Brad Tackles The Almanzo 100

This just in from Brad P.

“My pre-race packing routine normally consists of collecting items I will need in a bag two nights before the race. This time tested strategy allows me to add items I may have forgotten as I think of them through the next couple days. I was following the same pattern for the 2015 Almanzo 100. I had my helmet and pump laid out in the garage and smaller items placed in a duffle bag in a spare bedroom. To complete my work week, I planned to finish a few items for “the man” in the morning through a couple hours in the afternoon of the Friday we were to travel to the race. Everything was going according to plan, except I was fielding several requests for work which were unexpected and in addition to what I planned to get done for my work day. When it came time for us to start driving, I threw things into the car in a rush. I had the feeling I was forgetting something. About an hour away from home I realized I had forgotten a PB and honey sandwich I planned to eat at mile 40. Not a big deal to forget the sandwich, I can grab a doughnut at breakfast and put it in my jersey. However, this set my brain on full paranoia mode and I began to worry I had forgotten my helmet, which lead to the fear I had forgotten my entire bike duffle bag. My support crew (wife) was able to spot my helmet in the heap of bike items I had hastily placed in the trunk, however she could not see the bike duffle bag.

We finally stopped driving at the two hour mark to take inventory of the trunk. As I was getting out of the car I discovered I had dropped an M&M between my legs and was grinding it into my khaki shorts producing a nice dark brown smear. To further brighten my day, I confirmed I had forgotten the sandwich and the bike duffle. I had no kit, no shoes, no electronics, no eyewear, but I did have a bike, helmet and food (except the sandwich). There was no bike shop in the area, so no opportunity to buy these items before the race. I quickly contacted a friend who was driving up the morning of the race and asked her if she could break into my house and bring my bike duffle to the race. She was concerned enough for my pre-race sleep that she dropped what she was doing to go search for the bag and sandwich. She was successful in the mission, problem solved. Now, despite looking like I had lost control of my bowels, I was able to relax a bit.

The forecast for the Spring Valley area indicated a high temperature of 78°, but there was a 40% chance of a stray thunderstorm after 2:00 PM (0% chance before 2:00 PM). Since the race started at 9:00 AM, I calculated I should be less than two hours from finishing by 2:00. In warm temperatures rain is more of a nuisance as there is little chance of hypothermia. The wind was also predicted to be from the south, which was good news as the course direction of travel is mostly north the last 30 miles. I checked the forecast again at breakfast and it had not changed. We checked out of the hotel and drove the 15 minutes to Spring Valley to meet our friends and fellow racers from the Newton area. As we were arriving in Spring Valley, I noticed a few drops of something on the windshield. A quick check of the radar indicated there were showers in the area. By 8:00 it was sprinkling heavily.

This picture was taken out the car windshield shortly after 8:00 AM
This picture was taken out the car windshield shortly after 8:00 AM

As luck would have it, we arrived at the designated meeting location at the same time as the friend who was transporting my bike duffle. I was able to get the bag and quickly kit up. In 15 minutes the rain had ceased, but the damage was done to the gravel roads. I knew there would be some slop on the surface, but not enough to affect my overall race speed.

If you have read my blog article from the race last year, you will know I went too hard at the start of the Almanzo 100 race and paid for it dearly from mile 50 to the finish. I vowed to actually rely on the sophisticated electronics and my analytical brain to select a sustainable pace in 2015.

I knew from previous long hard-surface rides that I could maintain around 200 watts average power for over 5 hours. I was also able to determine from prior Almanzo 100 races I should be able to average between 15 and 16 MPH. Plus, there was a significant bike difference in 2015 from 2014. In 2014 I was riding a CX bike with an AL PowerTap hub-based power meter equipped wheel. 2015 saw me riding my mountain bike and recording power via the PowerCal. I had been riding and racing with the PowerCal for about 9 months and knew it seemed accurate, but I was still skeptical. I was also not sure how the average power numbers from my prior hard-surface road rides would translate to a gravel race.

The race started on blacktop, but within a mile we turned onto the first gravel. There was a bit of moisture on the road surface from the rain in the morning, which did not cause a problem when riding under 20 MPH – but on the first fast descent I learned bike tires will turn this moisture into a fine limestone mist which is launched directly in front of the rider. I was able to keep my glasses clean enough to see, and hold the prescribed pace to the first aid station at mile 39 in Preston, MN. I quickly found my support crew and cheering section (wife), replaced the bottle I had drained and took on three new bottles and additional energy bars. I lubed the chain, switched out my eyewear and grabbed ½ my PB and honey sandwich to eat while riding the next couple miles. I have learned, even if you are moving slower than normal, it is still better than being stopped, so short stops for aid are sufficient. I checked the numbers on my Joule GPS cycling computer again while stopped and I was on plan with average power and average speed.

It was at this point last year where I began to have a not-so-funny fatigue feeling in my legs. This year my legs were feeling tired, but nothing like last year.

I tried to conserve as much energy as possible by drafting riders (especially when riding into the wind) and not sprinting up hills. This course contains several milestones: the Forestville State Park at mile 70, a river crossing at mile 80 and a long steep climb at mile 90. I found my legs were starting to have less snap at mile 70 and by mile 90 I was in full conserve mode flirting with cramps if I pushed above the new ceiling my body had developed. I was still on my pace plan, and was sure I could nurse my tired legs to the finish without the dreaded lock-up, if I rode wisely.

The last few miles of the course were straight into the 10+ MPH wind. Luckily I was able to find a fellow cyclist who was riding about my pace and we traded pulls to the finish. I finished the race exhausted, but without cramping up. I had paced myself well and was out of gas by the end, but not to the point of where you can’t even dismount. I had taken 25 minutes off of my finish time from 2014 and felt much better from mile 40 to the finish. Below I have included a table of key metrics measured each hour to show how I was able to maintain a steady pace throughout the race. I am also happy to report, the PowerCal is very accurate compared to the PowerTap hub.

I felt much better about the race in 2015 because I had developed a sound pace strategy, had the electronics to measure my pace and (this is the hard part) was able to control myself to maintain the pace. Now I need to devise a plan to get fitter so I can set the pace slightly faster for 2016!”

Hour Avg. Speed Avg. HR Avg. Power
0-1 16.1 138.2 195.3
1-2 16.4 143.6 214.0
2-3 14.1 142.7 210.7
3-4 16.7 139.8 201.2
4-5 13.9 144.2 215.7
5-6 15.9 142.7 211.0
6-7 14.3 140.9 205.1
Race 15.4 141.7 207.6
The finish line with myself, Matt, Shawna and Jim.
The finish line with myself, Matt, Shawna and Jim.
Me at the finish.
Me at the finish.

Cup O'Dirt Admin

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