Posted on 1:21 PM by Schottler

The Firecracker 50 is a very challenging 50 mile race, last years DNF rate was 25%. I would guess this year was about the same, if not more. I took some tips from Nolan Froese about proper openers the day before and day of, which I think helped quite a bit. Despite the 11,000 foot elevation, my legs felt amazing.

My race strategy was to set a pace for myself that I know I could maintain for a large amount of time, and forget everyone else around me. There are so many places to pass, it doesn't matter where they are. The first climb of the race was about 8 miles long, starting on a paved to gravel road. I felt great on this climb, passing the people that were getting popped from the main lead group. I decided to not try and stay with the lead group knowing most of those dudes are just trying to hang on for dear life and will just get destroyed. By the top of this climb was beginning to pass some pro's that were already hurting.

The rest of this race consisted of very very steep crawling climbs that seemed to last forever. I was at a distinct disadvantage in this race with absolutely no altitude training and no sustained climbing experience. However these climbs are just lactic threshold efforts, which anyone can do, but experience climbing at just a few miles an hour would have been helpful. I passed a pretty large amount of pro racers on the climbs and was riding with them through the single track, which was an awesome experience.

My first lap was around 2:05, about 19 minutes faster than last year. I felt very strong and was able to stay very motivated and determined the entire race, definitely turning myself inside out on the climbs.

This race has 4 aid stations per lap, where they hand out water, gatorade, Clif shot blocks, and some Clif shots. Last year I didn't take advantage of this, but this race I grabbed two bottles and at about 2 snacks each station. I suffered from nasty cramps last year and didn't want a repeat. Thankfully, there were no cramps.

Going through the second lap, I passed quite a few people on the initial paved/gravel climb, keeping myself right at my lactic threshold. But this race couldn't be complete without me breaking something on my bike, so about 3/4 through the second lap, with a big gap on the next people in my field, I hit a nasty rock and blew my back tire. This was on a decent just after the most epic climb of the race, with my heart rate pegged. I had a lot of trouble getting a tube in, since my arms and hands would barely work and all I wanted to do was take a nap. While fixing it, I had about 7 people fly by me, 2 of which were in my field... SHIT. I got back on my bike and my legs were like concrete and it took some time to get my rhythm back. Fortunately, my legs opened up again and I started making up time. I managed to get back to those who passed me and it began to rain. This rain made the course pretty slippery in spots, and if you saw my tires, it's pretty obvious they are the worst mud tires anyone could use. Myself and about 4 others ran a pain train up the last climb, reeling some others back in and breaking them. But when we got to the last bit of technical single track before the finish, my legs shut off and I realized I wouldn't be able to get much done with those tires on slippery rocks and mud.

Coming through the finish, I figured I was in the top 5 of my class... but somehow I finished 10th. My time was 4:29, which is 33 minutes faster than last year. This time last year would have put me in 5th place. The next 5 positions up from me were only about 4 minutes difference, which is very small. I am pretty discouraged from which place I finished in, but still happy with my time. 33 minutes is a very large amount of time. I think with the flat tire on a decent, time fixing it, and the time getting my rhythm back cost me about 5 minutes, at least. It cost me at least 2 positions. My first lap was pretty quick, but the second slowed down quite a bit, from the flat tire and being tired. If I were in the pro field, I would have finished 23rd out of the 50 or so that started, which is fairly encouraging. Looking back at the race, I could have ridden harder up the climbs, but I didn't know how much it would take to make me cramp up and fall over.

I will be back again next year for a time of 4:15 and a top 5 finish.


Haricot Verts said...

Glad you are happy.

Butthead said...

Retire now. It will only get worse

Schottler said...

I'll wait until I race you at Rockbridge.

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