Monday, August 13, 2007

Darkhorse 40

The Darkhorse 40 consists of two 20mile laps in southern New York state right adjacent to the Stewart Airport. Great trails. Somewhat flat (relative to PA standards) with some very short, steep climbs. Terrain like this dictates super fast speeds. Its a great course and the promotors do a wonderful job of making everyone have a great time and also give back a lot to the participants and volunteers. Wish all races were organized like this one was. True grassroots racing at its finest.

In the end, my legs were still feeling the effects from the Wilderness 101 only 7 days prior. Am I expected to be 100% after a hard 100miler in about a week? I thought I could be. Perhaps my expectations are too high? Either way my performance was still really good. Read on....

So, in a nutshell..... take the 101 with its extremely steep climbs, rugged terrain, high heat and humidity. Add in a great personal performance. Multiply that with what seemed to be adequate rest in the 7 days between the 101 and 40. Divide out a recovery road ride and a medocre mtb ride mid-week. Then add in super high cadence and going as hard as one possibly can for 40miles in around 3hours. Take the square root of a(nother) stomach ache and severe leg cramps in the last 15miles and you've got yourself my take on the Darkhorse 40.

The low-down:

I knew something was amiss when I woke up at 5am and had great difficulty getting out of bed. I old myself its the same as a powder day in the winter. That kind of helped. Then whilst driving west to NY I had trouble getting my oatmeal down. Even over 3hrs before race start.

Got to the race nice and early (7:15am). I was thinking about registering Expert 19-29 on my SS but choose the Expert SS class instead. Say hello to a few people. Then roll back to my car. Got word TimmyD would not be making it to the race. That was disheartening but sometimes you've got to play it safe with regards to larger objectives. Temperature felt good. Upper 70s around 8am. Not much humidity. I was still tired so I decided on a nap for 20/30mins. (Here's a self-portrait before I fell asleep)

Got up at 8:40 for a 9am start. Time to change, fill up the CamelBag (decided to be fully self-supported so I don't have to stop riding), find my food (ShotBloks and gels). Stomach still wasn't feeling right but I mustered on anyway. The 29er got a good cleaning the day before along with a gear change (swapped back to my 34x20 from the W101 32x20) and was all set. Rode around for a bit and then found the usual suspects near the starting line (Sean from Bethel Cycle, Mike from NJ, Ed Burgess, my teammates Tim, Craig and Aaron, etc). Its gonna be a good one! Chatted a bit with everyone and then we played the lemans-start waiting game, waiting for "go".

"GO!". I got a bad running start and was stuck behind some people that ditched their bikes before mine. So instead of running straight I was running in a zig-zag motion. On the bike and took off pedaling like mad trying to catch up to Sean, Tim and Mike. Didn't see Tim and recalled him saying something about 'taking it easy' so I figured he was behind me. Found Craig and sat behind him for a bit. Then took off in an effort to move further up. The pedals were spinning so fast I don't know how my legs kept up with the cadence.

Found Mike and rode behind him for a bit. After a short detour we come back out onto the main fire road and up this climb. This climb is deceiving in that its slope is borderline requiring you to stand or sit whilst riding up. However, it'll make or break you after 40miles given the finish is at the top of this climb.

Feeling really good I attack up the climb going into the first lap. Passed Ed and another SSr and disappeared into the singletrack at the top. Now I'm behind a bunch of geared riders and we're all sitting wheel-wheel on each other. I hate to sound arrogant or pompus but I can't race tight singletrack behind a lot of people out there. I'd found over the years that I ride tight singletrack faster than most of my competitors so it frustates me when I'm constantly having to slam on my brakes goes into a turn or over roots and rocks (this happened at the Mohican). Somehow I made my way around these people (even though some would later pass me on some short fireroad sections) and was now able to negotiate the singletrack freely. Looking back this probably was not the smartest idea expending extra energy just to have some of them pass me on the next fireroad section.

Some of the turns contained mud puddles from Friday's rain and I came into these turns thinking I could lay the bike out and let the tires carry me. Countless times in the beginning of lap 1 this proved fatal. Lots of sliding out and foot plants through the turns. Not smooth. It also made me realize I should slow down a bit and ride smarter, not harder. As the lap went on I started doing just that.

Now I'm rocking lap one at a nice pace and pulling on everyone behind me while catching a few people infront of me. Unfortunately those people weren't SSrs so I had no idea how far ahead the next SSr was. I also thought I was top 3 thinking only Mike and Sean were infront of me. Sweet!

Still riding strong and climbing everything I rounded out lap 1 with Ed catching up to me. Hmmm... Beat him up the climb going into lap two (it felt like that climb didn't exist) only to watch him pass me about a mile into the singletrack. By now my knees hurt and precious strength was robbed out of my legs. I've been sipping on my camelbag a lot so I didn't think hydration was an issue. Couldn't really eat much and probably only used 1 gel and two shot bloks on lap one (first 20miles). I let Ed go and slowed down a bit realizing I still have half the race to go.

I eventually stopped and raised my saddle a few millimeters and this felt better on my knees. Now I was able to ride strong again. I also rode a little slower than lap one and tried to be smarter with negotiating turns. Probably halfway through the lap things started falling apart. My quads were tightening up so I would coast the downgrades while stretching them. This lasted a few miles until the insides and back of my knees started cramping (hamstrings?). Was able to stretch them since my quads were okay.

There's a section towards the tail end of each lap that had some climbing. Nice gradual grades but this felt almost impossible on lap 2. I was hurting really bad. Downed a bunch of endurolytes (all I had left) in an effort to alleviate the cramping. Drank more Accelerade. Now my pace was slowing down considerably and I let two other SSrs past me. Fatigue was also setting in fast so I wasn't negotiating the roots too wisely.

I was able to recover for a bit and ride well for a few miles. More geared riders passed but I wasn't worried about them. Many words of encouragement were exchanged. The very short steep stuff I hiked up with my legs cramping. Every time I hiked my legs got worse but I didn't have the strength to muscle up the climbs on the bike. Got back on the bike as soon as I could to keep pedaling away the cramps.

Terrain looked familar and I knew I was getting close to the end of lap 2 and the race. I rode a bit more conservatively knowing I had that climb at the end and my legs weren't feeling too good. My stomach was still not right so I didn't eat much (much to my demise). Going into the last push and climb up to the finish I rode the bottom of it in the saddle. Then decided to stand thinking I could muscle up it. 15ft later every muscle in my legs locked up. I looked up at everyone cheering, knew no SSr was behind me, and just tipped the bike over and rolled around on the side of the fireroad for a few seconds. Worked the legs, looked downhill and saw a Vicious rider. Hmmm. Tim! It motivated me to get back on the bike. I took one step and knew walking wasn't going to work so I jumped on the bike and ground it out in the saddle to the top. Every pedal stroke hurt and I'm sure you could see it in my face. Everyone cheered for I was able to get back on the bike and ride it out.

Turns out that Vicious rider was not Tim but Craig coming up the hill. Tim was in front of me the entire time and finished a whole 36mins ahead of me! Craig and I laughed when I explained what I thought when rolling around on the ground. Two jugs of water dumped over my head and down my throat helped the cramping disappear. I then rode around a bit to just spin things off. Then joined the party/bbq and hung out with everyone for a while. It was good to see Rebecca show up. Guess she was still in the area after the 101 before going back home to NC. I think she'll rock the SSWC07 out in Scotland!

When I thought I was in 3rd I really was around 4th. My self destruction wasn't as bad as I thought since I crossed the finish line in 7th SS. My time (3hrs 27min 32sec) was on-par, if not a little slower than last year.

Take a gander at these times across all the classes. Look how fast the Expert Singlespeed group was! Tim also took fastest time overall while riding his SS! Looking at those numbers I am now happy with my performance despite all the cramping and accomplishing a personal best at the Wilderness 101 a week earlier. I bet if my stomach felt fine and I didn't go crazy at the start I would have rode a better race and have finished around 3hr 10mins.

Time to rest up. Go whitewater rafting in WV. Rest a lot more and round out the National 100miler series with the Shenandoah Mtn 100 on Labor Day. All I'm concerned with is holding onto my overall position.


Blogger skullhead said...

Rad shirt! Where can I get one like that ;)

8/15/2007 10:59 PM  
Blogger doug said...

Only the best, my friend!

8/26/2007 12:32 AM  

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