Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Austin Rattler 100

Yesterday (was it only yesterday?), I competed in the inaugural (it’s not often you get to say that) Austin Rattler 100. The Austin Rattler 100 is a marathon mountain bike race that’s about 100 kilometers long. I’m not sure of the exact conversion, but I know the course was 15.5 miles long and there were four laps. That’s like 62 miles on a mountain bike.

I’ll just cut to the end: I didn’t finish.

The morning started early, I got up, got dressed, ate my normal race day meal, loaded the car and checked out of my hotel room. I then drove the few miles down the road and got all set up there and wandered around lost, trying to figure out where to get my timing chip and where to put the plethora of numbered stickers they gave me (229, if you’re interested in the number on the stickers). A short while later I, with about 499 other people (total guesstimate), was lined up waiting for the shotgun to go off. Literally, they had a shotgun and they shot it and we started.

We started off in a huge pack, people passing left and right, and we all just kept pedaling. The race starts you off with jeep trail, some of which was cut just for this race. Which means there’s big rocks, and everything is just rough.

I wanted to take it slow, so I was chilling with some of the people in the group I found myself in. I didn’t want to burn myself out, since I had to do this three more times. I ended up following these two ladies, Cynthia and Caroline (I think, it could be Carolyn. Doesn’t Brian Regan have a joke about that?). They were just chatting up a storm and picking good likes and taking an easy pace. I hung out with them until one of them got a bent chain link and they had to take it out. So we said our farewells and I went on my way.

By then we just started the second half of the first loop, where all the single track starts. This was my first time to Rocky Hill Ranch, and I rather enjoyed it. You got to weave in and out of pine trees and there wasn’t anything that was too technical. I ended up hitting a good groove and finished that first lap strong feeling. Looking at the time clock, it took me 1:50 minutes to make the first lap and re-supply. Much longer than I wanted if I wanted to finish before 7 hours. So, I started to do the whole thing again.

Since I was already warmed up and in my stride, the first half of the second lap, with all its climbing, I felt that I did much better. While I was still weak and slow climbing, I could pound it out during the flatter sections and started picking people off. You see someone up a head, and you catch up to them. You hang on their wheel for a little bit, maybe make some small talk, and then you ask if you could go around. It was a lot of fun. Towards the end of that lap, I caught up with a woman who races cross-country (like me) and we tore up the single track part of the second lap. At the rest area at the start/finish, we parted ways and I refueled and went on my way. I managed to do that lap in an hour and forty minutes, knocking ten minutes off my previous lap.

Lap three started okay, I knew I was getting a little tired, I’ve already done like 31 miles (previous record was 39.1). I just crawled up some of the hills: walking up some and just being in the granniest of the granny gears on my bike for the rest. About halfway through the lap, I started to lose hold of my steely thoughts and started to doubt. Would I actually be able to make another lap? Do I want to? And as the lap wore on, my thoughts got worse and worse until the actual thought crossed my mind “let’s just stop after this lap”. It’s those thoughts that you want to keep out of your mind, those are the thoughts that will make you quit.

That last half of the lap was horrible. I had a headache that drinking no amount of water/electrolytes could fix. My lower back was killing me. My triceps were so weak. My hip flexors would cramp if I turned a certain way. The only things that seemed to be fine, and would actually work when my brain could muster up the strength to command them, were my legs.

After pretty much coasting back, weak and defeated, I did manage to work up the strength to pass one last guy at the finish line. That lap took me about 2 hours.

My saving grace was that there was a cut off point and I got there like 2 or 3 minutes late. They wouldn’t let me go back out there.

So I laid on the ground next to all my stuff and just moaned (mostly inside my head, but one or two may have escaped). I was saddened by my first DNF and relieved that I didn’t have to go back out there and do one more lap. I finally dusted myself off (literally), changed, grabbed some free BBQ, a free beer, packed up my stuff and drove home. Driving home after an event like that is something that I wouldn’t recommend. I almost fell asleep driving a few times. And I’m pretty sure the amount of caffeine I ingested on that drive home kept waking me up thought the night.

Would I do it again? Yes. I want to beat this race. I know I would train a lot harder for it. I know I would either bring someone along to drive me home or I would get a second night at a hotel.

I wanted to do this in the first place because it’s put on by the same people who put on the big race in Leadville. I’ve read a lot of fun race reports about Leadville and I put it on my goals list. To finish under 9 hours. Now that I’ve done this race, I am re-evaluating that goal. I’m not saying that I can’t do it and that I need to pick something a little easier, I’m re-evaluating if that goal is something that’s really mine and not something that I picked up from someone else.

Well, it’s late and it’s been a long weekend. Good night.

The wheels on the bike go round and round…

I’ve been riding. A lot.

I rode four days in a row, then took two days off. Then road five days in a row (including a race), then took two days off. That leaves us at today, the end of the second day. And tomorrow I’m going to ride 64 miles on my mountain bike in the Austin Rattler 100.

My legs are kinda tired. I’m really wondering how everything is going to work out. “Will I finish?” is a question that’s been dwelling in my head all this week.

The race that I mentioned above was the Pace Bend race. It’s got a much longer name, but I don’t remember it and really don’t feel like looking it up. The pre-ride was a lot of fun, my racing buddies: Ian, Justin, and Jacob showed up and we had a fun time. Justin and Jacob are both new to racing, this was their second race. Ian’s actually a better rider than me and has beaten me the last few races.

During the race, I did a pretty good job of pacing myself. I probably could have pushed just a little harder and stayed with the pack a little better, but I managed to catch up with a few people. I passed Ian when he got a flat, and passed Justin just on the trail. I passed Jacob as he was throwing up, and he still managed to finish just a minute behind me.

So I finished, Jacob finished, then Ian finished and we waited around for Justin to finish. Meanwhile the results were posted and I got tenth! Justin hadn’t shown up yet and we were starting to get worried. We started talking to the paramedics and the course marshals to see if he got hurt. I ended up asking a lady who just finished if she saw him and she said he’s like a half a mile from the finish and he’s pushing his bike. We wait a few moments then there he comes, he picked up his bike and was carrying it, running the last hundred yards of the course. I do have to say it was super epic, and even though he got last, he finished like a champ.

We all sat down for the raffle, and the mentioned that the 15 minute timer has started for score contentions. This means that the final scores are posted and I figured, I’m pretty stoked about being in tenth, I wanted to go look again.

To my horror, I was dropped to eleventh place. The apparently missed the second place guy and everyone got bumped down.

Oh, well…

“GHORBA Big Ring Challenge” or “Adventures in Category 3, 19 – 29”

Hi. My name’s Andrew and I race mountain bikes. No. I’m not very good at it.

It all started last year, I was playing around with some ideas of what I wanted to focus this year on, and somehow I got this idea that racing mountain bikes would be a great idea.

4 months into the 2012 spring season, I have to say it is a great idea.

Let’s take this last race. On Sunday I competed in the GHORBA Big Ring Challenge (GHORBA stands for Greater Houston Off Road Biking Association, if you were wondering). I came in 14th out of the 22 in my age and division. Not good, but not horrible; kinda lower middle of the pack.

With a pre-ride with some new friends on Saturday, I knew the course was an easy, fun ride. It would be a great place to take some friends and just spend a weekend on some really flowy single track with occasional long fire road climbs. It, however, would be a very fast race. I was feeling good. I might have even dared to dream about 3rd place… BUT, as you can tell (if you just read a little further up), 14th is where I ended up. How did that happen? What went wrong? Let me finish the story.

The course started on a nice paved road for about 200 yards. Okay, well, I’m really bad at judging distances, but we can ignore that. At the end of that undefinable length of super fast racing, the course takes a 90 degree turn to the left and right into some single track (watch a video here, and here). I was super excited, I wanted to do well to show off for my new friends, I am inexperienced and am sadly rather out of shape. I said all that to let you know I managed to secure second place going into single track. I knew I was pressing hard at that moment, I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep it up, and bam! I hit a tree stump with my pedal and my rear derailer. It knocked my chain to a different gear, then changed it back. I lost the fragile hold I had on the leader’s rear tire and got passed by a few riders.

Just a few minutes later, on a downhill section, the trail took a hard right turn right between two trees only 3 feet apart. I realized that I was going too fast into that turn when my right shoulder hit the close tree and then my left shoulder hit the far tree. By some miracle I managed to stay on my bike and kept going; I was dazed and seemed to be passed by the rest of the pack.

There I was, close to last, out of fuel, and only 2 miles into an 11 mile race. I did what I had to do, and I did it the best I could: I made my legs go up and down and my feet in little circles.

Eventually I started getting passed by the older category 3 guys, I’d do my best to follow them, to dig a little deeper and try to ride their lines. That would only last for probably 5 minutes or so before I got dropped and I was once again riding alone. I mean it was a nice place to ride alone. There were pretty, tall pine trees which I haven’t seen since I was last in California; there were oaks, and shrubs, and it was just nice to be in a real forest again. BUT, this wasn’t a pleasure cruise, I had people to catch up to and people to keep in front of.

I managed to catch 3 or 4 people in my category and didn’t get passed by anyone else that mattered. About 4 miles out from the finished, I got my second wind and started pushing harder, and the last one mile I was going strong.

With a finish of 14th with a time of 1:02:26, I was only 9 minutes behind 1st place and 2 and half minutes from breaking the top 10.

This week’s going to be a lot of riding and working on becoming faster and keeping my energy through out the race.