Saturday, May 3, 2014

Whiskey Offroad 50 Miler

This is a popular local ride that attracts world-class talent on the high end.  Karen's growing enthusiasm for MTB got us excited enough enough to sign up, and given my proclivities, I opted for the longer distance/better workout.  This was definitely a C to C- race for me, but the length fo the race inspired Coach Bill Daniell to throw in some specific training for it.  50 miles on a MTB is not a trivial undertaking.   I'd logged 45 miles in 4 hours at local MTB spot "Fantasy Island," done a 4 hour ride at the more technical Star Pass area to see if I could still negotiate obstacles when my brain started turning to mush, and otherwise felt pretty good about all around fitness.

We pulled into Prescott's historic downtown area the previous night, and all appeared well.  But was less optimistic:

 Having done my only other MTB race in the rain, and having gone backcountry/x-country skiing and snowshoeing many times, I knew the weather would be manageable with the proper gear.  In this case, that was smartwool and bike shorts under a rainproof jacket and pants, with shoe covers over Hokas (platform pedals without cleats, for now. . .), backcountry ski gloves, and with extra layers for top, bottom, and head in the backpack.  Nutrition was 100 oz. of IM perform with a couple extra scoops of maltodextrin and baking soda to neutralize the acid, plus enough to make another refill, about 350 calories/hour.  This concoction has made my twitchy, reflux-prone tummy much happier than just Perform by itself.  I had a Clif Bar in case I needed it, but planned to go liquid only, as with Ironman.

We self-seeded at the start line according to posted categories.  The "Nervous, but I got this" category spoke to me.  The "Faster than Most of My Friends" category spoke to me as well, but not so kindly. . .  I appeared to be one of the few fully geared up at the starting line, which made me wonder if I'd overdone it.  Many had just lycra tops and bottoms, some with a garbage bag on top.  This was probably pretty appropriate for what the weather was at that moment: 40-ish degrees and drizzling.

The rifle shot sounded, and we were off, climbing out of the city on the Tarmac for 5 miles.  "Possible Wintry Mix" for weather turned out to be far more "wintry" than mix.  Pretty much as soon as we got on the trail, it went from drizzling to snowing to hailing like crazy.  1-2" accumulated; the Garmin showed temps right around 28-30F for the first half of the race, and winds up on top of the mountain were steady at 20 mph with 30-50 mph gusts.  I got wet eventually, but at some point it occurred to me that being wet itself wasn't making me cold, as the wind wasn't getting through, and water wasn't running freely over my skin.  Go figure that a tri geek would get the clothing piece right. . .but I am a winter sports geek too.  Initially, the riders in front carved a muddy track in the accumulated hail, but after awhile, it just stayed frozen.  As with my first race, these were new conditions for me: On the job training. 

"Interesting" conditions!

The only thing that made me contemplate DNFing was serious face pain from the wind/cold, and getting pelted by horizontal hail from above, and flung-up mud from below.  I'd prepared for hypothermia, but not so much frostbite.  There were some seriously hypothermic peeps out there.  One dude was sitting next to his bike alongside the trail, vacantly staring at his hands, clearly out of it.  A few of us made sure that he got back to the aid station.  As I reached the turnoff to the spur for the 50 mile race, the decision on how to proceed loomed.  Turning right would mean only completing the 25 mile course; turning left meant riding down, then back up the big hill and doing the whole 50 mile course; and then there was the aid station, where many riders were eating, drinking, warming up in a tent, and generally getting more comfortable.

I did a quick survey: muddy, wet from head to toe, but warm enough, hydrated enough, well loaded up on sugary salt water.  No real reason to stop.  Ignoring the siren song of a shorter course or the comfortable aid station, I turned straight down the spur.  Riding downhill made the hail pelt my face even faster, and the mud fly up in greater quantity.  But after a couple of miles, we made it to the other side of the storm cell, and the course actually got fun.  The aid station at the end of the spur was a little slice of heaven.  I got an improvised chain cleaning and lube with motor oil, a few pretzels, and, unfortunately, a Camelbak refill of Roctane, which I'd never used.  My mildly impaired fingers spilled the refill of my personal concoction all over the ground. . .

Climbing back up the hill was, unsurprisingly, a great workout.  Those of us riding up banded together and talked to pass the time.  The last 12 miles of the course was back to singletrack.  I took it a little slower than normal, as I felt pretty tired, and didn't quite trust my judgment on obstacles.  Finishing was heavenly.  Lunch was even more so.

I guess it's not a "Belfie" if my wife took it. . .
But it is most definitely a dirty pic.

Karen was going to do the 25 mile race, which started later, but it kept getting delayed, and shortened, so she bagged it and opted for a trail ride today.  I think also she was worried re me given the conditions.  Sweet, but I'm also a preparedness geek.

I finished in 6 hrs and 3 minutes, 256th out of 348 finishers and about 700 starters, 52/72 in the M45+ "Masters'" finishers: Definitely not DFL, like my first MTB race!! There were 43% Fewer finishers than last year, so I'd guess a DNF rate of at least 50%.

I'd definitely do this race again.  Even with similar weather.