Wednesday, May 21, 2008

6 Hours of Platte River

Photo courtesy of John Peterson

Once again, I arrived at the race course with about 45 minutes to spare. Just enough time to get registered, dressed and to the start line with no warm-up. I gotta knock that off, running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off, trying to get ready for a race… kinda stupid eh? I thought that I left early enough, but I’d forgotten how long it took to get to Platte River. The nice thing about 6 hour races is that a good warm-up isn’t nearly as crucial as it is in a normal XC race.
The race started with a Le Mans style start and I was 3rd or 4th to my bike. As we made our way up the hill, I tucked in behind MG and JP with intent on following either of those two, or Darin Schlake for at least the first three hours of the race. All three of them live here and JP practically built the trails that we were riding on. Platte River is the type of course where course knowledge is pretty key for success due to the technical nature of the course. I’ve never won anything at Platte largely because of my lack of knowing the course.
About midway through lap one, Darin caught up to us, and for the first three hours, either Darin, MG or JP led the way. I had an absolute blast following them! It was some of the most fun that I can remember ever having on a mountain bike. The course has a lot of sections that flow like a rollercoaster, especially if you know the lines and can carry your momentum. The trail conditions were pretty close to perfect and the weather was equally as nice.
The pace for the first three hours was mostly a comfortable zone 2, with some zone 3 efforts through some of the more technical sections. About two hours into the race, MG decided to drop off the pace a little knowing that we still had four hours to go. Whenever JP would take the lead, he would drill it up the hills, XC style. I remember thinking that if he kept that up, all of those ATP demands would begin to catch up to him later.
At about the three hour mark, Darin was leading right before a pretty rough downhill section. He motioned for somebody else to lead because his hands were blistering pretty badly and didn’t want to hold us up. I took over the lead for the first time and decided that it was probably time to turn the screws a little to test JP. I kicked the effort up into zone 3 and sensed that it might create a little separation. We rolled through the rock garden and I noticed that I was starting to open a small gap. I kept the pressure on and it looked like it was going to stick.
After about 40 minutes of zone 3, I had a big enough gap that I couldn’t see anybody behind me on any portion of the course where it doubled back. I dropped the effort back down to zone 2 and put it cruise control. At about the four hour mark, I could tell that I had some pretty wicked blisters developing on my hands and my feet were starting to get hot spots with a little numbness for good measure. I think that I had my shoes on a little too tight, they were also new and not fully broken in. Throughout the last two hours, I had to constantly change the position of my hands on the grips a little to keep the pressure off of my blistering palms. I loosened my shoes a little and I also had to adjust how I applied pressure to the pedals to preserve my ailing feet. Everything else felt great! My legs felt really good, my upper body didn’t feel quite as good as my legs, but it wasn’t to the point where it was the limiter.


I rolled through the finish chute at the end of my 12th lap and the clock read 5:59:15. I could have gone out for one more lap or I could opt to pull the plug knowing that my lead was big enough that victory was mine. I made the obvious choice and called it a day. MG’s decision to back it off early on paid off, he rolled through in 2nd place about 20+ minutes behind me. JP brought home 3rd. Darin ended up dropping out because of blisters on his hands.
My cool down consisted of riding over to my car and devouring my recovery beverage. I couldn’t get my shoes and gloves off soon enough. I did kind of take my time in pulling off my gloves as I wasn’t all that anxious to see how much skin I’d managed to strip off of my hands. I pulled them off and discovered two giant blisters on each hand. Aside from the bliters, I had a pretty awesome day!
A huge thanks goes out to the folks that made the race happen, CycleWorks did a great job with the organization. THOR (Trails Have Our Respect) are largely responsible for the awesome network of trails at Platte River State Park. Without folks like THOR (and CITA in Des Moines), we wouldn’t have sweet places to ride our mountain bikes.
My weapon of choice was the Orbea Oiz Carbon and she worked flawlessly! I’m finally starting to get the front and rear suspension dialed in to my liking. After a long enduro grind on the mtn bike, my lower back usually takes a pretty severe beating. After I finished my last lap, I dismounted and slowly stood up straight like a 120 year old man in anticipation of having to immediately bend back over due to a sore, fatigued back. Once I straightened myself out, I realized that my back actually felt pretty good! I also decided to further my testing of tubeless tires by running 30 psi in both wheels. I’ve never run anything below 40 psi before, so I was a little concerned about possibly rolling the tire off of the rim through some of the smokin’ fast tight corners that Platte River is notorious for. The tires performed flawlessly and I was able to fly through a lot of the high speed corners like I was on rails.
I also wore a pair of Oakley Flak Jackets with permisson lenses. The lens is by the coolest that I’ve worn thus far. The lens gradually changes the level of tint when I transition from shade to sunlight. I can tell that it works, however it’s a subtle enough change that it’s barely noticeable. I also wore a pair of the new Louis Garneau Carbon T-Flex mountain bike shoes. It’s a very comfortable, light weight shoe with a carbon sole. They were great over the first four hours and will only get better once I actually get them broken in.
I downloaded my heart rate data and spent about 2 minutes in zone 4, about an hour in zone 3 with the remainder of the race in zone 2. I think that’s pretty close to ideal for me in a 6 hour race because I felt great physiologically. I just need to get the hand and foot thing dialed in and I’ll be golden!

Next up is the Snake Alley Criterium and possibly the Muscatine Crit. I’m planning to do the 40+ and possibly the 30+ for the Snake. I’m not sure what I’m doing for Muscatine yet. I might opt to do a long road ride instead.

Thanks for reading,