It’s been a while since I typed the words “race report.” It feels quite nice.
Saturday was the Knickerbocker 8-hour/50 miler, which took place in Cool, CA. Since my first couple attempts at 8-hour races were not very successful, I opted for the 50 mile option in the Beginner/Sport Single Speed class. I’m OK with being a sport class racer, but I hate the fact that “beginner” is part of the class name. I have been racing for a long, long time, so I am no beginner. However, by no means am I an Expert/Pro anymore, which was my only other option for racing single speed.
I broke one of the cardinal rules in racing by making a big change to my bike the night before the race. I had been running a 34x20 (1.7 : 1) gear for the past few months, but last time I rode the Cool course the gear was a bit tall for my liking. I called around looking for a 21-tooth freewheel, so I could run a 34x21 (1.619 : 1), but this podunk cow town was fresh out. I had to switch out my cranks to get a 32-tooth chainring on there, which gave me a 32x20 (1.6 : 1) gear.
I went to bed that night and had a tough time sleeping. It had been 21 months since I last toed the starting line, and my wrist was still a question mark. I had not stressed the joint like it would be in this race. I was concerned about my wrist, my fitness, the distance, the cramps . . .
One thing that helped greatly was my buddy Doug deciding to come out and race. I felt a lot better about my chances of finishing the race with a partner to ride and pace with.
On race morning it was a bit cool and breezy. Reports from the course all said the same thing: super dry and dusty.
The course would be a 12.5 mile loop that we would ride four times, each lap with about 1750 feet of climbing.
We started with a Le Mans start, which means you run to your bike. I really hate having to run in cycling shoes, but the intent was to spread out the pack before hitting the trail in an effort to make the dust more manageable. I don't think it helped much. The dust was pretty bad for the first couple miles.
After that things spread out a bit and the dust was manageable, but still ever present. Doug and I settled into our race pace, which was a pretty comfortable tempo that never really taxed me much aerobically.
Lap one was pretty uneventful. There was more singletrack than when I last raced there in 2007, so I was actually enjoying the ride. We walked up the steep climb out of Knickerbocker Creek. I ride this climb during regular rides, but there's no reason to do it in a race; you can go just as fast walking and not destroy your legs.
The climb out of Salt Creek was great. My gearing choice was perfect and I was very comfortable on the climb all day. When we crested the top I was actually kind of surprised how easy the lap was. I felt confident I could finish the race.
Not too far into the second lap I had a twinge in my calf. I could not believe a cramp was coming on already. I upped my fluid and fuel intake and hoped for the best.
The second time up the Salt Creek climb the cramps really started to creep up. They weren't full on cramps, but I could feel them lurking. When we arrived to the start/finish area, I gorged myself on energy drink and gels. After lubing our bone-dry chains, we rode off for lap three, and I felt uncomfortably full.
On the third lap my triceps started cramping, so I tried to stay seated. Doug was spending much more time in the saddle on the climbs, so I tried to do the same to give my arms a break. At the rest stop, which was mid-lap, I again fueled up with a small cup of sports drink and a gel. On the third trip up Salt Creek my legs wanted to blister it, but I was still barely holding off the cramps, so I rode a nice tempo. Even so, I was passing quite a few people. It's a weird feeling to have really good legs and not be able to use them because of cramps.
Before the fourth lap, I drank about 30 ounces of sports drink and ate another gel. We soft pedaled much of the first half of the fourth lap because both of us were on the verge of cramping. At the rest stop they gave us some Endurolytes, which are capsules filled with electrolytes. I don't know if it was the capsules or just the fact that I was smelling the barn, but on the fourth trip up the Salt Creek climb I felt great.
After that we rolled down to the finish and it was over. I felt pretty fresh, and were it not for the cramps, I really felt like I had another couple laps in me.
Doug rode really well. He consistently pulled away from me (and others) on the downhills with the rigid fork, and climbed really well even though his 32x19 gear might have been a little tall for 7000 feet of climbing. I certainly couldn't have pushed that gear.
We ended up first and second in the Single Speed Beginner/Sport class. This may sound more impressive than it was, since there were three people in our class.
We had a cold keg of microbrew waiting at the finish, which tasted pretty damn good after the effort. It was a fun day and it felt great to finally get back out there and do some racing.
On to the pictures. Me after the race:
Doug bringing it home:
"Are you talking to us?"
Talking to Roger as he refuels for his next lap with PBR:
Roger describing how he passed me like a rocket:
Tinker wins the overall LNT series title:
Tinker attempts to run over me with his new scooter:
Todd and Roger mugging for the fans: