Thursday, May 29, 2008

Draper Race, 2008

At the starting line, I was pretty excited about the race because I noticed a few fast guys who I hadn't gone head-to-head with this season. With all of the mayhem at the staging area, I lined up in the second row of my class. We started and I knew that it would be easy to get gapped if I got caught behind a long line of riders, so I managed to sprint up to the 3rd spot going into the 1-track. The pace was rather quick on the first stretch of 1-track, but nobody was trying to pass. By the time we did the short stretch of road and the 1st BST section, there were 4 of us riding together at the front.

The long dirt road climb started and the four of us worked together, with Jesse doing most of the pulling. The pace was a little too high for me, and I was hurting. I was trying to feel out the other three, and they seemed to be riding really strong. I figured that if I wasn't leading going into the Clark's DH, then I could easily end up in 4th (or worse) because I often struggle on the flatter/rolling sections of courses, like the sections to follow in this race. I tried to make a couple of moves on the steeper sections of the road, but could not even come close to losing anyone. About 2/3 the way up, Justin dropped off the pace, which surprised me because he was riding strong. The remaining 3 of us kept riding together till Sam (who I later found out is Rick's riding buddy) took off. There was no way I could match his pace, and I felt resigned to race for 2nd. Jesse and I finished the climb together, and I managed to go into Clark's in 2nd position. Here are Jesse and me dropping into Clark's:

And here I am chasing Sam on Clark's:

I figured I'd seen the last of Sam, so my goal was to hold off Jesse. To my surprise, I caught Sam about half-way down Clark's, and I matched his pace till the bottom, and for about 2/3 of the rolling portion of the BST. I felt like I could gain some time on Sam if I could get around him, and I knew I'd need it with the short climb out of the start/finish area still to come. We got to a slower climb and I asked to pass. Sam was quite the gentleman and obliged, but it was still a bit sketchy and aggressive (sorry Sam). The downhill portion into the golf course and BBQ alley started shortly thereafter, and by the time I finished the going around the small lake by the finish area, I estimated I had a 15-20 second gap.

As I climbed the short assent out of the lake, I felt my left calf start to cramp. For the rest of the second lap, I was fighting off cramps in both of my thighs, but neither ended up seizing up entirely. To cut to the chase, I managed to hold Sam off on the climb, and I think I had about a 30 second gap by the finish. Fortunately, my legs didn't really cramp up until I climbed on the podium (thanks for the pic, Sam!):

Random Thoughts:
*I love this race. I think it's the ultimate all-round mtb race with both climbing and technical, tight, twisty 1-track.
*I've only started cramping in two races: Draper 2007 and Draper 2008. I'm pretty sure it's because of the BST sections that require you to do a bunch of quick sprints out of each corner and up each little climb.
*I was happy with my first win at Sherwood, but this is actually even more satisfying because I honestly thought I'd finish in 4th as we were climbing the road. I'd never considered myself a good descender or bike handler, and it was on the sections that required some handling that I was able to pull away, so I'm pretty stoked about that.
*Both of my wins came on short courses (about 16 miles), so I'm pretty apprehensive about longer distances.
*I'm really starting to like the 29er. I think I actually descend faster now than I did with my full suspension. I don't know if it's the larger contact patch or what, but I feel that I can really rip around corners without worrying about losing traction (although I almost ate it twice on loose stuff last night). For what it's worth, in my class, finishers 1, 2, and 3 were all on 29ers.
*The ride of the evening goes to Brad, who won the Expert category on his 1-speed. That's just crazy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

There were a lot of fears I had about moving to Utah County. You know what they are, so I won't get into them here. However, next to BBQs with the Fishers (and Ben), the best part about our recent move from SLC to the U.C. is that my commute has been shortened from a 35+ minute drive to a 7 minute bike ride. Over the previous 7 months, I estimate that I've spent almost 170 hours in my car driving back and forth to work. That's probably about as much Shammy Time I could hope for over the same period (not that I've ever actually tracked my hours, although maybe I should think about doing so). I'm hoping to split my extra 25 hours per month between family and riding, and maybe even get a little extra sleep each night. So far, things like weather and travel have been putting a damper on the extra shammy time, but that's going to need to change pretty soon.

By the way, if you ever happen to be riding out by the Utah Lake State Park/Marina west of Provo, you might see a bike path that departs from the north side of the marina. You may even be tempted to ride your bike on it, in hopes that it will allow you to bypass the GRDT ("Geneva Road Death Trap") on your way up north. Save yourself the trouble, because within .5 miles, you'll run into this:

There's another dead-end trail just like this if you head north off of the road that circles the west side of Geneva Steel, and yet another if you head West on the Jordan River Parkway from the N Saratoga Road on the north side of Utah Lake. Why even start a trail if the plan is to dead-end the trail in a few hundred yards? Fortunately, as seen in the above picture, the trail builder guy painted some helpful U-Turn arrows on the pavement, without which I would have probably kept riding straight into the weeds and bushes. Thanks a bunch trail builder guy!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"It's not just epic... it's EPIDEMIC" (tm)

This really should be the new slogan for the AMC, where "epidemic" naturally means "really really epic." To get the slogan's full effect, it really needs to be said real tough-like, and ideally should incorporate some 1980's Mountain Dew commercial advertising techniques. Although I just trademarked it, I'd be willing to let AMC use it for a very reasonable royalty (like free admission to the race, for example).

So I decided it was time to crap or get off the pot. Yep, I registered for the AMC today, and I suggest you go and do the same. This will be a birthday party you won't want to miss. I figure that by registering now, there are no excuses. No way to back out now. I've never even done a 1-day endurance race, let alone a multi-day, so this should be interesting for me to say the least. But training for something like this isn't really tricky is it? Shouldn't my training strategy simply be to "ride lots", or is there more to it than that?

The race can't be that complicated either. It basically consists of:
a) Get up early
b) Ride till lunch
c) Repeat steps a and b
d) Repeat steps a and b
e) Repeat steps a and b

How hard can that be? I guess I'll find out soon enough.

I figure I'll do some of the I-Cup races through late July, and then start doing longer, lower intensity rides, with a few high-efforts thrown in for fun.

Speaking of I-Cup, I'm really looking forward to the Draper Race. When I pre-rode it for the first time last year, I thought Ed had gone crazy by planning a race on that course (particularly the second half of it). Then I raced it, and it became one of my favorites.

I've heard of encouraging people to pray for rain, but is it acceptable to encourage people to pray for no rain? Well, that's what I'm doing. I'm asking each of you to pray for no rain on Saturday and Sunday, because from what I understand, the Corner Canyon trails get the really sticky thick stuff when wet. In fact, if you are racing in my class, you should really consider fasting (i.e., no food or water) on Sunday and Monday morning as well.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

No Race - Clarks TT Instead

I spent all of last week at my department's team building exercise '08 in S.D. CA. Unfortunately, I didn't get a sexy t-shirt, and didn't get to use my business socks for their intended purpose. The hour or so I spent outside was nice. The rest of the time was spent inside doing work stuff. The closest I came to riding a bike while I was gone was when I put this beauty together:

We built a bunch of these bikes and gave them to some kids in the S.D. Boys and Girls Club. It was fun to see the little tike's eyes light up when she first saw her new bike, and she was especially happy to see that she that she got a single-speed.

I bailed out on the I-Cup race today. There is no way I was getting upper management's approval to race 7 weekends in a row. I really like the next four I-Cup races (Stan Crane Draper, Sundance, Deer Valley and Solitude), so I figured I'd trade this one in, and with luck I'll get the next four in return. Instead of heading up to Soldier Hollow, I headed to Hog Hollow, rode to the saddle, and dropped down Ghost Falls. With all the buzz over the Clark's TT, I decided to give it a go. Doesn't it sometimes seem like when you are pushing the hardest is when you feel like you are going the slowest? Anyway, that's how I felt during the climb up Clark's. I was afraid I would see 16 minutes or so when I got to the sign at the top, because it felt like 30, but the clock stopped at 12 minutes flat. I was on my Rocky Mountain today, so I'm interested to see how my time will be when I try it on my Paragon, being that it's about 4-5 pounds lighter, and is a more efficient without the rear suspension. I think I can drop at least 30 (and hopefully 45) seconds off of my time by the end of the year. If you are anything like me, you have a tough time putting in a race-pace effort when you aren't actually racing. Well, promise yourself that you'll publish your time for the world to see, and then go do the Clark's TT. It's good motivation to push your limits. After I got to the top of Clark's, I did the race loop, which is by and large the same as last year. Then, I dropped back down Hog Hollow. 2 hours 10 minutes Shammy Time.

I'm signing up for the American Mountain Classic this week. It's about time I fully commit. After all, I'd better show up for my own birthday party.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sherwood Hills

After last week at 5-mile, I decided to prepare a little better for this race. I headed over to Racer's to stans my tires, adjust my front derailleur, and make sure my seat post wasn't going to slip again. I got a good night's rest (which I usually have a hard time doing the night before a race) and woke up feeling good. I loaded up the kids and headed to Sardine Canyon to meet my parents, who were gracious enough to watch the little rascals while I raced, as well as hand me bottles as I went through the feed zone.

The race started at a pretty decent clip. Apparently I wasn't the only one who thought it was important to start near the front going into the 1-track, because I was in only in 5th position when the trail narrowed. We rounded the first few corners without changing positions, and I could already see a few riders trying to gap the rest of us. I jumped up to the 4th spot, and then the first 2 riders created a gap, so I jumped up to third and it wasn't long before before the rest of the field was "put into difficulty", as Phil or Paul would say (I can never remember who is who), and we rode with each other until one of the first climbs. The other two each took a couple of pulls on the front while I was still trying to decide how my legs were feeling. While we were feeling each other out, I noticed that one of the guys was breathing heavy, and when I say "heavy", I mean that I had to take a second look to make sure I wasn't riding next to Darth Vader. I figured he was going to blow up at any minute, and it would be a two man race. I decided to take a turn at the front, and to my surprise, I looked back a minute later and I'd gapped the other two by about 5 seconds.

I was feeling good, so I kept pushing, hoping to open the gap. After a few minutes I looked back to see if I had done any damage, and noticed that I could only see the loud breather. I went through the back section of downhill singletrack, and luckily I remembered the quick right turn and climb in the middle from when I raced Sherwood 2 years ago. By the time I exited the woods and reentered the meadow, I couldn't see the guy. I tried to keep the momentum through the home stretch of the first lap, but I had a tough time powering through the flatter bumpier stuff, although I do think that the 29er helped minimize the damage. I hit the hike-a-bike, which I didn't expect at all. My transition wasn't very fast (I shoulda done more CX races) and by the time I got back on my bike, the breather was breathing down my neck again. I realized I had underestimated him, and he wasn't going to blow up after all. He might be a heavy breather, but he had staying power.

The next two laps were more of the same - I'd put time on #2 on the climby first half, and he'd start to pull me back on the flatter and bumpier second half. I was hurting on the 3rd lap, but forced myself to keep using the middle ring on the climbs, since I'm sure if I had dropped into the granny, I would have stopped pushing as hard, and I knew my best chance to gain time was on the climbs. When all was said and done, I crossed the line in first place, about 25 seconds ahead of second. It was my first win in the sport class.

A couple of thoughts:

*A year ago, I swore off the heart rate monitor during races because I decided I'd be better off racing by feel. I gave the HRM another shot on this race and I actually liked having it. I completely ignored it during the first lap when I knew my heart rate would be through the roof. On the next two laps, if I noticed that my heart rate was getting low, it would motivate me to push harder because I knew I could sustain a higher effort.

*I guess I knew this already, but it's now more evident than ever that it's impossible to win even one race without feeling the pressure to move up. Apparently, if you were fast enough to win, then you shouldn't have been there in the first place. I guess that's a good thing, but I'll tell you what. When I moved up to the Sport class, I figured I'd never see the podium again, let alone win. So now that I have, I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts, because if I don't enjoy this, what do I have to look forward to? I'll always enjoy racing for the same crazy reasons we all do, but my odds of winning an Expert race are slim to none (yeah, I know I said the same thing about the sport class, but let's be realistic). So while I'm here, I might even commit the disgraceful act of trying to win again before I take my place at the back of the expert class.

*Best quote of the day came from my 3 yr old after the race: "Daddy, you need to slow down because nobody else can keep up with you." Hey, what she doesn't know won't hurt her.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Message from Kenny:

Dear Readers of,

This last week has been truly tragic learning of the down turn of Suzan’s illness. As I read these comments left by all you good people, the over all theme is the same. “What can we do for Elden, Susan and their kids?” I decided it was time to stop wondering and time to start doing. I set up a bank account in Elden’s name at a local bank here in Utah. It is linked to pay pal. The pay pal account is . If you don’t have a pay pal account you can also donate by going to my business’s website and clicking on the link in the middle of the page, where you can donate with the credit card of your choice. Please know that all funds collected will go directly to this bank account and after a two month period will be given to Elden, Susan and Family. Elden is unaware of this account, until now, of course. I’m not sure how he will react to this comment, but if he removes it, I’m going to continue to put it back on his blog and I invite you as fatcyclist readers to also put this on your own respective blogs. I truly believe that we bless our own lives, when we help others, so I hope that Elden will allow us to help him through this very trying time in his life. He truly has touched each one of us, through his writing and his friendship.

Respectfully yours,


Monday, May 5, 2008

Draper ride today

For the 1 or 2 people that may or may not read this blog:

I'll be in Sandy this afternoon, so I figure I'll get in a ride while I'm down there. I'm thinking Equestrian/Lynn Ballard Park, 5:15pm. I know there are a bunch of trails that I've never ridden before (like Jacob's ladder and Ghost falls), so if someone wants to show me the ropes, please join me.

5 mile:

Good preparation is the key to good racing, right? This race was a good wake-up call that I need to pay more attention to the preparation. I'm not talking just about going to the Jazz game the night before in the big city, I'm talking about inconsistent riding, and that small detail of making sure that the bike is in good shape...

The race started with most of us staying fairly close together and a couple of guys shot off the front. I let those guys go in hopes that I'd see them again. I did see end up seeing them all, with the exception of the winner of the day, who finished with an 8 minute lead.

I settled into the 4th spot and was feeling good on the initial short climbs. I dropped my chain on one of the climbs, cursed myself for not tweaking my derailleur that I knew was having problems, got the chain back on, and kept going. Then, about 2.5 miles in, things suddenly got uncomfortable. My seat clamp slipped and suddenly I couldn't sit down without nearly slipping off the back of my saddle. Within one minute, my seat was pointing almost strait up, giving me an enema that is never overdue. I lost some time while hitting my saddle in hopes that it would slip back into place, and while cursing myself a second time for using my flimsy multitool to set my seat clamp on Thursday evening. In a fortuitous twist of fate, Jared rolled up next to me and complained that his seat had slipped and was tilting toward the sky as well. I responded that my seat was having the same issues. He had a tool that he'd let me borrow at the top of the hike-a-bike. I have no choice but to stand up for the next mile or so till we reach the hike-a-bike. You know it's bad when I'm actually looking forward to reaching Yellow Page Hill. We reached the top and I twiddled my thumbs while Jared fixed his bike. He handed me the tool and took off while I fixed my seat. This time I cranked my seat post down as hard as I could. I jumped back on, but not before being passed by 4 people from my group and losing my rhythm.

I struggled on the gradual climb after the Yellow Page decent. Motivation was hard to come by, since I couldn't see anyone ahead of me. I jumped into the slipstream of someone who caught me, and that helped. On the steep climbs to finish the lap, I passed a couple of guys in my class who appear to be having some mechanical issues of their own, which also helped.

Most of the second lap was better, and I felt the rhythm coming back. I caught another guy from my class before the hike-a-bike, and really try to push things on the home stretch. On those last few climbs before the end, I could see one more guy from my class in the distance and used him as a rabbit. I gambled on one of the last climbs pushed to catch the rabbit. My only hope was that he'd be blown, because I had nothing left. Unfortunately he wasn't, and after seeing me he took off. After the race, he mentioned that he thought I was ahead of him because he didn't see me when he passed me at the top of Yellow Page on lap 1. I finished in 4th place, 30 seconds out of 2nd.

Although this was only my first race of the year, I can't help but be a little disappointed. My finish time was only around 25 seconds faster than my time last year. I know I had the saddle issue, but last year I had to stop and save a contact lens that had fallen out, so I consider those two events a wash. I was hoping to be further ahead of where I was last year at this time. Time to get a little more consistent in my riding. Nothing like next week's 5 day work trip to get me back on track, right?
And if the derailleur and seat post were not enough, I really botched the most important part of race prep, which is mounting the number plate. The crooked plate really threw off my balance:

Saturday, May 3, 2008

5 Mile... or not

I was going to write a 5 mile pass race report yesterday, but then read this, and my race suddenly seemed so stupid. I decided to close my computer and spend the afternoon with my wife and kids instead. I barely know Fatty, outside of a few brief interactions, and I've never even met Susan, but this news still felt like a kick to the groin. I can't imagine how this must be for dad and kids. I just wish there was something I or anyone could do. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and yours, Susan.

Maybe I'll get to my stupid race report tomorrow.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

You Are Officially Invited to My Birthday Party

Please come celebrate my 32 years on this earth by joining me for the first annual American Mountain Classic stage race by Brian Head, from August 21st - 24th (my birthday is on the 23rd). Unless you've done the TransAlps or the Tour, then this race is going to be more epic than any other race you've done before, because it is the first of it's kind on U.S. soil. Here is a description of the 4 stages of the race that I copied from here:

Day #1 – Prologue: The American Mountain Classic will start with a 6 mile Prologue on the town trail in Brian Head. Elite Men's, Women's and Master 40+ class will be vying for the race leader's jersey. Amateur racers will use the Prologue to establish seeding position in the next day's starting lineup.

Day #2 – The Rim: This 55 mile stage will feature 5,000+ feet of climbing, with 30 miles on the Virgin River Rim Trail. The trail winds along Utah's world famous pink cliffs and offers views of Zion National Park.

Day #3 – The Peak: The first 5 miles takes racers to 11,000 feet, just below the Brian Head Peak. At 55 miles and 4,000+ feet of climbing, this loop takes racers out to Lowder Pond, Red Desert, Tippets Valley and offers riders views of Cedar Breaks National Monument, before returning home.

Day #4 – Dark Hallow: The 2006 National Mountain Bike cross country course will be used for the last day's stage. The 27 mile course received rave reviews from racers of all abilities and riders will be completing two laps on the course. With nearly 3,000+ feet of climbing per lap, it's sure to be one of the toughest stages.

I've predicted your excuses for not coming already, and I've addressed each excuse below:

Excuse #1) "It's too expensive." Let's get this one out of the way right up front. It's true that at first glance, the $400 price tag may seem rather excessive. However, most single day endurance races are around half this price, and from what I've been told, are not nearly as well supported (or as epic) as this race is billed to be. This race is going to cover 170 miles of amazing dirt, so you're price per mile is pretty good. Plus, the cost of admission covers over $20,000 in cash and prizes, fully staffed aid stations (more on this below), breakfast everyday, and a jersey (not a t-shirt).

If you are struggling to come up with the cash, here are a few tips on how to scrape the coin together:
a) Don't do Lotoja. Why were you thinking of doing this race anyway? You're a mountain biker, not a roadie. I just saved you $160 dollars right there. If you weren't planning on doing Lotoja, then you already have an extra $160 to put towards the AMC. You should be going to Fish's luau instead, which I've heard is scheduled for the same day as Lotoja again this year (by the way, Fish, please continue scheduling the luau on the same day as Lotoja, as it gives me a rock-solid excuse to never do that race).

b) Convince your significant other to come and call it a vacation. I just saved you a ton of money in plane tickets. My wife (and maybe kids) will be there, and she'll be hoping to have other wives there while we're racing. In the evenings we'll hit Bryce, Zions, and all sorts of other great spots with the families.

c) I know you were planning on doing at least one other epic mountain bike race this summer anyway. Let's say it was the 3 days of the e-100. That's $450. Leadville? $240. Although these are great races (and you should do them all if you have the time and money), my hope is that the AMC stage race will be more epic than them all. Plus it's on my birthday.

As you can clearly see, you will actually be losing money by not doing this race.

Excuse #2) "I can't convince anyone to come run support for me." This race is fully supported and no support crew is needed. I can't think of any other race where this is true. If there is anything really specific that you need, my wife will be there to hook you up.
Excuse #2b) "I only eat certain foods during a race and will only drink CarboRocket, and I don't trust the organizer's choice of fuel. Well check this out. I personally contacted Tom (the race promoter) to ask him a few questions. Here is a direct quote from Tom: "You get [me] a list of what [you] want at the feed zones and I'll have it there." How cool is that?

Excuse #3) "It's too long/hard, and I'm not up for it." Here are a few quotes from the AMC website: "this is not an adventure survival test! If getting lost in the jungles of South America or 12 hour stages are what you are looking for, the AMC may not be your event." "The course layout will . . . allow the weekend racer a chance to complete the entire stage race." I think if you were able to finish RAWROD, you can finish this too. Plus, this isn't really a race, it's a birthday party.

Excuse #4) "I don't even know you, Aaron, why would I come to your birthday party?" Okay, don't come to my party, but still come and race.

I'll be registering for the SPORTSMEN 30-39 category, although Tom said I could upgrade to the MEN'S OPEN 30-34 category on race day, which I hope to do, depending on how the season goes.

Please RSVP in the comments so we can start planning. If you think your wife will only go for it if you have a personalized birthday invitation sent in the mail, let me know and I'll do it. By the way, the only gift you need to give me for this party is to promise not to beat me on stage 3 (although I fully expect this promise to be broken between now and August 23rd).

Be there or be square.