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In the heat, I suffer. At 6’5″ and almost 200 pounds, I’ve got a lot of surface area and my heart has to work harder than an average 5’8″ rider in order to get blood to all my appendages. I’ve found myself suffering in the heat to the point where I thought that if someone were to hand me a gun, I’d blow my head off. My first AZT 300 was like that. My final day found me in the hot box between the Gila and Picket Post. Temps were in the 90’s. I know because I use one of these. I remember running low on water with about 18 miles left (at least 2 hours), and passing a Polish guy who was out of water. I just stared at him as I kept moving by. No way was I going to risk running out of water in that desert.
In grad school I was the only test subject to complete all three trials of a heat study. Ride in a small room filled with heaters and hot plates with boiling water for 3 hours at 50% max VO2. Esophageal temp probed shoved up my nose and down my throat, blood draws every hour, and 5 minutes in the mask every 20 minutes. The seat killed my prostate and if I had to pee, I had to do it on the bike into a graduated cylinder….once with a boner…very difficult and a tad bit embarrassing with more than a few coeds checking things out. The fridge holding the blood samples lost electricity for a weekend and all the samples were lost.
My third AZT 300 found me early into day 1 with a missing chainring bolt. I rode really fast trying to catch up to people who were a good 20 to 30 minutes ahead of me after that. I blew up in the heat a couple of hours before Kentucky Camp. Hiding under a tree trying to escape the heat, I quickly realized my attempt at a 3rd consecutive finish was done. Day 2 found me going through so much water there was no way I’d make it to the next water source before running out. I turned around on Reddington Rd., spent an hour at a Safeway, then took the road to Oracle eventually being swept up by my ride.
Tour Divide found me in some heat too. I went north opting to take the heat early. Near the end of Day 1 I rolled out of Silver City with a full bag of ice on my back. I really didn’t see heat like that again until Canada. Yeah. 92 degrees just north of Butts Cabin. Luckily there were clean water sources everywhere. Since my 2014 Divide Ride, I haven’t done much serious riding other than the Puzzler 50.
I have a neighbor that is into hot yoga. She convinced me to do a Bikram class with her….in her little yoga room with a enough heaters to keep a public housing complex comfortable during the worst El Paso winter day. An hour and a half listening to some Indian dickhead that calls(ed) himself a Yogi bark instructions and insults putting me into positions I’d never been in before. I was pretty sore the next day despite doing many of those poses on a daily basis under my own terms for several years. I wasn’t sure what to think. I later attempted an Ashtanga class….normal temps….but the video instruction we watched just went on and on with the guy basically showing off how awesome he was at doing handstands.
Still not a fan of a structured yoga class and much less a fan of doing it in a room that is 100 degrees, I was convinced to go to a real hot yoga class as part of my neighbor’s yoga training certification process. It was pretty good…only an hour. It wasn’t that hot, but hot enough to get me really loose and into some good poses. The scenery was really good so I decided to tag along with her to some other classes eventually winding up in a studio in Las Cruces for a hot flow class (some call it Bikyasa) that lasted 2 hours. The temp hit 102 and the humidity was at 57%. I would have made it all the way through if I didn’t have to pee. It was by far the hottest thing I’ve ever done. Kuwait in full battle rattle had nothing on this. Sweat dripped onto my towel covered mat sounding like the rain in that section of Forrest Gump when he was in Vietnam.
I was getting most of the poses and trying not to pass out every time I stood up and reached upward…..toward the heater just above my head. Seeing the rock bodied and tattooed Meg to my right and the creamy skinned Maria to my left kept me motivated. I thought about my hottest bike races and they didn’t come close to this horror. People were dropping out left and right. Child’s pose was being practiced by more than a couple folks as the rest plowed on. Warrior 1 to warrior 2, eagle, warrior 2, warrior 1, foward fold, flow high to low, downward dog, yada yada yada, more flows, sweat, drink water, wipe sweat off of hands, focus man. Focus!
The next day I injured myself doing a not so heavy lift of an empty shelf and my weekend went to shit after that. Three days later I was still guzzling water, hitting the foam roller, and doing several drugs. I started thinking about why so many people are doing this crazy shit. I remember when Willow Koerber (Rockwell)….damn she’s still so fucking hot… was trying to continue racing after having her first baby (I think she has 2 kids now) and she blogged a bit about doing Bikram. It sounded like a surreal experience for her. Kind of like going into an opium den and participating in whatever craziness happens in an opium den. I also thought she was a wack job searching for answers. Recently I started to wonder if maybe there was something more to this. Maybe there was something that could be applied to my competitive mindset. Maybe there is a physiological training advantage happening.
I won’t get nerdy with Aldosterone, but it’s the “sweat hormone”. It controls internal temps by causing you to sweat. It’s affected by hydration status and whether or not you are “heat trained”. I can tell you right now, I sweat more than anyone in those classes. You can hear my mat…it sounds like a rain storm. You don’t hear it from the others. They don’t have the surface area I have. Maybe this is a “fun(ner)” way to build that tolerance to heat – lots of hot girls sweating and bending their bodies into all kinds of fascinating positions. Maybe the mental aspect of pushing your body to complete all the flows is a great form of mental training. Maybe it can translate to someone’s ability to make it through the hot parts of the day during a race. Maybe hot yoga stimulates the production of Aldosterone. I really hated doing research when I was in grad school, so I’ll just speculate and let you do whatever research you want to do. If nobody has done any research on this stuff, here you go.
I do know that anything that flips a switch in your brain causing you to push yourself harder, focus more intently, and drive yourself to complete a difficult task is something that will help you be a better athlete. I’m still not convinced that hot yoga is safe or even that awesome, but it is surreal and it does weird things to your brain. I’m always down for stuff like that.
This post is a response to JHK’s article in singletrack.com.
As a long time racer (first Norba sanctioned XC event in 1989), I’ve seen our race scene change quite a bit. While I’ve never been a “world cupper”, I have been the overall winner at many races over the years. I stay as a fit as I feel like staying in order to remain competitive and not make a fool of myself. Prior to the mountain bike, I raced ABA bmx. Over the past 10 years I’ve taken racing much more seriously competing in short tracks, xc’s, marathons, 100 milers, and even a stage race. I still do road races about once a year. I participated in the Mercury Tour and Team Big Bear’s King of the Hill way back in the 90’s, so I think I’m a pretty good judge of what our racing scene in America is and was all about.
Two years ago a buddy of mine and I decided to put on an endurance event, the El Paso Puzzler. We had 28 competitors in v.1, v.2 had 68. This year is v.3 and we are expecting around 125. Not bad for the middle of winter in a dirt town like El Paso, TX.
As a race promoter/director/organizer, my goals are simple: make sure everyone has a great racing experience (however difficult our event may be), raise awareness of the trails in El Paso, and raise some money for our bike club, the BMBA. While I strive to get better riders to our event, the last thing on my mind is helping world cuppers get UCI points.
The UCI charges an enormous amount of fees and requires that the promoter subsidize drug testing costs at any event that has UCI points. No thanks. Toke a blunt on the course and shoot up some amphetamines at our race if you want. We don’t really care about that stuff. If you can afford that stuff, you definitely shouldn’t be whining about prize money or UCI points.
American mountain bikers, at least the ones who have been in it for over 20 years, are looking for something more challenging than the 1.5 hour lapper at a ski resort or broken bottle riddled city park. They want adventure. They want to push themselves to a new level. They want to go beyond the bonk, sit down on course and eat 1000 calories, run out of water, crawl to a feed zone, finish refueling, and ride another 20 miles to the finish with a knog led lighting the way. They want cool venues where they can camp and gather around a bonfire while their teammates slog out more laps during a 24 hour race. They want to use the same bike in a multi-event race where pads and full face are worn one day and two camelbak bladders are packed the next. The demand for diversity is out there. However damaging this diversity may be to UCI point seekers, that demand far outweighs the benefit of hosting a UCI event. I’m sure the Angel Fire promoters will agree with me on that one.
American mountain bike racing has become incredibly diverse and promoters of these diverse events are not complaining. In fact, many of them are capping the number of participants. Entry fees range from nothing to thousands of dollars and people show up from all over to try out whatever new fangled adventure awaits over the next pass.
Big money competitive mountain biking in America has been dead for longer than most care to admit. Even the Chevy Truck days were weak compared to European world cups today. American world cuppers need to do just like the roadies did….nut up and spend A LOT of time in Europe. If you really want that front row start, prove that you deserve it with the best XC racers in the world. The list of American road racers that have done this is too long for me to publish on my pissant blog. They are doing it for a reason. Racing in Europe is a spectator sport. People pay to sit in grand stands and enter parks where the events take place. Do that in the US and you’ll be lucky if half the stands fill up. Try it at a city park mountain bike venue and the neighbors will be pissed that they won’t be able to walk their dog that day.
Keep the UCI out of American racing. American promoters should keep pushing the limits of the support with challenging events. Dare to be different. Make that feedzone just far enough into the race where a camelbak AND bottles have to be carried. Provide bacon and burgers in the feedzones. Serve beer and margaritas for free at the awards ceremony. Charge camping fees to raise money for a youth cycling program, not prize money or promoter profit. Utilize paydirt programs to get more trails.
American mountain biking has soul. That soul is getting better with age. The UCI has done little to promote the soul of mountain biking in the US. Let’s keep it that way.
I’ve been wanting to pull off something brutal and fun this fall and I think I’ve got it. Am I a masochist?
Check it out here.
The course is going to be pretty sick.
I doubt it will include the new northern pass trail, but we’ll see. The current configuration goes over Mundy’s twice….once in each direction. This will be a good preview for the shorter Puzzler which takes place in January.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been pushing for more “epic” length trails in El Paso. Robert Newman has helped my dream come true by linking up a lot of single track to form a loop around the Franklin Mountains that will be entirely inside the state park. This loop will be about 75% single track with 2 mountain passes. The final sections are now coming together. Jen and I went out last weekend to hike the newest section. He did a great job laying it out as it is much higher on the mountain than I expected it to be. So the views are spectacular. Hiking through the Franklins without trail is a nightmare. I used a walking stick and my shoulders and neck have been stiff all week. Jen’s calf got stabbed pretty good a couple times by lechugia. Two miles of trail took us 4 hours to hike.
Here are some of the views from our hike.
This is going to be an awesome trail, but it’s going to take many volunteer hours to get it finished in time for next year’s Puzzler. Anyone who puts in time on this trail will definitely be rewarded with an excellent trail.
We were thoroughly impressed with Robert’s driving skills. He took his jeep up Hitt wash past the trail. He then came back and put his jeep on the edge of the wash at the trail junction. For a video of him getting off the edge, click here.
My blog has been getting plenty of hits this week. I’m guessing it’s because people are wanting to see what happened with the puzzler. It was a huge success for us. More than twice as many people than last year, longer, better weather, more food, better prizes, and a real bike race vibe.
Thanks to everyone who volunteered. Races never happen without volunteers. Sometimes you get a good spot to watch some action. Other times you are stuck in the middle of nowhere and riders come by huffing and puffing every 5 minutes. So thanks a bunch to all of you who put up with broken up cell calls and complaints and confusion from riders.
For the full story, check out the write up on Cyclingnews.com. I spent a few hours compiling that thing. Here it is: http://cyclingnews.com/mtb.php?id=mtb/2009/feb09/elpasopuzzler09
For those of you in El Paso, please check out the BMBA blog. We’ve got some work to do.
I think that today had to be one of the craziest days in my life. It started at about 3:30 when I could no longer take the tasks in my head anymore. I had to get out of bed and get to work. So I got on the computer, finished writing my final assignment for my teacher certification, then went to work making stupid little signs for the Puzzler…like “Sign in at feedzone before going to start line” and Station 1 – License Check. After Jen woke up at 6, I immediately started printing the signs. I also printed 20 blank # plates on cardstock.
Then I loaded my backpack full of stakes and arrows to mark the course into the Benzo. Loaded my other pack for school with a change of clothes and lunch. Ate breakfast, walked my dog, took care of hygiene, then finally headed out at 7:25. I had a meeting at 8 am. My dad called me on my ride in….which I did on my frankencrosser…so I called him back to make sure nothing was wrong. I cut him off as I had to be at my meeting. After signing in, I found out where the meeting was and headed down. School started at 8:45, so that spared me from anymore mumbo jumbo from worthless central office employees.
First period class, got observed…as expected…by central office employees at the end of class. 2nd period common planning with my team. Ran around like a chicken with no head for about 20 minutes trying to get lab book from team coach. Made copies, distributed them, heated can of soup on laboratory hot plate. Packed up physics lab materials, ate lunch, headed to lunch duty, then went to class….outside at stadium. Back inside for the rest of class. Then my 4th period hell class, which went fairly well except a bunch of snooty girls did their nails and shit and got totally ripped on the polish fumes. Jen walked in at 3:30 to lots of fanfare from my students.
Oh shit! We’ve got to mark the heinrich area trails….and I didn’t ride my mountain bike to school. So I Phelan’d it with a 30 pound pack and pounded stakes all over the heinrich trails. We taped a bunch of signs onto big rocks. Freakin’ hilarious. Rallied Tomac style back to car just before dark. Got home, took in big boxes of cheap ass water bottles for Puzzler (they look great, but they are hard to squeeze), made delicious salad, microwaved some veggie lasagna, ate and finished up my portfolio for teacher cert.
Proofed through the portfolio with Jen, printed that beeaawtch, and organized. Interview is Thursday night.
A little blog time and I’ll be ready for bed. Next week I should be a fully certified teacher. Maybe I’ll finish my masters and so I can earn that extra $1000 a year.
Wow! What an amazing weekend. I probably should have ridden longer/harder/faster, but I got a lot of stuff done and introduced some new folks to the northeast trails. Rudy from the UTEP bike club brought some friends out and I gave them a little tour. We hit Mad Cow, looped back to the dam, then went back up to the “tire” to hit Stan’s and and the last bit of the Puzzler before the feedzone.
The only reason Jen and I wore our knee warmers was because the wind picked up.
Before we met up with these guys, the sun was blazing and the wind hadn’t picked up yet. We saw a garter snake. The views were amazing. We were up on Sotol when I went for the camera and realized I’d left it on top of the car. I rarely drive to the trails, but since we were meeting these guys, we figured we’d take the single speeds….which wastes some serious time on the roads getting to the trails. We also had some errands to run afterwards. We took the b-line back to the benzo and happily…my camera was just chilling on the roof.
Good thing. Jen was able to snap this sweet poser shot with me in my hummingbird attracter kit and not so matching yellow socks.
The day before, Jen and I saw this fat feathered friend on a ridge line. This is one of the fattest hawks I’ve ever seen. I could see him pretty well, but the camera was a little lacking. I refuse to carry a huge camera with a big ass telephoto lens.
Thirty people have registered for the Puzzler. That’s more than last year, and most of last year’s entrants waited until the day before the race to enter. Hopefully that will be the same this year and we’ll hit our target of 50.
I’ve got some stuff for sale if anyone is interested. I’ll send pics if you ask.
Hayes HFX Mag brakes with both fat aluminum levers and carbon levers – $50 for the pair
Surly Jim Brown Disc bolt on hubs, 32 hole, with freewheels 17-22. 21 and 22 are White Industries – $150
26″ Fox RLC 100mm disc only. Will include 1st gen stan’s rim laced to DT Swiss Onyx disc hub with Revolution spokes. Steerer about 7″. $350 BBB5 brake another $40.
Magura Hugin Rear Shock….almost brand new. 6.5×1.5. Comes with lots of hardware to mount to any bike that uses that length shock. Mounted to Jen’s Racer-X for about 3 rides. Back on Fox for this season. $125
That’s what this guy thinks about the Puzzler. I haven’t yet tried to do the entire 50 yet, but the 35 mile loop is a killer. I usually include a ride to and from the trailhead when I do it, so that adds an hour. What’s scary is that the big climb is at the end of the 35 mile loop and the additional 15 mile loop is freakin’ slow. It’s so techy that it may be a cause for concern on race day. I’ll be doing my best to evaluate everyone who makes the time cut before they head out for the final loop.
I would dare to say that it is the toughest race in Texas and probably a lot tougher than some other endurance events around the country. Breck 100 sucked. It was really high altitude. The techy portions were all downhill, so that helped, but being 100 miles makes it a different game.
The Puzzler is definitely the toughest 50….by far. I can’t wait for this year’s race. I hope that by having the sag vehicles, more people will be willing to give it a shot. Completing a course this tough on your own or for training is more difficult than in a competitive setting. So I’m hoping that more people give it a shot this year.