Sugar Bottom Scramble Race Report...

Yesterday marked the midpoint of our Iowa Mountain Bike Championship Series with our 6th of 11 races being held at Sugar Bottom Recreation Area just outside of North Liberty, Iowa. Sugar Bottom ranks as one of Iowa's favorite mountain biking venues and races. In fact, it is the only venue and race that has been on the IMBCS schedule every year for all 13 seasons in the IMBCS history. Traditionally, it is one of the top 3 races in Iowa in terms of turnout and yesterday did not disappoint. We had 190 racers toe the line to take on the 2015 Sugar Bottom Scramble.

To accomplish the season running as planned with the weather we have been dealt, we are trying to do a better job of managing Ma Nature when she throws us some overnight rain - or on the morning of the race rain. As long as the rain amount is not too much, the trails are in good dry condition going into the rain, then we can utilize a 2 hour rain delay to allow the water to soak in and the sunshine and breeze to work their magic. Three of our events had to be postponed earlier this year as the rainfall amounts and soil conditions going into the event were just too wet. Getting all of the side growth trimmed back really short and to the ground helps with drying and draining as it removes shadows and allows the sun and wind to get in there and go to work following a shower or rain. Opening up canopy so sun can hit the tread also contributes to getting trails to recover quicker after showers.

In terms of the Sugar Bottom Scramble, we used that 2 hour rain delay yesterday and announced it early (6:20 am) to give racers enough time to adjust to the starting times, and travel plans. Based on the forecast, we had even alerted racers two days before, as well as the night before to be prepared that a delay may have to be used to pull off the event without having to go to the next step of using a postponement. Sugar Bottom postponed last year, and the make up date resulted in only about 1/2 the usual turnout that race receives. Yesterday worked out perfectly with the delay, trail conditions, and still resulted in a strong turnout. The weather delay is used wisely in Wisconsin and Minnesota when needed, so I am glad that we have been able to pull of the Hin und Zurzück TT and Sugar Bottom Scramble by using it.

After accounting for the two hour delay, I made the drive over early to set up the IMBCS banners and signs, as well as deliver the Hammer Nutrition sponsor goods to Race Director Mike Frasier. I was doing my usual in the car, hydrating, eating - which is my normal routine on the way to a race that involves driving a couple of hours or more. I even had to stop and use the rest areas twice, so I figured my hydration was on track. Mike and his team of ICORR and Goosetown Racing were in full swing with everything set up perfectly when I arrived, and a historic Kids Race of 40 kids was just about to take off. There was lots of excitement in the air with the sunshine, breeze and Fall like temperatures that greeted everyone on race day morning. That fresh feeling after a 1/4" rain when met with sunshine was improving everyone's mood. The relief that the event was going to go on as planned added to the positive mood. No doubt about it - I know I felt relieved as did Mike.

Photo Courtesy of Adam Bumpus

There were about 40 kids separated by various waves...

Photo Courtesy of Adam Bumpus

I took a few pictures of the CAT III and Juniors start, then went out for my own warm up.

Lined Up and Ready

CAT III Men's Start

Turnout looked really, really good. The FORC races, and Sugar Bottom have always been our largest events. If any event is going to cross over 200 racers, history has shown it is Sugar Bottom, Sylvan Island, etc... that can attract such a crowd draw. Historic numbers for IMBCS always have the races in the eastern part of Iowa doing much better than the rest of the state. We just can't field a turnout like that in Central Iowa at all of our events in spite of what one would think is quite a good number of Des Moines and Central Iowa area mountain bikers. Regardless, it looked like numbers were going to be solid based on the CAT III and Junior fields, as well as the full parking lots and all of the people milling around.

I have not raced much this year due to being in Germany all Spring, the weather postponing events, and directing the Hin und Zurück TT. However, I do have 4 races under my belt along with some sporadic training that was peppered with a 3 week vacation, the trip to the Black Hills for my father's funeral, and what seems to me physically like tons of trail work I have be doing at Banner, Center, and Ahquabi. I felt good racing last week at the George Wyth MTB Race, and did my typical in season training week this week to recover and get myself ready for Sugar Bottom. I figured it would be a much more strenuous race on me due to the climbing, length, and my lack of racing on such a course going into it compared to the last two - Peterson Pits and George Wyth which are both flat trails.

Tara had come along and spent the morning with Alexa who starts classes today for her Junior year at U of Iowa, so they were there to cheer me on and see me suffer.


We had a pretty huge COMP field of 28-29 racers, including usual CAT I racer and Psycowpath Director, Ryan Feagan. I went over to line up next to Ryan so we could chit-chat and talk about a possible joint venture next season at White Rock. I have booked it for the 4th of July weekend and want to make it a real festival as well as family oriented weekend that will include plenty for everyone. Talk quickly led to our fascination with the Light Bicycle carbon rims and the wheels we had built with the Light Bicycle rims. I got called up to the front based on the points I have at this juncture in the season mainly by attending all but one of the IMBCS races, not because I was faster than the rest. That's for sure!

On the opening sprint and climb, I was quickly rearranged to my rightful place (near the back of the COMP pack) going into the singletrack as my HR hit my high of 180 on the climb to the singletrack. I can't do more than that for very long, so settled into the line and the eventual was spit out the back of the crowd as we wound our way through the south side of the excellent, and beautiful Sugar Bottom trails. The bike felt good, the dirt was hero dirt, my HR was pegged at my usual race pace - I just can't compete with upper half of the COMP crowd. Not a problem, as it reminds me of my early days when I was always one of the last 2 or 3 in the Sport Category when I first started. This is my first season racing at this distance and I knew I had another hour and a half out on the trail, so after the opening 10-15 minutes at the pegged starting pace, I settled in for the duration.

As we came out of the south section, a fellow COMP racer passed me on the gravel climb to the north side and told me, hurry up, the Sport racers are coming up behind us. That didn't phase me, as I expect - at my age - to get passed by the top CAT II Sport racers. It happened last week at George Wyth as well after the first 30 minutes. Not to mention, the first two racers in Sport are super fast. One of them started the season in COMP, but moved backed to Sport. Anyway, the top 3 or 4 eventually caught up to me and passed me as I stuck to my pace. After the first loop of the north side, I was feeling pretty gassed. However, I was really enjoying the excellent trails and their condition. A couple of new bridges have been added which were fun and the entire trail system was in tip top shape. Better than I've seen it in years.

I felt like my hydration/nutrition was off a bit and I downed a GU and started taking on water which I quickly learned was too little, too late. I also only had one bottle and realized that I had misjudged the duration and length of time I would be out on the bike. I had no second bottle. Uh-oh! I passed Tara and Alexa and Alexa caught me in profile as my legs were still pumping and feeling good even though I had another hour to go and I knew something was off with my hydration...


I actually felt bad enough thirst wise at this point, that I felt like pulling the plug on this race. I knew something was wrong - or at least felt wrong. I thought I had hydrated enough on the drive over, but why was I so thirsty? There were a couple of riders on my tail as I entered the start of the north loop at the Finish area. One of them marveled at the smart line I took on a sharp corner to avoid one of the few greasy spots that was out on the trail. He followed me for quite some time. I asked if he wanted around me, but he said he was fine and started chatting with me. Being that I was not riding at a HR that allows chatting, I didn't say anything in return as I was in Zone 5. He eventually asked to go around me on a climb, and I let him by. Not long after that, I saw him pulled over messing with his bike and stretching his back, so I don't know what happened, but I didn't see him again. I kept the pace I could going and more Sport riders caught up to me and passed. Jason Uhlenhake went around me and I could not keep up with him, but knew I had one more lap to turn than he did - so I just stuck to what I could maintain at the moment. I was feeling the effects of not enough fuel, and man was I was thirsty! Not good. HR was way up and the harder I pedaled, the more I felt like I was going backwards. Legs were starting to feel the twinges of wanting to cramp which meant my hydration was out of whack as I suspected. I had brought along my CamelBak pack to wear and was going to use it, but figured I was hydrated going into the race and the large CamelBak water bottle I was going to take on the bike would suffice instead. In retrospect I think it had more to do with my hydration/nutrition not being on point at the start of the race. Whatever it was, I felt like I was flailing at everything and not riding strong and smooth.

I rounded the Finish line area to begin my final lap which meant all that were out on the trail were COMP and CAT I racers. I passed a couple of COMP riders which surprised me considering how I felt - and that I was out of water and panting like a thirsty dog. At this point, I was just going to finish knowing that my effort was going to be near 2 hours. Nathan Kullbom (CAT I Men's winner) passed me with words of encouragement. Then Kevin McConnell flew by a bit later, followed by Michael Maney. Cyclocross Hill was painful as usual, but I cleaned it on all laps this year. I actually overshot it on the final lap and barely made the turn at the top as I was in such a tall gear that I just about pedaled into a tree instead of turning.

I was deep in the pain cave and on a mediocre corner that really was not technical at all, my tires slipped out from under me. It felt like one of those slow motion falls where I quickly tucked and rolled and landed right in the middle of the singletrack. No harm done. I got right back up and took off. It wasn't one of those crashes that makes you timid and slows you down for a few minutes as you shake from the pain. This was just a silly lack of attention combined with fatigue falls that only got dirt on my leg and jersey. No damage done. Ryan Van Houeweling came up behind me and gave me some final words of encouragement that the race was almost over.

And over it was a few minutes later...


Exhausted, spent, dehydrated, but pleased that I ground it out to race for nearly a full 2 hours...


I guess my new goal for 2015 is try and not come in dead last at a race in the overall COMP category as that is about all I am going to be able to muster at this point on a good day. I ended up coming in 21st out of the 28 or 29 of us that were in COMP. My hydration/nutrition was off, but in spite of that - when I study my power and HR file from the race - I kept it pegged right where I have in other races no matter how bad I felt. The legs felt like they wanted to cramp, but they never did even though I felt plenty of twinges on the steep power climbs during the final two laps. I just kept pushing through the pain and probably was suffering more from the duration of this race, length, and power climbs compared to the other 4 venues where I have raced this year (Platte River, Beverly, Peterson Pits, and George Wyth). I have not felt this wiped after a race this year, but the extra distance, time and terrain all combined to make me feel like I had just survived. I was yawning immediately when I crossed the finish line. Wow!

If using races as training is good for you, this one stressed my system and I will have to recover wisely this week to take on Seven Oaks this coming weekend. A visit to the bathroom confirmed I was out of liquids in my body. I started taking on fluids immediately to cool off and hydrate.

At least with heart rate, I was right where I need to be for an XC race and hit my Zones...


I could have eaten anything that wasn't nailed down afterwards, but after the awards and salutations to Mike and his crew, I went to Hop30 with Tara and Alexa for Brussel Sprouts, Truffle Oil Fries, Filet Mignon, lots of water, and a couple of  Czech beers. We wanted Carrot Cake to split between us to round out the meal, but they were out of it. Oh well. We got home a little after 8, fed and walked the dogs, showered and fell fast asleep from the effort. I will pay closer attention to my hydration and at the very least have a spare bottle on the bike, or in the drop zone for these longer races. No doubt that Seven Oaks will be warmer, and the hydration/nutrition equation has to be figured out to survive a bit better.

Again, thanks to Mike Frasier, ICORR, Goosetown Racing, and the officiating by USA Cycling. The event, after expenses, raised $2500 that will go to ICORR and get put right back into the trails.

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