Seven days out, and I'm -- well, nervous is the wrong word... anxious, probably not better -- but the pre-race butterflies are coming on as piles of stuff in the garage start turning into neatly organized piles, taillight batteries are refreshed, tires checked, tubes checked, inflators dug out, etc.
Wheels issues need to get out of my head -- I've got one with a slight "thunk" in the freehub body when coasting -- can't feel it from the saddle, but it's there in the workstand (might need a re-grease?), and another that seems to have a bent rim from the build-up, or from warehouse time - hard to tell. Unfortunately (?), the wheel has always been true, so I never noticed the tension issue until I came across the loose spoke itself. Anyways, it better now, but still a slight thorn in the back of my head that I don't need -- luckily it's a backup wheel, at least it is NOW.
The rest of the bike, however, is in great shape -- no issues, no problems. The only problems I can forsee exist within myself, my own head. My Karma seems to be a little out a whack lately, at least that's where my thoughts have turned. Have I been doing my part with regards to keeping it in check, satisfied? Is there a reason why this year has been expecially challenging? I'm coming up dry, but it has served to clear my head a little, and have some perspective. The kids are healthy, the wife is healthy, my mom, grandparents, overall family -- everything seems to be in order, at least as far as I can tell. Things are looking UP, actually, so little things like bike part maladies should not concern me, and it seems the worst is behind me this year. Look forward - clear the thoughts.
Instead of stewing about what I HAVEN'T been able to do to get ready for Tejas, I'm focusing on what I still have time to do. Instead of running myself ragged trying to get miles that won't really affect any outcome, I have decided to hang up the bike for commutes until October, when I return from the event. The clock is ticking, and the small amount of mileage won't help, or hurt. Seven days out, I won't lose ANY fitness or strength, either - so better to REST. REST is critical; I need to ensure I'm getting the sleep my body needs, that I'm awake during the day without caffiene to help. Vitamin intake is up a little, especially vitamin C, to keep things anti-oxidized or whatever. Water intake is up, too. Food intake is DOWN, but not too far down -- more protein, fewer carbs (but defintely NOT zero-carbs). Smaller portions, more often. As a result, seeing as I only woke up to many of these facts jsut after the MS-150, I have indeed been feeling better, with more of a spring in my step, less of a tired feeling, and not quite so bogged down.
While I have not seen a dramatic increase in average speeds, due to simply the lack of time to improve them, I have felt a positive difference in the saddle.
The only things left to do, prep the bike for "ultra-race" mode by removing the rear rack, and the fenders, and finally swapping on the "race" wheelset shod with the new tires. The only thing I'm torn on is information while riding -- hinderance, or motivation? Am I prepared to see small speed numbers and NOT get discouraged late in the ride? Should I have a number to help keep my cadence up? Since the LED headlight seems to interfere with my current, and older, wireless computer, I'm tempted to get what Cateye calls the Astrale -- I used to have an older version of this computer, and it was pretty nice. It reads speed off the rear wheel, and provides cadence -- another handy factor, you can configure the display to your liking. Say, for example, if ACTUAL speed becomes a mental spur while late in the ride on a longer climb, and I don't want to risk seeing something like 9 MPH, then I can switch the main display to read only cadence, and the sub display can read AVERAGE speed. This way, I have a motivator, and can keep an eye on something I CAN achieve on the climbs, which is a steady pedalling rate. There might be enough going on to occupy me otherwise, but I'm not sure if I can go computerless. It's not like I'll be starved for stats, however, as the start/finish volunteers will count out laps, and probably provide last lap times as motivation. Everything is tracked, so do *I* need to keep track? I guess the question to really ask is, would I have removed the computer if my LED headlight wouldn't have interfered with it? Probably not. It'd still be on there, for sure. So, get the wired-up Astrale computer, and have your numbers. If they get distracting... CLICK! Remove it, and toss it in the tent. There is something personal about seeing a BIG number on a computer readout, though -- I've still not seen 300 miles on a single ride, so that might be something. I'll give it some thought.
Why not just run the generator headlight, you ask? Welp, even though I will be riding this ride on a brevet schedule, essentially, to ensure my finish, I have to prep like a racer to minimize drag, wind resistance, rolling resistance and weight. While these things are ultimately unimportant in the rando world (within reason, of course) they become tedious on an ultra-race with laps, when it becomes clear you are carrying things that you simply don't need to. Even a few extra items seem to weight five pounds after 300 miles. I learned this on the 600K, for sure, when I decided the luxury and solid construction of a Carradice saddlebag may not be the bee-knees when the clock is ticking and I'm tired.
Minimalism: For example, I'm taking the frame pump with me, but I won't have it mounted on the bike until I run out of inflators. I'll have a simple flat kit in my back pocket, just enough to get me back to the support area for completion of the repair, new tire, new tube, top off with the floor pump, what-have-you. It doesn't weigh much, but it takes time to use -- time I may not want to burn, since I don't know how the last ten laps will go, or the last five. It would only take a small margin of minutes to replace a flat, one method to the next -- but each minute will be deemed precious as I know I'll likely need them all to finish. Thus, the new tires -- thicker rubber, fresh, less chances of a flat, in theory. So, a couple tire boots, patch kit for the obvious punctures, a full tube for the mystery punctures, and the inflator kit - which should provide enough air to get a road 23c up to 80 lbs, enough to get back to the start line for a top-off.
On that note, I won't even have a regular, smallish seatbag mounted. Things like a spare spoke, zip ties, the chain tool are essential to have ready just in case -- even though it's only a 20-mile loop, and any major mechanicals will have time to sneak up on me with enough notice to get back to the start and remedy them, there are some occurances that can be a show-stopper. A broken chain makes carrying and extra SRAM Power Link, which weighs nothing, essential. It's faster than walking back to the start - rather walking up hills and coasting down for as long as possible. Again, the clock won't stop -- so the couple of grams and the small amout of space it takes to store it is a very small price to pay for insurance. The Fiber-Fix spoke -- hard to tell here -- might be faster to simply undo the brake releases and limp in, rather than try to lace up a spare spoke on the side of the road. Again, time. Undo brakes, get back to the start line, install the spare wheel. Other failures are hard to forsee. My cables are all new within the last 5 months, and that's about all else that can break from use. I have spares of those, too, but that's an easy one --- single-speed it back to the start, and fix it there, under the lights. Bring em, but don't carry em. That covers the bike arena pretty well, and while I'm certainly not riding a time-trial bike, every little bit helps in the weight department -- and if nothing else, it helps the mental department knowing the bike is as trim and race-ready as possible.
The Engine: ME. It's clear, on the MS-150 the cooler weather caught me in a bad habit -- "hey, it's not hot anymore!" And, I didn't drink enough -- this had a negative effect on my mood, outlook for the ride, and my pace. While not the most horrible on-bike performance of my life (I think of the 400K attempt from 2005, actually) it was still something that could have gone better had I followed the simple steps: Drink, Drink before you're thirsty, and drink. Repeat. Keeping hyponatremia at bay, electrolytes delivered in caplet format or through a sports drink. Preferrably a sports drink, for the extra calories. Calories! Another thing that caught me at the MS-150, caloric intake for the effort I was expending. I didn't get the tank topped back off until the evening meal - of course by then it's too late. I can figure that I'm "average", cyclist-wise. No longer a feather-weight, sitting firmly now at 178 lbs thanks to a couple weeks of good behavior now, I will probably require up to 2.5 scoops per hour of SE during the ride, supplemented with plain water and HEED alternated between laps, depending on the heat. The stopping each lap factor will have to be examined. LAST year, it provided me with too many excuses to spend time off the bike and dilly-dally. My average speed improves with time and consistancy, and it takes me seemingly 30 miles to get fully warmed up, so the minimum interval I should be stopping it once every 40 miles, or every OTHER lap. Ideally, every third lap would stretch out the time I can make consistant gains on the bike -- but beyond that I start to approach the limits of what my bike and my backpockets can carry. It won't be like MV24, where the benefit of a good crew member handing up bottles to me preventing me from even having to upclip until the 160 mile point. THAT was a good day!
Camelbak comes to mind again, but after so much time with NOTHING on my back, I don't have time to retrain myself to put up with it for this event. I will have to make stops, but I need to try and stretch them out to 60 miles.
That's 7.5 to 8 scoops of SE in a single bottle for fuel, with water besides for hydration. There are enough electrolytes in SE to keep cramps at bay, so I will keep the seperate electrolyte tabs at the table for between laps when the heat of the daytime comes up. No need to complicate things in the saddle. Hands on the 'bars - pedal. No fumbling for tabs in the back pockets. What DID work well on the 600K was a third water bottle in the back pocket, however, and that's where I'll get my third lap. Between the three bottles, I'll get one bottle of liquid per lap, which should be enough to keep me hydrated, and fueled. Of course, I need to be aware that TIME, and not distance, should be guides for drinking and eating. Twenty mile laps won't neccessarily get clicked off in an hour, so perhaps the 40 mile theory is better? Three bottles, again, but the fuel bottle only having 5 scoops of SE in it plus two extra water bottles will provide a more substantial supply of fluids and fuel for the TIME it should take for two laps - which my math tells me is as follows:
20.01 miles, 16 MPH avg = 1 hour, 15 minutes.
20.01 miles, 15 MPH avg = 1 hour, 20 minutes.
20.01 miles, 14 MPH avg = 1 hour, 26 minutes.
And so on, down to the absolute minimum required average TOTAL speed of 10.4 MPH.
Again, not much faster than a brevet pace, so stops at each 40 mile "control" should not take too much time - assuming I'm, aware of this and don't dawdle. The nature of SE prevents too much pre-mixing, so I will HAVE to stop, mix, fill, and roll. If I can maintain a 16 MPH average on the bike, then perhaps I can float the final 15 minutes of each lap, and make up for it with extra water while stopped? That way, I can indeed get three laps at a time, and factor the race down in my head better.
It's easier to digest eight metrics than it is to do 12 forty-milers, somehow.
When my speed drops, I will adjust. It will drop.
The other problem I just read is that the body needs to get the normal 2000 calories a day IN ADDITION to whay I'll be burning while riding. This presents a challenge that I wasn't really thinking about. That's a fair amount, and I SURE won't be wanting extra SE after a while. I invision buying some foodstuffs once I get to Texas, high-value things like Fig Bars, PB&J supplies, Clif Bars - things I can eat on the move that don't require a lot of prep time, and pulled from the small list of stuff I know won't interefere with SE. Caffinated Hammer Gel will also be a neccessary pick-up item when I arrive down south, for the nighttime laps.
Okay, here we go: goal time:
Aside from the finish, I would like to be MORE than half-way done before I lay down or spend any extended time off the bike. That would be the 600K mark, or slightly beyond it. At LEAST 300 miles, though. I know I can do THAT much, from the 600K in June I reached the hotel in Butler at the 277 mile marker. While I didn't WANT to ride any more at the time, I could have ridden 25 more miles if I'd had to. So, I feel that is a reasonable goal for Tejas -- Ride 300 miles THEN take an extended break, and I will still be on target to finish. By "extended", that will depend on the time left when that milestone is reached - but all in all a three hour nap should be all that's needed to keep me charged up. As much as i'd like to say a 20 minute powernap would work, I just haven't practiced it enough to be confident - nor do I think I can fall asleep quickly enough without turning it into a 2-hour "15-minute" power nap. Best to stick with what I know, and take the time. rising afterwards, knowing I only have a double century left will be a big boost.
Based on my calculations, I should reach naptime by -- uhhhh.... crud, 3:00pm Friday afternoon? Who knows if THAT will pan out or not -- a nap during the day might actually be possible with 300 miles in my legs! In which case, however, who's counting, and I either go for a quad-century and THEN sleep when the sun is down -- or I can break at sundown after day one at the 200 mile point for a shorter nap. Hmmmm... Have a plan, or have no plan at all????
I'll figure on one-and-a-half hour laps, including breaks. Any time not used goes in the bank, and that pace put me at 20 laps down and five-to-go at 11:00pm on Friday night. I'd have 18 hours to do a century. That might be a little optimistic sounding, but that's not including a sleep break. If I rest for four hours, then I'd have 12 hours. That's how much tiem the MS-150 folks give us to finish day-one's century loop. Totally do-able. At that point, I could even take two hours per lap if I needed to which is a paltry 10 MPH average -- after four hours down-time and 400 miles in the bank, that might be all I have in me.
This, however, is a maleable timetable that I won't have printed out anywhere during the race. Nothing kills the mental game like not meeting a schedule. I will watch the clock, but if I hit my, say, seventh lap 12 minutes late, I ain't crying about it.
So, that's about it ---- mental tool box is stocked, and I think I've covered everything. Next update will be the post-ride report, I think, hopefully with photos if I remember to bring the decent camera. Time to get stuff packed up, and ready, since this coming weekend is going to be non-cycling NUTS craziness. Whoof.
Next Wednesday, ROAD TRIP! :)