BWR 2013 tune-up and teardown

The 2013 Belgian Waffle Ride will be harder than the 2012 inaugural edition. I’m sharing this post to help you prepare for it. After riding the entire course yesterday, it drove home what a monumental day in the saddle the actual ride promises to be.

Lots of my friends are posting their mileage on Strava and doing big days in order to prep for the BWR. This is good. What follows is some sound advice on how to make sure you arrive on April 7 in the best condition possible.

It’s more than miles and climbs

The course covers about 130 miles and has about 12,000 feet of climbing. You would think that by doing 120-mile training rides with 8,000-9,000 feet of climbing you were preparing adequately.

However, the difficulties of the BWR are greater than distance and elevation. The ride is made exponentially harder by the dirt climbs, the unpaved descents, the grueling 2-mile section of soft sand on Country Club Road, and the longer (but firmer) dirt and rock section along Lake Hodges.

The elevation numbers are also deceptive because they don’t come in long sustained climbs like Piuma or Latigo. Rather, they accumulate in dozens and dozens and dozens of stabbing rollers that sap your strength and endurance.

This difficulty is increased because all of the hard dirt sections occur well past the halfway mark. The Lake Hodges dirt and rock trail happens with less than 20 miles to go, and the soft sand steep climb of Questhaven happens towards the very end. After all your resources have been plundered, you’re then faced with the unthinkable: Getting to the top of San Elijo and then climbing Double Peak.

The ride will be harder because more people will have prepared for it, more people will know the course, at least two UCI pros will be toeing the line along with some of the best amateur racers in SoCal, and therefore the nation.

There’s only one way to prepare

That way is to ride the course. Whatever excuses, reasons, obligations, or conflicts you think you have, if you’ve signed up for the 2013 BWR you must ride the course at least once before April 7. You can pick up the entire route by looking at my Strava map for 3/2/2013 (begin at the Bonsall River trail; the first part of the ride was a true stop-and-start in cul-de-sac hell reconnaissance).

There’s also a full recon ride on 3/17/13. Anyone can come, but you should have a buddy who knows the course or have a map because there will be no waiting or regrouping.

Pick your goals beforehand

Even pre-riding the race won’t help all that much if you haven’t selected a goal prior to the ride. Here are the goals you should choose from. Don’t be greedy.

  1. I just want to get the finisher’s jersey and complete the ride without it being a living hell.
  2. I want to ride as long as I can with the leaders.
  3. I want one of the special jerseys: Sprint, Hardman, KOM, KOD.
  4. I want to win.

If you’ve selected 2, 3, or 4, I can’t help you, except to say that you are one of the top racers in the nation in your category, or you are hopelessly deluded and need a good therapist. My friend Noel O’Malley is currently accepting referrals.

Finishing strong

I categorize #1 as “finishing strong.” The ride will be hard. You will be challenged. You will be exhausted. But 95% of the ride will feel well within your limits, and 5% will take you outside your comfort zone. In short, at the end you’ll have a lot of great stories and will still be able to stand, talk, and carry on semi-normal functions.

None of the alternatives to finishing strong are good ones. They are all nightmare scenarios, and I’ve lived through them all both on my two recon rides last year, my one recon ride so far in 2013, and my numerous unhappy road cycling encounters in North County San Diego riding with my “friends” on “tempo rides.”

So, here’s what I’ve gleaned. It can help you if you let it.

  1. Pre-ride the course at least once. Do it twice and you’re 80% of the way to being golden.
  2. Run your tires at 80 psi. This will be sufficiently hard to roll well on the pavement, and soft enough to get you through the dirt and sand without tipping over, skidding out, or puncturing on the rocks.
  3. Run new, heavy duty tires. I used Hutchinson Intensive2’s yesterday and they worked like a charm.
  4. Leave your diet at home. The day before the ride, eat a big, substantial meal. The day of the ride, no matter how nervous and loose-boweled you feel, eat big at the waffle and sausage and egg breakfast. You cannot finish strong on Barbie food and candy bars.
  5. The group will accelerate once it comes off the Bonsall bike path, then shatter on the first dirt climb. Let the leaders go. You may be strong enough to follow, but they will drain you and drop you around mile 40 or before, leaving you with the entire ride and all its hard sections to do on gassed legs.
  6. Don’t fall in with a small grupetto of hammerheads. Choose your companions wisely, and don’t put yourself in a position where you’re taking glory pulls or pulling hard for mile after mile.
  7. Take advantage of every rest stop, but don’t dismount for more than five minutes. Fill your bottle, eat if you need to, and get right back on.
  8. Whenever you start feeling good or strong, remind yourself that it’s a trick and a trap. Unless you’re ten miles from Double Peak or less, any “good” sensations are meaningless. In fact, you’ll feel wondrous up to Couser Canyon; it’s after this climb that most people realize they’ve gone too hard too early, they’re totally blown, and they’re only halfway in.
  9. You’ve got to get some dirt practice on your road bike, so go get some dirt practice on your road bike. Not your mountain bike. Your road bike, unless you plan to do the BWR on your MTB.
  10. Take a minute to review the BWR rides by me and by Michael Marckx a/k/a MMX on 3/2/2013. It’s a good comparison between what one of the leaders will look like and what a flailer looks like when the wheels come off the wagon at the end of the dirt section at Lake Hodges.
  11. Do the route at least once. The full route, no matter how awful. You will thank me later. Effusively.

Finally, start taking measurements for that beautiful Joe Yule/StageOne finisher’s jersey that you’ll wear with pride and satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment for the rest of your life!

END

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20 thoughts on “BWR 2013 tune-up and teardown”

  1. I am with you on #7. I sometimes ride on organized centuries with people who love to stop at every stop for like 30 minutes. It kills me and I end up feeling dead at the end. I feel so much better after doing a century in 5 hours while only stopping to take a piss and refill bottles than dilly-dallying for 7 hours and stopping all the time.

  2. Oh and by the way, THANK YOU for taking the time to write this. Great, sound advice.

    1. As much as I hate to break from my normal fare of nonsense and ridicule, this is something that, properly done, will stay with you for a long time. So many people are taking a lackadaisical, joking attitude that I wanted to put it in writing so there would be no misunderstanding what the ride is like.

      It’s unforgettable, but deserves a level of seriousness, strategy, planning, and execution not associated with other “big mileage” rides. You’ll be fine. Hurt and tired, but fine. And damn, that jersey is gonna look good.

  3. You must be doing this for money because no sane person would torture themselves strictly for obscure glory and a jersey… talk to someone… get some help!

  4. I’m sticking with my guaranteed method to survival — don’t do it. Like the dealer peddling smack across from the schoolyard WM teases with a taste to get you hooked. Pre-rides on Strava and blogs promising unrivaled experiences to whet your cycling appetite. Just like any other self destructive addiction it will hit you with immediate euphoria. Then you find yourself feverish, exhausted, and beaten down in some dark crevasse wishing you were dead. No rehab for you wankers. But have fun; I’m envious of all of you addicts.

  5. There sure has been a lot of disconcerting emails, phone calls and Facebook inquiries regarding all of this… if you need to ask about pee breaks, water stops, aid stations, how to get across a stream or ride your fancy bike in sand or mud, whether or not your spouse can follow you in a car, which tires, supplements, sunscreen or embrocation to use, or where might be a good place to cut back home if you are feeling tired, you certainly shouldn’t be signed up for the BWR and shouldn’t be surprised (if/when you finish) that there isn’t any “Badass” BWR ale, moules-frites, waffles or food like substance of any sort left when you do arrive under the moonlight… follow the instructions, be resourceful, beware of the purple jersey.

  6. May have to come out for that next recon ride. If I can’t do the official ride, I might as well do it unofficially!

  7. May have to come out for that next recon ride. If I can’t do the unofficial ride, I might as well do it unofficially!

  8. Thanks for the write up. Very sound advice. How about getting a download of the route?

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