Nick’s Leadville MTB 100 Trip Report by Nicholas Dickson

It all started about 7 months ago, on a Saturday evening in January, I received notification from the Leadville MTB 100 Race family that I had received a lottery slot for the 2017 MTB 100!  Needless to say, the reality of my situation became crystal clear.  Luckily, Chad and the crew at Tri-City Bicycles were there to provide amazing service, great bikes and help.  In fact, Chad offered to coach me as I trained up for the event.  

My first recommendation for anyone who wants to undertake this type of event, get a coach.  Of course, Chad is the best around.  Soon, months of training were complete, hours in the gym, more leg presses than I care to remember, and it was time to head up to Colorado for the race.  Luckily, my ride buddy, Joy, was already up there, and had a vast amount of experience in the area.  

Second recommendation, allow time for acclimatization and adequate pre rides.  Joy and I pre rode the majority of the course, to include the Columbine climb.  This was especially helpful because I had never undertook this magnitude of climb before, and it helped to know what was ahead during the actual race.  Joy was also instrumental in setting up the Crew team extraordinaire and providing great tips as to how to best crew during the day.  

As we lined up early on Saturday morning, I was nervous, and my crew was ready.  I was worried about my feet, which had often cramped during the long training rides, and worried about nutrition throughout the long day, a topic which would come back to impact me later in the afternoon.

My crew extraordinaire!

Since I had failed to qualify in an earlier event, I started in the last corral.  I anticipated that the corrals would stay up until the actual start, but they collapsed them a few minutes before the shotgun start.  If I had been paying attention a bit better I could have probably moved up a bunch more in the line.  

After the start, I followed advice from Joy and Tony and got as far left as possible and hammered it.  Of note, there is a guy who starts last every year, and Transamerica donates 1,000 bucks for every rider he passes.. well.. he passed me at the start of St. Kevin’s…so I figure I was hammering it pretty good, since I was already in the back.   This is where strategy comes in, my plan for pacing… not riding out of my mind (like I did in Austin) only to crater half way through.  Well,  I was riding about 10 bpm over my goal, however, I remembered to stick to my nutrition plan.   Every 30 min, I had my proportioned food, and drank to thirst.   St. Kevin’s was backed up, however by the time I caught a good train on the way to Hagerman’s and Sugarloaf, the race had opened up a bit.  

Powerline was next, 4 mile descent with bone rattling terrain, and washouts that were swallowing riders up left and right if they chose the wrong line.  Luckily I had ridden this with Joy and Tony earlier in the week, and felt very strong.  No issues with Powerline.  

Then it was the rollers and single track on the way into Twin Lakes, when I realized that I was going to make Twin Lakes under time cut, I was ecstatic.  The first of my many emotional swings during the day.  My left leg started to twinge a bit in the single tracks, and fearing an Austin type of experience (my legs totally locked up and I DNFd) I took Hotshot.  This seemed to work, but the impact was a very upset stomach.  I stuck to my eating every 30 min, and made it into the pit at Twin Lakes with no issues really.  My crew had everything ready…. Really, they were the reason why I finished this race to begin with .. without my wife, Sidonie, our friend Lita, my daughter, Mel and Joy’s Crew team of Tanya, I would have probably not finished.

The next hit was Columbine, I continued eating on schedule, but noticed that I was having trouble maintaining pace at the same heartrate.  I adjusted, fearing the super bonk, and made it up Columbine a bit slower than during my previous training ride.  Towards the top there was a rider down on the side of the trail cramping.  I talked to him, determined that he had not been eating/drinking enough, and gave him my electrolyte bottle.  He quickly drained it, on the way back down he was not there, so I hope it helped.  That left the last little bit to go without many liquids, but after a quick fill up on top, plus a coke that I maybe should have skipped, I refilled with liquids and started the decent of Columbine.  

This is a pretty high speed descent, and about halfway down I noticed that my chain had come off both in front and in back, and in fact it had actually come part way up my crank arm.  Emotions were high here and I was able to ascertain that I could fix it.  It took about 5 min, but I caught up with all the riders that passed me on the way down.  I knew I was near the tail end of the time cut, my chain (with a bent link) was shifting every third pedal stroke.  I used the barrel adjusters to try to limit it and made the time cut back at Twin Lakes with time to spare.  I took another hot shot (once again, maybe not a great idea) and asked my team to just fill my camelback with electrolytes and skip the water.  It was gut check time.  No pun intended, as I pedaled out of Twin Lakes into the long slow climb into and out of the single track and onto the long road uphill: I was hurting.    I saw a rider in the distance and gave it my all to reach him and then sat on his wheel in the very windy conditions on the open road.  I later thanked him.  His name was Gabe, he said he understood and that it was no issue, and that he was in a dark place too.  Gotta love bikers, always trying to help each other out.  

Back to gut check time, Gabe and I made it to the Powerline climb.  I lost a bunch of time on this climb as I was really unable to ride much of it at all.  Gabe, and a few others, were there with me and we slowly made it up the climb.  Having made all of the time cuts, and with an incredible feeling of nausea, I knew I had to make it to the finish line, no quitting now.  

On the long decent down St. Kevin’s, a rider came up next to me.  He said, don’t forget, we might not make the time cut for the buckle, but we can still be finishers.  I did not know about this and he explained it to me.  Hello emotional mood swing, I went from down to time to get down!  He and I took turns pounding out the next ten miles, and then I left him on the boulevard section determined to make it in and be a finisher.   

The finish line!!!!!

As I crested the last hill and saw the finish line I was pretty much full of emotion because I knew that with a bike that was shifting funky, and with a stomach that was wanting to empty its contents I was still going to be able to finish this epic ride.  Then I heard my wife scream my name and saw my youngest and eldest daughters come out of the crowd to run with me across the line, I pretty much lost it at that point.  Probably my most emotional experience ever on a bike.  

Me with the one & only Ken Chlouber (co-founder of the Leadville Race Series

So, while the military might keep me away from this next year, I’m ready and willing to get back to Leadville.  Ken Chlouber, the founder of all this craziness, said that once you come you are a member of the Leadville Family.  There is no truer statement.  Ken and his team put on an extremely professional and enjoyable race.  Chad and his crew at Tri City Bicycles taught me everything I needed to know for this race, and ensured that I was trained properly.  Joy encouraged me every step of the way.  Ken says you will have to reach down into that well of Guts, Grit, and Determination to finish this race, motivation will only get you to the start line.  He was right about that!  I can’t wait for my next Leadville experience!

Texas State Time Trial Championship Weekend Race Report

Photo credit to Corvin Alstot

Most cyclists who race either love or hate doing time trials.  I fell in love with this discipline many years ago:  it came out of my roots as a triathlete.

Once I moved back to Texas, I participated in the Texas State Time Trial Championship races every year.  It’s a 2 day event: Saturday is the Individual Time Trial (ITT) day & then my favorite event comes on Sunday: the Team Time Trial (TTT) event.

Several years ago, this event re-located to Hempstead, Texas. It’s a convenient location for competitors coming from DFW, Houston & Austin.  The smooth asphalt, flat course & strong winds make it ideal for time trial racing.

This year’s edition was co-directed by the dynamic duo of Ino Sofjan & Nancy  Kotinek from the Houston-based Northwest Cycling Club  (NWCC).  Once again, Ino, Nancy & the NWCC crew did an outstanding job of putting on one of the best events in Texas road racing.

Camping at the race venue was awesome…thanks, Ino!

I’ve done a fair amount of road racing this year but didn’t focus much on time trial training.  So, I came to Hempstead not expecting to do well: I was looking forward to camping out at the race venue & enjoying time with friends.

I toed the line for my ITT on Saturday a bit nervous: there was a good-sized field in the women’s 40+ race.  I felt good at the start: an issue with my power meter forced me to race by feel (it was liberating not to focus only on the power numbers).   I kept passing people who started in front of me, which is always a good thing in a time trial race.

Even after my race, I didn’t think that I placed well.  A volunteer showed me a  chip timing report that showed me finishing in 2nd place.  But, I didn’t believe that I had placed that high so I went back to my RV for a cool-down.  Then, results were posted showing me placing 2nd…wow!!  But, I miscalculated the timing of the podiums & I missed the podium ceremony.  Thankfully, Nancy graciously called everyone back so that I could pose with the other ladies who finished on the podium.

Wow…2nd place!!!! Thanks to Vie13 for the awesome medals & fabric bibs

Fast forward to day #2: the Team Time Trial (TTT) event.  The TTT is hard but fun: there’s nothing like being in a line of 4 fast ladies motoring across a road for an hour.  And I was really excited because I was racing on an ad-hoc team made up of 3 super strong women:  Debbie Randall, Melissa Kuliska & Angela Man.

At the TTT start line! Photo credit to Venny Wilmeth/Cantu Wheels

All of them are experienced in this discipline, really fast, super nice & they all hold a rock-solid line.  So I was really pumped to be racing with these ladies:  I knew we’d have tough competition but I was confident we’d place well.

That’s me in front, followed by Debbie, then Melissa & Angela. Photo credit to Lisa Lauter

The 4 of us did a very solid TTT with a super-fast initial 20K.  But, we lost more speed than anticipated after the turnaround on the out-and-back course: the wind really had kicked up by the point and made the 2nd half of the race feel brutally tough.  Since we all raced solid ITTs the previous day, I think we were all spent by the time we saw the 5K banner but we motored on….

We ended up placing 3rd in the women’s Cat 3 TTT event (another day, another podium!).  It was great to be on that podium with the 1st place team (Fresh Racing + Pamela Ferguson from Haute Wheels) and the 2nd place team (Team ATC).  And, it was awesome doing the tough but fun TTT with Debbie, Melissa & Angela!  Most of all, it was great to spend time before & after the races with good friends…and to bring home some awesome hardware, too!

Photo credit to Lisa Lauter

Medical Colleagues of Texas Road Race @ Coldspring Race Report by Joy Brott

(Featured photo: credit to Corvin Alstot)

The Medical Colleagues of Texas Road Race at Coldspring, Texas is a long-time road race on the Texas road racing calendar. Called simply “Coldspring,” this road race features a loop-style course with a neutral rollout.  Racers do between 1-5 laps of a 16 mile loop. This comes out to between 14 miles for the Junior racers up to 81 miles for the men P/1/2 (most waves race 30-46 miles).

Climb to the finish line on one of the laps. That’s me in the red jersey/black helmet to the far right (Photo credit to Corvin Alstot)

The course is well-shielded from the wind, thanks to the very tall trees that line most sections of the course.  And it features some short but punchy climbs, with a finish on top of a long hill that’s moderately steep.  The start area is hosted out of Coldspring High School, which has tons of parking (I brought my motorhome & had plenty of room to park). This is a well organized event that’s hosted by Southern Elite & it’s been one of my favorites over the years.

Feeling “so pro” with the motorhome!

 

 

Unlike my previous week’s road race (Bat City Classic at Apache Pass), the wind really wasn’t a factor at Coldspring.  I raced in the Women’s Cat 3, which started with the Women’s P/1/2 in the same race wave with a combined prize list:  we did 3 laps of the course, which came out 46 miles of road racing.

I definitely enjoyed the Coldspring race:  it’s a fun course that has enough hills to make things challenging.  All of the ladies worked well together & seemed to genuinely have FUN racing.  The main field yo-yo’ed during the course of the 46 miles with some solo attacks, then some painfully slow recovery periods followed by, you guessed it, more attacks.  But the majority of the ladies made it to the uphill finish in the main field.

I have to admit that I do like an uphill sprint finish in a road race. But I was starting to fade a bit in the final couple of miles of the race:  I think it was an issue of nutrition more than anything else: I should have taken more than a single serving of my race nutrition.  So while I started near the front of the group on the finishing hill, I definitely faded.  But happily, I pulled out enough of a sprint to finish 3rd in the Women’s Cat 3 (woo hoo! Another weekend…another podium!).

Podium time! (photo credit to Katie Kantzes)

HTFU Roubaix 2017 Race Report

2017 was the 2nd year for the HTFU Roubaix gravel race. HTFU stands for Harden the F— Up, a name that suits it well: like many gravel events, it’s HARD. It takes place in the scenic Sam Houston National Forest.

HTFU Roubaix is a gravel race put on by Bryan Voytilla & the crew at Kolo Promotions.  And, even better: a portion of each entry fee benefits the Sam Houston Trails Coalition with $950 donated because of HTFU Roubaix.

HTFU features a beautifully scenic 36 mile loop, which translates into 3 distance options: 36 miles; 72 miles & 108 miles. HTFU offers a mix of gravel & pavement.  Since the venue is somewhat remote, participants either camped on-site in the Overflow Campground area or stayed in New Waverly or Huntsville.

As I did in 2016, I raced in the 72 mile (2 lap) Women’s Open event on my Niner BSB9 RDO bike.  HTFU female participation in my event was up in 2016 vs 2017, which was GREAT to see.  The 2  lap event had a mass start together of 73 men & women.

Starting the solo portion of my race…but isn’t the forest GORGEOUS?…. (photo credit to Corvin Alstot)

Very quickly into my race, I knew I was in trouble: I had been sick & hadn’t fully recovered when I toed the start line at HTFU. So, as they say, when things don’t go as planned, just turn your race into a training ride…which is exactly what I did.

After 4 1/2 hours on the bike, I was very happy to see the finish line.  HTFU 2017  wasn’t a great race for me with an 8th place finish in my field.  But, thanks to some good luck & a through pre-race service by Tri-City Bicycles, I didn’t have any mechanicals, I didn’t crash & I had zero flats.  And despite not feeling great on the bike, HTFU gave me both a mental as well as a physical challenge…AND I also had fun, too.

72 miles later as I take back some of my gear…I’m tired but still smiling…(photo credit to Corvin Alstot)
Photo credit to Kenny Lim
Sam Houston National Forest (photo credit to Kenny Lim)