Darkhorse 40 Race Diary


So, I’ve been prepping to finish the season with a semblance of form… The week of the NJBA Kingwood TT, I finally decided to go to the doctor. For a month or so, I’ve had occasional bouts of nausea, weakness, just slight dizziness. I’d wake up on race day and just feel FULL even though my stomach was empty. My hearing was a little muffled in my right ear, hoped it would away. It did not. So off to the ENT I went, got the antibiotics.

I wanted to win Kingwood. I really did. Of all the TTs left, it suited me best. But I decided to see the doctor sooner than later, didn’t want to screw up Darkhorse 40, Long Meadow, Blueberry… The night before the time trial, I actually hadn’t planned on racing Kingwood, but of course I wake up early and have too much pride, drive down to Route 29…

At the start line, I even had the gaul to ask Tom Mains if I didn’t race, would he refund me. He said absolutely, and that was very nice of him… but I’M SO STUBBORN!!! Who knows what can happen when you get out there?

Well, I felt like piss warming up, and I rolled off the start line gently, and 90 seconds into the event, I actually felt okay. I was very happy with how I could push myself, passing a bunch of folks. I could see Jason Walters way up in front, but I couldn’t get him and even lost a few seconds to him.

In the end, I was 3rd overall. Freifelder took the win by 15 seconds, Walters 2nd… Both are flying. I’m not a math major, but I’m quite certain Dave locked up the TT Cup win with his Kingwood ride (another reason I ultimately raced, didn’t want to miss the points), and great for him. He was steady all year and deserves it…

My second major goal of the year was the Darkhorse 40, so since mid-June, I’ve been doing more volume, longer PowerCrank riding, and I knew it would take some pop out of my TT performances, but I wanted to try my hand in a big MTB race, actually plan for it and see how things shake out…

I pre-rode the Darkhorse 40 course last Sunday with a group of 6 riders. The course is roadie-friendly but certainly has some technical spots. I had to clip out like 10 times, over some rocks, up some steep climbs… Ben Williams of Clockwork Construction, who is leading both the H2H and NYS MTB series in the Expert class, spent a ton of time and really helped me, gave me a ton of advice… Thanks, Ben!!!

I went back to the course on Wednesday with a friend, aiming to do a full 40 miles. I was THAT apprehensive. First lap I wanted to hit at race pace, second lap just a tour of the woods… Well, knowing the course, and armed with Ben’s advice (how to take a line, use your momentum, the right gearing, etc), I was flying out there, clearing most of the course… My friend got heat stroke 3/4 of the way into the first lap, so we shut it down and rode easy, but I was getting more and more confident.

I well tell you: I have NEVER been so amped for a race in my life. The MTB bug has hit me hard. I dunno why it’s taken me so long to get into the woods! My very-first Elite Endurance athlete was a MTBer, I coach a big bunch of them now, they all do well, so what’s the problem? I told a bunch of them I’d try MTBing this year, to support them and show my face… Well, I’m hooked!!!

So race day, the parking lot is PACKED, tons of out-of-region license plates… Uh oh, what did I get myself into?! But I warm up and feel great… There are 150 of us lined up at the start, here we go…

I tell my athletes all the time that it’s not how you start… but how you finish. MTBing is similar to time trialing in that proper pacing is critical. You can make mistakes in other cycilng events and not always pay the price, but if you go out too hard in MTBing or TTing, you’re gonna pay BIG TIME. The other HUGE cog in MTBing success is proper eating and hydration methods — on the mountain bike, you really learn how to take care of your body…

So off we go, and I managed to comfortably stay in the top-10 as we trampled into the singletrack. I couldn’t believe how fast we were going into the singletrack. Had I not reconned, I would’ve been a pedaling train wreck. I did well, keeping up. The guy in front flies off a drop, and you follow, just fly off the drop, no thinking. You just do what they do, in the flow! The experience was incredible, feeling strong and handling the bike well. Very surreal, love it! 🙂

We dumped out onto the first fire-road and the leaders started to separate themselves… I stayed near the front, feeling good and riding within my limits. About halfway into first lap, we made a wrong turn. This tall guy, who I’d been marking (he’s won everything), just kept going straight. I turned around with half the bunch, and the rest of the group was upon us, swarming riders everywhere again, so it was chaos again, riders everywhere. We were catching groups in front of us, many many crashes. I actually rode around, partially OVER a rider’s bike at one point.

There was a HUGE traffic jam up a tough climb, a climb I was thinking about all lap, so I clipped out early and hoofed it real quick, swiftly blowing by everyone without saying a word. Gotta go, Coolio, this is the Darkhorse 40!!!! 🙂 We can talk at Lewis Morris, but here we have to GO!!!

On the fire-road, I was able to distance myself and reach a group of five leaders. I stayed with them awhile, then started to increase the tempo again. One guy goes, Dude, this is mile 14 of 40, slow down.” I said, “You can slow down if you want,” and kept going.

In this maze, you never know where you are in terms of placing, riders just everywhere, so I kept my head down and kept the pace up. For the remainder of the race, pretty uneventful. My sole goal was to be STEADY. I wanted to have no mechanicals, no crashes, just be steady eddy all race. That was it. And I pretty much did that. I kept on passing people in other classes for the remainder of the race.

In a perfect world, my goal was to turn on the jets for the final 45 minutes, but I was suffering all shades of death, couldn’t manipulate the bike how I wanted! I was sucking on Accelerade all race. Funny, all first half of first lap, I got that frickin’ bite valve in my mouth, just sucking on blue juice. In this 40-mile event, eating and hydrating are so so so so key… There are NO fluke great performances in a race like this…

As noted, my very first athlete was a MTBer. We both agree you need to take the first third of the race like a leisure tour. Hey, just look at the trees, enjoy the view, you’re a tourist, he says. That’s a little severe, but he’s right. First third, you’re just there, settling in, warming up, finding a rhythm. Second third, steady Tempo, finding your place. Final third, you’re f*cking raging, he likes to say. And he’s right. SO MUCH MORE TIME TO BE GAINED IN FINAL THIRD THAN FIRST THIRD.

The second key is to always be eating and drinking. Eat in first half, while you still can, then keep drinking. In races under 3h, you can pretty much keep a liquid diet of sports drink and honey/Gu. I keep thinking of the 1998 Paris-Roubaix. Ballerini is off the front in solo breakaway for 50 miles, and every time the camera is on him, he’s eating, he’s drinking. Many athletes screw this up, and it’s just as important as training hard and recovering!

I was very careful with my hydrating and eating. Rationed one Clifbar in first lap, then started on the Gu and honey flasks. Took Endurolytes twice, too… I couldn’t have done a better job in this regard… I had 100 oz of Accelerade on my back, plus one bottle of water on the bike, and in 3h 20m I used it all…

But in the final 40 minutes, I was a little nauseous, just couldn’t digest the honey and GUs, just blah. Running up the stairs the second time, I tripped at the top, cutting my knee badly (my broken knee, too!). Eh, adds to the epic day, blood gushing down my leg as I hauled ass to the line. Hey Lundgren, I thought you were supposed to crash ON the bike, not OFF of it!

The final miles are like a rollercoaster, you bomb these descents and climbs, just up and down, fast and smooth and twisty. I caught a second wind and really finished strong, closing on riders in front of me but ran out of trail.

In the end, I was 5th out of 150. Not too shabby for the roadie! The good part was all the guys who I had marked, either winners, leaders, or podiumers at the H2H or NYS series, ended up behind me. The winner was from North Carolina, doh!

AND two of my athletes had rock star performances. Kirt Mills of MTBNJ.com took 8th, and this wasn’t even a goal race — we’re peaking for the State MTB Championships which are more than a month away — and Bladdy Coronel of Westwood Cycle – Trade Manage Racing took 36th!!! Bladdy is coming back terrifically after suffering a nasty crash at his peak race, the NJ State Road Race Championships… Seeing them finish so strong, and so far ahead of the majority of the field, put a huge smile on my face, just awesome performances…

Post-race, they have food and water for you, then a huge BBQ in the other parking lot, full of chicken, veggies, beer, ice pops, just priceless festivities… They gave you tons of schwag: a T-shirt, a Hammer Gu flask, a pint glass, and I got a wad of cash for 5th… I can say this is, by far, the most fun I’ve had on a bike all year long… I HIGHLY recommend this event for ANY cyclist next year. Long live the Darkhorse 40!!!

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you on the road — errr, maybe!


Coach's Diary | Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010 | | |