Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Calvin Crest Crankfest

The final race of the 2015 Psycowpath series was this last Saturday at Calvin Crest. The trail out at Calvin Crest is one of the best in the area. With fast flowy downhill sections, a few short and steep climbs, and a couple longer (for Nebraska) more gradual climbs, the only thing the trail may be missing is some more technical sections that would challenge a rider's bike handling skills.

Coming into the race, I had already done the math and knew there was no way I'd be able to place in the top three for the overall point series. I think it was technically possible, but it would have meant me winning the race and guys like Rafal Doloto, Adam Stoll, Ryan Stengel, etc. not showing up at all or placing so poorly that they got minimal points. So, it was the definition of a long shot.

Coming off the Papillion and Bellevue crits a couple weeks prior, I knew I was on good form and racing a cross bike at Calvin Crest is much less of a disadvantage than at L&C so I had hopes of cracking the top three in my category for this race.

In the week before the race I was able to go ride the trail a couple times so could get re-familiarized with it and develop a plan for my race. One of these rides, I did with Tyler and a couple other Bike Way guys and saw just how much faster they were able to take the flowy single track than I was. Maybe I was wrong about the cross bike being less of a disadvantage. I decided after that ride that my best course of action would be to be a smooth as I could on the flowy stuff and then push the longer climbs pretty hard each lap. I knew this could be somewhat risky as I could end up blowing up, but I was depending on my current fitness level to support my plan.

I knew a big part of being successful with this kind of plan would be proper fueling. In my past marathon length races, I've felt my energy falling off a cliff by 3/4 of the of the way through the race. I'm pretty sure that was due to not eating enough earlier on. With lap time to be hovering close to 30 minutes per lap, I knew I needed to use the distance from the exit of the trail to the entry to eat around 100 or so calories each lap. I also knew I needed to drink an entire bottle of Skratch hydration for every two laps.

For food, I decided to make some sweet potato cakes from the Skratch Labs Feed Zone Portables Cookbook. Each little cake was supposed to be around 260 calories so I cut them all in half and wrapped them up, planning to eat one half each lap.

Remember above when I said I had hopes of cracking the top three places in my category? Well, as I lined up at the start, I looked over to my right and there's local MTB pro, Brad Auen next to me with a pink number plate indicating he was racing the marathon race instead of the cat 1 race like he normally does. Making third place was a big ask before, what with Jonathan Wait, Rafal, and Ryan Stengel there. But seeing Brad lined up pretty much guaranteed that top three would be a miraculous finish for me!

There had been over an inch of rainfall in Fremont two nights prior to the race, which made the trail a little slippery in spots for the first few laps. Roots would push your wheels sideways and you'd have to watch your front wheel around certain corners. I don't really do well in those kinds of conditions. I tend to ride overly cautious and because of that, the guys I wanted to try and stay with for a while got away pretty quickly.

I stuck behind a couple riders who I didn't recognize but were taking the corners at about my speed for the first section of the course. Once we hit the double track climb, I made my past one or two of them and led a few more around as well. I'm pretty sure the guys behind me ended up passing me at the two steep uphills towards the end of the lap since I didn't have the traction to make it up either during that lap.

I rode pretty much alone (though I think Tyler either caught up to me or was right behind me the entire way during that lap, the details are already fading for me) for the rest of that lap catching up to Adam Stoll at the top of the last climb. I stayed on Adam's wheel through the next lap watching him roll away from me when the trail pointed down and catching back up to him when the trail ascended again. I know for a fact, Tyler was behind us at this point, cause all three of us bobbled on the last steep pitch. I jogged my bike past Adam and jumped on to get riding a little bit faster before the final climb.

At this point, I was pretty much all alone fore the rest of the race. Every time I passed someone or got passed by someone, they were always racing different races than me. The only other marathoner I ran into was Emily Hoesly, but I didn't see her for too long since she, for some reason, decided to jump into the stream at the bottom of the course. I guess she was overheating or something.

I rode the rest of the race pretty strongly, I felt. I was sticking to my eating and drinking schedule strictly and it was working. I was able to power up the longer climbs each lap and stay pretty well focused during the flowy stuff. A couple of times I started to feel a bit tired, but it never lasted long. I just never fell off that energy cliff like I have in the past! Those sweet potato cakes really did the trick! They're not the easiest thing in the world to shovel into your mouth in the time it takes to get back to the start of the trail, but that was the only thing I didn't like about them. I was able to race the last lap like I was actually racing, rather than just surviving. That felt really good.

*nerd alert* Backing up my impressions of feeling strong throughout the whole race is the data. I'm a scientist. I prefer data over feelings if I can get it and as I look at my official lap times, I find that my fastest recorded lap time (the first lap wasn't recorded due to not going over the timing strip before entering the trail for the first time) was actually for my last lap. Bam! Also, my speed remained pretty consistent with the difference in time between my fastest lap (lap 8) and my slowest lap (lap 5) only being 1:19 or about 4%.

I ended up placing fifth and am totally happy with that considering the competition that was there. I was only 3 minutes behind Ryan Stengel in 4th place and a little over 9 minutes behind Rafal in 3rd place. Put me on a real mountain bike with, gasp, suspension and big tires and that gap will come down a lot, I think. Next year should be real fun!

Another fun thing about the day was that my wife and I were able to bring our daughter, Ainsley, with us for the race. She's old enough now that she can miss a nap and still function okay so we thought it would be a good time to bring her along. They have a great little playground at Calvin Crest and they opened up the pool too. It was a real treat to see her and Rachel cheering for me each lap and it even more fun to see Ainsley making all sorts of new friends with the other kids who were there. She had a blast!

Bike races will plum tucker you out!

In related news, the youth racing in Nebraska is getting really good. I think there were over 40 high school young men and women racing their first high school race of the season and some of them went ahead and raced again in the cat 3 race! Not to mention Abbey O'Brien winning the cat 2 women's race by over 21 minutes and Dillon McNeil winning the men's cat 2 race by almost a minutes and a half! These kids can't be any older than 15 maybe and they're putting the hurt on most adults. It's exciting watching their progression!

Next up is cross season! Our team, Omaha Velo, is throwing the first Omaha race of the season at Cunningham Lake on October 3rd and 4th. Finally, I get to use my bike for the real purpose for which it was designed again! lol