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Packing a Little Heat-Blazing Saddles 6 Hr Race Report

July 1, 2011
Caveman at 2011 blazing saddles the afterburn

Photo used permission of Bobcat13 Photography

The weekend went according to plan and I did make it to Warda to participate in the Blazing Saddles 6 hour race on Saturday. Ladybird and I made it out to the ranch around 4pm and started setting up. Former NRC/Pedalmasher head honcho James Webb showed up about a half hour later and started setting up his gear next to mine, as we had coordinated earlier in the week. Both of us would be racing completely self supported, other than having each others tools/food/water to share. Having Colleen at these long races has really spoiled me, but I’m no stranger to self supported racing and this go round it was actually kind of nice. I wasn’t out to win this one, and not having to squeeze every single second out of my feed zone times helped reinforce this mentality.

Caveman at 2011 blazing saddles the afterburn

Photo used permission of Bobcat13 Photography

The Solo Open Men took off at 6pm followed by the Solo Men 1 minute later, and then 2 person teams and women (the open class is more competitive and has higher payout, it is what I race). The Texas summer did not disappoint this day. Race start was probably around 98 degrees (at least it wasn’t 106 like we’ve hit in the past few weeks) but this was still plenty hot to punish any who dare forsake it. I mentioned in my last post that heat tolerance was one of the only advantages I had going for me. While I can do low intensity work all day in the heat, racing in it is a different story.It still zapped me and forced me to stay below my threshold. I felt like I had the legs, just not the conditioning needed to fuel the legs at this temperature. So, I let lots of people pass and told myself I am a second half racer-when these hot heads are spent after a few laps I’ll still be consistent and cruise on by.

I was racing Long Tall Sally 2.0 for the first time. Mike of YBS bikes had dropped it off Wednesday that week and I hurried to get her built and dialed in before the race. I normally would never do anything like this since it is asking for mechanical and bike fit issues, but since I wasn’t planning on being super competitive for this race, I saw it as a great chance to break her in. Also, before the frame came in, I was debating which bike to race-Proud Mary the light fast snappy hardtail, or Big Tex the heavier but much more comfortable full suspension. Having limited ride time the past few weeks, I didn’t know If I could handle 6 hours on an alloy hardtail. A steel hardtail was a good compromise. Heavier than the Kona Kula (only about 1.5 lbs), but lighter than the fully, with the supple riding quality of steel!

Caveman at 2011 blazing saddles the afterburn

Photo used permission of Bobcat13 Photography

I had my only mechanical on the first lap. I washed out in a sandy turn and had to put my foot down. The chain jumped off the big ring onto the crank arm. I was using an old bent front derailleur that my sponsor shop had lying in the scrap box in the back ( the frame clearances are a little weird on this bike and this was the only one we found that was compatible). It wasn’t an ideal setup, but after that little flop I didn’t have one single problem with the bike the rest of the race. I loved the 2×9 gearing with 40/27 up front and 34/11 in the rear. I am going to see about going to a 36 or 38 ring instead of a 40 so I can stay in the big ring more often and spin a little faster.

The evening wore on and after 4 laps it was getting dark. Threw the lights on and started out for lap 5. The heat had taken its toll on just about everybody at this point. Riders were dropping like flies. I was feeling ok though, and kept chugging along. Just as predicted, I began passing riders and building my confidence. I felt my second wind coming on and the pace picked up. My legs had reached that point of fatigue where the pain somehow feels good and you get a sense that you can ride forever. My biggest concern coming into the race, whether or not my butt would hold up from saddle soreness, didn’t seem to be an issue. All of a sudden, the race demon came out, sort of.

I knew the lead was out of the question ( the winner, Tristan Uhl would actually lap me at the end of this lap), but, I figured If i pushed hard and made up 5 minutes a lap, I could catch anyone within 20 minutes. Maybe I could get a podium spot. I kept the pace high.

After a short break back at camp, I started on the 7th lap. I could tell my motor skills were fading even though my muscles felt fine. I’ve dealt with failing motor skills in the middle of 24 hour races at 2:30am, but never at a 6 hour at 10:30pm. This started a bit sloppy and just got worse until I smacked a tree with my left handlebar. My right shoulder is the one recovering from dislocation, but the impact was kind of an action-reaction sequence and jerked my right shoulder forward unexpectedly. It wasn’t excruciating pain, maybe 7 out of 10, but it gave me a pretty good scare. With 10,000 more trees between me and the finish line, I decided to play it safe, slow down, and call it a day after this lap. I rolled in at 11:06pm, a little bummed I didn’t go the full 6 hours, but pleased nonetheless with the effort and really, really excited that the race demon had paid me a visit.

Thanks to friends and sponsors who had a hand in my success: YBS Bikes, Eastside Pedalpushers, Bobcat13 Photography, Paleo Cookbooks, James Webb, and the world’s best cheerleader, my dog Ladybird.

Blazing through the night

Awesome photo by Bobcat13 Photography! Check these guys out!

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