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Currently viewing the category: "Race Reports"

All Smiles at USARA National Championships 2015

By Dave

Going into this race, rain has been falling in the area for 4 weeks, a hurricane is out to the east and Nor’easter to the north.  It is going to be a wet and muddy 2015 USARA National Championship race in Pineville, KY.  Fortunately, I had the right gear for the 30 hour journey.  My Lupine headlamp had no problem weathering the rain and mud.  Acquired through our awesome sponsor, Spokes, Etc., my Specialized Epic rolled through the mud and streams without a hitch.  Megan rode her new Stan’s NoTubes ZTR Race Gold 29er Wheels and tubeless tires, which saved weight and lessened our worries as we bushwhacked through the race. About making the conversion she said she only wishes she had done it sooner! Thanks to our great sponsor Stan’s NoTubes!

The great gear allows the thing I love the most to happen…teamwork.  As the navigator, the pressure of not making mistakes can sometimes weigh me down and result in more mistakes.  A few hours after having missed a point, I start to doubt myself in our approach to another point.  Megan then reminds me that this is a team and that we have to use all the resources available.  And she couldn’t have been more correct.  Up to that point, I was trying to do all the navigating in a silo.  Having been a hugely successful experience in a race last year, I remember to include all of us in the hunt for the checkpoints.  Megan paces to the next point while Barry confirms features, and I track elevation.  With quite a few teams roaming around in the area, but we land directly on the point and quickly head off to the next one!  We left clicking on all cylinders and never looked back.

Thanks to a great team, sponsors and race community for making another great adventure possible.

by Paul, Michelle, and Jeremy

Following a highly successful 2014 campaign, TeamHalfwayThere was eager to travel to Florida and compete in the Sea2Sea to kick off our 2015 season. Enter Jeremy, Paul, and Michelle as racers.  This race was personal for Jeremy.  He wanted to complete a hat trick and race the Sea2Sea one, final time before heading to the land that gave us chain smoking. Yes, kids, France.  Paul was an expedition race neophyte and wanted to get that multi-day monkey off his back (sans pig).  For Michelle there was no need for proof.  The Sea2Sea was reason enough to escape Washington, DC’s cold and snow.  As fate would have it, DC received 8″ of pow-pow while we riding our bikes around the quaint tourist retreat of Cedar Key, Florida.

A month before race start, we decided to get tubeless cross bikes up and running.  This decision – supported by our sponsors Stan’s NoTubes and Spokes, Etc. – influenced our race strategy a great deal.  As a result, we found ourselves competing against highly talented and extremely experienced teams.

Race Flow

The Sea2Sea was a 72-hour event.  After reviewing the first 20 maps with a portion of the 130+ CPs that took teams only to the midway point, it was clear to us that the race was NOT a clearable course.  It turned out we were right as the winners didn’t even come within 18 hours of clearing the race course.

The race started with a standard prologue, a bit of a paddle, and then we were on our cross bikes.  This would turn out to be a theme of the first half of the race.  We arrived at a CP and found that we had a surprise stretch of single track to tackle.  Being on cross bikes, we were a bit nervous.  We rode and only lost about 20-25 minutes off the leaders.  It’s easy to make up time on the road where cross bikes thrive.

We made it to the paddle at 6:45 PM, seemingly plenty of time to make a mysterious 11 PM cut-off that we knew very little about.  Little did we know that the creek was completely full of deadfall (and a couple of gators).  We lost count at over 12 downed trees.  We lost a tremendous amount of time.  Additionally, at some point a rather large crack appeared in the hull of our boat.  The crack was large enough that we had a full time bailer and two paddlers just to keep the water at a manageable level inside the boat.

We knew we had the cut off, but the only thing teams were told was to “be here by 11 or all your hard work will be for not.” So, we left a point we were very close to in order to make the cut-off.  We then learned that there was actually a foot O-course that we weren’t able to head out on.  This, it turns out, was the 11 pm cut off.

Our big strategic gamble was to bypass the Rice Creek paddle section and gain several hours of time on the lead teams that actually thought the course was clearable.  But, with teams being well behind the race director’s estimates, the Rice Creek paddle section was cancelled.  Kick in the teeth.

This was probably our lowest point as a team.  We realized right then that, due to factors beyond our control, our race for a top 5 finish was effectively over.  Bummed, we decided to have fun and finish strong in true TeamHalfwayThere fashion.

As for the rest of the race, point placement and control selection was either pretty straight forward or impossibly hard.  Point might be on the ground, 6+ feet in the air, a 3-inch road reflector, the clue leading to the points could be exactly right, completely wrong, and the maps could be great or the same ones used to find the fountain of youth.

Memorable Moment

A 100km whack through a swamp at 4am at hour 64 (Ok, maybe it was just a 500ish meter whack, but still).  Once we emerged from the brush, we were mentally and physically crushed.  5 minutes later we were on our bikes, riding to get as many additional points as we could, never to give the swamp from hell another thought.

Wildlife Encounters

  • 2 gators while portaging
  • 1 snake falling out of a tree and into the water alongside our canoe
  • 1 very pissed off cottonmouth snake
  • Oodles of prehistoric looking sturgeon at Manatee state park

 Favorite Gear and Food

  • Paul: Cross bike with Stan’s Ravens tubeless setup
  • Paul: Patagonia Alpine Houdini Shell – who knew temps in Florida could easily fluctuate between 80 and 40 degrees.
  • Michelle: RLT 9 Niner – what a better way to break in a new bike than to ride it across Florida with a few pit stops in swamps
  • All: Hot dog and Fat Tire beer (aptly named “Portage”) at Fanning Springs TA

Notable Quotes

  • Michelle – “That was the worst bike-whack of my entire AR career; I think we should just ride to the finish in Cedar Key.”  Less than 5 minutes later, “You thought I was serious about that, no, just a momentarily lapse and it’s all good now that it’s behind us since that really was the worst bike-whack ever.”
  • Paul (in response to Michelle) – “Outstanding!  Since I can’t help but take immense pride in being the cause of your worst ever bike-whack experience.”

Shout Outs

  • Our Hero, Liz Notter.  The best damn chauffeur of luggage – I mean racers – from Florida back home to DC.
  • All the amazingly supportive Sea2Sea Volunteers.  Our favorite thing from the race.  Volunteers were super kind, generous, and really were some of the best group of folks we’ve encountered in racing.

By Paul Ruchlin Politics is not the only arena here in the nation’s capital that suffers extreme swings. The weather is just as likely. Following 6-10 inches of snow dumped on us last Thursday (I’m not complaining Boston, just stating a fact), through a low of 10 degrees Friday night, we swung complete through to a beautifully sunny and fantastically pleasant high of 60+ degrees on Sunday; A picture perfect day for my opening race/event of 2015, Monster Cross, in Pocahontas State Park just south of Richmond. This is my fourth time for this race and it is one of my favorites. The course is completely non-technical, taking place on fire roads, paved roads and some park trails, it’s fast (usually), flowy and fun. Really, its defense is its hills and the fact it’s an early season test of fitness at 20, 26 or 46 miles. This year it threw in a few extra teeth as, with the snow and rain of the last few weeks, it was wet, mushy, slow and dotted with a plethora of mud pits the likes of which few dare to tread, or pedal. As I prepped my bike and kit/gear on Saturday afternoon, I vowed I would not repeat last year’s disappointment of poor nutrition, both pre-race and during, and a lack of discipline, going out from the start way too hard. I knew I was doing so, I told myself I was doing so, and yet ego prevented me from slowing myself down. Fjallraven Kanken Kids As a result, I completely bonked just over halfway through and limped back to the parking area with a 32 mile DNF. That’s Did Not Finish, only a half-step above the ultimate disappointment of Did Not Start. This year, a complete reversal. I was up early – OMFG early at 4:15 am – 45 minutes before my alarm and unable to even snooze. The benefit was plenty of time for a sizeable and filling breakfast. Solde adidas superstar I was joined for the two hour drive by friends Deirdre and Honey (yes, that really is her name) from the incredible and recently acclaimed #1 Female Cycling Team in the US by USA Cycling, Team Sticky Fingers. I snacked on a peanut butter thin pocket pita (YUMMY) on the way. As the sun rose the temperature rose steadily and after an hour of packet pick-up and bike set-up and waiting around, it was a comfortable 48 degrees at race start. Angel Pagan Jersey Off I (we) went at a reasonable but controlled pace. Ok, Plan A (a good breakfast) and Plan B (DON’T blow yourself up at the start) were in the box. Plan B was made considerably easier by the fact that the fire roads, while not in bad condition, were mushy enough to have a real effect on speed and effort. You definitely knew you were working harder than normal, which worked to my advantage as it was very easy to keep an easier pace, realizing I got very little gain for any additional effort. At mile 5, when you cross the road to the southern section of the park, is where things got tough. A bit less hilly, but a lot more sloppy. This section is always wet, even in the best of conditions. This year, Mud Bogs. Many hub/axle deep and thick as peanut butter (DIFFICULT TO PEDAL THROUGH!!!), the rest just enough to keep pigs…..and mountain bikers, mud splattered and giggly with enjoyment. I was overjoyed and even more surprised to complete the 20 mile first lap in under 2 hours, feeling good with the exception of some chafing. From that point, the course heads across the creek for an outlying 6 mile loop before coming back across the creek to repeat the course of the first lap. Nike air max 1 pas cher One great thing about this race is that as you start lap #2, you ride through the parking lot, making a quick stop at your vehicle for refills or adjustments convenient and efficient. I had plenty of food & drink but I did take a much needed opportunity to, uh, “re-lube” (my parts, not my bike) and shed a few clothing items. I was feeling really good. nike air max 90 pas cher Appropriately fatigued for the halfway+ point, but still strong and excited about lap #2. Plan C (in-race food & hydration) was working perfectly. I had been vigilant about sipping (or two good gulps really) from my Infinit bottle every 20 minutes. Infinit is a race fuel (liquid food) product I highly recommend. At hours 1 & 3 I took a Hammer Gel packet and hour 2, half of a clif bar, all on the move. nike air max pas cher This along with drinking water from my Camelbak every 15 minutes or so kept me well fueled and hydrated without having to stop to pee during the race. air max pas cher I felt good, didn’t get hungry and was able to tackle Plan D exactly as I planned. Plan D was the strong finish. Conserve again through the hills and mud of the first 10 miles and use what I had left to the finish. Nike Air Max Norge Nettbutikk Two good things about lap #2: fewer people around meant more freedom to ride, not having to brake for slower riders or wait and pick times to pass; Surprisingly, the warm weather and breeze had dried the fire roads a bit. They were noticeable less mushy and energy sapping. This however did NOT apply to the mud pits which, after having been accosted by several hundred riders, were even worse the 2nd time through. I miraculously managed to slog my way through without a much dreaded flop in to any of them, but there was a close call or two. A few were so deep I think I may have passed just the hands of some poor lost soul reaching out to……… or that may just have been my own nightmare. The truly hard part over, and now my legs beginning to ache from the effort, I put out all that I had left to the finish line. Crossing in 4:12:14 I was more than a little fatigued, but far more buoyed by the race I’d ridden.