I thought. I finally hit the turn around point and felt like I was in the home stretch and started picking up my pace.

I quickly ran into the 3rd and 4th place runners not far after making the turn and then continued seeing more 10k runners on my way back from the turn around point. I maintained a good pace as I had the feeling that the finish was closer than it really was and probably picked up my finish line effort a little too soon. I popped out of the woods and hit the pavement section that would lead me into town and across the finish line.

The pavement section felt like it went on forever after running all that great trail. It was a flat and straight section of road that you could see forever on and made you feel like you were standing still and not making any progress. I made a short moving stop for some water at the aid station being run by Snap Fitness of St. Croix Falls and kept moving. I had to be close to the finish, but my throat was dry and needed a little water.

A little further up the road, I came by a little girl with a make shift aid station at the end of her driveway who handed me an ice pop as I ran by. This wasn’t far from the finish, but I think it made her day handing them out. I took the popcicle and thanked her as I ran by. In hindsight, I think ice pops are the way to go for hot weather running. That thing lasted me nearly to the finish line and was way easier to deal with than water cups from the aid stations.

I finally finished the road section and hit a paved path where I could hear the finish line cheers. I put in my last hard effort up the slightly rising paved trail to cross the finish line.

I ended up finishing in 2nd place overall in 49 min and 50 sec.

City of Trails 10k Trail Run Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed running the technical singletrack. What I like about the trail running is the constant change of pace, watching your footing, attacking on the climbs, etc… It was an entertaining race and more strategy was involved vs running a flat paved course. I will probably do some more trail running and likely put the City of Trails Half Marathon Trail Run as a high potential event for next year.

My kids also did the 1k event, finishing 5th and 6th. They did the event last year as well and were looking forward to it. They definitely have some competitiveness between the 2 of them and it is fun to watch them push each other. My 7 year old gave my 9 year old a run for his money. I think the best part of my day was seeing them sitting on the sidewalk at the end of their race with beat red faces, looking completely spent like they gave it their all!

Reference Links

City of Trails Trail Run

Ice Age Trail

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My First Borah Epic – MTB Race Report

borah epic

I had actually heard very little about the Borah Epic mountain bike race in the past, but it looked like a great race once I started looking into it. I’m suprised I don’t see more about it floating around the social media and internet.

I had a good race overall aside from a minor crash off a wet bridge early on and then some nasty cramps that hit me about 25 miles in that knocked me off pace for a couple miles. I believe I did more passing and attacking in the second half of this race than I probably ever have. There was a 40 person preferred start field that I was not part of and I’m always happy to finish inside the preferred start field placement when I’m not part of it.

Video, Strava file and all other reference links are at the bottom of the report.

Borah Epic Course Description

borah epic

The Borah Epic started in downtown Cable, Wisconsin and finished in Hayward, Wisconsin near the Hatchery Creek Trailhead. The course was just about all singletrack, aside from a little over a mile rollout, the powerline climb, a short section of gravel road and a few very short sections of birkie trail. The singletrack was also singletrack that made you work for speed and was a little rough riding in some sections.

I do like point to point races or single loop races and this one was laid out well. Passing wasn’t really a problem for most of the race either, expecially after the initial few miles of singletrack and folks started spreading out or finding their pace. There were also 4 aid stations along the way.

borah epic

Training Peaks is showing me 2559 ft of elevation gain over the length of the course. That’s not extremely climby, but it sure isn’t flat. The race started with a climb up the powerline hill that helped spread out the field before hitting the trails. There were some hills or climbs on the few times we dumped out on the birkie trail and I remember a switchback climb in the singltrack around the 15 mile mark. The rest of the elevation was your typical ups and downs through a traditional hilly area of singletrack.

The Borah Epic Start to Aid 1

borah epic

I was set up about 6 rows back in the gen pop starting gate, behind the 40 person preferred start gate. I had done a short warm up by riding down to the powerline climb and up the first hill of the powerlines. My plan was to go out fairly hard and hopefully get out in front of as much trail congestion as I could without blowing myself up. I don’t think I was the only one with that thought in mind though.

The rollout was not a light rollout as the lead out vehicle gave the lead folks plenty of room to stretch their legs. My average pace from the start line to the bottom of the powerline climb was 23.4 mph. I made some moves on the last uphill pavement section before hitting the powerlines and stayed on the gas all the way up. I did a good job of balancing a hard effort, without completely redlining. I did some passing on the climb, but also had some folks passing me as well. Overall, I think I probably made up a few positions on the climb.

We hit the trails at a good pace, but were still mostly wheel to wheel even though the climb definitely spread things out vs having a complete pile up at the trail entrance. The pace was fast and we were beginning to stretch out a little until we started hitting a couple of the short punchy hills and mini rock gardens or rougher trail patches and we’d get stacked up again. I could see a gap starting to form about 5 to 7 riders up that was growing after each of these little punchy hills.

At some point, the guy behind me was asking to pass. I was thinking, me too! Anyways, I drifted right to let him by shortly after anyways. I could tell he was getting antsy, but would soon figure out that I wasn’t the hold up. Anyways, he didn’t come around right away and we ended up side by side and approaching a rocky section when we of course got stacked up again and I almost ran into the guy in front of me as he was unclipping. Anyways, the other guy ended up getting around me as we got stacked up again and there was now a clear gap off the front of our line of riders with the group ahead quickly disappearing.

It was a hill or 2 later, when we started stacking up again and I heard somebody near the front yelling “STEP OFF, STEP OFF….” The guy pulled off and we were able to stay moving. I assume he may have been the hold up in the previous sections as I can’t remember another stack up after that. I think I ended up making a few passes shortly later and then had clear trail in front of me and put a small gap on the folks behind me. I think I might have let somebody by during this time as well, that disappeared quickly out front.

I came up fast on 2 short, but wet bridges. I cleared the first one and then slid my front end out on the second. I went down on my left side and quickly pulled my bike off as another rider was coming through. I jumped back on the bike to try and chase his wheel to find my left brake lever bent down and a little hard to reach.

I didn’t really want to bend it back as I was afraid to break it off, but I did it anyways and was able to straighten it out while riding. I would feel an occasional snap or click when I pulled it and later found that I had broken off a little nub that stops it from flipping way out away from the bar, which is not really a big deal as it’s spring loaded anyways. I had broke this same nub off my right lever on the first ride with these brakes over a year ago. I think the snap or click was that piece hanging off or stuck somewhere, because it eventually went away.

At some point we dumped out on some fast gravel that was scattered with mud holes. A couple riders popped out of the trail not far behind me and put in a hard effort, leaving me behind on the gravel. There were more coming behind me, but they never quite latched on. I dodged as much of the mud as I could, even if it meant getting on the brakes and picking my way around it. It was early in the race and I didn’t want to carry the mud for another 20 to 25 miles.

I don’t really remember aid station 1, other than grabbing a cup of something as I passed through quickly. For those interested in the aid station setup, I was told they had gels and other stuff at the aid stations. I tend to plan my race without relying on the aid stations if I can, especially in a shorter fast paced race like this one where you need to ride right through to hold your position and stay on pace.

Aid 1 to Aid 2

borah epic

I don’t remember as many details about this section of the race… I wasn’t on my own, but I always felt like I had some comfortable space around me to ride my ride. The pace was fast for sure, but I could ride a little more consistant now with a little breathing room and my average heart rate dropped a little for this section.

I think there was some flowy switchbacks in this section, for which I’m not really great at carrying speed through, but I managed to hold my ground in them. There was a switchback climb around mile 15 where I was able to stretch out the distance to the folks behind me and close the gap a little to the rider out in front of me.

I was also feeling the heat or humidity a little bit and started finishing my water bottle in hopes of finding my wife and kids hanging out at the OO crossing with a fresh hand up. I eventually popped out of the woods at OO and waved my bottle in the air. I tossed it aside and grap a new one from my wife as I rode by. That was actually the first time we’ve ever done a moving water bottle hand up. I’ve always stopped in the past as most times I needed a hand up, was in a really long race or all I needed was my hydration pack and a single bottle to get to the finish. Anyways, she made it look like we’ve done it 100 times!

Aid 2 to Aid 3

borah epic

It was in this section that I really got into my groove in the singletrack. I pulled away from some folks that were on my tail and kept on the gas. I made a few passes as I caught a few riders here and there. I had one rider that had jumped on my wheel and followed me through a couple of the passes. I asked if he need by me and he said no.

We stayed on the gas hard and bridged up to a larger group of riders. When I came up behind them, I really wanted to pass, but it was a fairly large line and I figured I might burn up more matches than it was worth trying to get by each of them and took the opportunity to settle in and recover a little. This is when I started feeling the leg cramps….

They weren’t bad yet, but I could feel them coming on. Part of me thinks this starts to happen when I let off and relax a little and maybe I could have held them off if I were able to stay on the gas, or it might have just been the heat and a little dehydration starting to settle in. Who knows… I felt like I went into the start of the race feeling a little dehydrated, so maybe it was starting to stack up on me. We eventually dumped out onto a section of the Birkie that had a downhill and short uphill where I made a hard effort and I think I passed all but 1 or 2 of the riders in that line before hitting the next section of singletrack.

I don’t really remember coming through aid station 3, other than grabbing a cup of fluids as I rode through. This happend pretty much at all the aid stations, except for OO when I grabbed a fresh water bottle from my wife.

Aid 3 to Aid 4

borah epic

I hit the next section of singletrack fast and tried to chase the other rider that was still out front that I couldn’t catch on the short Birkie section. I think it was a couple miles into this section that the leg cramps finally hit hard and locked me right up. I had to coast through a couple of the bad ones where I couldn’t even turn over the pedal and ended up getting passed by a couple of folks. The cramps eventually brought me to a short standstill, where I leaned over and stretched real quick as another rider when by. I got the cramps to let up and got back on the gas to go on the chase.

Aid 4 to The Borah Epic Finish Line

borah epic

I heard somebody yell “Steve, good job man!” as I passed through the aid station area at Mosquito Brook and recognized the voice of Ben Welnak from Mountain Bike Radio. It’s always nice to hear a shout out on the trail. I was still feeling the cramps in the background, but was able to stay on the gas hard through the last miles. I was ready for the finish at this point as I had completely drained my hydration pack of CarboRocket and my water bottle was empty again. I was able to catch a couple folks in this last section of trail and make up a couple more places.

I finally dumped out on the birkie trail and knew I was close to the finish and saw the sign that said 1000m. It was uphill and I could see somebody out in front of me, but nobody behind me as I worked up the Birkie toward the Borah Epic finish line. I knew I wasn’t going to catch the guy in front of me and still couldn’t see anyone chasing, but I stayed on the gas anyways. I stood on it and hammered all the way up the last hill and across the finish line. It felt good to do that, even though I was sprinting against myself. It’s a bit of a mental win to be able to power up a final climb to the finish line after 3 hours of hard racing.

I ended up finishing 39th overall out of 341 finishers in the Full Borah Epic race with a time of 3 hr, 6 min and 41 sec.

Borah Epic Final Thoughts

Despite the minor crash and the leg cramps hitting again, I feel like I had a really good race. As I mentioned there was a 40 person preferred starting gate that I was not part of and I was probably another 30 plus riders back from there, leaving the gates 70 plus racers back. I think the short warm up before the start of the race helped me prepare for the first climb. I was able to go out hard without completely redlining myself and then stay on the gas for quite awhile. I was also happy about having the power to hammer up the final climb to the finish as well for a big mental win.

This was a good race and I would do it again. I don’t know what my plans will be for next year yet, but there really is only a couple other options that highly interest me during this weekend and none of the are very local, so there is a fair chance that I’ll be back again. After doing this race, I am convinced that I probably need to spend some more time riding up in CAMBA land if I can work it into my schedule. The trails were great! They made your work, they were rugged enough to wear on you and you couldn’t really relax ever. I’d highly recommend a hydration pack for this race as there really isn’t too many spots that make it easy to drink from a water bottle.

I’m doing a 10k trail run this weekend and then my next mountain bike race is the Lutsen 99er. See you out there and hit me up if you have any questions about the Borah Epic that you think I might be able to help with.

A funny side note for you that have read all the way through… The finish line was in a field that had been mowed down. After crossing the finish, I sat down to give my legs a rest. Later I heard warnings of there being poison ivy around, but I was back on my feet at that point. Apparantly I must have sat right in some poison ivy and it was thick enough or oily enough to go right through my cycling bib shorts… That chamois saved me in more than one way on that day as it must have been the barrier to stop it from reaching some real uncomfortable areas… Regardless, the next couple weeks are going to be a little uncomfortable as  a patch of my rear end feels like it’s on fire…

Anyways, enjoy the start of summer and watch out for that poison ivy!

Reference Links

Borah Epic

Borah Epic Results

CAMBA (Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association)

Pictures from Mountain Bike Radio

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Detroit Mountain – MN MTB Series Race #2

detroit mountain

I knew the weather forcast was looking rough for the Detroit Mountain Shakedown race, but I still failed to plan accordingly for the cold temps and rain. I don’t really have the proper cold rain gear set up to begin with, but it has now moved up my priority list. Regardless, I hadn’t packed anything more than just my summer race gear and a base layer that was packed in our camper for the weekend.

This would be race #2 of the 2017 Minnesota Mountain Bike Series and my first time riding the trails at Detroit Mountain Rec Area. Actually, this was my first time to the Detroit Lakes area all together. Enjoy the report…

Video, Strava file, link to results & any other reference links at bottom of report.

Detroit Mountain Course Layout

detroit mountain

I enjoyed the course layout. There was of course the climb up the ski hill, which really wasn’t a bad climb other than a steep switchback or 2, soft ground near the top and a last steep section to get you over the top. The rest of the course was very smooth and flowy, with only 1 very short and minor rock garden area. It wasn’t even really a rock garden, but more some larger scattered rocks on a very short little up hill. It really was a course that would be great for a fully rigid bike. The first lap was a half lap and you can see where we headed to the right from the start line vs the rest of the laps where we took a u-turn to the left after crossing the start/finish line.

detroit mountain

This is the elevation profile for 1 one full lap. Outside of the ski hill climb, the overall elevation was pretty mild. After doing the elevation correction, Training Peaks is showing me 1858 feet of elevation gain over the 41 miles that I rode. Keep in mind that I climbed the ski hill 5 times and not 6, since we skipped it on the first lap.

The Race Details

Lap 1

The start was fairly mild and our first section of trail was pretty messy. I was caught behind somebody getting pretty cautious about the slippery trail as a gap quickly started forming with a few guys off the front. I was able to pass and then started bridging the gap. This was the section of trail that was extremely slippery and I’m suprised that none of us went down, or nobody that I knew of anyways.

We eventually hit some trail that didn’t look like it had been ridden yet and was in amazingly good shape for the weather. I had caught up and passed 1 other rider to come through the first lap sitting in 3rd spot and about 20s back from the leader. I felt like my hands were starting to warm up a bit and legs were feeling ok. My heart rate monitor wasn’t working for most of the first lap, but the pace was pretty controlable and not out of hand.

Lap 2

detroit mountain

The first half of this lap would be new trail as our first lap started with the second half of what would be a full lap. Down the back side of the ski hill was some nice flowy stuff with a few berms where I was a little cautious about hitting slippery spots, even though the trail was actually pretty dry. I dumped into the really slippery section of trail and then back out on some new stuff again.

Somewhere in here, I could sense another riding chomping at my heels. We rolled together for a little bit and then I slipped up on a really muddy short uphill where he was able to dig in and get by. He was on a mission after that and disappeared out in front of me and I ended up coming through the start/finish lap sitting in 4th position.

Lap 3

detroit mountain

As I was headed up the ski hill, I could see a couple more guys a switchback or 2 down from me. I maintained pretty much the exact same pace on lap 3 as I did the previous laps. My hands were starting to get cold again and the cold dampness was now starting to settle into my feet. It wasn’t quite effecting me yet, but it was getting in my head a bit. I think it was somewhere mid lap that a couple guys caught and passed me. They were riding a strong pace and I let them go and stuck to the pace that I was on.

In hindsight, I probably should have picked up the pace and stayed on their wheel. My effort was not nearly what it was at the Woolly race 2 weeks prior and picking up the pace probably would have helped fight off the cold that was setting in.

Lap 4

I believe I got passed by a rider at the start of this lap with another rider nipping at my heels, who ended up passing me later in the lap. I was starting to feel the cold more on this lap also and my attitude started going to crap. My pace started to drop by the end of this lap, which ended up being about a minute off from the previous 2 laps.

Lap 5

I grabbed a Red Bull before heading up the ski hill switchbacks. I knew at this point that I was only going to get 6 laps in and quite honestly, I just wanted it to be over. My hands and toes were feeling pretty numb at this point and it crossed my mind that I might be tossing in the towel after lap 5. My pace dropped dramatically on this lap.

During the easier sections of trail, I was sticking my hand in my jersey and under my armpit to try and warm them up. I kept wiggling my toes to try and get some blood flowing as well. They were freezing, but I didn’t think enough to cause any damage and decided I would knock out another lap. My pace had dropped by 5 minutes on this lap.

Final Lap

detroit mountain

As I passed by the ski challet, I saw a couple riders who passed me earlier that had decided to pull off and were at the bike wash. They gave me a shout out of encouragement for heading out on another lap as I went by, which I needed! I knew this was my last lap and picked up my pace. I just wanted to get it done. I still got caught and passed about a mile or 2 from the finish line by another rider even though I had picked my pace back up. The last lap was about 3 minutes faster than the previous, but still a couple minutes off of my first few laps. Regardless, I was happy to be finished and happy to see my wife and kids cheering me across the finish line.

I ended up finishing in 7th in a field of 17, about 20 minutes back from the winner with a total race time of 4 hrs and 24 minutes.

Race Summary

detroit mountain

In general, this was a pretty miserable day of racing. My average heart rate was down and I didn’t feel like I was putting in the same effort that I did at the Woolly race 2 weeks ago as my  head just wasn’t in it with the cold and rain. I assume this was likely the case for some of the other racers as well. I think in normal circumstances, this would have been a 7 lap race vs the 6 laps.

As a side note, the average speed on the first lap in he chart above is high, because we skipped the climb up the ski hill. It really wasn’t a faster pace.

As far as the trails go… I was quite amazed at how well the trails held up. There was some trail, that had barely looked like it rained and then much of it was in about the condition that you might say to give it a few hours to dry out before riding. However, there was a section that we shouldn’t have been riding at all, that was extremely slick and sloppy that I made mention of in the lap 1 section.

I think at the end of the day the sloppy singletrack section probably held up fairly well as we pulled off the top layer and by the end of the race it was down to the solid drier ground. I don’t know enough about trails to know if that fairs well for the trail in the long term or not though. There was of course the random spots that held water, where ruts started to form as well. Without a doubt it will require some clean up, but probably not nearly as much as you might think, given the conditions and what our bikes looked like when we came in.

Thanks to my wife as well for running out to the trail each lap to see if I needed anything. We had a cooler sitting out there with some extra water bottles and a Red Bull so that I could help myself, but she still ran out each lap to check on me. My kids stayed warm inside the challet, but came out at the end to cheer me across the finish line.

I’ve got some other non-series races planned in the coming month, so this will be the last of the 4hr Marathon reports until the July/August time frame. Next up is the Borah Epic in Cable/Hayward, Wisconsin…

Reference Links

Detroit Mountain Rec Area

Minnesota Mountain Bike Series – 2017 Results

Minnesota Mountain bike Series – 2017 Standings

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Grantsburg Adventure Triathlon – Bike, Paddle, Run

I have been wanting to mix things up from just mountain biking and had the opportunity this past weekend to do so with a bike, paddle, run at the Grantsburg Adventure Triathlon in Grantsburg, Wisconsin. I had a strong bike ride and then dropped some time in the kayak and more in the run to end up in 4th place on the day. Enjoy the details…

Grantsburg Adventure Triathlon Course Layout

Bike

grantsburg adventure triathlon

The bike course was fairly mild and right about 19 miles. There were a few miles of pavement and a little over a mile of 2 track with some washouts and the rest of the ride was gravel. There was very minimal elevation with a slight hill at the start and a few ups and downs in the 2 track section. The bike started near the finish line in Memory Lake Park and ended in Crex Meadows at the kayak transition.

Kayak

grantsburg adventure triathlon

The kayak was labeled as 2 miles, but it wasn’t quite 1 and half miles. It was a full loop and was marked really well. Volunteers had your kayak ready for you in the water at the transition and took care of it for you coming out of the water as well.

Run

grantsburg adventure triathlon

The run was just over 8 miles with about 2 miles of pavement, half mile of gravel, 1.5 miles of 2 track with some sand and 4 miles of cross country trails with a few hills. The run started in Crex Meadows at the kayak transition and finished in Memory Lake Park.

The Race Details

Bike

grantsburg adventure triathlon

We were lined up across the 2 lane road and rolled into a fairly hard start. I noticed one guy off to the right on a gravel bike that started to lead out with a harder effort as we started up the very slight hill. I knew we had a sandy corner up ahead and decided to step on it and went out hard to get a lead. It wasn’t a hard sprint, but I put a hard enough effort in to break out front and start pulling away. I figured if I could lead out now, that I could probably get a little more seperation in the sand and make them chase me down. If I couldn’t handle the effort, then I could dial back and adjust as needed. I was going to drop some time in the run and the bike was my chance to put some time on the field if I could.

I made the turn around the sandy corner and had a lead as we approached what was probably the only real intersection on the course. I backed off slightly as I approached the intersection as I wasn’t 100% sure that the officer had the traffic stopped and looked back and forth a few times. I could see it was clear to go and he was going to hold traffic, so I got back on the hammer down one of the few sections of pavement on the course. I figured if I could hold off the chase on this section, that I was going to be good to go. I was riding my full suspension 29er with a 2.4″ tire on the front and 2.2″ tire on the rear as opposed to the gravel bikes that many of the folks I was worried about were riding.

I was able to pull off a little more gap on the pavement and then maintain it. We hit the gravel in Crex Meadows for a very short period before hitting some 2 track with a bit of sand and wash out in it where I assume I had a little advantage with my larger tires. I lost sight of anybody chasing through this section and was now passing traffic from the wave of relay team racers that started 5 minutes in front of us. When I exited the 2 track, I was past most of the relay folks.

I believe we dumped out on a short section of pavement again before hitting some more gravel. I could see somebody chasing behind me. I was still feeling comfortable with my heart rate sitting around 162/163 bpm and knew that I could ride a couple hours at this effort. We hit a section of head wind, where my paced dropped off a little. I think I lost a little bit of the gap I had to my chaser, but I knew we had a large gap on the rest of the field as I could only see the one chaser a couple hundred yards back.

We were now rounding our way back around the wetlands/ponds of Crex Meadows. I knew I would get a short rest for my legs during the kayak, so I kept the pressure on and increased my gap a bit more in the final couple miles of the bike.

I ended hitting the bike to kayak transition with a 23 second lead.

Paddle

grantsburg adventure triathlon

Once I got going on the water and looked back, I could see that my chaser had a long sea kayak and was gaining on me fairly quick. It seems like my kayak wants to top out at around 5 mph and then takes exponential amount more effort to get any more speed out of it, so I settled in and didn’t over push it. I ended up getting chased down and passed about half way around the kayak course. I could also see some of the folks that had come in on the bike 2 to 3 minutes back, gaining some ground on me.

I ended up losing anywhere from 1.5 to 3 minutes of time on the kayak to all but one of the folks that finished in the top 10. I was now sitting in second, a couple minutes back from the leader with a diminishing gap to the next few chasers.

Run

grantsburg adventure triathlon

I took off on the run, feeling good. I grabbed some water from the aid station, just outside of the transition and eased into my run up the gravel road. About halfway up the gravel along the lake, I found a comfortable pace. I hadn’t run 8 miles in quite awhile. In fact, I think it has been 2 years. I believe I topped out at 6 last year and around 5.5 this year for continuous steady runs. I did have a 6.5 mile run this year, but that was with some longer intervals and walking between intervals.

Anyways, I looked down a few times at my watch throughout the first couple miles of the run and could see that I was averaging about a 7:20 pace. I was real happy with that at this point. My heart rate was also hanging in the 150s and I figured this was probably the pace to hang at. I was confident with how things would go the first 3 to 4 miles and figured mile 4 through 6 would feel a little tougher and that the last couple might hurt.

As I made my way around the 2 track section and through the sand pit area, I could see a couple folks a few few hundred yards back. About 3.5 miles in I got passed by the 2nd and 3rd place finishers as we were headed down the pavement road back to the park. I stopped and grabbed some water at the aid station in the park before hitting the trails and was averaging a 7:28 pace up to this point, 4 miles in.

About a half mile into the trails, I could feel my legs starting to get heavier. My pace was dropping a little, but more due to terrain vs fatigue. My pace on mile 6 and 7 dropped to about an 8:15 pace. My legs weren’t hurting, but I was starting to have more trouble turning them over and my form was coming apart a little bit. The terrain during these miles was probably a little hillier as well, which also impacted the legs and the pace.

After the 7 mile mark, I slowly started picking things back up and was in the home stretch. I managed to bring my pace back below 8:00 min/mile for the last mile. I came out of the woods and could see the finish line area and cruised in. I ended up averaging a pace of 7:44 min/mile for the entire run. I lost some massive time to the 2nd place finisher Greg, who put 7:00 min on me during the run. I ended up 4th overall and a little less than 5 minutes back from the winner and just under 4 minutes back from 3rd place.

Summary of The Grantsburg Adventure Triathlon

Going into the race, I knew I was going to lose some time in the kayak to folks with sea kayaks and then also drop some time in the run to the serious runners. I figured the run was going to hurt more than it did, regardless of what I did on the bike, so my strategy was to get as much jump on the bike as I could. I just didn’t think I would actually finish the bike in the lead.

It was definitely a gravel bike advantage course overall. That being said, I had pumped my tires up with extra air and overfilled my rear shock and cranked the rebound damping dial over as far as it would go. Other than the little extra weight of the bike, I don’t think it was that big of a deal. I did have a little advantage popping around that sandy corner at the start and the 2 track about 4 miles in, but everything else was gravel and even a few miles of pavement. To do it over again, I think I might have actually pushed things a tad harder on the bike still.

I probably should have pushed things a little harder in the kayak as well. My heart rate only averaged 133 bpm in the kayak and I lost a lot of time. I might have been able to squeeze out a little more speed. I also probably should have skipped changing my socks after the kayak. My feet never got wet, but they were a little sweaty from the bike and I thought it was best to start with dry socks. I was also expecting the run to hurt a lot more than it did, which is why I wanted to start with fresh/dry socks.

As far as the run goes. I was happy with my overall pace, but have a lot of work to get to where I want to be with the running. That being said, my running has made a lot of progress and the structured interval run workouts I have been doing are paying off. A big win for me on the run was getting through the 8 miles without my pace dropping dramatically. It did drop in the last 4 miles, but I would say that my pace drop was pretty commencerate with the more difficult terrain on the cross country trails.

At the end of the day, I really enjoyed this type of racing. I was looking at some other events like this in the area, but this ones seems hard to beat from a course layout point of view. Some of the others are much more focused on the paddle. The Grantsburg Adventure Triathlon seems to be really well balanced, although I’d recommend the kayak portion stretching out to a full 2 miles if they can make it happen. Overall, it’s a great set-up and nice course.

I’ve learned to wait till the end of the season before commiting to next season’s races, but this one will go at the top of my list for spring events next year. It was really well run, well organized and I can definitely recommend it as an event to check out if you are interested in some multi-discipline events.

Reference Links

Grantsburg Adventure Triathlon

Grantsburg Adventure Triathlon 2017 Results

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Woolly MTB Race Report – MN Series Race #1

woolly mtb race

I was back on the dirt this past weekend at the Woolly MTB Race in St. Croix Falls, WI where I raced the Marathon 4 hour lap race. This was the season opener race for the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series. I did 2 of these 4 hr races 3 years ago when I was getting back on the bike and things went much better this time around. I think I barely survived the Woolly Marathon race 3 years ago and this year I managed to stay on the lead lap, finishing 10th and less than 21 minutes back from the winner after 4 and half hours of racing. Anyways, here is the report…

Woolly MTB Race Course Layout

woolly mtb race

The course included all of the Woolly MTB trails except for Riegel Park singletrack, which is where the rock garden is at. Most of the race categories skipped the section of trail, known as West Ridge on the first lap to make sure the field was spread out before sending everybody into the singletrack.

woolly mtb race

My original elevation profile showed 4,200 feet of climbing throughout the race, but after hitting the elevation correction option in Training Peaks it now shows about 2,700 ft of climbing over the 7 laps that I completed with a single lap elevation gain of around 630 feet. Strava still shows around 4,200 feet after hitting the elevation correction there, so who knows which one is correct.

Lap 1

It didn’t feel like we neccesarily left the shoot that fast, but things seemed to continue ramping up as we made our way around the soccer field and crossed the start/finish line. As I mentioned above, we skipped West Ridge (more technical) on the first lap. 1 guy immediately took off the front in a break. I do not believe he is the one that actually won the race though.

There is a road crossing when you hit the paved bike path and on the other side of the road crossing there happens to be a narrow driveway that parallels the bike path. All of a sudden we realized we were on the driveway instead of the bike path, but luckily found an opening in the brush seperating the 2 and was able to hop over to the bike path. From what I could tell, it was everybody in front of me and more following.

By this time, we were on the hammer hard and it certainly didn’t feel like we were setting off on 4 hours of racing… We stayed on the gas all the way around the field, up the ski trail and right into Wissahickin. I heard a couple guys in front of me commenting on this being a bit of a high pace for 4 hours of racing left. I wasn’t redlined, but my heart rate was up in my threshold zone and dancing with going over on occasion.

I knew I couldn’t hold this pace for 4 hours, but I was feeling fairly good was interested to see how this would play out. I was sitting about 8 back with a couple guys behind me and could see that we were putting a little gap on the rest of the field through the switchbacks of Wissahickon. I figured I’d stay with the pace for awhile and see what happened.

You would have thought we were sprinting for the finish line when we popped out of Wissahickon and hit the Gandy Dancer. I gave myself a little space in front of me when we hit Erratic Rock, knowing that it was uphill for awhile and we might stack up anyways. I know that trail entrance well now and if you have open trail, momentum will take you up the first short section to the first left hand turn where the climbing continues.

The pace seemed to dial back a little bit by the time we were coming back down out of Erratic Rock and was more long term manageable. Still a little more than I was going to be able to stick with for the next 4 hours, but much more comfortable. We flew through Big Oak and were on our way around the soccer fields to finish the first lap. I dropped off the back of the front 10 a little bit as we rounded the soccer field and figured I’d give myself some space as we hit West Ridge, which is the more technical section of the Woolly Bike Club Trails.

I actually set PRs on just about every section of trail during this first lap. I was either getting a lot faster or there would be some suffering later…

Lap 2

I felt good hitting West Ridge and was glad I gave myself a little space as we did stack up a little bit in a couple of the switchbacks where I ended up back on the wheel of the guys in front of me. I felt the leg burn on the hills leaving West Ridge and let the guys roll out in front of me a bit on our way to the next trail section, but kept them in sight. I could see the guys out in front of me a short distance for most of the second lap and could see a few in the gap behind me  as well. It was time to settle into my own pace as I had another 3 and a half hours in front of me.

Lap 3

Somewhere in lap 3, I felt some tightness in my legs as if some cramps might start up. I was feeling the effects of the harder start and dialed back some more. I think I was also carrying some dehydration with me into the race. I think it was lap 3 as well that I saw Jason from the Woolly Bike Club working his way up behind me through the switchbacks. I think my lap time dropped off by nearly 2 minutes on lap 3.

Lap 4

Leg cramps hit real heavy at the start of lap 4 through some of the switchbacks in West Ridge. My legs basically locked right up on me as I crested one of the really short hills. I think this is where Jason starting catching me and was close enough that we exchange a little short conversation. I remember coasting through one of the sections with my pedals parallel and legs locked right up. I wasn’t quite sure what to do and was afraid to try and pedal. They relaxed just in time to hit the hill and I was able to crank up, but they started locking up again near the top. They were extremely painful leg cramps.

I think I ended up riding most of lap 4 on and off with Jason. This was good, as he is a machine in the singletrack and kept me pusing hard. I was able to maintain my pace through most of the lap, aside from some of the moments of cramping up. I ended up dropping another minute off my pace.

Lap 5

My pace dropped off significantly on lap 5 as the leg cramps were extreme through most of the lap. I just remember cranking my pedals through the painful cramps in both legs and it almost felt like I was just tearing my muscles apart with every pedal stroke. It was not comfortable to say the least. I decided to guzzle down most of the CarboRocket that I had left in my hydration pack and downing as much extra water with it as I could. I stopped and filled up my water bottle at one of the aid stations as well.

I think lap 5 is where Jason ended up out in front of me coming out of Wissahickon and then I eventually lost sight of him. I knew I was within the time frame to be able to get a 7th lap in, but my leg cramps were the worst I’ve ever had and figured if I didn’t dial back some more and get the fluids digested, that I wouldn’t be able to finish the 7th lap anyways. My lap time dropped nearly 3 minutes off from my previous lap.

Lap 6

This was my slowest lap of the race. I new at this point that I was easily going to make the 4 hour cutoff to start another lap and I wanted to have a strong finishing lap 7. About mid way through, I had a sense that the cramps were lightening up a little bit. Maybe I was starting to rehydrate or something. I had now finished off 2 liters of CarboRocket, 2 large water bottles and the random water cup handups throughout the race.

Lap 7

I hit west ridge knowing this was going to be my last lap and wanted to leave everything I had left out on the trail. I was kind of stacked up with some of the comp class racers, but was pacing through most of west ridge at about the same click. I heard a couple of them coming up behind me when we hit the bottom of the first hill and I didn’t want to get in the way, so I hammered down to not get in the way. That’s when the leg cramps hit hard again…

About halfway up the second big hill in West Ridge I ended up letting a couple of them by as I was struggling to pedal through the cramps and they had more legs than me at this point. There were still quite a few of them back there, but not gaining any ground on me, so I stayed on the grind and made my way out of West Ridge.

I felt fairly good through most of the rest of this lap with only a few more minor cramps and after 7 laps was still able to hang with most of the comp class guys that were around me through all of Wissahickon, Erratic Rock and Big Oak. I put the hammer down when I dropped out of Big Oak and put a pretty hard effort in for the finish. I actually had enough left in the tank to stand on the pedals for a hard sprint across the line. There really was no need as I wasn’t heading across the line with anybody, but it was a bit of a mental win to stand on it for the finish after 4 and half hours.

I ended up finishing on the lead lap in 10th place and just under 21 minutes behind the winner.

Woolly MTB Race Summary

woolly mtb race

I honestly was going for and expecting to finish a little better than 10th, so I was a little disappointed. However, I feel like I had a really great race aside from the bad leg cramps. I was able to go out pretty hard and hold my own with the lead break for quite awhile and then still race for another 3+ hours. I was also able to have a strong finish after a couple hours of suffering through the leg cramping.

Who knows what triggered the bad leg cramping, but I’m actually still feeling dehydrated 3 days later as I type up this report. I’ve been guzzling water down like a fish since the race. I play around with my diet a lot and in the last week had started going with a lot more whole grain and complex carb type of foods, which could have something to do with it also. I could assume that my body may not have been absorbing the fluids as much, with my fluid intake getting absorbed up by the grains and carbs and being used up to digest them. I plan to take some nutrition and diet classes/training this fall to learn more.

I don’t think it is because of going out too hard. My peak heart rate never got near my max and I peaked out at 176 bpm. My Threshold is right around 170 bpm and my average heart rate the first hour of the race was around 165 bpm.

As far as my riding goes… I have no doubt that my singletrack skills are going to improve greatly after doing a handful of these lap races throughout the summer. I was feeling pretty comfy in the singletrack by the end of the race and learning better lines through the switchbacks and flowing better. A lot of my loss of lap time was coming from my legs locking up and literally having to go in coast mode until they would relax again.

When I did this race 3 years ago, I finished 28th out of 39 and 2 full laps behind the winner, so I should be real happy with my improvements in the last 3 years. Also, when I did this race 3 years ago, I was doing a lot of walking in West Ridge the entire second half of the race. This year, I never had to walk anything and the only time my foot touched down the entire race was when I stopped to fill my water bottle at the aid stations.

Anyways, I plan to get 5 or 6 of these Minnesota Mountain Bike Series Marathon 4 hr lap races in throught the season. I decided to 2 these for a few reasons… I thought it would be great training for the Marji Gesick 100 and I also figured it would help me improve my singletrack skills. I also think they are a good middle ground of endurance racing that you get to improve XC skills, build endurance, but not have to take weeks to recover from one race like you would in a rugged 100 miler. I really enjoy racing and wanted to race more often instead of spending half my time recovering. I was able to do this race on Sunday and be mostly recovered in a few days.

Anyways, I’m doing an Adventure Triathlong this coming weekend and then the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series Race #2 at Detroit Mountain the weekend after that. I’ll have plenty of race reports in the coming months!

Reference Links

Woolly Bike Club

Cyclova XC

Minnesota Mountain Bike Series

2017 Minnesota MTB Series Race Results

2017 Minnesota MTB Series Season Standings

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Ken Woods Memorial Road Race Report

Ken Woods

Here is my race report from the Ken Woods Memorial Road Race last weekend. I had better results this time around, but still have a lot of room for improvement. That being said, I think I am getting more comfortable with the pack and getting a read on what is going on to race smarter and stronger than I have in the past. Anyways, enjoy the report. Summary and reference links are at the bottom.

Course Layout

Ken Woods

This was a 42 mile race, that consisted of 2 laps around a 21 mile course. The south section of course was extremely rough with many holes in the ashpalt and a pretty rough ride. There were quite a few rolling hills and a nice climb to the lap finish line.

Lap 1

Ken Woods

Lap 1 was pretty lively for knowing we had a second lap of 21 miles to go. I tried to to sit in as much as I could, but it was like a slinky on every hill and turn and I felt like I was either tapping the brakes or on the gas most of the time.

There was one guy that was all over the road and I just couldn’t get away from him. This guy would swerve back and forth by at least 2 bike lanes, making anybody behind or beside him put in a lot of work to avoid a wreck. I did whatever I could to get away from this guy or out in front of him, but he just seemed to be everywhere… literally.

We hit some high speeds on one of the decents in the back half of the course and were strung out, but then I think everybody got back together again. Things became even more lively after that and we went up one of the intermediate hills/climbs pretty fast. It appeared that the group might actually split and I put in a fairly hard effort up the hill to pull around anybody that was struggling and get near the front. At this point, a large enough group of strong riders would probably be able to hang on to a break away. Especially since we were soon approaching the bigger climb at the lap start/finish line. I don’t know that anything was going to happen on purpose, but folks were struggling on the hills and I didn’t want to get caught behind them.

When it came to the big climb at the end of the lap, it felt like things stayed fairly undercontrol. I kept myself in a safe spot to avoid getting dropped in a split of the peloton and then sat in for most of the climb. I think we did string out a little bit near the end of it, but most riders came back together in the group.

Lap 2

Ken Woods

As we got into lap 2, I put a lot more effort into keeping myself near the front of the pack or at least in the front 15 or 20. The first portion of the lap felt fairly tame if I remember correctly. As we got about halfway around the course, it was really difficult to hold a position near the front. There was a lot of manuevering going on and riders could get real pushy about positioning. I sat up in the 4th or 5th spot back for a short period and then kept finding myself either getting pushed out or sucked back as another line of riders would push forward and people would jump between lines.

As we got further around the back half of the course, I got more aggressive about holding a position near the front, even if it meant hanging out in the wind. There were quite a few rollers, a long downhill and then an intermediate climb that I wanted to make sure I was near the front, in case of a split. A split of a few strong riders at this point, would definitely hold to the finish line. I spent quite a bit of time hanging out in the wind, about 5 or 6 riders back over the last few miles, before the final turn.

I can’t remember exactly how it happened, but I got sucked back big time as we made the final turn. I think another line or 2 of riders was making a run on the front as we approached the turn. I didn’t panic and stayed calm, but I knew I had the legs to hold my own up at the front of the climb. Nobody was breaking away yet, but I was probably sitting 20+ back in the pack now, that was starting to spread across the road and I made a break for it. I had to dodge in and out of holes, but made my way through to the top 12 to 15.

By this time, things were starting to spread out in front of me and catching the lead guys was not going to happen. I stayed on the gas and worked by a few more racers as we crested the first portion of the climb and then was probably sitting about 10 back now. I reeled in 1 guy on the flat, but got passed immediatly after by somebody that was on my wheel that I didn’t realize was there. We hit the last portion of hill before the finish and I reeled him back in and shot past another that was fading quick. My legs were not done yet and I stayed on the gas as there were 1 or 2 more in range, but I ran out of road as we hit the finish line.

I ended up crossing the finish in 8th place out of 52 in the field.

Summary

This was my best road race finish yet and I feel like I am starting a get a lot more comfortable riding in the packs. I still could have put myself in a better position as we approached that final turn to the climb, but I did a better job this time around vs the previous race. I should have jumped a little sooner and might have been able to get to the front before the front guys really started pulling away. I felt like I was still pulling strong all the way through the finish line and could have went for another lap.

I have some work to do in figuring out how to hold my place in line without getting pushed out in the wind and sucked back, but I’m getting better. I’m also getting better at being able to read what’s going on around me in the pack, so I can better react or plan my next move.

I don’t think there are any road races in the next couple of months that I can make it too, but I am looking at a few in July. I enjoyed the Ken Woods Memorial race as I think I am just getting more comfortable with the wheel to wheel riding. Anyways, at this point… I plan to keep some road racing in the schedule, so look for a couple more to come later in the year.

Reference Links

Results

USA Cycling

Minnesota Cycling Federation

County Cycles

Urland Lutheran Church – Thanks to these folks for opening up their property for parking and hosting the race.

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THK Road Race Recap

thk road race

Well… I decided I would like to try road racing again. Not that I was ever into road racing seriously in the past, but I did try a few road races 2 years ago, along with a few crits and time trials. The THK road race in Avon, MN was the first road race I did 2 years ago after a couple of crits. I thought it was a good event and decided to give it another shot. I’m in the Cat 5 group and even though I road ride often, I have a lot to learn about the game of road racing.

THK Road Race Course

thk road race

The rollout started a few miles before the start/finish line, so we did close to 4 and a half laps. The start finish/line was at the top of a hill where the “F” is at in the map above.

Lap 1

thk road race

I just sat in the pack and got used to riding wheel to wheel again. I noticed about halfway around the first lap that my water bottle cage was rattling back and forth to the point that I was afraid it was going to come loose. I think it was toward the end of the first lap that I ended up stuffing the water bottle into my back jersey pocket in an effort to avoid loosing it and my cage.

Lap 2

thk road race

I sat in the pack for most of the lap, but did move toward the front as we approached the lap/finish line climb. I wanted to test myself or get an idea of where I stood with the other guys in preperation for the climb on the finish lap. I started about mid pack and then pulled myself up toward the front few guys and crested the climb with the leaders. I felt ok going up, but had this feeling that the other few guys up front had a bit more left in the legs going up than what I did. I let that get to me a little bit and my confidence dropped as I was thinking about how I would approach it on the finish line.

My legs felt a little heavy and I think it had to do with the fact that I never did any warm up, other than about a quarter mile of easy spinning before the race start. Other than the hill climb, I really hadn’t gotten the blood flowing well for a long enough period yet. I find that a good short, but steady threshold effort of a couple minutes really primes my system and I never got there.

Lap 3

thk road race

The first guy that made it over the crest of the hill took off in a break. 2 or 3 of us chased him down fairly quick and were followed by the rest of the pack. My legs were still feeling heavy after that and I settled back into the pack. The rest of the lap was not that eventful, but the pace did pick up a little bit. When I looked back at the data file after the race, I see that lap 3 was actually the fastest lap with an average speed of 24.7 mph. The previous laps were closer to 23 mph.

Lap 4

thk road race

You could tell as we started lap 4 that folks were a little more on their toes. Racers were a little more aggressive about jockeying for a good spot in the pack and not getting sucked toward the back. Based on the speeds that we were doing in a pack, I felt it was fairly unlikely at this point that somebody would be able to make a successful break for it without getting chased down. I sat in for most of the lap and tried not to get sucked backwards too much as folks were pushing toward the front.

When we made the final turn to start up the hills to the finish, I found myself about mid pack I think, with not really a lot of room to work forward. I certainly could have set myself up better coming into this final turn. We crested the first part of the hill, which is pretty mild, at a fast pace. This made it a little tougher to push forward. When we hit the bottom of the bigger climb, I found a hole to make a break toward the front, but at this point the lead folks were starting to stretch out a bit and there was definitely too much ground for me to make up.

I did get by quite a few folks, but then couldn’t maintain that effort and ended up getting passed back up by half of them that I had worked by. I remember 1 guy pulling along side that was gaining some advantage with each pedal stroke. I thought I was going to lose him, but I found a little bit left in the tank to inch back by him at the finish line.

I ended up finishing 19th overall out of 55.

THK Road Race Closing Thoughts

I wasn’t real happy with my 19th place finish, but I was definitely sitting way better off than I was 2 years ago in my first THK road race. 2 years ago when I did this race, I actually got dropped and spit out the back of the pack on the lap 2 climb and never caught back on. I definitely climbed stronger this time, but I still have some work to do.

I failed to put myself in a good position coming into the last stretch to the finish, but I doubt I had the legs to hang with the podium guys. I left myself in a situtuation having to scramble and put in a hard effort at the last minute, that I couldn’t maintain all the way up the climb. I should have been more aggressive a couple miles back to put myself in a better position and I think I would of had some better results.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like trying out the road racing again, but I actually really enjoyed it this time around. I approached it more as a learning experience and group ride than anything else and tried not to take it too serious. There really is a lot to learn with it and I’m looking forward to doing some more road races.

Links

THK Road Race Results

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906 Polar Roll Fat Bike Race Report

polar roll

All signs were pointing to a hike a bike event with the warm temps coming in, but the trails held up amazingly well and the 2017 906 Polar Roll was a great event. I know there was a ton of effort put into prepping the trails and creating a solid base that would hold up to the 40 degree temps the day before the race and on race day itself. Huge thanks to all the event staff and the trail crew for making this a really awesome event.

Some Highlights of My Polar Roll Race

  • Went out a little too conservative from the start line and up Hill Street and could have entered the singletrack in a better postion
  • Over the handlebars twice in the first couple miles, falling further back in line
  • Became a total chicken shit on the downhills and fast sections after my crashes
  • Climbed really well and made up a lot of places on the climbs
  • 28 tooth front X 36 tooth rear cog was plenty for most of the climbs and a 30 tooth front ring may have been the ticket with my 1 X 10 set up
  • 28 tooth front ring X 11 tooth rear cog was not enough gear for the finish line
  • Felt suprisingly good during and after the race for having been sick the previous few weeks with very minimal riding

Heart Rate

Avg:  167 bpm          Max:  186 bpm

Speed

Avg:  9.52 mph          Max:  21.6 mph

Temperatures

Min:  34 F         Avg:  37 F          Finish:  43 F

Polar Roll Course Layout

polar roll

The race started and finished from downtown Ishpeming to make a single full loop course of around 21 miles for the long race. The big climb up Hill street at the start of the race was a great way to start thinning out the traffic a little before hitting the singletrack.

Distance – 21 miles according to Training Peaks and Strava.

Elevation Gain – 1,710 ft according to Training Peaks and 2,278 ft according to Strava.

The Polar Roll Rollout

Hill Street Trails of The Polar Roll

polar roll

I rolled out on the conservative side as I had been sick for a couple weeks and hadn’t raised my heart rate for awhile, until just a couple days before the race with a few short intervals on my trainer. I write about this often, but I tend to go out a little harder than what I should, just to see where I stand. Since I had been sick the previous few weeks and not even finished with my antibiotics, I figured it was best to ease into things.

Hill Street actually went by fast and when we did hit the trails, I was wishing that I had pushed it harder up the hill as I was stacked up at the end of a line as we started to ascend the singletrack. There were folks behind me as well. I try to give myself some space in the singletrack and hate riding somebody’s wheel. I find it to be a bit of a balance, because it seems like if you are not right on the wheel of the person in front of you, then the folks behind you assume you are falling off and want to get around you, even though you are just giving yourself some space. When we’re all stacked up like that, you have no escape when the person in front of you has to bail on a climb and then there is a domino effect. At least if I have a bike length in front of me, I have an extra second or so before coming up on them and have a better chance of staying on my bike in the process.

We were less than 2 miles in and the trails were packed well, but we did hit a few glazed over slick spots and the rider in front of me slid out and went down. I made it around, but then lost my front end around the next corner and went over the handlebars myself. I must have gotten passed by at least 10 riders here as I had to wait for a clear spot to jump back in line.

I crashed again less than a half mile later, but was able to get back on before the next line of riders came through. Now I was becoming more than cautious on the dowhills. The trails were in amazing condition for the weather that had hit, but there were those few glossy spots. Not icey, just a light glaze in a few spots.

I finally caught back up to the line of riders that had passed me on the first crash as we were coming to a steep climb and everybody started bailing. It was steep and I think I might have been able to make it, but the bailing tuned into a domino effect as we started to stack up. About half way up the hill, everybody was cleared off the main trail and walking the edge. There was a very short section that slightly leveled out just enough for me to jump back on my bike and I pedaled the rest of the way up the hill. That quick decision was huge as I was able to get back around most of the folks that had passed me when I crashed earlier. I now had some clean riding in front of me with a few folks on my tail.

I was feeling really good, but playing it safe on the downhills or faster sections of trail. I had another time that I thought for sure I was going down and can’t believe I saved it. The front end slid out on me… I went back and forth a couple times and was able to pull it together and stay up.

In general, I was feeling good and was climbing really well. It seemed like each really tough hill climb, I would pick off another rider that had to bail while I was able to stay up. There were a few folks right behind me and making the climbs also, but it seemed like I would get a gap on the climbs and then they would catch me again on the downhills.

I knew we were getting close to the end of the hill street trails and we eventually dumped out on some snowmobile type trail before hitting the road crossing. There were some cars coming and road rules applied, so I had stop and wait for a car to pass before crossing and then I was on way into the SBT loop with a few riders on my tail.

SBT Trails of The Polar Roll

polar roll

I don’t know exactly what to think of how I was rolling through the SBT loop, but again I was still feeling good with my climbing and the flats, but being conservative on anything tight. We entered some tight singletrack where I made up another spot on a hill and started to create a gap behind me. This was in a section of trail split off from the short course and was really tight.

The trail conditions were amazing, relative to knowing that the entire short course race had already came through. I made good time on the north side of the SBT loop, but noticed another rider making a good push behind me and was creaping up. I was feeling comfortable, but could start to sense a bit of fatigue building up in the legs. Not a ton, but it was there. There was a long flatter section of trail that led into Negaunee where I dropped down the flight of stairs and then started heading back toward Ishpeming on the south side of the SBT loop.

Time was going by fast, but I thought I had more distance to cover and I actually dialed back my pace a little bit thinking I needed to conserve a bit of energy. I slipped my rear tire on a short little uphill and had to step off and let a couple riders by that had been making ground on me. I got back on quickly and caught back onto their wheel and then eventually got back around 1 of them and then sat on the wheel of the next one. I was still thinking we had some more mileage, so I was riding a little conservative.

Then, we dumped out of the trails and were hitting the snowmobile trail and I knew we were headed for the finish. I think there were 4 of us that hit the trail together and I was 3rd in line. I stepped out and made a pass to the front, not knowing exactly how much further we had to go, but also knowing I would likely run out of gears once we hit the pavement.

The others stayed on my wheel and I wasn’t able to make up any ground and then 1 or 2 of them came back around me near the end of the snowmobile trail or as we hit the pavement. I can’t remember exactly, but when we hit the pavement, the first 2 dropped me like a bad habit and were gone. I was out of gears and the third rider came around and pulled away from me also. I’d like to think it was because I ran out of gears, but they likely just had more legs left in them than I.

I ended up finishing in 30th place with a time of 2 hours, 12 minutes and 45 seconds.

polar roll

2017 Polar Roll Race Summary

I had to head out of town right after the race and missed the after party, but I did stop into Irontown Pasties to grab one of their bacon cheeserburger pasty for the road. They were actually at the finish line of the Marji Gesick and I remembered how good that pasty tasted after a bike race and couldn’t resist.

As far as the race goes… Marquette County never disappoints and this year’s Polar Roll was awesome! I am still amazed at how well the trails held up to the warm weather and I really enjoyed the course layout. It was definitely a much shorter race than last year, but I enjoyed it and felt really good after the race. In fact, I probably felt better than I have felt in a few weeks and kind of felt like riding some more. I think it was the bright sun and the fact that I was able to get out on my bike and didn’t cough up a lung in the process.

This was only my 3rd ride on snow this whole season and likely the same situation for many of the other racers, given this year’s weather. The last time I rode my fat bike on snow was on New Years eve, when I was checking out the trails in Ishpeming. Based on the weather we continue to have, it’s likely that I won’t hit snow again until next winter.

Links

906 Adventure Team

R.A.M.B.A. (Range Area Mountain Bike Association)

Irontown Pasties

Follow Steve / Endurance Path on Facebook

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Freezer Burn Fat Bike Race Report

freezer burn fat bike race

The Freezer Burn Fat Bike Race was a small low key race that turned out to be a fun little event. The race fields were small and included a mix of folks from all race and ride experience levels. The Freezer Burn is also part of a 2 race series that includes the Fat Bike Vasaloppet in Mora, MN a month from now, also known as the Fat Vasa.

Freezer Burn Fat Bike Race Course Layout

freezer bern fat bike race

The course was laid out quite nice with plenty of space to pass, while still including some tight single track with a few narrow bridges. It was a 5 mile loop with the short race doing 1 lap, the middle race doing 2 laps and the long race doing 3 laps. The start of the loop included a section on the lake wide enough for passing. The rest of the course wove through the park on the same wide path from the lake with sections of tight singletrack mixed in.

The snow conditions were a mix of hard packed to a few soft spots, particulary one on the lake that forced me off my bike on the 2nd and 3rd lap. But, it’s not a fat bike race without getting your boots in the snow anyways. It was a great course layout and the crew did a good job getting it prepped after all the fresh snow that came down earlier in the week.

Freezer Burn Lap 1

freezer burn fat bike race

I started about 3 rows back, so probably near the back. I thought there were about 15 to 20 of us and the results show 19 racers in the 3 lap race. We started out with a drop down onto the ice through some soft stuff that forced a few feet to the ground. I actually can’t remember if I had to touch down or not, but I think I stayed on the pedals. The pace wasn’t crazy on the lake, but it was fast enough for a pack of folks to get away with a few individuals chasing each other off the front. This didn’t leave too many of us left off the back as we were in chase.

I managed to catch the back of the main pack near the end of the lake loop, but this pack started to split apart as we worked our way through the trails. My legs really started feeling heavy and fatigue seemed to be loading up quick. My quads were still worked over heavy from some workouts I had done the previous weekend for some training plans I am working on, so I didn’t think much of it.

I was riding chase in the early singletrack with a couple folks a short distance behind and a larger line of folks in front that was slowly thinning out. I have to admit as well, that I was really wobbly in the singletrack for some reason. I immediately felt like my tires were too hard also and probably should have let some air out. I believe I gave up a spot in traffic in a tight section where I slipped and had to pull off and let somebody by.

Then, on the 3rd bridge, I did exactly what Adam told us not to do, before he sent us off from the start line… and that was ride off the side of the bridge. It wasn’t too spectacular of a crash as I realized I couldn’t save it fairly early and had enough time to kind of catch myself going off the edge before completely going head over. I had to hike a bike across to the other side though and let a couple folks by before remounting again.

I thought I might have drifted fairly close to the back of the race group at this point, but I just kept with my same steady effort. I felt like I was comfortable, right up until I got close to threshold. Any riding I have been doing has been at an endurance or tempo pace and I haven’t spent barely anytime above threshold since before the Marji Gesick. I could tell I was lacking everything at the very top end. I also started to realize that maybe my seat was too low, but I was back out on the wider trail and headed for the end of the lap and didn’t want to stop during the fast stuff.

Freezer Burn Lap 2

freezer burn fat bike race

I started my second lap by riding off the dock… How often can you ride off a dock without getting wet. It was probably only about a 12 inch drop, but was fun anyways. I got back around another racer on the lake and then got caught up bad in the soft stuff near the end of the lake loop and got passed again. I went ahead and adjusted my seat higher here as well. This made a big difference. I think my seat had sagged down on me. I noticed the tape that I have on my tube to mark my seat height was wrinkled up. Anyways, my legs felt a little better with the seat up higher.

At somepoint, early in the second lap or it might have been late in the first lap, I can’t remember. Anyways, I realized I hadn’t drank anything and then found my hydration pack with Carbo Rocket frozen up. Not a huge deal as I had drank some as I was waiting for the race to start. By this time, I knew I would be done racing in an hour and 30 minutes total. I tried a few times to reach back and shake it around, blowed in the tube, etc… but couldn’t get it to free up. I did have the pack and tube routed under my top layer and also had blown air back in it after my last drink at the start line, but it was still frozen.

The rest of the second lap was fairly uneventful. I think I was clear of traffic immediately in front or behind me most of the second lap. I could usually always see somebody, but we weren’t wheel to wheel. Again, I just kept my steady effort and never really went on the attack, nor did I ever really back off. I think I might have swapped a spot or 2 back in forth in traffic at some point during the lap.

Freezer Burn Lap 3

freezer burn fat bike race

The third lap was about the same as the second. I mostly was on my own, but could see folks in front or behind. I had made up a spot in traffic, but believe I lost one as well at some point. I could also start feeling the need for the water and maybe a little bit of fuel. I have found that I can usually get a hard workout done in an hour and half without fuel, as long as I have water.

I think I got passed by somebody about halfway through this third lap as they had a good push going for the final stretch and I just didn’t have the legs for an extra push at the end and mostly stayed with my existing steady pace.

Less than a mile from the finish, I was cruising through the wide path area and caught my front tire in a soft rut and had a pretty spectacular endo… or at least I thought it was. I did get to see my bike in the air above me, so I think that qualifies. It was a soft landing and I got back on the bike and kept going. Again, I think I had my tires a little too hard and probably should have floated over some of that soft stuff a little better vs getting caught up in it.

I did give a little extra effort on the last couple of hills as I was bringing it into the finish line and ended up finishing 13th in 1 hr, 34 minutes and 17 seconds.

Freezer Burn Fat Bike Race Final Thoughts

freezer burn fat bike race

I did enjoy this race and it was nice to get out to a low key event like this in January that I could race, but not feel like I needed to plan or prep for. I signed up for it just a few days ahead of time and headed over to the race about like I would for any general trail ride. I didn’t do any events like this last year and I think you’ll see me hitting up a couple more low key events like this or different races throughout the year to mix things up, keep me on my toes and sort stuff out before my target events arrive.

I was winded at the finish line for a couple minutes from the very final push. If I am going to race all year, I may start including at least one short high intensity workout during the week, even in the off season or base periods. With how popular fat bike racing is becoming and how much fun it can be, it is starting to get a little blurry as to which time of the year the off season actually is.

As I mentioned above, the Freezer Burn is part of a 2 race series that includes the Fat Vasa in Mora, Minnesota and I may end up going up to that race if I can work it out. In the mean time, I am keeping an eye on various events and will jump into some randomly if I can work them into my schedule. Otherwise, I have no races on my schedule until the Polar Roll.

Freezer Burn Fat Bike Race Links

Freezer Burn Fat Bike Race Facebook Page

2017 Freezer Burn Fat Bike Race Results

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2016 Race Highlights & Lessons

race highlights

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

Cuyuna Whiteout

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.

Mohican 100

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.

race highlights

Lessons

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.

Race Nutrition

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.

Upper Body

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.

Race Report Links

Cuyuna Whiteout

Frozen Forty

906 Polar Roll

Fat Bike Birkie

True Grit Epic

Mohican 100

Ore To Shore

Marji Gesick 100