Friday, August 19, 2011

8/7/11 Howell Mountain Challenge

Spend 15 hours on the bike, plus 4 days gym workouts, and 5-6 hours of sleep each night in a week and then race a tough 30 mile MTB race?  Mmmm... ok.  Oh and still be motivated to push it and try to win.  Uhh... raincheck?

I overcame the urge to stay in bed at 6am, even though that's sleeping in for me, mainly because I didn't get up at 3:45 with Jen to go work the TBF Tri 4 Real because I was racing.  Wandering around the house, gathering all the gear together and making the bottle mixes of HEED for a 2hr race, thoughts and excuses rolling through my head trying to justify not doing it.  But this is one of my favorite courses of the year, tough, but rewarding.  So I zombie'd around the house and before I knew it I was westbound for Angwin.  

The legs were pretty heavy feeling during the warmup, and even caffeine wasn't really getting me juiced to hammer.  Oh well, it's a pretty long race, maybe they'll come around in an hour or so and if I can manage to stay towards the front I'll still be in it.  Well the gun went off and up the dreadful start climb we went, with the Whole Athlete kids sprinting off the front.  Argh.  I was off the back of the lead group right away.  Up the climb and hike section to the top and then onto the flats for a half mile, I could already see there was a lead group of 4 or so breaking away, and another chase pack, then me, in about 11th place by the time we get into the first singletrack.  I tried to keep track of the number of riders in front of me as the plan was just to pick them off slowly.  Through the fun singletrack in the trees, drifting, twisting, climbing, where no matter how narrow your bars are the gaps in the trees still feel tight.  Super fun stuff.  Ok, starting to feel better.  I start to see some dust and then get into an open stretch and see some "rabbits" to catch.  Well here we go.  10...9...8... and then some more twisty singletrack and rocks.  I love my Highball... good choice... the bike was rockin' it.  7... steep climb, punch it, 6...  more singletrack and then a fast fire road descent... 5... climbing again, oops, 6... 7... good job guys.  Ok now the last descent before the steep climb, 6..., ....and up the steep climb we go into the granny and standing but it's too loose and I have to walk the last bit.  7... dang, nice job man.  But next up is my forte, the long gradual climb where the diesel power shines.  But I look down and discover a lap 1 casualty; lost the seat tube mounted water bottle somewhere.  Dang!  That was one of the good Camelbak ones, hopefully I can find it on the next lap because rationing just 1 bottle for this race is pushing the fluid intake limits.  Still climbing, 6... 5... 4... now lap two and I see Brian Astell up ahead with about a 30 second gap as we go into the trees for round two.  Riding by myself for a while, trying to stay smooth and on top of the pedals.  I finally catch Brian after going through the rocks, half way through the lap and as I go by, "there's three guys ahead right?"  Brian said he thought there was only two.  Guess I must have miss counted.  I was sleep deprived and trying to do high level math while racing, so it's a possibility.  I could see them riding together in the couple long stretches, maybe just 30 seconds up.  Down the hill I go again, keeping a sharp eye out for my MIA waterbottle... no luck.  As I get to near the top of the steep climb again, going around a lapped rider I slip out.  As I dismount I hear "Hey Clint!" from behind me.  Brian was at the base of the climb and as I look back "You're right, there are three guys ahead!"  Aha!  So I was right (and my math skills were still sharp)!  Cool.  But where was that leader?  

Time for the long climb again, what pops into my head? Dori from "Finding Nemo" singing: "Just keep swimming swimming swimming..."

Well, swap swimming with pedaling and DO IT!!!  The plan is working!  They're getting closer!  

Lap 3, no luck on finding the lost bottle and not much is left in the one I have.  By the end of the singletrack I'm seeing lots of dust and we pop out onto a road section and I've caught them.  Two Whole Athlete Cat 1 racers putting out a strong race.  I seesaw with them a bit and one gets a bit of separation from us.  Nice effort, I can't match it.  I just about catch back up to him on the long grinder climb though, giving it all I had, but there's just too much gap.  I get to the rocky "whoop de doos" and over the first one, down and up the second but when I stand up to power over the rocks the chain skips and I land on the top tube, ouch.  As I get my breath back from a crotch impact the next guy goes by, 3... and I still had to run up the rest of that whoop.  He put some time on me there, too much to get back with only about a mile to go and I eventually roll across the line 4th overall,  20 seconds back from 3rd, and another 20 seconds from 2nd.  Nice job guys.  But the winner, Will Curtis, crushed it and was three minutes up!  Turns out he was fully rested and in redemption mode after a bad race a couple weeks prior and really wanted this one.  And "wanting it" vs. "looking for excuses to stay in bed" equaled three minutes.  It would have been interesting to compare our lap times though, because my last one was feeling pretty good.  But I certainly didn't have the motivation to go ride for a couple hours after the race... took a little cat nap on the grass waiting for the awards instead :-).  

I'm happy though with the solid and consistent effort that I was able to put out, finishing as the 2nd place pro and a time over five minutes faster than last year's.  Must be the bike :-).


  1. Great write up Clint. Good race too. Love the Dori clip. This race kicked my butt and I only did sport for two laps. Thanks for the entertaining race reports, they make me want to push my own potential.