I didn’t really plan to start off my racing season this early, however this is the time of the year for long endurance rides and a 6 hour mountain bike race seemed like a great way to get my mountain biking legs and my new Orbea Oiz Carbon dialed in. Friday rolled around and the weather forecast looked pretty good and the word was out that the trails were in great shape, so it was game on!
It was so nice to get out and ride my mountain bike on actual dirt, rather than snow or mud! I’d never ridden at Landahl before, I’d heard that it was pretty technical and very rocky. It didn’t sound like a great course to race on without first getting a recon lap in, however with this being a 6 hour suffer fest, I figured that I could bypass the recon and use my first lap to follow the leaders and learn the lines that way.
Endurance racing is all about pacing yourself and keeping yourself hydrated and fed. My goal was to maintain a Zone 2 effort (heart rate in the 150’s) throughout the race. Whenever I go out for a long training ride of five or six hours, my effort is consistently around 150 throughout the ride. So it seemed like a pretty realistic goal. Add to that, my main objective for this race was to keep it as a training effort, rather than a race effort.
The race started with a le mans style start… I hate running, that’s why I ride a bike! The last time that I had to run was when Petey insisted on shaking my hand after he applied chamiox butter directly to his nether regions… and yes, I’m sure that I ran like a girl, screamin’ bloody murder. I did get a decent start and I had no idea where I stood amongst the other 6 hour soloists. There was also a 3 hour race and they started everybody together, so it would have been really easy for a 6 hour soloist to go out way too hard. I did my best to keep my effort under control and despite my efforts, noticed my heart rate creeping into the 160’s and sometimes even the 170’s. I think a part of that was due to adrenaline, not only from the race, but also from riding over some of the more technical stuff without having seen it before. Rocks, really big rocks… and lot’s of them. They had all kinds of skin and bike frame piercing points sticking out of them. The thought of putting a wheel wrong and hitting the deck was enough to elevate my heart rate by about 10 beats!
Lap 1 - I survived the 1st lap with a time of 45:32 and an average heart rate of 165, a little too hard. I had no idea what place I was in at the time, but I also wasn’t too worried about it either as winning wasn’t supposed to be my priority… but it was in the back of my mind, I am a bike racer afterall! After having a look at the results, the first 6 hour soloist finished his first lap in 41:36… ouch! I came through in 6th place.
Lap 2 – I backed the effort down considerably and maintained an average heart rate of 156 and rolled through with a lap time of 46:09. I felt a lot more comfortable with my effort and the course. The results indicated that I had lost a couple of places and was sitting in 8th and a little over 7 minutes behind 1st place.
Lap 3 – My average heart rate for lap 3 was again at 156 and I was feeling really good. My lap time had even dropped down to 45:30, which indicated that I was a lot more comfortable with the course and was starting to get it figured out. I had the same lap time as I did on lap 1, and my effort was about 10 heartbeats less. The first two laps of the race, I don’t think that I passed a single person, however on this lap I remember passing quite a few cats that were livin’ it up in the pain cave. I was sitting in 7th place by the end of lap 3, about 10 minutes behind 1st.
Lap 4 – My average heart rate for lap 4 was holding steady at 157 and my lap time was at a steady 45:41. I felt really good, just like I normally would have on training ride of this length. I passed a few more people and by the end of lap 4, the race results had indicated that I was in 4th place. At this point during the race, I still had no idea what place I was in. I think it was during lap four that I got a stick or something caught in my drive train. I back pedaled a little to get it out, but it was too late. My gears started jumping all over the place. I started adjusting my barrel, thinking that the stick probably loosened my rear derailleur cable. By the end of lap 4 I was a little over 11 minutes behind 1st.
Lap 5 – My average heart rate for lap 5 was 155 and my lap time was 45:37. Physically, I was still feelin’ the love, my legs felt really good! My gears however, were still jumpin’ all over the place, especially when I tried to shift up into my 30 and 32 rings. When I hit some of the hills I had to suck up my pride and drop into my granny gear to keep my gears in the rear from going haywire. By the end of lap 5 I had managed to close the gap to 1st down to just a little over 3 minutes.
Lap 6 – I think during this lap, I started to get the feeling that I might actually be close to leading the race. My average heart rate for the lap had dropped a little to 150 and my lap time also dropped to 46:58. I was still feeling pretty good and maintained my focus on staying hydrated and fed. At some point during this lap, I passed Kip Biese, who had been leading most of the race. He looked like he was in his own little purgatory of pain and paying dearly for all of those smokin’ fast lap times that he had been cutting earlier. I also passed a cat named Mark Cole, who had taken over the race lead from Kip. I didn’t know that he was leading at the time and thought that maybe I had lapped him. I was still feeling really good and started thinking that I shouldn’t have any trouble at all finishing this thing. I was still having issues with my gears despite my efforts with the barrel adjuster. At the end of the lap I stopped at the scorers table to check on what place I was in, and sure enough, I was sitting in 1st overall! This kinda put me into race mode and I began to realize that maybe Mark was actually on the same lap as myself. I stopped at my car to grab more water and Gatorade and noticed that Mark had re-passed me while I had stopped. I could see him rolling up the hill and he kept looking back at me in such a way that I knew he had taken the lead from me. I caught back up to him as we crested the hill and we rode together for a little while. He was starting to slow down, so I asked to pass and he let me by. I continued at my pace and started to gap him off.
Lap 7 – Throughout lap 7, I could start to feel a little bit of upper body fatigue starting to set in. I’m really surprised that it took that long to happen due to the rocky nature of the course. I was still feeling really good otherwise and by this time I finally had my gears working reasonably well. My average heart rate for lap 7 was holding steady at 150 and my lap time had dropped a little to 47:37. I looked back occasionally and could see Mark kind of yo-yoing about a minute or two behind me. About ¼ of the way through the lap I decided to tighten the screws a little. I upped the effort and a short while later noticed that I couldn’t see him anymore. By the end of lap 7 my lead was just under 1 minute.
Lap 8 – I rolled through lap 7 with a total time of 5 hours and 23 minutes, so I knew that lap 8 would be my last. I also knew that I had a pretty sizeable gap on 2nd place. My upper body was really starting to weaken, so much so, that as I was riding through some of the rocky sections, I wasn’t really too sure if I could make it through without eating some of the delicious rocks that were strewn about the course. I pretty much put it in cruise control and my average heart rate for the lap dropped down to 143 with a lap time of 49:11. Good enough for 1st overall, about 9 minutes ahead of the 2nd place soloist, Mark Cole and a little over 2 minutes ahead of the 1st place team. A little side note, the fastest lap time for the last lap was 46:47 cut by Dwayne Gosconski, which in my mind deserves the award for fastest lap. That's freakishly fast after having ridden a course like Landahl for 6 hours.
So, for the 6 hours and 12 minutes that I was riding, my average heart rate for the race was 154, pretty much exactly where I wanted it. I felt like I didn’t push myself too hard, as I didn’t want to cook myself this early in the season. I also have a pretty big training week coming up and I didn’t want to compromise that either.
Pre-race nutrition consisted of a couple of pancakes with three eggs before I hit the road. While I was driving I ate maybe ½ to ¾ of a box of Mueslix and washed it down with a pot of coffee. During the race, I think that I drank close to 64 ounces of Gatorade and enough water that I had to stop and take a leak twice during the race... no, I don’t pee while riding my bike. I tried it once and I ended up getting more on me than the ground… hey, I had to at least try. I had also eaten two Probars. I probably should have eaten a little more, but I didn’t really feel all that hungry until the last lap of the race. After the race, I made an absolute pig of myself and pretty much ate everything in sight that looked edible.
The folks that host all of the races for the Heartland Series do an excellent job in everything from organization to awesome courses. This race was no different, I had to leave before the awards ceremony because I had a long drive ahead of me. I think I probably missed out on a pretty sweet little schwag give away because they had a big ole’ pile of sweet looking stuff sitting behind the scorers table. The pile was so big that they couldn’t fit it all on any of the tables that they had set up! I always try to make the trip down yonder at least once a year for their races, always a great time!
Next up is the season opener for the Psycowpath series at Maskenthine State Park, this coming Saturday. I won there last season, so I’ll be looking to repeat. Stay tuned!
Thanks for reading,