17 January 2017

2017 Frosty Bottom AKA Birthday ride sufferfest

The 2017 Frosty Bottom is in the books and now I have had time to reflect a little I am happy with my performance.
There were a couple of changes to the 2017 race, call ups which I will come to later and changing the 25 course to an out and back format rather than a one way, this meant the addition of an aid station at the 25 turn around.

This year I felt more prepared than I have ever been for this race. I have been out on a few group "training" (I hate to use the word training, its a mental thing) rides with a super great group of people. They have been putting me to shame on most rides but I was starting to get used to ripping along on a fat bike in a pace line. For the last few years the Frosty has been all about the pace line.  This year however the evening before the race it snowed between 4" and 8" across the whole course. This would change everything.

Come race day I lined up towards the front of the field so I would be near the front after the call ups had been completed for the top racers in the state (this was a great addition to the race). I was positioned well towards the front of the field when the next thing I hear is my name being called since it was my Birthday, I got a call up. Slightly embarrassed as I am not a top racer in the state I took my place near the front. And we were off.
See the flash of orange that is me
- Photo Credit Josh Estes 

There I am again as we power up to join the coastal trail
- Photo Credit Amanda Blades
As we dropped down the chalet hill on the coastal trail we passed the Muni groomer who was returning from grooming the coastal trail. To be honest I am not sure this was a good thing as the trail had no time to set up. The race did go on though and we all rode along in single file "pace line" at around 8mph. Breaking trail was really slowing everyone down. The front pack edged away as we made our way along the coastal trail to Point Worzonzof where the front of the field was back together. The pace didn't really increase significantly throughout the whole race as the front group broke trail and the remaining pack tried to maintain speed and balance following in the rut that was being formed. 

I was eating and drinking and chugging along nicely I thought, hard to do when taking your hand off the bars almost caused instantaneous crashing. I had aired down my tyres and was enjoying the company of the other racers and fans out on the course. Thanks to all who sang me happy birthday it really brought a tear to my eye. 

Riding Chester creek rut
- Photo Credit Dan Bailey
Then it hit me! A twinge in my hamstring and I felt both legs start to cramp. Almost exactly two hours and 15miles in I had cramps in both legs.  I jumped off the bike and reached for my salt tablets I had been carrying just in case this happened. I know I am able to continue after cramps, though it means I don't have full power or any power come to think of it. I don't have much to start with so any loss is never a good thing. 
As I was stopped I think about 1 million people passed me, in reality it was around 15 I think. I popped the pills and took some more water, massaged my legs and got back on to start soft pedalling. I was catching back onto the people who had passed me, the extra people had smoothed out the trail so it was easier to ride, well at least this section was. 

We climbed over Tudor road and headed onto the tour trail. A couple of my team mates were near me and we were talking a little, this helped to take my mind off things. Next thing I look back and one team member has vanished where did you go Brant? As we continued along the other team mate suddenly screamed out (not that unusual) I looked back and she is on the floor in agony, she was suffering cramps too. It was frustrating not being able to help her out as I had already used up my salt tablets I offered the only advice I knew which was try to get something salty at the next checkpoint in around 4 miles. 

I left her upright but hopefully able to get back on the bike, she went on to crush me and and finish 13min ahead of me by the end of the race. 

The trail makes a small climb then descends over a bridge where another friend and teammate was out taking photos. 
- Photo Credit Ryan Greeff
From here the trail makes a lollypop with a fair amount of climbing, on good trails this is around 30min loop for me, this time it was over 1 hour. 
I saw another friend at the top/turn around, the support from friends whilst riding this event is fantastic and really boosts ones moral, thanks Andrew for coming out to support me and all the other racers. 

The great thing about this point in the course is it is the high point and pretty much all downhill back to the coast. Normally we rip down Rovers run and moose meadow and allow the legs to recover. This years snow had other ideas for us. Rovers Run and Moose meadow turned into a run/walk situation. 
Looking back up moose meadow
 to the ever smiling Christina Grande

Chasing down Moose Meadow
On rejoining the tour trail, the trail was in much better condition than I was expecting. I was suffering though and just couldn't keep up with people who were passing me. My pace continued to suffer until the aid station at Goose lake, where I took on some more fluid but I was still having to soft pedal. From the aid station the trail was much faster and I was starting to maintain a reasonable pace although I really needed to pee, again!!!!
After stopping at west chester to use the toilets I continued to slog along the remaining 9 miles back to the Chalet at Kincaid. I stopped at the top of the hill by Point Woronzof to take an energy gel as I couldn't manage to open it and maintain moving forward in a reasonable fashion. The remaining 6 ish miles clicked off fairly easily with only a couple of balance moments due to deep rut/lack of concentration. I actually powered up the final hill, ok technically a lie, but I did make it up without stopping or putting a foot down. 

I finished my 3rd Frosty Bottom in 5hrs 36 which is considerably slower than my previous attempts. However.... the first year I finished in 53rd place 4hrs 19min, in my 2nd attempt I finished in 48th place, 3hrs 28min. This year I finished in 21st place. Clearly all the training does pay off.

What could I have done differently/final thoughts.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and it allows us to reflect on what we may have been able to change to perhaps improve our performances. 
For me what did I learn, 
1. It is possible to cramp up in both legs after only 15miles even when you think you have been doing everything right. 
2. I really should use my garmin, which is way smarter than me, to set some alerts so I don't go out to hard in races. This is, I think is the possible cause of my cramping. 
3. I think if I had backed off my pace earlier on in the race I could have easily taken 30min from my time. 
4. I really like type 2 fun races, way more than I should. 
5. The bike community in Anchorage are fantastic, as were all the other users we met on the trails that and every day.  Some of the people who post things online though are complete dicks and their opinions about other trail users are very warped! 
6. It is possible that my cramps were not caused by a salt/electrolyte imbalance. I am looking into this further, and methods to overcome this. 
7. Training with faster people clearly makes me faster, I should probably (definitely) train more with a more structured program, aka I have clearly reached the limits of my just out riding training method. 

Strava file

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