Sunday, February 8, 2015
At this point I should probably mention that for this race, I had just received my fatbike a week prior. My Mukluk was picked up the previous Friday and with a few miles on it I thought it would be fun to see what happened for this 50K race. This was literally my 4th day on this bike and the setup seemed dialed and all I had to do was pedal and go right? ...right. I wasn't exactly sure what pressures to run since I had very little time on it and didn't even have a working gauge to set my pressure anyway. So I was running a bit blind but I'm ok with a little mystery now and then.
This off season has been crazy as usual with my ski team coaching, which leaves narrow windows for training. I always need a few early season kicks in the pants to get me motivated so I figure this was probably a good one. With no expectations except for finishing this race I set out with 44 others and hit the trails. The snow was packed but pocked full of holes from the hikers and dog walkers in the first few miles. This was fine and it kept things interesting until the first big road section. I was in the lead group of about 10 riders up to this point. On the road everyone was still in sight but the next loose climb was looming ahead. It was good and fairly rideable but a few sections were torn up and a quick hike had you jumping back on the bike to ride again. At one point I was having a hard time climbing and had to stop and adjust my tire pressure. It was just way too high and this let one rider pass through. The one section I was dreading was the railbed that was a mile or two before the half way - turnaround point. I descended to the railbed and started to make up some time on the rider that had passed me in the previous section of trails. I thought for sure I could put down some power and get back to him but to no avail. The previous tires had started to punch through the snowmobile tread making a 4" wide tire track that was like riding a balance beam. One wrong move and you were off, stopped, and had to start riding all over again. This was not pleasing.
So after 2 miles of this we reach the steep hike a bike and I see the rider that was in front of me crawling to the top as I start up the bottom. He wasn't too far ahead. Actually at this point the leaders should have been at the turnaround point so every minute I didn't see them was good as they would be coming right back past me. I got to the top and headed the last mile to the turnaround and saw the leaders coming back. They weren't too far ahead but definitely had a 5+ minute gap on me. I got to the turnaround and said hi and started on my way back. I was just over 2 hours in and the trail back to the start were more downhill than on the way out so it should be quicker. I headed out happy knowing this.
Then reality sunk in. That horrible rail trail was even more horrible now. The rut that the tires were creating was deeper, looser, and more tricky to ride. I was so frustrated that the course had deteriorated that I had to tell myself to relax and enjoy the ride. The meaning of this "race" was a good early season effort to help springboard training. That's all it was and that's how I had to treat it. The conditions were so bad that it crossed my mind many times that it would be so tempting to take the road back, but I couldn't. I will not let a race course beat me. I will do whatever it takes to get to the finish line. If that means carrying my bike the entire way so be it. So I kept on pedaling in misery and just wanting to get to the finish line. At least the rest of the trails would be even more packed down and the ride back should be quicker. It couldn't really be that bad could it???
Finally back to the road section I was approaching patriots path towards the Lewis Morris section. That was well worn in and would be a nice section where I could actually pedal back to the finish and make some time. Well yes and no. Some parts were great and others had deteriorated again so that there was only that 4" wide tire print to ride in. I was so sick of seeing that rut that I'll probably be having nightmares of that for weeks. Through the last few road crossings I finally approached the river and knew that around the last bend would be the finish line. I crossed, threw my bike on the car, and was ready to get out of there. I was so done with this event. Frustrated to say the least but at the very least it was good training. Had this been an A race of mine I would have been REALLY upset. But it was training.
Looking back it was a well run event. Marty's did an amazing just setting up, supporting, marking trails, and having a killer vibe. It really was top notch from everything they had control over. Mother nature on the other hand decided to put her two cents in and really make it miserable for everyone out there. I give a lot of credit for those that perservered through the conditions and somehow found a way to enjoy the race. As for the rest of us out there suffering, it's just another day to either put in the memory bank or push it out and move on. Bike racing is a crazy thing. We all know that sometimes a given race won't be as advertised, but you need to make the best of it.
I found out later that 21 of the 44 starters finished. I was 7th overall and pretty happy with that given how much I pushed my bike that day.
In a nutshell the fall was good and ok. When I last posted I was looking forward to the cross season ahead and I had a few longer MTB races up my sleeve as well. Crossnado, Cxmeur, SCCX, VT50, Grapes of Wrath, Wilkes 100k, and the 6 Hours of Cathedral Pines were all lined up for a good season end. The problem, like I mentioned earlier is that since I had surgery I felt like I was just behind in training. I put on a few pounds and I never really felt like I was riding well. This beat me up mentally as I just knew there was more in the tank but just couldn't put it all together. CX was good as I could still put together short hard efforts, but it's hard to mix that with my heart in the endurance game. Those two disciplines are just really hard to bounce back and forth between. My sights were set on the long MTB game and if the cx efforts suffered so be it.
Crossnado, CXmeur and SSCX all went reasonably well. Actually better than I thought they would go. Considering I had very little CX prep leading into the races I was pleasantly surprised with how I did. 9th of 14 at CXmeur, 7th of 10 at Crossnado, and 12th of 19 at SCCX. The first two I was putting down a good effort I just wasn't in cross form. The mindset was good as I tracked down people throughout the races, I was just too heavy and too out of practice to do much better. I knew I could have had much better placings if I actually focused on the CX game.
The Grapes of Wrath race was a battle of attrition. Upon arriving at the venue it was already pouring for the last couple of days and I knew it would be horrendous conditions. I decided to give it a go anyway. It was a 6 lap race, with each lap consisting of 3 smaller loops. So by completing 18 loops you would finish the race. This was absolutely grueling. Each loop started with a steep climb that would just shred your legs apart all day long. Like I said before it was wet and greasy everywhere else. On a dry day this place would be pretty techy in spots, but then at the grease on top of it and it made for a super hard course to ride. Off the parade lap at the start I took off and put my head down to see who would chase and come with me. I could see a few others at the top of the first lap pretty close and I needed to keep the pressure on. I rode steady and consistent and didn't look back. Towards the end of the first lap I couldn't see anyone but I could still hear the clanging of bikes on rocks so whether it was myself playing games or someone not too far away, I didn't want to worry. I kept my head down and kept pushing myself harder and harder. 3+ hours later I came across the finish line and never saw another soul near me for the entire race. I had won it. It was a great feeling of accomplishment and a very proud moment as I sat on the finish line and it was a while until the next rider came through. I found out later that I was the only rider to have finished 6 laps. Everyone else either quit or had a mechanical. That blew my mind...and made me ever more proud of what I had just accomplished.