Thursday, September 6, 2012

Race Report: 2012 Park City Point 2 Point - cheaters never win!

Can I do it?  Yes I (mostly) Can!

A little Q/A to start:

Q: Did I cheat at this year's Park City Point 2 Point?
A: Technically yes, but I was not alone (read below).

Q: Was this cheating intentional?
A: No... NO!!!

Q: Will I do it again?
A: I hope not.

Q: Did I have a great day of racing regardless?
A: Yes!

Now that we have that out of the way, on with the race report...

I had been waiting for September 1st all year (literally).  The P2P has been the pinnacle of singletrack racing for me since my first experience in 2010 and I plan to make it a staple in my racing / riding for years to come.  What makes this race unique is that it is almost 100% singletrack, so much so that racers  start to OD on it towards the end.  It just keeps coming and coming.  For a good analogy check out Fatty's Race Report.

Like a lot of guys and gals with many full-time "grown up" responsibilities, I don't take the opportunity to race (or ride for that matter) lightly.  I pick my races carefully and plan to show up ready to compete 100%.  So I'm going to race as long as I am physically and and my equipment is mechanically able, and as long as the race director says the event is a go.  The morning of race day it was pouring rain.  Jay Burke and Shannon Boffelli were on the hook to make an critical decision on whether to wait out the rain and run the race Saturday or postpone in hopes for better weather Sunday.  The decision was made to start the race an hour late Saturday and cut out the Round Valley section ( ~ 12 miles ).  I was pumped, we were all there so let's race this thing!

Pre-race meeting: Jay and Shannon talking things over with anxious racers.

The uncertainty of the morning left us with a short window to get bikes and bodies ready and up to the line.  Things were a little crazy, not exactly how you want to start off the biggest race of the year.  Like always, I had over-engineered my planning and everything was pretty much ready to go.  I put on my stuff, grabbed my bottle of wet lube, and proceeded to empty 1/2 of it on my chain, spun around for about 10 min and then lined up mid-pack in the first group.  Moments later we were off.

On a side note:

The only thing the P2P is lacking at the start line is a shotgun blast.  Perhaps Park City won't allow it but Jay, let's get some stuff blowing up next time to send us off.  What do you say??

Continuing on...

Everyone took off like we were racing a 1-hour XC race so I sat in on the back of the pack just close enough to stay in the draft until we hit the singletrack. We did a quick loop, down a path, and to the hole shot where 99% of the group immediately plugged up trying to cram into the singletrack.  I won't proceed to give a play-by-play of every rock, turn, climb, and downhill descent but there were a bunch.  The first hour was muddy with puddles, the rest of the day (for me at lest) was perfect tacky trail.

Here are some photos of me racing around.  For more photos of the event check out Photo John's MTBR post and the Zazoosh site.  As for me cheating you'll have to scroll on down past the photos.  I'll also do some "what if" math to show how I would have totally won my division if x, y, and z didn't happen (sarcasm) .  This is mostly to make me feel better about my cheating (sarcasm) and see how I did or did not improve over the last time I raced the P2P (not sarcasm).

Typical singletrack for the day. Imagine riding this for 6-9 hours straight!

Riding above Deer Valley about 2 hours in.  I was feeling good racing here, I wasn't yet a cheater but that would change shortly.

Deer Valley

Here is a promotional video put on by Park City Television.  I'm in there a few times (2:21 & 2:48) as long as you don't blink.
Now on to the cheating...

For the first 2 hours and 30 min of the race I had managed to stay on course.  Already there were several (had to be at least 10-15) trails we had entered or exited following the orange chalk directing the way.  I knew the rain would have most likely made some of the markings change so I was extra careful to take a good look at each one.  Even then, I took a few brief wrong turns and was quickly corrected by another set of eyes riding right behind me.  Using the buddy system like this is great racing, as long as you have a buddy.  There is almost always a time in a big endurance race like this one that I will find myself riding alone, too slow to hang with the big dogs, and too fast to ride in the general mass of participants.  This year was pretty good.  I felt good at race pace and was putting a small gap in on the other 30-39ers.

As I was saying... around 2:30 in I was riding alone.  I had just made it around that big hill (not sure the name) riding in the fog and hit a nice bit of singletrack in the trees.  Then I came up to this funny little marking that was a circular arrow, there was a fork in the trail and the arrow was to the right (I think). To the left I saw markers going up the trail so I thought we were going to head to the left and circle back down to the right.  If I were to have actually stopped long enough to rub two brain cells together I would have figured out my error... but I just kept going.  I was reassured about 50 yards up the trail when I started seeing markings again.  I quickly forgot about the arrow and went on my way. Little did I know I was officially a cheater, a trail cutter, a scum bag.

Using a few visual aids, I will demonstrate my mistake.

Here is my awesome race up to the point I got off track (blue line):

Here is what the course is supposed to look like (zooming in on the section where the blue line ends above):

Here is what I did:

If you look closely, you'll see I cut out all of that zig-zagging in the middle of the map and cut across right where both trails almost meet. At this point I was in 1st place in my age group with a 3:18 gap over 2nd place (based on Strava data).  I had just cut out 18min of riding missing the turn.  At the time of course I knew nothing of this.  I was just racing.

I started to have some concerns a few minutes later when I crossed highway 224 and Sly (Gilly) yelled "Did you go around the hill"? I said yes (he was speaking of a hill earlier in the course not the section I had just missed).  He then yelled "Dude you are in 8th! There are only seven guys in front of you! A bunch of guys took the wrong turn!!!".  Prior to making my own blunder,  I had just ridden almost a complete circle around a hill at the top of Deer Valley, where it would have been very easy to cut straight across on a dirt road and miss a the whole section of trail.  This is a very well known spot and one that a few racers missed in 2010 causing them to backtrack.  When I heard Sly's comments, I though a bunch of guys had to ride back up the trail and re-do that section of course.  Cool I thought. I'm in 8th! That's RAD, I wonder how long that will last.

Then it all started to get really crazy...

About 10 min up the trail a rider came upon me fast and yelled "You need to let me by, you cut the course!".  I let him by but said "Hey you're welcome to pass but I don't think I cut the course." He promptly informed me I DID cut the course and said "I am [he was] in 3rd!".  He was clearly frustrated which I can understand.  At this point I started to retrace my steps mentally and let off the gas a bit.  The next thing I knew, Josh Tostado came flying up to me and asked me if he could pass.  Josh is a nice guy but fast as blazes and there was no chance on God's green earth I would legitimately be in front of him.  I'm pretty sure he knew I was off in the weeds, and soon enough he was out of sight.  By now I knew I screwed up and figured it was something to do with that funny arrow back up the trail.  I let off the gas a bit more, sure I had just DQ'd myself.  I would have turned around but not knowing exactly what I needed to correct It would have been a hopeless endeavor.

My mojo took a dive.  I pulled out a Honey Stinger waffle, clicked into an easier gear, and ate it.

At this point I had to decide if I wanted to finish the race, or just ride to PCMR and call it good.  The thought of riding over mid mountain to The Canyons "just for fun" wasn't sitting well.  After all, my wife and kids were most likely at the Grand Summit Hotel pool just waiting for me to get there with a whole afternoon of activities planned around town.  Why hold them up if I was just riding to finish?  I continued to pedal on riding fast and comfortable but not with any sort of race intensity.  Fall was starting to make it's mark  on the trees and the trails were laden with hero dirt.  The air was cool and the riding was great.  My bike continued to fly uphill it seemed as it had the whole day. Before I knew it, I was at the top of the climb by Shadow Lake.

Cool, the hardest climb of the race was behind me! I turned for the DH and shortly after I sliced the sidewall in my rear tire.  It went flat quickly.  "That's karma for you", I thought.  "You cut the course and you are served up a flat tire right before the DH".  I took my time, I pulled out my stuff, and put a tube in and inflated it with air.  It immediately when flat again.  The tube had a hole in it and now I was out of Co2!  I looked up and saw a rider flying down the hill.  It was Yuki Ikeda of Topeak/Ergon who looked as surprised to see me as I was him.  As with Tost, I had no business being in front of Yuki, at least not without a lot of EPO. This almost certainly sealed my believe that I was DQ'd and riding the race just to ride.  Yuki asked if I was ok and I insisted he keep going.  He was in 6th place and I wasn't about to ask him for anything.  A few minutes later another SS racer came by.  I asked him what the milage was on his GPS.  It was about 2 miles more than what mine said.  I was now 100% sure I was DQ'd and determined I would pull out at PCMR.  I had a problem though, I didn't have air in my rear tire and my CO2 was empty.

I was screwed.

I started running, ok well jogging, down the trail and soon saw Nick Rico and a few other riders in hot pursuit coming down the trail and I think I waved them on as well.  They were leading my age group and I had to watch them race on by.  Nick went on to take 1st with a strong finish.  Moments later I saw another familiar jersey, It was Thomas Spannring my teammate!  He asked what I needed.  I gave in and figured I may as well fix my tire and ride instead of walk to the next aide station.  "A tube and some air?" I said.  He quickly dropped me a pump and a tube and took off.  I was saved!  I got to work again, still moving like someone not in a big hurry, pulling out my stuff, swapping the bad tube for a good one, and started pumping it up. Fatty (Elden Nelson, a.k.a The Fat Cyclist) came flying by. "Fatty!" I yelled, he was cooking but asked if I was ok and continued on.   When It was all said and done I had spend close to 30 min fiddling with my tire, based on my GPS data.  I pointed my rig downhill and rode to PCMR.

When I arrived at the PCMR aide station I learned that I was one of many that took the wrong turn and I was not DQ'd but they would be adding a little time to everyone that cut the trail.  With this news in hand, there was no way I was walking off the course, if I wasn't DQ'd I was going to finish (Jonathan Davis would be proud)!  I loaded up with fresh bottles and emptied the tank riding even more epic singletrack to the finish line at The Canyons. Looking at the time splits for the last leg I put some time into the 30-39 race leader (see the "what if" section below). In fact, I was 1st on the intermediate split from PCMR to the finish by around 3 min 30 seconds.  This made me feel better about my day for sure.  It is very likely the 30-min break I had fixing flats and stuffing my face might have had something to do with feeling so good the last 2 hours but I'd like to think I was well prepared having followed the LW Coaching 100-miler plan for the past 6 weeks (they rock).

Now to crunch some data to see how it might have turned out under perfect conditions:

What if?
I had not taken a bad turn: Add 18 min to my finish time.
I had not flatted: Remove 29 min from my finish time.
I had not stopped *racing* for a few hours sorting out the DQ situation: ??
My finish time would have been: 06:56:43

What if?
We had ridden the whole course?
I had ridden Round Valley: Add 51 min (taken from 2010)
My finish time would have been: 7:55:43, a good 30 min faster than 2010!

My Strava data from 2012
My Garmin data from 2012
My Garmin data from 2010

Not that any of this really matters but taking a good look at the numbers is a healthy exercise IMO to see how I did or didn't improve and what to correct. Racing is racing and things happen and there were some lessons learned on this one. The winners of the race won because they rode the whole course and got to the finish line faster than anyone else, and a big congrats to them for doing so!

The bottom line is the race was an adventure and I got in an amazing day of riding trail.  Jay and crew pull out all of the stops to put on the best race possible.  There is a good reason this event sells out in 5 min every February and I just experienced it yet again!  Thanks to all that worked to make the race happen and thank you to all of my sponsors and supporters for helping me participate in events like this one.  Ergon Gloves & Grips, Cannondale Bikes, CarboRocket, Stan's NoTubes, Infinite Cycles and my team Epic Endurance Cycling.  Thank you!

And thanks to my family for putting up with my mid-life delusions of grandeur.  Having them at the finish line is the best podium one could hope for.

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