Tri-State 6 Hour: Hueston Woods 2016 – Race Report

Hydrating before a hot race

Temperatures were expected to rise into the 90s on Sunday. I focused on staying well-hydrated before, during and after the race. I had to stop 3 times to pee during the race so I must have done a great job.

Perceived exertion… that was the theme for the Tri-State 6-Hour mountain bike race on Sunday, July 24, 2016 at Hueston Woods State Park.  This was not planned.  I’m not a big fan of perceived exertion, which is a method of measuring your effort using how your body feels, I want data.  Speed…  Heart rate…  Time…  Air temperature… Total ascent…  I want it all laid out in front of me.  …and it was, until that silly little wipeout which caused my Garmin to tumble into the woods.

After that, I was stuck measuring my efforts with perceived exertion for most of my race.

I was alone with my thoughts, just spelunking through the pain cave without my electronic buddy to keep me company and assure me.

Tri-State 6 Hour Pre-race meeting at Hueston Woods

Pre-race meeting at Hueston Woods.

It was the third race in the 2016 Tri-State 6 Hour series, but my second race since I was on vacation for the race at Versailles.  I finished 2nd at East Fork in the Solo Singlespeed division and that had given me some confidence that I could survive 6 hours of singletrack with only one gear and no suspension.  Now my new goal was to take that same set-up and increase the intensity a little.

Race start at Tri-State 6 Hour MTB race series at Hueston Woods

The Tri-state 6 Hour race at Hueston Woods started with a prologue section along a gravel road. The geared bikes set a quick pace and I was not able to keep up with the lead peloton.

The race started out well.  A lot of the geared bikes rode away from me on the road, but I entered the woods somewhere in the middle of the pack.  I was definitely off to a faster start than I had gotten at East Fork and I was more aggressive about asking for passes on the first lap than I usually am.  Pretty soon, almost too soon, I had caught my nemesis, Chris Knapp. I generally use him as a benchmark for my own performance since I’ve raced with him so much.  He usually starts out faster than I do and I started to worry that I had gone out too fast and would fade towards the end.  He told me he wasn’t feeling well, so I tried not to overthink it. (Hope you feel better Chris!)

I finished the first lap right around the 1 hour mark and started to wonder whether I would be shooting for 5 or 6 laps.  The lap length was 10.3 miles, so I needed to average about 10.4 mph or better to finish 6 laps.

Lap 2 was finished at 1:59:38 – just under 2 hours.  I was on pace for 6 laps, but I knew that I would have to push myself to my limits to do it.  So far my pacing seemed perfect and I just wanted to lean on the numbers from my bike computer for inspiration every now and then.

Pit stop in the Tri-State 6 Hour series at Hueston Woods.

The pit area: My team tent was set-up right before the timing station. Each lap I stopped and chugged a bottle of Hammer Perpetuem and put a fresh bottle of water on my frame. I also ate one caffeinated Powergel per lap. In total, I was consuming 40oz of liquid and 380 calories per lap and it felt like I was close to nailing it for the scorching heat of this race.  How much do you eat or drink for a race like this?

I started lap 3 with laser focus.  I wanted to see if I could just maintain the pace I needed to finish the sixth lap just under 6 hours – not too fast, not too slow.  Within a mile or 2, a pair of riders came up on my rear and my competitive instincts started to kick in.  This wasn’t even half way, so I knew that if I pushed myself too hard now I would pay for it later.  The thermometer was inching towards 90 and I knew that the effort was only going to get harder.

I decided to let the guys pass because I thought that trying to outrun them would burn too many matches.  I was so proud of myself for sticking to the plan that maybe I got a little distracted.  That’s the only lame excuse I can think of for what happened next.

James Knott races mountain bikes at Hueston Woods

I enjoyed riding at Hueston Woods. Trail conditions were perfect – tacky to dusty with no mud. To quote the organizers, it was “100% hero dirt.”  The trail is a mixture of new-school IMBA design and old-school fall-line trails.  Riders should expect a lot of roots and rocks.  I felt every single one of them on lap 5.
Photo courtesy of “Yet Another Bike Photo Page”/ the Photo Ninja.

I was traveling around an easy nondescript corner with no roots or rocks and just lost my balance and fell.  What was that?  It came out of nowhere.  There was absolutely no good reason for me to fall.  My mind wandered for half a second and I just fell over.

I picked up my bike quickly because I wasn’t injured in this very boring and unexplained fall.  I hopped on and kept riding – wondering what had just happened.  I didn’t immediately realize that this would completely change my mental game and strategy for the rest of the day.

It was at least a mile before I had completely shaken off my mistake to look down at my speed to make sure I was still maintaining the right pace.  When I glanced towards my handlebars I realized that my Garmin was missing.  It had fallen off.  Oh crap.  I wasn’t sure if I was more annoyed that this was going to affect my race strategy or because it was going to cost me a couple of hundred bucks.

Mountain bike racing at Hueston Woods State Park

6 hours in the woods to think and stare at other people’s butts.

I felt like I had gone too far to head backwards to look for it.  But, when I thought about searching for it on the next lap I couldn’t even think of where to look for it.  The corner where I fell was so unremarkable that I couldn’t think of a single landmark to distinguish where I should be looking.  Should I stop my race to look?  Even if I abandoned the event there was no guarantee I would find it.  Someone might have already picked it up.

I kept riding but now I no longer had my Garmin to lean on.  I just perceived that I was using the right level of exertion – but was it fast enough?  Only my lap times could tell me.  There would be no more feedback from here on out.

Lap 3 was finished in 2:58:57.  I was still on pace, but barely.  The intensity of the sun and the heat was increasing and I was starting to feel the first signs of fatigue.  I drank a lot of water and Hammer Perpetuem.  I knew I was staying well-hydrated because my bladder kept filling up with nice clear urine.  In fact, I probably could have drank a little less because I kept having to pee, but I wanted to err on the side of too much water.

Equipment Checklist

This is what I actually had with me during the race.  I opted to travel light.  I didn’t carry any tools and I only had just enough food and water to survive the lap.  I was hoping if I broke down that it would be close to the team tent. Click on the links to see reviews and prices:

On The Bike:

In the Pit…

The Story Continues…

Brent Mayer races mountain bikes at Hueston Woods

Brent Mayer was the winner of the Solo Singlespeed division. I spent most of my day wondering whether I had a chance to catch him. I found out later that this was his home course.  Great job Brent!  I’ll see you at England Idlewild on August 21st.

For lap 4, I felt like I was increasing my perceived exertion.  I knew I was getting tired and I felt like I had to put more effort into maintaining the pace.  I was still passing more people than were passing me, so I felt like I was doing well.  There were 7 guys in the singlespeed division and I knew that at least one of them, Brent Mayer, was in front of me.  He had beaten me pretty easily at East Fork, but I felt like I was working much harder on the rocky, rooted trails of Hueston Woods.  Did I have any chance to catch him?  Would I be riding 1 more lap or 2?  These were the questions that lingered in my head.

I finished lap 4 in 4:01:34 and my dreams of riding a 6th lap started to wither.  I knew I could probably bang out one more lap in under an hour, but with the way I was feeling, two sub-hour laps seemed improbable.

I tried to raise my game a little.  The pace felt harder, but was I just more tired?  I was trying to walk that delicate line of pushing myself fast enough to hit 5:00:00 at the end of lap 5, but not so fast that I would bonk on lap 6 if I earned that honor.  However, without my Garmin, I was really just guessing as to how hard it should feel.

My arms started to ache from bouncing on the singletrack for hours.  I started to feel thirsty and depleted from the heat, but I knew that my body couldn’t handle anymore food or drink.  I was still holding a good pace, I passed a few people.  Two or three duos approached me from the rear, but I wasn’t getting passed by any solo guys.  Would I finish lap 5 in under 5 hours?  What time would be my cutoff?  My fastest lap was around 59 minutes, but I wasn’t fresh anymore.  Could I lay down a 60 minute lap in this state of fatigue?

My mind struggled between my competitive instincts that made me want to finish a sixth lap and my body screaming for relief after 5 laps.  I pushed myself close to my limit, my quads were on the verge of cramping on the climbs and my hands and forearms were aching on the descents.  There was no relief from my misery at this point.

Finally, I sprinted across the line and got edged out by the duo of Team Hoosier Daddy. 5:04:06.  There was no way I could do a 6th lap in less than 56 minutes.  I was disappointed that my lap wasn’t fast enough to justify more, but glad that I didn’t have to make a tough decision about whether to go out again.  My weary body was relieved to stop.

Further through the pit area, I rode by Brent Mayer, my singlespeed rival.  He finished his 5th lap nearly 20 minutes faster than me, but had decided not to go back out.  He was waiting by the finish to see whether I would go out again.

“Are you doing a 6th?” he asked.

“Nah dude, I’m toast.” I replied with a smile.

He looked relieved.  We congratulated each other on a great race and went back to our tents to recover.

Butch Farrell at Hueston Woods State Park

Butch Farrell cracking me up in the Fat Bike Duo Category.
Photo courtesy of “Yet Another Photo Bike Page” on Facebook.

After eating and drinking I started to clean up a little.  I couldn’t help but think that I might have been able to eek out a little more effort if I had known how close I was on my Garmin Edge 800.  It sucked that I was going to have to shell out a couple hundred bucks to buy a new one.  I was too fatigued to go out searching for it.

“Hey James, it’s your lucky day buddy!” someone chuckled.

I turned to see Gary Lunsford, who has ridden more Tri-State 6-Hour laps than any other rider in the history of the series, walking towards me.

“I heard you lost a Garmin,” he continued.

He pulled out my Garmin and a huge feeling of relief poured through my heart.  I couldn’t believe it.  I had given up hope that I would ever see it again.  I was happy with my second place finish in the Solo Singlespeed division, but Gary Lunsford had put the icing on the cake.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

The 2016 Solo Singlespeed podium at Hueston Woods.

The 2016 Solo Singlespeed podium at Hueston Woods.

Anybody want some recovery meat?

Anybody want some recovery meat?

Final results:

  • My Garmin Edge 800

    Don’t ever leave. I love you and I will treat you so good. I missed you so much. Let me gently caress your smooth skin and push your supple buttons. A truer love has never been found. …until the 820 comes out.

    5 laps in 5:04:06

  • 2 of 7 in Solo Singlespeed (71st percentile)
  • 10 of 42 of all solo males (76th percentile)
  • 10 of 47 for all solo riders (79th percentile)
  • 20 of 76 for all solo and duo teams (74th percentile)

More Photos

Feel free to download and post to social media.  I just ask that you tag James Knott and Quickdirt when you do it.