Sunday, November 21, 2010

6 Hour Mountain Bike Race Report

This was by far the hardest thing I've ever done. The 6 Hours of Something Wicked at Cathedral Pines Endurance Mountain Bike Race (that's a mouthful!) was yesterday and I'm just now getting up enough energy to write this. Ok, that's not totally true, but I've never been so wasted after a race!

I've never done any type of stand alone bike race. I've done running races and triathlons, but that's it. Moreso, I'd never ridden a mountain bike for more than 4 hours at a time, so this was bound to be a treat. The only previous mtb racing experience I'd had was in the only XTERRA race I've done a few months ago. I wasn't quite sure what to expect and I was nervous before the race, but in the end just decided to "grip it and rip it". What else would I do? Just put it all out there and see what happens.

The start line was pretty relaxed. The race sold out at 250 participants, but it felt more like 500 standing there in the early morning cold getting ready to suffer on a 10 mile loop for the next 6+ hours. The only plan I really had, other than riding as much as possible, was to get out in front to avoid the sure bottleneck that was to come when we hit the singletrack. Lucky for me, I'm a good sprinter and had a great start. I lined up in front with the "big boys" and hit it right away. Still, I was a little tentative, and held back from getting to the absolute front of the pack which I'm sure I could have. There was about a mile of tarmac and dirt road before we hit the singletrack. I managed to be somewhere in the top 15 when we got in, and that was more than fine with me. All I really cared about was getting in cleanly.

Once in the woods it was fast. The beginning of the loop was probably the most technical, with some rooty and snarly decents mixed with sharp uphills. Furthermore, in the early laps, the trail was entirely covered with fallen leaves making it difficult to see the roots and rocks that made climbing and descending difficult. It was bumpy to say the least. After that little techy section, it flattened for the next few miles, but you were still greated with roots that made your brain rattle. Finally, the last part of the loop greated you with another uphill section, short downhill, and then gradual uphill back to the dirt road where you rode along for about a quater mile before hitting the woods again.

The first two laps for me were a blur. I was riding in the second pack and we were moving. It wasn't until the third lap that I really found myself alone. I can't say that it was a bad thing, though, as for the first time I was able to concentrate on nutrition. The first two laps were so fast I really didn't get much of an opportunity to hydrate and fuel. Also, being that I was still getting a feeling for the course, I really didn't know where I would have an opportunity to grab a bottle before things got hairy on the trail again. Anyhow, lap 3 was where I finally got into my own little zone and raced my own race.

After this things were tough. Adreniline was beginning to wear off, and the fact that I'd be out there for quite a while longer began to settle in. I began passing some riders, and started to worry that I was going too hard. I'd worn my HR monitor and things were staying relatively aerobic, so I felt I was in a good way. Then the fifth lap came. For the next two laps I was in the biggest pain cave I've ever been in. This wasn't bonking. This wasn't cramping. This was all out hurt! I could feel my stomach starting to turn, and every muscle in my body ached. My eyes were burning and even my toenails hurt. I starting cramping to the point where I was terrified to get off the bike. I did whatever it took and eventually things got back on track. By the Seventh lap I was euphoric. Things were getting faster and felt smoother (though I'm sure they weren't), and I was moving well again. I wound up coming in before the time limit and set out for another lap. In the end I compiled approximately 81 miles and won my category (and technically the category above mine as well). Then subsequently spilled beer on myself at the finish:).

This was one of the best things I've ever done. It was painful in a way I've never experienced, and I'm very proud of what I was able to accomplish. Realizing that I have some potential is also something that is very satisfying as well as motivating. This certainly will be the first of many mountain bike races for me.

Things I learned yesterday:

1)Mountain biking is very fun, especially when you can suffer along friendly people for 6 hours and then drink some great beer afterward.

2)Specialized makes a damn fine shoe! I got a pair of the Pro mtb Specialized shoes two days before the race and thought it would be a great idea to wear them for the first time at the race (read: sarcasm). I can honestly say I don't have one complaint. Not one blister. Not one sore spot. I didn't even know they were there. Easily the best shoe I've ever worn-on the road or the trails.

3)Nutrition is king! I know that's obvious, but I had a plan, I stuck to it, and it worked. I don't think I could have done any better, and training for long distance triathlon was my secret weapon. Without the knowledge I've gained in that area, I'd have no clue on how man cals/hour I needed to keep my body moving.

4)Know the rules! As I came in from what I thought was my final lap, the clock was under 6 hours, and therefore I was allowed back out for another lap. Had I read the rules I would have been better prepared for the final lap, and could possibly have turned in a better time. In the end it didn't mean much this time around, but in the future that might mean more.

5)And finally, I'm tougher than I thought. I know everyone says this when the do something hard, but I found a new level of suffering yesterday and I'm elated. Hurt that bad builds you, not only as an athlete but as a person. I'm stronger in every way for the pain I endured yesterday.

And that's it! Can't wait to do more of this endurance mtb'ing!!! Leadville anyone!!!???


  1. Hell ya. Nice race! How do you think you'll feel at mile 80 of Leadville? That's about where the Power Line climb starts... Lance walked it one year :)
    Nutrition at high altitude is a lot different too. Be prepared to use a mix of simple carbohydrate and complex and mostly liquid for the last ~60 miles or so. Carbo-pro mixed with Gatorade works well.

  2. Thanks! Yeah, the altitude is going to be a whole new experience. I also realized I need to ride more...A LOT more if I'm gonna take on Leadville. Is the change in nutrition due to your body having to work that much harder? Or is it something else.