Sunday, February 8, 2015

Welcome to being Fat...

Feb 7th was Marty's Fat 50 race in Morristown NJ. Originally meant to be a 50 mile race, this course had to be shortened with the recent snowfall that buried the entire course. There were sections of the course that had 1-2 feet of fresh snow on it that left untouched would have made for an unrideable course. Thankfully for the riders, someone broke through with a snowmobile and packed down 80% of the now 50K course and made conditions MUCH nicer.

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???

Yep it could. The rest of the trails on the ride home were now not even packed down any more. They were all blown apart by the racers that couldn't ride the trails. The snow was so dry and powdery that if you stepped on the packed snow it didn't support the weight and broke apart the nice groove that was worn in. So that gave me the new fun part. Walking downhills...yup. That was killing me. At that point I knew it was just going to be a nice stroll in the woods walking my bike down the tranquil snowy path. I sure couldn't ride it so why bother. It was just futile. I was so frustrated that all I wanted to do was ride my bike and I couldn't. All I could do was keep walking with the bike - so that's what I did. I didn't care about the race, I didn't care about anything else but eeking my way to the finish so I could end the misery.

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.

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