Monday, July 15, 2013

Carrabassett Backcountry Challenge 2013

Ah the daunting task of trying to accurately recap an endurance race, I should be getting better at this seeing as I now do them with a fair amount of frequency.  Here goes...

Took a half day Friday so that I could get all the way up to Carrabassett Valley (its way up there) and still have time to get settled before it got dark.  Shaun and I arrived at just about the same time, got our race packets and got our makeshift camp set up.  Camping was a bit weird with folks just instructed to grab some grass around the edges of the gravel parking lots.  It ended up working out ok though.

We had some cool neighbors with some sweet RV and trailer setups.  I always get jealous when I see stuff like that but then I remember how much gas costs.  Got things going early the next day, the sun comes up early that far north.  I didn't have the best night of sleep in the Fit but I felt ok and was ready to get at it.

The start was pretty organized, they were taking lots of safety precautions and even marking our legs like a triathlon for easier identification.  I'm not sure I can think of another race where there are more course marshalls taking stock of when you go by than this race.  I felt like I was seeing them everywhere.  They let us go with the Elites and Experts at about 7:15am or so.  The start was a little frenetic but I had spotted just about our whole field mixed in with everyone.  The pace was a little quick right from the gun but manageable.

We even had the classic epic crash within the first 100yds with some dude exploding at the first turn, unfortunately I didn't get to witness it, just heard it and saw the aftermath.  Looked like it was probably pretty funny though.  After the initial shake out off the line I was sitting in 4th(ish) behind two guys I knew could probably beat me and one guy I didn't recognize.

The first sections of this course are AWESOME.  Tons of purpose built singletrack mixed in that is classic New England style riding.  Tight, twisty, rooty trails expertly built.  Lots of cross fall line stuff with great benching and ledge pack put in place.  Really a treat to ride.  Unfortunately its hard to hold yourself back on stuff like that especially when you are having so much fun.  I was definitely riding too hard but lucky for me I was reminded of this by taking a turn too hot and washing out on the edge of the trail and shredding my knee on said ledge pack.  That was a pretty good wake up call and I got back into a more consistent reasonable pace.

By this point Curtis L. had blown by me (saw this coming) and I also got caught by one of the local Rose Bikes guys.  Before too long though we started heading up the side of Sugarloaf for the first time.  Caught and passed the Rose Bikes guy back and got to suffering on the condo access road.  Almost caught the guy I didn't recognize from the start but missed the catch before the top and lost him on the fast washed out descent.  They had us traverse a bit and then head directly back up the mountain.  This was brutal and cruel.  There is nothing quite like turning a corner and seeing a long line of cyclists as far up a hill as you can see slowly death marching away.

look for the segment called 'Worlds Dumbest Race Route' for the climb from hell

This section made me very sad and hot.  I was starting to get worried about fluids because I was sweating a lot and starting to overheat a bit.  I also got caught by 'the guy in mesh shorts' which kind of made me more sad (but he was hiking really strong so good for him).  I had to keep reminding myself that I would probably see these guys again, just get past this and keep moving but I was starting to think that maybe I didn't quite have the same punch this time.  Luckily there was a small aid shortly after that fresh hell of a climb and I snagged a huge cup of cold water that helped a lot.

Then they sent us straight down a crazy washed out double track decent that was probably fine for anyone with suspension but had me assured that I was going to die and literally had my hands cramping about 3/4 of the way down.  I had to switch braking fingers to my middle finger because my index fingers had stopped working.  Just a bit after recovering from my near death hand cramps I was caught by another (different) Rose Bikes guy probably because he didn't have to descend in near death mode.  This really bummed me out because to that point I had spent most of my time getting caught by guys instead of the other way around.  I didn't feel like I was going all that slow but I was getting gobbled up left and right.  Mentally I was on the verge of cracking.  I was getting beat up pretty bad on the pretty consistently gnarly first 20miles and couldn't figure out why I couldn't even hang with a dude in mesh shorts.

I'm beginning to realize that for me the first 20 miles of these races is 'limit your losses' terrain.  Manage your effort, make sure you are setting yourself up for a good second half nutritionally but don't sweat those small gaps.  Easier said than done in the moment though.  Really hard to overcome that "THAT DUDE IS GETTING AWAY" feeling.  That's the trick I guess.  You just have to stay grounded and consistent and over power those thoughts as best you can.

Shortly after this we finally crossed the road and got over to the Bigelow Range side of the course.  Climbing up to the midway aid station I caught the dude in mesh shorts fixing either a flat or a chain.  Unfortunate for him but I'LL TAKE IT.  I'm back in this!  As funny as it seems that was actually a huge mental boost for me.  It immediately reminded me that this is going to be a long day and we're not even halfway yet.  TIME TO SWEEP SOME GUYS UP.

At the midway aid the 50K and 100K courses split.  I didn't know it at the time but Curtis L. had managed to accidentally get himself on the 50K course and ended his day a bit early.  One more spot in the overall, thanks Curtis!  Shortly after the aid at 29 miles we hit what I think for many was probably the make or break point.  A roughly 2 mile exposed logging access road with some sort of light colored gravely surface that was really good at reflecting heat.  I don't think anyone felt good on that thing but some definitely felt worse than others.  Topping out I caught the Rose Bikes guy who got me on the murder descent.  Luckily we turned off that road for a bit more sheltered climbing and shortly after I caught the guy I didn't recognize at the start and another guy I didn't even know was in front of me.

So just like that I went from feeling down and out to broom wagon status and at the time I figured I was now probably riding in 4th or so and feeling strong.  Unfortunately we had some more brutal (for me) chattery high speed descending and the Rose Bikes guy got back to me.  We rode together for a bit and I took the next short little climb as an opportunity to try and get away again.  I got a gap pretty fast and lucky for me there was a long false flat fast single track section that went on for miles with perfect little short punchy ups I could use to balloon that gap a bit.

He stayed close though and was coming into aid 4 as I was leaving.  Maybe 1-2 mins gap at best.  I then saw him again on the short out and back road they sent us on and knew he was still within striking distance.  He knew it too and I knew I needed some out of sight out of mind assistance to finally be clear.  We hit some pretty awesome gnarly terrain around mile 50ish.  Luckily it was mostly flat but you needed technical skills for sure and surprisingly I was able to ride just about all of it clean.  I was hoping maybe he had a few dabs, if you can't keep it consistent in terrain like that it can really take the wind out of your sails.

I was still feeling pretty good and the mileage was starting to tick off and I knew I was getting close to the final feed and that after that it was a carriage road drag up along a river.  I was fairly certain if I could get there with even a slight gap I should be able to hold it.  Got a quick swig of Gatorade and went head down for the next 6 miles.  I was still feeling good, pace felt good.  We even got a bit more purpose built singletrack at the finish that was great, including an awesome switchback climb up to the finish.

Crossed the line and got the sweet sound of the computerized voice telling me my class place was 3rd (Official Results). Say whaaaaaat?!  This is when I saw Curtis in street clothes and found out about his navigational problems.  Needless to say I was pleased.  I managed my race well, overcame some early mental issues and finished strong.  Can't ask for much more.  I'm still trying to decide if this was my favorite 100K course.  As a sum of its parts I think it probably is.  I think there was more consistently fun and interesting terrain in this course than any of the other 100Ks I've done.

I'm sad to report that there was either a communication error or just a goof on my part and I missed out on my podium pic and medal.  I had been sticking around (and even kept my kit on to appease the Bully) but as we got to awards they did a round of the overall classes for mens and womens 50 and 100K and then some awards for the oldest and youngest riders etc. but then they moved on to a raffle.  I thought that was it for awards and they weren't gonna do any more.  So we stuck around for most of the raffle (Shaun won some beer and I got a nice floor pump) but decided to hit the road because it was getting later in the day and we wanted to get down to Portland to hang with Pog and eat a lot of food and drink beer.

Then the next morning I see Team Bikeman tweet the singlespeed podium without me on it.  ARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH.  I emailed the promoter seeing if there was any chance I could get my medal shipped out.  Not holding my breath though.  Oh well guess I'll just have to come back and try to do it again.  Hell I'd come back just for the views.


  1. Anonymous7/15/2013

    whoever named that horrible segment in strava is my hero.


  2. Nice Ride!! I am the Rose Bike guy you kept yoyoing with. I got a burst in the last 10k or so but just couldn't catch you.

    Rich Long

  3. Thanks Rich! Right back at you. When you rolled into aid 4 right on my heels I knew I was in for a tough final 20 miles or so. Its always nice to have someone on equal footing to battle with. Worrying about where you were helped me forget a bit of the suffering.

    Hopefully see you out there next year as well!

  4. Kevin, nice result! 24 HOGG.... I will wish for you to get no rain.