Sunday, July 7, 2013

2013 Marathon MTB National Championships - Sun Valley, ID

For the third straight summer I made the drive out to Sun Valley, ID... it's long, but totally worth it!  This year would be a little different though, as the race was the double length "Marathon" National Championship race and Jen finally got to come with me (always better!).  I was really feeling strong in the week leading into the race and the longer format usually suits me well (commence diesel mode!), so I was looking forward to a good result.  The course would consist of two circuits of last year's amateur xc national champs course... basically climb a big mountain and come back down... rinse and repeat.

Friday morning I set out for a pre-ride on the Highball.  From what I remembered the climb wasn't too rough, so the sub-21lb. hard tail might be nice.  And about half way up, I met Neil from Avex.  He snapped this photo showing the awesome view of the Ketchum/Hailey valley below.
He's also having me test out one of their new Pecos insulated bottle which is pretty cool.  It has a flip top cover to keep crud off the spout.  So far it's pretty cool and finally a bottle I wouldn't be afraid to have on the bottom of the down tube on my Tallboy LTc.

After the long climb was a ripping long descent and was a ton of fun.

While being fairly smooth and flowy, was also high speed and littered with sharp rocks in places that made the risk of flatting high.  So because of that I elected to pull out the Tallboy for the extra security of the squish.  There weren't really any places where I'd be hindered too much by the added weight, since almost all of the climbs were long and steady.  Plus I know the Tallboy could rip the downhill a bit faster... and be more fun!

Race morning came and I was pretty anxious.  Not so much about the race itself but that something just didn't feel right.  I ate a good light breakfast and had a cup of coffee, but I still wasn't satisfied and just felt tired.  Plus I was cold and couldn't seem to warm up.  It was about fifty degrees out at 7am, which is less than half of what I've been used to in Sacramento the last week or so.  But it's not THAT cold and I shouldn't need my thermal jacket which I was wearing during my short warmup.  The race was at 8 and I didn't really have time to eat any more or get whatever it was sorted out before lining up.  I just hoped I would start to feel better once things got underway.

We started out with a start loop around the venue and up a couple hundred yards of the "climb to the sun" which didn't feel so great first thing in the morning!  The field got strung out a bit after winding back down through the trees and heading out down the paved bike path.  I caught up to the lead group about twenty strong before we turned off the pavement and started up the big climb.  The group stayed together and composed until the climbing got steep.  The top six or so broke away and the rest of us spread out a little.  I was feeling ok, and hanging in the chase group just staying smooth and steady.  We turned into the singletrack and the climbing continued but was a little more rolling.  I got popped off the back as I needed to recover a bit.  The only problem was I really wasn't recovering and getting any "pop" back.  I kept sipping on the Clif Shot mix in my bottle and slowly reeled the chase group back in, catching them about half way up the climb.  I could see the leaders farther up the climb, at least five minutes ahead already, which was demoralizing.  Oh well... it just wasn't happening today.  After about fifty minutes of climbing we crested the top and began the descent.  I passed a few guys, and I also think I counted three who were pulled off with flats before we made it to the fire road climb, bringing us back onto the front side of the mountain for the final descent to the finish.  I had NO power for the climb, and was passed by a couple guys... dang.  I popped a Clif Shot because I was feeling hungry again, but after a little bit the hunger resumed.  I was already starting to feel a little over saturated with sugars and just wanted water, which I didn't have with me.

Thankfully after all those fun switchbacks on the descent, I came through the venue to start lap two and got the hand-off from my support crew which was a nice big bottle of straight water.  Jen yelled that she thought I was in 19th at that point... maybe after this water I'd feel better and could pick off a bunch?  So I set off for lap two...
I bridged up to a couple guys on the pavement and once I was in the draft, sucked down some water.  Then some more.  After about five minutes I was starting to feel better.  But then that whole bottle was gone about a quarter of the way up the big climb, and I still wanted (needed!) more but had nothing.  The only thing that kept me going up that climb was the promise of a bottle of water from the aid station at the top.  With about eight minutes left in the climb, I came around a ridge and could see that glorious white tent... an oasis in the mountains.  I finally got there, and yes, WATER!!!  Only problem was I could only take a couple gulps before needing to put both hands on the wheel for the descent.  Ahh!  I WANT MORE!!!  There was a short climb about half way down where I could get a few more sips before the high speeds resumed.  Finally I made it to the fire road traverse and I sucked down the rest... still feeling over saturated and hungry but getting better.  There was another aid station and I grabbed another half full bottle from them before cresting that climb and I sucked down some more.  I was about twenty seconds back from catching another guy so I set out to try and reel him in on the final descent.  But I still just didn't have the energy and he was descending well.  I made up time, but just not enough before the bottom.

 I rolled across the line in 17th after three hours and seventeen minutes for the 40 mile, 6000+ ft. vert. course.  I was pretty upset and frustrated with how I felt, because I think it was something as simple as not eating enough the day before.  But I did the best that I could with what I had, the bike was awesome, and this always makes it better...
And after tanking about four more bottles of water and eating two lunches... time to enjoy Sun Valley and a little vacation!
And on Sunday we had a fun time riding the gondola and lifts up to the top, rollin' the bikes down and enjoying some great trails and awesome views.