Black Bear Rampage 2017 and the sub 4-hour goal

I had to go back and read last year’s post about the Black Bear Rampage. I finished it in 4:12. I had a mechanical, but still managed to finish well in the Sport category. I was back to ride a sub-4. In fact, I predicted:

Next year, I expect a sub-4 by more than barely.

That was my goal. A sub-4, and if it resulted in a podium, then that was an extra. I had broken down the sections by mileage and elevation and figured out what I needed to do in each section to stay on task. I knew that I couldn’t attack the road climb in the beginning OR Brush Creek due to the long lines of riders that build up with nowhere to pass, and I knew that my best time on climbing Boyd Gap wouldn’t happen if I was on mile 30-something. I looked at it as a long TT. Steady, steady, steady.

Like last year, I arrived early to the Whitewater Center and started getting ready for the day. I picked up my packet and t-shirt and said hello to my friends at Scott’s Bicycles that puts on the race every year. I caught up with a couple of friends and then headed out to warm up a little bit. I didn’t plan on doing a whole lot of warming up because I figured that the road climb to Brush Creek was a good warm-up and since I entered in expert class, I didn’t think I’d have to worry a lot about getting in the woods first. I had some nervous pre-race talk with some friends but could tell mentally I was not really where I wanted to be prior to a race, in fact that morning I was nowhere near where I needed to be mentally. I cannot explain it, but I didn’t sleep very well. I dreamed about the trail all night and woke up at least 5 times thinking I was way too keyed up for this race.

By the time we started though, I went into steady state mode. One of the things I enjoy is figuring out how high can I push without going into red. A race like this shouldn’t have many areas of attack because it is a 4-hour race, unless you are well trained for it. I knew that there were certain sections of the race where I could push it harder due to the recovery or possible recovery on the other side. I spend less time not pedaling at this point if I can because that is wasted power. I use a lot of the things I have learned over the past couple of years in road cycling and use it for mountain biking.

For some reason, I thought there were at least 3 women in front of me who entered into the woods first. There were only 2. I supposed I was already hallucinating.

Brush Creek had a bit of a train. It wasn’t going as fast as I knew I could go, but I could tell by effort (my heart rate monitor was not working, but I’m learning to let data go during a race…) that the amount of energy to pass those 3 guys wasn’t worth it at all. I settled in and expected Star and Monica to be right on my back. I thought there was a lady from another category and Noel with Carey in front of me. Apparently I don’t pay well attention or perhaps I’m more concerned about staying focused on the trail on what I am doing, but we passed her somewhere.

A couple of men were frustrated with the pace during Brush Creek. I used to get frustrated, but it’s a long race. Why waste energy passing when you can just hit it later? I felt I could have gone faster there but at what cost? I’d save it for later.

I always worry descending Boyd’s Gap and this time proved no exception. Luckily, I tucked in behind a guy who was as slow as me on Boyd’s, and it helped. There was no one behind me pushing me to go faster. Win. The road is a welcome sight. I tried to just relax down it but then decided to pedal. No, don’t waste time. You need that sub-4 and what if you miss it by just a little and could have succeeded by pedaling on the road downhill?

Copper Road is a favorite of mine. It’s the perfect layout for me. Unfortunately, on the rooty section, a guy stalled out and a fat bike tire hit me in the calf. I just regained composure and kept going. I imagined a huge tire tread on the back of my calf. It didn’t hurt, so it must have been light. I remember the guy on the fat tire bike pretty much dogging the guy that lost his mojo on the roots. It happens. The line is not clearly evident.

The bridge at the WWC was not slippery and onto Bear Paw Up! I was behind the fat tire bike again (two of them on the same team) and climbed in a line up. I didn’t feel that I had an extra to pass so I settled in and enjoyed the process. I even felt after the hairpin turn that I was over cooking a bit, but just kept waiting on the delay of the heart to catch up with the pedaling rest. The volunteer at the hairpin turn had a cute little dog. Dogs make me smile! I kept pushing up and up toward Chestnut. Somewhere along Chestnut (I think), Star told me we were racing for 2nd and 3rd. I was confused because I didn’t remember passing two ladies that I swore rode into the woods from the road at the beginning. The guy in front of us sort of stumbled or fell over, and I squeaked by thinking Star was with me. I noticed at the bottom of Thunder Rock she wasn’t.

At the top of the gravel climb I heard Fenton which put a smile on my face. After descending a little bit climbed up West Fork.

Honestly Quartz and Bypass were a blur probably because I was remembering last year’s snapped chain and that fiasco. I was trying to remember exactly where on the trail it was. I looked for Monica and Star at the loop back. By the time I looked up, I was going down Bear Paw to the bridge and Copper Road again.

Cramps… in weird places.

This is where my mind wants to shut it all down because I don’t get cramps very often. These cramps were different.

As I have read before, when cramps hit me, I go to war. What do I mean? Well, I start cycling through everything. Increasing fluid intake, taking in base salts, and lowering the work on the pedals (increasing cadence with less torque). All of the above, cycling the three until I figure it out. Mile 25 was a bit early for me to experience these, but along Copper Road I realized that I could push a certain effort below the earlier effort and still not feel them.

Boyd Gap was what I was dreading. I have only cleaned that climb once and didn’t expect to during the race especially after cramps set in, but I did somehow minus one step on the left at the very top. It was enough for me to count it and a peek back with no one on my back. Apparently no cramping would happen out of the saddle standing and climbing but sitting and spinning up was causing adductors, quads, and calves to cramp. Go figure.

I had the joy of finishing the race with Zack along Brush Creek. I could not do a lot of work to get up the trail due to keeping the cramps at bay, but was able to just settle in yet again and finish the race at 3:41 with Zack who didn’t recover prior to the race.

I TOOK OVER 30 MINUTES OFF MY RACE TIME.

Looks like my goal wasn’t as aggressive as it should have been. Carey finished well ahead of me and Star right behind me. We had a very good locally respected class: Carey, Star, Noel, Monica, and me. Going in I had to just concentrate on beating my time from last year and not worry about the others. I can do that 95% of the time. I worried a little but at start just rode my race and just did my thing. 4 out of 5 set PRs and loved we have Carey racing for Scott’s as well along with Noel.

Thanks to Henry Trent for fixing my bike going way out of his way…

I said I wasn’t going to do 5 Points, but…

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