2017 24 Hours of Cumming 200k Gravel Race

Executive Summary:

Race Priority: B
Race Execution: A-

  • About the race: 24 Hours of Cumming is a fun, interesting and challenging gravel race in central Iowa, including three race lengths: 100k, 200k or 400k.  It is composed of four distinct loops that all start and finish in Cumming, IA and covers some scenic rural roads, including a few “B” roads (unmaintained dirt/mud roads). If you have the illusion that Iowa is flat… you’ll be in an awakening in this race.
  • What went well:  I was able to hold on to the lead pack of 100k racers for the entire first loop, coming to the 100k finish line about a minute behind the 100k winner. Being able to draft in the pack helped me have a speedy first half, made the time go by quickly, and kept me focused and pushing the pace.
  • What I could have done better:  I managed to forget my main pack of GU at home, and lost one the GU packets from my bento bag on a big bump early in the race, so I was a little short on calories by the end of the ride.  This did not end up being a big problem.
  • What I learned:  First, that 24HOC is a fantastic race venue, and I’d highly recommend it to both new and experienced gravel racers.  The racers, race support and community are all great, and it continues to grow each year.  Secondly, that a lower calorie consumption helped me avoid any serious GI distress later in the race.
  • Results:  1st place finisher of the 200k course, with an official time of 7:24:54, at an average speed of around 16.9 mph.  234 NP/ 198 AP / 147 Ave HR / 80.9 IF.  Garmin activity located here.

Nutrition:

  • Breakfast: Two Honey Stinger Waffles (300 cals total), one beet juice drink (30 cals).
  • Race: Just over three bottles of Carbo Pro (around 650 cals total), 6 1/2 GU’s (650 cals total), and 1/2 of Honey Stinger Waffle at the end of loop 1.  Total calories 1450 or around 193 per hour.  I carried a Camelbak with around 60 oz of water, drank as needed, and refilled after loop 1.

Weather conditions:   The temperature at the start was around 59 degrees and peaked around 74 degrees.  Winds started around 5 mph and peaked a little over 10 mph, the skies mostly overcast, and occasionally we had a few rain sprinkles.  Overall it was great weather for an August race in Iowa.

Race Report Commentary:

Loop 1

If I can just hold on for 30 more minutes…

24HOCB4Start

A great group before the race.  Joe and I finished first and second in the 200k, Scott finished first in the 100k Fat Bike, Sonya first place in the 100k, and Luke (and Sarah, taking the picture) finished first in the 400k team event.

As I lined up for 24HOC, I fully expected it to be a maximum effort right from the start. Both the 100k and 200k racers all started together, and historically the results showed some really fast 100k times.  My goal was to hold onto the lead pack as long as I could, but didn’t want to be stupid and push so hard that the second lap was a death march.

When the “gun” went off (the race director counted down and said “bang”), we took off at a moderate (or even slow) pace.  I was really surprised.  I used this time to work may way through the crowd to get somewhat close to the front.  I reminded myself this was a good opportunity to use this as a warm up and not to get too aggressive.  This went on for around 10 minutes and I started to get a little impatient.  I felt warmed up and I was getting concerned about the possibility of someone crashing, as riders were dodging around for position.

Capture24hoc1

At the start… the leaders already on the road…

Around the 10 minute mark, the leaders started to push the pace.  We had a solid 25 minutes of riding that thinned out the pack to around 10 riders.  It quickly became apparent how different my training and typical riding is from most of the people in the pack.  With my triathlon and time trial background, I was more comfortable on the flatter sections of the course and struggled on the climbs.  To keep general pace with the group, I’d push a bit more on the descents or start of the climbs, everyone would pass me around the middle to upper part of the hill and then I catch back up near the top or recovery.

bikegraph

My power profile… a sprinter and climber… I am not.

This was a fun and interesting part of the ride, as people where talking and the time went by pretty quick.  Well, a lot of people were talking, and all I could think about was that I was hanging on to this group by my fingernails.  I was consistently over my traditional VO2 work on the climbs and on the flip side… spent a surprising amount of time riding my brakes in the pack.  I knew I was riding at a pretty high intensity overall, but the recoveries were allowing me to stay in a reasonably heart rate zone.  The question in my mind was simply how long I could stay with the lead pack.  I knew that I needed to hold on as long as possible to maintain the draft, as there were two other riders in the pack doing the 200k race as well.  One was my friend Joe Mann, who is an awesome ultra cyclist.  What always surprises me is how Joe can carry on a conversation, while riding at 90%+ intensity, and never sounds strained at all (I’m thinking he does this to mess with my head 🙂 ).  The other was a guy on a Salsa Cutthroat, who was absolutely crushing me on the climbs… with better gearing and legitimate cycling legs.  I knew if I wanted to be in contention for the win, I had to hang in there with the pack as long as possible.  As we approached each hill, I found myself wondering if this was where I was going to get dropped for good…

I initially set my goal to simply try to stay with the leaders for the first hour.  That came and went, so my next goal was 90 minutes… then two hours… and then shockingly I was still in the lead pack after three hours.  I told Joe that I expected the leaders to drop us at any time, and he commented that he was surprised they hadn’t left us already.   The pace had been picking up and our group had been dropping in numbers, but both Joe and I were hanging in there near the front.  We watched two of the guys (in 2nd and 3rd) miss a turn with just a few miles to go and we yelled at them when we saw them get off track. Joe and I made the correct turn and pushed the pace a bit (working together) to keep the leader in sight. I kept waiting for the two guys behind us to catch us, but they never did. Joe and I came in together, a little over a minute behind the winner of the 100k race and before the 2nd and 3rd place 100k finishers… I was pleasantly surprised.  It had been an aggressive first lap, but overall I felt reasonably good (or as good as you can after riding just below 90% for nearly 3.5 hours).

loop1data

My data from Loop 1

Loop 2

Don’t screw it up…

I fumbled around getting my new water bottles, trying to get a little nutrition in, and refilling my camelbak.  Joe was waiting for me and I jumped on my bike and tried to get both my Garmin and ridewithgps on the right course as we rode (because I’m a belt and suspenders type of guy and like to make sure I’m not making any wrong turns).  After a few minutes I got myself organized, and Joe and I started working together to create a little distance between the other riders.  We were riding more like my normal style, with a more steady power output and a lot less surging on the hills (and little to no braking). We rode together for around 10 miles of loop 2, and then during one of my pulls I ended up getting ahead of Joe for a while.  I slowed up and he caught up, and we rode together for a while as we followed a tractor, waiting for a chance to pass.  On my next pull he fell back again… and when I looked back, he waved me to go on.

Overall I was feeling pretty good.  I was around 80 miles into the race and I was in a section that was somewhat flat, so I spent some extended time on my aerobars at a relatively constant power level.  Any little advantage I may have is with this type of riding, so I decided to make the most of it.  I was concerned about someone coming from behind and catching me (fear is a bigger motivator than reward for me), so I stayed on the gas as much as I could.  My mantra was “Don’t screw this up, it’s yours to lose”… more of my “positive” self-talk.  As I got closer to 100 miles, I started to fade a little.  I was back into the hills again, my legs were tired and crampy, and I was likely getting a bit low on calories. Shortly thereafter, I found myself glancing at my mileage a bit too often, as time started to drag. The last few miles were a blur of hills and gravel… with my mind focused on the finish line… “without screwing it up”.

24HOCSteve

At the finish with Steve Cannon, the Race Director.

I crossed the line at 7:24:54, and was happy with my day. My power had been solid (for me), and my power decay was in line with expectations for a longer event like this.  As is typical for me, I felt crappy after the race… flu-like symptoms… for quite some time.  Fortunately my friend Sarah Cooper was there between her races, reminding me to

24HOCJoe

Joe and I at the finish.

get calories in.  Joe finished a bit later, and we were able to hang out and recover together.  It was fun seeing others coming in and going out… it’s really a fun event and a great atmosphere.   I’d highly recommend doing this race, either as a solo or part of a team, and expect to race it again in the future.

loop2data

My data for Loop 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interested in exercise & workout articles?  Follow me on twitter @ggtrigeek, Facebook and Tri2Max.

Advertisements