Sunday, April 13, 2014

Singlespeed-a-Palooza Redemption

It's race day!  This morning things came together well and the family and I were at the race without any problems.  I registered and was given number 300.  Nice!  I wasted no time and suited up.  The weather was great.  It started out overcast in the mid-50's and worked up to the mid-60's by the end.  No question, shorts and short sleeves.

Roland, James, Liz, James, Perry, Tom, Buzz
Jason, Matt, Steveyo, Robi
After a group photo, 8:00 arrived and all 11 of us lined up.  George, the event coordinator, was really excited to have us there.  We started and it didn't take long for some groupings to form.  The race starts on a dirt road for over 2.5 miles so it's easy to see where people are.  James T. and James R. on their 36ers, and Roland on his 29er took no time to pull away.  Steveyo on his wide tire 26er, and Robi, Perry, and myself on 29ers grouped in the middle.  Somewhere along the way Perry fell back.  I don't know the order behind me, but at some point on the dirt road the leaders and the followers were more or less out of sight.  The three of us middle guys entered the singletrack climb together.  I managed the climb without a dismount and from that point on I didn't saw Steveyo or Robi for the remainder of the race.

I had my phone in my pack and used My Tracks to track my ride.  I have been riding recently with this app because I wanted audio announcements of my speed at each mile.  I wanted to keep a pace of 6mph or higher to finish within 4 hours, and I had studied the course and anticipated when the mountain bikers would start passing.  The unicycles started early at 8:00, so we'd finish in time, and the bikers started at 9:00.  Even after the first singletrack hill climb my average speed was high, over 7mph, because of the initial dirt road, but lowered to around 6mph by the end.

My lower back was probably my biggest crutch, as it got fatigued early into the singletrack.  I stopped and took a few Advil for that.  I was worried I'd get saddle sore, and while I did start to get uncomfortable on the dirt road, the race brought me out of the saddle enough and I never felt saddle sore again.  My quads cramped somewhat a few times in the second third of the race, but that too was short lived.  I drank a lot of water and ate a lot of energy gel.  My breakfast of two English muffins with grape jelly was a good choice.  It sat well even with butterflies and didn't weigh on me.  I also had a Stinger Waffle in the 13.5 mile refueling station, a few electrolyte pills, and another Advil.  A funny staff guy manning the station was intrigued by my Stinger Waffle and asked to try some.  I let him a piece and joked, "Sure eat my food!".  I mean, this is a 24 mile race, I'm on a unicycle, and you want to take my food?  Haha... it was fine, but a little silly.  My knees never gave me problems, so that's awesome!  Otherwise I just experience overall fatigue later in the race and was feeling kind of sick of energy gel.

The passing mountain bikers issue wasn't as bad as I anticipated.  I probably dismounted and stepped off the trail for about half of them because the trail was too narrow.  Otherwise I was able to give them room.  I got tons of compliments, and I think most of them thought I was in first.  I corrected some.  I figured the leaders were miles away.

My only real complaint for the course was some long stretches of deep muddy and swamp.  The trails are in way better condition than my local trails, but dismounting and walking because of the mud was a bummer.

So the results...  woohoo I finished!!  That was my goal and I did it!  I really feel like I redeemed myself from last year's DNF.  Roland got 1st, James T. 2nd, and James R third!  I got 4th, Steveyo 5th and Robi 6th.  All others did not finish.  Roland told me James T. went off course for a bit and had to backtrack and he felt bad about claiming first. 

Here are the timing results:
James T.3h24:38.53
James R.3h35:57.03

What else.  Oh, I got two ticks on my legs.  Apparently other riders found some too. 

Race coordinator, George, really wanted the uni riders to be able to finish on time so we could eat, drink, and be merry with the other racers.  I think it worked out well, and the food really hit the spot.  Thanks Dark Horse Cycles!  It was a great event!

Oh, so on my way out I picked up my little cooler that was taken to and from the refueling station.  Inside I found a this:


Hahaha!  Very cool of him!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Final SSAP Training Ride

My knees have been achy since my last ride three days ago.  Today they felt better and the weather was warm, in the 60's.  Expecting the trails to still be messy, I rode again at the Big Field but this time ventured out to the Hojack.  This will be my last ride before my race on Sunday.
the offending thorn

Yesterday I fixed the slow leak in my tire I got on Monday.  The hole was very hard to find and I resorted to holding the tube under water.  Then I checked the inside of my tire for any offending objects and just when I was about to assume nothing was there I found a thorn.  I had bought a new tube, but the bad tube generally looked perfect and the hole was so tiny I just patched it and rode with it today without any problem.

The sections of the Hojack that don't handle water well were muddy as expected.  Some parts were thick crazy mud.  It's a workout, but I like the challenge of making it through without a dismount.  Some parts still have a good amount of hard-packed ice-snow.  It was actually a relief to get out of the mud and ride these because they're smooth and take less effort.  Today there was a strong wind blowing from the south, but it was only annoying on a few sections of the Hojack where there were few trees and on the west side of the Big Field.

Coming back to the Big Field from the Hojack, there's a good hill climb which I was happy to have made.  It's the only significant climb I've ridden since last year, and there will be plenty of these at the race this Sunday.

I wore a new pair of padded shorts which consist of a baggy outside short and a padded liner short.  Under that I wore the "padded" chamois cycling shorts I already have.   It seemed to help for a while, but I still started to get sore.  I worked on positioning my weight back when I could.  Dismounting for a minute helps a lot, along with steep hill climbing that gets me out of the saddle.  Maybe any extra dismounting I anticipate from the passing mountain bikers will be a blessing.

I finished my ride by doing laps around the Big Field.  My left knee started to bother me a bit in the last mile which is why I stopped.  I don't want it to get too sore before the race.  During and after the race may be inevitable.

The weather looks good for race day.  Low of 55 and high of 69.  So I'd guess it will be about 60 at the start time.

At this point I'm feeling ok about the race.  I'm not a muni powerhouse like I hope to be later in the season, but at this point I don't think I can do much more other than eat, sleep, and light exercise and stretching.  I guess I'll do my best and forget the rest.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Some Hope for SSAP

My ride last Thursday left me feeling unready for my race, which is now only 6 days away.
On Friday I saw Dr. Luckey to try to fix my left calf and get adjusted before the race.  In addition to the adjustments, Dr. Luckey used a muscle stimulation machine on my calf.  It hurt quite a bit and I can't be sure it really did anything.  My leg felt about the same and maybe worse for the next day, but has since felt better and better.  I'm not sure it's 100%, but I'm no longer thinking about it.

Last night I built up my singlespeed 29er like I had last year.  This afternoon I rode and gave it a try, again at the Big Field.  It hit the 50's today and was to be high 40's by the time I got out.  It wasn't supposed to rain until possibly toward the end of my ride.  Unfortunately Mother Nature clearly hates me this year and it was raining as soon as I left work.  It started light and didn't bother me too much.

At one point I checked the Meadow Trail off the Big Field, but found ice on one of the first downhills, and decided I didn't want to break anything this early in the season.  I turned back.

I stopped several times to adjust my seat post and I think I have it at a good spot.  I tend to have it too low and have now raised it.  After one adjustment I felt like I could hardly ride.  I was surprised but I soon noticed my tire was very low, and that was the real problem.  It must have a slow leak.  I pumped it up with my hand pump and will have to get a new tube in before my next ride.

I didn't get nearly as saddle sore this time.  The seat from my 24 probably helped.  I'm also expecting some new padded shorts in the mail that I hope will help.

My ride wasn't too long at just over 8 miles.  I started feeling cold and water logged and didn't want to stop again to pump up my tire.

I hope to get one more ride in before the race.  I don't plan to go for distance, but maybe some bigger hills.

The SSAP race coordinator sent out a report yesterday.  The trails are 90% dry and the weather looks warm and generally dry all week.  I just looked at the high on race day is 70!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

SSAP Training Concerns

Last weekend it snowed something like 6".  Unbelievable.  Thankfully, temperatures have been reaching the 40's so most of it is gone now. But shaded areas remain snowy and this includes many trails.  I still see lots of snow when I drive past the Hojack Trail.

So today I rode once again at the Big Field.  It was way better than last time, with only a handful of snowy parts.  I could ride on the edge of some and through others.  I did 11 laps and only dismounted once for a small dog that I was afraid I'd crush.  I rode my 29er with my geared hub, but never shifted to high speed.

First the good news:
  • My average speed was about 8 mph.  To finish the 24 miles of SSAP in 4 hours I need to move at 6 mph.
And the bad news:
  • I rode just over half the distance of the race.
  • I was in the saddle for less than half the expected race time.
  • Fatigue and being saddle sore would have prevented me from riding much more than another mile or two even in a race scenario.
  • This is a trail I'd consider easier, so the good news isn't that good, and the bad news is worse.
I've also been feeling pain in my left calf for about a week and a half.  There wasn't any event that triggered it and it's never been a sharp pain.  It's just enough to know something is wrong.  I have an appointment tomorrow to have it looked at, but I suspect it's just a muscle strain of sorts and will go away with more time.  It didn't really affect today's ride, though there aren't any steep hills on the Big Field loop.  Pain from fatigue in my quads, lower back, and shoulders covered up any pain I may have had in my calf.

So with all that, I'm not feeling very confident about the race.  The only hope I have is to use my the saddle from my KH 24 and hope it's better, get shorts with more padding, my single-speed setup will be lighter weight, and there's still a chance to ride a few more times.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

SSAP Race Simulation for Early Muni Start

The mountain bike races I've been to space out the different categories of riders by starting them from fastest to slowest.  This avoids a lot of passing.  At last year's Singlespeed-a-Palooza race, the unicycles started after everyone else, which made sense.  Unfortunately because the unicyclists are slower, we (Claude, the only muni to finish) finished after the awards ceremony.  Unlike last year, this year there is an actual unicycle class, and so the top three unicyclists are to receive rewards.  Logically, the race coordinator wants the unicyclists to finish at a reasonable time so awards for all categories can be given together.  So the plan this year is to start the muni riders one hour early.

This makes sense to help us finish on time, but it has a negative side.  Even with a one hour head start, at some point during the race nearly every one of the 250+ mountain bikers will pass us!

To see how this might play out, I created an application to loop the riders through.  I had actually used this app way back before doing my first races.  This time I used the 2013 SSAP results but started Claude an hour early.  I also put a GPS track of the race from RideWithGPS right next to help show where passing will happen.  I find it a bit overwhelming.  I'm not sure it really changes anything for me, but at least I have a guess of when people will start passing, and that it will basically last the whole race.

Here's a video showing my simulation:

I've been to a fair number of races that had laps and although I start behind the mountain bikers, I do end up getting lapped in these races.  It has always worked out and I've been assured I wasn't a bother.  But many times there isn't room for them to pass.  I listen for approaching riders and dismount and step to the side when I'd be in their way.  This takes time.  And very often before I can remount there's another rider approaching, and another, so I wait.  And then I see another a bit further back in the woods so I ride some more before dismounting again.  And it repeats.  Sometimes there's room for passing, and sometimes I can just pull over and hold a tree.  A few times I've idled off to the side.

If on average a passing rider costs me 5 seconds, and there were 250 riders passing, that would slow me down by more than 20 minutes!

Last year Claude finished in 4 hours. I don't think I can ride as fast as Claude.  This year muni riders start at 8am and awards start at 12:30.  So maybe I CAN do it in 4.5 hours?  But what about the delays from passing?  The race coordinator says, "If we have favorable conditions there will be a 12 noon cutoff limit at the 21 mile mark...if you get there after 12 noon you are welcome to finish but will receive a dnf."  That's only a 5.25 mph pace, so it generally seems doable.  But this course isn't so easy.

I'm at least comforted a bit by "if we have favorable conditions".  That's been another worry of mine.  I expect the trails around here will still be a muddy mess in two weeks.  That can slow a unicycle down to walking and the race will absolutely suck.  If there is mud, I think the last half of the race will be much different than the first.  First we'll have nearly untouched trails and then we'll have a trail churned up by 250+ bikers.  I'm not sure which will be better.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Training at the Big Field

An example snowy ice patch
Training for the Singlespeed-a-Palooza has been tough.  I need to ride a lot, but this has been the longest winter since the ice age and spring is only just starting to show itself.  I continue to work out but less regimented than Insanity.  Each day I've just been choosing a workout routine I feel like doing.  I've done some P90X, Insanity, and some good  routines from Fitness Blender.

Today started out way below freezing but this afternoon it rose into the 40's.   I took some time off from work and rode.  The wooded trails are all still very snow covered and icy, and I figured the Gosnell Big Field trail would probably be clear because it gets more sun.  Unfortunately there were long patches of snow and ice that I'd say made up about 25% of the trail.  The Big Field trail is not much fun to begin with, and trying to make it through snow made it worse.  Dustin joined my ride, so at least I had someone to complain to.

Last night I did Fitness Blender's "Brutal HITT Ladder Workout".  This one really burns the quads and takes some serious willpower to get through at full intensity.   My quads were screaming at me for the first few laps of the Big Field, and I assume it's because of this workout.   On the latter half of my ride my lower back was especially screaming.  Dustin mentioned the same.  It might be the bumpy nature of this trail that causes us to make a lot of micro balance adjustments as we ride.  I rode my 29er and left in in low gear, since the wheel I'll use for the race will only have that.  I rode 7 miles with a bunch of dismounts and several breaks to talk with Dustin.  That's not exactly good training, but better than nothing.

There are only about two weeks left before the race.  The race is just south of Poughkeepsie and their weather is likely comparable to ours, but I hope they've gotten less snow this winter.  If the race was around here, the trails would not be in good condition for racing in two weeks.  Muddy at best.
Bad trail conditions will make the race slower and more difficult.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Insanity Completed

I'm sad to say I haven't been out riding for over two weeks now.  I'm gonna have to ride somewhere soon despite the poor conditions.  In less than five weeks I'll be racing 25 miles.  That's kind of a scary thought.

I have been continuing with my Insanity workouts and tonight I finished!  It took me 76 days instead of 63.
Here are my excuses:  5 muni days, 1 snowshoe day, 1 sledding day, 2 days I did the fit test on one day and the workout on the next instead of combined, 2 days of added rest, and 3 sick days.  I'm very much content with these reasons.

I impressed myself with my progress in the fit tests.  I remember in the second week feeling like there wasn't gonna be much room for improvement, but I exceeded those numbers significantly.

If only I could ride my trails to see how I feel.  Am maintaining my endurance or not?  Am I weaker or stronger?

What's next?  I'm not sure.  Maybe start Insanity over?  Mix it up with some other routines?  Hopefully I'll be riding more too.