Monday, June 21, 2010

Bike The Bluff - Race Re-cap

I thought I would try a somewhat detailed breakdown of Saturday's bike race.  This may run a bit long, but I hope it is still interesting to you.

On Saturday morning, I lined up at the starting line with the others in Showlow, Arizona.  A nice guy started talking to me, asking how long I'd been riding.  Maybe he wondered why I was there, given that I was easily the heaviest person there by at least 70 pounds.  We talked a bit.  I never mention that this is all a part of my "clydesdale project" see if a big guy can get healthy, lose weight and really compete in a cycling race (and soon, running!).  Maybe I should get the blog name on a jersey or something, just for fun.

Anyway, the announcers told us that we would have headwinds for the first half of the race.  Bad news given that the 17.1 mile course starts with a 6 mile hill climb (that is the "bluff" in the name "Bike the Bluff").  I chose to start near the rear of the group.  When the race began, I held my position...most of the racers were ahead of me, but several were behind.  Soon, we all spread out.  I was alone.

But then, he came.  I'll call him Stucky, for reasons you'll soon understand.  Slowly, as we were working our way up the climb, I could see him coming up behind me.  This was a grueling, slow pace...climbing the hill on a long stretch with the wind coming straight at me.  Stucky came up along side me with a big friendly "Yee-haw!'  I wasn't really in a upbeat mood (because I was working hard to get up that hill), but I tried to be pleasant back to him.  Then, he was chatting a bit...I nodded, gave a few short responses, etc., but again, for a guy of my size, this was tough work and I wasn't really able to put on a big smiley face and talk conversationally.  We were working out, right?  No big deal, that is my problem, not his.  I envied his pleasant attitude.

Then, Stucky slowed down and tucked in right behind me.  In the business, they call this "drafting"...find another cyclist and "stick" to their back tire, so that they are breaking the wind in front and you get to pedal much more easily right behind them.  This is acceptable in amatuer races with the friendly agreement that you take turns.  Stucky never got that memo. 

(This is drafting.  It is not me and not Stucky)

So, Stucky slips in behind me, right on my back tire and stays there for the next 5 miles (not joking).  Since I was working (and a bit ticked off that this guy was breaking ettiquette), I didn't talk to him or say anything.  I certainly didn't want to slow down and force him to go around me (after all, I was racing!).  So, I "pulled" him up the hill, during the toughest part of the race.   (By the way, Stucky, "you're welcome".)

At this point, I was now gassed.  We had crested the bluff and it was flat-ish for awhile.  Stucky seemed to now have more energy than me, so he pulled around me and rode ahead at a good pace.  No happy words from him now, no "thanks", no "good luck"...nothing. 

It took me about two miles to catch him.  I wanted to give him a taste of his own medicine.  I tucked right in behind him and tried to "feel" the benefit of drafting behind someone, for once.  He knew I was there.  After about 1 minute, he pulled off the road onto a little side-road, a dead-end.  Like he is somehow giving up his pace, the race, whatever, just to get me off of his back tire...after only a minute.  So long, Stucky.  Enjoying the flatter terrain, I just settled in to riding my own race and quit thinking about Stucky.

Look, we all have our own stories/challenges and for all I know, Stucky just had heart surgery or something and somehow needed me to help him up that hill.  I realize that I shouldn't be so frustrated at what he did.  But at the time, I was so disappointed that another cyclist had done this thing that I had been told was very bad form.

Anyway, the rest of the race was amazing, except for two tough, short hills, right at the end.  On the second half of the race, I got up to regular speeds of 25-28 mph that I could hold for long amounts of time.  I also got to go 35 mph on a short downhill stretch (my fastest time!).  I cooked on the second half (I couldn't really feel a tailwind, but it must have been there, helping me)!  I was happy, aggressive, and felt awesome!  (Have I mentioned lately how good I am at going downhill?  It is the only situation in sports, where gravity can really help the heavier guys and gals!).

At the end, there were two short, but steep hills that really tired me out.  A friend later said that cyclists always talk about leaving "at least one bullet in the chamber", just in case they have to end in a sprint, or on a hill.  I think I was having so much fun by pushing my speed on the second half, that I hadn't "left one in the chamber".  I got passed by one person in that last stretch, but otherwise, held my place.

In the end, here are a few things from the race that made me feel great:

  • I was actually in another race!  By committing to these races (5 in the past 8 months), I tend to stay more active in my exercise and nutrition.  If not for the event, I likely wouldn't have ridden an aggressive 17 miles on Saturday.

  • I set a goal for 1:20 mins.  I did it in 1:21.  Still, with the wind and the hills, this was the most aggressive that I have ever ridden in a race (the last three were pretty flat).

  • I did not win the race.   But I beat several in my category for this race, yet I was the heaviest one.  (And Stucky came in about 17 minutes after me!).   

  • The speed times mentioned earlier...a big deal for me.

  • My cycling jersey continues to fit very comfortably...even roomy, compared to the "painted on" look with my heavier weight earlier in the year.  Hey, Rock...thanks again for the bib shorts.  They are great.

  • By the way, the event shirts only went up to 2XL.  I usually wear 3XL.  The 2XL shirt fits fine!

  • Finally, I just felt strong!  When I needed to just settle in and work, I could.  My recent running workouts have totally helped my breathing and cardio.  When I got past the climb, I could concentrate on speed and I felt stronger than ever before.
A good race, a few personal victories and just another benchmark for me to improve upon next year.  I am about one year into this Clydesdale Project and my life is forever changed!

Big Clyde


Matty O said...


Running and biking go hand in hand, you will get benefits to each by doing each haha.

That is some serious work you did out there at the race and should be VERY PROUD by accomplishing it and beating people in the process. Friendly competition does nothing but help you workout more :)

Good job and keep up the good work!

Great write up by the way. This was a very easy read race report, I expect to see more coming from you in the upcoming months!

Lindsay said...

Great recap!!! I loved reading it, I HATE THE WIND!!! Have a great week.

Bookgirl95 said...

HAPPY FATHERS' DAY!!!!!! I love you Dad, and I hope you get your iTouch in September. :)

RockStarTri said...

regular speeds of 25-28mph that I could hold for long amounts of time How could this guy stick to you? A draft vortex of something like that?

But seriously, this is good stuff (the XXL, the strength and the life being changed for the better). Rock on!

Big Clyde said...

Matty and Lindsay, thanks for the feedback. Glad you liked the re-cap. My races have been a bit lackluster, but this one felt different.

Bookgirl95: Glad to have you back home, Sweetie!

Rock: Funny! I suppose my "long amounts of time at 25-28 mph" really only lasted for minutes, but it felt like a long time and it was awesome! Stucky was about 15 minutes behind me at that point. My speed going uphill might have been more like 7-8 mph, but I got up it! Again, thanks for the gear! I am grateful and will pass it along some day.

Al (losingharry) said...

Great job, Clyde. Next time someone like stucky pulls that drafting crap...just slam on the breaks...thats what I do in the car ;)

Dani @ WRW said...

Loved the recap! And really, what an amazing job! I've been falling in love with cycling and hope to eventually do a tri by my 40th birthday. You are such an inspiration!

Regarding the "boycott on scale" comment on my blog today, I'm totally with you on that one.

Keep up the great work!

Alan said...

Clyde, that's awesome. I appreciate the detail in which you shared your race. It's really amazing to me what you have done. I'm enjoying biking, but you've kicked it up a notch!

Christina said...

Sucky Stucky sounds super annoying. He seriously left the course to avoid returning the favor? Ugh. GREAT RIDE!!! 'Grats on the aggressive riding. Events like this are definitely motivating! Wearing that 2XL must feel pretty good. Keep it up, Clyde!

Christina said...

Haha, I'd forgotten about those health issues. I had to look back on my blog to refresh my memory. There was one bad day when I bent forward to get something out of the fridge and was doubled over with intense chest pain. I still feel pain in the same place every so often (once or twice per week), but it doesn't seem serious. Thanks for asking and reminding me - I'd really forgotten and just grown used to the occasional chest pain. I'll have to pay closer attention.

Gary said...

Clyde, sounds like a good ride and race. Someday I hope to be doing the same. keep it up

Big Daddy Diesel said...


Nice ride, way to go

Anonymous said...

Great recap!!! As one behind the scenes of Bike the Bluff it was a lot of fun to hear your view point. Hope to see you at this years event and look forward to following your success!