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,