Idaho Smoke ‘n’ Fire 400: Race Strategy

2014-08-22 21.56.20

Planning is a critical key to any major endeavor. Whenever I decide to take myself to another level physically, mentally, spiritually, or financially my first step is to set the overall goal. My goal for the Idaho Smoke ‘n’ Fire 400 was to complete the entire 420 mile course. The next step was to separate the goal of finishing the race into three classifications: moderate, challenging, and aggressive. I did this to push myself beyond coasting and just finishing.Each level would allow me to continually push myself throughout the race.

The Three Classifications

  1.   Moderate– 4 days and 15 Hours- To be done by 10:00 PM Sunday which was dictated by  business travel plans for Monday morning.
  2.   Challenging– Finish in 4 days, be done by 7:00 AM Sunday
  3.   Aggressive– 3 1/2 days to be done by 7:00 PM Saturday

With the above goals set, I prepared by scouting the course. I used training rides to practice parts of the course and driving the rest of it, I developed feel for the magnitude of the race. To successfully complete the course I needed a good plan. I used the concept of “chunking down,” which is breaking big pieces into small manageable pieces. This allowed me to think of the race as 5 manageable pieces instead of one overwhelming event. The cue sheets provided on the web site broke the race into five sections:

  1. 89 Miles from Boise to Featherville
  2. 70 Miles from Featherville to Ketchum
  3. 97 Miles from Ketchum to Stanley
  4. 112 Miles from Stanley to Garden Valley
  5. 49 Mile from Garden Valley to Boise

To complete the course and have a day to recover, I decided that the best option was to reduce the number of sections from 5 to 4. Based on the mileage and difficulty I decided to split the 70 mile in section 2 and add 35 miles to sections 1 and 3. Doing so changed the course from the original 5 sections to the following four sections:

1. 124 Miles from Boise to the base of Dollarhide Summit

2. 127 Miles from the base of Dollarhide Summit to Stanley

3. 112 Miles from Stanley to Garden Valley

4. 49 Miles from Garden Valley to Boise

The last section in both cases seemed relatively short compared to the others, but it was a hard 49 miles. In addition, if I was behind, schedule miles could be added to the last day.

During the training rides I was averaging about 9 miles per hour throughout the day, which included the food and water rest stops. For the race I calculated my estimated times based on an 8 mile per hour average. Using the route sheets, I worked the estimated times and formed a couple of different angles on each section.

  1. Section 1 was dictated by the race start time of 7:00 am. Doing 130 miles at 8 mph I would finish the day around 11:00pm and have to ride about 2 1/2 hours in the dark,
  2. Section 2 was dictated by wanting to complete the Fisher Creek Loop single track portion before it got dark at 8:30. Working backwards from the end of the Loop I determined the starting time for day 2 would have to be 6:00am and I would be riding until approximately 10:00 pm.
  3. Section 3 was a little shorter but had the grueling Scott Mountain climb. Starting at 7:00am would allow me to end the day at 8:30 just as it would be getting dark.
  4. Section 4 to be started at 8:00am and then finish in Hyde Park at 2:00pm on Saturday.

The final step of my race planning was to review all the places that food and water would be available. I plotted out where and how much food to buy. Also, exactly how many bottles of water I would need between each water location varied from 1 to 5 bottles. Water is heavy, so it is an important balancing act to not run out and not carry too much.

I decided it was a great plan, but executing it would definitely be hard.

To read more about the Idaho Smoke ‘n’ Fire 400 check out the blogs below:

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4

 

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