Eric Hunner’s Counting Coup 2009 Race Report

–RL Policar: Counting Coup has to be one of the tougher races hosted here in SoCal. On race day, it was estimated that over 300 riders participated in this yearly masochistic fest. Once again, our very own Eric Hunner didn’t disappoint us by racing this event with his single speed.

The results of my last MTNbike event have been posted, the 44 mile, 8,000 +- feet of elevation gain “Counting Coup” 2009 Pow Wow, 10th place overall, 2nd Rigid Singlespeed, 05:09:55 time, 320 plate, age 30. I beat my 2008 time in this event by 8 minutes, this was the most important thing to do in this event. I wanted to come in under five hours, it just didn’t happen. It was bitter cold on March 7, 2009. The event started at 05:30am in the dark. I was armed with a Mini Mag 2 AA LED flashlight zip tied to my helmet, this little light supplied plenty of power until sunrise, don’t knock it until you try it.

I was greeted by The “Moe” at the start of the race, he has some really pictures of Eric Young my buddy, and myself with sunblock not rubbed in, all over my face. I was a little distracted when applying sunblock due to the events early start and trying to make coffee on a Coleman Stove, I think next year I am going to stay at home the night before the race and not camp. I love camping but I am aiming for the Vision Quest next year on a SS. I am going to need every bit of luck next year to finish the VQ one of the 10 most difficult MTN Bike events in the country, and still be able to move when it is all done.

The Pow Wow started on time and we were off to Beeks place, some 10 miles away uphill. I am greeted by Joe “Mama Jamma” about an hour later. He snapped some sweet pictures and gave me some support to dig out steep climb around the corner.

The other riders around me looked at me like they wanted some support from their peers as well. I pedaled another 12 miles before a rocky, narrow switchback called Motorway. I made it down even passing three full suspension bikes, and letting two speed demons pass me as to not be in the way. I get to the first aid station and go to take my Ergon Backpack off to refill the bladder, I had to get help from one the volunteers to get my pack unclasped. My hands were freezing and rattled after coming down Motorway on a rigid bike. Soon my hands were feeling normal again, I was refueled and ready to climb Maple Springs. I caught up to my biggest competition at the SRC race’s Mr. Rod Leveque and offered him some teriyaki turkey jerky, he looked at me like I was crazy. Rod was in the Vision Quest (56 mile) event on gears. We had some friendly hill climbing competition together eventually he broke away.

I was able to pedal up most of the hills this year, I removed my Spot hub and laced in a new Hope SS hub days before the race. With this change I had a built in travel alarm for hikers, and was able to easily change my gearing to 32×20, last year I ran 32×18 and fought cramps early in the morning and hiked most of the steep terrain. Being able to pedal most of the hills this year feels better than walking, and its faster. I thought I would able to come in under five hours with not hiking as much this year but two factors were the snowy ice on top of Saddleback mountain slowed me down, and the bitter cold, it took me forever to feel my burn. The cold weather was keeping me numb.

After all the climbing I was again greeted with another downhill to the finish line, if you have never been down Upper Holy Jim put it on your short to do list, if you like scary ruts going into corners, rocks, stairs steps, gravel, switchback’s, rollers, high speed action for some 10 miles. I made it though the 44 miles without injury, bike failure, or cramps thanks to SportLegs, six liters of fluid while riding. Next year I aim to step it up to the Vision Quest (56 mile) and keep climbing when I get to the bottom of Holy Jim. It is time to start training for next year’s Pow Wow already

To see more of Eric’s photos from the event (56 total!), check out the Counting Coup Flickr Set.

Endurance Racer, Jeff “Mr. 24” Kerkove interview chit chatted with Endurance Racer, Jeff “Mr.24” Kerkove to get an idea what this whole endurance racing thing is all about. Jeff is also a fellow blogger and his site resides on…

Check out the interview…

Please tell us about yourself, who you are, what you do.

jeff kerkove

Geez, where to begin? I grew up in Iowa and recently moved to Colorado back in October. Bikes have always been a part of my life and have managed to make it a full time job. In the Spring of 2007 I joined a 2 man team put together to help grow the Ergon brand in North America. Before Ergon, I spent 7 years in retail in the bike shop environment. The bike shop job was part love of the sport and part “job to get by” until I find a job in graphic design, which I went to college for. Needless to say, the passion for bikes outweighed the passion for design. One thing led to another…..and now I am in charge of marketing and sponsorships for Ergon USA and also focus on racing endurance for the Topeak-Ergon Team

How you got the nick name, “Mr.24?”

Nickname came from a co-worker while working at the bike shop. I was focusing on solo 12 and 24 hour mountain bike races and doing very well with results. This led to the name which grew over the net via all the blogs. I would go to events around the USA and would be called Mr. 24. I just kept growing.

What kind of training do you do to get ready for these types of races?

The short answer: ride a lot!

The detailed answer: I have a coach and we focus an all sorts of training. I train by heart rate and through a power meter which tells me how many watts I am putting out. It’s very structured. Most of my training rides are done on the road bike and last anywhere from 2 to 5 hours. I would say that I am training on the bike about 15 hours a week….and every one of those hours has a specific goal. There are no “junk miles.” Everything has a goal. A few times a week I will get out for a 4-5 hour mountain bike training session. This is needed to work on strength and get the body used to the general beating it takes for the terrain that mountain biking offers.

jeff kerkove

How long before an endurance do you prepare and what kind of bike is perfect for the endurance races.

My prep starts about 3-4 days before the event. This involves charging batteries for the lights, organizing clothing, gathering up spare bike parts, heading to the store to get race food, and lining up all the other items for my pit area. This is also a good time to focus on good sleep and eating right. Sometimes, I will go online and do some ‘beta’ on the race and past runnings of the event.

What’s the perfect bike? Not sure there is one. I ride a full suspension XC bike with 3 inches of front and rear travel. This, for me, has comfort and solid pedaling. (photos of my primary race bike)

Do most endurance racers use hard tails or full suspension?

Most are on FS bike. Racers need that added comfort since they are on the bike any where from 6-24 hours. You do get a few folks on hardtails, but it really comes down to how much you want to suffer. Ultimately, fatigue is what makes you slower. I might add, that with the emergence of the 29er….you are seeing more hardtails in the 29er format.

Any special meals before a race? Superstitious things you may do?

Don’t really have any special meals. It varies from eggs and pancakes to oatmeal and bananas. Kind of depends on my “gut mood” that day and what looks good. Got to throw in that I need that AM java kick as well.

I do have some superstitions. I only allow myself to wrench on my bikes before the race. Also, I am a very organized person. My pit has to be laid out in a specific way before the race starts. Kind of like always straightening out the crooked picture on the wall.

Is there a particular race that you mark on your calendar at the beginning of the year?

I always pick 2-3 events a year to focus on. This year my coach and myself designed my plan around the Marathon Nationals and Breckenridge 100 in Breckenridge, CO as well as either the Leadville 100 or the Brian Head Epic Stage Race. My 2008 training plan is designed to have me riding my fastest in July and August.

Will any of your races bring you towards So.Cal? If so, you can stay at Moe’s place!

Moe’s place? Cool! Unfortunately, I have no plans for So. Cal this year. Most of my events this year are in the inner mountain west.

Why this kind of racing? It just seems much harder than anything else out there.

Back in 2003 when I wanted to get away from the 2 hour XC format, 24 hour racing was the hardest challenge available….and it still is. It was a new focus and strategy. I am glad I made the leap over to the endurance side of the sport. Whether it’s a 24 hour race or a 100 mile race, you get to see something instead of having you nose stuck to the stem going 110% for 2 hours on the same 5 mile loop.

What do you think of Rock Racing stealing Ergon’s team colors?

Green is the new black. Or is it white? Heck, I don’t know. It does seem that green is starting to become a more popular color. That’s cool with me. Ergon might have been one of the first in the bike industry….and people identify the brand by that green. So, right now, things are good.

Just to have some fun, why do you think Ergon products are WAY better than the other stuff you see in the market?

Ergon was the first and will always be the first in ergonomic grips. There are numerous copy-cats already. They look like Ergon grips….but in reality are very far off from the bigger picture. For me, I came into Ergon while working at the bike shop. I needed a solution for sore hands and wrists during my 24 hour races. I bought a pair…..and the rest is history. How can you hate a grip that is available in Team Green?

Last question, if you drink, Beer or Wine…and please don’t say ZIMA!

A good glass of red wine. Sorry, not a beer drinker. Can’t stand the stuff.

We’d like to thank Jeff for taking the time to shoot the breeze with us and we wish him all the luck for the 2008 season!