Longer than usual summary – because … BOGGS!
- Breakfast: two coconut macaroons, one banana, some walnuts
- First three laps: one water bottle with 2.5 scoops superstarch
- Lunch: Avocado w/ Salsa, some walnuts, a banana, ½ macaroon, some leftover greasy bacon
- Final five laps: two water bottles, 2 scoops superstarch, one Izzy’s apple soda, five margarita clif blocs with extra sodium
- Big beer at finish line, hella chips, ½ gallon of water, some awful (but free) stewed Mexican pork and rice provided by the BikeMonkey promoter.
- Half a meatball sub and salad in Calistoga on the drive home, 2 overly sweet lemonades, and two carafes of water. Tasted delicious, but the second half sandwich was a bridge too far for my stomach after six hours on the mountain bike.
- Seriously one of the most fun-filled days of riding a bike – and most fun racing I’ve done. Period.
- AO showed serious grit by doing 17 miles (two laps) in a solid time of just over two hours, despite only spending about that much time TOTAL on her single bike in all of 2014. Oh, and her rear brake failed on lap one. #hellatough
- The ride was way more fun than this looks.
The Epic Details – WARNING, may feel as long as the race itself – Perhaps the longest race report ever written
The Boggs 8 Hour Mountain bike race is an epic adventure. Similar to the LeMans endurance motorsport races, the person (or team) that completes the most laps in the allotted 8 hours, wins. This race is huge. 700 people participate, and it sells out months in advance. I was planning camp with the “C510” group I’ve been mountain biking with on weekday mornings; C510 had a huge contingent, with racers in five separate teams/categories competing. I was set to race 2 man with my buddy Chris (who finished 2nd in expert solo last year – but said the last two laps were no fun). He’s always stronger/faster than me, so I was trying to train hard to not let him down. Unfortunately, he broke his wrist two weeks before the start. So, find another partner, or race solo?
A team is born…
If Chris found 8 hours solo a bit much, I thought I would be miserable. I asked my wife, Alyshia (AO) if she’d be interested. Busy with work, she hasn’t done much on the bike in 2014 other than about five tandem rides with me, and at that point, zero rides on her single bike. But we are planning on defending our Downieville Tandem title this year, so she stepped up, thinking it would get her training kicked in gear. Nothing like racing into fitness, right? We looked at some YouTube footage of the course (looked flowing and not too technical), and the coed times. We thought we could be respectably mid-field, top 20 was reasonable. One week before the event, and with one 1.5 hour mountain bike ride in JMP in the tank, AO committed 100%. I submitted the rider exchange form, and the 2P coed team “Oakland Durt Surfers” was set to take the mass start at 8 AM on May 3.
The day was forecast to be cool (under 70 degrees), and given that AO isn’t much of a morning or cold weather fan, the plan was for me to do the first three laps to try to get out in front of some of the traffic, and then have AO do her two laps back to back (for teams, each rider must to a minimum of 2 laps). I’d then do as many laps as time or my legs would allow. This way AO could get some coffee and breakfast in her, and meet me to give a feed by my second lap. I was targeting 45 to 55 min laps, thinking I’d do about six in total. We were expecting AO to be between 1h and 1:15per lap.
8 AM, May 3, Go Time!
After a poor night’s sleep, I found myself fumbling around getting ready. I struggled to choke down my pre-race food, took off my down vest, and rolled to the start at about 7:50. I arrived to the start about 50 or 60 people back and thought about pushing through to the front but decided against it. It was going to be a long day, and I was afraid that I might try to stick tothe leaders at the start and burn the matchbook on the first lap. Plus, I didn’t wanna be a jerk. Instead, I stood next to my bike and pretended that shivering in the cold while doing some half-assed stretching was a proper warmup.
After the promoter finished rehashing the rules, we finally got the starting gun. Being so far back in the mass start, it took a few minutes for me to even move an inch forward. By the time I turned from the staging area to the start of the fire road climb, the leaders were out of sight. I moved up quickly, wanting to get to the top of the 2 mile climb ahead of a lot of the traffic that would slow things up on the single-track. Despite the lack of warmup, my legs felt great, and I was weaving through traffic moving forward, getting towards the pointy end of things.
The descent was ripping fast and fun, and I kept picking folks off. Most racers opted for a hardtail in the interest of efficiency given the rolling nature of the course, lack of serious technical features. I had opted for my Scott Spark, with 5 inches of travel and a remote lock out. The best of both worlds. At the start line I was questioning my choice, but once we hit the first descent, I was stoked. I could pass on really crappy lines without worries – and I knew as the hours ticked on, I’d feel less beat up.
At the bacon and shot handup mid-lap (yes, there was an opportunity to get bacon and a shot each lap – I didn’t partake), Jim tells me I’m about 3 minutes off the leaders. I was stoked, as I was trying to go fast enough to get out ahead of traffic, but not so hard as to feel any lactic and burn in my legs. The course was fast and fun, and so far, I hadn’t switched out of my big ring.
The lap has two major climbs, both on fire roads. The first one, which is a big ring roller. The second one at the end, is a bit steeper, and gets over 7% at the very end. I hit the bottom of the second climb at 30 minutes into my first lap, I knew that hill would start to bite later in the day, so I tried to keep it steady and not go with the one-lap riders that were punching it (for the 3P teams, each rider typically does one lap at a time, and goes full gas for the full 8.5 mile lap). I rolled through the start/finish/rider-exchange area in 40 minutes and didn’t see AO; I was 5 minutes ahead of schedule.
Laps two and three were crazy fun. My legs were good, and the second and third laps were even more fun as I had now learned the downhill lines at race pace. I’d figured out my splits to hit sub-45 minute laps, and I felt like I could keep rolling at that pace forever.
At the end of lap two, I saw AO, who offered a bottle handup. It was so cold I still had my arm-warmers on, and only had drunk 1/2 of my bottle, so I waived her off but let her know her lap would start in 40 to 45 minutes.
Lap three I hit a lot of traffic as I caught up to a lot of the women who were out on their first course, but there were lots of opportunities to pass safely. I felt so good I really wanted to stay out for a 4th lap, but it is never good to change strategy mid race, so determined to stick with the plan. It was on the final climb that I realized I didn’t really understand what I was supposed to do for the exchange, so I asked a rider I was passing on the final climb. The rider’s expression made it clear I was a dumbass and said, just cross the timing strip and your next rider goes, then you stop. “Got it!”
I see AO, kitted up in her EBVC orange, ready to roll, and I pass on through shouting her encouragement.
As Alyshia starts her lap, I roll through the pits and bump into Adrian from C510 who had just finished the third lap for his 3 man team. All C510 were on schedule, and so far, had escaped mishap. We headed back to camp together to regroup, put on some warm clothes, and get some chow.
It’s hard to truly relax while your team-mate is out turning laps. I had to keep track of time, so as to be there with whatever food/drink she might want between laps – but I also needed to stretch, and put in some needed calories. I’d just done 25 miles with almost 3000 feet of climbing at close to race pace, and I knew I had just over two hours to get some calories into the system before heading out again. I dutifully ate my food, and headed back to the start finish at 50 minutes into AO’s first lap. I found a sunny spot with good sight lines, and waited to see AO come through. She came through looking strong from her first lap, she grabbed a water bottle, took a few swigs, and tossed it down. I shouted her lap time, but I don’t know if it registered. She was looking focused and steady. She rarely takes on food/water when riding, so she opted to ride without a bottle, and only had some clif blocs in her pocket in case of emergency. Turns out she turned out her two laps on nothing other than breakfast and two swigs of water. I also learned the next day that her rear brake had failed on the second lap, so she had to be pretty cautious to let folks pass.
How many more laps?
I saw AO heading into the finish area the second time, and clicked in to my pedals. My first pedals strokes felt awful. Getting started again was a shock to the system, so I didn’t gun it, but ramped up the speed slowly.. I had felt so good on lap three, I wanted to get back to the same pace, and by the bacon/shot handup, I was on target for another sub 45 minute lap. At my split at the bottom of the last fire road climb, I was 30 minutes into the lap, spot on for a 43 minute lap, and I kept it in the big ring. As I went through the finish I still felt fresh, and though I could do three more by the time cut off, for a team total of nine – our pre-race goal.
Lap five – no worries
Heading out of the start finish area I was starting to feel the pinch, and looking at the time, realized that I should dial it back, and target 45 to 50 minute laps for the remainder of the race. The wind was picking up on the fire roads, giving an unfortunate headwind. I caught one rider who sat on my wheel. Trying to conserve energy, I flicked my elbow to encourage him to trade pulls, but he told me that wasn’t a good plan. He was right, I kept going, and rode him off my wheel. Too bad, I was hoping to do my last stint of four with as much of them as possible drafting. At that point in the race, folks are pretty much going their own pace. I’m starting to feel a little rough, and wonder if I should start eating the clif blocs in my pocket, but I’m also not sure I won’t puke if I do. I take a few swigs of superstarch instead.
Levi Leipheimer passes me on the first fire road, towing another skinny road-race looking dude along at easily double my pace. I keep a steady tempo, and manage to catch a draft on the one flattish section into a headwind. I’m doing everything I can to conserve at this point while keeping the tempo high.
As I come through the start finish I don’t take a handup, but let AO know I need juice and water the next time around.
Lap six – dance with the devil
Up the climb again and this time I’m starting to lose it. I mess up a jump that had been fun all day and nearly stack it. I take every uphill in the small ring. I’m still flying by folks on the downhills, loving the full suspension. At my mid-lap split, I’m still on target for a 55 minute lap. I go around an off camber corner and realize that my front tire is going flat. Rather than put in a tube, I just put in some air from my C02, and remount. On remount, I get a twinge of cramp.
Then on the last bit of single-track uphill before some loose switchbacks my left leg cramps up. First a little twinge. I instantly go into my smallest gear and hope to spin it out. The five folks I’d just ripped by on the DH come by. Pedaling doesn’t work, and I have to get off and stretch. The cramp ends. I try to swing my leg back over and get going, and now my leg locks up. I have to stretch some more. I don’t know what it took, but I managed to limp to the next descent, and get through that without too much trouble.
The big fire-road climb and my cramp is always threatening, and forces me a couple times to get off and walk when I’m unable to pedal. My goal is to get to the finish, have some juice, drink some water, and try for one last lap. I have time for that, at least, even if it takes over an hour.
Lap seven – demon be gone
Rolling up to the finish line, and I’m struck by how many fewer people are there at this point. I see AO and stop, drink the Izzy’s soda, take a bottle, and give her my arm warmers. I realize after I’ve left I don’t know why I gave her my warmers, I’d been trying to put them on the last lap, but didn’t have the coordination to ride no-hands anymore. AO offered to get kitted up and do the next lap, but I was certain this was going to be our final turn … surely we couldn’t turn another two in less than two hours?
Mid lap and the fruit juice and clif blocs are doing their job. Cramps are better, and so is my focus. But at my first split I hit the wrong button of my Garmin, and instead of switching screens to see my lap time, I punch the lap reset, and see I was at 27 minutes. I was going to have to remember that number to know the lap time.
A few twinges of cramp, but nothing that I can’t pedal through. I use the descents to stretch. A this point, the trails are deserted at many points, with some of the 3P teams ripping past me whenever the trail tips up. The front tire is holding air. I’m thinking this is looking like a good final lap.
Lap 8 – what’s 27 + 27?
I see AO as I cruise across the finish line. Tired. Spent. Done. Happy to have had a good time, and ready for a beer. At first, what AO is telling me doesn’t make sense.
“You have 58 minutes! You can do another lap.”
“We’re in 9th, you can do another – you have 58 minutes!”
I look down at my Garmin, the messed up second half-lap on the timer reads 27. “What’s 27 plus 27?” I ask. A this point, AO doesn’t have a clue why I’m giving her a math quiz.
“54,” she answers with a confused look. “I can kit up and give it a go,” she offers.
“How much time do I have?” I’d forgotten.
“Under 58, but you have to get going …”
“Ok, I’ll try.” And with that I shoved off.
I thought about that exchange as I went out of the pits and up the first climb. I remembered our first Downieville XC on the tandem when I was struggling with cramp, the leading tandem was just in sight on the pavement finish (rolling a flat), and AO shouted and me to put it in the big ring and “Harden the Fuck Up!” This was another harden the fuck up moment. It wasn’t for top spot on a podium, but to ensure a top 10 placing.
Two solo riders came by, and I heard them talking that the cut off was 4:45. So I had two time markers: I knew I needed to complete the lap in under 56 minutes, and I knew I had to get there by 4:45. So I watched the clock. Wanting to avoid cramping, I was keeping an easy spin. A very round fellow passed me. I let him go.
At the top of the fire-road climb I was fixated on a sign that said “wrong way” – I thought it was very useful, but I wondered why I hadn’t seen it before. Behind I heard somebody shouting “Hey, dude!” I turned to look, and saw that I’d cruised past the turn onto the first single-track by 30 yards. If he hadn’t shouted, I don’t know when I would have realized I missed my turn.
Amazingly, no cramps on the lap. At my splits I was realizing I was on pace for another 55 min lap. It was going to be very tight.
At the start of the final climb, I knew I needed to go as fast as I could, but not cramp. I had 15 minutes to get to the finish – when I was fresh it took me under ten. Another round of cramps and I wouldn’t make it. So I very slowly and incrementally increased my pace. I started to get into a rhythm, and realized my front tire was going soft again. I debated trying to keep riding it, but I thought I might stuff it on the final descent, so I risked cramp, and gingerly got off and topped off with air. I pumped up that fucker but good. I’d hit the final rock garden with 50psi, but at least my tire would have low rolling resistance!
I got back on and managed to get going again. Near the top Levi blew by me again.
Over the crest, and I had five minutes to complete the flat fire-road, the rocky section, and a final decent. I needed no traffic, no mechanicals, and no cramp. Coming down the final decent, I could hear cheers and whoops from the finishing area. My clock showed 4:42 – but I was concerned that the cheers were for it being over. I went into full sprint, legs didn’t cramp, and I got to the finish. The lap counted, officially with three minutes to spare.
The C510 boys were on hand to give me a high five, and AO had the best hand-up of all, an enormous beer.
“How many laps did you do?” One asked.
“I dunno… what’s 3 + 5?” Apparently, when I’m tired I like to give math quizzes.
“Dude, that’s eight!” More hand slapping. AO confirmed that we locked in 9th place. Reviewing the results showed me that if we’d stopped at 9 laps, we would have finished 10th.
As I struggle to get off my bike, one c510 brother offers to walk my bike back to camp. I don’t know who, but damn, thanks. I had a big beer to attend to.
You still here? Hello? Seriously, this was crazy long. Get this guy an editor…
Berkeley Hills Road Race, Cat 3. Same distance as Boggs, but in half the time… see you there?
- Mike Campbell