Monday, July 15, 2013

Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge 2013

It's amazing how one event can be so empowering and humbling at the same time.  As most people that read this blog know, I bike a lot; 25 miles almost every day except on the days I decide to ride longer.  I ride on roads and trails and ice and snow.  I ride at -20 degrees and +90 degrees and in places that almost everybody I know wouldn't.  Let me tell you, most of the people in this race bike more.

The course?  I think I realized the magnitude of the course the next day sitting, looking out over Sebago lake.  To ride around Sebago on the roads is about 42 miles.  So this ride was liking riding around Sebago taking only trails and going to the top of every hill around it's perimeter except the hills were higher.  63 miles is a long offroad course!
Chilling in the campground the night before.
We got there in time to set up camp and enjoy a beautiful evening and night.
We got to preview the course.  (see below)
Actually, the course was kept pretty secret until the day of the race and at this point I had no idea that I would be riding to approximately where the red arrow is.  In fact pieces of the course were kept secret from me even during the race.
And some of the more amazing trails around the outdoor center.

If you ride, these are some pretty spectacular trails to do it on.  All are maintained by the Carrabassett Region NEMBA and the proceeds from the race go back into the trails.
The view right before bed
Ready to get the best night's sleep possible in a tent.
Fresh and Ready to Go
Race morning was pretty uneventful until the race started.
I started with the novice class.  In retrospect, this was a mistake for several reasons.  First, starting with 4 other people is just kind of lame feeling.  Second, my overall place at the end of the race put me closer to the front of the next highest class than the back of it so it really was a group of my peers.  Most importantly, if I had been riding with a group of other riders I wouldn't have got frickin lost!  When I say lost, I don't mean lost because I was in contact with the course arrows the whole time but there must have been a loop off the main trail to some singletrack that I missed because about 6 miles into the race I was in the lead and the pros were catching me.  I corrected my position by waiting until all of the other riders passed and the members of my original start group showed up.  At this point I figured I was just racing myself and would get a DSQ but the race director decided that my remedy was fine and my time stood.  Sorry Josh but the signage was a little lacking.

Looking at the Bigelow Mountain Range From the Top of Sugarloaf
Back on track, it was time to find out what this race was all about - pain.  The first major climbs were up Sugarloaf mountain.  The final ascent was under the chairlift and everybody walked, at least everybody around me.  My bike computer said I was doing 1.7MPH and my heart-rate monitor said 171.  If I new that you just multiply speed by 100 to get heart rate I could have ditched the monitor.  After the climb came a black diamond downhill section.  This section was the most technical of the race with plenty of rocks just waiting to separate a shoulder, shatter a collar bone or at least bash a shin.  After a few unintentional dismounts I escaped with the latter.
Kelly met me on the course somewhere.
With the first climb and descent behind me I came across a cute photographer taking pictures on a dirt road climb somewhere around mile ??? 15, maybe, ish.  From here there are no more pictures until the end and the next few paragraphs will be about me explaining how tired I was.  (so you may want to skip ahead.  I'll post some in-race pics if they get posted on the CBCC site.)

Update: Some pics are available.  I don't own them so I won't post them here but I can tell you where to look in case you wanted to buy them ;)

We rode through some of the hiking trails in the Bigelow Preserve.  There were a ample  rest stops, all well stocked with friendly people.  After the next stop came the 5 mile climb up a gravel road in the sun.  At one point I looked down to see that I was managing a whole 4MPH and thought to myself "I'm going to be doing this for over an hour".  It was also around this point where I realized that the pickles I had at the last stop, although great for salt replenishment were making me burp pickle flavor for I left them on the side of the road.  Mental note, no more pickles.

From the top of the climb (what we were on top of, I'm not sure) there was some very remote and relatively easy single and doubletrack riding for quite a while intermixed with muddy spots and the occasional water crossing that helped to clean off me and the bike.  This is about the point where my body started revolting against me.  Although my muscles still had energy to pedal they were no longer in my control.  I started getting leg cramps on the inside of my thighs and other places.  These aren't the kind of cramps that you can push through but the kind that can lock your leg up so it no longer moves and you have a solid painful clenched muscle.  The only remedy was to get off the bike, if possible, and ease them out.  The cramps are aggravated by stressing the muscles more than they are currently being stressed which includes the act of dismounting so if it was not a climb I just slowed to a crawl and kept my legs moving.

At the next rest stop I started popping salt tabs and bananas to try to get my electrolytes in check.  After a few miles it seemed like my muscles were mostly under my own control again, mostly.  The next 10 miles were OK with only the occasional cramp.  At the last stop I popped a few more salt tabs, ate as much as I could hold and pressed on for the last 6 miles of "Bliss" (according to the rest stop people).  "Bliss" was some windy singletrack through bar width trees that normally would have been really fun riding but required more concentration than I really wanted to give this far into the race.  The other half of "Bliss" was the rail trail that was pretty blissful but a slight but constant uphill. I'll suspend with the rest of the race details.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard the word "cramps", well, I'd probably only have about $2-$3 so that's not a really good money making scheme...But people were cramping up left and right and either slowing to a crawl or dropping out of the race.
I was more covered in mud than this but the river crossings cleaned me off.
Overall Stats:
Distance: 63 Miles (Time corrected for 1-2 lost miles)
Time: 7:46:14
Fluids Consumed: Over 3 gallons, based on approx 3 fillings of a 120oz hydration pack & 20oz bottle with silk amino acids, Gatorade, coke or anything else with sugar & caffeine
Food Consumed: As much as I thought I could hold including 3 power bars, 2 bananas, 2 gels, 2 pickles, -2 pickles, PB&J and more.
Calories Burned: I'd estimate right around 6000 based on a little under 800/hour for me at that pace.
Salt Tablets: 5
Weight Loss: About 7 lbs, 5 are still missing over a day later.
Equipment: The bike (GT Sensor 9er Elite) did awesome!  I was a little concerned that I was entering a race of this magnitude with this much climbing with a bike that was a little on the heavy side.  

Second Place (Out of 2)

Results: I'd have to say I did really good overall.  The novice class was too small to really tell place but if the novice and sport categories are combined I would have come in 8th out of 20.  I'm not sure if my slight re-route improved my overall time because I didn't have to ride a part of the course (it was a flat part so not too energy sapping) or if it hurt my overall time because I waited for people that were going slower than I was to make sure I was riding with the right pace group.  Overall, I'd call it a wash.

Soundtrack(In My Head):  The Zac Brown Band: On The Day That You Die
"On the day that I die,
I wanna say that I,
Was a man who really lived and never compromised.
And when I've lived out my days,
Until the very end,
I hope they find me in my home, a guitar in my hands.
I hope they find me in my home with my guitar in my hands"
I wasn't sure if that was because I was living live to it's fullest, or if I was going to be found dead in the bottom of a ravine with a mountain bike still clipped to my feet, or if it was because I just saw The Zac Brown band last weekend.  Except he didn't play that song. It wouldn't have been so bad if I could remember all the words.

So, am I going to do it again?  Most likely.  Oh, and am I going to ride to work on Monday?  Heck Ya! It's supposed to be a beautiful day for a ride!

(Post a comment if you made it through the whole blog and didn't just look at the pictures)


  1. My hero! Again and again and again!

  2. :). I read the whole thing! Much more interesting than the pictures. I may not be cycling much anymore.... but I will never forget that one 'hill' in Spain (part of the Andes mountains). I had roofers cheering me on through about 3 zig zags. I think I was going 1.2 mph...and if I had to guess..I'd put my heart rate at about 185!