• Race Report: Branched Oak 12 Hour

    The Branched Oak 12 Hour is in the books. This race had it all...90 degree temps, 90% humidity, 20-40 mph winds, course mismarkings, and much much more. By the time the dust had settled and the sun came up in the East, I completed 21 laps on the 5.5 mile course to take home first place. This race was not as easy as it might have looked. What I should say is that the first 4 hours were tough. Below is a recap of the Saturday and Sunday event.

    On Saturday around 9:30 AM Buchanandale and his wife packed up their P5 with his gear, and I packed up mine. We then slugged Westward to "the good life" that is Nebraska. The event was located at Branched Oak Rec Area which is just North of Lincoln. Once we got to the venue we waited around for the event director to set up the place so we could get primo pit space. We ended up right off the course near the transition area. Due to the hurricane force winds blowing from the South we had to keep the tents low and keep the walls off the tents. The wind, along with the heat would be a x-factor in this race.

    Once we were set up we registered. This race was a bit different. All racers were asigned either a number (teams) or a letter (solos). Plus each racer received a punch card that had to be punched after each lap. This was a simple yet effective way to keep track of everyone. Buchanandale was racer "F"

    Me, I got stuck with "E"

    So now onto the race. The race started at 6 PM Saturday and was to run till 6 AM Sunday. Yep that's right, a majority of the event was at night. Thank god, cause the first 4 hours were horrid. Most of the race field was solo racers. This was my first event in Nebraska, so I didn't know who to keep an eye on. So, the game plan was to go out conservative till the singletrack the up the pace a bit.

    Once on the bike the race was on. I was about the 5th guy to my bike, but instantly mounted up and moved to the front. The start...and end...of each lap included a 1/2 mile or so of ultra rough grass field. Think of it as riding your bike down the middle of rail road tracks. The field made it's way over the grass to the entrance to the singletrack. Once I saw the single track I went to the front and off I went. I had a few riders with me for a bit, but then found myself riding alone. At about 2 miles into the lap I came to a "Y" in the course and the marking tape was missing. Since there were no local riders to help make a decision with me I went left. Ooops! Wrong way. I went on about 80 yards before dead ending in a camp site. So I turned around only to see other riders coming at me. The short of the story...there was a course ball up. So I got back on course and was now sitting about mid-pack.

    I then had to pick off riders for the rest of the first lap. This caused me to go harder than I should, which almost cost me my race. There were 2 solo guys in front of me that were haul'n pretty good. I had to make a choice: Do I go hard and catch them and risk getting sick from the heat...or...do I ride my race and hope the heat does them in. I opted for the 2nd option. It was a good call. The heat was taking a toll for the 4 hours we rode in it. Lots of liquids were consumed. Along with ELETE and Endurolytes. Still, I would get chills, and even feel my heartbeat in the side of my head. The heat was also messing with my "flow." I was not smooth on the bike, and my power was just not there. I was loosing time to the 2 guys in front of me. I began to think if this was going to be "one of those races" You know, those races that just don't go as planned.

    Just before sundown, I came upon the 2nd place rider. He was walking along the course. I am not sure what happened to him. Was it his equipment...or his body? I pushed on with the sudden burst of power and motivation. I now only had one guy in front of me.

    As the laps when on the strategy was simple: eat, drink, and pace.

    Lap after lap I kept chasing, only to see the leader on different parts of the course. At times he had a 3 minute lead on me. Could I have chased him down early on? I think so. The only thing was to make sure to keep the body cool and happy. Chasing at too hard of a pace could have led to total body shut down in this heat.

    Stopping in for more food and water. Everytime in I would inquire as to the time gap...but that info was unavailable. Most of my nutrition for the event included bottles of HEED and ELETE. Food was mostly bite size pieces of sports bars from Balance Bar, Power Bar, and Clif Bar. I even expeiremented with POM during the event. That worked out well.

    Coming in after the first night lap. The Cateye Double Shot lit the way for the entire event for me. Number of batteries used during the event: 2

    After the first night lap I left to go back out on another lap. As i was leaving the pit, so was the solo leader. What the heck! He wad stopped and takena break. We rode out on the next lap together talking about the rest of the event. During this time he told me how he was feeling, and how his body was getting beat up riding a hardtail. After exchanging words, I picked the pace up a bit to make a break for it. This was my chance. He fell off the back a bit and I settled into my pace needed to finish off the remaining 8 hours.

    He came back close again a few laps later. I could see hit light off in the distance behind me. Never again during the race would I see him after that. Not know who or what other solo riders where on course I kept my pace into the night.

    Lap after lap...

    ...Nutritional intake lap after lap.
    Thanks Mom!

    By the time it was all said and done, I completed 21 laps. Some 7 laps more than the 2nd place rider. Throughout the night I rode by myself catching riders..but not being caught. With the race ending at 6 AM, I ended my race at 5 AM. This gave me time to shower and clean up the pit for the oncoming storm the was brewing to the South since about 4:30 AM.

    A storm to the SW moving in. Storm was visable to the South around 4 AM. Riders were bust'n butt to get in the laps before the storm arrived.

    A sign in the East that the race would soon be over.

    Overall, the race was good. Good course. Good people. I had to push through some mental aspects of the event and learn to overcome some things that arise during endurance racing. Speaking of pushing on...you should read Buchanandale's recap. WOW!

    Thanks for reading and once again thanks to the sponsors for the primo product. Once again...no problems. Look for product reviews of the Maxxis CrossMark and Cannondale Rush in the near future.