Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Lets Wrap It UP!!

Day 13, 21hr, 141 miles

I stopped early so I got up and going by 2:30am.  The riding in Colorado is mostly easy and fast and I was soon in Silverthorne/Frisco/ Breckenridge area.  As I worked my way thru civilization I stopped first at a convenience store for some quick resupply, then at a sporting goods store for some additional MSR Aquatabs, then for Ice Cream (Yum), one more convenience store and finally at the Subway leaving Breck. 
Needless to say I wasted some time but as most stops involved ‘some, but not too much’ calorie intake I was able to ride strong into the night. 
On the way up to Boreas Pass I met Beth Dunne, we rode together on and off into Hartsel where she stopped for a meal.  There were several bikepacking bikes outside the café but I pushed on solo as I had an extra Subway and the riding was good.  Later I saw Beth’s and Josh Daugherty’s light sail past my camp spot. In my mind this had been was my first good day sense back in Butte MT.

Day 14, 19hr, 154 miles

I slept in a bit and felt I had gotten enough recovery.  However six hours later I had only gone 40 miles and was feeling totally spent.  On the start of Marshall’s pass I was sitting in some shade, it was one of the few times I was truly hot, when Josh Daugherty rolled up stopped and asked if I was Marshal Bird.  This seemed a bit strange but Josh explained that he had seen my Spot on Trackleaders back in town earlier and knew my name. 
Thanks Josh for being just the right inspiration when I really needed it
Like a light switch I felt I raring to go and asked Josh if I could ride with him a bit.  He was nursing a sore leg so our paces matched for most of the day.  We soon caught up to Beth and three of us bounced back and forth for the rest of the day.  Later in the day we passed Lukas Aufschlager who was fighting a flat tire and from where he was I think also fighting some mosquitoes.  I worked hard to try to match Josh but he was stronger and finally I let him go.  I saw Beth again at the Storm Mtn CG block house—ha she had to let me use the ‘facilities’ before she could claim her enclosed bivy spot for the night.  I rolled a few more miles and spent one of my most enjoyable TDR nights under the ‘almost desert’ stars.  Later I would learn Josh was camped just a few miles behind me and Lukas had also stopped at Storm King CG.  I would see Josh the next day, after which he moved on ahead for good.  I would also see and ride with Beth (and later her husband Seb) several times over the next few days.  I would also see Lukas several more times.  I had gone thru a rough spot up on Marshall’s Pass but Josh’s good company had saved me and Beth’s example of “constant, steady pace” had re-sparked my desire to also stay strong.


Day 15, 16hr, 111 miles

It was up and going around 6am, twas a beautiful morning and I was looking forward to some resupply in Del Note.  It wasn’t long before Josh rolled up and we enjoyed some play racing thru the desert and sandy almost single track sections into Del Note. 
Josh was pushing hard, making up lost time from earlier in his TDR.  I tried to match his drive and intensity but it just wasn’t to be, he sailed away from me on the paved approach to Summitville pavement, a man with a mission. 
I kicked back and rode my own pace and while stopped for lunch Beth passed by.  It rained on us that day and like a idiot I just rode in it without covering up.  Hey it was warm at the time….. Later I had to dry out at the Platoro Lodge and had a big meal.   Josh was just leaving as I arrived and I wish I hadn’t let myself get so wet but had no choice but to dry out. 

Beth showed up a few minutes later and we shared a table for a meal.  Once again I was impressed how she handled herself.  The rain had been a bit of a shock after so many nice days and after some aborted attempts at finding a room for the night I watched as she sucked it up and made the decision to keep on pushing, rain or not.  I left about 30 minutes after Beth and several hours later in the dark, just about the time I was looking for a place to camp got a shout out from two campers.  All I could see were lights but then Beth called out as I rode by “Instead of a bear in the woods I found a husband in the woods” !!   Ha, Seb (Beth’s husband) who bty had been running top 4 into NM had had a mechanical and once repaired decided to tag along with his wife on to the finish at AW.   They apparently had met up in Del Note and Seb got his bike fixed in time to rejoin the trail right when Beth was in the area.  Anyway I rode on for a few miles and found the most cool circle of pine trees to camp in.  Was almost like being inside.  I could hear some animals hunting in the night, wolfs?  Maybe but for some reason felt quite safe and content in my circle of pine trees.  Not many miles today but just over 10,000 ft of climbing—not a bad day considering the rain and stupid but needed extended dry-out stop in Platoro.


Day 16, 17hr, 127 miles

I was up at 5am and packing my gear when Seb and Beth rolled by, I followed there tracks for the rest of the morning.  The day brought more rain and rather than fight mud I ducked into the empty Post Office building just outside of Vallecitos (ah Vallecitos, the town of nasty dogs—actually it’s the dogs horrible owners who are to blame…)  I took a short nap on the floor of the Post Ofice and headed out after the rain let up.  My timing was good and I was able to ride almost the entire section of dirt to over to El Rito. Only had to scrape mud and walk for a few 100 yards.  I did a quick resupply at the store in El Rito and then a full meal/resupply at Bode’s  in Abiquiu.  I was worried a bit about getting real rain in the night so I bought a plastic poncho with the thought I could use it as a make do tarp if needed.

It was about 8pm when I started the climb up into the Polvadera area.  I was looking forward to this next section as it was bypassed in 2010 due to fire.  Around 10pm as I came around a downhill corner at a modest speed my front tire slid out and I landed pretty hard on my broken ribs and rolled into a barbed wire fence.  This minor fall was the most painful yet, coming as it did on already sore ribs.  Up in till then I had been feeling good and planning to ride till 11:30 but now I just wanted the first camp spot I could find.  Turned out is was once again a beautiful picture perfect night under the stars, no make shift tarp needed.  I suspected Seb and Beth were camped somewhere near so I set my alarm a half hour sooner in the hopes I would have some company to ride with in the morning.


Day 17, 16hr, 144 miles

Just like the day before I was packing up when Seb and Beth rolled by (Beth is one of the most steady, consistent multi day racers I have seen) but this day I was only a few minutes back and soon joined them on the climb over to Cuba.  It was nice to have some company thru one of the more ‘real mountain bike riding’ sections of the TDR.  There was a literal TDR traffic jam at the McDonalds/convenience store in Cuba.  Myself, Beth, Seb, Greg and his NZ partner whose name I can’t remember just now and Ryan Correy.  Lukas was just behind us and 3 riders were 4 to 6 hours in front of this grouping of racers.  My racing instinct had kicked back in and with all these racers in sight and right at 500 miles left I was in the mood to go hard to the finish.  From Cuba to Grants is 120 miles of easy pavement and I initially planned to ride it out and get a late hotel room in Grants.  I think this was the same basic plan the whole little Cuba group had.   For me it didn’t work out that way, about 40 miles outside of grants the wind was now a real headwind and there was a wall of rain clouds 10 miles ahead.  I felt I was expending precious energy fighting the wind and had no desire to ride 10 to 15 dark miles in a rain squall.  This section is flat wind swept desert type terrain with no visible shelter for miles.  
At 9pm I made a racers call to save energy and went to ground (literally) for my shelter and an early stop.  Best strategic call I made during the entire race.


Day 18, 20hr, 213 miles

Up and going again by 2am I could tell I made the right call.  Well rested from my warm dry stealth camp followed by a calm/no wind, ride into Grants I was ahead of the game.  I saw Lukas at a convenience store and thought he would soon be riding with me.  But we would only see each other one last time in Pie town, me leaving and him just arriving.  After a fast stop for Pie and Ice Cream at Pie Town  I was back at it. 
The finish line was singing out to me and I was riding well, the knee and achilles issues long forgotten, I was once again a TDR racer if only relatively speaking a for a few more hours.  All was going perfect when it rained again, hard this time.  Just  as I was topping out the ridge before Beverhead Work Center I completely mudded up.  The sun was down, my wheels were clogged, the bike now weighed about 90 pounds, wheels jammed with mud  and it seemed I would be spending the night in an exposed meadow waiting for daylight and the mud to dry.  Not wanting to give up to soon I zoomed out on my GPS and saw a road intersection about 1 mile ahead.  Hoping it might be mode gravel than dirt I got out the chain brush ala mud scraper and went about cleaning my bike frame and tires for the next 10 minutes.  Once mostly clean I rode and walked the grass next to the road and carried the bike thru some puddles till I reached that intersection.  Sure enough it was ridable and I was back in business, what a morale booster, I simply flew the next 30 miles down to Beaverhead and camped up in the blockhouse, warm dry and very satisfied with my second longest mileage day of the TDR


Day 19, 24hr, 206 miles

Last day, just 200 miles to go.  As I was leaving, up the first hill Andy Laycock rode by.  I had seen im fly by me up a hill back on day 3 and was simply amazed that a rider so strong was near me with only 200 miles to go.  If Andy ever gets serious about the TDR he could contend for a top spot.  Anyway I made no attempt to match Andy’s hill climbing powers, knowing I would blow up on the very 1st one.  I simple started a long hot slog thru the Gila, knowing that Silver City and real food would be my interim reward.  

Now  I can’t quite remember where or when I figured out I could conceivably finish in under 20 days but I would occasionally think about it.  In passing Andy had mentioned under 19 days and for some reason I started counting my days again.  Math is never my strong point but is exceptionally difficult when stressed and tired.  But I finally remembered that you start counting at zero days, not at day 1.  The idea I could squeeze out a finish in just under 19 days gave me a bit extra motivation thru the next few hot hours.
The tiny bit of single track was a refreshing break and quite enjoyable during daylight hours and soon I was enjoying two McDonald’s Milk Shakes in Silver City.  Leaving Silver City I figured out that just like 2010 I would be asking my wife to meet me in AW’s in the dark.  I called her and tried to explain that I would ride a pace so she could arrive with the sun rise.  And basically that’s how I finished, riding a easy pace, with some extra stops so Sharon could meet me at sunrise in Antelope Wells New Mexico . 
Tired, mostly satisfied....
Finished at 18days and 22 hours.


Post Race: 

Sharon and I gave Andy a ride up to Albuquerque and enjoyed hearing about his TDR experiences.  He had a bit of a tough go with his race, mostly due to being rather new to the multi-day race experience.  If he ever comes back watch out as I would expect him to contend for a podium position.

Will I ever do the TDR again?  I get asked this and the answer is 'I hope so' but at my age I am not sure I have it in me to truly ‘race’ such a long event.  And if I am not racing it’s not that big of a deal to just ride it.  There are other, better routes to just ‘ride’.  On the other hand I would like to shoot for the 'over 60' age record..........

What would I do different?  Quite a bit actually.  I would run a 2X11 or 2x10 with front suspension and also a crank based power meter sensor.  Front suspension to allow me to maximize my modest downhill and technical skills along with smoothing out the bumps and reducing the cumulative fatigue.

2X11 to allow me to have both a top end and bottom end as needed.  I could cry thinking about how much time I lost due to my 32X11 set up.  I still cringe thinking about the miles and miles of flat or slightly downhill bumpy sections where my legs begged for a standing position to rest while pushing against some light resistance.

Power meter you ask?  Josh was running one and he explained it not only kept him pushing to his real/true capability but just as important let him rest and pace better in slow or windy sections, knowing he was outputting at his sustained limit.  I think a power meter on the TDR could be the most important piece of additional gear a top racer could use to maximize potential.  

I would carry a bit more food and skip some resupply stops.

And finally I would not eat so much trail mix.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Safe Harbors

Leaving Steamboat, new arm & leg coolers (Thanks for the pic John)
Day 12, 10 hr’s, 90 miles

Steamboat was my pre-planned bike maintenance stop so there was no reason to get up early.  I think I set my alarm for 7:30am but woke up well before it went off, I stayed in bed and ate the rest of my midnight snacks.  About 8:30am I rolled over to the bike shop, Orange Peel and waited for them to open.  There was one other racer also waiting.  My bike went up on a repair stand as soon as the doors opened and they got right to it.  I didn’t roll out till around 11:00am so it took about 2 hours for them to pull all the requested maintenance items.  I was not happy with the amount of time it took but this was 100% my fault for asking them to do some things that in retrospect were unnecessary time killers. Just like always the Orange Peel wrench's did a bang up job, my hats off to them!  But-note to self--regardless of where you decide to pull a bike maint pit stop only ask for truly needed, short duration repairs. On the other hand I did borrow a shop bike and rode it across town to another shop to purchase some leg coolers in anticipation of some hot NM days. 

It’s sort of interesting to look at the Trackleader Leaderboard Steamboat, shows me arriving in 20th place, I finished in 18th. Most of the racers who were in Steamboat just before or after I would see over the next few days and most would all finish near the same time. 
Close to AW, TDR 2010, John, Mathew & Mike

While my bike was being finished up John Foster stopped by and said hi, he introduced me to his son (upcoming bike & X Ski racer). 
John and had I crossed paths during the 2010 TDR  down in the NM Gila Mountains and wound up racing to AW on the last day. 
Saw John again later as I left town,he was on his road bike and we chatted up a storm till the route hit gravel.

As I said I didn't leave town till around 11 so I didn’t make it very far.  I was feeling good and planned to ride till 11:30 or so but from the Colorado River crossing to Williams Fork Res. the mosquitos were as bad as I have ever dealt with. I stopped in the block house at the reservoir to escape the little buggers and grab a bit to eat and decided to simply call it a day at 9pm, 90 miles.  Ha, by far my shortest time and distance for the entire route.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Do over

picture from Brush Mtn Lodge facebook account (ha Kirsten made me smile like that)

Day 11, 5:30am – 12:30pm, 19hrs, 135 miles

I would imagine that anyone reading this realizes I did finish. But that night drifting off to sleep in my seedy Wamsutter hotel room I was fully expecting to have to scratch when the alarm went off.  When I did wake up all the ice on both knees was melted to water in plastic bags and wet towels, but there was still a bit of ice under my achilles.  I gingerly rolled off the bed  and ‘tested’ the achilles for the prior nights grinding and clicking.  To my compete surprise there was no grind or pop or noticeable obstruction of any type whatsoever.  Everything, knees and achillies, ribs etc, was a bit sore but …..I was back in it.  A huge weight lifted and I absolutely knew in my heart that if I was careful and didn’t screw up, or have my bike break in half, I would see Antelope Wells.

Ha most of you are probably more than tired of reading about my downhill progression, me too but I am trying to reflect what I thought and felt and not sugar coat anything.  I will say that from here to the end mentally I was going uphill so each post should be in general a bit more positive.

I popped over to the truck stop and topped off my supplies and then headed south.  The immediate plan was to baby my achilles along the flat (and dusty from oil rig trucks) dirt road.  This was truly a nasty section of road with the large tanker type trucks rumbling by but I will say most of the drivers did slow just a bit and always gave plenty of room.  However there was no way short of completely stopping that they could keep from dusting me.  It wasn’t long before I had crossed highway 789 and left all the traffic behind.  It’s not just dusty traffic I had left behind, in many ways my race had restarted, my personal mid-race "do over".  It’s not easy to put into words how relaxed I was now verses how stressed I had been feeling the last 3 or 4 days. In many ways the ‘race’ was off my mind yet not really. Now I felt centered, balanced if you will and ready to get on with my TDR experience.

65 miles into my day, about 9 hours later I rolled into the little town of Savery.  I stopped at the little museum and asked if there was still a soda machine on the premises, instead I was offered some ice for the water bladder and as many frozen homemade cookies as I wanted.  I already had all the food I could possible need, especially with Brush Mtn Lodge just up the road, but I took some ice and a few cookies more to be polite than anything else, although the ice was nice as the day was just barely hot. About 2.5 hours later I reached Brush Mtn Lodge.  The post-race Trackeleaders Spot check shows it was just past 5:00pm and I had traveled about 90 miles at a 7.5mph pace.  At the time I knew I had reached the lodge way too early to stop for the day.  I also remember feeling very fresh and relaxed, I had paced myself all day at a low level and was feeling good. 

Kirsten offered up her usual racer support, encouraging words, hamburgers cooked to order, race gossip, a offer for a place to camp or get a room if needed and on and on.  If you want a real feel for just how big deal this mid race pit-stop at Kirsten’s lodge is I would invite you to go to her lodge’s facebook page  and simply click through all the 2015 TDR pictures.  It’s a great way to scope out TDR bike set ups if you are thinking of doing the race-- but what I would ask is you first focus on is the expression on each racers face.  YES, that’s right-- almost everyone has that huge oversized smile. 
ha--here is my usual rather wimpy 'big' smile
I am sure some of those smiles are because at this point you are just over ½ way done with what by now is turning into a truly ‘long’ race.  However the main part of each racer's smile is I think because stopping at Kristin’s lodge is a huge TDR Magic Moment. (see earlier post about TDR magic moments)  

I had my hamburger, declined to stay the night, listened politely to some unexpected and thoughtful advice on trailside first aid techniques for my ailing achilles and just relaxed for about an hour.  But it was simply too early to stop and I wanted to pass by DB’s last camp spot in daylight hours and say some sort of hi to his ever lingering presence. 

Later up the road, just before the pass I spooked a mama elk nursing her calf.  Bikes can be quiet and I was quite close, closer than I realized before she saw me. When mama did see me, in her haste to escape she knocked into her poor calf who took a comical tumble, and then confused baby was up and off like a flash to catch up to mama.    I reached the pass right at dark, popped on the helmet light, which had a known full charge for a change, and worked my way slowly down the notorious harsh decent.  Ah, how I was wishing for the comfort of a FS frame like the one Andres Bonelli was running.  A post-race Spot check shows he had crossed the same punishing section the morning of the day before, he was already 1.5 days further along at this point.  After the bumps it was long but easy cruising into Steamboat.  It had been a good day, the body held on quite nicely all day with only one ice pack used, back at Brush Mtn. 
Brush Mtn was just about the last time I felt the need to ice down 
The 135 miles at a 7mph overall pace was nice, in essence the whole day had been a rolling recovery day and I knew I was going to finish it with a long sleep in a hotel with one more ice down and lots to eat and drink.

So I rolled in to a 24 hour super convenience store at 12:30pm and finalized my plans for the night. Called and confirmed the hotel room, ate some food right on the spot and bought extra to eat in my room.  The basic reason to push on to Steamboat was to sleep warm and snug, recover some more, sleep till just before the bike shops opened and hit one 1st in line.  I wanted to set myself up for some better days going forward.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Days 9 & 10, Almost Match Point

Days 9 and 10, 4:30am to 9:30pm next day-41hrs, 272 miles

Note: I am treating day 9 & 10 as a single duration because even though I stopped twice neither pause was truly a full recovery stop.
The alarm went off with the usual shock and as I dressed and packed I analyzed the crash damage.  I felt ok as long as I didn’t breathe in to deeply or lift my left arm above a certain point.  Also I couldn’t ‘pull’ any bag straps with my left hand as this caused rather sharp pains in my chest. But I had a sense I would be ok to ride the typically non-technical TDR terrain without too much difficulty.  Once out the door and on my way it was once again a perfect day weather wise. Overall 2015 was ‘record setting’ conditions just about every day.  I was curious and looking forward to the new for 2015 section coming up.  This new section does have a short push-a-bike up a very steep bit of ATV trail (ha, you walk right where the mosquitos are thickest).  But once up high its truly one of the more scenic sections.  

One of the common questions any TDR racer is asked is some version of “WHY”.  Why do you do it, why do you like it, why do you want to go back etc etc.  Part of my answer both to myself and others is what I call ‘magic moments’.  A magic moment is when you are temporary lifted to a higher level.  It could be the rush from a fun & fast downhill section.  Or maybe the taste of a meal at the end of a long day.  I experience magic in some amount at least once every day on the TDR (ha, even the worst days at least once).  Many times it’s the sun rising or setting, coupled with a fantastic view out across wild terrain.  Such was the case around 7:30 am that morning.  I had left the nasty mosquitos and push-a-bike behind and traversed some ‘alpine high’ 2-track.  Ahh at about 9600 feet, with some warm sun and views to forever I was off to a great start for day 9.  For a just short time all the mental stress, minor aches and resupply concerns were put aside and once again the magic flowed.

I reached Pinedale about 3:15pm, resupplied on food and found a drug store for some more Aleve pills and my current favorite chamois cream (Lanacane anti-chafing gel).  By 6:15pm I was past the convenience store at Boulder (big ice cream sandwich) and headed into the big fast rollers with the Wind River Mtn Range to my left.  So far the day had flowed along quite nicely, in 2010 this area of the route was a highlight and for a few hours was enjoyable in 2015. 
funny but I think I felt like the driver about now
But as night approached things began to go south just a bit.  My left knee and achilles once again became almost unbearable but there was no easy location to soak in any flowing ice water. 
Oh, I forgot to mention in my day 8 post that back then I had finally discovered my handlebars had somehow become twisted about ¾ of an inch to the left.  I had ridden over 1000 miles in a non-symmetrical position. Needless to say I think this was a significant factor in over stressing my left knee. 

Anyway back to the evening of day 9. In retrospect at this point I should have found a good camp spot and got in a full nights recovery. However I had set a goal to pull a 160 mile day and reach the rest stop at Hwy 28.  The riding was easy, I still felt the need to push and despite the growing knee problem I pressed on.  Once at the rest stop I tucked into the handicap stall, bike and all and locked the door.  The plan was to sleep for 4 hours and be gone by 4:00am. 
Unfortunately I could not relax and sleep.  After 2 to 3 hours of non-sleep I packed up and moved on.  I discouragingly read all the ‘go JP’ signs painted along the shoulder of the highway and began to feel really sorry for myself, no painted signs of encouragement for poor ol me.  Two miles later just past the turn towards Atlantic City I stopped and had a bit of a break down.  Not knowing exactly why I found myself just sitting in the middle of the road, wondering what to do.  My mind was more than a bit foggy.  I remember thinking how I wanted to stop at Atlantic City for some food but would be well past there by the time the one restaurant possibility might open.  My knee was inflamed and slightly swollen and the rest of me also felt like crap, and why was I just sitting here?  This was so atypical.  Far away the sky was getting light, the sun coming up.  Then I had a mini revelation that went something like; Marshal you are such an idiot of course you feel like crap as you have not had any real sleep for almost 24 hours, just ride to Atlantic City, fine a spot and sleep till the café opens.  And just like, in a few seconds my mind cleared, my spirits lifted and I was on task.
Once at Atlantic City I saw I could lay out my bag inside the big Teepee.  I slept for about 2.5 hours and then got up and went into the now open café and got some hot breakfast.  Looking back I can see I should have slept for at least 4 hours but couldn’t see the logic at the time.

Leaving Atlantic City in the late morning the day was once again perfect and so was I, at least for a few hours.  A couple of hours later and I was soaking the knee in ice cold water at Diagnus Well.  
multiple uses for cold water
I didn’t need drinking water but that soak was the only thing that kept me going.  Feeling restored I pushed thur the new cutoff over the truly remote feeling backcountry trails. 
The wind was fighting me but I really enjoyed this new cutoff, my magic moment for day 10.  However when I reached the gravel road into Wamsutter I was once again mentally out of gas.  A quick Spot dot check shows that last 25 miles into Wamsutter took 2.5 hours or 10mph.  Not nearly as bad as it felt at the time but several racers had flown swiftly by depressing me to no end. And to top it off my digestive system was causing me all kinds of grief; guess it was not use to a real breakfast followed by massive amounts of trail mix.
It was about 9:30 pm when I reached the big Wamsutter truck stop and began my usual resupply routine.  However my first step away from the bike I felt the achillies begin to pop and grind.  Humm, that's a bad bad sign.  My first thought was, damm race over, no way I am making it to Antelope Wells with that level of injury.  After thinking about it for a few minutes I turned on the smartphone and called one of the possible 'pre-race researched' hotel rooms in town and yes, confirmed a room was available.  I loaded up with food and drink and plastic bags swinging from my bars rode to the room.  When I checked in I confirmed I could stay two nights if needed.  Wow was it a gunslingers worst nightmare of a room, trashed trashed trashed, but the door locked and it had a bed and bathroom. Plus I had a bag of ice and a rough plan.  I called my wife and told her to make plans to pick me up as I was sure my leg was done for.  I ate a meal, cleaned up and then lay on the bed with lots of ice tucked under my achillies and on top of both knees, ate and drank some more and slowly fell asleep, about 90% sure match point was at hand and my race was done. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Day 8, Minor Disaster

Day 8, Jackson Lake, before thing go wrong....

Day 8, 5:30am to 10:00pm, 142 miles

My TDR day 8 was a rather short day time wise and good miles overall, but ended rather badly.

The day started with a ride on the notorious rails-to trail section down to the Warm River campground.  Personally this section of trail is not a big deal, basically just standing and slowly riding thru continuous sandy woops. 

Along the way I saw a moose and  ran across fellow racer Rob Davidson.  I upped my pace bit to ride and chat with Rob for about 20 miles or so.  Once again it was difficult to deal with miss-matched gearing systems. I seem to remember Rob was running an internal 14 speed Rohloff hub.  Where he had the gearing range to cruise this slightly downhill section of trail I was stuck between spinning and standing and worked hard to keep his pace. However having someone to chat with was nice, but once we hit the pavement at the end of the rails to trails section I was spent and stopped trying to match Rob’s pace. (note: even with a wider range of gearing I would not have been able to hold Robs pace long term but the difference would probably have been much smaller, at least I like to think so….). 

To give you an idea of the ‘difference’ a review of our recoded Spot dots show that 50 miles later Rob had gained 1 hour.  After 95 miles Rob was 37 minutes ahead and he apparently reached the same Lava Mtn Lodge for the night 20 minutes ahead of me, interesting.

After I let Rob go I stopped at the Squirrel Creek Elk Ranch and snagged a coke and chatted with the owner.  In my 2010 TDR I had stopped at the Squirrel Creek Elk Ranch after a rather nasty spill back on the rails to trail section and they fixed me a hamburger and got me up and going again.  This year I sort of stopped just to remember and later it seems crashing was the theme for 2015.….  Any way back in 2010 the Squirrel Creek Elk Ranch knew about the TDR, but not much.  Now days a lot of racers stop there and they know all about the race.  Well the coke didn’t last long because one hour later, for the 1st ever time in my life, I literally fell asleep while riding. I woke up in the middle of the dirt road moving at a slow speed while tipping over and barely saved myself from a slow motion crash. (ha, the real crash would come later).  Time for a power nap!

I stopped and Flagg Ranch and bought a big ice cream sandwich and pre-charged battery back to try to recharge my helmet light.  Shortly after I stopped at the Colter Bay Convenience store and did the re-supply thing.  I also took the time to turn on my phone, call my wife, call and pay in advance for a room at the Lava Mtn Lodge (and arranged for a ‘after closing hours’ hamburger dinner to be waiting in said room).  I also noticed that Lael Wilcox was about 10 min ahead of me.  Later I would see her bike parked next to a lodge but didn’t actual see her.

I made a stop up at the Togwotee Lodge but quickly pressed on as I had a room and dinner waiting just over the pass.  It was just getting dark as I hit the dirt section just past Togwotee pass. 

At this point I was excited to soon finish up the day and reach my room (and that dinner).  I knew the lodge would be just closed by the time I arrived but because I had pre-arranged for the room and dinner to be waiting I really had no good reason to hurry.  But hurry I did, looking forward to ending my day in a warm room with a cooked meal just waiting.

I paid for this stupid hurry with a hard fast crash, I mean this was the full blown real deal, haven’t done one like that in years.  Ya I know, stupid stupid, riding with lights off to conserve helmet light battery life, rounding a downhill corner, barely seeing in the fading light a set of ruts, reaching up to flip the light on, hitting the ruts before getting fully re-centered and then hitting the dirt, hard.

In a flash I slammed down hard enough to knock my breath out and slide face first in the dirt.  Dazed and confused, like in an old school XC race, I jump up and start riding.  After a minute or two I slowly realize I somehow hurt but not sure how.  Not too much pain (yet), mostly a huge adrenalin rush.  Bike seems ok (later I saw a snapped velcro strap on my top tube bag).  Ribs and knee hurt some but hey I am up and moving so how bad can it be…... 

It’s now full dark and getting cold fast, now I don’t just 'want' but truly 'need' that hotel room.  About 25 minutes later, in said room, I struggle to take off my jersey.  Looking at myself in the bathroom mirror I see a strange thing--humm seems my chest is no longer symmetrical but is now literally pushed slightly off to one side.  Whoa, what the *&%#.  My chest is ‘bent’ and ‘off center’.  That was more than a little scary but I gently pushed on my rib cage and it all slid back into place and it stayed.  Well, now what?

My thinking at the time was I was next door to real help if things went south, not in too much pain, so let’s eat and sleep on it.  Let’s just wait and see how things look and feel in the morning. 

Long story short I think I cracked a rib, not to painful but it was noticeable the rest of the race. And it took several months of slowly healing to get back to 100%.  Post-race I now realize this crash had a much bigger impact on me than I realized at the time.  At the time it seemed to be mostly a minor annoyance that soon became mostly a background issue.

But hey, man oh man, was that hamburger dinner good, was even still a bit warm.  Real food followed by a hot shower and warm bed……..

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Day 7, slowly fading away....

2015 KTM Rally, Crested Butte CO, (group leader on this day was Mike Lafferty--you either know who he is or you don't.....)

Since I last posted I have wrapped up my 2015 racing efforts with a local mtb race (sandbagged a 1st place in the old man cat 3 class) and a 9hr/28 min Ring-the-Peak run.  I have also gained my usual layer of winter fat , have done miles and miles of this:
and am now ready for hibernation till 2016.

Anyway before I totally forget my 2105 TDR ....onwards....
Day 7, 4:30am to 12:00pm, 141 miles
Overall I didn’t get much sleep, on Trackleaders there is no 4 hour tent dot…..but I didn’t feel overly tired on the morning of my 7th day.  Maybe it was because I knew I would soon get some good resupply in Lima MT.  Also I knew the route between Lima and Island Park was basically flat.  Shortly after I got rolling, right on top the small 8000 ft pass, the one with the historical old Bannack Road sign I rode past Eddie Clark’s red truck.  He was still sleeping in the back so no photo op for this morning…..

After some pleasant early morning ‘cruising’ with a soft peddle stroke to save the knees I reached Lima at 9:30am.  I did some maintenance on bike and body and had one of my few sit down meals at Jan’s Café.  I ordered a big breakfast and asked for double order of bacon.  When my food arrived I realized an order for double bacon was way too much. I decided to have the leftovers wrapped up to go in some tinfoil.  I got on my way around 11:00am, a very time consuming stop but I probably needed it.

Now while riding my bike thru bear territory I wouldn’t normally pack a bunch of freshly fried bacon but the upcoming route wouldn’t be an issue and boy was that the best snacking, best for the entire TDR!!  I had bacon grease all over my face and hands as I poked along towards Island Park.  Soon after Lima Andres caught up to me, we had been in Lima at the same time but didn’t quite cross paths.  He was on a mission and after a few words was soon out of sight.  As he disappeared into the distance I really began to realize what a mistake it was to be running a 1X11 with a 32 tooth chainring.  Not that I could have hung with Andres’s pace but up till now it hadn’t truly set in just how much of a disadvantage I had put myself in with my gearing choice.  On the hills and climbs I was fine but on the flats or downhill sections I could only go fast if it was smooth enough to stay firmly seated and spin, and even then this took a bit extra focused energy to spin hard and fast.  Most of the route this combination of smooth + high energy wasn’t going to happen but on day 7 it was truly beginning to be noticed.

Shortly after Andres vanished my knees started to bother me (psychological? probably…).  The Achillies was also hurting and slowly getting worse.  Time for more ice therapy soaking in ditches and streams.  I would ride till I couldn’t stand it and then start watching for a good soaking spot.  I was now in a pattern, wake up, soft pedal for about 8 hours and then for the rest of the day stop every 2 to 3 hours for a 10-20 min ice water soak.  This probably cost me 1-2 hours of forward progress per day, say 10 to 20 miles but in retrospect allowed me to keep going.

Later in the day, while soaking away in a road side stream crossing it occurred to me that I needed to reach Island Park ‘before’ the store closed if I want to have an effective resupply for day 8.  Having done the TDR before I was pretty much winging my daily navigation and mile count.  So it took a while to figure out how may miles I had left to reach the store, how much time I had left till closing and what level of pace I would need to maintain to reach said store before closing.  Humm, seems I need to time trial the next 30 miles at my best pace and ‘maybe’ I can reach the store by 9:00pm.  And of course I did not know exactly when the store closed - 8, 9, 10 or something in between?  All I knew was I really needed to make it if I wanted a seamless resupply. Can you say adrenalin rush? At this point, after 7 days of hard effort, even a little uptick in adrenalin felt like a double red bull.  Game on…..

The next few hours flew by and luckily I walked into the store at 8:50pm and learned the store closed at 9:00pm.  Wow was I pleased with myself.  With only a few minutes to select my resupply, plus a ‘right now’ meal, plus a meal for ‘end of day’ I felt sort of dazed and confused.  I grabbed a hand basket and just walked up and down each aisle (this store is a small grocery store as well as ‘convenience’ store and has a bit of everything) I was basically tossing in this and that.  Right at 9:00 I place my overflowing basket on the checkout, not really sure what I had in it but knew it was more than enough.  I could hardly wait till I paid and got outside, I wanted to rip into ten different goodies drink or cram the contents into my mouth……
two plastic bags full of goodies on the seat to the right--and you may notice I started with some Aleve pills and a bottle of chocolate milk

While stuffing my face outside the store I watched at least 15 would be customers were turned away at the just locked doors, boy was I smug.  Also while I sat there eating a local police car pulled up next me, hum wonder were this is going… Turns out the officer had noticed I didn’t seem to have much light, I was using a miniature head lamp, and he asked if I would be ok riding in the dark.   I explained I had lots of riding lights and would soon be moving on down the trail—it was a nice polite way for him to investigate the dirty biker with food items spread all over a table under some trees.  Just as I was finishing up my meal and trying to figure out where to stuff all the now extra food I saw two bike lights approaching. It was Rob Davidson and I think Aaron Gardner.  What a downer to be caught like that, I had taken two hours when I could have easily taken just 30-40 min and accomplished the same thing.  Once again I was losing time and positions and didn’t like it but felt powerless to stop it.  Anyway they went off in search of food and I headed on down the trail looking for a likely camp spot.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Day 6, Splatter Day

I know I am taking a long time to get my write up done but frankly it torments a bit me each time I sit down and write about it.  I don’t like to think I may never do another TDR ..........


Fleecer Ridge, 2015

Day 6, 3:30am to 8:30pm to 1:30pm, 130 miles

Day 6 was an unusual day. Sort of like dropping a blob of paint on the sidewalk.  The results might be interesting to look at, perhaps even pretty, from one’s de-coupled inner artistic point of view but regardless of point of view in the end you wind up with a sticky mess that needs to be cleaned up……..

I had a nice warm, secure sleeping location but woke up before the alarm and rather than roll over and go back to sleep got up and was riding by 3:15 am……  The section from my camp down to I 15 brought back memories of my failed 2014 attempt.  Actually they were good memories as this section back in 2014 was one of the few enjoyable times I had and also in 2010 was one of my top ‘magic’ moments.

Side notes: For me a magic moment on the TDR is when it all comes together.  A writer like Jill Homer could describe what a TDR magic moment is, I won’t even try except to say pick the best segment of time you personally have had on a really long hard ride, IE: maybe your best ever and that was a magic moment.  Anyway, for me, at least once a day, sometimes many times a day, my mental state + surroundings = magic.  And it’s these special moments that makes fighting thru all the difficult times worth it.  Not everyone calls them magic moments but every TDR racer experiences this magic at some point, to some degree.  And if you have raced the TDR or read deeply about it then you understand, for most, TDR magic is special and leaves deep engrained impressions.

Well the day got off to a good start, the knees and Achilles were stiff and bothersome but it would be several hours before they would become more than a side issue.  I enjoyed the rising sun as I climbed towards Fleecer Ridge. 
I look so, so whatever--hey it was just the sun in my eyes...
Now to many Fleecer is sort of a check off spot, lots has been written about this rather minor section so its sort of on every racers radar.  Today would be my 3rd time up and down it. 
Fleecer, 2010
Once in fresh 1 ft deep snow with no rear brake, once right after sunset but still ridable with no lights and today, my day 6, it would be early in the morning.  Don’t ask me why but once I got into the last steep pitch to the top, even with gimpy knees, I wanted to see if I could do the climb without walking, ya I did it, but probably one of the dumber things I did that day—think paint splat…. And then I wanted to descend without a dab but missed it by 1, oh and the on-the-fly re-clip into my one sided pedal was rather exciting, more splatter…

After Fleecer my magic for the day was all used up. 
The pavement section from the base of Fleecer to High Country Lodge was slow going.  Resupply and a meal at Wise River followed by several knee soaks in the river combined with a lethargic pace had me rolling into the lodge around 3:30pm.  I splurged in time spent for a meal, shower and laundry pit stop.  The stop/service was great but I felt guilty for the time spent and the places lost. 

Clean kit and smile on the outside, but not really doing that well by this time....

Andres on his FS rocket
Shortly after I arrived Andres Bonelli rolled in with the same plan.  Later on he caught up to me and paced with me as we talked up a storm.  Andres was the first racer since Banff whom I rode with enough to exchange more than a word or two. That evening we stopped at dude ranch with the idea to rent a cabin and escape the abundant mosquitos.   No one seemed to be around but finally we found a Spanish speaking ranch hand who told Andres we could sleep in the ‘main’ house as the owners were not home.  After we got set up on the floor of said main house I couldn’t sleep.   It was too early and I was uncomfortable crashing out in someone’s home on just the ok of their ranch hand.  Anyway after a while I quietly packed up and rode up the road till the sleep monster poked up his head.  I found a wide spot on the side of the road and broke out the bivy.  Drifted off into a sound sleep laughing at myself for being more comfortable on the side of a dirt road vs the warm floor of an empty ranch house…So overall day 6 was an unusual mix of smooth and rough going, some fast yet slow, three long stops, some good stuff, some bad thoughts, a little focus and a lot of confusion ie: sort of a big weird splatter of a day...........

Bonus Section:

Andres was one of the few racers on a full suspension race bike.  As we went along we discussed bikes and also TDR racers and strategies.  Andres reminded me there are 4 types of endurance racers, types A, B, C and D. 

Type A is fast and can ride for extended hours on little sleep/recovery. 
Type B is fast but uses lots of recovery time. 
Type C is not so fast but like type A can go on and on with less recovery. 
Type D is pretty slow and yet still uses a lot of recovery time. 

Andres felt he was mostly a type B racer while I have always felt I fit into the C category. 
If you plan to race the TDR and classify yourself per these general categories it quickly follows what type training and strategy you should focus on. All racers need the basics—route knowledge, solid gear choices, fitness, hopefully some multi-day race experience, real or simulated.  But depending where one falls on the go-fast/go-long curve, each racer should train and strategize to optimize their individual strengths while seeking to minimize their weaknesses.

Type A, you need to of course ‘maintain’ your fitness, but optimize your gear and mostly study and more study for route resupply options.  And pick the historic winning time splits you plan to meet or exceed. 

Type B racer you need to do the same as the A’s but train yourself to minimize your recovery time.  IE: you really need to prepare yourself to suffer a bit more than you are currently comfortable with.  Basically work on your mental game and get comfortable with the idea that if you have the innate speed you can run with the A racers if you just ‘choose’ to.
Type C racer needs to emulate type A but at a somewhat lower level.  IE optimize what you have to work with in terms of raw speed. Some local XC mountain bike races might help shore up your speed deficit. And perhaps better overall fitness and maybe some technical skill/work may also raise up your weak area.  Also you need to be sure you are not carrying too much gear.  Even though you may be running mid pack speed wise your ability to go long/hard can really pay off in the TDR.

Type D need to execute all the above but first should get naked in the bathroom and take a long look in the mirror.  Jump on the scale.  I am guessing most type D racers are packing a bit of extra change in body weight.  Work to reach you’re idealized ‘race weight’, it’s worth the effort on so many levels.  Fit and trim and you will enjoy your TDR regardless of speed or finish time.  If you drop the weight, by default you are also getting TDR race fit--and if you also cover the other mentioned basics you will automatically move to a C or B type racer.

As mentioned Andres was rocking a FS rig (eight overall at 17:05:18—with good recovery intervals most of the way)  He said FS gave him both speed and comfort.  And ‘wow’ could he really roll the flats what with his gearing and fast spin style of pedaling!  No way the FS was slowing him down to any noticeable degree.  Anyway, at the minimum I now believe virtually any racer, A, B, C, or D would achieve a faster finish with front suspension. There is just so much of the TDR route that could be attacked with a front suspension bike vs just 'survived' with ridged fork. And while I personally do not think FS would lower ones finish time by much if anything neither do I think it would detract from one’s finish time, at least not by any noticeable amount.   In the end a FS rig does have some gear space limitations and does add extra complexity, but if one is inclined to go FS these are not deal breakers by any means. Don't feel obligated to follow the pack in terms of suspension--most of us are just copying what others do, with no deep experience to back up our bike choices.