Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Leesburg Baker's Dozen 2014

I did the Leesburg Bakers Dozen 13 hour mountain bike race in Virginia this past weekend.  This was my third trip to the race and my second attempt at doing it solo.  Deciding to do the race was a last minute decision for me this year because I have a hard time committing to an event months before the race date anymore.  And, with Bakers usually selling out wicked fast, I didn't even consider putting it on my race calendar until the Wednesday afternoon before the race when a friend, Mark Liti, mentioned on Facebook that he was selling his entry.  Why not, I thought...  After confirming my entry into the race, I quickly made plans and arrangements to drive down to Leesburg, VA to do this mostly single track race that started at 9AM Saturday morning and finished 13 hours later at 10PM.

The last time I raced here solo was in 2011.  I actually preregistered for that event and it turned out to be a wet and dreary race day, which is probably why I haven't registered for it again since then .  I used a geared bike for that race and battled with Rob Spreng for much of the day, before he got the best of me and took the solo win.  This year I changed things up by using my singlespeed Specialized Epic xx1X1 to race the solo SS class because I almost never ride geared bikes anymore and I wanted something comfortable for this race.  I've got to say the Epic xx1X1 was spot on and absolutely the perfect tool for the job.  The weather for the race was also much more pleasant than it was in 2011.  In fact, the weather this year was just about perfect as could be on race day.

This is Louis. He's usually a great little dog.
My wife joined me on my trip down to Leesburg and we brought our dog, Louis, along with us.  Louis has been to a few local races, but has never traveled to an out-of-town race during the 9 years he's lived with us.  He is a friendly, smart and overall pretty mellow dog and I didn't think having him along would be an issue.  As it turned out, he was pretty freaked out about being in a hotel for the first time.  Of course, having the ice machine and one of the main hotel entrances just outside our room door did not help matters much.  Every time Louis heard ice falling into the machine or heard people entering the hotel, he'd give a little bark.  It was just enough to keep me up all night.  But, I've raced many of the NUE 100 milers on little to no sleep in the past, so I didn't let my lack of sleep mess with my mind too much.  I was too stoked to be riding on some sweet single track trails to dwell on being tired anyway.

Doing Bakers is like going to a large mountain bike community meeting.  It was cool seeing a bunch of friends I don't get to see often and also having so many racers hanging out together all day.  While standing at the starting line, for instance, I was able to catch up quickly with some friends I don't get to see often enough.  It was also cool to ride and chat with different racers on the course and share how our individual races were going.  I know time passes much more quickly when there's good conversation happening.  Of course, it always great to hear words of encouragement being passed by other racers and those helping in the pits. Adding to this experience was the large contingency of riders from the Pittsburgh, PA area making their way to Baker's.  All the PGH folks kind of grouped together in a little tent city and helped each other out.  This is where my wife and Louis helped me get through my miles also.  Thanks to you guys (especially Chris Miceli and Dan Depenhart) for letting her hang with you there.

I didn't really have a game plan set in stone for my race, but I did want to start somewhat fast to avoid the early trail bottleneck and to keep my eye on the front of the race.  After doing a few semi fast laps, my goal was to remain consistent as possible with my speed without wasting too much energy and doing my best to keep my bike and body safe.  Overall, I've got to say that I felt pretty good overall, especially considering I was basically doing the race on no sleep.  But, around mile 100, I started to feel my fatigue coming and I found myself wishing this was only a 100 mile race instead of race based off of time and distance.

Since I'm pretty accustomed to endurance racing and riding through pain, I just kept my thoughts positive and tried to enjoy the trail that I seemed to have ridden over a million times already that day.  I started doing lap count downs and did my best to continue eating, even though my stomach really did not feel like consuming much. At the end of lap 15, I took a little longer break and ate some rotisserie chicken my wife had bought from an onsite vendor.  It seemed to settle my stomach a bit and definitely gave me some more energy to jump back on my bike for the next three laps.

My last two laps were in the dark and I used a small bicycle commuter light for my racing light.  It wasn't the brightest on the trail, but I'm used to using it from when I commute to work in the dark on summer mornings and I've never had any issues with it. It only has about a 2 hour burn time at the brightest level, so my only goal for the last two laps was to finish them before my battery died. My light and body held-out for the final two laps and I finished 18 laps and 147 miles of riding about 15 minutes before the 10PM last lap cutoff.  My wife was there waiting and told me that the second place rider, Paul Tarter, was more than a lap behind and that I did not need to do a 19th lap, thank God.  But, I found out later from my buddy and the solo winner of the open class, Jake Wade, that I might have been the overall solo winner if I would have gone back out.  Oh well, I am happy with my result and was even happier that I was not required to do a 19th lap.  It felt much better for me to head back to the hotel and take a "quick" (20 minute) shower to come back to life somewhat before the bonfire lit award ceremony started than it would have doing another lap.

I've got to say that I was definitely pretty spent after finishing Bakers.  It made me remember why I haven't done one of these type of races since 2011.  It was fun experience and all, but the 100 mile endurance race is more my thing. And, after this experience, I'm not sure how the 24 hour solo guys do what they do.  I'd much rather do one big loop or a couple of big loops and see different sights rather than going around and around in circles over and over again.  I was definitely going a bit stir-crazy out there.  But, I will admit that my mind and body already seem stronger from riding all those miles and I'm feeling ready for my next race, the Cohutta 100.

On a final note, I must say congratulations to all my Pittsburgh friends who also did well at the LBD including: Lauren & Tim Mould - 1st Mixed Duo, Rob Spreng & Jim Mayoric - 1st Duo Men, and Don Powers & Joe Malone - 2nd Duo Men.  I also need to thank my wife for helping me suffer through all those miles a lot less.

Happy Trails...

Also, thanks to Gary Ryan for the racing photos!


  1. Tell us more about the Epic xx1X1. What tensioner are you using. Any set up tips?

  2. Second that on the tensioner, is it a Paul?

  3. Sorry for the late reply, Fader and Fat Bike Racer. I started with a Surly Tensioner, but it would not allow for full travel, so I switched over to a Shimano Zee shortcage DH derailleur with a clutch. I must say it works perfectly!