Sunday, July 8, 2012

First annual Sun up to Sun down - racy report

Years ago I taught snowboarding at Stratton Mountain in Vermont.  Towards the end of one season, I was called into the ski-school directors office to discuss the forthcoming layoff.  One phrase came out of his puffy lipped tiny mouth (attached to an enormous head) that has stuck for all these years - In an Austrian accent:

"It was a business decision"....

That was the approach going into this race. 

You see, relative to the sport - I'm still toodamnheavy.  A 12 hour event should help maybe a little - so long as I don't overcompensate after the event (sadly, the following Monday at work I ate a whole bag of Cape Cod Feta Rosemary chips - best chips ever).

Financially, the entry fee represented the greatest dollar-per-mile investment of the entire year.  Depending of course, on how far ya go..   Additionally,  it was over 40 miles closer to home than the other event taking place in Vermont that drew in all the big guns.  Cha-ching!! That's another $ 13 in gas, not to mention 2 hours less driving time.

The race itself was staged at Camp Mattatuck - a 500 acre boy scout camp established in 1939.  I really should have taken more pictures of the campground as it is easily one of the nicest sites I have been to. Plenty of parking, a nice lake, wide open fields, old buildings, new buildings and.... drum roll:  Clean bathrooms & showers!

The very low key check in took place at the very suitable "Activity Pavilion".  A bag of goodies was provided and I paid an additional $15 for camping.  But wait.  It wasn't camping like I had in mind with a tent and stuff.  It was camping in a Cabin.  Nice - that's one less thing to deal with after pedaling for what some people consider to be an insane amount of time.

After setting up my little corner in the cabin I headed out for a pre-ride.  The promoter mentioned that it was not necessary to run where the signs said "run" (apparently he does a few tri-events) - just follow the signs and the little white circles with red arrows.  Off I went to check things out.

As described, the course has a lot of double track.  I zipped along looking out for the little white circles with arrows - before long I popped out of the woods into a field.  A field that had been recently cut.  This was going to be tough.  Fields are tough enough on steamy days with all the exposure.  Hoo boy. 

Then I got confused.  Was it me - or was the course doubling back on itself??  Sure enough, the freshly mowed swath took you right back where you came from.  Did I miss something here? 

Apparently not. 

Observe.  The tree on the left has a white circle with red arrow indicating that forward is correct.   The other sign guides you when returning from the field loop.
It was so foreign that I figured I must have made a mistake.  I continued on along the trail.  Happily, more white circles with red arrows were present to literally keep me in the loop.

From here the double track headed downhill into a very sharp right-hander to fresh loamy singletrack that passed through a campsite at the far end of the property.  Continuing on, another sharp turn into an uphill - then on into some mossy not-so-used double track that led into a singletrack section with downhill that passed through a stream.  On the other side a little up and down - then a absolute kick of a kicker.  I was able to climb it the first time, but knew it'd be very difficult to manage well into a long race.

Doesn't look so bad from here...  About 22% grade with some slippy rocks to cause disturbance.

After this climb, a downhill into a nice singletrack section with switchbacks, a stream crossing and some off camber terrain.  Along the way.  Dick John's shelter.  If you were a scout, how could you possibly not augment the last name with "son"??

Beyond the shelter a little more singletrack heading up - then onto a well used double track section that passes through the the camp.  It winds its way downhill (fast) then rewards you with a tough,  steep uphill before cruising around past the lake. 

A short paved section follows - then goes behind the mess hall into some fast mossy double track with a slight downhill grade ending with a grinder of a punishing uphill, followed by a field section (nice short grass here) then around onto a gravel road laced with gold colored flakes (my tires & shoes are still glittery) then onto the main entrance road back to the pavilion.

Upon getting back to the pavilion I wondered if I missed anything out there.  The course description suggested hour long laps, but the trip took just over 22 minutes. I wasn't going too fast, but certainly wasn't lollygagging either.

Just to be sure, I went out and did it again.  Same result:  around 22 minutes. That's odd.

Returning from the second go-round I connected with local pro Liz A.  We noted there were many beginner riders - which in hindsight wasn't surprising.  As mentioned,  the majority of  our regional pro-folk were up in Vermont and this being a first event didn't have any history to drive any repeat customers.

I hung out for the remainder of the evening down at the pavilion with a few folks and Liz.  We ended up talking with a couple of good guys who turned out to be major contributors to the course layout & event.  Before long it was bedtime. 

I slept pretty well in the 49'r cabin (3" memory foam is magic) - waking up around 5:30.  A big breakfast of pancakes down at the mess hall, then back up to the cabin & pavilion to set up the pit stop. Supplies included lots of water, Gatorade, pickles, 5 peanut-butter & jelly pocket sandwiches and a package of Choc-blocs. 

Back at the cabin I suited up and committed to some Soigneur chamois creme.  (I haven't ever used chamois creme for long events - the outcome being some minor discomfort) Then it was off the pavilion for some race preliminaries. 

Thankfully during discussion,  we collectively decided against a LeMans type running start - so we all lined up with the solo riders leading. 

Liz and I were at the front.  We took off pretty casually around 7:01.  Within 5 minutes or so a couple of guys whizzed past.  Go ahead guys...  we have another 11 hours 55 minutes to go. 

There's no point in a blow-by-blow description of a race like this.  For one thing, it's too damn long to record accurately.  So a few highlights:
  • I missed a turn pre-riding after all.  Early in each lap you take a left off the main course then whiz down a fun section to carefully rejoin the main course.  One of these per lap.  I noticed lots of riders missed this.

  • For the first couple of hours lap times were locked in under 25 minutes .  Around hour 3 I passed a rider (Jonathan Tarbox) who offered "hey, I think you can slow down, I'm in second place and you just lapped me".   I eased up a little - which was a good idea anyways as the heat of the day was starting to pick up. 

  • Lap 12 I lost a spoke in my rear wheel.  Actually it wasn't the spoke - it was the nipple.  If you have ever bought  built up wheels from Bikeman, they recommend brass nipples as aluminum ones can corrode.  Guess what - they're right.   Luckily I had another wheel set in the car.  Some back and forth between the cabin and car (to get keys) and I was back in business.  Lubed the chain as well.   

  • The hot afternoon sun was really starting to take a toll.  I was alternating between Gatorade and straight water on each lap.  Water laps including soaking my head, chest and back.  Ahhh...
  • Here and there - some sandwich and pickles..  On occasion I'd see Jonathan - thinking that he'd caught back up to my one lap lead.  This kept the pressure on.  The last climb of the course was demanding spinny super low gearing. 

  • Towards the end - much salt in the eyes.  Getting a bit run down but still chugging along.

  • Final lap, a push midway.  Tear up the final climb then record the fastest speed of the day charging to the finish.    
In the end - 26 laps, totalling roughly 119 miles with anywhere between 7 and 8,000 feet of climbing (Strava VS. Garmin).  Jonathan came in 2nd with 23 laps - (his first 12 hour event).  Liz kept Jonathan honest throughout,  also knocking off 23 laps for 3rd.   

The win was a matter of being in the right place at the right time with the right gear.  The Spearfish is perfect for these events (least back pain ever for me). The new Panaracer Driver tires - also perfect (fast rolling with great grip when you need it at the edges) .  I can also say my "delicates" have never felt better after such an event - the Soigneur stuff worked well.

I brought home a really slick OGIO 9.0 endurance bag.  It's almost too slick with a compartment for absolutely everything you'd ever need for an event.   

Check out the slick video of the slick bag:

This race is on the horizon for next season.  Initially I had thought the course "too tame" but after so many hours it was just right,  also "too wild" might put off beginner riders.  Overall,  the promoters did a great job for a debut event and were very receptive to suggestions.  It sounds like at least one thing we may be able to count on is a misting hose. Nice!


  1. yikes, that's a short lap for an endurance event. good on ya for making all the locals look bad.

    1. I tried to explain "there are at least 20 guys up in VT that could slaughter me"

  2. Nice job... and I did read it as "Dick Johnson's" the first time through... I was a scout after all!!

    1. Precisely why I snapped a pic - it caught me off guard.. "What did that say??!!"