Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pain in the Butte!

Where to begin. Have you ever thought about something so much, pondered, planned, anxiously awaited only to have it all blow up in your face? Thats how I felt Saturday late afternoon. Last spring I reluctantly signed up for the Butte 100 endurance mountain bike race. The reluctant part came because there was not much information on the website about it. Brad (aka Carborocket) did this race last year and had nothing but good things to say. Even though it took him just over 12 hours to complete it and he has superhuman powers, I still thought it was something I could do. All the website had was a shitty map, an old profile and a vague description. I thought for sure more details would come and it would help me prepare for my first endurance event. Those things never came.

July 31 came pretty fast. I trained alot this year, stayed in decent shape through the winter and rode a fair amount in the early spring and started the season at a good weight. As July 31 came closer I became more and more nervous about what I was getting myself into. Everyone I talked to said, "didn't Carborocket do it in over 12 hours" "Its going to take you 16 hours!" Great. That was BEFORE we found out that this years race would be harder and longer. It took the winner almost an hour longer than the winner from last year. I'm not going to blame the course or anyone else for my failure. I was simply not prepared well enough either mentally or physically. More on this later. First a few pics of the best looking crew in all of mountain bike racing. They were awesome!

We rolled into Butte on Thursday and stopped at the shop, one of the owners is Levi's brother. You know Levi the pro racer NOT Levi Johnston. Picked up a map and I quickly looked for a total elevation gain. I added it up and it as over 22000! I think I crapped my pants right there. That cant be right. I dismissed it and tredged on. We got a map and headed out to scope out the start. Then we headed out to see the aid station 1. After that we found some food at Mckenzie River Pizza. It looked to be the safest of what was limited options in Butte. Unless you wanted fast food.
Friday we woke up and I went out for an easy spin for 45 minutes to shake out the legs after the drive. I felt good but my rear shock was not feeling right so I took it down to the shop and left it there for the day. They offered to do quick tunes on anyones bike that was doing the race so I took em up on it. Turns out the Utah Cannondale Rep Matt Ohran was up there for Tinker and actually did the race himself. I actually bought my bike from him so he did some work on it replaced some bushings and did some work on the BB. I felt much better after that. Bike was dialed. Everyone else started rolling in Friday afternoon. We gathered together that night for dinner at the above mentioned establishment. That place was packed. After dinner we headed over to the bike shop for the 8:00 pm racer meeting. I wanted to be in bed by then. Great. We listened to the description of the trails, the descriptions were not any better than what we had read previous to getting there and there was still no mileage to aid stations, no profile, nothin. We were going to attempt a dirty hundie with no real knowledge of the course except that the climbs are long and brutal and the descents can get real sketchy. Nice. May god be with us.

We rolled back to the Hotel that was only a few blocks away to find that our floor had been taken over by teenage girls that were in town for a softball tourney. My worst nightmare had come true. Giggling, door knocking, door slamming. You name it, it kept me up. I went to the store at 9:15 looking for ear plugs only to find the waxy kind. I really didn't like them. They muffled the noise a little but could not drown out the doors closing etc. I slept like shit. I think I only slept maybe 3-4 hours. Not a good way to start out with a 4:00 a.m wake-up call.

Alarm went off shortly after the wake-up call. I had to have an insurance plan. I brewed some coffee, gathered my stuff together and ate some cereal. Cereal that I would see later in the day.

Brad J drove us to the start so Lindy and Brads Girlfriend could roll into aid station 1 and not be in such a rush to get out the door. That worked out great because Lindy and Alisha got along great and became friends. All the support crew had a great time throughout the day.

So, off to the race report- Get comfortable.
6 a.m. Sun rising, a little cool. I felt good, felt confident for what was to come. I had trained hard and thought I had prepared mentally and physically for what I was about to do. And we're off! The race started with 1/4 mile of road that filtered into a dirt road and fed us into an ATV trail heading down. 80+ riders all grouped together made this first descent a bit sketchy. I saw multiple people go down in the loose sandy sections. All really good riders going down on a section of trail that would normally  not be difficult but because of a large group and people going slower than they normally would go made things a bit interesting. This trail dumped us out onto a residential (montana style) dirt road. I saw 3 horses running in a field towards us, I thought they were going to jump the fence but they stopped abruptly. Then, within 3-4 minutes I heard this "clip clop" behind me and I thought it sounded like a mtn biker running with their biking shoes behind me. I thought damn they are fast. Just then, the 3 horses race by as if they wanted in on the action. It was crazy. I thought I was taking it easy on this flat section but my HR told me otherwise. Probably nerves. My HR always jumps at the beginning of a race. I tried to settle in and ride a good pace to get into a rhythm. To the first aid station was not a difficult part of the race but there were some short steep climbs that got my HR going and some long flat sections. I latched onto a paceline group with Banks and Seamons and this helped go much faster on the road section heading up to the Nez Perce trailhead. Nez Perce was the spot for aid station 1. I was feeling really good here and was excited to start the climb up Nez Perce. This climb is wooded, mystical, semi technical but all rideable singletrack. Nothing steep all middle-ring. This climb did seem to go on a ways. Once it topped out the descent was sweet. Twisty, turny, tight singletrack that was a blast to ride. If I had known more about the aid stations I would have gone past 2 and stopped at 3. Instead I stopped at 2 and skipped 3. Mistake. Between 2 and 3 was mostly downhill. 3-5 was mostly uphill and hot. The descent from 2-3 was sketchy. Steep, loose, rutted etc. I went down shortly after station 2. As did most of our group from Draper. I got a nice raspberry on my right butt cheek. Nothing too painful, I was just glad it didn't rip my new shorts. At station 3 is where the real hell started.

As we entered the station 3 I didn't stop. I should have. Its all uphill to station 4. Or it felt that way to me. And it was hot! This was by far the hottest part of the day. Totally exposed, hot, no wind, this is called Whisky Gulch. I wish I had some Whisky to put me out of my misery. My stomach was already acting up a bit and this made me nervous since we were only 35-40 miles in. I had hoped it would settle and allow me to eat some food. At station 4, I refilled my pack and thought we had about 10-12 miles to go for station 5. This is where our crew would be with a ice cold coke and some pretty smiling faces. This part took what seemed like FOREVER! Climbing, climbing, more climbing, just when you thought you might be close? Nope! More climbing! It kept going and going. Mile 50 ticked on by and the aid station was nowhere to be seen. We just kept climbing. We could hear the highway and even caught a few glimpses of it as if it were teasing us, messing with our heads. At this point, Banks, Seamons, Bright and I were all together for the most part. Mile 50 is where we thought the aid station would be but it turned out to be closer to mile 56 or 57. It was a complete mind f*&^! You could hear the highway, and you could see it at times. We were on this long dirt road that just kept winding up, up, up. Every corner you thought you would come across and the station would be there. I came to really hate those corners. We finally made it and I had the best Coke in my life. We stayed here for awhile, trying to regroup. My stomach was not feeling well. Nothing sounded good to eat at all. I ate a fair amount of watermelon, half a snickers bar and a coke. I felt much better after spending some time there. Alishas ice cold rags were a close 2nd to the Coke and Lindy's smiling and caring face. Not to mention she had her workout clothes on so they were tight and she looked hot.

This is where things got interesting. We just came up from the depths of hell, oh my lord was that hot. The skies were getting dark and looked promising that it was going to rain. The thought of a little rain was great since it would cool things down. Had no idea that rain in Montana meant torrential downpour with hail and hi winds. Just as we started the descent it started to rain. This meant we had to take it a little slower since we couldn't see so good and the hail was pelting us. The descent was shortlived. Quickly we started climbing again. Surprise! This was a really cool section of trail. Deep woods, singletrack and uphill. It kept going and going, uphill, just when you thought you were done, the trail would level out, you would click a few gears up and it would turn uphill again. This is where  my stomach started really getting serious. As we climbed and climbed I couldn't take any food in. I would try and chew and chew and chew and as I would try to swallow I just couldnt do it. I ended up losing my breakfast on that long climb with switchback after switchback. Seriously it was a trail connected by switchbacks after switchback up, up, up through the woods. Admittedly this was a great section of singletrack. I only wish I felt better because it was perfect. Temp was great, trail was in great condition, I however was not. I felt great immediately after losin my lunch so I tried eating some food. Within 5 minutes of starting back up again the food made another appearance. I suffered to the top and started the descent, the descent was actually alot of fun. We rolled through the archery practice area and I thought I was hallucinating because I started seeing all these huge stuffed animals in the trees with targets on them. Then I remembered we were in the Archery. DUh! I was really disappointed because my legs felt good. I really couldnt push it and i felt weak but my legs didnt ache at that point like I thought they would. Maybe I had a nice break walking so  much because some of the trail was straight up STEEP! Those boys in Montana don't eff around.

Finally reached aid station 6 and I did the math in my head and figured there was no way to make it to the time cut-off. I kept waiting to start feeling better and it just never came. In that condition, going as slow as I was, it would have been 16+hours to finish. I forgot my bearspray so this option was not on the table. I wrestled with the thoughts of continuing on or pulling the chute there. I decided I had suffered enough and pulled the rip cord. 71.62 miles. Mostly uphill (atleast thats what it seemed).

Results were posted and 34 out of 71 finished the 100. Less than half. Somehow it doesn't make me feel much better. Maybe a bit. But not much.

71.62 miles
10,317 elevation gain
Average HR-151

I have to take this as a learning experience. It was my first endurance race. Its really the only way to take it without wanting to sell my bike. Like the race organization, a few tweaks here and there and I will be set. I felt that I had the legs and am in good enough shape to complete an endurance event.  I am looking forward to PCPP. I will finish that race even if I have to crawl across the finish line.

Lessons learned-
1-too much time spent at aid stations. This was partially my fault and partially the nature of this race. I had to find my bag, drop some carborocket in my camelback, pour some water in etc. Just took too much time. I may roll with bottles at PCPP.
2-Need to figure out fuel. Maybe eating something more often. I am able to take food in on training rides. Not sure if race pace just puts that much more pressure on my system that it starts to tweak on me. Any advice would be appreciated.
3-a cold wet rag is heaven on earth during a race. Oh my lord!
4-Coke tastes wonderful
5-Montana beat me down, but I am going to leave the door open to return someday.
6-Never underestimate the power of bug spray. Good hell those bugs were as relentless as the climbing.

Thats it for now. Thoughts are now on to PCPP. 


eeeeeeeeevilbanks said...

Good write up man, bring on Park City.

BradK said...

Wow! I'm kinda glad I couldn't make it. I can't believe they ran it in the opposite direction to last year I think that caused a lot of the problems. Doesn't sound at all like the race from last year. Nice writeup and see you at PCP2P, that'll seem like a walk in the park to you now.

Judy said...

I'm proud of you!

Jason said...

Nate - that was a hard ass day man, impressive that you did what you did with the stomach issues going on. Look forward to plenty more of these with you and Lindy and the gang, makes it a lot more bearable doing it with pals.

Ski Bike Junkie said...

The fact you're getting ready to sack up and tackle PCPP says a lot after a beat down of a course like Butte. All I can say is Tour of Park City seemed easy by comparison.

Give the EFS gel a try for nutrition at PC. I have a hard time with solid food at race pace, and that stuff seems to go down nice and easy.