Sunday, March 6, 2011

2011 Mega Monster enduro

The Mega Monster Enduro is my big race of the year, my training for it starts in early December and involves a lot of miles, rain or shine, so I have no qualms about submitting a long, tedious report, but I will summarize at the beginning so you don’t have to read the whole thing.

Course: Out-and-back along Hwy 25 from Paicines to Hwy 198
Race description: Time Trial, 102 mile, 5220 ft climbing
Categories include Male Solo, Female Solo, Teams, Tandems, and HPVs
My result: 4th in Male Solo, Time; 5:14:13, Average speed 19.5 mph

Compared to previous Mega Monster Enduros, this year’s event had the largest turnout, 91 entrants; the warmest temperature, 75°; and the first sub 5 hour time, 4:51:18 by Russell Stevens of ATC. My best time from previous years was 5:26 in 2008 and my goal was to do 5:20 so I bested my goal by 6 minutes -- yippee.
I had a two month training plan for this race which included a week of tapering just before the race. Unfortunately, I had to make a last minute business trip and wasn’t able to ride the three days prior to the race. That made for a sluggish start which was made worse by an atypical Southerly wind; a headwind. I knew that the wind would switch around to a North-Westerly in the afternoon, probably coinciding with the turn-around, so that was kind of depressing. The course started with about twenty miles of rollers and then a series of stair-step climbs leading to a 2000 foot-high pass followed by a 2 mile descent, at the bottom of which was the little town of Bitterwater and the first checkpoint. I was about two-thirds up the first stair step when I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, something passing me. At first I thought it was a motor cycle, because of its speed, but, alas, it was another racer going by me like a jet. That really added to my funk until I recognized the black and white kit of Tim Clark. There is no shame in being passed by one of the best climbers around. He had a pretty good lead by the time I crested the slope and got onto the flat part of the step, but I had clip-on aero bars and he didn’t. Getting into my most aero crouch, I was able to catch and pass Tim on the flat but he flew by me again on the next grade. Then came the second flat and I passed Tim again. The third grade was the longest and steepest and after passing me a third time, Tim built up a long lead so that when I crested the hill and started the descent into Bitterwater he was a good quarter mile ahead. One can coast down the descent at about 25 mph, and that is the smartest thing to do especially since one is required to stop at the checkpoint in Bitterwater, but I wanted to cut some of the distance between Tim and me since the next 38 miles was flat and I thought that my aero advantage might allow me to catch him. So I hammered and got to the checkpoint only seconds behind Tim – I know I burned a few matches, but it was a lot of fun and afterwards my sluggishness was gone and I felt like going hard. I only stopped at the checkpoint long enough to get my number recorded, but Tim stopped to fill a water bottle so I left ahead of him. Amazingly, I stayed ahead of him the rest of the race, even building enough of a lead on the flat section so he didn’t pass me on the climb out of Bitterwater going back. In the end I finished one minute before he did, but since he had started five minutes after I did, he beat me by four minutes, getting third place.
Knowing that the afternoon wind would be in my face for the last twenty miles of the race, my training goal had been to be able to remain comfortable on the aero bars for five plus hours. That worked pretty well because my split times at all the checkpoints were within a minute-and-a-half of my previous best time except for the last leg where I improved my time by over ten minutes. Previous years my back and shoulders were too sore for me to stay in an optimum crouch towards the end of the race, but this year I was able to keep good form for the entire race. I even managed a sprint at the end as I caught another rider 200 yards before the finish. So next year I will use the same training program but try to average half a mph faster. I have a few ideas on that might get me there. On such a long ride little things can make a big difference, for instance, on paper, going to latex tubes would cut two minutes off my time. The next year should be a lot of fun experimenting with variations in equipment and riding positions, trying to find the optimum combination.

Gary Griffin


djconnel said...

You were on butyl???? Oh, heavens....

Seriously, Gary -- you looked super-good when I saw you. Impressive riding out there. The final 10 km are really the toughest: always seems to be a headwind.

Michele said...

Wow. That's impressive!

Dennis the Mennis said...

Awesome race and report GG!!!

Mark Edwards said...

It's said that "Hard work is it's own reward". I agree, but... nothing acknowledges your personal achievement like a shinny new PR. Great job out there Gary!