Pat's Peak XC Race Report

Hills, Heat, Hardtail, Happiness -- pick any three.


So Pat's Peak was going to be the race where I followed the lead of my sensei Thom and rocked it pro-style, that is, ditching the usual camelback and heavy dualie for a hardtail and a single water bottle. We're talking about probably 4 pounds in weight savings here, which I ordinarily would scoff at, but I did have to climb 3500 feet during the course of the race. Maybe Hill Junkie could tell me how many seconds 4 lbs is worth over 3500 feet of climbing when you're putting out, like, 150 watts, but I think it's a lot.

Last year Pat's Peak was a mudfest. I remember the downhill was smooth and slimy. Who needs dual suspension for that, I asked? Well, this year it was bone dry, rutted into washboard by the 24 hour race and sport/beginner classes. I needed dual suspension for that, it turns out.

Last year Pat's Peak was a thunderstormfest, so climbing in the open on ski slopes wasn't super hot. This year -- sunny. I'm crawling uphill at 4 mph, the breeze is coming up the hill with me (also at 4 mph), it might only be 74 degrees but the sun is pointed directly at my head and I feel like an ant to God's magnifying glass. Surely, this is what hell is like, I think to myself.

This is commonly known as "adversity," a situation that requires "mental toughness," and often leads to me "doing shitty."

So yeah, this was not one of my best performances on a bike. Despite my light weight, I cannot climb sustained grades to save my life. Pat's Peak has 3 major climbs per lap -- I was getting killed. My bike and body were nice and light, but instead of getting whisked uphill by angels I was getting grilled. Even angels like to barbecue sometimes, I guess.

The actual race followed the typical pattern of fast first lap, horrible gut check 2nd lap, meltdown on the 3rd lap, slight recovery on the 4th lap. Highlights included my patended DFL start, followed by riding straight into a ditch while screaming "ahhh I suck" as I tried to move up by cutting the inside of a loose turn. Somehow I got it together (maybe by riding too hard) on the first lap to get all the way up to 5th by the end, and I was within striking distance of Timmy D, the series leader, only 15 seconds back. You're set, I told myself, because you generally speed up in races. Just keep doing your thing and you'll undoubtedly overtake him, take the series lead, and get podium girls. You're the man now, dog!

On the second lap he appeared to gain a bit on me. That's odd, I thought, you are supposed to catch him and beat him. Well, no matter, I can still see him, so it's only a matter of time before I speed up and defeat him. No reason to worry.

By the end of that lap, however, it had gotten to the point where I could occasionally see him on the longest straightaways. This is generally not a sign that you are within "striking distance."

At this point I was so hot, and my stomach was so distraught, that I was ready to stop worrying about doing well and start worrying about finishing. In my melting-down state it took me until the end of the third lap to realize that I had a full zip jersey on, and there was no reason to hide my chest hair from the world. As I passed a cheering Yash I unzipped in the most flamboyant, er, Euro manner possible. In addition to making him the happiest man on the course I also noticed an immediate reduction in discomfort. In the future I will try to remember I can unzip before 75% of the race is over.

I also managed to pull my back wheel out of the dropout on the 3rd lap, with my massive torque. That's what I get for doing the full-bike-disassembly car-packing and not paying enough attention when putting it back together. I was hoping that re-seating the wheel would make me feel super good (because maybe my discs had been dragging for a long time!) but alas, nothing except the sweet release of death could make me feel super good at this point.

On lap 4 the legendary Hupster PVB passed me, and I got to listen to him "shift," which is when I realized why he breaks chains a lot. It seems to involve random amounts of torque and lever-pressing until the bike ends up in a different gear, that may or may not be the gear you wanted. We had a little chat where I said pathetic things about how I was sucking and he didn't rub in the fact that he was crushing me. It was nice. Then he rode away.

Fittingly, I got lapped by the leading pro/semipro with a minute left to ride, confirming that I am so much slower than them it boggles the mind. Maybe not your mind... but my mind, anyway.

Uhhhh... see you next week?


solobreak said…
After your XC ski power dissertation, I wouldn't think you'd need this, but since you asked:
Colin R said…
Interesting page.

I threw some numbers in -- 2.5 miles of climbing and 850 vertical feet per lap, idealized as a constant 6.5% grade.

Upped rolling resistance to 0.032 (4x a rough, paved road) and assumed I could put out 200 watts. Rider + bike = 77kg, weight savings = 2kg. Time saved was 37 seconds per lap.

I'm not sure I believe that (mountain biking is a lot different than a 6.5% grade for 4k) but it's interesting. I definitely would not make up 37 seconds descending on a dualie, but on the other hand it would reduce fatigue as well. Would that reduced fatigue PLUS faster descending be worth 37 seconds a lap? I think probably.

Anyway, going downhill faster is fun. Going uphill faster still hurts. I think I'll pay the weight penalty next year.
pvb said…
Yeah, my shifting was really jacked for most of the race, maybe something to do with my chain snapping on lap 1...or as you say, maybe vice versa. But like an ipod on shuffle, sometimes you get some good combinations.

And, when I saw your jersey flapping around in the breeze, I was inspired to do the same. Felt amazing, but the contents of my pockets were jostling all over the place on the DHs, so I stopped briefly to wrestle with the impossible small zipper...I didn't want to have to spend $18 on another multitool in this tough economic climate!
Colin R said…
oh pvb, i am so glad to hear that you stopped on the downhill to zip up. because you went into the singletrack up top with almost a minute lead on me, and i was all the way back to only 10 seconds down or so back when we went by yash at the end. i almost wrote a paragraph about how slow you must go downhill, but i figured hassling you about shifting was bad enough.
pvb said…
Ha! I thought I heard someone banging around on the hill above me and closing in. I spent most of the time on each descent thinking about how much faster and smoother everyone else was probably riding it.

I freaking loved that course.
Hill Junkie said…
On Mt Washington, I lose about 20 seconds for every pound I add to my bike. This is 4700ft total gain. I teeter on making the podium there, so counting grams really does matter in this case. It doesn't in other cases, and can hurt you in some.

Most current generation dualies will climb more efficiently than a hardtail on anything but smooth hardpack. The suspension makes sure all your hard produced Watts don't slip the rear tire and lets you pedal smoothly under power through hardscrable. This cuts into any time savings from weight, on the climb itself. You will decend faster on a dualie in most conditions. The biggest reason to race a dualie in a long event is fatigue factor in my opinion. You simply stay fresh longer. It would be very hard to quantify this. I bet you put out a lot more than 200W while climbing though. This would further cut into that 37 seconds.

I used to be hardcore hardtail rider (I still own three), but I'm riding my only dualie more and more. I simply can hammer longer and not need as much time to recover. I'm shopping for a race worthy dualie right now, as I plan to do the Shenandoah 100 later this summer.
Matt Simpson said…
The course was epic. I sucked gas for the 4 of 7 laps, last lap was on guts only as dehydration has set in at lap 4, but the course offered 1 more lap chance so I took it. There were moment son the climb in lap 7 I though "I should have racd the XC" but instead I fell pray to the HUP "Hey, let's all do the 6 hour solo"...look for me in 09 in the pre-reg "XC" confirmed rider list.
Yash Katsumi said…
Yes, I always cheer like a little girl at a Backstreet boys concert.

It was awesome.

I have pictures of said chest hairs.
megA said…
good lord you are a funny man

jd and i thought about racing this weekend, then thought about heat stroke then thought about not racing this weekend.

have, er, fun?


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