Falcon 100 KM Race Report

Five laps of the Falcon Trail at the Air Force Academy, 6+ hours on the bike. There were two women brave (crazy?) enough to tackle the 100 km race and I finished second - or last :) But it was a good day, a long, hard ride. It was harder then I thought it would be because of the speed and I really had to stay focused to stay on top of the race mentally. Endurance mountain bike racin is a lot different then the shorter cross country events, but still different then the slower paced world of 24 hour racing. While I did make some mistakes with pacing and nutrition, I was able to recover and finish strong. The official finish time was 6:32:24 (but my watch showed 6:39...) I think I like this marathon riding stuff - just not sure I'm ready to give up triathlons yet! I'm lucky that the CTS crew was there in force - with Jason, Ryan and other racing, I was able to get someone to help with bottle handups. Jared did a great job at the feed zone - even reading my mind near the end of the third lap. Without his help, the race would have been a lot harder. I was wearing my birthday present from Nick - an Osprey Talon 11 - the perfect size pack for long distance riding. I had food - Chomps and fruit strips - in the pockets, and my 70 oz bladder filled with my mix of water and GU and GU Brew, as well as some rain gear.

The other thing that helped with a race of that length was not thinking about the number of laps - just focusing on the task at hand and the section of trail I was on. To stay focused, I'd broken the 13 mile lap into four distinct sections, so I was just riding from section to section within each lap. With the start at Falcon Stadium ( between miles 4 and 5), the first section was the rolling, smoother section with some shorter climbs and easy downhills, finishing with the long gradual climb up past the BX (about mile 9). The next sections was the fast drop down past the firestation, across the bridges, through the rock gardens and down the rock steps (which I walked every time) on the southwest corner and then up the steeper, long climb to the ridge above the Stanley Canyon Trailhead ( about mile 11.5). The third section was the most technical, starting with the twisty drop from the ridgeline to the main road through the AFA, up a rocky climb through the mile 13/0 parking lot, down the switchbacks then across the roads just south of the Vistors center to the final big climb of the course. The last section is the rolling down from the ridgeline just east of the Cadet area, the rocky switchbacks dropping down the ridge into the woods north of the golf, finishing with the fast, twisty single track back to the finish line. Having the distinct sections of each lap helped and made the race seem more managable instead of thinking about the whole 100km event.

Lap 1 - With only two women (me and Sharon ML from ProCycling) in the race, our start was very casual. We rolled up the double track together, talking about the race and the chances of finishing all five laps. Sharon let me take the lead as we started the single track. I was really trying to ride at a endurance pace, so I would be able to finish the event strong. I could tell on the first long climb up to the BX that Sharon was wanting to ride a little faster then I did, so when she asked to get around, I didn't fight. I was already riding faster then I wanted. Over the first bridge after the firestation, and I had to unclip to get around. We both walked the rock garden and the step. One guy near me tried riding the step and managed to recover from an near endo. His bike still ended up in the bushes. I already knew that I would be walking that section every lap, but that confirmed it! Kept the pressure on for the long climb, with only a few of the 2 lap racers catching me. The third section was fun, despite coming into a few of the swichbacks a little hot. I kept the rubber side down and pushed through to the top of the ridgeline. I really enjoyed the downhill through the trees and came through the start finish in about 1:14. Told Jared I'd want water next lap and decided that I needed settle down a little.

Lap 2 - Settling down didn't happen. Hillary from WOMBA caught me in the middle of the first section, just before the start of the long climb. I decided (against better judgement) that I would try to ride with her for a little bit. Well, at the middle of the bridges and just before the rock gardens, I realized how silly I was being. She was only riding two laps! I still had three laps to go after I finished. Time to slow down a little. Too bad I made that descision after I'd already topped out at the high point. I was doing a good job of eating and drinking, but was still feeling the effects of riding faster then I'd planned as I started the ridgeline. My descent was a little sloppier on that lap then I'd wanted, but the time on the lap was still good - 1:16. The conditions were starting to warm up, but there were dark, ugly clouds covering the mountains to the south. Jared gave me my bottle of cold water and I set off on my own.

Lap 3 - I was honestly worried about the next three laps. There were only the Falcon 100 km riders on the trail and we were pretty spread out. It was going to be a true, solo test of my ability to keep racing despite being all alone. The humidity was starting to go up and I could tell right away that I would be finishing the bottle I'd just gotten by the end of the lap. I finished the bag of Chomps I'd started on lap two and settled in for the long ride ahead. I really had to back off the pace a little on the first long climb. I knew I'd gone to hard in the first two laps, despite my plans to ride smart. Missed the first bridge again, walked through the rock garden and down the step. A few CTS coaches were out on course still, cheering for the 100km athletes, which was nice. Stayed in the middle ring for the long climb at the end of the second section, but my legs were starting to ache. My back was also starting to get stiff, as well as my neck. I had a good descent down from the 13/0 parking lot and up the climb to the ridgeline. By the time I made it to the ridgeline, I was dreaming of the ensure and bannana I had in my cooler. Down the fast, fun section thru the trees and around the golf course and I was back at the feed zone. Jared was awsome - he had a bottle, a bag of Chomps and my sandwich ready. Too bad I wanted the ensure and bannana! Took the bottle, slammed half the ensure, and stuffed the bannana in my mouth to eat as I rolled out. Despite the pit stop, the lap time was 1:21 - so I hadn't slowed down that much. Grant was also there offering ice water and coke, but I didn't see him until too late.

Lap 4 - It took a little for the food to hit my system. I took a bit of chill on the first section, knowing that I had a long ride still to go. I was actually surprised as there were riders in veiw most of the race - I was never really alone. The long climb up to the BX was a challenge on this lap - I was temped to drop down into the granny gear a few times just to be able to spin for a little. But I didn't - pride, you know. At this point in the race, I was starting to really get to know the trail - all the rocks, the brake chatter before the switchbacks, and where to get my weight back. Finally! I cleaned that first bridge after the firehouse - only took four trys to get it. I was excited and that got me focused on the race again. The temperature had dropped a little as the clouds started rolling through, which was great. There was a little more humdity in the air, but I was doing good. Started nibbling on another bag of Chomps and made sure I was drinking both my elctrolyte/calorie solution from the Osprey and the water from my bottles. On the climb after the rock garden, I did drop down into the granny gear for a little. I needed to take a break for a little. At this point in the day, there were more people on the trail besides the racers. Everyone I met was cool - I think they all through we were crazy! I was starting to catch some of the men who had started before me, which was a good confidence booster. Had one of my best descents down from the ridgeline and across to the the 13/0 lot. I was stretching my neck every chance I could and trying to strech my back out as well. Everything else was feeling pretty good - I was tired, but I was still riding well. On the last section of that lap, I was dreaming of the coke that Grant had offered. That lap was a little slower - 1:23  I was also starting to see the light at the end of the race - only one lap to go!

Lap 5 - Bell Lap - Grant was gone. No coke for Tracy. Jared had a nice cold bottle of water for me, so I grabbed it and took off. It was my last lap and I wanted to finish strong. Besides, I'd seen a CTS jersey leaving the pit area just as I was making the turn. With a goal in mind, I focused keeping a good effort on all the short little climbs in the first section. I was trying to remember to thank all the volunteers who had been out all day monitoring the road crossings. Steady, strong climb up to the BX, then down the switchbacks to the firestation. I was still talking to myself through all the corners, but felt like I was flying down the hill. Cleaned that troublesome bridge again, then onto the rock gardens. I allowed myself to stand up and hammer through the lower rock garden, knowing that I would not be there again. Almost cleaned the rocks before the step, walked through the step again and found myself right behind Ryan from CTS. This time I did not use the granny gear on the long climb up to Stanley Canyon. It might not have been my fastest descent to the 13/0 parking lot, but it was my cleanest. I had the flow for that section down and it felt great. The steep switchbacks were a little sketchy, but still had a clean run down. Up that last climb to the ridgeline and I knew I was minutes away from the finish line. I bombed the final switchbacks, and flew through the trees past the golf course. Even after 6 hours on the bike, I was still loving the downhill and that feeling of floating along the trail. Then the turns into the finish and I was done! Lap time was about 1:18 - not bad for the last lap.

And I was tired. Wow - my arms, my back and my neck were all stiff and tired, and my legs were really sore. I was hungry beyond belief and quickly finished the ensure and ate one of my sandwiches. Real food would come later. Getting my bike onto the roof racks was a little hard, my arms were so tired! I was awarded my medal - first (only) in the 30-39 - chatted with the CTS gang for a little, then headed home for real food and an ice bath! I'm in for this race next year, for sure. I really enjoyed (not sure that's the word) the distance and the challenge of the events


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