25 August 2012

Capitol Forest 100

BANG. It's Martin's last mountain bike race of the year, the Capitol Forest 100. Here is the pessimistic perspective of how it went.


And here is the optimistic perspective. That's me there on the left.


Once again 4th Dimension Racing and the NW Epic Series put on a fantastic event and I'm glad I showed up. For all the rants and Martin-centric play-by-play read on.

This is the second year that I have competed in and completed this series and I love it. The races are longer (hence the word 'Epic' in the name?) and the three venues are all uniquely different; all great, just in a different way. Last year I got 3rd overall in the series and so was hoping to climb one step up on the podium. But... mentally I had checked out some time ago at least as far as hard/specific training was concerned and the organizers changed the way you can accrue points this year making it much easier for people to do well. The upshot is I think I got 3rd again.

Because of the new way you can earn points, one of the strongest racers was opting for the 50 mile event instead of the 100. And that was just fine with me. :) Still, there was this other guy that had been prepping for this event like a madman. He would be tough to beat.

This year was much more relaxed than last year. For one I felt less pressure and I had also been here before so I knew the routine. There is tons of free camping right at the start and they have showers and restrooms, you are not roughing it by any stretch of the imagination. I showed up early, hung out in the sun, tinkered with my bike, ate some food, read a book and then finally hit the sack. Stress free for sure.

Last year they had advertised the start time as 5:45. When we gathered it was pretty obvious that this was much too early as it was still totally dark! They eventually delayed the start to 6:10. This year the organizer learned from that mistake and advertised the start as 6:15. Perfect. Knowing it was going to be warm (and luckily it was not too cold in the night) I started in the same clothing that I expected to finish in. It's really, really nice to not have to worry about clothing drops, etc., one less thing to hassle with. I rolled to the start, chatted with Gary Ballas (the other guy) and my teammate Lane Seeley. This was his first 100 mile MTB race but he's a horse.


We rolled out of the parking lot, onto some pavement, up a gravel road and then hit the singletrack. On the pavement (maybe 500 m?) the geared bikes did not push the pace so we hit the gravel grupo compacto. On the first rise while we were still on the gravel road I had a hard time going fast and so when Gary moved up to pass a couple of riders before we got onto the trail I was not quite able to do likewise and entered the singletrack with one rider between us. Still, I could see him up ahead and he was not pulling away so no biggie.

This situation stayed the same until around mile 10. From mile 10-15 we were on some of the bumpiest trail I have ever ridden. It was as if the following set of sequential events had taken place.

  • Some tiny bulldozer had plowed through the forest widening the trail and in the process had softened the surface by tearing it up.
  • It had rained turning the trail to soup.
  • A million horses had walked along the trail post holing it to bits.
  • The sun had come out drying it into this bumpy, potholed moonscape.

Obviously I'm exaggerating a tiny bit but it was really bumpy!

On this section of trail Gary's skills were superior to mine and he began to open a gap that I could not close. At the next aid station I saw him pulling out as I was pulling in. Rats.

And this is when the mechanical problems with my bike started...

ASIDE - I recently purchased my 'dream' bike. I found this wicked Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper Carbon 29 Singlespeed on eBay and I thought it was too good to be true. It sucks that I was right.

The frame and fork are crazy light, no complaints there. The ride is also incredible, I love it. And the carbon frame is fantastically efficient and responsive. So what are the problems? There were three.

  1. It turns out I am a tubeless tire n00b. I have been running them on our MTB tandem for years but those tires are BEEFY and don't leak air like these lightweight things I am using on my single. Plus on the tandem I'm using Mavic rims which don't need any rim tape. Turns out applying Stan's rim tape is something you need to do carefully and deliberately. For the first several rides (and one race unfortunately) I was leaking air for various reasons and it was not until this day that I finally figured that shit out.
  2. The seatpost slips. The post is carbon and the frame is carbon and the binder bolt is titanium. All light as hell but not so good at keeping everything in place. Especially when the rider weighs 180 lb. Also, not being used to carbon-on-carbon, I had applied a little grease to the post which probably made things worse. I should have dried everything off and used something like Tacx Dynamic Assembly Paste or similar. When I got off at this aid station my saddle was almost 3 cm lower than it should be.
  3. My cranks keep coming loose. I got these on a leap of faith; I had this ultra light frame, fork and wheels and figured I would put some icing on the cake. Turns out I put a turd on instead. And no matter how much you polish a turd, it's still just a turd. An extremely light, carbon fiber turd in this case.

So in addition to eating and drinking at this aid station I also got some chain oil, raised my seatpost (the mechanics were nice enough to smear on some carbon paste for me) and tightened my cranks.

I was still thinking that if I had a stellar day and Gary had a rotten one I might catch him so there wasn't any slowing down. But as the miles wore on and my seatpost kept slipping and my cranks kept coming loose it became pretty obvious that I was just going for a ride and not able to race. At least I was okay with this. :) These trails are a blast and I was enjoying myself and my legs were holding up better than I thought they would which was a nice surprise.

Most of the remainder of lap 1 (this race is two 50-mile laps) was ridden solo. The field was mostly behind me and the 50 mile riders were not yet on the course.

There is this hilarious little fork in the trail on the main descent, one direction is signed HARD and one is signed EASY. Of course I took the HARD way and promptly spun out and dabbed. Darn.

As the day wore on the number of times I had to raise my seatpost and tighten my cranks became ridiculous. I was literally stopping every two or three miles to adjust something. Or two things. If it had not been a nice day and had I not been on fun trails I would have packed it in without a doubt. But it was nice out and the trails were a blast so I carried on.

Roughly 15 or 20 miles into the second lap I came across a guy that had a flat. Since my race was over long ago I stopped to help. He was running tubeless tires and having a miserable time with his CO2 so I gave him one of my inner tubes and let him use my pump. The guy must have wrenched the valve while pumping or something because this tube started to leak too. After about 10 minutes of fussing around I told him I was sorry but needed to carry on and that I had to keep my one remaining tube for myself. I felt bad for him. :(

During the second lap the frequency with which I had to stop to tighten my cranks became laughable. The ONLY thing that let me finish this race was the fact that the Second Ascent mechanics at the second aid station let me borrow a long 6 mm Alan wrench to take with me. So every couple of miles I'm pulling over, fishing this long tool out of my jersey pocket and tightening up my REALLY LIGHT (I had to keep telling myself there was some redeeming quality) cranks. On the upside I got really good at doing this quickly.

People started to pass me on the second lap. Even though I was not descending slowly, this many stops just don't make for a fast time and many of the guys I blew by while climbing started to catch me on the descent.

I think I was able to ride the entire first lap. On the second lap there were some short pitches toward the end where I had to get off and walk. I was on the edge of cramping pretty much since mile 30 but managed it really well with fluids and Endurolytes. My legs never locked up even though they twinged a lot.

With maybe five miles to go I did not pay enough attention going over a tiny drop-off, stuffed the front wheel and tumbled scraping my right elbow. It seems I am not capable of doing anything in the dirt, riding or running, without biting it at least once these days. :( At least it was not too bad and I picked myself up and slowly got back up to speed.

Just as I hit the gravel road descent another rider caught me. I led him down the hill but then as soon as we hit the pavement he gave me this sheepish look, shifted into his big chainring and rode away. Such is the curse of the single speed rider! :)

I rolled across the line and although I was a full 40 minutes slower than Gary I still got 3rd! Who would have thought this possible with all my mechanicals? Not me. Judging from the results, there were really only three single speed riders gunning for the win here today. One of them needs to learn that light does not equal durable, one needs to learn how to gear his bike on long, hilly rides so he does not explode and one did everything right and got a very deserved win. Kudos to Gary for being that last guy.

Of course I started doing the math to see what might have happened but let me just say that it does not matter. Shit happens in races and the result is the result. That said, I figure I spent at least 10 minutes helping that one guy trying to fix his flat and a conservative estimate is I wasted about 20 minutes with all my mechanicals. That puts me just 10 minutes behind Gary and had my bike not been malfunctioning it might have been enough keep me motivated and make it a race. Of course, if I had been right there with Gary he might have gone faster too. :)

In an awesome gesture, the guy that I donated a tube to looked me up at the finish and gave me a brand new tube! That was totally unexpected and very nice.

The post-ride event was great! Tons of food, beer and I hung out with Gary and his brother for quite a while as we waited for the awards ceremony. Did I mention they had showers at the finish? VERY nice. Especially since I was not only covered in sweat and dust but blood as well. Getting cleaned up for the podium shot is not to be underrated. Then I drove home and slept in my own bed.

I recommend this series to anyone looking for a well-run event or a longer race.

Here are all the pictures.

Sleep 6 hours
Waking HR  
Body Weight  
Body Fat  
Breakfast 4:00 AM - banana, apple sauce, 1 scoop protein powder, 2 scoops Perpetuem, walnuts, water
5:30 AM - gel
Workout Food 3 large bottles each w/2 scoops Perpetuem, lots of fruit, 4 bottles w/Nuun, 2 cups of Coke, half a peanut butter & jam sandwich, about 15 gels (perhaps half of them had caffeine), some Shot Bloks, water, about 20 Endurolytes and I forget the rest but there was more.
Injuries My back got somewhat sore but it was manageable. I fell down with at most five miles to go and scraped my right elbow.
Time of Day 6:15 AM
Workout Type race
Weather low 50s at the start, 80 by the finish, sunny, dry, calm
Course all singletrack except for 8 miles of gravel road in the middle
Results 3rd - Open Singlespeed
official results
Time 9:58:18
Distance 100 miles
Equipment Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper Carbon 29 Singlespeed
gear: 32 x 20
tires: Schwalbe Racing Ralph, 29 x 2.25
pressure: around 30 psi?
Clothing bib shorts, sleeveless undershirt, short sleeve jersey, cap, minimalist full finger gloves


One-G said...

Martin, thanks for the positive remarks. It's fun to hear the story from another perspective, but sorry to hear about the troubles. Take solace in knowing that I was fully expecting to have my ass handed to me on this one (see Echo Valley) if everything hung together on your new ride. 9+ hrs of looking over your shoulder is stressful and I pretty much believed you were only one corner away, so thanks - I guess - for intimidating me to go faster. I was truly lucky to have a clean problem-free ride. Despite all the plaguing issues and time you spent helping someone else, you still beat 10 hrs and shaved 18 minutes from your time last year. Amazing. (Winning SS times: 2010 - 10:31, 2011 - 10:08).

Martin Criminale said...

@One-G - thanks, you sure deserved that win! Sorry I was the cause of your nervousness for 9 hours. :)