Sunday, July 31, 2011

Crankworx Colorado Race Recap: 7th of 15 in Expert Class Age Category

This was my third year in a row racing at Crankworx which is always a great time and killer course! It being my last race until September, I really wanted to cap off my July of racing with another solid race so I was emotionally charged as usual to give it what I had left in the tank. I just came off from racing last Sunday at The Steamboat Stinger and was motivated to recover enough to compete in this race. I spent nearly every weekday off of the bike which can be excruciating for me but it had to be done. The only intervals I did were 5 sets of 10 minute ice baths with 24 hours of RBIs. I spent a great day of racing and traveling with Aaron Adams, also from Rocky Mountain Racing. When we arrived at the race site, the Colorado weather was gorgeous and we were blessed for another race day in 2011.

I started with the Expert Class and kicked off the initial 1400 ft/5 mile ascent in Fraser. The fifteen of us in the 30-34 Age Category had a decent paced start but I was surprised I was able to stay with the lead group for a little while up the climb. I guess in comparing it to last year, I would have been on the brink of blowing up, then clawing my way back to not to be DFL by race end! It was a tough climb that got steep and technical at times. I couldn't help but think how this trail had nothing on Little French in Breckenridge. Once we crested the peak, it was a mean descent of fast and technical switchbacks, to rooty rollers, to the Zoom Trail which is aptly named. At this point in year's past, I remember how spent I was at this point and felt better this year. There were two more decent sized climbs after this until ultimately descending to the finish line. Along the way, I managed to get four doses of chain suck, three of which I had to get off the bike to fix. The thought of throwing my bike crossed my mind out of frustration. I'll need to stop by to the Golden Bike Shop to hopefully resolve my endless chain and time suck issues once and for all. As for the course, it was different in a section or two, making it a little longer than year's past. It was strange to be finished a race so early in the day and my legs felt like they were pacing for at least another lap which I would have been happy to lap through for.
Part I of a II part season has officially come to a close. Now it's time to recover and be off the bike for maybe the next two weeks, we'll see how long that holds up! I'm determined to recover though and need it. I've dug for months and months without much mercy. In the next 2-4 weeks, I'm planning a 3 day solo backpacking trip to bag a 14er or two at the Collegiate Peaks. Also, Hot Yoga will definitely be in there many a times to rebalance my body and center my mind, some consistent but light core and strength work and maybe some trail runs just to appease my singletrack mind, also more basketball with the kiddos I work with who drive me bananas but give me strength in return. Muscularly, what's strong is strong and what's weak is weak, therefore I need to strengthen my weakest links. I'm really looking forward to it to prepare for Park City Point 2 Point in Utah on September 3rd, just four weeks away and the beginning of this racing season's Part II. It's followed by two 24 hour solos and if I'm lucky, some cyclocross racing but that's a long shot seeing that I don't have a bike to compete. Here's my last month according my friend, Garmin...

Last 30 days, not bad considering the four races. Also, the reason why my legs are comatosed. Don't awaken the beasts until PCP2P!
In due time this will someday say "Pro" for endurance racing. It's not a matter of if, but when.
Game day breakfast #1
163.4 lbs. Reminds me of being a junior in high school. I won't say how much I ate before I stepped on the scale! Hopefully I can stabilize here for the races ahead.
Here's a video of my brother, Chris Lutz #14, who plays for the Smart Gilas, the national basketball team of the Philippines. Due to the NBA lockout, he's been able to play against some NBA players going international to spread the NBA love. Here's him playing against a few guys you may have heard of: Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Derek Rose, Derek Fisher, James Harden...

See you out there,

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Steamboat Stinger Race Recap: 35th of 101 Open/Pro Category

Buckling down on a gritty race.
This is an easy call but next year's Steamboat Stinger is going to sell out in minutes, that's how stellar this inaugural race was, organized by Honey Stinger. The race consisted of two twenty-five mile loops, 90% consisting of some of Colorado's best and true singletrack. When I say true, think trail the width, or narrower, than your handlebars with few options to pass due to high brush or trees which took some body english to navigate through. This quickly brings me to rule #1, never wear bar ends in Steamboat. Not on your handlebar, your head, nowhere. If you do, you'll be a sitting duck like I was,. I swear I could have collected a bouquet of flowers by race end, all plucked between my bar ends and pinkies. Rule #2, never show up at a race of this caliber without proper recovery. Shame on me! Oh well, live and I hope that I'm getting closer to learning the benefits of recovery just in time for the second half of the season beginning in September. I can't wait! For now, I've been recovering the best I can to finish July with Crankworx in Winter Park, a twenty-five-ish mile XC course which is the shortest race of the season for me, making it a soft landing to August's recovery. While my body asks for recovery on every power climb, I hope I can squeeze out one last solid effort tomorrow. Last year I finished it in 2:13 with some terrible chain suck issues so this year's goal is to finish sub 2 hours. I'll take an ice bath every day until then if I have to. Five down since Steamboat, one more to go!

The race kicked off in Howelsen Park in downtown Steamboat Springs. At start time, the Open Class quickly funneled into a steep singletrack which created the first of a series of conga lines on the opening lap. When it quickly went to doubletrack, riders realigned for better positioning into the lush climb of singletrack. This was a solid 1500 ft climb with a couple steep pitches which were troubling to some and therefore others since the conga line regathered at these points. Once cresting this climb, it was a fast, lengthy, and flowy singletrack descent which was chalk full of tree stumps, brush, and tress that were more than happy to grab a handful of your pedals, derailleur, bar ends, helmet, you name it. When riders went down on this course, it was never pretty. I fortunately wasn't a victim but several riders amongst me were. After the thirty minute descent, we entered the second climb, a 1400 ft ascent, which was a punisher on loop 2. For whatever reason, I became complacent and kept myself behind a group of riders I should have passed much earlier. I eventually broke away from them and hunted down the next riders during the rooty rollers before entering a screaming descent. You were blinded on every corner due to vegetation up to your chest which prevented you from seeing the next corner until it was nearly under your front tire. Awesomeness! That led us onto Little Moab which was the hairiest descent I've done in a while at race speed. I got moving so fast I missed the exit and blew through the boundary tape! The rest of the descent required some extra mustard to use momentum and power up the last punchy climbs leading us to the lap through. There, I pounded a mini-Coke for immediate sugar and much needed caffeine to alleviate the incurring lower back tightness experienced for the last thirty minutes. As usual, I also snagged two more CarboRocket Half Evil 333 bottles and Honey Stinger stroopwaffles and chews. Money! I climbed out of the park feeling good about a 2:30 lap time but my back needed some TLC. I've been doing a poor job at nursing my lower back and doing core workouts for July so I bet it was catching up to me. I couldn't shake the back pain for quite some time until I popped a Twinlab caffeine which had immediate and lasting effects on my lower back as usual. What else wasn't so productive was lodging a water bottle between my crank and frame, being fixated on having a Dairy Queen at mile 35 (thanks to my teammates!), and on the second bout with the rooty rollers I failed to realize I was in the big ring instead of the middle ring. Whatever remaining power I did show up in Steamboat with had straight up disappeared until I looked down and thought...amateur status.

Aaron, #103, and I navigating the gorgeous singletrack climb.
What was enjoyable was spending quite a bit of the course with Aaron Adams from Rocky Mountain Racing. We both finished one after another in the Firecracker 50 and were destined to finish the same way for this race. Leading us on the descent was motivating again since we were in the same exact position just three weeks prior. My favorite part of the race was screaming down descents and railing corners one after another. All along this time, Steve from RMR, utilized his mad orientation skills and met us at half a dozen descents just to cheer us on. It was so great to see Steve supporting us like he did: descending like a billy goat with his bike on his back! We soon crossed the finish line within seconds of each other and I finished in 35th of 101 riders at 5:47:59.

I have to thank Steve and Aaron again for letting me take up some real estate on their hotel floor on the night before the race. This season has been such a great success with the support of my team, Rocky Mountain Racing, who have helped me become a better racer and enriched the mountain biking culture around me.

Next race is today in Winter Park for Crankworx Colorado. It's a 25 mile cross country race which is twice as short as any race I'll do all season which means there'll be ample amounts of pain well beyond lactate threshold. Despite lacking speed work and top end power from a big June and July, my body is cooked and has maybe one more race left until August's hibernation. Then it's PCP2P, 24 Hours in Colorado Springs Nat'l Championships, 25 Hours in Frog Hollow, and possibly Dawn to Dusk AZ to end the 2011 season before my brutal winter training sessions when I'm most compulsive. I'm actually really looking forward to it already!

See you out there,


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Breck 100 Race Recap (10th in 30-39 Age Category, 41st Overall)

Where do I even start with this race?! It's been on my mind ever since the 2010 Breck 100 race that hooked me on endurance racing. My goal since twelve months ago was to top ten in my age category and also to finish sub 10:30. I reached one of those goals this year by grabbing the tenth spot of 67 riders in the 30-39 category but missed the latter goal by nearly 17 minutes. Despite missing the goal of crossing the finish line by 4:30pm, I am very content with my race effort and should be. I had endless mechanicals and lovely episodes of chain suck. Also, I didn’t find my race legs until loop three’s Boreas Pass climb just before the aid station, eight hours into the race. That said, I'm saying it now, sub 9:45 for next year's race. That's unless Brett and I take a journey to Oregon to race High Cascades 100. Damn that race looks like fun!

Wednesday, I headed up to Tiger Road, my home away from home for July, for some elevation camping. Friday, I met up with friends at our house for the weekend, courtesy of Kim (thank you!!!). Saturday, raceday morning, called for a 3:45am wake up call which I managed to beat by forty five minutes since I spent the time visualizing the trails in my head. I was wide awake, Bon Iver in my headphones, and making breakfast before 4am.

Singletrack covered with snow on Wheeler Pass.
At 6am, lap one began at Carter Park and sent us to Peak 9, a 2750 ft. climb up Wheeler Pass. Due to Breck's record snowfall this year, upon the first climb we encountered a few sections of snow atop of Wheeler Pass which got us hike-a-biking for a hundred yards at a time, including having to shoulder the bike to scale super steep pitches on sketchy soil. The amount of runoff also created some hairy singletrack downhilling on the back side. After the long descent, I found a few super solid riders for a roadie experience like a team time trial to the first feed station. One of those riders was Jari Kirkland who is such a badass rider! I hung onto her wheel and some Honey Stinger wheels until we reached Carter Park for the lap through.

I was a hot mess last year on loop two so for this time around I seeked redemption. Not so much! Again, I had a lackluster performance on this loop, my legs felt like bricks and the power in my legs to punch up climbs just wasn’t there. There were only a few answers to this, one being that I should have rested much more than I had leading up to the race – not exactly my strong suit and I still haven’t learned my lesson leading up to tomorrow's race, The Steamboat Stinger. The other answer was to keep challenging my legs to come around and to keep my head on straight enough.

Again, when I pitted the second time prior to loop three, Amy, Denise, and Brandon Newcomer were right there for me to care for my bike and nutrition. I’ve never had a pit crew before so having them made a massive difference. You guys rocked! I can’t remember how many times I repeated “these are not my legs” at the pit but I took Brandon's advice to go find them out on Loop three. I eventually did and kept thinking, better late than never! It then became apparent different race for me since I could rip through my favorite section of the course, Gold Dust Trail. If the Colorado Trail on loop two is my nemesis, then the Gold Dust Trail is my accomplice. I always seem to be synchronized with this trail and if you haven’t ridden it, it’s probably in my top ten for favorite trail sections. Ever. After exiting the trail into Como, I finally had a last and final chance to attack a climb, Boreas Pass Road. It’s an 8 mile dirt road climb to Boreas Pass's height of 11,482 feet where I very deliberately found some company for another roadie group ride to save some energy and seek some shelter from the wind. Originally there were four riders, then three, then after I attempted to bridge us with a strong Honey Stinger rider pulling away, I accidentally dropped another rider. From then on, it was a good pace to crest not only Boreas Pass but the entire race since the remaining trail was ten miles of fast and technical descents home to Carter Park. What was so interesting about this section is that my breathing rate was as if I had been climbing not descending. I was breathing heavily out of fear not of aerobic demands. It took quite some time to recognize this until I realized I could relax since no racers were on my heels.

There was peace right there. Not only to know that I had done what I set out to do this very day, but for all the discussions and demands one has with oneself every single day for twelve months to realize this accomplishment. Although I could consider this the end of a chapter, it is only the beginning. I'm training for something much bigger than a hundred mile race. Maybe it's for this fall's bigger 24 hour solo racing demands like the 24 Hours of Colorado Springs Nat'l Championships, but I'm hella sure that's it's for the biggest thing of all, life. You'd be surprised at how much you can learn about yourself and life just by riding a bike. I know I have been and look forward to the trail just ahead.

I ended up finishing the Breck 100 in 10:46:45 for 10th place in the 30-39 Age Category, 41st Overall. Believe it or not, more racers DNF'd (37) in my age category than finished it (32). Official results here.

I have to especially thank my coworkers at Third Way Center for making this season a success thus far. They allowed me to go to per diem status so that my weekends are free to race. They're the most supportive team I've ever been a part of. I miss you guys!

Ben, Scott, Jesse, and me getting our grub on. Mark and Brett are probably getting seconds!
Content the race is over.
What tiny photograph did I have on my handlebar to keep me motivated? Damn right, that's my brother guarding Kobe Bryant just a few days earlier. If that's not inspiring enough for me, I don't know what is.

Breathing thin air and waiting days before to race.

The best part of many days in July.

See you out there,

"Every damn day."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Firecracker 50 Race Recap: 9th in Maverick Category

First and foremost, I’ll recognize that I’ve been quite absent from the blogging universe so with some downtime in August after a few more races in July, I hope to rally. Sorry!

Due to a mediocre finish at the Bailey HUNDO after a wonderful trip to the Philippines, I sought to regain fitness for the remaining month of June and July. I set out Wednesday before the Monday, July 4th Firecracker 50 race to camp and ride at elevations above 9500 feet. It started off at Twin Lakes, Colorado where I intended on three consecutive days of logging seven plus hours in the saddle but due to an intense cold front, I bailed three hours in on day two. I was able to manage 11 hours total along the Colorado Trail segments in the area, all with a 12-15 lb. backpack.  I felt like I was training for the Breck 100, 24 hour solos, and stage races all in one weekend!

Leadville 100 race peak
My pregnant bag of 6 CarboRocket bottles.

The CO Trail is gorgeous! Trail segment 11 is the way singletrack is supposed to be! Three weeks after returning from the Philippines, I think my jet lag had run its course by the end of this trip.  Due to the nasty weather, I headed to Breckenridge on Thursday and planned a seven plus hour ride on Colorado Trail and additional trail systems with the same backpack.  I managed another near eight hour day on even more pristine singletrack. For the remainder of the weekend, I caught up with Brett on Tiger Road where we established our campsite for the weekend.  We got a couple of easy rides in, putting me at 21 hours of saddle time upon entering the Firecracker 50.

Since the Firecracker 50 was a preparation for the Breck 100, I didn’t traditionally taper like I normally should, so I originally made goals and expectations of myself that reflected this. Although, plans to simply pace up the Firecracker 50’s initial climb soon were aborted when I realized my legs and mind were motivated and tried to stay on with the lead group. I pushed hard on the eight mile paved and dirt road climb leading into the first sign of singletrack.  Time trialing a hill climb was one thing, but powering up punchy climbs was another.  Due to ramping up hours on the bike lately, my legs felt underpowered on the steep punchy climbs throughout the race.  As much as I could have suffered from a big week, I was feeling lucky to have my legs underneath me.  The first of two 25 mile laps seemed to be going my way until the Carter Park descent where I was ripping through switchbacks until my Ergon GX2 bar end clipped a limber tree I never even knew was there. I checked my Garmin GPS stats and I went from 15 mph to zero in a flash.  I’m not sure what the crash looked like but it had to be ugly. I remember my hip, head, knee, and ankle hitting at different times before I skidded to a stop while my bike was still doing summersaults. I knew that if I thought about this much, it would affect me more than it should, so I made sure my body was ok, then my bike, then pushed through the mistake. My saddle was completely crooked so I tried to punch it straight until I lost patience and agreed to be violated for the thirty miles left in the race.

My unhappy and taco'd saddle after meeting a tree.  RIP...
I am happy I was able to mentally ride through this accident because it could have easily cost me even more time if I let myself feel as unhappy as my saddle.  I lapped through for the second grind up the eight mile climb.  I remember grimacing from the pain in my hip area while dirt worked it’s way into my cuts all over my body.  I kept having to make sure that my bibs were all in one piece because on a crash like that, usually you have an ass cheek showing from ripped shorts, must be the Primal construction!  I later found out, another rider did have it worse than me and was racing bare ass! I was able to catch and pass several of the riders that passed me when I went down.  Again, I attacked the road/dirt climb and was amazed that I had the legs to push as hard as I did.  The rest of the race was crash free and I managed a solid effort throughout, especially when it came to nearly clearing Little French.  If you don’t know Little French, it’s very rocky with shale over shale for a fairly lengthy and steep climb with a couple stream crossings.  It’s a climb I never want to give up on because I can’t stand hike-a-biking and you can lose a ton of time and positioning if you mosey up it.

I was lucky to do incredibly well in the nutrition department without any ups and downs or GI issues thanks to CarboRocket, Hammer Gels, and Honey Stinger Chews.  In nearing the end of the race, I grinded out the last uphill sections and was happy that I was leaving everything on the course.  Rocky Mountain Racing teammate, Aaron Adams, and I were yo-yoing often during the race and I ended up pacing us on the fireroad leading to the Carter Park finish which was a descent my triceps will never forget! It was great to race with Aaron along the way since he’s a super strong rider and pushed me harder to the finish than I could have done alone. Thanks Aaron!

In the end, I finished in 4:57:08, 9th in Maverick and 109th overall. Results here.

I have to thank the race organizers, Jeff Westcott and company, and the incredibly clever, supportive, and positive volunteers that helped make this race a success! I only have roughly 16 races under my belt, but I’ve never experienced a more supportive cast than this.  A special thanks goes out to whoever the hell was on the Boreas Pass Road climb who encouraged us to jump off ramps and roll over logs thirty miles deep into the race! I was in race mode so all I remember is jumping a ramp, Rocky Balboa theme music playing, and a guy with a funky headband waiting for me after the obstacle course to slam a bottle of Wild Turkey. These guys need to be at every race. I was absolutely cheesing out!

So, after 26 hours of riding in six days, I’m happy with my results and looking forward to the next race, Breck 100, which is in less than two days.  It’s my race of all races this summer.  That’s unless 24 hour solos become one of my new challenges.  I’m not going to lie, I feel really good and motivated about the 24’s in the early fall, especially the 24 Hours of Colorado Springs which are also the National Championships.

Believe it or not, this ice bath is right on the money at 50 degrees.   Took three of these leading up to the race. Stay in for 10 minutes and your body will thank you later. Follow it with time on a foam roller.
Clearly, post race and happy to be done!
Again, I apologize for falling off the face of the blogging world, my only excuse is that I ride too much to keep in touch. For now, I'll be recovering this week, camping and riding light off of Tiger Road with days and nights like these...

See you on the trails,