This past Sunday, May 22nd, was the IMBCS Special Endurance Event: Sugar Cubed Marathon put on by ICORR and Goosetown Racing which was held at the Sugar Bottom Recreation Area.
The format of having a separate marathon race at the Sugar Bottom venue instead of holding it on the same day as the Sugar Bottom Scramble in August is what race director Mike Frasier thought would work best. He wanted to allow us to ride on the entire trail system at Sugar Bottom which we are not able to do during the scramble because of our requirement for winning times being capped at 60/90/120 minutes for the various divisions.
I have to say, what Mike came up with is a great idea. It allowed many of us who do not normally participate in the marathon category to give it a try as we wouldn't be missing out on doing our regular XC CAT I, II, or III shorter races since they were not on the same day. Because of that, 74 racers showed up and toed the line to get a little taste of the full Sugar, only this time we rode the trails in the reverse direction of the usual posted flow (Sugar Bottom Trails are directional). From my standpoint it was a huge success and we have already discussed it for next year to keep it as separate. Noel Kehrt and I discussed this for the Beverly Fat Tire Frenzy having a separate marathon race (he suggested their new trail system at Squaw Creek for that) next year. So we might have something in the making for the future here in Iowa if we could get a few separate events lined up.
I drove over early Sunday morning after a night of being awakened at 3 am by the bright full moon and not being able to fall back asleep. I pulled in the parking lot around 10 am and picked up my number plate, and immediately started chit-chatting with people I know. It was good to see such a big turnout as we had no idea if there would be 30, 40, or more. 74 was a nice bonus - and some regulars who usually show up for our marathon races were not in attendance. Two more were signed up for a field of 76, but didn't start (Stephen Gaston and Darvish Shadravan). We certainly had potential for a field of 80+, but with high school and college graduations going on some were most likely not available to do this race.
Sugar Cubed was also my first race on the new steed...
My goals going into this race were to do 3 full laps as I wanted to see what happened with my bike handling on the third lap when one is tired. Like the BikeIowa.com's Renegade Gent's Race, I also wanted to use this race as Dakota Five-O training. I would pace myself much like I do when I race the 50 miler in the Black Hills. I also had a bail out plan in case I just didn't have it in the legs, or if the bike wasn't working like I wanted it to work. Outside of that, I didn't really have much of a goal but to have fun on the mountain bike for a nice epic day on some great trails.
Ma Nature was very kind to all of us by giving us blue skies, no wind, 82 degrees and there were no mosquitoes. Perfect!
We all assembled in the beach parking lot for the start and pre-race meeting.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Horn-Frasier
I didn't bother to do any warm-up as I figured I would warm up at some point in the 4+ hour endeavor. It was a Le Mans style start where we all laid our bikes down on the pavement, and had to line up down on the beach - or next to the beach - and then run up the sand or alongside the sand in the grass to our bikes for the start. I joked with teammate Kurt Benson that one of us should carry the other piggy back as neither of us were itching to run. We got a 3 second countdown and off we went for the day's fun.
I jogged lightly - and obviously in no hurry - up to my bike. I didn't want to hurdle over anyone's bike for fear of twisting an ankle or somebody picking up their bike just as I attempted to jump over it. Suffice it to say that out of the 74 of us lined up, by the time I was on the bike and going, there were only about 5 behind me. Yup, that's my Le Mans style start. ;-)
I caught up to Rob Cook on the pavement climb and we chit-chatted a bit before my legs said "go" and I started to move my way up at least a half dozen spots before we entered the singletrack. As to be expected with any mass start of that many people going into singletrack, it quickly became a slinky of stops and starts for every little tight turn or what might be considered 'technical'. This lasted for the better part of the first half of lap one as I was bunched up behind folks. No worries, though, as I knew it was a long race and my goal of knocking out 3 laps was not in jeopardy.
Photo courtesy of Janice Jedlicka
I had Perpetuem tablets, and Espresso Love GU's for my nutrition. I was wearing a Camelbak and had a second Camelbak in the cooler in the drop area. Each lap was 12+ miles, so I knew I would need to stop after the 2nd lap and swap Camelbak packs.
The new bike is a blast! This type of event was perfect for it. It climbs great, and going down the bike eats everything up with no worries as a rider. This was the selling point for me over the Niner RKT which I had read is not so sure footed on the descents. Both bikes are crotch rockets, and the Yeti did not disappoint.
Lap one was uneventful outside of the traffic. Well, it was eventful in terms of enjoying the perfect trail conditions and riding the trail system backwards! I was grinning ear to ear to be out enjoying this format in such good weather. I was eating a GU every 30 minutes during lap one, but at the drop area following lap one, I stopped to take some Sport Legs and a SaltStick tablet, as well as open up my Perpetuem tablets to get ready to switch to them as my main form of nutrition. They are not so easy to get out of the bike frame pack while riding, so I quickly arranged them so I could get to them one handed.
I hit my stride in lap 2 and was feeling pretty good. I passed a few along the way that had gone out a bit harder in lap 1 than I had. Teammate Kurt Benson was pulled over on the side just before the Cyclocross Hill descent having a snack and a rest. Rick Blackford was sitting at the side of the trail in the woods taking a break. When I asked him how he was, he said he didn't feel very good (stomach issues). I was careful to try and maintain a solid Zone 3 pace with an occasional dabble into Zone 4 on climbs, and recover on the descents in Zone 2. I didn't want to burn too many matches so I had something left for the third lap. I was running a Racing Ralph 2.35 up front, and a 2.25 in the rear. I only slipped out one time during the race up front and that was on a pile of loose pine needles a couple of inches deep when I took a corner pretty hot. That slip kicked in the pucker factor, but I managed to stay upright for the entire race.
At the end of lap two, I pulled into the feed zone to switch from one Camelbak to the other with fresh cold water. I downed a bottle of pickle juice sports drink to fight off cramps, and heard Joe Schmidt say something to me before he set off for his 3rd lap. I ate another GU, and got some more Perpetuem tablets out of their container while I chit-chatted with Michael Vittetoe who was taking a breather from his 2nd lap. After two or three minutes in the feed zone, off I went for my third lap. I have to say that after the snacks, I was actually feeling pretty good. It had been 3 hours up to this point and as usual, in longer events, I feel pretty good in the third and fourth hours of these longer duration events. I'm not sure why that is, but it is what it is.
I was curious to see how my bike handling would hold up during this lap, so I didn't hold back. At some point, I noticed Joe Schmidt up ahead of me and figured, what the heck - why not try to catch up to Joe. I lost sight of him for a bit in all the twists and turns, but on one switchback I heard Joe let out a big belch from whatever nutrition he was taking on (stomachs tend to go whacky with all of the stuff we eat in combination during these events). The belch gave me a clue as to where he was and how close I was to catching him. I put the hammer down to catch up. He had started a couple of minutes ahead of me before I took off from the feed zone, but I knew as soon as he saw me he would up it a bit. Sure enough, he saw me and it was game on between us. We played a little cat and mouse between us for the better part of lap three, but my legs were drained and the initial feeling of cramping was setting in on every climb. I had to pull up a bit to recover, and then I would hammer again when the cramping sensation was gone. However, I finally lost sight of Joe as he was pulling away bound and determined to not let me catch him. It was nice to have that little race within a race to keep me motivated at this point in the race (post 4 hours).
Bike handling did not suffer in the third lap at all. I thought it would, but it didn't. All the core work and upper body lifting was paying off to keep control of the front end while tired. Also, my handling may have been fine because I was going slower - as this lap took 6 minutes longer than it did for lap 2 (2 or 3 of those minutes being spent in the pit stop). I passed IMBCS Advisory Board Member Karmen Woelber just after I entered the final section known as the Novice Loop and turned on my final energy expenditure in hopes to close a bit of the gap between myself and Joe. I rolled in at 4:37:42 and Joe was already off his bike. We shook hands and enjoyed a moment about our third lap cat and mouse chase.
Believe it or not, I actually didn't feel totally spent after lap 3. Last year, during the Sugar Bottom Scramble and being 12 pounds heavier while not in very good racing shape like I am this year, I was exhausted during and after the COMP race which took me 2+ hours to complete. In contrast to that feeling, on Sunday I was ready for another lap - which surprised me. Hey, I'll take it.
I chowed down on a burger, had a beer, cheered for the winners, thanked Mike Frasier for a great event, talked with Noel Kehrt about some possibilities for 2017, and eventually climbed in the Element to drive home.
Top honors went to Brian Eppen (4 laps), Michael Maney (did 4 laps), Andrew Peterson, David Krohse, and Ryan Van Houweling. We had 12 women toe the start line, and top honors went to Kim Eppen, Liz Van Houweling, Emily Robnett, Megan Davis-Degues, and Joann Schmidt.
Here was my data from the race....
Total Time: 4:37:42
Total Miles: 38.7
Lap 1: 1:36:27
Lap 2: 1:27:51
Lap 3: 1:33:21
That put me int 24th place out of the field of 62 men that started. Some familiar names bunched together in terms of who I chase at XC races with John Peters, race director Michael Frasier, Joe Schmidt, and myself all lumped together.
I thought I would need a nap after the race, especially after waking up at 3 am. I brought along my air mattress just in case. However, I was fine driving home and actually went directly to Mullets to meet Tara and a group of 10 cyclists who had ridden from Mullets to Cumming Tap and back on a group ride. We all met at Mullets for drinks and dinner and had a good time. I ate back a few thousand calories to be sure!
Then I went home and crashed for a nice night's sleep.
Kudos to Mike Frasier, ICORR, and Goosetown Racing for an excellent event. It will be back next year. And so will I!