Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Texas TT Tejas 500
First, mad props to the organizers and volunteers, riders and crew. The TTT/Tejas 500 is really an incredible event. The first Ultra-Road race I've been to that has the feel of the 24 hour mountain bike race scene. People can (and do!) camp out at the venue. Coming through the start finish the road is lined on both sides with pop-ups, tents, campers, fans, and crew.
The race is really 4 races rolled into one - the big 500 mile RAAM qualifier, a 24, a 12, and a 6 hour race. Relay teams also do the 500. All the races are scheduled so that they finish at approximately the same time. Over 130 entrees this year, with %50 of them in the 500 mile race. The event raised over $4000 for the New Hope Baptist Church. After the race the pavilion was filled to overflowing as dinner was served and awards handed out.
A few highlights of the great performances :
Mark Pattinson from Tennessee won the 500 mile race in a sub 30 hour record time. He came in second earlier this year to Tinker Juarez at the Heart of the South. That's 25 laps of a demanding 2o mile loop. Makes me dizzy just thinking about.
Eric Jensen (team RAAM finisher 2006) came down from Massachusetts to earn the 12 hour John Marino Competition Championship. He set a new course record averaging just over 20mph for the ENTIRE ride. Incredible. It was a race between Eric and Chris Hopkinson, with Eric pulling away at 4 laps to go.
My Story - A Tale of 2 Races
I went down to Texas to get the last JMC point needed to assure me of the annual medal. The silly little things that keep us motivated. If I hadn't of had to pull out of the ADK. I probably wouldn't of made the trip.
Was sad to hear early in the week that JohnJ was pulling out. He's had an incredibly busy and successful year, finishing the Furnace Creek 508 just 2 weeks earlier. He has a wrap on the overall JMC competition for the 3rd year in a row. He was also leading the 12 hour competition with an incredible 3 race total of 742.1 miles.
When asked about the course and how it compared to the Saratoga 24, JohnJ told me it was much tougher. Gotta admit that scared me a bit. Eric was concerned about the 6 mile climb that started each lap because he shipped his bike down with a 23 tooth as the largest cog. John told him not to worry - the six mile climb isn't really tough, it's just "annoying". HAH. I've learned that lesson before. John lives and trains in the mountains of New Hampshire. I live and train in Flatland Virgina. One man's molehill is another man's mountain. Yes, Eric did fine in the 12hr with the 23t, but he's a freakin' stud. I went with a 27t, and was quite glad I did. At the end I really needed it. Wasn't going to be caught toothless 2 weeks in a row.
"Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail" -- some USMC Drill sergeant
The plan was to get to the venue 4 hours early to get my junk organized and setup. A colossal wreck on the way tied up Rt35 for 2.5 hours. 2 overturned tractor trailers. I got there 75 minutes before the start.
The course at twenty miles long is made for quick pit stops or rolling hand-ups. Being self-supported and not liking to stop, I went with 100 oz of Powerbar Recovery in a Camelback, with one additional large water bottle, and a pocket full of gels. Sure the extra weight would hurt on the climbs, but what the heck. I'm used to extra weight on climbs - hah. It was enough fuel to keep me going for 6-7 hours non-stop. Ya gotta go with what ya know.
The plan was to ride 6 laps (x3). Two stops, 24 hours, 18 laps. A 300k day. Seemed to fit into my brain well enough. You have to break these things down into bite size chunks.
The 5:30 evening start was new to me. Only 1 1/2 laps to get to know the course, then darkness. The sky was crystal clear with no moon. MyNewt was the bomb. I used it on the downhills next to a Cateye 3000 which was on the full time. Light weight, no battery changes, very very happy with the light setup.
All was well for the first 6 laps. John Guth and I leap-frogged regularly as he was stopping more frequently. He's a (much) faster rider, especially on the hills. Seemed like every other lap I'd hear his carbon wheels come up from behind me near the end of the long climb. Then I'd try to keep his taillight in view for the rest of the lap. In the middle of lap 6 he dropped the hammer and was gone. My knees started to ache a bit on the climbs. I was riding with "new" 175mm crank arms. I had maybe 2-300 miles on them, but just on flat ground. It wasn't the "inside your knee-I'm going to blow a ligament type pain". It was at the tendon attachments all around both joints. Tried to put it out of my mind.
1st pit stop was 20-30 minutes. Refilled Camelback, put on much needed leg warmers. Re-gued. Had trouble figuring out how to work the interior lights on the rental mini-van. All was going as to plan...... so far.
"The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray" --Robert Burns
Somewhere in the next 4 laps things went amuck. Hard to really pin it down now. I know I was having a really hard time swallowing the gels. They were just turning my stomach. The protein drink also was hard to swallow. The first swallow was nice and cold and tasted great (temps had dropped into the mid 40's). Once I'd sucked the fluid out of the tube that was out in the cold air, the next swallows were body temperature and revolting.
Somewhere after midnight my knees started to hurt worse. In the early morning hours the temps continued to fall (or was it just my mind?) The wind was still cranking at 20mph. Music would've been a really nice distraction, but was not allowed, and I totally understand the safety issue. The sky was unbelievable. A billion stars. I watched Orion cross the sky, and wondered why it always seemed to be on my left the whole way around the course. Saw many, many shooting stars. Some seemed really close. I don't think these were imaginary. One nice thing about the course - you could almost always see the bright red taillights of riders ahead. Gave you something to think about and chase.
"The idle mind knows not what it is it wants." -- Quintus Ennius
The biggest difference between all night mountain biking and all night road riding is the lack of sensory input. On a mountain bike you always have the next obstacle, the next root, the next technical climb or obstacle. On the road, even on a technical road course as this, your mind just wanders. I think that's why people go crazy during RAAM.
Without realizing it I wasn't eating or drinking enough. My body wasn't generating enough heat, the temperature was dropping, my knees were REALLY hurting, especially on the climbs on the back stretch. I was getting cold, and was coming unraveled. Manic-depressive mood swings, and starting to bonk. After sorting through all the signs, symptoms, thoughts, and visions, I decided to stop and regroup after my 10th lap (200 miles) if the sun wasn't up yet. It wasn't.
Toward the end of that lap, with my brain in a total funk of low blood sugar delusion, the 12 hour riders come by me on their first lap. They started at 5:30AM. Eric rides by in the dark and shouts "Is that John?" Took me totally by surprise.
What was my response? -
"Have a great ride" ......
"Go get 'em ....."?
"What's up?"....... nope.
My muddled brain yelled back exactly what it was thinking.........
"I'm dying here" --JB
Isn't endurance cycling fun? I pushed the back stretch hard staying with the 12 hour riders, knowing I would stop at the end of that lap. The race was over. I pulled in, took some advil, some ECaps, ate a few chips, drank massive amounts of pure clean H2O, then crawled into my vehicle shivering from the cold and just quit thinking about everything.
That race was over. I was buried. Whipped. There was no plan.
Amazing that I could fall asleep. Even more amazing that I woke up about an hour later with the sun coming up.
"Plans get you into things but you must work your way out."--Will Rogers
Congrats again. Way to go!