End of the Season

It's been a busy couple weeks since my last post.  I the last two races in the Missoula Cyclocross Series and had a pretty epic weekend excursion based on my current fitness levels.  In the meantime my parents were here visiting so Sara and I played a bit of tour guide.

The first race, #5 in the series, was the third and final race at the Missoula DNRC.  After the scores were officially tabulated post race #4 I came out tied for first with Nick Silverman.  So the race was on for Wednesday. Instead of taking time to rest heading into it I ran Tuesday morning, went for a bike ride at lunch, and did a Run Wild Missoula hill workout Tuesday evening.  I did not recover well from that day so when Nick failed to show up Wednesday evening I was quite happy.

Cory and I trying to catch up in week 6
Right from the start the race hurt.  The course had lots of long open stretches, more than any course to date, and a few extra barriers thrown in.  With the state my quads were in that night I would have appreciated fewer long straights so it was less about power.  Alas, I struggled.  The first couple laps I hung in ok.  We had a pretty good group going at the front of the B race.  I think there were 5-6 of us who led in the first 3 laps.

Going into the third lap I was able to get on the wheel of a guy heading into the windy section, which I hadn't been able to do the previous laps, so figured the race was about to start looking up.  I could recover a little, then push the last two laps and try to steal a win.  Instead I ran into a tree.

The course made a sharp left that was impossible to take wide due to a split-rail fence.  The guy I was sitting on, Austin I think, took it too wide and slammed on his brakes, forcing me to slam on mine and skid in the pine needles to the tree.  Here ultra marathon pro Mike Wolf blew by me and he and Austin put some distance on me again.  From then on I struggled mightily just to catch Austin and had nothing left to try and pass him.  I managed to nab 5th that day and felt lucky to get that.  Due to Nick not making an appearance though I moved into the sole lead of the series by 65 points (5 points per place, 1st gets 100).

I took that Thursday and Friday off to try and recover before Sean Mahoney called me out for not posting enough on Strava.  You'd think he'd let a guy recover, but he was also right.  I needed to get out.

Saturday morning I ran up Sentinel with Jared Scott.  We made the M in record time (for me) before heading straight up the ridge following the course of the upcoming Sentinel Hill Climb.  We managed just over 24 minutes, and I spent nearly as long trying to catch my breath.  I have no idea how people manage four minutes faster up that monster.  Time to get after it more I guess.

We then went on an easy mountain bike ride with Sara in Blue Mountain Rec area, which helped shake out my legs some so I figured I'd be ok for a mult-hour adventure the next day.

Sunday morning I biked up the Rattlesnake and five miles up Stuart Peak trail.  I had wanted to bike farther, but with how slow I was going from fatigue and the entirely too minimal uphill grade I decided shuffling would be faster and easier on the ego.

I switched to running and climbed the last couple thousand feet by foot.  Upon hitting the ridge and crossing into the wilderness the views became incredible.  It was like I crossed some magic threshold back into the mountains.  Which I guess I did, but it did seem to happen more quickly than possible.  Patches of snow appeared and hidden valleys dotted with lakes.  I made it to the top of Stuart and sat for a good bit enjoying the warm sun and a Snickers.

Heading back down I started to feel a little rhythm and was able to put in some turnover towards the end.  On the less technical trails I'm really trying to focus on speed since that is a major weak point for me currently.  Steep and rocky is fine.  Not rocky, not fine.

Getting back on the bike was rough.  The speed factor is also my downfall on the bike.  I felt like I was absolutely flying, right up to the point two guys blasted by me.  I tried to keep up with them and stopped after a mere dip sent my stomach churning.  Looking at the stats later, I hit 30mph on the single track, which is much faster than I think I have ever gone on a true single track trail, but not enough to keep up on an easy Sunday ride.  More practice there as well I guess.

Looking down on Upper Twin Lake from near Stuart Peak
When Wednesday rolled around again I was feeling pretty ready to race.  My parents delivered a couple tubs of Fluid from Run Flagstaff so I was full of confidence, but since this was the 6th and final race in the 2014 series, so I could not afford to mess it up.  My strategy would be to ride a little more conservatively to avoid flatting, and finishing outside the top 12.  As long as I was in the top 12 I would win the series outright.

The course moved to the Rolling Thunder site where the big race will be in a week and a half, which was a lot bumpier and more technical so flat tires were a much bigger possibility.

From the start Austin took off and we never saw him again.  The race then broke into a couple groups of two. Nick and Mike, then Cory and me.  After our group of two there wasn't really anyone for a long while so I figured as long as I didn't really mess up I could win.

About halfway through the race though I realized riding defensively is no fun and is pretty lame in a cyclocross race.  I started pressing a little more and enjoying it more.  The course had a bump track that required perfect rhythm, a big banking drop, two big swooping berms, and a nice short steep hill.  Riding defensively meant that I had put myself way out of contention for the win that night since it was so technical, but I still tried to gain some ground.  The obstacles became a lot more fun (aside from the gravel driveway) at higher speeds and I actually felt like I was racing again.

The joy of good nutrition products.
I ended up fourth and won the B series.  I definitely feel torn though because I didn't give it everything from the start, but waited that race.  I would feel better I think if I had been more reckless and lost overall, but at least put myself in contention for the win on Wednesday.

From now on cyclocross will be an all or nothing thing for me.  I may live to regret that soon since the Rolling Thunder race is a couple hours after the Montana Cup cross country meet so I will be exhausted, but I still hope I have the guts to go for it when the time comes.

Next up: I'm contemplated attempting the Hilloween IV climbing challenge on Saturday.  I don't have the strength or endurance to win the overall challenge right now so I think I am going to go for the "most inspired route" for this year.  Then gear up for the MT Cup and Rolling Thunder Races the next weekend.

It's time to get back to the running!