Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Texas Hill Country 600K

I was lucky enough to go to San Antonio , Texas for the Texas Hill Country Challenge 600k this past weekend. I was racing with Tim Case on the RAAM racing team.We had originally intended to support ourselves, but were very grateful when Fred and Rick Boethling stepped in and volunteered to crew for us. I think the hardest part of ultra racing is finding crew to give their time to take care of your every need while you search for the personal satisfaction of an official finish or whatever your goals are.The days before an ultra race are always stressful, rushing around registration, bike and vehicle checks, grocery store trip,rider meetings. A short ride and rest are missed out a lot of the time. This was no different.Tim had been sick for a 10 days before the race, so was unsure how his body was going to react, but we decided he would ride first and we would do 30-45 min pulls.After a quick rollout with race director George Thomas, the race was on. Oh it wasn't really a race as we were the only 2 person team! We still wanted to post a good time. There were two 4 person teams, one mixed and one all women.The mixed team were very fast, especially the woman on that team who took off like a rocket and we never saw them again!The roads were quite busy with a few traffic signals, I had to stop a couple of times, I'm sure these were more stressful for the solo leaders, who were in a tight race at the time, not race changing, but stressful none the less. Oh yes, I was paying close attention to the solo race as my good friend Chris Ragsdale was going up against Marko Baloh, another of the best Ultra Cyclists in the World. They were together at the front of the race with Kurt Searvogel and Bryce Walsh (no relation).I felt ok on my first few pulls and Tim and I decided being our first race of the season, him being sick and my not getting my usual training in February due to less than ideal weather, we would just focus on getting a good hard ride in nice weather. It was mid 70s I'd guess with a light cloud cover, and a little breezy.I was trying to keep my calorie intake down, to see if I could avoid the upset stomach issues I had in previous races. I drank mostly water with one bottle of heed and two of perpetuem. I ate rice cakes, Chips and peanut butter, sport beans and hammer bars.After about 40 miles traffic thinned out considerably, so that was nice. Then we hit some wicked steep hills, Tim got the short end of the stick here having to ride 2 of the 3 steeper hills in this section, the one I did felt like I was not so strong, though it was quite steep. I think if we were in a close race it would be better strategy to switch riders halfway up these hills, though finding an exchange spot could be difficult.We managed to keep a pace just a little slower than the beasts of the solo race, who had started 3 hours before us, for most of the daylight hours. Nighttime was a different story, as with only one follow vehicle every time we did an exchange our race stopped, so that was probably 5 mins or more every hour, we were taking 25 min pulls at this stage.There was one brutally hard section after about 250 miles that was probably 30 miles of gradual uphill with a ferocious headwind and "Irish" chipsealed roads, that was as much a mental challenge as it was physical, even though my speed dropped to 8 mph along here at one point!Up front Marko was pulling away, and Chris was wearing down the tenacious Kurt, to determine the top 3 places.Tim and I battled our way to the finish with great support from Fred and Rick. Our time was 20hrs 40 mins, that was 1hr 26 mins behind Marko and an hour behind Chris....amazing athletes. Everyone who finishes these ultra cycling events are exceptional athletes with dedicated support crews without whom we could not even try to race without.George Thomas has put together a great event that will continue to grow, and with the century, double century and family rides attracting more people to cycling, everyone will benefit from the RAAM Challenge Series. www.raamchallenge.comSo get out and ride, spring is about here...I hope!