My years always seem to be either full on or almost full off. Dealing with chronic injuries complicates things and never makes anything certain. You just have to do you best to train and take care of yourself and sometimes it works out and sometimes, you get injured the day before a big event. 2016 was a year that had potential, but the big races never happened. I did end up racing Xterra Nationals and snatching myself a worlds spot, but it just didn’t seem right to take the spot knowing I wasn’t going there to win.
I came into 2017 with the goal of getting back to the long mountain bike races which fuel my fitness for the xterra races later in the year. This brings me to my first experience at the Austin Rattler. I picked it because of its distance, its ease for Lindsay to feed me, and I just love the leadville events….for the most part.
We arrived in Austin at about 12:30 AM on the thursday or should I say Friday prior after a marathon drive. I had not yet received my 2017 race bike so I had my freshly tuned(or so I thought) 2014 leadville race bike. I rode my 2013 BMC TE02, with Kappius wheels, and Chris King hubs.
I got up early Friday and headed out for a quick one lap pre-ride of the course. It was quick and seamless for the most part. The course was fairly simple, and the weather was almost perfect. Minor problems occurred as my front wheel felt like it might be about to come apart and my freshly rebuilt fork would not lockout, then in the process of beating it with a hammer, I lost a rather important part which sent me into Austin to the Mellow Johnny’s bike shop. Luckily they were on point and I was able to sit and drink coffee while they tuned her all up!
The next morning we arrived about an hour before start as I still had to pickup my packet and number. All was good, I was geared up and ready with plenty of time to spare.
Now comes one of the most irritating parts of bike racing. Unless you are actually at the LT100, then you are not gated, which means its first come first serve in the narrow start corral. They ask that people gate according to speed, but I have a hunch about a few of the people gated in front of me. Regardless, I started to notice people lining up almost 45 minutes before the start, this started basically a race to get gated and by the time I got there, I was at least 100 riders back if not more. Even worse this required me to stand there and get cold for 30 minutes. Luckily my wonderful wife lindsay was there to hold my bike so I could run and pee about 15 times.
They had a special front gate for pros (lance armstrong and company) and anyone who was planning to go under 4 hours. I believe in top fitness I would go under 4 hours, but I wasn’t about to be that guy.
Luckily the first lap they give us a little extra time on fire road before we hit the single track so there was some opportunity to pass, but this meant burning a lot of matches early.
The gun went off and I basically sprinted for 3 miles. By the time we hit single track I was probably top 30, I then took some serious risks to pass groups of riders through some open field single track and at about mile 4, had myself at the head of the second main group which had been gapped by the pro group. My goal was to bridge that gap as quickly as possible and then try to hang on to the top guys. This strategy was working until about mile 5 when I took a left turn into a dry creek with a bit of a drop. I was way to far to the right and hit a huge rut and basically went ass over head into the creek bed. I was fine, minus a gash in my leg and a broken garmin screen. The real problem was that the time to get up, let the other group catch me and being single track I sat and watched all my hard work go down the drain with 55 miles left to ride.
This took a little wind out of my sails.
I have no clue what place I was in when I got going again, I sat on the back of a long line of riders trying to get my bearings about me and get re-motivated. I reached down for a drink and realized I had lost a bottle during the crash. Now I require more water than the normal human, I sweat like crazy and when I get dehydrated things go bad quickly. My initial plan had been for lindsay to give me one bottle for the 2nd lap and then 2 for the 3rd. This was no longer a good idea, but by the time I reached the end of the first lap, I couldn’t stop and wait for her to get a second bottle, as I had already passed a lot of riders back and didn’t want to do it for a third time.
On the second lap, I made due with the 1 bottle, but by the last aid station, I actually stopped and quickly filled a bottle with water. I was riding in conservation mode and taking sips. I didn’t feel like I was charging the course anymore, I was in survival mode to get back to the feed zone. I could feel cramps, and I could tell my power was dwindling. Anyone who has dealt with lack of water on the bike knows the even worse problem, you can’t eat!
At the end of the third lap I got my 2 bottles and took a gel immediately. Unfortunately my hydration was already way behind and there was no catching up. I was still slowly picking off riders but I was doing it by riding a steady pace that didn’t push me into the red zone. As I crested a hill just outside of the feed zone a guy yelled that if I kept it up, I would be top 20. This was a surprise to me and gave me some motivation. I chugged almost an entire bottle in the first mile of that lap. I pushed and caught two more people in the next 10 miles. Once again, I had to stop at the final aid station and fill both my bottles which lost me a position. I knew that not filling the bottles would have cost me more. I knew there were two fast riders right behind me and I had to be ready to charge the last 5 miles. In the end, I never made back the position I lost, but I did hold the other two off.
When I found out I was 18th, I was quite happy considering the circumstances. After the race I was wrecked! Trying to race 60 miles, with a crash, and chronically dehydrated bears a huge toll on the body. I was achy, and sick feeling and very uncomfortable. It was a race that coulda been a top 10, but also coulda been so much worse.
I ended up finishing in 4 hours and 26 minutes. Only two people went under the 4 hour mark and that was just barely. I was 9 minutes behind Lance and just a matter of seconds behind the 17th place finisher. Great start to the season.
I have to thank my great sponsors who keep me put together. Nick and Sydney Truit of Breck Bike Guides keep amazing bikes under me. Mr Jeff Wu of Alchemist clothing for keeping me geared up with some of the best quality gear I have ever been fortunate enough to wear. My bodywork master Mr Marcus Hille, who keeps me in one piece. All my great friends and training team in Boulder and of course my amazing wife Lindsay for all she does.
Still looking for good shoe, sunglasses, and wheel sponsors.