Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Rattling Creek 50

I should start this recap with my thoughts from last year. I did this race after returning from Colorado in 2011 with a hatred of rocks and thinking I may have rode a little too much on vacation. I was tentative of how the race would go to say the least. That's exactly how it played out. I was fried. I could not ride the rocks well and I had no legs to carry me through the smoother parts, or any parts, for that matter. So I finished that race but left thinking I could have done much better...

The 2012 edition had to be more successful. I still raced the RC the weekend after coming back from Colorado although I didn't ride in excess as I did the year before. Call it maturity or whatever you will but I've raced this season smarter than ever and it's starting to pay off. Although only being 2 weeks of recovery since the Wilderness 101 I felt pretty good. I wouldn't say that I felt amazing, but good enough to try and throw down at the RC.

This year the race started and finished in Lykens in a effort to build up the town and create business. It was nice having pickup in town at the train station and being able to BS with everyone. So after number pickup and warming up a bit the start was only a few minutes away. It was a smaller field but definitely packed with some great riders. I knew it was going to be possible to get in the top 10 but top 5 was not looking good.

So the start went off pretty reserved with Jed Prentice leading out the pack up the paved climb out of Lykens. I was waiting to see if anyone would jump but it only picked up a bit just as it got steep towards the top. I had flashbacks to that of the Stoopid 50 when the whole group of 30 riders fell, including myself, on each other entering the first turn. I was not going to let this happen again and I stood up and made my way to the front just before the turn. I rolled into the singletrack in 6th place behind Stephan Kincaid, Collin Becker, Rob Lichtenwalner, Chris Edmonds, and Jed Prentice. We all hung together for the first 40 or so minutes pretty well. I kept listening behind and couldn't hear anyone sneaking up so I know we had a good gap.

Getting to the rockier and more techy trails I was having an absolute blast. I was loving the rocks and riding them very well. I was able to get through Rob as something didn't seem right as well as Chris as I was riding more smoothly. I exited the singletrack and had a nice gap. I focused on hunting down Jed next. I could see him in the distance and slowly reeled him in. All the while Chris would hit the fire roads and get back to my wheel. So a bit later after spreading out and getting back together, Jed and Chris and I were riding wheel to wheel. A few more hills and techy sections and things started to split apart. Jed was riding really well and I couldn't hold his wheel any longer. He was just riding the tight bushy singletrack sooo smoothly that he gapped me and I just concentrated on riding smoothly. At the same time Chris dropped off my pace and I was all alone.

Through the next bit of climbs toward the end of the course I was all alone - I thought. Maybe too alone that I relaxed a bit. I looked back on one hill section to see Chris coming back to me so I had to attack. I hit the next section hills hard knowing that once I got to mile 40 or 41 that the last 4 were downhill and I could maintain whatever gap I had. I kept looking back but the attack seemed to work - I didn't see Chris for a bit. Then the eerie feeling crept over me as I made the exact same turn I'd seen before earlier in the race....something wasn't right. Was I off course? The Rattling race is known to use trails forward and backwards so maybe it was correct? I kept going knowing that I'd probably see a race official soon if I made the wrong turn. I thought back and followed the arrows EXACTLY as I'd seen them but still felt unsure. It was a bad thought knowing that if it was in fact a bad turn I'd have to go back up the same way I had just come down...ugh.

Down a bit more and my chain comes off. Crap, ok shift while rolling and it'll come back on. Nope. Shift again and scoot a little bit...nope. Ok stop and look at this thing. The chain was somehow twisted into two circles...wtf! How could it have gotten thrown off and twisted like that? It took some time to route the chain so that there was slack enough to fix it but it was too much time. Probably a good two minutes to fix this issue. The good part was that I jumped back on my bike and no one had passed and I heard no one sneaking up. Wow that attack must have really worked! So I made my way down, down, and down some more though a couple turns that I had already done...a turn had to have been missed. So I soft pedaled to see if anyone was coming up and then saw the promoter Mike Kuhn riding towards me on the trail. I asked him if I was going the right way and he sadly said no and pointed me in the right direction back up the trail I had just descended. CRAP!!! Just then Chris rolled up on me as I turned my bike around and started back up the hill. Then we picked up Brian Shernce and the rest of everyone else who had made the wrong turn. How had we all missed this turn???

I was so upset. I got to the last 5 miles of a race with a great position and then went off course. I knew I was going to finish but how many people would pass in the meantime when I was riding in 4th? The issue turned out to be a piece of tape that was not put up in time for the leaders to see. EVERYONE in the top 20 went off course. So as the group of us grew leading back to the right turn, we called a truce and made a gentlemens agreement to casually ride the remainder of the race trail and when we got back we would appeal to the race director. Everyone knew their place and we could reconstruct the finish if he approved. So we enjoyed the last few miles of trail and rolled into town.

The leading group was pretty disgusted but anxious to see how Mike would settle the finishing issue. He went with a great idea - since the 3rd checkpoint was just before where most went off course, then he took the finishing order from that point. That way those who missed the turn and went awry would be marked in the place they were before they went off course. I was satisfied with that.

After all the day's events I came in 4th place out of the 45 in open mens in 4:49 according to my GPS. With some GPS data evaluation I calculated that there was 35 minutes lost and 5.7 miles of extra trail ridden because of the tape issue. Glad to be done after a crazy finish I was satisfied with the decision to end the race the way it did and with the great food at Kevin's place afterwards. It was just so much nicer to race feeling this way than the previous year. It was good to have a little redemption after feeling so miserable last year. As for the tape error, mistakes happen and it was great that all the competitors handled themselves respectfully and Mike did great with the results and the race as a whole. Big thanks go out to Mike and his crew and if you have the urge to get out to Rattling Creek for some rocky bumpy goodness...do it!!!


  1. Great finish on a techie course! Shame with the tape, but Mike being the class act that he is settled it appropriately! Nice Work!

  2. Thanks man. It was a hard race and I did better than I had hoped. Great trails out in Lykens!