Friday, October 9, 2009

Pinnacle Challenge 2009

The turnout was light for the double duathlon this year. There were only 20 solo entries, as opposed to 40 the last time I did it ('07), though there were only 23 solo entries last year in _much_ better weather conditions.

This day, the weather looked good, but it rained like a mother fucker the day before, so things promised to be wet, especially in the woods. The major mistake I made in setting up was _not_ considering the wet woods when prepping my MTB. I pumped the tires up for a dry course.

Other than that, I felt good. I knew I wasn't as fit as the last time I did it, but I had been running significantly more since then and was hoping that would translate into a better time: my goal - 2:25. My previous PR was 2:33, but that was with losing a good five minutes from an MTB flat tire, and trying to change a tubeless tire. (tubeless tires are almost impossible to remove, since the seal is achieved by a super tight fit. The only thing that enabled me to continue at all was knowing I would need a tube to fix it (and having one), since getting the tire bead to reseal on the trail is _not_ possible.)

I had big hopes to be able to run a 6:30 pace on the first leg, a road run. All my runs this year have been well under that. Since the 'road' run is really 4.8 miles (as noted here, though it's backwards from the race) a 6:30 pace would get me in the transition area in 31 minutes, and keep me in good contention.

The 'road' run starts out in a dirt parking lot, runs through a stand of trees, across a steep off-camber slope (freshly mowed wet grass, did I mention this is the road run?) then across an ATV bridge, through a lumpy field, then up a steep embankment onto a rail trail (this _is_ the road run, right?). That's the first 1/4 mile. We stay on the rail trail up until about the 2 mile point, where we finally turn onto a pave road. It's paved the rest of the way from here.

As soon as I hit the rail trail, I could hear myself breathing - raspy congestion. This ain't gonna be good. Checking my HRM, I settled into a pace where I could breathe well. I was hitting my target HR for this section, but was feeling slow. About halfway through, I realized I was feeling significant lactic acid buildup in my lower legs. This _sucks_! I've been running about 15 miles a week, entering races, done two duathlons this year, and had nothing like this happen this year. WTF!?!?!

Checking my watch as we got back towards the transition area, I realized I wasn't that far off my goal, but I was working way harder than I had planned. I was thinking a solid effort without red-lining would get me 31 minutes. Not red-lining was the important goal, and pushing as hard as I dared got me back in 32:19. It beat my previous best on the first leg by 20 seconds, but was still disappointing from my goal. I ranked 3rd in my age group for the 1st run (out of 7, yippie....)

Getting on the MTB, I was still recovering, and not well. My legs were still killing me, they wouldn't recover until half-way through the MTB leg. The MTB was supposed to be my best performance. I soon found out today wasn't going to cooperate. this MTB course uses a lot of the same sections that the Eastern FuckTard Association courses here use. It's steep, windy, rocky, rooty, single track (~ 500' of climbing in the first two miles). At first I couldn't figure out why I kept falling down. That is _not_ typical for me. One fall, maybe two, sure, because I'm of the school of thought that if you didn't fall, you haven't ridden hard enough, but I was dabbing and slipping all over the place. Near the top it dawned on me - too much tire pressure. That's how clouded my mind was from the run, It should have been obvious the first time I spun out on a set of roots. The first time it happened I was going up a section of double track where there just happened to be a photographer. I asked if I was the first one that fell and he replied only a couple of guys made it, and I made it further than most. Fuck it, too late now that all the steep up is done. Dropping tire pressure now wouldn't save me any time now and might cause a pinch flat since it was all downhill from here. As I was riding the only flat section on the top of the hill I finally started to feel good. I felt better and better all the way down, and even passed a few people. I blew by one guy on a downhill section of fire road like he was standing still. sweet! I passed as many people that passed me, and from my experience racing MTBs the guys passing me were all _good_. They obviously had experience - and full suspension....hmmmmm.

My MTB fork is in rough shape. It's a good fork, a rockshox SID dual air. But it's beat. The bike is an IF custom deluxe Ti. Damn good bike, worthy of a good fork. I noticed some wear on the right stanchion early this year. I haven't ridden it much, but the times I've ridden it I haven't noticed any problems - until the thursday before the pinnacle. I went out on a 'tune-up' ride and noticed the lock out wasn't working. Next thing I noticed was the fork was riding very hard. I almost got tossed in a couple of section that the bike should have glided over. After the ride, I saw that the travel was down to about 1 1/2 inches, and sticky. Even worse was that the anodization was worn completely off the right stanchion. This wasn't the reason that I kept falling going _up_ hill, but it certainly would have made the downhill stuff more comfortable. I didn't have time to change it before the race, and even if I did I wouldn't have had time to ride it. Not good to try a new fork the day of a race - go with what you know. I ended up with a PR for the MTB leg nonetheless, though it's tough to qualify that. The course changes from year to year, and the last time I did it I lost 5 minutes on the tire change. The first time I did it I got the 3rd fastest time _overall_, and it took be 5 minutes longer. Today I had the 3rd best time in my age group (again) and 7th best in the solos (out of 20). I'm thinking the right tire pressure would have saved me more than a couple of minutes.

OK, back into the transition are. Last year Solo commented on people congregating at the entrance. This year, not _too_ bad, but I started yelling "CLEAR OUT" as I was heading for the mtb to rb change, and still bumped one dude from a team who just got done with the MTB leg and was pretty toasted.

Hop on the road bike, time to eat. This is a fun balance - keep a steady, competitive pace while trying to eat a power bar. At least on the TT bike I can rest on the pads and have my hands kind of free. I kept a decent pace up to the hill (first six miles). One rider came by me pretty quickly - a team rider - and I paced him up to the bottom of the hill (no, I didn't draft). I paced him all the way up the hill but he drilled it over the top and I lost him. A rider on a nice pinarello road bike (sans aerobars) caught me right at the top. The hill climbs 300 feet in .8 miles (~7%), so it isn't trivial. Once I got to the top, I dropped right back into the bars and blasted my way down. I hit 38 mph at one point without pushing too hard and left the guy that just caught me behind. At the bottom of the hill there's a 90 degree left, but the road is wide, and there are marshals. I went way to the right and swooped into the left, downshifting to keep in the 'power band'.

If the road was flat, taking the corner pushing 30 mph wouldn't have been an issue. If I had gotten off the aerobars and rode the bull horns through the corner, taking the corner pushing 30 mph wouldn't have been an issue. But, staying in the aerobars and pushing 30 mph into the corner was an issue. Since my weight was forward on the bike, when I went over the crown of the road leaning the bike, the rear wheel unweighted and started to drift. In a effort to stop the drift I had to steer/lean the bike upright, which set me on a course directly for the trees. The brakes on my TT bike aren't on the aero bars, so now I'm careening toward the trees probably somewhere around 30 MPH, unable to move my hands to the brakes.

Nothing to do but hope.

I hit the shoulder, the front wheel digs in the soft ground, and I launch off into the woods. I hit a stand of saplings which acted sort of like a bungee net, and prevented me from hitting the 2 foot wide maple tree. My polar data - only able to record in 5 second intervals - shows me going from 29 mph to zero in one of those intervals. Laying in the bushes completely upside down, I did a quick check of my limbs, struggled back to my feet, and staggered to my bike. The marshal came running over to help, and after a few seconds of forcing my back to straighten out and checking out the bike, I said to her,"wow, I'll bet that was pretty spectacular", and started to push the bike to remount.

She said, "oh my god, are you ok?"
I replied, "well, there's only one way to find out" and rode off.

I had a trickle of blood from my right knee and a good sized knot popping up on my right shin. My left quad felt like I may have pulled it. I had a spot in the middle of my back that felt like I got hit with a baseball bat, but I was actually recovering, and picking up speed. My breathing was labored from the pain in my back. This section was about 3/4 of a mile up hill, but not a tough grade, so I could still make decent time and not push it aerobically. I could see the guy I passed on the downhill about 30 seconds ahead. I ended up passing someone just before the top of the next hill, but then the guy on the pinarello was out of sight. It's all downhill from here and I wasn't too confident of catching him. Back in the aero bars, heading downhill I got my speed back up to the low 30's and was gaining on someone else. I couldn't believe how fast I passed him, a quick check of my speed at that point shows me hitting 40. At the bottom of this hill, there is a sharp left followed buy a hairpin right. Yes, I learned my lesson. It's better to lug the gear out of the corner than to ride the aero bars through the corner. However, I could see the guy I had passed not to far in front of me as he exited out of the hairpin onto the main road. I caught him about a mile out of the transition area and he said "Damn, I can't believe you got up" as I went by.

So, even with the crash, I was the fastest in my age group, 2nd fastest of the solos. I beat the #2 in my age group by 2 minutes. To be fair, Solobreak won the age group bike 2 split last year, and bested #2 by 3 1/2 minutes.

Time for the trail run. I still felt good, but now I my mind was swirling about the possible effects of my flying wallendas audition. I concentrated on pace. The trail run uses some of the same single track trails that the MTB course uses, except that they use shortcuts - the stuff that's too steep for mortals to ride an MTB up, including things like this glacially deposited boulder:

(Yes, that's Our Solobreak in 2008)

Think of running up stairs for two miles. I was limping slightly from the minor quad pull, but not so much that it was slowing me down - my pace was being dictated by fatigue. I passed two people on the uphill. and thought I would end up running alone for the whole downhill section. I got passed on the downhill by three guys, all team runners. I could tell from how clean they were. This helped me set my pace better. Towards the bottom there is a steep drop off - same as on the mtb leg. I ran down this, and my left leg nearly buckled. I recovered, and was thankful I was near the end. The course ends up on a section of fire road, just before dropping down another small hill into the field for the flat finish. I kept checking behind me. I knew I had something left for a good finish if necessary, but really didn't want to use it if I didn't have to. The next person to finish after me came in over 4 minutes later.

Monday morning: I got no sleep because my left quad pull meant I couldn't shift my position in bed without extreme pain, and I couldn't lie on my back because of the bruise from hitting the trees. My right shoulder had some sort of deep bruise, I can't see it but I couldn't raise my elbow higher than my chest, and couldn't lift anything heavier than a coffee cup. Both lower legs were so sore that I had to walk up and down stairs flat footed, one at a time

As of now, my quad is better and the cuts and bruises on my legs are negligible. I still have a big bruise in the middle of my back which makes sitting for long periods uncomfortable, and I can run with only minor twinges in my calves. I have full range of motion in my shoulder but feel a sting when lifting anything of weight.

The finish? 3/7 in my age group, 6/20 of the solos. I missed 2nd in my age group by 4 1/2 minutes. I'm thinking with the MTB set up right, and not crashing the road bike, I might have been able to pull back 3 minutes.

Well, I have no target events for the rest of the year. I'll do some 'cross races, and I'm toying with the jamestown race this weekend since I'm going to newport ri for the long weekend as my 15th wedding anniversary. They may get closed out because of the bump from the verge races. As of now the 45+ already has 61 pre-reg. I don't want to pre-reg since I don't know if I'll be in any shape to race that morning, and quite frankly if I don't race it I won't lose any sleep. I won't be doing the verge races though, those people are too wound up.


solobreak said...

Crashing on the road bike portion, that's original. I wussed out because they've made the MTB portion to gnarly for me and my only go offroad about 3 times per year skills. It must have been a horror show in the wet. It's still a great event though.

Hey next weekend it looks like we might have a cookout at the track after the cx race. Me and Les are probably doing the fireman's 10k in Dorchester the next day. You should go.

zencycle said...

solobreak said...
"Crashing on the road bike portion, that's original."

Yeah, color me embarrassed.

I was planning on the velodrome CX (albeit blithely). I'll have to see about dorchester, depends on familial obligations.

Amanda said...

Ouch. but epic.
congrats on the anniversary this week.