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This year’s Puzzler was in my mind since April when Brent asked me to loop the new direction for GPS verification and provide him with affirmation. Running it counter clockwise was definitely going to make things a bit different for everyone, especially me on the single speed. Climbing up Mundy’s from the west side is MUCH steeper, yet the rest of the course had much gentler overall climbing and more descending….at least in my view. I never looked at any gps data. I stopped doing that long ago.
I tried to ride this new loop as much as I could without wearing myself completely down. I dropped a bit of weight after the Chupacabras and kept myself under 195 through the holidays. I didn’t ride as much as I would have liked to, but I still got in some fun days of riding leading up to the race. Spending time exploring new places with my son has taken priority over killing myself on the bike.
I must admit there was a bit of pressure leading up to this year’s race. Last year’s 3rd overall was a bit of a fluke. Not a lot of fast guys showed up. Mo Frias, who cracked on the last 15 mile stretch, was just figuring out the long stuff and Jerry Garcia had crashed his road bike a few days before the race. I was definitely hoping to be in the top 5 again, but top 10 would be more realistic considering I don’t train anymore.
I made a few changes to my ride. Dirty Girl, the Titus Ti frame got put away after last year’s when I noticed a crack in it. The Spot BE Trophy Bike handles a bit better since I can run a shorter stem on it, so I stuck with it for most of the year’s single speed duties. With the main climb being steeper this year, I went with a taller gear since I knew I’d be walking up it and the rest of the course would need something slightly bigger. I ran a 30×19 and it kicked my butt on the lower part of the Mundy’s climb which caused me to lose touch with 6-8th place. I ran MUCH wider bars this year. Crank Brother’s 780’s. They were incredibly perfect. Combined with an 80mm stem, this bike is insane on the descents. I also have wider rims…30mm inside width Light Bicycle carbon rims. They’ve been awesome. I mounted up a new Maxxis Icon 2.35 on the front and a Kenda Nevegal X Pro on the rear. However, I completely failed in regards to setting good tire pressure. Somewhere in the race, I let a little out of the front. It wasn’t enough and was bouncing off rocks way more than I wanted to and I felt like I was riding very poorly on the technical stuff. Then I let out too much and rode from somewhere around Mule Shoe to the finish with about 10 psi in the front tire. It made Sotol super fun, but it was still just a bit too low for me.
I also finally used a “finish” bottle. I haven’t really used one since my shorter XC days and back then they’d make my heart do funky stuff so I was afraid to use one again. This year I filled a bottle with dark green tea, a scoop of Cytomax, 2 Sportslegs, and 2 Traumeel’s. Traumeel is an herbal anti-inflammatory. This was nice to have since my knees were bugging me most of the race. I stayed quite hydrated the entire race. I had to pee around mile 25….a lot. I didn’t lose a place but I was in 8th at the time and 9th almost caught me. At the end of the race, I had to rush off to the porto toilet to pee again. That never happens. I drank about 3 bottles with one scoop Gatorade and one scoop Cytomax and ate a 2 bags of Honey Stinger Chews as well as a Clif Z bar, a regular Clif bar, and 4 organic newtons from Costco. I also carried a full 100 oz bladder of water in my frame bag and that was about 1/3 full when I finished.
I went into the last 13 miles nervous about the finish bottle. When I finally took a swig, I was reassured with a desirable flavor and a couple of minutes later, no leg and knee pain. I made sure it was all gone about half way through Sotol Forest for the last climb. That was an amazing stretch. I have never finished a race that long with that little cramping. Usually I’m fighting for my life at that point. I held my position and ended up 8th since the guy ahead of me took a wrong turn on the last 13 miles.
Overall I was just kind of meh about the result. I knew it would be tough to get up Mundy’s, but I totally cracked there. The rest of the race was really fun and it was great to go back and forth with some people in the first half.
Big thanks to Greg at Truckerco.com for keeping me rolling with Tire Cream and making sure I can stop with new finned pads for the XO brakes. I also use alloy Speed Evolution valve stems and ESI grips which he distributes.
I’d also like to mention the movie night we had before the race…..which only 22 people attended. I worked really hard with my buddy Victor from Velo Paso and George from Geo Geske’s to set up a great venue. We had a TON of prizes from Truckerco, Magura, Endlessbikes.com, Geobetty, and Nukesunrise.com. The movies were great and we actually went through about half a keg of Lagunitas IPA.