Yesterday I took a short drive from my home to give the fatbike a little workout. Or rather have the fatbike give me a workout. I know it's early in the season but I want to give this season a little more of an effort than last year. With a little luck I think it could be the best season I've had in the past few years. Last year's accident and moving are all behind me so I'll have less excuses as to why I haven't been pedaling that hard. So onto the race.
Yesterday was Marty's Fat 50 and what a good early season event. The turnout was amazing and very well organized. Beer and pizza at the end were key! That's what I was dreaming about the entire time I was racing. I was even asking people on course if they knew what beers there were waiting for us for a little encouragement. Now for the race.
Before we got to the line we were waiting at Marty's store and someone notices my tire was going flat. Great... I rode to the car to swap the tube. This morning in the garage I blew the same tire off the rim. Riding around at the venue I bunny hopped a puddle and blew it off the rim, and now it was flat - great. I was thinking my race was over before it even started. The tire just didn't want to stay mounted. The last time I put it on I let the wheel lie on the skewer in the hop that it would seat properly without any issue. Thankfully I got the new tube in, hoped it was seated and had five minutes left before the gun went off. Rushed back to the starting line to settle in and wait for us to go.
I lined up in the front with my teammates Steve, Mike and Greg. It was a controlled start for the first 2 miles or so over to the trailhead. The race was neutralized and then final race instructions were given, then we were off. I knew there was some good firepower out there and I wasn't looking to stay in the lead group. We all rolled together for a while but it was obvious the group was going to split. My thought for the day was to get a good workout in and maybe finish in a good position. I wasn't willing to dig too deep and burn all my matches this day. By the end of the first rail trail, the West Morris trail, it had split up a bit and I was in the second chase group. We chased over 206 and up the next pavement climb to the singletrack which was starting to get wet and greasy. I had to take it easy to not blow my tire off and thank goodness it survived! Knowing that the tire mad that decent made me a bit more confident but still weary that it may have an issue. As we got back to the next rail trail the group I was with earlier regrouped and we were off on the grind all the way to high bridge.
The group was pretty steady for the most part. I tried to stay consistent and ready for surges. The group would slow for a road crossing, hiker, sign post, or whatever and then surge hard to get back to speed. I tried not to get too excited and as the others were sprinting up to speed I would just push a little harder and let the gap in front of me close. It seemed to work as I felt pretty comfortable up to the half way point. The only problem with the rail trail itself was that there were metal posts at each of the road crossings. It was important to call out the posts so the others behind saw them coming. The group was rotating pretty well and at one point we cycled through and it ended up that I was at the front. I kept it steady and called out an upcoming post at a road crossing and then heard a loud bang. Behind me I looked back to see riders separating around two cyclists that went down. At least that's what it looked like to me. We neutralized the group to give them a chance to get back on. We put our heads down once again and kept on it. We made it unscathed for the remainder of the 25 miles to the turnaround point in High Bridge.
Coming back there was a bit of an uphill out of the gorge and the group shattered a little but was able to regroup and made it to the singletrack climb and I was cramping hard. I could tell it was coming as my legs were starting to fade in and out. The next climb would either be good or terrible. The cramps took me off balance a bit in the super slick uphill grind and I had to walk a section then jump on and ignore the cramps. I lost the group there and just hit the road and wanted to see the finish line. I got caught at the light crossing 206 so I unfortunately had to wait. A few racers caught me there and I was hoping we could work together to get tot he finish and maybe catch some others. My legs weren't great so I wasn't hoping for much. As we were approaching the last rail trail to the finish I started working together with Selene and Ben to try to get to the line. We pulled and rotated and caught a few getting to the line. Unfortunately as we passed people they jumped on our train. As I started pulling hard to get to the line I got swarmed by a few riders and 2 from my group finished ahead of me. I finished in 20 something place. Felt ok for racing 50 miles in January. I know what I need to work on to get the engine really firing. Good work to all the racers out there!
It was a fun event for a winter race with no snow but I'm longing for the big singletrack races and not so much gravel. The tire held on, my legs held on, and I was happy with a good solid effort on a day I would probably have ridden an hour+ on my local trails. Instead I got just over 3 hours of steady pedaling and some motivation to prep more and train harder for the upcoming season.