2017 Dirty Spokes 3 hours of Fort Yargo Race Report

How was the race?

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Amazing. This is dumb but I’ve been watching MTB eliminator races on youtube and seeing expert riders and how they ride and race has really helped me internalize the body position and bike position for racing. Especially racing when it’s wet. I had a really good race, riding super fast with just enough water and food to make it to the end. It was also super helpful to just ride 2-3 minutes of the course as fast as possible to get my brain into racing mode. I came in a solid fourth, not sure I could have done much to improve. I didn’t crash and got a good starting position but I bet there I could have made up 2-3 minutes and moved to second with some more aggressive riding and a better nutrition strategy, I think clif bars take to long to get into my system.

How was the course?

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It had rained the day/night before and the drive to the venue was foggy and cool so I was a little apprehensive as the slant six tires on my bike aren’t really cut-out for mud. Thank fully Fort Yargo is well developed so it was only slick in a few sports while the rest of the course was actually pretty firm and tacky. It got better over the course of the race as it dried out and the looser, wetter top sections were burned away by riders. I did have a pretty surprising two wheel drift in the first five minutes or so, kept it level but spiked my heartrate pretty good. But really Fort Yargo is a great course, just enough elevation to keep it interesting, lost of twisty-turnys with good traction and a nice flat speedway section.

What did you ride?

2016 Raleigh Tekoa Comp. The bike was perfect, no complaints. It’s so fast. I had only the most minor back pain. Otherwise the bike fit exactly how I wanted, reach, position just felt like everything was set exactly perfect for this race.

Gearing?

Stock gearing, 36/22 in the front and 11-36 in the rear. I never shifted out of the big ring.

Tires?

Stock Kenda Slant Six 29×2.2 they handled the damp conditions really well.

What’d you eat?

Regular breakfast but 3 pretzels now instead of 4. Had the clif bar 30 minutes  before the start and then during the race I had one pack if shot blocks,  and one (two?) clif bar(s). This race is flatter with less roots and almost no rocks so there were a few eating sections. I do think I need a quicker digesting food for shorter races. Clif bars feel like they don’t start burning for 10-15 maybe 20 minutes and that’s too long in a race.

Hydration?

The cooler weather and lack of sun at the start saved me. I only took one big bottle and one baby bottle. 50 ounces or so of water. I had just enough to finish, like starting to panic and get dry mouth but still making good power.

How was the week leading up to the race?

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Tired. The season was getting long so I didn’t do too much. Went for a few hikes and was walking every day but my riding was pretty hard. Just worn down from racing I think. The week after Big Frog I could only muster two rides for like 4 hours. But I rode my monstercross bike once and then just on the race bike. I’ve been really working on technique and I think it shows. My pace this year in the damp was significantly faster than last year on the same course in the dry.

Where’d you start?


Third row, I went right to the start once the 6 hour racers left. I had a good position but lost a few spots on the pavement sprint but once on the singletrack I was in a good spot and had fast, competent racers right ahead of me that were taking good lines and were easy to follow.

How’d you do?

4/13, 1 minute out of 3rd, 3 minutes out of 2nd and 9 minutes out of 1st. So I was pretty happy with that result.

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Race Report – 2017 Big Frog 65

https://www.strava.com/activities/963340081

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How was the race?

Oof. Cohutta is always so hard. This course destroyed me. Legs were done, cramps, foot pain and just crushed. My upper body was also beat up. I fell off a cliff on a huge rock slab but even without that the descents down Big Frog are so fast and rough it’s like being in a blender. My chain snapped in the first singletrack section and I lost 7-8 minutes fixing it, probably 3-4 getting back up the cliff. So in short, it was hot and hard and expensive. I’m really glad I went.

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How was the course?

Ridiculous. You ever seen doubletrack that is 10-15 feet wide, flat and literally side-to-side roots? For several hundred yards? Some of the singletrack was amazing. Obviously there’s a lot of climbing a lot of descending and a lot of traffic. I got stuck behind two racers on the singletrack again but it didn’t matter really I guess. Still think with a little more smart racing I could have taken 15-20 minutes off my time. Following someone else on singletrack is always harder than just riding alone.

It was hot and the course is set-up so that you do the bulk of the climbing on the way back when it’s the hottest and hardest. I went out too hard on the gravel and paid later with blown legs. I think next year I’m just going to leave my big ring at home. Seriously it just kills your legs later. Better to sit in on the downhill. This course is also heavily favored for flat-bars. I lost a lot of time riding drop bars as the descents are technical and you need a lot of leverage to move laterally on the road at speed to avoid roots, rocks and ruts. Next year I’m just riding a mountain bike.

What did you ride?


Same bike but it really let me down with the broken chain and I think also the derailleur hanger is bent as I had chain skipping issues as well as shifting issues pretty much all day. It was also creaking up a storm on the singletrack, not sure if it was the saddle, seatpost clamp or BB but it was annoying and kinda embarrassing.

Gearing?

39/26 with 11-34 9 speed. It worked great. Never ran out of gears but really worked the 26/34. There weren’t any large/loose sections so I was worried for nothing.

Tires?

Continental Race King 2.2 in the rear and Michelin Wild Race’r 2.25 in the front. I actually really liked the Wild Race’r on the single track. The instant grip worked well. I was had a lot of negative things to say earlier but I think the tire is a good MTB tire.

What’d you eat and what’d you drink?

Same breakfast as always. During the race I drank as much water as I could stomach, a bunch of Heed from the aid stations as well as probably 20 ounces of coke, a handful of pretzel bites and four cliff bars. I need to take some mustard packets as I had severe cramps during the last two hours. I was never hungry but if there were less aid stations or they were more spread out I would have been in trouble as I had to stop and get water at each one. I only had 46 ounces of water on my bike. I’m not sure if I’d be faster carrying an additional 3-4 pounds of water but I bet I would be. I peed once at 7:50am and then not again until 6:00pm – it was really hot.

How was the week leading up to the race?’

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Lots of rest and walking/hiking. My legs felt great on Saturday. I hiked the hills everyday but Friday where I just walked the flat trails down by the Chattahoochee. I felt a lot better than at Shake ‘n’ Brake.

Where’d you start?

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Like 3/4 of the way back. It didn’t matter but it would have been nice to plan better and hit the singletrack alone or behind some male racers.

How’d you do?

Suffered some setbacks but managed to finish. I’m not sure 6+ hour races are for me. I hated everything after about hour 4 but was happy to finish and am really happy now and feel like I should do another one.

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Notes for the Big Frog 65

3 miles or so paved climb right at the start.

16 miles of single track on the way out

38.5 miles of gravel roads

10 miles of single track on the way back

2-3 miles of pavement to the finish

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BF is approximately 15 miles of trail at the beginning and end with a 30 mile hilly gravel grinder in the middle. I did it 2 years ago when the weather was perfect. Might try again this year.

2017 Shake ‘n’ Brake Race Report

https://www.strava.com/activities/953430681

How was the course?

I ride up a hill, I ride down a hill…wait a sec I’ve been here before! I always forget how much climbing there is here. It’s just a constant up and down. The course is exhausting, lots of small loose gravel with some very fast downhills. A few leg-breaking uphills that feature large and loose chunky gravel or bermy dirt. They’re short but steep. The first loop section of the course is a killer, this is where all the bumps and rocks and puddles are and it’s always hard and fast.

What did you ride?


Same ol’ Charge Cooker Hi 29er. Worked fine, I think I like it better as a flat-bar mountain bike but I dunno really.

Gearing?

39/26 with 11-34 9 speed. Some of the gravel was large and loose enough that I was really working the 26/34 – made me kind of nervous for the Big Frog 65 next week but we’ll see.

Tires?

Continental Race King 2.2 in the rear and a brand new WTB Nine Line 2.25 in the front. I changed the front tire the day before because I really don’t like the Wild Race’r’ that was on there. It was too aggressive and just not what I wanted. The Nine Line is really great, rolls fast and is slightly smaller and less aggressive – good gravel tire. I didn’t have any tire issues, especially because the course was entirely gravel or pavement, no singletrack this year.

What’d you eat?

Same breakfast, same clif bar half hour before the start and then only 2.5 clif bars during the ride. I though I didn’t bring enough food but the race was shorter than I expected so I was fine. I did have a whole bottle of Torq after the third aid station which was so great even if a weird flavor – strawberry/mint?

Hydration?

Fine, I had two bottles and stopped to refill at the first and third aid stations. Now the question is, did I lose more time (~1 minute) stopping to fill up versus just riding with a camelbak? The start of the race was very hot but by the halfway point clouds and a breeze had moved in so I was ok overall. Had it stayed sunny I think I would have been in a little trouble and need another bottle.

How was the week leading up to the race?

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Too much hiking. Like an idiot I hiked almost an hour and a half the day before the race. I felt ok just couldn’t sustain the knife-edge efforts like I usually can if really well rested. Note to self, walking the day before needs to be flat and easy. Not hiking downhill for 20-30 minutes! I also rode four days in a row from my last race – this is too much. Need to take the day after a race (or two) off and then pick up before the next race.

Where’d you start?

At the back with the old southern couple that rolled up in a golf cart with their dog to watch the start. It didn’t affect me at all but I got all caught up in the spirit of back of the pack racing and went out way too hard. Blew my legs for most of the climbs on the first loop.

How’d you do?

In the money! Which means 5/7 in the male open! Same as usual, fastest slow guy. Overall I felt like I had a good race but was just not as sharp as normal, kinda tired and felt like wearing a hat is making me overheat on the climbs. The first hard climb during the top loop was a killer, felt like I was on fire. What’s got me really interested is that I was a little slower on most of the gravel sections (too hot cuz hat) but way faster on the last paved section. Hmm.

 

2017 Blankets Creek Dirty 30 Race Report

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How was the course?

You know Blankets Creek. It’s steep and bermy and sandy and rocky and rooty with creek crossings and drop-ins and technical rock barriers and twisty-turny with pine straw and logs and narrows and even some flats. I’d say this course doesn’t suit my strengths but no shit it doesn’t suit anyone’s strengths. It’s just hard and fast and usually hot and sunny. All in all it’s pretty great, I always leave a little bit of myself in those woods.

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What did you ride?

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2016 Raleigh Tekoa Comp 29er stock except for the Crankbros Cobalt 2 720mm bars and Crankbros Cobalt 70mm stem. I like the bike a lot and it really handled the rocks and roots and elevation changes much better than the bike I rode last year but really this was only my fourth ride on the bike and I just haven’t ridden it enough to be really fast. I’m also just not as comfortable riding berms so I would bet I gave up anywhere from 3-7 minutes a lap just not being familiar with the bike and the berms. Oh well that’s what I get for not pre-riding the course, like ever.

Gearing?

Stock gearing, 36/22 in the front and 11-36 in the rear.

Tires?

Stock Kenda Slant Six. Worked ok but I just didn’t handle the berms very well as they are hard and packed and the tires want to self-steer at high speeds. This is obviously corrected by training and familiarity but I wasn’t ready for it so I lost a lot of speed on each berm fighting the unfamiliar sensation. The tires/rim combo did take some serious rim strikes with no issues. Last year I pinch flatted and this year I had similar strikes with no issue.

What’d you eat?

Regular breakfast but 4 pretzels now instead of 5. Had the clif bar 30 minutes (actually 45 due to delay) before the start and then during the race I had one clif bar, one gel and one clif bar. It was super hard to eat – I think liquid nutrition might be something to try next time.

Hydration?

Not enough. It was hard to drink from my bottles since there are only a few straight, flat sections without roots or rocks. I also spent an hour standing in the sun training for a new job from 9-10 so I kinda came in a little drier than I liked.

How was the week leading up to the race?

Good, I walked a lot and hiked the trails near my apartment. Stretched a bunch, tried to eat ok but mostly didn’t and played a lot of Metal Gear Solid 5. I feel like I’m getting stronger but worried about getting enough volume. The ride I did on Tuesday was an absolute soul crusher, I’ve rarely ridden so hard for so long at Sope. I was blown on Tuesday so just chilled and hiked the rest of the week. Warmed up for a bike on Saturday before the race and was fine. I think once I get my racing legs riding the day before a race is not strictly necessary.

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Where’d you start?

Like near the middle end, I didn’t do very well in the parking lot sprint.

How’d you do?

8 out of 21, better than last year! What’s funny is that for all the working and passing and getting passed I was the same place for both laps based on time. I spent the first lap and a half with anywhere from 3-6 riders trading places and following lines as the race was pretty packed. I did re-learn that aero is important even in mountain bike racing. On the mild downhills I would drop over my bars, tuck in and it was like hitting one of those yellow arrows in F-Zero – instant speed boost right to the rider ahead of me.

I knocked myself into solo riding after I biffed one of the rocky, rooty sections and had to unclip. I was the lead rider so it was pretty embarrassing but that’s fine. The three riders behind me took off and I was mostly solo from then on. I crashed again a little later on some roots as I just lost my brain for a bit. My left calf cramped like crazy but it ended up ok. Sometime after the first lap it was like my skin caught on fire. I was super-hot and felt like I ran out of oxygen and was just riding like shit. I think I blew-up the first lap and just didn’t realize it. The second lap was hard and I spent a lot of time in my baby ring just spinning up the climbs.

My back complained a little but I managed to stretch and keep it ok the whole time. Really by the end of the race my hands and shoulders were in way worse shape. Riding the whole of Blankets Creek is an intense full body experience.

 

Race Report – 2017 Skyway Epic 60

Strava

How was the course?

Oh man. Amazing. This is the premiere gravel race for the southeast (I know it’s really at MTB race but whatever). The course has everything. The beginning single track section is smooth and flowy with just enough rocks, roots and elevation to make it interesting. After that it’s well groomed forest service roads – gravel with some nice elevation – very fast. Hit Husky Mt Road/607 and the elevation really starts. This section had some very loose fresh gravel so climbing standing was very difficult and generally a waste of energy as my rear wheel kept slipping. Some very nice views and then I’m at the aid station. From here the Skyway starts and it is mind-blowing. Rocky, rutted and with sections of huge lane-wide mud puddles at the top. And the rocks, rocks are everywhere. Loose rocks, embedded rocks, rocks flying around from my tires. Tiny pea sized rocks to rocks the size of a car tire. The worst are the softball sized ones that pop up at the bottom of a deep rut. I’ve never seen anything like this road  – it was really cool.

I guess if I was going to sum it up, fast single track, fast gravel roads, super technical climbing rocky dirt road, super technical descending rocky dirt road, fast gravel, fast single track. It was a little wet as the area had 2-3 inches of rain in the span of a few hours 3 days before the ride but overall it was dry.

What did you ride?

Charge Cooker Hi 29er converted to 9 speed and drop bars. The bike was great but my seatpost slipped at somepoint descending the Skyway and I came back almost 1.5cm lower – it didn’t cause any problems I guess.

Tires?

I’m not happy with my current tire choice. Continental Race King 2.2 in the rear and Michelin Wild Race’r in the front. The rear is ok but a little too narrow for the rocks and the front is too aggressive under hard cornering. It’s a classic MTB tire in that it was designed for 17mm wide rims and when mounted on a wider rim and ridden aggressively tends to give moderate traction until the side knobs hit and then it’s instant grab that makes the front dive into a hard decreasing radius turn. Oh well the tires were fine, just not ideal. Next year I want to go tubeless with at least 2.3 width.

Gearing?

Worked so well I hardly thought about it. Ran the 26 ring exclusively on the single track and switched as needed on the gravel. 39/26 with 11-34 9 speed. Had more than enough gear for the climbing.

What’d you eat?

So much caffeine. In order:

  • chocolate brownie clif bar
  • 7.5 ounce coke at aid station
  • power bar
  • 2 fun size snickers at aid station
  • mint clif bar with caffeine
  • 7.5 ounce coke at aid station

I had a lot of caffeine but not enough food – could defnitely tell at the end as I was getting frustrated. I should have eaten another clif bar as I rode the entire singletrack (45 minutes) without eating. I didn’t have an appetite but I need to power through that and put something into my stomach.

How was the week leading up to the race?

Boring – but I’ve been having lower back issues so I’ve been aggressive resting, stretching and monitoring my back. It seemed to work ok. During the race whenever the course was clear and open I would stretch my calves, my shoulders and arms and move around a bit. My back was borderline hurting for the first half but after that it was fine. The last section of singletrack I had no pain. Part was probably the accidental lower saddle height and part was the stretching.

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Where’d you start?

I was really nervous about getting stuck behind someone on the single track as well as being the slow one in front of fast people on the single track since I was the only person on a drop-bar MTB. So I equivocated and just kind of fell in at the start – at the middle-end. This was a dumb choice as I got stuck behind two riders wearing peachtree bikes kit that lacked the technical skills to ride the single track at a fast speed. Braking for every corner, no flow, won’t pass etc. It sucked but I guess it was a good 20-25 minute warm-up. I blasted by them at the first dam, passed another rider and then I’m ok. The other people I passed during the race I would have passed no matter when I started, the people ahead of me I would never have caught. So I guess my start position didn’t really matter. I’m like the fastest slow guy or the slowest fast guy – always.

How’d you do?

Uh…like 5th or 6th open male, 10th or 11th overall? I think this is one of those races where if you didn’t come in top 3 you don’t really get a result. My time was 6:01 something, I was pretty happy. 7/11 open men, so not bad I guess.

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I did think this was interesting.

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Pre-Race Rituals

I have a really hard time doing things without a prior commitment. I’ve never successfully attended a race for which I was not already pre-registered. Most times I wouldn’t even leave my house. The days and weeks before I would tell myself I was doing it, go through my regular pre-race taper but then not go and feel like crap. Once I even went ahead and drove all the way to the race venue, saw the huge turnout and after sitting in my car mentally beating myself up I just went home.

There are a few things in my life like this – I really want to do them but it’s so easy to imagine negative outcomes or feel like the small inconveniences are so overwhelming that it’s best to avoid the whole thing and stay home.

Ugh.

So this year I’ve been making a concentrated effort to avoid falling into this trap. I pre-register, I mentally prepare myself to go and I’ve started a day before pre-race ritual that gets me excited to travel and race my bike. It’s so simple but it’s been working pretty great.

I go for a short ride, usually less than an hour – and I always feel like crap. My legs hurt, my position feels awful and I just have a bad time.

When I get home my mind is buzzing about how the race is going to suck and how I need 2.5mm less setback and maybe some saddle height adjustment but I clean up and shower and relax and then spend an hour or two cleaning my bike and sorting all my stuff for the race. I wipe down the frame, the tires, the wheels. Sometimes I clean the chain so it’s shiny. Boing my fork a couple times and wipe it down too.

Make sure not to remove the wheels as they’re set in relation to the brake pads and I don’t want any rubbing on race day – I’m still mostly racing on regular quick-release. No tools allowed for anything else, no messing with my stem or bars or seatpost or anything. The bike is ready to go and I leave it alone, just some cleaning. Maybe fiddle with tire pressure a bit too but that’s it.

I pack up all my stuff and put my bike rack on my car and then putter around my apartment until bedtime. My bike is nice and clean, the paint is shiny and it catches my eye as I wander back and forth to the kitchen for sourdough pretzels. I’m now pretty excited to race and I have no problem getting into my car in the morning and going wherever the race is. Weather, traffic and everything else that stands as a roadblock is just something I’m ready for now.

So I feel pretty good at how this is going, I’ve got a really solid month-and-a-half of racing coming up and this is going to be a big part of getting out there and having fun.