Tuesday, April 29, 2008

ARANTIX'S FIRST RACE- 24 HOURS OF KONA IN THE OLD PUEBLO



I was so excited about our first race with the ARANTIX and I went on vacation right after the race that I did quite a long write up on it. It details the history of how we got the bikes, the race, the feel of the bike and my initial impressions. So this might be of some historical interest for future readers.


Initially written: February, 2008..................................


HOURS OF OLD PUEBLO ARANTIX DEBUE


STATS:

BIKE: ARANTIX made by Delta 7 Sports (delta7sports.com) FIRST RACE DEBUE.
RIDER/AUTHOR: KARL VIZMEG AGE: 41 RIDER LEVEL: EXPERT
VENUE: 24 HOURS OF OLD PUEBLO near TUCSON ARIZONA
DATE: Saturday Feb. 16TH, 2008
TEAM: 4 MAN OPEN (FIELD OF ABOUT 130 TEAMS)
RACERS AND ORDER: KARL VIZMEG- ARANTIX
CARSON CHENOWYTH-ARANTIX
KEITH PAYNE- GARY FISHER
SCOTT BILLINGS- GARY FISHER

PROLOGUE

I heard about the Arantix from a friend soon after it was shown at the Salt Lake Sport Expo in November. The “WOW” factor hit me like it does with most on first impression. I then noticed it was made in Payson, Utah, in the same town that I work. A bright but far-fetched idea came to me. What if they would sponsor me! --or at the least I might be able to see it! It was worth a shot, so I sent off an email. I listed my last year’s race experience and noted that there was an upcoming 24-hour relay race in Arizona. The marketing representative, Lester Maranuka, emailed me back promptly with a polite invite to meet with him. I was excited to see and try the bike.

I met with Lester and was intrigued by the bike and especially by the Isotruss technology it was developed to demonstrate. (isotruss.org.) I was one of the first that approached the company for sponsorship and the fact that I was local and had participated in a large number of races seemed to impress them. We worked out a deal to race the Arantix at the 24 hours of the Pueblo race. Following is the review of the race and the bike’s performance.

THE BIKE

The Arantix was developed in late 2007 by the newly formed company Delta 7 Sports a subsidiary of Advanced Composite Solutions. Isotruss was developed by Dr. David Jensen at BYU, using composite lattice configurations interwoven into a structure that has an incredible strength-to-weight ratio. The Arantix frame is hand woven carbon fiber wrapped in Kevlar. The weight of the frame is 2.6 lbs., with no rider weight-limitation imposed. The Arantix I was loaded with Shimano XTR brakes, shifters, derailers, and cranks. I changed out the wheel set and tubes to Bontrager X-lite tubeless wheels and Tubeless Maxxis Larsen TT LUST tires. The total bike weight came to 22 lbs.

THE RIDER

I am a 41 year old ER physician working in Payson, Utah, the same city where Delta 7 Sports is located. At race time I weighed 167 lbs (5 lbs. less than last year) with a height of 5’9”. My prior racing has been on a 2006 Specialized Stump-jumper which is full suspension and weighed about 7 lbs more than the Arantix. I figured I was down more than 10 lbs of weight for this race and was excited to see how the weight loss would feel racing. I’ve been racing for three years with Mad Dog Cycles Race Team in Orem, Utah and last year I progressed up to Expert. The current team of Keith, Carson, Scott and I have raced the 24 hours of Moab for 3 years and last year placed second in the four man sport class. We also raced in last years 24 Hours of Pueblo placing 9th .

THE RACE COURSE

The 24-hour race in Old Pueblo is a 16 mile course located just northeast of Tucson in the Oro Valley area. The route winds through various species of menacing, treacherous cacti with a total of 1200 feet in elevation gain. The path is generally hard-packed sand and nearly all of it can be done in the large chain ring. This makes for a fast continuous pace throughout the course, leaving few opportunities for rest. The course’s infamous beginning has a series of seven rolling hills called the Seven Sisters (although there are other less polite names used as well). The middle of the course consists of winding, and sometimes tight turns, through the cactus desert, until the rider reaches the last fourth of the course, which requires a steady climb up to the ridge, culminating in a fast, furious descent back to the Start/finish. Just before the finish there is one “technical” rock drop of about 20 feet which is a favorite site for spectators to cheer or take pictures. At the finish line the cyclist passes off the baton to the next rider, while the first one does his utmost to recover for his next run.

THE NEW BIKES

Delta 7 Sports had just started production of their new hand-made bikes and there were only two bikes ready by the time of the race. Six days before the race, Carson and I made a four-hour trip south to St. George looking for dry dirt to try out the new bikes. We spent the day riding, adjusting, riding, and more adjusting the bikes to make them fit us. We were actually pleasantly surprised at how quickly we were able to feel comfortable with the bikes. The bikes seemed responsive; they were light, they were tight on the up-climb, and they ripped corners well. On the down-hills the bike seemed strong and solid with no evidence of vibration or loose components. They were great! After 5 hours of riding we headed back home and had the rest of the week to recover.

THE RACE – 24 HOURS IN THE OLD PUEBLO – February 16, 2008

Mad Dog Race Team had entered three four-person teams in the race. We all planned to meet by Friday morning at the venue to be able to pre-ride the course, but Mother Nature apparently had other plans for us. During the 12 hour ride down we encountered snow, sleet, ice and finally 9 miles of slimy mud getting into the race site. That whole day it continued to get colder and wetter and it snowed the night before the race! We were NOT going to pre-ride the course in that weather but neither was anyone else. It did finally stop raining, and the sandy course seemed to absorb the water quickly.

The race begins with roughly a third of a mile of running before we jump on our bikes and take off on the course. Each team has its own selection criteria as to who gets the “privilege” of going first. For our team I seem to be the appointed volunteer to do the running each time. I don’t mind running as much as the others do, and I seem to be able to get out towards the front enough so that I don’t get caught in the inevitable pile-up in the middle.

LAP ONE

At noon on Saturday the countdown started and we were off running. I was one of the first twenty to hit the course. Things started well. The first lap was somewhat unpredictable since no one had had a chance to pre-ride the course. Fortunately, the weather did make the sand quite firm and fast. We hit the *#!ches (I mean the seven sisters) rather hard, with the result that the weeding out process had begun. I was able to “hang” at the back of the front group but my quads were still tight and not completely warmed up.

Near the top of the 6th sister is a good sized mound that can be hit hard if you’ve built up momentum from the final hill. This tends to set you up for a good jump which helps clear the immediate depression after the mound. The landing can be hard on the other side. With adrenalin pumping, I hit the jump fast, cleared the depression and hit the landing hard. That’s when I remembered I was on a new bike made of carbon fiber mesh. Momentarily the question crossed my mind as to how this webbed bike would handle the impact. That fear was brief and unfounded, as I cruised up the remainder of the hill without hesitation ready to hit the last sister.

During the first lap there were just a few wet spots to slog through but generally the course was good. This year there were two miles of extra track added to the middle of the course, called the “His and Hers” trail. The surprisingly tight turns were fun, except for the continued threat of painful cacti reaching out to grab me. And one did latch onto my arm for about 4 miles and then fell off. I finally reached the point where the course crossed the main road signaling the final and steepest section. I finally crested the ridge and was set for the last down hill to the finish. So far so good!

As my speed increased on the descent my attention returned to the bike. I hadn’t really thought about it since “The Sisters.” I wasn’t sore, which often happens with intense riding on a new bike, and I felt this lap had gone well. But the lap was not over yet. This last rocky downhill stretch was going to be the true test for the Arantix. The path starts high and drops through several ditch-like compressions with many rocks to either avoid or ride over. My style of riding usually takes me over the rocks. I held my breath and let the bike do its job. No problem! The bike glided effortlessly over the rocks and through the depressions and all that was left was the “rock drop”.

The top part of the drop is the toughest for me since it requires an essentially 90 degree turn onto solid stone which is angled away from the turn. I climbed onto the stone without mishap and let loose down the drop. The angle of the drop is about 40 degrees and the stretch is about 20 feet of slick-rock. It ends with a small 18 inch drop followed immediately by a sharp 90 degree turn. Once I hit dirt I had to immediately tap the brakes and quickly lean into the turn to keep from running off the course; which usually is not a good thing to do amongst the cacti. Well I made the drop to cheers and by now familiar hollers of “cool bike dude” and was finishing my first lap. I handed off the baton to Carson and Arantix #2 was off. I figured I only had 4 more laps to go.

RECOVERY

I came in as the top 20 finishers for that lap which felt good. I got off the bike and felt my legs to be rather tight which was not good after the first lap. Was it the run, the bike, lack of recovery or cold weather? I wasn’t sure. My back was fine and I wasn’t cramping and most importantly my lungs felt good. This in the past had been a limiting factor in these long races.

I realized the most essential post lap work consisted of rehydrating since I literally on such a short intense lap did not drink anything. There was just not enough time during the race. I next got my wet cloths off and turned to the task of refueling myself. Finally, I inspected the bike, cleaned and oiled it, and checked the tires and gears. After the first lap I especially went over the new bike’s frame to make sure there were no breaks or cracks. After close inspection I felt satisfied and quite comfortable the Arantix and I would get along. I was ready for the next lap.

LAP TWO

Carson came back with a screaming time of 1:09! Keith was next and laid down a respectable lap also. However, we were faced with a dilemma at this juncture. Scott who was next in line for the rotation had become ill through the night. He had chills and aches and was feeling really weak. He had lain in bed the whole morning. We offered to take him out of the rotation until he felt good. He however would not let this happen and took his turn.

This is where I screwed up. I was under the understanding that the time deadline when we had to have our lights on was 5:30 pm. I found out as I lined up at 4:55 that it was really 5 pm. I had to race back up the hill to camp, get my light and attach it to my helmet and head back to the start. I got back at 5:09 but Scott was there waiting for me since 5:03. We lost 6 minutes.

I was pissed and the adrenalin was pumping. And the Arantix and I took off at a hard pace. I hit the sixth jump solidly with confidence in the bike this time, landed it solidly and continued on. I settled in after the seven sisters to a good smooth pace. The course was solidly packed by this time and even faster than last time. I was getting more and more confident of how well the bike cornered and I hit the turns harder and faster. The wet boggy spots were now packed and not a factor and the sun was still out, though it was beginning to cool down. The bike was tight and responsive up the last climb and I slid into the finish at 6:19. I was ecstatic of how fun and fast the lap was but frustrated with my screw up and official time. This time my legs were not feeling tight and in general I was feeling in great shape for more laps. I was becoming very comfortable with the Arantix.

RECOVERY 2

By now the recovery was routine and I felt quite strong for the next lap. The difficult times were coming, though. It was getting colder and night riding is always more of a challenge. Carson went after me and pulled in an awesome 1:12 mostly night lap, followed by Keith’s 1:22 night lap. Scott still wasn’t feeling well and stayed in bed much of the time. I am not sure whether he even ate anything between laps. Scott gallantly went out for his second lap in the cold night. He looked beat. I was to follow. Well again I screwed up. I misjudged the time Scott would be in. So when I approached the start tent I again heard my name being called. My heart sank even further than the last time and my stomach tightened up. That was a rough way to start a night lap. I headed out at 10:29 pm having lost 7 more minutes.

LAP 3

The lap started out a bit slow getting used to my lamps and the dark until I got to the second sister. I was closing in on a relatively fast rider going up the second hill. I felt I was not pushing it hard enough so I figured I’d make it a goal to pass him. Well I caught him off guard and passed him on the uphill but he quickly recovered and passed me on the downhill as I took an extra breather before the next hill. I managed to stay with him for the rest of the sisters but couldn’t pass him. I settled to stay behind him for a while to see what kind of pace he would set. I finally noticed him slowing and decided on one last past attempt. I past him cordially and he said cockily “go ahead I’ll see if I can hang with you”. That’s the last I saw of him. I could tell it was getting colder by the end of the lap but by then I was about done. But I did wonder how the next one might be.

RECOVERY 3

That recovery consisted of standing next to the propane heater for 15 minutes to warm up, a bit to eat, getting the wet clothes off and jumping into the sleeping bag for some sleep. There was a small time mix up between Scott and Carson and Carson was a couple minutes late meeting me after that lap so we lost another 2 minutes. Keith pulled in and Scott unbelievably went out for another. He came in drained and looked wasted. I don’t know what kept him going.

LAP 4

This was my hardest lap. It had become misty and colder. The cacti were frosted and even the course was wetter and stickier. I was cold from the start. I figured maybe if I rode extra hard and worked up enough heat I would feel warmer. This worked for a mile or two but I was running out of steam. The most I could do was keep a steady pace. I could feel my hands freezing first but soon my whole body was chilled. I don’t remember much more about that lap except that on the final down hill I was glad I had the Shimano XTR shifters which did not require me to up shift with my thumb. It was too frozen to have done the trick. I was able to up-shift with my hand and I put it into high gear and flew down the last stretch to get back to the finish and warmth as soon as possible.

But before finishing I was faced again with the drop-off. Well I set up to make the sharp turn left when partly because of my fatigue and mostly due to the frosted rock my front end slipped out from under me. For an eternal moment I was sliding off the drop and into the other rocks. But at the last minute I did some less than graceful hopping and balancing acts and caught myself before I went down. I took a second to recover and finally feeling warmer from the excitement I finished the lap.

RECOVERY 4

I hurried back to the camp and sat by the heater for about ½ hour before I could do anything else, which was only to hydrate and crawl into my sleeping bag. Carson and his Arantix returned in an incredible 1:23 and Keith followed with a close 1:24. Scott, who surprisingly looked a bit better wouldn’t give up and did his last lap. By then the sun was up, warm and brilliant and this served to lift my spirits. Despite the last lap I was hardly sore and felt surprisingly strong. I was actually looking forward to one more last lap to be able to end up on a good note.

LAP 5

I was off at 10:03 am and I was feeling goooood! I hit the seven #@!ches harder than I have ever before and I kept up that intensity afterwards as well. I new I was going to run out of steam but I didn’t care. It was the last lap and I was going to blow any reserve I had left. By then the Arantix and I were one. I was in a zone, the course was packed again and it was warm and SUNNY! Despite 4 prior laps and feeling as if I was going to freeze the last lap I was having fun and doing what I loved. My adrenalin level was high and it wasn’t going away! I finished exhausted and happy in a time of 1:10.

The race was over for me. Carson had time for one more lap before the noon deadline and he pulled off a 1:11. I do enjoy racing with him since we are so close in times. We came in 15th overall out of over 130 teams which is respectable considering we were racing pro teams, dealing with illness and my mistakes.

As the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo slogan reads: It was a good day on the bike (Arantix).

Thank you Carson, Keith and Scott for another great experience!

Thank you Delta 7 Sports for a great ride!







Remember; the rate limiting component in cycling is the engine. Ride on.....

2 comments:

sportyjv21 said...

Karl sounds like an awesome ride! I wish I could have been there to see it. I'm psyched about your new cool bike and have told all of my friends! I liked how easy your blog was to read and I'll have to stay tuned for what comes up next... when do you have time to type all this out? haha.
Good luck on your next ride!
~Jessy

Karl Vizmeg said...

Midnight is for typing. Thanks for the feedback, sis.