Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mendocino 100 Mile Mountain Bike Race

This July 4th weekend I participated in a 100 mile mountain bike race in Mendocino put on by team SuperPro...

My goals were to:
1) Have fun - check.
2) Keep heart rate mostly under zone 3 (moderate) - I was in zones 1-3 for 80% of the ride.
3) Minimize stopping - I was stopped 41 of 720 minutes, so I was moving 94% of the time.
4) Not trash myself completely - other than the middle 20 miles, I felt pretty good!
5) Learn and practice for the Cascade Cream Puff 100 in August. - check!
6) Finish in 12 hours - Miraculously, I finished in 11:59:10. Maybe next time I should set a goal for 9 hours?

The route
The Mendo 100 was designed to be 100 miles and 13k of climbing and was measured out with a magnetic wheel the old-fashioned way, because GPS in this area is known to drop +/- 10%. So my GPS track doesn’t do it justice. The route started and ended with the same 11 mile easy flat section. This was brilliant, as it was a good warm-up, and a relief to come to at the end. In between, there was a lot of rolling dirt and gravel road, which I found monotonous. Luckily there were also some scenic, flowy singletracks, which were awesome! There was one hellish 20 miles in the middle (described below), but the rest of the course was very ridable, fun, and in the shade of beautiful forest and coastal fog. The highlight was descending Manly Gulch, a lovely fern-filled swoopy singletrack, rather than climbing it as we did last year. The actual course details are not easy to get prior to the event, as it changes and there was no map given out, nor a complete gpx file to follow, but the course markings were a no-brainer to follow.
The venue
The lodging and start/finish locations were great! You can ride to the start of the race from the campground, going downhill. There were HOT showers! I enjoyed the camping as part of the whole experience, where we could laugh and commiserate over the campfire.

Photo credit: Bruce Dorman
The people
It was great to get to hang out with a few of the Mendocino Cyclists who volunteered their time to help out riders at the aid stations & mark course. They are all gritty and rad to be constantly riding and working on these remote trails. Murphy and Emily and their assistants really know how to design a race, keep people fed and happy, and work hard to make sure everybody has what they need. Chef Dave made 2 delicious dinners to please both vegans and omnivores alike using fresh ingredients from his farm. Most of the participants were team SuperPro folks who are all rabidly fast and seem to be fueled on whisky and Tecate, and they are really fun to hang out with.

The horror
Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 1.01.01 PM.png
Screen grab from Strava
The section between miles 42-62 after crossing SR-20 into Jackson State Forest was unanimously deemed soul-crushing for all of the 100 mile participants, about 99.9% of whom were stronger riders than me. This section trashed my legs for the rest of the day and almost made me cry to my Mommy. It was basically a set of three of the longest, steepest, loosest climbs you could imagine with false summits.

There was a section of steep primitive downhill here that required all of your brakes and all of your concentration. This would have been really fun, but you were baked by the previous climb when you hit it, and it wasn’t worth the remaining 2 steep climbs & fireroad descent after it. Murphy was completely open to changing up that section next year, thankfully. I’m proud to be a survivor of it, though.

The mental game
I was mostly able to keep my mind positive and focused on moving forward, but I did come apart a little and get emo. At one point, one of the 63 miler riders asked me if I had lights, and I thought “Oh geez, they found me out - I’m too slow and shouldn't be doing this. I’m not going to make it.” Of course, I finished with 2 hours of daylight to spare. I told myself I would change my Cascade cream puff registration to the 50 mile option. I know better than to take my paranoid thoughts as truth, I just regarded them with humor and let them pass, which they did. (Ah, if only I could remember that more often in other life situations).

The training
I was trying to follow Linda Wallenfel’s 12 week, Masters 40+ 100 mile Mountain Bike plan. It’s an awesome plan, but I didn’t adhere to it exactly. I missed a lot of strength training workouts, and since I don’t have a road bike or any flat roads from my house, I did a lot of the road workouts on trails, which meant my heart rate/intervals were not exact to specification. Linda W. actually does not recommend doing any rides over 6 hours leading up to your main event because it spends your fitness rather than building it. Being a weekend warrior, I did several rides over 6 hours (oops), and couldn’t resist some fun, slow social rides with lots of stopping, and had some bike issues that made me lose a few days. But overall I was doing some exercise about 6 to 12 hrs a week including riding trails and road, yoga, a tiny bit of strength training and trail running. And lots of foam rolling.

The Race Fuel
From experience I know that any heavy grain-based carbs like bagels and oats kill my stomach and my energy. Whole fruit, blended fruit, and gels empty the stomach quickly and give me energy.

What I planned to eat: (3300 calories)
1) Blended fruit & greens (1800 calories) - 10 bananas (potassium), 10 medjool dates (magnesium), a pint of strawberries (flavor), 2 stalks celery, 2 leaves of chard (sodium), and water, split into 2 large + 1 small water bottles.
2) Huckleberry Hammer Gel (1000 calories) - split into 2 squeeze bottles
3) Cliff Caffeinated gel packs (4) - (400 cal’s) for when the going got rough
4) A small bag of sprouted raw almonds & Medjool dates.

Here is what I actually ate: (2050 cal’s)
1) 1 small and 1 and ½ large bottles of smoothie (1200)
2) 3 caffeinated gels
3) 1 date, and a small handful of almonds (160)
4) 2.5 bananas from aid stations (250)
5) 5 peanut butter pretzels (70)
6) half a can of Coca-cola (70)

I realized about 10 miles in that I forgot both Hammer gel flasks! Oh well… That’s what aid stations are for. I had the small smoothie for breakfast before the race along with a coffee, put one large bottle on my bike (with ice cubes in it), and put one with ice in an insulated bag that was sent along to an aid station for later. The 1st bottle of smoothie in the cool of morning kept well and was energizing. The 2nd smoothie was very satisfying at first, but it had gotten really hot out by then and it didn’t take long for it to get slightly sour. I felt my stomach roiling and I could not finish it, or eat at all for a while. In hindsight, I should have put several fresh ice cubes in it just before heading out again. I can also take care to eat more on the flatter sections, as it’s hard to eat on hard climbs or railing downhill.

I calculated I would need 8.5 liters, but drank about 6.5 or 7. I filled my pack full 3 liters to start. Since I wanted my stops to refill water to be minimal, I didn’t mind the extra weight on my back. My tools went in a tool bag on the bike, and some snacks went in a bento box on the top tube. I refilled twice - a full 3 liters at the 2nd aid station, and added 2 liters at the 4th aid station, but did not completely empty it before re-filling. I had a very mild headache that came and went throughout the race. I probably could have drank more water, but was afraid of stopping to pee too much. Luckily I had no headache at all after the race, or any ache or pain for that matter other than some mild, to-be-expected leg soreness. I used Elete electrolyte add-in in my water. I really can’t recommend this stuff more - it doesn’t flavor the water, so there is no need to carry an extra bottle. My bike frame won’t fit two water bottles, so that’s important to me.

The bike
I rode my 25 lb. On-One lurcher hardtail 29’er with a fairly compact triple (22-32-40). I feel best with tiny gears, and more downhill-oriented wide bars, short stem, seatpost dropper, and flat pedals. I do, in fact, realize that 99.99998% of all XC mountain bike racers use clipless pedals. They would make me 0.0001245% faster on dirt climbs, but 41.2% slower on technical stuff. (And about 99.9256% of all statistics are made up on the spot). Leave those silly Velominati rules to the roadies.

The result
I got to ride my bike in the woods on new trails for a whole day, without checking a map or getting lost! YAY! Oh, and I got 3rd place out of the 3 women who did the 100 miles, 1st place gal did it in like 9:45. (Way outta my league!). But I am proud to say I finished ahead of 2 men, one of whom was riding a cx bike, and the other I’m guessing must have had a 3 hour long mechanical and a broken clavicle. ;-) I was handed a case of Tecate for the podium which made for a funny photo op. I gave it back, and instead was handed a pretty sweet pedal wrench/bottle opener.

Photo credit: Marco Soldano

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Adventure at the Hard Coe're 100K

Henry Coe State Park is one of the biggest parks allowing mountain biking that you probably have never heard of. It is big enough to organize the "Hard Coe're 100", where you can ride 100 miles or km without repeating a single trail, point to point. The park is remote and desolate, even though the "Hard Coe're" coincided with the annual Henry Coe tarantula festival. In the desolation, a lot of your social graces become no longer necessary. Perhaps that is the draw of Coe for its faithful. It is a place where you can find some peace and quiet, or cut loose and be Bohemian, or suffer loudly with no one to hear.

To a roadie, 100 miles or 100 km doesn't sound very hard. But this is Henry Coe. Folks who ride here know it is a bit like the Tardis. It looks small on the map or GPS, but gets bigger when you actually ride it. This is also known to a few of us as “the Coe Factor”. It actually took me 2 hours less to do a 100 miles of trails in Mendocino than it took to do just a 63 mile ride in Henry Coe. The 63 mile ride (which I did) requires 13,000' of climbing, and the 100 mile Hard Coe're route (which some insane people did) has 22,000 feet of vertical gain! This is almost twice the amount of climbing in the famous Leadville 100 (aka Race Across the Sky), which is a paltry 12,000' of climbing. Leadville of course, is all 10k feet above sea level, whereas Henry C oe is oxygen-rich by comparison at 2k feet above sea level. However many trails are not well-defined and the route is unmarked making any adventure into Henry Coe a route-finding challenge.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Paradise Royale

There are few things I enjoy more than a road trip involving camping and mountain biking, and a trip to Paradise Royale is one such place. The appropriately named trail system is located in the heart of the King Range, which is a stretch of coastal mountains along what is known as the "Lost Coast". It is an area so rugged and steep that the engineers building Highway 1 decided to move the coastal highway 20 or so miles inland to avoid it. As a result, this is one of the most pristine and undeveloped areas along the entire California coast. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mountain Biking Skill Clinics

Last summer, as I was riding recklessly down a rocky gully at a trail near Downieville, my tire got stuck on a rock and I ending up flying through the air over the handlebars, arms outstretched in front of me like Superman. As I slid on the ground, I cut my eyebrow open on some sharp shale rock, which started gushing blood all over my shirt, and found out several days later that I had broken a rib, too. After enduring the punishment of not being able to ride for my bike for 6 weeks, I decided to become a mountain biking skills clinic junkie. So far, I have taken Gene Hamilton's Betterride clinic, the Dirt Series, and Chris Duncan's one day freebie promotional dirt jump clinic. And crikey, if I'm not a better rider now than I was before, I should just hang it up right now! :)