I can’t think of a better way to start the New Year then toeing a start line as soon as possible.
So, with that being said I hopped on a plane from Idaho to Minnesota on December 31st, New Year’s Eve, to get in a car (which took me four back-and-forths to the counter because my cheap ass rents the smallest car possible and the bike box wouldn't fit…but I did end up in some pimping car, with Florida plates in MN, that didn't even have enough miles on it to even get there from Florida…who knows?), with my Salsa Beargrease, and drive to Park Falls, Wisconsin to take part in the Tuscobia 150 on January 2nd. This would be my first time taking part in this event.
During the 3.5 hour drive, I did actually celebrate New Year’s as I watched the dashboard clock turn to 12:00 a.m., January 1st, 2015. I made it to Park Falls at 1 a.m., checked into my hotel and proceeded across the street to celebrate the New Year by myself with a drink. What a way to enter this little town! I walk into the bowling alley/bar and there were a dozen young looking hipsters all singing, or I guess it’s ‘rapping’ to the, I don’t know, poetic music. I found it quite comical as they were very animated, drunk, and also very friendly. I had one beer and got the heck out of there. Maybe I was expecting a bunch of farmers sitting around eating cheese curds wearing Green Bay paraphernalia? What do I know, it was my first time to Wisconsin.
The Tuscobia 150 has been going on for a number of years and has made a name for itself as another winter ultra to do. I didn't have my heart set on it but with some friendly persuasion and other required commitments, I decided to do it about five weeks before the event. I knew it was an out-and-back, flat route, and some told me I would be bored. I have a hard time being bored on my bike in general and a new ride is never boring to me, it’s all a new experience and a new place to roll my wheels. So, I was actually pretty excited to do the event, but for other reasons as well.
I started training with a coach, Danny Suter of Boulder Performance Network, back in September. This is the first time I have hired a trainer in 20 years of cycling. I have really enjoyed the structure and have committed to him for all of 2015. I am learning a lot with the measurements of power, heart rate, comparing zones, seeing how things differ with my body from day to day, week to week. I am even taking vitamins and paying attention to rest. It’s been awesome learning about myself, but this info is also really valuable to me with other work I do with clients. As the adage goes: knowledge is power!
The Tuscobia 150 would be pretty much the first event that had some training strategy behind it for me, and that is what I was really interested in. I was kind of chomping at the bit and was ready to unleash what I have built up. I most often race against myself, not against the field, as I like to do my own thing and that is just how my mental game works. Since I’d been feeling strong like bull, but not necessarily faster, I wanted to see how that would translate in real race mode. This was the perfect time to do so as well as a gauge for the coming months.
The gear check/racer meeting took place on Thursday and I got to see some of my friends and make a few new ones. We share stories, catch up and I even like to do a little
smack-talking to the ones that need it. This is another part of doing events I really enjoy. The reality is that after race day we often never see each other again until the next event, which can be quite a while. So it is best to catch up while you can. Being this was the first winter ultra of the year, I knew I would see some of these folks the following week at my event, JayP’s Backyard Fat Pursuit and some at Arrowhead, and then one more time at the Iditarod Trail Invitational which gives a lot to talk about.
At the start, in typical style and form, I stood up and put down power to the pedals like we were going to race for an hour, even though it would be 150 miles. It’s just how I like to start and if all is going well, I never let up. This has taken me years of experience, and the older, more trained I get, the less I ever let up. I took the pointy end quickly and there was a light shining that let me know someone stuck to my wheel. I continue to push the pace and finally took notice that it was just one light as the rest had already dropped off.
It was Charly and after a while he tried to distract me, pulling next to me, asking me, “What’s your favorite cartoon character?” I sensed it took effort for him just to get next to me. I am a pretty focused racer and I didn’t have time for that, nor did I really want to chat with anyone, so I sped up and he fell back on my wheel. After a bit more, I decided to see how his pulling would fair and I pulled over to get on his wheel. I noticed the MPH drop, so I took a couple minutes and then pulled back up front to pick the pace back up. We were pretty much cruising, clipping along at a good rate.
After 30 miles we pulled into the first checkpoint together, called out our numbers and carried on. I let Charly lead out so I could monitor him and his pace. Again, I wanted to go faster so I jumped out front. Not long after Charly said, “Jay, I need to go to the bathroom.” Hmmm? “Do you need a hand!?”. I wasn't sure how to react, I carried on and soft peddled for like ten minutes. I also wondered if he was looking for a relief from the effort or if something was up with his asthma. Come to find out later in the event that Charly did have to drop due to his asthma. That really kind of sucks…for him…and for me. I get it. I also have to deal with asthma, and I also like the back and forth game of racing with another competitor.
After I realized I was on my own, I continued to stand up on the pedals, pushing harder, trying to go as fast as possible. I realized I was on record pace. The trail was not a ‘gimmee’; it took power to pedal with just enough mushy snow on top that you had to apply the power to get the results. I like that type of riding as it’s what I do in Idaho quite a bit.
I started to pass a few 75-mile folks that started at my soon-to-be turn around point. Before I knew it I was at Checkpoint 2. Again, a quick in/out. Now I was running into the runners/walkers and they had chewed up the trail which made it like riding on a rutted horse trail. But I also was motivated by seeing others. I never let up, continuing to stand on the pedals.
I hit the turnaround, 75-mile halfway mark at about seven hours. I thought “Wow, I feel really good. I am going to push for a negative split and beat the record by a lot.”
Everything was going great. I hit the 3rd checkpoint, finally stopping to fill a bottle and eat a treat off the table, but was quickly out of there.
Suddenly my average speed was cut in half. The trail had been churned up a fair number of snow machines and the pedaling got harder. ‘Okay, put down more power’. As I was doing so the return wasn't as favorable and my mind was constantly doing the math saying this is going to be a lot longer finish then I thought a couple hours ago. I didn’t let up and continued to get after it.
I then hit the last checkpoint, which was the only one I really used. I actually stopped, had two grilled cheese sandwiches, a couple glasses of Mountain Dew, a cup of soup, and added a few ounces of water to my hydration bladder to get me to the finish. After about 30 miles, the trail became faster again. Once again, my mind changed directions with the math calculations and I stood on the pedals for the last 20 miles.
I finished the 150-mile event in first place with a time of 14 hours, 54 minutes, and good enough for a new course record!
In the end it was not about the finish or the record. It was about the time I have put in over the last few months and how much better I am feeling due to training with my coach. The investment has paid off! I am very much looking forward to the stacked year of events I have planned as I continue to put in my time as an ‘almost full-time’ athlete. I can’t express how grateful I am right now with all that is happening in my world and I can't thank my sponsors enough, especially Salsa as they been of great help with getting me to where I am today. They encourage me in ways beyond just being a bike sponsor and that is a relationship I truly cherish. Thank you much Salsa for being so genuine!
Cheers and Happy New Year to all of you! RIDE FORWARD – JayP