What bike did you ride?
Same as last week but I removed the 11t cog and added a 34t since I was worried about the climbs – Currahee was hard in 26/30 so I wanted to make sure I was ok for the significantly more climbing at Southern Cross. I think I had too much fork pressure too, I added some Thursday night and took it too 85psi but I think that’s too much. I’ve been riding at 70 for months.
36/26 & 12-34. I was geared perfect for the climbs. Felt amazing and had a great range of gearing for the varied terrain and grade. However, I was actually undergeared on the road sections and the descents. I know I said not to pedal the descents but man it was eye-opening seeing how much faster other riders were. My top gear was 75 inches and it just wasn’t very much. Got passed like I was standing still on the pavement. But the funny thing was that I caught and passed most of the riders that passed me on the descents later on the climbs and never saw them again. So I guess it worked out ok? I’d be happier with a 11-34 I think but that’s ok. I used my 26/34 a few times but I never needed it. Wouldn’t do this race without it though, my legs were exceptionally good this day and I could easily see a little worse prep or just a bad race being too hard for 26/30.
Still excellent but I think I had too much pressure. It was significantly warmer and I just wasn’t thinking and went with 31f/32r. Would have been better on 25f/27r I think. This might have caused my back issues. Otherwise good grip on the rocks, dirt and singletrack.
Same breakfast as last week – Mocha starbucks double shot and 5 sourdough pretzels at about 8am. I lounged until around 9:30 then ate a clif bar and rode around until right before the start. On course I ate a pack of gels about an hour in, then at the aid station I had two cups of coke and half a cup of peanut m&ms. Sometime in there I ate a clif bar too I think. 3 hours in I half a power bar and at 3:35 I had two more cups of coke. Ate the last half of the powerbar around 4:00 and that was it. I felt really good all race and I bet that was mostly due to caffeine timing. Need to keep up with this in the future.
Where’d you start?
In the back, like literally 3rd from the last person. Made no difference, I passed everyone I needed too and had a great race. Felt strong and mostly good all race and only got stuck behind slower riders on the single track but it didn’t matter as I blasted by them on the road later. It was like having a forced rest.
What was the course like?
Dry and mostly firm. The climbs are mostly dirt with some integral rocks and occasional loose dirt/gravel mix. Single track section was rooty but firm. Descents were often the same as the climbs but had more loose gravel in the turns and washboarding.
- Winding Stair Climb is long and has a few “wall” sections but this year it felt easier than ever before. Not easy really just not so “I’m going to die” as last year and the year before. I was never in danger of walking and passed a bunch of people. Had some fairly loose sections but overall was firm and rocky.
- Hawk Mountain my back was killing me here. I was trying to stretch and trying to ride smart with my front fork and body position but I was getting crushed. I was stretching all my lower body on the descents and finally I hit on my calves. I stretched them several times and it seemed to help. The second half I was finally able to put out some power. This climb is mild with some kickers but it’s also really scenic, the roads turn from red to grey, the forest becomes dense and lush and the road winds up and up right next to a bubbling, flowing creek. It’s really nice.
How’d you handle the descents?
Better than last year! Which, going from wide flat bars to low drop bars seems like it means I’m getting better. Really tried to trail brake and watch my body and respect the corner apex. It was a lot of work but my times were better and I felt better and more secure. A few sections were competitive and it felt so good to blast by other riders. I think wider would have helped here but maybe been more limiting on the climbs. I think my current 50-52mm tires are a good compromise.
How’d you do overall?
I had a ton of fun. Starting at the back makes me feel like badass since I end up passing pretty much 2/3 of the field. I mean really, I started at position 318 and ended up at 110. That’s a lot of passing and a lot of feeling pretty good. Not sure if that’s what “racing” is but it sure feels great! I guess that’s partici-racing. But man, I was standing and just flying up the climbs, comparatively. Of course looking at the segments and seeing what Lance Armstrong was getting done on his bike is mind-blowing. A rigid cross bike with what looks like 38-40mm tires and he’s not just crushing the climbs but also nailing the descents. Really illustrated how different the levels are and that being a world class cyclist is not just riding fast in a straight line.
Notes for future self?
- Lower back pain can be caused by tire pressure (both front and/or rear), fork pressure, hamstring tightness, calf tightness and saddle height. Experiment with everything! This race I managed to stretch my calves and it was bearable but I lost a lot of time before I figured it out.
- Dose caffeine over the race, 25mg every hour or so is better than 100mg right at the start.
- Eat conservatively, it is better to be hungry (all you have to do is eat something) than over-full ( you want to die and cannot digest anything). I spit out 75% of a mouthful of m&ms and although this seems minuscule I think this 150 calories was the difference between too much and just right.
- Undergeared is better than overgeared. Walking is death, better to sit in on a descent and climb like a rocket.
- Any time lost on singletrack can be made up on the road. Just relax and rest in line.
- Line up at the back (the “chill-zone”) and don’t stress.
- There are few things better than passing everyone on a climb while wearing cut-off shorts and a white t-shirt.
- Dress for the weather on the ground and pack for the elevation. It was warm enough to stand around in a t-shirt at the start so I packed only gloves and my 2.5 rain jacket. I didn’t wear either one since it was so warm on the ridge-line but 5-10 degrees less and I would have needed them.