Friday, May 26, 2006

Dirty Kansa: Nutrition, Equipment, Strategy

There were two considerations in my nutrition strategy. The first was the heat. I wanted to make sure that I wouldn't get dehydrated or low on electrolytes. In order to do this I filled both my Camelbak and waterbottle with Ultima replenisher drink mix (raspberry flavor). The stuff tastes good and works for me. It's supposed to contain B vitamins which are purported to improve endurance. Whatever it does I was happy with it. In the second half of the race I switched to Elete because the additive was easier for me to carry than the powder. It seemed to work okay, but I prefer the flavor of the Ultima to flavorless Elete. It's like that old dandruff shampoo commercial: "Both have effective dandruff fighting medicine, but only Selson has something extra that tingles." Ultima tingles with flavor. Ultimately I think I drank about 9 liters of liquid during the race. That seemed to be about the right amount. I just drank whenever I thought of it, whenever I felt tired, or felt a headache coming on. Unlike some other racers I did have to stop and relieve myself several times during the second half of the race. That's a good sign I think.

The second component was the food. I decided early on that I'd eat something every 10 miles of the race. Usually I ate one of the fig bars that I had stashed in my jersey pockets. Since I carried them unwrapped and loose they were easy to get to and stuff in my mouth. I can't stand having to open and dispose of wrappers while I'm trying to concentrate on riding. It took me a couple of tries to get the hang of eating them without getting out of breath. The thing to do is chew as quickly as possible and then swallow. Follow quickly with a drink and everything's fine. If I try to chew on it for a while and take my time with it then I end up trying to breathe through my mouth while eating which is a bad idea. Sometimes I'd have an energy gel. Usually I had these when I was stopped or had just completed a hill or major milestone. I probably only had 5 of these during the race, but they were a welcome change from the fig bars. At Cottonwood Falls and Eureka I ate something like 2 fig bars and a gel. That seemed to work for this race, but for something longer like a 24 or TransIowa I think I'd need to eat some real food at some point.

I chose equipment pretty well for the race. The Surly Crosscheck with 42mm tires was about perfect. I had a mountain bike ready for this ride, but I decided not to take it based on course reports and the fit of the bike. Sure it was rough and my forearms and rear-end paid the price, but I don't think that the mountain bikers fared any better. I was expecting the downhills to feel sketchier on the cross bike, but I never felt out of control and rarely had to touch the brakes. I just had to watch where I was going.

The tires I chose were a pair of cheap Cheng Shin wire bead 42mm tires I found in the trash. There is absolutely nothing special about these tires. I wanted to run WTB Mutano Raptor 44mm tires, but I didn't manage to order them in time. They certainly would have been lighter, but I'm not sure that they would have been better in two other categories: durability and rolling resistance. The Cheng Shins have a lot of rubber on them. It would be tough to get a puncture type flat on a tough tire like this. Since punctures are what took down a number of competitors I'm glad I chose to go heavy. On the other hand Dave Simmons ran the course on Bontrager 32mm tires and didn't have any flats either. Maybe we were both just lucky. The Cheng Shins are also fast rollers on pavement. They don't hook up particularly well in the dirt, but that wasn't a real worry for this course. The knobs have an almost connected center tread and that's just what I needed on the 30 miles of pavement on the course.

As for clothing the only items of note were my gloves. I used Ironman Pro gloves by Spenco. I picked up these gloves after having had some carpal tunnel-like symptoms after 24 hour races. I didn't want to be unable to use a wrench for a week after long rides so I tried them out. They work very well for me. My hands did get sore and the gloves were uncomfortable during the second half of the ride, but I didn't have any numbness and that's what counts. The use of drop bars and Cane Creek brake levers might have contributed to my success here too.
My only equipment failure was my Jandd seat bag. At some time during the race the bag fell open and I lost my favorite Park tool kit on the backroads of Kansas. If anyone found my tool wallet let me know would you?

Race Strategy:
My race strategy was simply, "going is faster than stopping." Rather than stopping for breaks in every town I picked the ones that I needed to stop in and ignored the rest. Thus I didn't stop in Council Grove or Olpe. I didn't generally stop and rest when others did so alongside the road either. Whenever I did have to stop I made it as quick as possible and got right back on the bike. By doing this I think I kept up with a lot of riders faster than I am.

I didn't really intend to go out as hard as I did at the beginning. Like in TransIowa I was at the front for a while, but unlike TI I wasn't feeling up to it. I'm glad that I stopped trying to keep up pretty quick, but I should have fallen back earlier. During the first half of the race I averaged just over 15 mph, but for the second half I averaged just under 11. Sure some of that was the wind and the fact that all of the stopping I did was counted in the second half, but I don't like that I slowed down so much. I'd like to even it out more next time. I started to notice that I was slowing down around mile 120. Perhaps it's that I'd never done a continuous ride longer than 130 miles (I did 150 once, but had a 2 hour break in the middle). I wonder if I didn't pace myself well enough for the first half. It's something to work on I guess.

That about wraps it up for Dirty Kansa. I look forward to next year. It was a great, well organized race and there wasn't much to dislike. I personally liked the course markings and maps. I thought that they were great. Much easier to navigate than TransIowa. I know a few people got lost, but that, I suppose, is part of the race. I don't want these long gravel races to turn into orienteering tests. Leave that to the adventure racers.


Paul said...

Great write up Matt! I will see you in the morning.

Paddy Humenny said...

nice write up...your last couple of sentences hits-the-nail-on-the-head for me too..

see ya at 9 mile??

Simmons said...

Superb write up Matt! I second the last few sentences as well. Come to 9 mile! Keep the traveling circus of Trans-Iowans going :)

Paul said...

Man, do I wish I could go to 9 mile!

Guitar Ted said...

Great write up, Matt and a great ride for you.

A comment on the maps vs. cue sheets. They were two totally different courses. I liked the maps and markings too. For T.I. it would be a nightmare, though. Imagine driving and marking 340 miles of course the night before an event, driving cross-state back to the start line and shadowing the whole event from there. Hmmph! I'm not gonna do that, would you?

Maps? Well, you'd have at least seven sheets to make 'em legible and then you'd have 7-9 more maps for pass through towns. Lots of stuff to jumble through.

I'd say for T.I. that the cue sheets work best, for D.K., I wouldn't change much. What they did was excellent, the maps almost were not necessary.

Paddy Humenny said...

my comments were directed more towards the word "orienteering", for obvious reasons

Matt Maxwell said...

I thought that the cue sheets for TI worked out pretty good. The map is certainly easier for me, but I agree with you GT. I wouldn't want to mark every corner either. DK was certainly an easier course to mark than TI. I thought that navigation aids for TI was good and DK was great. I just wouldn't want to make it any more minimal. Besides, as I said, some map reading/navigation is part of the race. I did 10 miles extra in the Arrowhead and Dave Simmons dropped out because of getting lost. I thought that that course was well marked too. I could have done better if I had only reviewed my maps before the race. I'm okay with that as Dave and probably Paddy are with thier experiences. Just don't make it any harder than it has to be.