Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dealing with Lucifer...@ 9 Mile

Reflections on the events surrounding last year's 24/12 Hours @ 9 mile. This recap was originally submitted to the Team Ski Hut Website last August...Today, I just want to review some of the lessons learned to avoid repeating any previous mistakes. Note- Last year I did the 12 hour event, this year the parameters are expaned by two fold!!!

The below lessons and musings are a compilation of what worked (and not worked) for me. Of course on a personal level, one must experiment to see what indeed works. Also, I want the reader to know that I know that just because I do it a certain way or use a certain strategy does not make it even remotely the best way, so take the following for what it’s worth… but the overriding undeniable conclusion is that to enjoy success, one must have a detailed plan of action going into the event. One other comment--these ultra events allow the less talented and/or aged (like the writer) to be perhaps a little more competitive than in traditional two hour mtb races for obvious reasons…The bottom line is to get out and try one! Its six or even twelve times the fun of a typical mtb race. The segment below refers specifically and in detail to my experience regarding the 12 hours @ 9 mile. Only the most ardent will want to continue reading…[Note: Next year the NORBA 24 Hour National Championships will again be decided at 9 Mile, just 4 hours from Duluth.] My plan is to go for the whole 24 Hours thing next year with the goal being to, with proper training and forethought, prepare myself for a chance at a top eight finish [I rode a lot with the guy that ultimately finished in fourth place in the 24 hour event this time and I was able to glean some valuable insights from him]…I am fired up! A. Hydration, nutritional, and travel considerations: Get a really good couple of nights of sleep on the Wednesday and Thursday nights before the race. Don’t worry about sleeping well on Friday…Approach Friday night with the attitude that its no big deal if you do not sleep well. Use Friday night to get yourself ready for some good old fashioned biblical fire and brimstone suffering. Blow off the temptation to sleep in an air conditioned motel. Like I stated above, start getting your head right and get fired up for some good ole primordial fear and loathing. Drive down the day before with the windows down, sans air conditioning, listening with the volume wide open to some of those hard-core reactionaries on AM radio (like Savage Nation and/or Rush Limbaugh) and get yourself kind of thinking like mean-old Dick Cheney or bitter Karl Rove or one of those other surly Reaganite neo-conservatives…The drive down should get you feelin' sort of ornery, sweaty, itchy, and all bothered about how the ner-do-well liberals are spending half of your hard earned paycheck on protecting the snail darter and them illegal immigrants. Seriously, the dye is cast on Thursday, Friday is essentially part of the endurance event. Many studies have shown that the night before is not that big a deal. Bank up on good sleep on those two days prior to the night before the race. I advise using the night before to acclimatize and get use to feeling uncomfortable. Personally, I like to hit my head real hard on a lower tree branch as I put up my 25 year-old tent, hitting your hand with a hammer also works well to get your mind right...The Friday before the Nine Mile was perfect as my car was super hot and making this terrible roaring noise, I got caught up in a full-on road raging traffic jam in Soup-Town, and it rained and stormed all night. These events combined with my leaky tent provided me with a perfect precursor for Saturday’s show down with debauchery…Having a committed selfless support person that is there for every lap is paramount. We had Kate and she was totally awesome. Note: Next time, on the night before the race, I will make a concerted effort to set up a better landing pad, where upon finishing a lap, one can quickly and conveniently park the bike upright and access ones cooler (and tool kit, extra shoes, and lighting etc.). Again kudos to Kate…She was just GREAT! She can attest to the fact that I morph for lack of a better word, into a “manically half crazed lunatic” during these things. I am always right on the verge of totally self imploding, although I am always having fun… In all my bicycle racing and in all sports I have played, I make it my habit to totally blow off any conscious effort to pace myself and I therefore usually within about two or three hours become mentally incompetent. The only thing that revivals these long distance cycling events is an sick alpine effort in bad weather, but I digress…Bring at least Three coolers all with ice. Cooler #1 [needs to be a big one and full of ice] should contain the water bottles that have the fluid calories. The bottles have to be mixed up on the morning of the big event, due to problems with spoilage, etc. Bottles should be marked with numbers for each lap. For example Bottle #1 and #2 should contain 280 calories made up of Hammer Gel (w 50 mg of caffeine) Bottles #3 thru #10 should contain Perpetuem (260 calories per bottle). Bottles #11 & #12 should contain big dosages of Hammer Gel…and then repeat thru #13 up to #22 with the Perpetuem and then finish it out with Hammer gel or Red Bull for the last two laps. Cooler #2 should contain water bottles filled with cold water and one or two doses of Endurolyte capsules in each. Last week I put three caps in the bottles that I was consuming in the heat of the day. For this course, two bottles per lap works great. Even in very hot humid conditions 40 fluid oz is plenty; any more than that and itz counterproductive. Also, take a couple of Aleve or Iboos’ every three laps or so. Note: As an ardent committed drinker; for me the liquid diet works better than anything else I have tried. One does begin to feel hungry, but the lion hunts best on an empty stomach. Even after 12 hours going with just liquid calories my throat was still somewhat sore. Last winter, during the Arrowhead 135 my throat got so sore that it was impossible to eat any solids. Cooler #3 should contain six or so super cold sponges. This can be a small cooler, and the sponges are great. On a couple of the laps during the hottest part of the day, I stuck several on my person. A couple on my neck and even two stuck up the legs of my cycling shorts. Keep the sponges in your pocket and then upon arriving to ones base camp, exchange for a set of new super-cold ones. It gives one something to look forward to. Also, when ya get a fresh pair of water bottles, drink the cold water first as it really hit’s the spot.Pre-race meals: The night before the race at around 8:00 I ate a relatively small portion of a wild rice casserole with a some chicken etc. I bought it at the Whole Foods Coop and it was great. Also drank two beers--Nectar of the gods. Note: Make sure they are good beers cuz they may be your last! For breakfast at 6:45 or so (three hours before the start) I ate a small portion of a very good spicy potato casserole-type thingy, again purchased from the Coop and two bananas. I also bought a nice cup of strong coffee from the dudes at the trailer that frequent many of these venues. Note: try and really drink a lot of water all day long on Friday. On the drive over to Wausau, bring a couple of pee bottles and pee on the fly…it saves time and it helps to get your head right, cuz there's alwayz a lot of spillage…B. The rebellion and subsequent suppression of disloyal muscle fibers:Way back in the day, I use to freak out when my forearms would start to cramp up during a long rock climb. I had this vision of totally seizing up and simply falling off into the void. They would find me still barely breathing, but well into the advance stages of rigamortus. But experience has taught me that rebellious muscle cramps are easily thwarted. Unlike our current enemies in the Middle East, ones muscles almost always lack commitment. Usually my quads lead the insurgency, followed by the calves, and then my stomach and hand muscles tentatively may even hop onto the movement. During this race, my quads started to test the waters of tyranny on about the fifth lap (or about six hours into the event). Really the best way to deal with muscle cramping is to simply call their bluff and keep going. Its essentially a war of attrition with the spoils going to the most stubborn and entrenched. At the end of that lap, I ate a couple extra Endurolyte pills and hoped for an unsteady, but culpable peace. I was again tested by my stomach muscles later in the race, but it was obvious that they did not want a real fight. It was my numbed feet that caused me the most pain, but more on that later. My conclusion is that muscle cramps will not defeat you unless you have a limited supply of water and salt-type supplements. Having said that, leg muscles like to gain their revenge after the race as one attempts to sleep. I have really “locked-up” on several occasions the night after a long race or climb.C. Bicycles and other related gear considerations within the context of the 9 mile course:I rode my fully rigid steel Gunnar 29er the whole time (12 hours and 38 minutes) and it was a good choice for me and the course, given the 12 hour parameter. Yet, I would be lying if I said that I came out of it unscathed. My hands were pretty abused and my feet were totally ravaged. In fact, as I sit here smoking a rat, drinking a Summit Porter, and picking away at my wife’s fancy new laptop, some nine days later, my feet are still sore. But the foot problems are as a result of wearing tight racing shoes designed for short traditional races. Next year, I must obtain a more comfortable set of manly footwear. The Sidi brand apparently are the best fitting shoes, albeit expensive. Also, I have read that replacing the insoles with thin cork works to dissipate the heat and the resulting hot spots on the soles of ones feet…Actually the pounding really did not become a problem until late into the event. The last two laps were hard as my hands and feet were numb. Moreover, I doubt that I could have continued the beating on the hands throughout the night and into the morning. Next year I will need to get a suspension fork for the Gunnar if I plan on competing in the 24 hour event using that bike. Another option would be to ride the Gunnar as is for the first ten hours or so and then ride a borrowed full suspension bike through the night. The tubeless set-up to my way of thinking is the way to go. I went with semi-slicks and they worked great, but they would have been really a challenge in the rain. Next year I need to find a second set of wheels equipped with tires adorned with a more substantial thread and higher volume. I made a major mistake in not having adequately tested my lighting set-up. The handlebar attachment that is essential for the Nite Rider light worked fine on the road as I put it all together on Friday morning before I left Duluth. However, to my horror the first time I hit a big bump on the single track the whole lighting system went flying off into the woods. To add to the catastrophe, the cable that runs from the battery pack to the light got jammed into my spokes on the front wheel as well. It was a costly oversight as by the time I got it all put back in my jersey pockets, I had lost the lead and some 15 minutes. Plus I still had to deal with the problem when I finished the lap (luckily the mishap took place early enough in the evening with enough light from the setting sun to find the light,; it was just plain good luck that Mick Dodds was there at the base camp and that he had an extra attachment that fit my handlebars. The whole affair most probably cost me the race. So the lessons have been learned and they are as follows--1.) Have the light attachment solidly on the bike before the race starts. 2.) Have a back up helmet attachment as well. Put that set up on a “night helmet” and simply switch over helmets at darkness. Most of the guys riding the full 24 hours had two lights going at all times and for good reason as the course has many rocks and other obstacles that are very hard to see at night. I guess if possible one should try to ride with two lights and go with a camelbak for liquids during the time from about 10:00 pm to dawn. Miscellaneous: I have enjoyed success battling saddle sores with diaper rash ointment. The best is Desitin because it relies on cod liver oil and zinc oxide. It smells awful, but it really works. I put a hefty glob on before the start and had no problems, but for the 24 hours one would probably be better off reapplying at the 12 hour mark. Note: From the scourges of chaffing in that most sensitive area of ones being, I have seen proud, hard men brought to tears…think prevention and apply heavy applications of some kind of lube. Positive Mental Attitude...In closing, a quick comment on ones psyche will suffice. I approach these things with the notion that I am going to go the distance, no matter what the cost. I get myself to the point mentally that while I have several flexible options in terms of my approach to the event, I do not have the option of bailing. However, these lap events make the definition of quitting rather nebulous. But I do think that as soon as one takes an extended break [like more that 30 minutes or so] the resolve to continue really takes a major hit. On climbing trips in the big mountains, we used to follow the adage that “when in doubt, take a nap.” What this implied was that before starting the big bail, pull out the tent, crawl in and take a short break and re-evaluate the situation. Because once a team turns and starts to head down the mountain, it is a rare event that it turns back around to face the summit. I think this is true of endurance events as well. So I would advise taking a few short breaks of less that 15 minutes and resist the urge to take extended breaks. The breaks should be on the trail and away from ones camp and ones friends.

I am getting pumped!!!!


  1. Some very good insight in there Charlie! Looking forward to seeing your circus of preparation on Friday night :)

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  3. I saw no mention of EPO, testosterone, Dr. Ferrari ect. Are you sure you're ready? Maybe call the Chicken, as he is a free agent, and had planned to ride in the Olympic MTB races for Denmark. I'm sure he would like a training partner. We could use a Man In Black around here.

  4. hey! i'm going to cali this weekend and won't be back until is the website i was talking about where i made extra summer cash. Later! the website is here