Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Danimal Tales, Part 1: Boggs IX

Dan Findley won this year's Boggs 8 Hour by completing 11 of the 8.5 mile laps in under 8 hours and 45 minutes. This is his personal account of the race. If you want to get good at racing your mountain bike, read this. Or don't. This is his story...

Boggs is the best mountain bike race there is. No question. It is the truth. After being introduced to Boggs last year with a 6th place finish in Solo Sport category, I upped the training and entered the Solo Expert category this year. I was shooting for what I hoped would be a top 10 finish.  

We arrived at Bogg’s around 4pm Friday and after setting up our camp, we decided to head to the pit area to scope out a spot. Last year, when it was just Matt and I, we ended up throwing a couple backpacks full of supplies down next to a fence about 4 minutes before the race was about to start. This year, we staked down two pop up canopies with enough space for a full on NASCAR pit stop. This was good.

Race morning 
A 6am wake up call allowed us enough time for a good breakfast and time to drive our race supplies down to our pit area. At about 7:40am, I head to the start line but found it was already full of people. I lined up about 50 people deep...not really what I wanted. As time went on, more and more people filled in sideways near the start line which would inevitably create a terrible bottleneck as soon and the gun goes off. 

10 minutes to start
I started thinking about the previous weekend, when Matt and I both did the Belgian Waffle Ride. This, my second favorite event of all time, includes 134 miles, 11,000ft of climbing, 30 miles of dirty, rocky trails and fire roads and lots of pain. My pain was intensified due to a lack of proper nutrition and a series of bad cramps that slowed me down considerably. But this week I have my electrolyte pills...shit...standing at the start line I remembered that I forgot to take some. Ok, I can handle a lap without them and I’ll grab some when I finish the first 8.5 mile lap. The race director talks about the race rules; do as many laps as you can in 8 hours. We have until 3:45pm to start our last lap, then you must be in by 4:30pm. Gun goes off. 

This is the bottleneck.  Have fun.
The bottleneck is bad through the start gate. But I make it through and begin the initial fire road climb. I can see far ahead at the front, where Menso, Levi Leipheimer and other pros are drilling it. I begin to do the same, I am slowed by many riders who probably didn’t need to line up so close to the front before the race started. It is very important to get to the first singletrack as close to the front as possible, so I’m pushing the pace. I get to the singletrack in a good position, but there are still many riders ahead of me.The rest of lap one included a lot of passing. A few stubborn riders made things difficult and some even tried to speed up when I called out for a pass.

When I reached the pit, I went straight for the electrolyte pills and downed one. I felt better. I continued on a quick pace for the second lap. Faster than I thought I should go but I felt surprisingly good so I kept it up. Traffic became less and less and after lap 2 I saw very few people around me. At the pit, I grabbed another pill, threw a portable rice cake in my pocket and headed off.

This is a Danimal.  
On lap 3, 4, 5 I began lapping other riders. Each time I saw one of my friends up the trail it gave me a little boost to catch them, give a hello and continue on my way. In the pits I continued my normal 1 electrolyte pill and rice cake per lap. At some point during these laps, I was stopped at the finish line by the race director and my race number was cut off. Apparently the electronic timing chip attached to my race number was giving me and some other racer credit for the same time. Luckily, Logan Fiedler’s dad, Ralph, who lives near Boggs, had driven up to watch. He knows the race director and helped sort out the problem and had a new race number for me on my next lap.

Lap 6, my legs start to feel it. I can tell my lap times have slowed a little, but Logan’s dad told me that I was about a minute off of first place. Wow, I thought, that can’t be right. On the final climb, my legs start to feel a cringe of a cramp...Uh oh...Luckily, I held off a full on cramp until the pit where I downed 3 electrolyte pills. After 6 laps of rice cakes and fig newtons, I grabbed a handful of Red Vines and ate them. Nothing in my life had tasted as good as those Red Vines at that moment. 

Lap 7, On the initial climb, I could feel the sugar from the Red Vines go right to my legs. I felt good, but still took it easy in case the cramps would return. At the end of the lap, more pills and more Red Vines.

Lap 8, was a survival lap. At this point of the race, your legs are tired, and you still have a couple hours until the finish. It is mentally tough, but all you can do it keep riding and surviving. More pills and Red Vines.

The Danimal experiences fatigue,
but the Danimal (for some reason)
never slows down.
Doing the Math
Lap 9, I’ve done the math by the time I start this lap, I have 2 more laps to go. This would get me back to the finish by about 3:50pm. My lap times were hovering around 50 minutes at this point so I knew leaving for an 11th lap at 3:50pm wouldn’t get me back to the finish by 4:30pm. Lap 10, OK, last lap. I figured I would keep the same pace I had the last couple laps. Nothing crazy. If I saw someone in my category pass me, I would follow them and try to beat them at the finish. I rode the entire lap and saw no one pass me in my category. I finished the final climb and coasted down to the finish. It was 3:50 and it felt good to be done. I rode to the pit where Jim was hanging out. 

“You’re in first place” he said. “Awesome! It feels good to be done.” I said. “You’re not going out for another lap?” Jim said. 

“No...I wouldn’t finish by 4:30pm.”
“I think they changed the time to 4:45pm, go ask Jason, he’s at the finish area." 

I rode over to the finish area where Jason was looking up my position on the live tracking IPads they had displayed. He confirmed the same thing, I had until 4:45pm to finish. Checking the live feed we noticed the second place guy had finished 1 minute after I did....shit….I jumped on the bike and tore off up the course. Jason yelled out, “You have 55 minutes to finish, the second place guy’s number is 54!” It had been 5 minutes since I finished. 

I was in frantic chase mode. I figured #54 was 4 minutes ahead of me and I had just lost my first place position due to a finish time change that I wasn’t aware of. I was pushing it as hard as I could with 8 hours and 85 miles in my legs already. In my rush I didn’t have time to grab any more food. I had a couple red vines in my pocket so I downed those and kept riding. As I passed people, I asked if they had seen #54. Nobody had seen him or they hadn’t been paying attention. I kept rushing. About halfway through the lap, I see Jason King is there with a Gel and more Red Vines. I grab the Gel and he yells out that I am still in first. I apparently left for the 11th lap before #54. I breathe a sigh of relief but attempt to keep pushing it. I down the Gel but almost gag and spit it out in the process.A mile or two later, a rider catches me, but doesn’t ask to pass. It is a downhill singletrack section so I don’t think much of it. We finish the downhill section and pop out on the final fireroad climb. I turn my head to check who it is behind me and I see it, on his number plate, 54.

Uh oh, this is going to get painful. He comes around me and starts drilling it. I hop on his wheel and grit my teeth. My legs are pissed and I feel a cringe that could eventually explode into leg locking cramps. It felt as though this guy may be too strong for me and I may have to back off and let him ride to victory.But as the climb steepens, #54 lets off the pace a bit. I feel better, I was able to recover a little bit and began to think about how I was going to beat this guy. 

The last mile of the course is singletrack, I knew I had to be ahead of him by that point because it would be difficult to pass before the finish. My strategy was clear: attack him on the 20% kicker at the end of the fire road climb and get to that singletrack first.We continue climbing and begin the kicker, I shift up and go. Hard. I don’t look back. I crest the climb and keep drilling to the singletrack. I don’t hear anyone behind me, but I don’t look back. I yell for other riders to clear room as I blow by them. I start the final short downhill to the finish, sneak a quick peek behind me but don’t see anyone charging after me. 

I cross the finish. 

Holy crap I did it. I won.


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