Previously on Quickdirt: James went out too hard in the Tri-State 6-Hour Race at Hueston Woods State Park, bonked, and suffered dearly for the final two laps. Read about that here.
I knew I needed to make some changes after the first 6-hour race. I wanted to ride with a more constant pace and save some energy for the end of the race. Could I resist my competitive urges and stay slow on the first two laps?
I drove to the race with Breakaway Quickdirt teammate Christopher Boyle and got there around 7:30 a.m., about 90 minutes before the start of the race. It was a gorgeous morning in the low 70s. The air was comfortable and my Keen Sandals were wet from the dewey grass.
I changed up my nutrition. My race buffet was absent of the Walmart sugar cookies that had made me feel bloated and nauseous in the previous race. This time I was going to try and go all-liquid – I mixed two scoops of Hammer Heed and a half scoop of Gatorade in each bottle. In my back pocket i had three gels from Powerbar with several more sitting on a table next to the race course. (I have some Hammer Perpetuem on order from Breakaway Cycling in Delaware for the next race.)
I was ready in plenty of time and skipped the warm-up. I wanted to save every ounce of energy I had for the race. I rode down to the trail just to make sure my bike worked properly and then returned quickly for the pre-race meeting, a short bathroom stop, and to line up for the start.
There were 50 solo riders and 29 duos at the start. The starting line was spacious and I lined up in the front on the wide left side.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1… GO! The prologue section of the course took racers through the grass around the ball fields and stretched out the field before the singletrack.
I entered the woods in the front third of the racers and was able to settle into a comfortable groove right away. The trail was in prime shape. It looked like there might have been a slight sprinkle the night before. The dirt looked damp, but there was zero mud. England Idlewild is a fun place to ride. The 9.7 mile loop, according to my Garmin, is fairly flat with about 775 feet of climbing per lap, compared to 947 feet of climbing per lap at Hueston Woods. There are no long sustained climbs. In fact, the highest climb is about 65 vertical feet.
This course is more about speed than billy-goat prowess and that became apparent right away when I looked at my Garmin 800. I was averaging 11.1 mph on my first lap, which was faster than any of my laps Hueston Woods.
I had rested for two days prior to the race and must have been on good form because I felt great. I didn’t feel like I was putting a lot of effort into riding fast, but when I looked at my power meter reading I became concerned. My average power was around 225 watts, almost exactly the same as Hueston Woods. Was I going out too hard? Would I bonk at the half way point?
Even though I thought the pace was good, I made an effort to chill out. I tried to back off of some of the small climbs and aggressive pedal strokes that I might make out of curves. I wasn’t trying to pass anyone, but a few folks offered passes when I caught them. Despite my efforts, I ended up with the same first lap power as at Hueston Woods.
I stopped briefly to pick up a new bottle at the team tent area and quickly headed towards the woods. Up ahead I saw Shannon Tenwalde of Paradise Garage Racing, who had won the women’s solo event at Hueston Woods, but more importantly, beat me by a wide margin in that race. This was perfect. I knew that Shannon was a smart racer and that she probably had her pacing dialed in, so I decided to follow her.
I quickly caught up to her in the woods and she offered me a pass.
“Do you want to get by?”
“No thanks,” I replied, “You beat me last race. I need to learn how to race from you.”
Our bikes swerved through the woods along the undulating trail. The trail crew has invested a lot of love in this trail and you can tell. There are lots of banked turns and fast flowing sections that will put a smile on your face.
Shannon set a great pace, 10.7 mph, which was still faster than I had gone at Hueston Woods. I had a goal of finishing six laps in six hours, so I had to stay above 10 mph.
We made a little conversation, but mostly we were just focused on running our races. I did learn that she considers England Idlewild to be her home course because it’s close to where her dad lives. Nice. I can follow her line.
We finished strong on our 2nd lap and I once again stopped to get a bottle in the pit. I could see Shannon up ahead heading back into the woods and caught up to her.
“How are you feeling so far?” I asked.
“Pretty good,” she replied, “But it’s still early. We’ll see how it goes. Have fun!” She then conceded the lead to me. I was kind of surprised. I had intended to follow her for another lap and see how I was feeling after that, but I embraced my new position as an opportunity.
I still felt surprisingly good. I had started to fall apart on lap 3 in the previous race, but I didn’t think I was close to that point yet. I knew that even though I wouldn’t have anyone to pace off of, I could ride more efficiently if I was by myself. There wouldn’t be any unnecessary braking and I could just flow through the trail on my own terms.
I flew through lap 3 at 10.4 mph and still felt surprisingly good.
Lap 4 was 10.2 mph – still above the speed I needed to finish 6 laps. My legs were starting to feel the first twinges of fatigue, but I was starting to feel optimistic. Maybe I could finish strong?
In a 6-hour race it is difficult to figure out where you stand in relation to the other riders. Around the fourth loop I started lapping a few riders, but I was also getting passed, which I assume were mostly duos with fresh legs, but it can be hard to tell who is who if you don’t ask. All I knew was that Breakaway Quickdirt had 6 other racers and I had one teammate in front of me and the other 5 behind me. I had no idea who the rest of the people were.
The park packs a lot of miles of trail into a relatively small acreage. The cool thing about this is that the trail switches back and runs parallel to itself quite a bit. This means that you get to see a lot of other riders in the woods. I had fun cheering on my teammates when I saw them in the woods. I also saw Shannon Tenwalde chugging behind me and I wondered if she was going to catch up to me. How long could I hold her off?
In lap 5, I started to feel some of the residual side effects of racing. Callouses were hardening on my palms. My back ached mildly. Saddle sores were starting to form on my posterior. This last part was definitely the worst. I could no longer find a comfortable way to sit on my saddle. I guess I should of shelled out the money for the shorts with the extra padding because the damage was happening despite being lubed up with DZNuts chamois cream. But, despite my discomfort, I was growing in confidence. I averaged 10.1 mph on my fifth lap and still had about 90 minutes left to finish my sixth. I could do this! There was no way Shannon was going to catch me now.
I charged forward on my 6th lap determined to finish strong. My legs were slowing down, but my average speed was still 9.8 mph. That was faster than 4 of my 5 laps at Hueston Woods. I attacked the short, steep climbs. My bike weaved around the banked turns. I travelled nimbly across the final, slippery creek bed. My bike launched off the small jumps. I charged hard through the field in the sun and I could see the finish line. No slowing down now. I didn’t want anyone to catch me in the final half mile.
Well… In a way. I achieved my goals for the day and that felt like a victory.
- I didn’t bonk.
- I finished 6 laps – over 57 miles.
I felt good. I stripped off the nasty, sweaty jersey and tried to rehydrate at the team tent. Today was a good day.
It was time for the awards, so I grabbed my camera to take pictures of my teammates on the podium. Mikey Worboy won the junior division. Shannon Williams was on the podium for the fat tire solo division. And, I thought my teammate Joe Worboy had a good chance of reaching the top 5 for the men’s solo division. I didn’t check the results though so I wasn’t sure.
I waited patiently for my teammates to get recognized for their efforts. When it came time for the Men’s Solo Division I listened for them to call Joe’s name.
“And now for our Men’s Solo Division. In fifth place… … … …James Knott!”
What? I got 5th? I was in complete shock. I knew I had raced much smarter and felt much better, but I didn’t think that I had done that well. It was an awesome surprise!
Shannon Tenwalde won the women’s solo division again. Good job Shannon!
Joe Worboy got 4th in the men’s solo division. He was about eight minutes ahead of me. Great job Joe!
I can’t wait to try and close that gap at Versailles State Park in Indiana on August 23rd. Hope to see you there!
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5th of 27 solo male riders (18th percentile)
- 6th of all 50 solo riders (12 percentile)
- 17th of all solo and duos (21st percentile)
- 6 laps in 5:35:31
- 57.9 miles (according to Garmin)
- Average Speed 10.4 mph
- Max Speed 20.9 mph
- Average Power 196 watts
- Max Power 850 watts
- Normalized Power 222 watts
- Training Stress Score (TSS): 305.8 (This is one of the highest I’ve ever logged in one day.)
- Work: 3946 Kilojoules
- Elevation Gain: 4587
- Average Temperature: 71.5 F
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