Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Goals Report Card

Here it is at the end of the year, a perfect time to look back and take stock of how the year went. Basically I am going to grade myself on how I feel I did in relation to my original season goals for 2013.... using a regular old school grading system.

My original goals for the season were:

Priority Goals
Complete a 100 mile trail running race -  stretch goal: under 24 hours
Win tandem category at the Dirty Kanza 200 mile gravel road race
Win Tandem Category at the Ore to Shore MTB race
Win Tandem Category at the Cohutta 100 Mile MTB race

Secondary goals
Run well at the Georgia Death Race trail run
Run very well at the Marquette Trail 50 mile running race
Break 4 hours at the Snake Creek Gap TT course on the MTB tandem
Beat my previous time at the Duncan Ridge 50K trail run

How did I do? Let's take the goals in chronological order:

Snake Creek Gap
Dalton Georgia, Jan / Feb / Mar
Grade: A -
This event is a 34 mile MTB race in a time trial format over some really rough terrain in the mountains of North Georgia. The weather for all 3 of the race weekends was cold and wet. One of the weekends we had some serious snow accumulation on part of the trail, but we did accomplish the goal of sub 4 hours at the March race. It was not easy! The course was dicey all of the weekends... and I think we could go a lot faster on this course in better conditions... or if I can get more confidence and pilot the bike a little better. I still give us a good grade for this goal.

Georgia Death Race
North Georgia Mountains, Late March
Grade: A
My first 100+Kilometer trail run on a course that lived up to its name. We started in the dark at 4:30 am and and I finished (top 10) in around 14 and a half hours. A REALLY hard day and I was absolutely destroyed after. The is the first and ONLY time I have ever puked after a race... let me tell you it was not pretty.... BUT I performed as well or better than expected.. .so a good grade here.

Cohutta 100 mile MTB race - Tandem
Ducktown TN, April
Grade B
We were prepared quite well for this race... and then the rain came the night before. Pouring rain, very cold temperatures on the ridge tops, and slick, nasty mud on parts of the course made handling the tandem an absolute nightmare. Originally I thought we could do this course in about 9.5 hours. In the rain and mud it took us over 12 hours!!!! This was NOT a fun day on the bike... Even through the lens of time this was a miserable day... but we got it done. Of course we were the first place tandem because we were the only ones dumb enough to do it :) . Grade B for my whining and complaining all day ... but the physical performance was pretty good.

Dirty Kanza 200
Emporia, Kansas , June
We never got to the starting line... even though I feel like we were prepared well to put in a good performance... this goal slots into 2014.

Ore to Shore
Marquette MI, August
Grade: B+ 
This is a 42 mile point to point MTB race on really fun, fast trails on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We had a mediocre start, but turned it on and were placed pretty well before getting stuck waiting for a train to pass at a crossing. After that it was a mess with rider traffic. We rode really well, but just squeaked in under 3 hours. We won the tandem category against some good competition, but we were not as prepared as we could have been. We need to work on our start and high end to go a lot faster next year. This race will also appear on the 2014 goal list.

Marquette Trail 50 run
Grade: either an F or an A
This ended up being a VERY difficult, technical 50 mile course on a hot and humid day. To make a long story short: I was running really well... in 5th place... tiring and suffering, but still going fine. Then I decided that splashing some nice cool lake Superior water on myself would help. Because of cramping I ended up a little more in the water than I intended... then just as I got going again, I passed out. EMS came and gave me IV fluids, but my race was over with just 7 miles left to run. I am really disappointed about this one.... I was performing really well... then a questionable decision and circumstance led to a DNF... after 44 miles of hard work. So an F for the DNF, but an A for my performance up to the point in question. Again, this will be a 2014 goal... I need redemption on this course !

Mark Twain 100 Mile trail run
South East Missouri, September
Grade: A +
Yup, an A+ for my huge season goal. After my mistake in Marquette I honed my preparation... and everything went 100% perfectly for my first 100 mile run. The course was beautiful (4 x 25 mile single track loops in the Ozark Mountains) and the weather was great. My nutrition was good... energy levels good... perfect. I finished in 23hours and 19 minutes. I will try to do a separate post on this event and my preparation for it.

Duncan Ridge 50 K trail run 
North Georgia Mountains, November
A great way to end the season with a 20 min personal best on this tough mountain course in cold, wet weather. Felt good before, during and after.....


Tatanka 100
Sturgis, SD June
Grade: B+
So I ended up doing 2 events that were really special. First, in June I had the opportunity to do the Tatanka 100 MTB race in South Dakota and it was an absolute BLAST. I had never been to that area and this was a great way to see the Black Hills and the amazing trails there. I had a decent performance as well (6th in the open men category). I rode well for the first half, but seriously suffered the last 30 miles or so. My preparation left something to be desired, but I had to include this event here. I will give myself a B+ for this one.

Grade: A
Unbelievable! Definitely an A here as this was almost as much of a "lifetime bucket list" event more than a 2013 goal. See my previous blog post for the details... enough said!

Ok, so that was my 2013... how did you do with your goals last year?


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pitchell !

What the heck is a Pitchell you might ask? Well, it is one of the toughest things I have ever done... and that is saying something I suppose. While not technically a real race, or even an official event, it is in fact, a bunch of insane ultra runners getting together and running the 67ish miles from the top of Mt Pisgah to the top of Mt Mitchell along the rugged Mountains to Sea trail in Western North Carolina.... starting at midnight and attempting to finish before sunset.

Why would a cyclist be doing such a thing? The lead up to this deserves a few posts of their own, but suffice to say, over the last 2 years I have been splitting time between cycling and trail running. I built from my first trail "ultra" ( a distance longer than a marathon) in January of 2012 to my first 100 mile trail run at the Mark Twain 100 in September 2013(this will get a separate post as well). I have really fallen in love with trail running. I am finding more and more that I enjoy being out on the trails for long periods of time... exploring and pushing myself. Not that I am giving up cycling anytime soon... for 2014 I have some big cycling AND running goals.

Back to the subject at hand. Ever since I heard that this challenge existed a couple years back I have wanted to do it. Since the date of the run was just 5 weeks after my 100 miler, I was not sure I would be recovered well enough to take part.... but when my recovery was feeling pretty good after a couple weeks I went ahead and committed.

The group of 30 or so odd deranged souls met at the Folk Art Center just East of Asheville at 10pm. This is approximately the half way point mileage wise of the run. We left cars there (where we could stop mid course and pick up any personal supplies) and carpooled up to the parking lot on the Blue Ridge Parkway, 1.6 miles below the summit of Mt Pisgah ( I call Mt Pisgah "Queen P"). Along the way we stashed water and food at a few points that we could pick up on the route back down.

11:45pm : we hiked up to the radio tower at the summit of Queen P. It was actually pretty warm, but cloudy and breezy. At just after midnight, with some whooping and hollering, we started the journey. There are some steep rocky downhill sections in the first few miles and the rocks were wet and slick. Even though I was being careful and not moving too fast I managed to fall pretty hard a couple of times. After the trail crosses the parkway for the first time and levels off a bit I was finally able to settle into a nice groove. Flowing along all by myself in the darkness... it was great. Not too much later though, fog descended and things got even more slippery and visibility diminished to just a few feet. I know this part of the trail really well, so i was not too concerned with going off course but there were a few moments where I honestly had no idea where i was... except that I had not gotten to the French Broad river crossing yet.

I hit the French Broad river bridge at about 3hours 45 mins in... approximately 20 minutes slower than I thought I would, but the visibility was definitely slowing me down. The section from the river crossing all the way to the Folk Art center is actually fairly flat (compared to the rest of the course), and I thought I could move across it quickly, but for whatever reason I was slowing down... not feeling good at all. I was paying close attention to caloric and fluid intake, but I was dragging. At one point I tripped over a root and fell like a sack of potatoes. I was not hurt, but instead of jumping back up I just lay there in the dark for a minute or two, feeling peaceful and sleepy.... but that was not the way to accomplish the up and off I went at a slow shuffle heading toward the halfway point. At about 5 hours in my headlamp started to blink. I was sure I had 6 hours + of light on this setting, why is it going out now with probably 2 hours of dark running to go before I got to the car?! (It turns out that in fact that headlamp is rated for 5 hours on the setting I was using... my bad). In the last mile before the Folk Art center parking lot another runner passed me, the first I had seen since about an hour in! I tried to keep pace, but just could not do it... so I slogged into the parking lot and opened up the car just as the first rays of light were coming over the horizon about 7 hours and 10 minutes into the journey.

I drank some coke, dropped off my light, changed my shirt, ate some food, downed a 5 hour energy and traded my hand held bottle for a hydration pack. The water drops from this point to the finish were to be few and far between...and water only it was imperative to carry enough calories for the rest of the day. I allowed myself about 10 minutes or so before heading off in the now nearly full morning light. While this was the half way point distance -wise, I knew I had a LONG day ahead with almost 11000 ft of climbing still to come and on trail that I have never run before...

It didn't take long before the food, caffeine and daylight brought my energy back.... I started moving at a solid pace on the now nearly all uphill terrain. I caught another runner and stayed near him for about an hour as we approached Bull Gap. From Bull gap on, the trail is absolutely AMAZING. OK, all of it is amazing, but above Bull Gap the rocks, roots, and climbs are stunning. In fact I found myself saying over and over "I can't believe I live here"! After Bull Gap (known to cyclists as the top of the OX Creek climb) the trail tilts toward the sky for possibly the hardest climb of the day to the top of Lane Pinnacle. Along the this part of the route the trail passes right through the remains of the "rattlesnake lodge". It was an interesting change of scenery to see the old stone foundations of the various buildings being reclaimed by the land. When you get to the top of Lane Pinnacle, after all the climbing (it took me over an hour of solid climbing) one might assume that there is a lot of downhill... or at least not too much more climbing... well, one would be wrong. The descents are fun, but don't last long before you are on another climb. Unbelievably at this point I was still feeling really good... good legs, good mind and the gut was fine with the amount of calories I was getting in.

When I got to a point on the trail where I could see the Craggy Visitors center, having ridden a bike to the top of Mitchell so many times, I thought I would have some solid downhill, then a big climb to the top and the finish. Again, I was wrong...... the folks who built the Mountains to Sea trail through this part of the mountains had the sadistic need to bring the trail up and down every possible high point on the map. Granted, every one of the high points had a beautiful view of the surroundings, but damn... when will the climbing end?!

FINALLY I reached the spot where the trail crosses back over the parkway and heads up to the top of Blackstock Knob. I knew this section would be tough, but it was even more difficult and steep than I had imagined. While I was still ok, I was feeling a lot of fatigue at this point and the uphill hike here was endless and slow.... 15 hours in and well over 50 miles travelled, but still no end in sight. This part was mentally draining....BUT the terrain here was so beautiful it was hard to feel too bad. Everything is moss covered on this section and it looks more like the Pacific Northwest than WNC. Finally the climb tops out and follows the ridge top before starting a wicked rocky descent. Somehow as soon as the trail started going down I got my legs back and I started flying... NOW i was finally sensing that I was, barring an injury, going to finish... and well before dark. I passed a hiker coming up and asked how far to the road crossing ahead expecting him to say about a half mile.... when he said about 1.7 miles I was a little taken aback, but after a couple seconds of silently cursing to myself I was flying down the rocks again. I passed another runner who was moving at a decent pace, but I kept on knowing I would take a quick break and he would catch up at the last water drop at the road crossing with less than 5 miles to go to the finish. At the water stop I checked my watch and my water supply and was pleased. I had a quick chat with the other runner and we started off on the last leg together. He mentioned that he was hoping to finish in under 18 hours. I looked at my watch again and had a surge of energy. While I had tentatively planned to stay with him, I could't help thinking it would be a good challenge to see if I could hit these last miles hard and make it in sub 17:30.

I have no idea how my legs had it in them, but I found myself running about 8:40 pace. Mind you, any runner will tell you that 8:40 pace on relatively flat ground is like... well... a turtle... slow. However, after nearly 16 hours on my feet I felt like I was flying. Doing some quick math, and knowing the last few miles of the course.. I thought I had a shot at that 17:30 if I could stay sub 9 min / mile on the flat section leading to the last steep uphill mile. I was able to hold pace... then I hit the Camp Alice trail that heads up to the summit. My only miscalculation was that I forgot exactly how crazy steep and rocky this last bit of trail is. I pulled out all the stops and went as hard as I could. With just a hundred meters to the top of the trail I blew up mentally and physically as my watch passed 17 hours 30 mins. I slowed a little but still kept some speed as I hit the paved last 100 meters up to the actual summit.

I was tired, but really happy with the effort. 17 hours and 36 minutes. Another runner's wife was up there waiting and was nice enough to snap a pic of me at the summit sign. It wasn't until I was stopped, then walking down to the parking lot, that I realized how cold it was up there... the wind was howling and there were even some snow flurries in the air. Thankfully a volunteer had driven our bags with extra clothing and food up for us. I quickly changed and chatted with some of the other runners. I caught a ride down the mountain with a great group of people. We stopped and picked up one of a group of runners who had made it to the road crossing with 4 miles to go, but it was getting dark so they had to bail on finishing. So close for them! But it was the right decision with the temps dropping and darkness coming on. Around 30 runners started the trek and only 8 were able to finish the full course on the day.

I got back to the car just after dark and headed home. Unfortunately my phone battery died and I could not call Cara to let her know I was safe and sound. Since I told her I would not be home until about 9 and it was just 7pm, I figured I was ok. She, after not hearing from me was concerned and drove up to the top of Mitchell looking for me. Hearing that everyone who started was safe and accounted for she headed back down. Note to self: borrow a phone and call home when appropriate. It was a beautiful evening in the mountains so at least her drive was scenic :)

Metrics for the day:
Time: 17 hours 36 minutes
distance: somewhere between 65 and 67 miles (I lost GPS signal for a few miles)
elevation gain: 13655 ft  !!!!!!
highest point: 6684ft
lowest point: 2077 ft
pace: ~17 min/ mile - slow !

What a great experience on a beautiful route. I had no major issues and was able to stay focused, injury free and I got to meet some really amazing people. Sure, I was exhausted and sore... and had that rough patch between miles 20 and 30 but that was nothing really. A HUGE thanks to everyone who made this possible... the volunteers who gave their time to shuttle us around and especially Adam H. for organizing everything. I can't wait to try to go a bit faster next year!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

hi blog, I'm back !!!

Fair warning dear reader.... after more than 4 years of not blogging.... I am coming back !

Why, you might ask? Well I feel like I have done some really interesting things over the last few years worth writing about. Also, simply, I feel like writing a little more often.

Why have I not written? Mostly because things have been really busy and sometimes downright hectic. Since I joined CTS, my coaching workload increased (in a good way) and I have had the opportunity to work with some really amazing athletes and travel to some really cool places to work training camps and events. We also managed to move again since my last post... and I have picked up a new sport to take up a ton of time (trail running... much more on that later).

So look for some new posts particular a tale of my run from the top of Mt Pisgah to the Top of Mt Mitchell on the Mountains to Sea Trail (~67 miles) last month. Also, I hope to branch out a little more and get into some topics not strictly related to sport.

~ a2

Friday, September 18, 2009


Again, no posts for a long time. Things have been astonishingly busy since the last post and of course the first thing to go is the blog. Since July I have done a few 100 mile mtb races, an xc race on the tandem with Cara and a few other endurance events....but the BIG news is that I am now coaching with Carmichael Training Systems. This is a big move for me and I am very excited about it. I am just finishing up my fist week at the office and so far things have been going great......



Wednesday, August 05, 2009

hometown racin'

Sorry , no posts for a while...but that doesn't mean I have not been up to anything! After Fitchburg I had a nice run of events right close to home. It was great not to have to travel for a few weeks. First up was the Hot Doggett 100 ride which for my $$ is about the best century course in the southeast.
After that was the French Broad Classic omnium weekend. I was able to pull off a personal best TT on friday evening. With 24:32 for the 20KM rolling course I was really pleased. I have been trying to beat my previous PB time for almost 9 years! The conditions were great and I was came together for the fastest time of the night. The next morning was a new road race...only 40 miles but tons of climbing. It was a blast, but I didn't climb particularly well and my place reflected that. The sunday crit was a tough one as well. I was hoping to get $Rich$ into the winning move...but he crashed and dislocated his shoulder....but still got back in and finished...
Next up was the Off Road Assault on Mt Mitchell (ORAMM). This is my home town course on the trails I train on all the time....and I was hoping for a great result. I rode well for the first couple hours, then we hit the 60 minute curtis creek road climb and I suffered. I felt a little better on the following climbs ...but I lost too much time. I pushed it a little too hard on the final climb and suffered some calf and adductor cramps for it....but I finished ok. I was 5th in the open men category and 8th overall....not bad, but I can't say I was pleased with my performance.
Next up was the Wilderness 101....but that is another post.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

washed up

Yup...that is me. At least as far as national elite level road cycling is concerned. Of course I already knew this and have for about a year, but the Fitchburg Stage race last weekend served as confirmation...but let's back up a bit:
After our tandem road race at nats we had a couple days to preview the TT course. It was really quite a difficult course with lots of up and down and exposed to the wind the whole time. The pic above is the file from my individual TT. I put in a solid least I thought I did with an average of 336 watts (340 NP)...which is ok considering the huge speed fluctuations. This was only good enough for 9th in my age group! Oh well...I guess I can't complain as I really have not been focusing on TTs at all this year and have only been on my TT bike a few times ...which is different than the last 10 years.
After my TT I had about 2 hours to recover for our tandem TT. The wind picked up throughout the day but we still managed a really great ride on the big bike...for 31:01..... 16 seconds faster than my individual win the mixed elite tandem TT title.
After that the fun began: I had to pack and hit the road to drive up to Fitchburg Mass. I had about 21 hours to drive 16+ hours and be at my TT start. I drove about 8 hours, slept for about 4 and drove the rest of the way thursday morning. I pulled into the parking lot about 45 minutes before my start time. I got the bike out , kitted up, warmed up for about 5 minutes (literally)...and headed to the start ramp. I breathed a sigh of relief that I had made it, but sitting on the start ramp in the cold rain, looking down the road I realized that I had no idea what I was in for on this course. Usually I am over prepared for TTs...I know the course and have ridden it...but this course: no idea. It actually turned out ok and I was surprised I was able to put in a decent ride considering my travels. I think I ended up 50-something out of 170+ riders....but things went steadily down hill from there.
Stage 2 is the circuit race. 75 miles, 25 laps around a 3 mile course with a nasty hill. I started hard and got harder, but I was ok....until my speed sensor on my fork slipped into my spokes about 8 laps in. With the fear of breaking a spoke, I stopped to fix it....and that was essentially the end of my race. I rode hard after and was lapped at just about the half way point. Unfortunately it had just started pouring rain as the field caught me at the base of the climb. Attacks were going and I was out the back again before I even had a chance to blink. Oh well...I kept hammering on and finished well inside the time cut...albeit a bit dejected.
The road race was even worse. I was dropped early seems you need to be able to do 500 watts for several minutes to stay on in these races anymore...which I cannot do. So again I was OTB...but this time I ended up in a big group of 30 or more riders. We rode a nice fast pace and it was actually a pretty good day. I set the pace up the steep part of the climbs for our group most laps and after a while we realized that the time cut was not going to be an issue. We were lapped by the field with just about 8 miles to go which worked out perfectly.
I hung in the crit until about 17 laps top go (out of 55)....and I was happy with that as I knew I would get a pro rated time and make the final GC. I was certain I would be lantern rouge, but I missed that by just one place and a few minutes :)
Post race Scottie Weiss and I hit the road and drove all the way back to his place in VA. I slept for 4 or 5 hours then drove the rest of the way home. I am still pretty tired from the travel.
So I had an inauspicious final NRC pro stage race....and it will most likely be the last big pro level national race I do....time to realize that I just can't compete with those guys anymore. That is ok though...I have had a good run over the last nearly 20 years of racing and there are plenty of other races to do!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

tandem road race smack down

Unfortunately we were on the receiving end of said smack down.
Well...... the Shogrun's finally pulled the stars and stripes away from us with a a strong chase down and a well timed jump at just 200 meters to go on the uphill finish.
The race actually ended up being very tactical and even slow for much of the time. With 3 bikes in with a shot at the win, there was a lot of attacking and covering, riding slow and attacking again. The Eppens seemed to be strongest on the short climbs, but were not keen to keep the pace high...and in fact worked to keep things together and slow. We put in many attacks only to be covered every time. We were frustrated at every attempt, but we knew if we let it come to a 3 or 4 bike sprint we were only getting 2nd or we kept trying.
Finally at the top of the steepest hill with just over a lap to go we tried again and got a small gap. It was ON and we put in 100% to try to stay clear. We held our slim advantage through most of the lap, but on the steep hill again the Shogruns were closing. Coming into the final climb they had just made contact and for us the only thing to do was to try and go fast enough that they couldn't come around.....apparently we couldn't. At 200 meters they came around with a strong move and we had nothing left to respond. They posted a well earned victory just a few seconds ahead of us.
Our consolation prize was that they bought us a nice dinner :)
Well played Betsy and Gunnar!