Friday, October 26, 2012

What drives passion?

I was going to write a blog today (October 26, 2012) and found this one sitting in the drafts folder. I am guessing I wrote this some time around July 12th or so. Later is better than never, right :-)

Enjoy the read.

The Breckenridge 100 MTB is tomorrow. For those of you who don't know what the race is all about you can read the wikipedia article or see the official race page. If you asked me how ready I am compared to last year I wouldn't be able to give a straight answer. Last year I was more scared and aggressive toward the race mentally than this year. Last year I had never ridden my mountain bike more than 64 miles. It was the first time I was going to attempt pulling off a 100 mile ride, period. I have never even ridden 100 miles on a road bike. That is mostly because I don't have a road bike. This year, I know I can ride 100 miles. I also think that I have spent more time in the saddle than I did last year. Last year I rode a grand total of 1100 miles while this year I have ridden roughly 3200 miles from January to today according to the records that I kept in Garmin Connect. Really those figures are meaningless because I only started to track my rides after the Breckenridge 100 last year. The other huge difference between last year and this is that I went and saw Brad Ott at Rebound Physical Therapy. This was by far the best thing I did for myself. Brad helped me start to ride my bike as fast, hard and long as I wanted and have absolutely no knee problems! It has been amazing. I think this is a huge reason for being able to ride 3200 miles so far this year already.

Many times when I tell people I am going to ride my mountain bike 100 miles they ask how long this will take. I then inform them that it will take me between 11 and 12 hours to complete the race. At this point they are amazed. I suppose I can understand why you would be shocked hearing how many hours one spends on the bike when doing a race like this. I mean putting in a 12 hour day at work is a long day. To me on the other hand it is an amazing 12 hours. There are several reasons for this. The biggest of them all is the same reason that I love race days. Race days are wonderful because that is all you do, no work, no bills, no house maintenance, no working on the car or cleaning the garage. It is all about racing your bike.

Why don't people get excited about work? I mean you never see friends come over to each others house to watch an office meeting go on. Just imagine if my daily stand up meeting was on the same level of excitement as watching even the coin toss of the super bowl. No one seems to care about work outside of work. Well, I suppose an exception to that statement is when someone owns a lot of shares of said company and it either heads for the moon or tanks out. I think that it is because for most people, work is something they are good at and pays them enough to fit their life style. It isn't necessarily their passion in life. Take my self for instance. I really do like what I do, no I don't think that my boss will be reading this any time soon. In fact there are days I go home and continue playing around on the computer just because it is something I enjoy. For example I will spend a week or so understanding what GWT is all about just for the fun of it. If you were to ask me right now what I would do if I could start all over after high school and know that whatever I picked would pay me at least what I make now, I think I would either shoot for professional cycling, forest fire fighting or being a park ranger. Why don't I pursue those things? I think that is pretty simple to answer, FEAR.

Lets look at the three things listed above I hope it is obvious as to why I am scared to pursue those careers. For the professional cycling, I really don't think that I have the sort of talent to compete with the likes of George Hincapie, Cadel Evans, David Weins, etc. Those guys are just animals on the bike. I think the prospects of being even a domestic for those guys is super low for me. Maybe if I had been in the saddle shortly after I had learned to walk I could be singing a different tune. But there are some things in life you just are not built for. Yeah, I am okay at riding my bike, but I just don't think the right parts are there to be a world class cyclist. As for the other two, it really boils down to money. I don't think that being a park ranger or a forest fire fighter would bring in the steady income I see today being a computer software type of guy. Some may say that is sad. I think of it as smart. I can easily provide for myself, Jenn and our lovely dog Chester.

So, what if the tables were turned for me? Lets say that I was a professional cyclist. Would I be wishing on super hard training days in the cold rain wandering up a mountain pass that I was sitting in front of a computer drinking a coffee and writing some program to analyze forces applied to a distribution power pole? I doubt that I would be wishing for that specific scenario, but I do think there would certainly be times when I wished for that desk job. So, maybe if things were swapped I would look at leaving the world of professional cycling to enter a desk job as something that would be frightening. Who knows. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to sit down with one of cycling's greats and ask them that question some day.

So this brings me back to the question in the title of this blog, what drives passion?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Breckenridge 100 race report

Simply put the Breckenridge 100 is a tough race. It would not have been nearly as easy if I had not had the best support crew in the world!

Best support crew EVER!!!
For what ever reason the race was on a Sunday this year. So the plan was for Jenn, my mom and I to head up Saturday. One of my buddies wanted to come up but we didn't have room in the SUV for 4 people and all of the bike junk so he was to meet us later in the day on Saturday. Then on Sunday we would watch/do the race and head home right after awards. We also were lucky enough to get a free stay at one of Jenn's friend's condos in Silverthorne. It had an awesome view of a the area from the entire place. The whole back side of it was glass. Really cool!

Everything went as planned on Saturday. We all arrived at a reasonable hour, didn't hit much traffic, had a pretty good spaghetti dinner, hike afterwords to settle things down, good chat during it all and a good night's rest. The only hitch was the brakes on my bike came out of adjustment from the drive up. I had air in the lines, bummer. I fiddled with them enough to feel comfortable to race in them and didn't think much of it.

Sunday the race started at 6am, so I was up at 4:30 choking down as much oatmeal as my boddy would tollerate and also trying to hydrate. It is this point in time that I feel like bike racing is nothing but work. After breakfast we stuffed all of the things we would need for the day into the car and made the 35 minute drive to Carter Park, aka race headquarters.

One of the aspects I love about this race is how low key it is. Sure there are plenty of super talented guys there, sure the race is going to totally kick your butt, sure only about 60% of the entrants complete it, but, with all of that, people are still laid back and looking forward to a full day on the saddle. So with that setting you won't be surprised how the day started. They go through the usual sportsmanship talk and then they just count down from 5 and say "go" to get the day started. Leaving "go" lower case was intentional, it is the exact opposite of how the Growler starts with twin shot gun blasts. Unless you knew there was a race going on you could easily miss the start of it. Because you have to go through town for the first lap there is neutral start out. This compounds the slow easy start of the race feel.

Once we got started I was able to settle in a little more. I think that it usually takes me about 40 - 60 minutes to get my "groove" on the saddle. For me this was about the top of Wheeler Pass. This is actually one of my favorite parts of the race. The only issue I have is the whole heights dilemma. I don't know what it is but looking down when at that elevation, I start to get nervous. Other than that slight awareness of heights the view is breath taking from up there. As hard as it is to do so during a race I try to sit back a little and tack it all in. After Wheeler you bomb down into Frisco. I really do mean bomb. It is a super fast descent to the paved bike path. Looking at my tracked log top speeds were just under 30 mph. It is super fun! On the first lap I had something really odd happen. Getting on the paved path from dirt I hit a small bump while remaining seated and moved the nose of my saddle about 3 inches up, this was not going to be something I could ignore for another 90 or so miles. I stopped at the first aid station hoping that they would have allen keys on hand to work on the seat. I asked if they did and one of the volunteers had to dig through his own stuff to hand me a multi-tool. I really appreciated him getting one for me but if I had known about this would have just got my own out. Oh well. After getting the saddle fixed I ate a banana and set off again. The single track from Frisco back to Breckenridge is just awesome. There are technical spots and it is a fairly mild climb. This is the sort of riding I love to do. I managed to pull the first lap off in 3:20. That is really awesome considering it took me 3:28 last year and I had a mechanical problem. When I got back into town I saw the best support crew in the world!!!

After getting new bottles of Perpetuem and filing my camel back up I set off for lap 2. In my opinion this is one of the tougher parts of the course. It is either lap 2 or getting up to Boreas Pass on the way out to Como. The climb up French Flume went pretty well. I conserved energy where I could and felt really strong for the descent down. I guess I felt too strong. About 1 minute into the descent I cut my tire. The hole was big enough that the Stans wouldn't seal it up. So, I stopped, and put one of my spare tubes in, ugh. Again, oh well, what can you do? It is only a bike race. After getting the tire taken care of I set off again. I don't know if it was the elevation, pumping up the tire or what, but a headache set in that was bad enough I could feel my heart beating in my head. Not fun. I stayed positive about this until the Colorado Trail. For what ever reason the slow long gradual climb up this just killed me. It was at this point I started to wonder if going out for the third lap was even going to be an option. Out of shear stubbornness I completed this lap. Comparing myself to 2011 I lost time here. I came in at 7:20 while in 2011 I came in at 7:11. I could chalk that time difference up to my flat tire. I really think that it had more to do with my wanting to quit more than anything else. Once in Carter Park my awesome support crew had my camel back filled, bottles swapped out on the bike and a banana in my hand before I could even comprehend all that had just happened. It was wonderful. When they asked how I was doing I described my headache and they gave me 2 Ibuprofen. After getting ready for the third and final lap I head out.

I eluded to this a little earlier. The climb up to Boreas Pass from Breckenridge to Como is brutal. You are tired, not riding on any single track and it is usually pretty hot. Fortunately I ran into Paul Tanguay on the way up. Chatting with him while riding really improved my mood and took my mind off the headache. Paul and I rode together for some time and then eventually split. After Paul and I split I think that the Ibuprofen really kicked in. I started to feel like a million bucks. Well at least as one can feel after having been on the bike for about 8 hours at this point. It was here that I found a good group of 68 milers. I was able to stay with them for most of the third lap. I got dropped when they made the last climb up to Boreas Pass. I didn't take it personally, put my head down and tried to finish as strong as I could. For what ever reason I started to think about having a soda at the top of Boreas. Unfortunately they were out by the time I go there. On the way down from Boreas I started to feel bad for the folks that were still slogging up to the pass. The reason is that they were not going to make the 4:30 cut off time. I wanted to tell them but really didn't know if that was the right thing to do. I decided to not do anything and passed them by. Once you get to Boreas from Como, the race is basically over. It is all down hill from there. I would love to ride Banker's Tank fresh. It seems to be some really nice single track. By that point in the day my hands and wrists were done with rocks and roots banging me around. Surprisingly that was all that was really bothering me at this point. I think that the Ibuprofen had something to do with this. I managed to roll into Carter Park in 11:17 this year. That is 8 minutes slower than my first attempt was. I think that if I could get rid of the two mechanical issues and pull my head out of my butt during the whole race, not thinking about quitting on lap 2, I can still nail that 10:30 finish.

Overall I just love this race! It is such a great day. There is loads of single track, it is super hard and the views are stunning. What more could you ask for in an endurance race!?!?! Guess I might be back at this again next year. We will have to see what affect kiddos have on the racing season.

Here is a photo of the 19-29 podium.

For official race results please follow this link.

Here is my Garmin Edge 500 track

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 28, 2012

2012 Original Growler Race Report

To sum the race up in one word, amazing!

Race strategy

For this race I decided to have a completely different strategy than usual.  Usually, I put myself toward the very back of the field at the start. The reason for this, to be candid, I am lazy. The guys in the back usually have a slower pace. This allows me to sit back and take it easy. Something that I think is good when you have to ride 64 miles of technical single track. With this strategy I can pass when the time is right. In the past this has been pretty successful. This year Jenn talked me into placing myself toward the front of the field. Somewhat reluctantly, I went ahead and followed through with this idea. It changed how the race went drastically. Usually I don't get passed that much and I pass a couple of folks every now and then. This time I still didn't get passed much, but I also didn't pass many folks. The most passing that happened was when someone, either me or someone else, had to take a bio-break or something like that. The other huge difference is that sections that usually were a hike a bike were not. The reason, I think, is that everyone could clean sections that the back of the group would not. This could be either because of skill or there are just so many people piled up at this point that you can't keep your momentum. I think the later is more likely the truth. The biggest problem I had riding with this faster group is that I wanted to be competitive. This caused me to regress in behavior and not consume enough fluid and food. I kept thinking "I have to keep up with these guys" rather than "I have 64 fluid miles ahead of me, I need to drink some". 


This sort of mentality also led to me watching the guys in front rather than watching where I was going. Doh! I let my front wheel turn 90 degrees to the frame and then boom, I was on the ground. Fortunately I was not going fast, hence why I call it a fall rather than crash. At the time I didn't think anything of it. It didn't hurt, wasn't bleeding much and really didn't seem to be an issue.

Jenn as support crew

Not to sound like a total suck up that is trying to make his wife happy here. Jenn is an awesome person to have in your support crew. I won't try to sugar coat it. I was shooting for a 6:30 finish and came around loop one at 3:30. I was grumpy about that and the fact me stomach was revolting on me. Also my knee was starting to feel pressure from the fall. I think that it was starting to swell at this point. All of that combined didn't make me the nicest person in the world. Jenn just kept a smile on and told me that I needed to drink more water during the second lap. That is all I really needed to hear and she was totally right!

Drinking water

During the second lap I took a completely different mindset. Instead of worrying about how fast I was going I went for finishing the race comfortably. This was for a few reasons. One, I really wanted to be lively and fun for Jenn when I finished the race. After all she had taken her whole weekend to come to my race. Not only that but she also skipped out on her softball tournament that was over the same weekend. I didn't want to finish the race blown. Two, I wanted to enjoy the event more rather than just trying to destroy it. Funny thing is that my time was only increased by 15 minutes slogging around rather than pushing my pedals hard the entire time. I almost wonder if I would have done better taking it "easy" the entire race rather than pushing it so hard the first lap. With this new mentality of taking it easy and enjoying the race my stomach started to feel much better and my mood was drastically improved. My knee on the other hand, was a separate story. What was originally just pressure building in my knee was turning into discomfort. I just kept pedaling on and really did enjoy the rest of the day.

Ride back into town

After getting back to the finish line I said hello to Jenn, complained about my knee, put a jacket on and headed straight back into town. The reason I didn't spend any time at the finish line shooting the breeze or seeing what free stuff I could score was because I didn't want my knee to stiffen up any more. I figured the sooner I got those last 2.5 miles finished the better.

Post race celebration

The post race celebration was pretty cool. They gave me a filled growler of beer, Shift beer from New Belgium and price money! Yes you just heard me right. I won prize money. Here is a picture for proof.

Okay I'll tell the real story now. Rather than hand out tickets or something like that they gave you $8 to spend at the food vendors. I like to think of it as prize money rather than a post race meal :-) After all that concept is a lot more fun.


There are two things I would have liked to have done differently during this race. One, I would have liked to not have had the mentality that I need to keep up with these animals that are near me in the field. The second is that I wish I would have hydrated properly.

Summary, pictures and results

The Original Growler is by far one of my favorite races. The reason for this is that no matter how fit or number of times I do this race it will always be a challenge. This is because it does not play into my strength of long steady climbs and also because it is a really technical race. This is the first year that I have felt confident on many of the technical areas, where in the past I have not felt that way. If you want to see all of the pictures that Jenn took you can follow this link 2012 Original Growler photos. Also you can check out race results, just my result by age group and the overall results.

If you made it this far, thanks a lot for reading.