At some point I had decided this would be an “A” “race” for me since I had two weeks to recover between the RHR 24 hours and the Enchilada Buffet (EB)…but I had a slow recovery the first week. I just couldn’t sit on the saddle for over a week so there was no recovery rides, no flushing of the legs. Even so, the 2 rides before the EB had me believing there was a bit of hope to do a decent ride…but I went into this year’s EB as a fun race. You can read more and see the route in the above link, but basically it’s a neutral start from Walnut Creek Park in North Austin down to the Barton Creek Greenbelt in downtown Austin where the fun starts. I’ve started this race in 2009 but was ill prepared and I had enough by 50 miles. I was much better prepared in 2010 and finished it in around 10 hours or so. In 2011 I had a wedding to attend so I had to stop after City Park.
The neutral start was much faster than in years past. It was also much warmer than the last 3 years with heavy fog. In years past we’ve always had a single-speeder pacing the pack but this year we didn’t.
The Greenbelt (BCGB) portion was fun. I paced myself and was riding great handling all the technical sections perfectly (except for one easy part which I cover below). Somewhere on the main trail De Nguyen–a co-worker–passed me and told me another guy from work was behind us. Later I would pass De but not sure if he was having a mechanical. Once we hit Sweet16 (S16) I had to be more careful. It had been more than 90 minutes since we started riding and I still didn’t feel settled in. I rode very easily on the flatter and easier sections but any technical riding made my HR spike. If I didn’t go above LT it was only because I had started from a low HR…but for sure it was spiky power even though I was going the slowest I could. To go slower would be to walk and this is mountain biking, not mountain walking, and I was having a blast riding through these sections and clearing almost everything. I did walk anything that was extended and steep to save the legs. I still felt like I was conserving power. Toward the end of S16, I totally mis-timed a root and my front wheel got caught. My fork compressed fully, my arms held me but I felt pitched forward without endoing…then a slow roll to the left onto mostly soft terrain. This would cause me very sharp neck pain for most of the ride after Loop 360.
Mulch hill is a long climb and it starts with a wall. I can normally ride this tricky steep section but I opted to walk it. I did OK keeping my HR in check while walking probably not much slower than I would have ridden it.
Hill of life (HOL) is tough. Usually I ride until I loose traction and have to unclip (lots of loose rocks). I couldn’t ride it an any speed at all so I was going super slow which makes it harder to keep moving. I walked a long section until I found an EB volunteer filming…I HAD TO ride for a bit (for the camera!) and my HR went above where I wanted it to but I walked right after that. The theme for me was to keep moving but keep the pace as easy as I could. My time split here meant no faster than my best time, and how I was feeling at the time, it probably meant slower.
After this was a road ride through loop 360. This is where my legs were really feeling it and my HR was also spiking. On the climbs the sun was hitting full-on broad side. I could see my HR spike then go back down when I’d hit the shade from a cliff wall even though I was climbing. At some point I discovered that there was a reset effect. If I’d let the HR go down to 140-150 on the downhills I’d be easier to keeping a good pace. I would descend at 40-45mph in a tall gear then pedal hard to the start of the hill which meant a lot less low speed pedaling to go up the hill (and more airflow to cool myself.) I did OK for the rest of Loop 360.
Courtyard is a super steep climb. I’m very familiar with it and can climb it without stopping on the road bike. I can climb without stopping on the MTB but it doesn’t pay off since I can walk just as fast on some of the steepest sections (>20degrees). Still my legs were not feeling up to their normal self.
City Park Road, is a shorter but super steep road climb leading to twisty two-way road with no shoulder. I try to save energy on the climb so I can maintain pace on the road. I don’t like to go too slow since even though it’s a 30mph speed limit, lots of fly through there at 50-60.
City Park (aka Emma Long). I didn’t stop and just hit the trail. I just kept momentum. I walked all the tricky ledges ( had decided that for this race I was going to try or walk the traditional and more difficult lines instead of the easier re-routes…whose number is just getting out of hand IMO). Normally I can make (or at least try) most of them but again, I wanted to limit power spikes. I did another fork compression “trick”…I can’t even remember where or when but it didn’t help my neck pain. The whole ride to this point I was only thinking of saving my legs for Thumper. It was a slow lap for me since I had to stop a couple of times to stretch my neck and shoulders. I would just hang from a branch for a couple of minutes. Here I found a kid (oh…he could be in his 20’s for all I know and I just called him a kid…I feel old…) that was asking me about the trail since he was out of water. I told him it wasn’t much farther and he offered some ibuprofen and I took 3. They would help a lot for a while.
Jester Road. This road is normally not hard for me…but it was painful. I had just reloaded two bottles with water and my Infinit. The water tasted like hose water so it wasn’t too palatable. I would drink only one of them but I still had enough in the camelback and a bottle of Jet Fuel in my pack that I was saving. I knew there’d be good water at Thumper. I stopped a few times on Jester to cool down under shade. We come out down this super steep road called Beauford. It’s a nasty piece of work. It has been rotto milled for traction so the bike just sort of skims the surface. I normally just ride fast but here the bike actually would drift…from shoulder to dividing line so I had to scrub speed. At the bottom is a full stop and when I tried to stop my brakes were completely faded. I saw a roadie lying on the sidewalk asked if he was OK all while I knew I would just have to blow the stop sign since I had zero braking power. I could smell my brake pads. That’s the first time that ever happened to me and that includes riding down some steep and long stuff in Colorado and NC. The roadie said he was OK and I turned onto the road safely to ride on 360 some more.
Spicewood Springs road was uneventful. This is my ‘hood. I made it to St. Ed’s and the climb seemed easier than I expected. I was at the top before I knew it. I proceeded on the down hill portion which forms the loop in a P when rain started falling. The bottom part of the loop in the P is slick rock over a 80-100ft cliff so I just walked. I got to a point where there is an overlook as the rain drops started coming in heavier and knowing my PR was out of reach and since I was actually enjoying the ride (neck pain notwithstanding) I took my helmet, backpack and sat down with my face facing the rain. It was great to cool off…but then I actually started getting cold so I got moving again. Then the rain really started to come down. I was careful of roots since the rock is not too slick in this park. I blasted the downhill along with a torrent of water. I couldn’t see the rocks but I know this trail really well so I rode the descent fast. I finished this trail pretty fast. I looked at my time and was pretty happy with my split up to this point. I was worried about Thumper being wet but I could see it was a small cloud. Sure enough once back on the road it got dry.
Yaupon and Thumper. Yaupon was a bear. I feel like I could keep climbing but would stop to take a breather mostly out of fear of using up my legs. I started Thumper and it was damp. Right off the bat I knew I would be walking. I’ll admit that Thumper scares me when it’s dry but it petrifies me when it’s wet. I had the same rear tire as in the 24 and it’s pretty slick by now. It actually has pretty good traction in the dry even in loose stuff. But the rock at Thumper is slick as snot. I didn’t want to risk injury so I walked a lot of it. Normally I think I can do 90-100 minutes during the EB (my PB is something like 72 minutes but riding only Thumper). I think I took 150 minutes to do Thumper this time including several stops to stretch my neck. I wanted to just stop from the pain but I was determined to finish…it’s not easy getting out of Thumper by shortcut anyway and after Thumper it’s all better. I ran into a couple of guys who had been lost at Thumper for hours according to them. They just wanted out. I couldn’t help them other than to show them the correct way for the rest of the trail, since the only way I know to get out of Thumper is to do the whole thing. They eventually went off trying to walk across the switch backs and I didn’t see them again. I wasn’t the only one to ride a much slower lap than normal but I know some others were able to ride a fast lap (Thad rode it in 59 minutes!). Still, I got out and I was feeling sleepy again..just like at RHR. They had a station with food and water and everything you’d need including some tylenol. I drank 3 cups of water, then tylenol with another cup, then caffeine with another cup, then some gold fish with another cup. Then I mixed two more bottles. I’d have 1 more bottle waiting for me in the car at Walnut Creek.
The ride to Walnut Creek was very windy throughout and it was a head wind on Parmer Road but I was feeling really good. The best I’d felt all day and I know the caffeine hadn’t kicked in yet. I rode a fairly fast pace then turned into the wind but was still doing 16-17mph and 19mph in spots. I made it to Walnut Creek but I don’t remember much of the road.
Walnut Creek…I decided I had enough in my bottles and a tiny bit on the camelback to just go. I didn’t have lights since I wasn’t planning on finishing this late and the day was about to end. So I did a flier of a lap at Walnut. Dare I say, I was on fire, nailing the lines, smooth and lazy and the trail and bike were cooperating with awesome grip. I didn’t look at all my splits but I believe from Thumper to the end of my lap at Walnut Creek took me <90 minutes which is pretty fast for me. I felt fairly fresh and a bit confused as to why I felt like I had saved too much but earlier in the day I felt like I was going too hard. To my great surprise, my wife Holly was waiting for me at the finish with a big hug and a kiss and I posed for the EB picture with my finisher's fork and a plate with an enchilada. (also waiting for me: Rudy's BBQ, Fryar Tacos, and a rainbow.) Then Greg F came over and we talked for a bit. Next was George. He's the hero of a lot of the riders in Austin. He's super strong and a good rider and a great guy. I saw people here at the finish that I hadn't seen in months so it was good to catch up. Cody B and Eric S were already in street clothes by the time I finished. I didn't see Thad or my co-worker De but I knew Thad should have finished a few hours before me. De had told me he was just planning on doing as much as he could for fun. I ended up at 11 hours and 45 minutes. I have to do better next year...but in the end even right after finishing and even while walking most of Thumper I enjoyed the day out, the rain, the commiserating, and the talking after the race. For sure I'm doing this race until I no longer can.