cirrem recap (how not to race a "gravel grinder")

Huge thanks to Steve Fuller for opening his home to me. It was hugely beneficial to be able to relax and get a great night's rest prior to the race. I am certainly 80 or 90% recovered from the cold that I've had for the last 10 days, but without taking the opportunity to come down early and relax I surely would have felt worse yesterday morning! As it was a felt well-rested and reasonably strong at 7am Saturday and completely ready to go by 10am (race time).

Also, thanks to the organizers (and all the racers!) this event had a great turnout... Here's a shot I stole from someone else of the beginning of the start. I believe there were around 80 starters.

It was great to see all the people interested in this type of riding in this type of weather! I don't know a lot of the other riders and hardly know most of the ones I do "know", but everyone was more than kind. I wish we could do it every weekend.

Initially I felt pretty strong and comfortable with the pace of the group. I felt I could "rest" in the 10th-20th position range and hopefully be ready to go with a break-away. However, that opportunity was short lived... at mile 3.74 I decided to take a drink and somehow pulled the bite-valve off of my camelback, lost it in my shirt, dropped it to the ground (there or somewhere?) and didn't realize the situation fast enough... I should have stopped and done whatever it took to find it/fix it, but I didn't. I was spewing the 70 oz (700 calories) of sports drink all over myself and the ground, all the while knowing that I would desperately need it later in the day. I pulled out of the main group and drank as much as I could and poured the rest out onto the ground so that it would stop soaking me. I then struggled to regain my position with the lead group over the next series of rollers.

Things calmed down a bit until about mile 12 or 13 and then there was a burst from some of the leaders. I was barely able to cover it and stay with the lead. The effort gave me a terrible side-cramp after all the drink I had forced myself to take on. I knew I was in trouble, but tried to hide it (not that anyone up there knew who I was anyways) and to try to rest in the back of the pack.

Around mile 17 or 18 there was another hard break and this time I actually gave up trying to stay with the group. However, I was able to catch up by taking some extra risks on a subsequent downhill.

Mile 22 brought a large hill and I was off once again. My side, legs and lungs were killing me. I couldn't believe that I was proving to be unable to keep up with the top 15 or 20 racers in a group and I knew how great the penalty for not hanging on was likely to be. However, I was powerless to do anything.

From mile 22 until the checkpoint I plodded along alone. I could feel myself become stronger as the fluids/energy levels in my body leveled off. When the group stopped at the checkpoint I was able to rejoin them. At this point I was feeling pretty strong. However, I did not try to drink anything at the checkpoint because I knew the importance of being with a group and had no functional water vessel to refill.

I learned that this group of 10? or so had also been attacked earlier and that there were 3 people likely well off the front. I was also immediately suprised by how low the pace was of this group. It was obvious that some within it were waiting and resting and that others were just barely hanging on. I wanted desperately to be able to attack it on my own terms, but knew I shouldn't given how much harder I had been forced to work prior to the checkpoint. I decided that I would have to wait until as late as possible and that any time spent with that group resting would help me to hopefully recover and even up the playing field with them.

Meanwhile I was not drinking or eating anything... I knew that eating any of the foods I had brought, with nothing to drink, would surely lead to cramps (even quicker than just not drinking anything).

When the big hill came I knew what was going to happen... I had seen the movement in the pack and knew which guys were going to go. I climbed with them reasonably comfortably, but began to fall off the back on a long gradual downhill. I was spun out in my 38x13 gear and falling back. I was able to work hard and bridge the gap prior to a couple of rollers that were hard back into the wind, but kept getting guttered and forced to fight the wind alone. I suppose they figured I was just barely hanging on and that I wouldn't be able to help them.

I felt some cramping coming on and was forced to spin and drop back from the group. I still went hard for the next 3 or 4 miles, but knew I was unlikely to bridge such a gap. I was hoping others would come from behind and work with me for a while. At one point around here a deer ran in front of my for 2 or 3 minutes... just bounding down the road at 24 or 25 mph. Two people did catch up to me toward the end of that, but we didn't organize very well (everyone was a bit tired). We came to the next climb and I cramped up for real. I actually had to get off my bike and stretch. There was about 15 miles to go.

I continued to try spin slighty easy gears and did a good job of maintaining a decent pace. At no point between mile 48 and 60 did I see anyone in front of or behind me. I felt ok with my riding and great that the cramps were going away. At mile 62 i missed a turn (yes, I missed a turn with less than 1 mile to the finish and I'm an idiot). I may have been too happy that I had completed 62 miles on 4:02 (2 minutes off of my goal time going into the event, despite all my "issues"), or I may have been way too tired to think straight.

You can imagine how the next 4 miles went... I won't type any of the thoughts that went through my head. I was passed by one rider while "off course". I was very happy to finish and I am pleased with a top 10 (even if it was a tenth). I had a lot of chances to give up and did not. In fact, I was able to work through each mistake and feel strong enough a few miles later.

Well, that's my recap. Full results are on the cirrem blog. All the people I know finished and I believe were happy to have raced.

Here's my bike after the race-

It was nice to talk to the other racers after we were done and just to see all the finishers and bikes. In the end it was an awesome day.

oh ya- we got a new car too... I love it! Great fun to drive and with excellent gas mileage. I will be doing some "tuning" here in the near future, expect it to more than haul ass.

It's definitely an "upgrade" when it comes to our needs (and my entertainment) vs. the g35x

I can hardly wait the 10 days before the Spring Training in Decorah weekend!


  1. Great read. I love reading about all the little things that can and do go right/wrong during the course of a race!

  2. well, that means something! I figured this one got way too long and boring for most (but I wanted to be able to look back at it too). Thanks!

  3. Drew,

    Saw you had a Manitou SX-R on a google search on a forum. I am looking to do a rebuild on mine, do you still have yours? Would you be willing to sell it via paypal and ship it to Knoxville TN?

    Sorry to track you down like this...have been looking for an SX-R for a while!


    Ben Hyman

  4. Sorry, I didn't ask you, but could you email me at bhyman1088@gmail.com? Or give me a call at 865-748-9648, I'd appreciate it!

  5. Considering you had a top 10 finish with next to no fluids, I think you did pretty damn well. :) Always happy to give a bed to someone when they are in town. I'm a big believer in karma. :)

  6. Excellent job, both on placing 10th, and in a good write up.