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A race report from a fellow Twin Six racer. Madison is a 10 year old chica killing it in the beginner class down in Florida. Learn more about her adventures at mtbracergirl.blogspot.com
OK..here I was, Little 66 lb/10 year old me about ready to race these women. And I’m thinking…what the heck did I get myself into?? Then, the nerves started to settle in, my stomach was a mess, and I just wanted the whole thing to be over with already.
There was a total of 8 beginner women. I was 6th going into the woods (not good, but better than last). During the first 7 mile lap, racers #1 and #2 crashed, so I was able to past them and move up to the 4th position. Feeling awesome and moving along at a good pace, I came across a difficult a climb. I got off the bike and ran up the hill and ended up passing #3 racer. Then, I came across #2 racer and was able to pass her as she was pushing her bike up a hill. This was too good to be true. I was in second place and kept my position for the rest of the lap and throughout the entire 2nd lap.
Peeling myself out from the warm covers early Sunday morning, the light wasn’t out yet and as I stumbled my way through getting dressed. It was going to be a long day as my knee and body screamed in pain due to the prior days 5k race efforts.
Record time into the car, hitting up McDonalds for a Muffin, sausage, egg and cheese breakfast. 25 minutes later I am sitting in a Super Walmart parking long waiting for my friends and fellow EM:PWR teammates to arrive for our car pooling. Many good topics, a couple moments of daydreaming and we arrive in Spartanburg, SC finding the Va Du Mar park quickly. Chatting, dressing and registering. I probably should have warmed up more than the 30 minutes on the road that I did. During my pre-race course preview lap I dismounted tweaking my knee even further. This would sum up the next 45 minutes if you want to finish reading now.
On the start line there was 4 women and maybe 8 men. A very sad showing for the cyclocross community in South Carolina. The women’s field even had cash payouts! As I stumbled around the course, carefully getting off the bike, somewhere on the backside of the first lap I was questioning what I was doing and how much pain in every down stroke I was feeling. I finished though, slow and at least 8 minutes behind the person in front of me.
The course was fun other than the lack of pavement, and a good amount of grass riding. There is a jaunt through the woods that stumbled up some of the roadies. As the course was worked over the dirt became more and more loose. The park was gorgeous, tons of parking, and new bathrooms that were heated!
Finishing Thoughts and Goals
I need to ride my bike more. Too often I get done races and simply realize I need to ride my bike and I would be better. It isn’t the nutrition, mental, or bike, I just need time in the saddle for progress.
Questioning to continue to pay $20 a race to realize this. Maybe go to simply photograph and ride the course before I have to pay!
Lately when I race and people ask how it was I simply can’t answer as I don’t feel like I am really racing. I feel like I’m riding around in circles, trying to find the next gear within my own. I’ve finished mostly last for the past year of my cycling life. I argue with myself that this place is better than not starting which I had been doing for the year prior. I struggle with the mental piece, knowing I am better than this, knowing that I am the puppet master and only allowing myself to fall.
Racing for the past year has been motivation. At the finish line when I knew I could have done better, that is motivation. I pay the race entry fee so that the other girl doesn’t come in last, and that I get a small kick in the ego…large enough to want more, but small enough not to do anything about it.
Doing Burn 24 Hour was this. There were moments on the trail I was questioning my sanity. Especially at 11:30pm when the roots were wet, my chamois was sweaty and my glasses were so fogged up from the humidity I was simply praying the whole 7 mile lap not to bust my face open.
I question why I slept for 5 hours. I question why I didn’t bring my full suspension bike with more “wet root friendly tires.” I question if I could have done 12 laps instead of 8. I question if my pit crew thought I was a pain in the ass and realize how much I appreciate them.
Looking back at this event I question myself, my strength and my will to do better in life.
Maybe that is the point of racing? To question yourself and everything that leads up to the moment. How else can you become better if you don’t question and change yourself?
Several months ago I had a plan going into the 2011 season. It included a duo race at the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek, a solo at the 6 Hour Grind on the Greenway, a ton of riding and then my first solo at Burn 24 Hour. As any good plan there was a few snags within this. My geared race bike, the Airborne Goblin, showed up a few weeks late which kept me on my fully rigid single speed for the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek, and kept me from racing the 6 Hour Grind. I quickly started commuting on the Goblin and riding it everywhere possible to get used to the fit and gearing.
I’ve never done a 24 hour mountain bike ride on my own, I’ve never come close to that. Even with tons of great inspiration and information from sources like Rebecca Rusch and Team Ergon I still didn’t know exactly what my body would think or my mind would do. Doing my best to prepare myself I lined myself up with some of the best support and gear a person could ask for. Amazing lights from Light & Motion (Seca 700 and Stella 300.) A great pit setup and location, and a great prepared pit crew.
Preparing for a 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race
Friday I pulled a half day of work, finished packing up the little Jetta and headed up to Wilkesboro from Mooresville NC. Quickly setting up my tent in fear of the rain storms headed towards the race course, I can say the purchase of the REI tent and garage was one of my smartest moves this year so far.
Somehow I set up the tent all by myself, losing about 2 lbs of water weight in the process. Looking over my shoulder the whole time at the large RV that was simply sitting there with generator and air conditioning running. Jealousy ran through my head for a moment.
After helping Jason B. with race sign up for 30 or so minutes, I ran out of things to do. I finally sat there in my chair, sucking down water and contemplating my next move. Would it be to nap, eat more beef jerky or go find friends. I sat, and thought about my life until friend, em:pwr teammate and pit neighbor, Stephanie Cole, showed up. We quickly pitched her ez-up, sleeping tent and staked them all to the ground so we could head off to dinner.
What did I eat for dinner the night before my solo race? Really good ribs of course.
Morning of my Race
Sleeping in the tent the night before my race was fine. The weather was perfect and I was sprawled out across two sleeping bags and my Thermarest! The week leading into my race I did my best to be over hydrated. Counting bottles of water as I drank them at work, and having a water bottle near by at all times. I think this was a smart choice but at 11pm, 2am and 4am my bladder thought other wise. The idea of walking around in the dark to the line of port-a-jons, through a large mud puddle and having to wake up enough to do all these things…well it didn’t fly for me. Fortunately for me, I have been taught by my better half to pee in bottles. If you look at the tent photo above we had added a “garage” to the tent. Both sides zip down to provide shelter for the bikes, dogs or whatnot and additional room at night. It also provided a perfect place to “pee in my bottles” in the middle of the night. Between all my wake up calls, I think I filled two bottles and was thankful when 7am came to use a real toilet.
I did my best to setup all my gear, label my batteries, swap my tires from Small Block Eight to the most “mud tire” I owned which is the Bontrager XDX. Checked over my bike and laid out all my gear for the first couple laps. At around 10:30 my pit crew showed up, set up more stuff and prepared themselves for the next 28 hours of their lives.
Introducing my Pit Crew
Somehow I had recruited a few friends to come take care of me, entertain each other and really “hang out” for over 24 hours of their Memorial Day weekend.
Kimberlee - Chef, nutritionist, first aid and medical provider (all of these things came in handy.)
The race, broken down into bite size pieces will be up for tomorrow. I’m still trying to process everything that happened in that short time span of 24 hours. What I did wrong, right and what I need to do better in life to get me further in racing.
April 6, 2011 – Now I remember why I don’t race any more – you have to get up too dang early. But I’m up and on my way to N. Wilkesboro, NC for the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek to race in the female duo category with my awesome partner, Arleigh Jenkins (brainchild of em:pwr cycling) and my “pit crew” Shelley with me. It’s supposed to be a beautiful Saturday for racing, albeit a little windy, even though it rained earlier in the week things should have dried up nicely.
Little did we know an isolated storm sitting right on top of Warrior Creek dumped rain on the course Friday night. We arrive to a soupy, soggy, greasy 13 mile trail. It was agreed Arleigh would do the first lap since I did the first one last year – that’s only fair, right? After her pre-lap I think Arleigh was trying to come up with any way to get me to do the first lap but she sucked up and went out there with 300 other brave souls to sling some mud around. When the first of the racer boys started hitting the start/finish line we could tell it wasn’t pretty out there – their backs were slathered in mud as were their entire bikes – not good! Several people even stopped and turned in their timing chip after one lap – the mighty mud had worn them out and they couldn’t return for lap two (they really should have stuck it out, more on that later). Riders continue to cross the finish line while I’m trying to warm up and psyche myself up to have a very slow, safe lap – no need to kill myself out there.
Arleigh comes through and collapses on the ground – mind you she is riding a rigid SS over 13 miles of up and down soupy mess – covered in mud. I take off and hit the woods and the ground is dry, not a puddle in sight. I’m thinking – what were they talking about, it’s not nasty out here, the trail is in excellent shape. I hear others on the trail who had already done one lap speak out loud in amazement at the difference in the trail from the first lap – unbelievable they say. I guess 300 riders on the trail will dry it up real quick. I continue my ride – enjoying the fact I don’t have mud hitting me in the face and I’m not sliding down the wet berms. I finish my lap and make it back to the pits to find Arleigh in street clothes – I had said before I went out that she didn’t need to do another lap since we were just out there to have fun – and she obviously didn’t have a problem with that.
That was the end of our day – we sat at the start/finish line, ate BBQ chicken and pork, gelato and watched our friends keep going round and round. We did two laps and came in 3rd – can’t beat that!
As a human I try not to stress about the small things in life, only when I am highly intoxicated do I start to worry about all the things in life that I am juggling. A few days last week I started to stress out majorly about the upcoming 6 Hours of Warrior Creek.
Worries are for Pussies
And I’m a pussy. Here’s a small list of things I stressed about over the course of the week prior to the race.
- Tire selection
- Gear selection
- Lack of riding in the mountains
- Lack of gears
- Lack of suspension
- Lack of pre-riding the course
- Girlfriend would be in the pit with a broken foot, could she make it to the bathroom…up the road..?
The car was packed, we were ready and in the car by 5:45am and at the gate (7th in line) waiting by 6:45am. 10 minutes from the course there was evidence of a rainstorm with puddles of rain on the road and limbs across the shoulders. Not good, not good at all.
Quickly, my trusty pit chief Kimberlee and I setup our spot that was to be shared with my team mate Melissa, her pit chief, Shelley, their dog Darby, a teammate racing solo, Stephanie, and Namrita/Eddie from Team Ergon Racing. Oh, you can’t forget Team Dicky who pit next to us but poached some grass from our pit area.
Stephanie and I pre-rode 2 miles of the course to see how much rain was left, and to contemplate switching tires or single speed gearing. I regrettbly forgot to do many things. 1. Put toe spikes on my shoes, 2. Switch tires, 3. Switch gears.
Actual Race Recap
This could be the hardest and stupidest thing I have done on a mountain bike in a long time. The first lap, which I happened to be doing for our team, was the hardest. The course is super fun and fast when dry. Tons of berms, switch backs and as long as you stay in front of your gear..it is great fun. For the 13 mile course I probably walked 4 miles. Most switch backs were so muddy and rutted by the time I got to them, my front tire would slip through and my gearing would cause rear tire slippage. I was simply left to walk up the short up hills.
My calves screamed.
My brain was frazzled.
It was not fun, at all.
By the time my lap was finished I was so mentally beat down that you couldn’t have paid me to get back on my bike that day. I’m not ready to be racing single speed or single speed fully rigid for multi lap racing. I’m also in better shape than this time last year, but that did not show up at the mud wrestling I dealt with.
I probably wouldn’t of done anything different. You learn from every race, and I can atleast say I didn’t quit. Yeah, I could have done another lap but I didn’t. I’m looking forward to having gears and some suspension in my future thanks to Airborne.
At the end of the day we came in 3rd place for our division at 6WC, not at all thanks to me. I owe that completely to Melissa my awesome partner in crime. A podium place, swag and a cool coffee mug. It could have always been worse… I didn’t crash or break anything!
George Berger, the first member of the new em:pwr cycling team. He’s on his way to be a good cyclist…well, a good shortish, stoutish, strongish mid-40′s Flemish ‘cross racer. George resides in Davidson, NC with wife and daughter.
I’ve never raced an endurance cyclocross event before; and, frankly, even though I’ve raced both cyclocross and mountain bike, this was going to be something decidedly different…tough, hilly, non-American type (grass crit) cyclocross course at the start and again at the end with some HUGE run-ups; a few miles of paved county road after that; gravel/chert/pumice fire road; STEEP and LONG rocky dirt fire road (if you could call it that); and screamin’ fast descents on those same fire roads. At the call-ups, co-organizer Eddie O’Dea said it best: “this is not a CX race; it’s not short and painful, it’s gonna be long and painful. So try to finish—it’s an enduuuuurance race, not a sprint race.”
Goals for the Southern Cross
My goals were right in line with that: 1) to finish the race; 2) to have some fun doing it; and 3) to use it to judge my early season fitness in this, my first year back to cycling after a layoff of over 10 years (I’m now 9 months into it, have lost over 15 lbs., and although I have a long way further to go, I’m getting there).
I signed up for the 40+ Citizen Race—the shorter version, which was only 30-something miles—20 miles shorter than the full Pro/1/2/3/4 race, with one or two fewer steep climbs. First time in this type of racing, and me still a ‘stout’ and older guy, it wasn’t my purpose to kill myself. There were a few people I knew—I finally met Namrita and Eddie O’Dea, the race promoters from Atlanta’s 55nine Performance (two really nice folks, and whom I knew only from Facebook at that point); and Stephanie Cole from Charlotte, who I met at last January’s Greensboro Cyclocross race, who came down. She was also racing the Citizen race, and I saw later finished with a really good time! I met a few guys (from upstate New York, for God’s sake!) when I was pre-riding the course on Friday afternoon, and more at Dahlonega Wheelworks—a really FANTASTIC bike shop where Jon and Zack fixed me up after a little mechanical snafu, and hooked me up with a free High Life while we talked. Oh, and BTW—they’re wheelbuilders to the stars, so I’m thinking about having them do some 29er wheels for me later this year.
As I said, the start was a hilly, off-camber cyclocross course in tough, high grass that hadn’t been ridden much; not much of a problem, but at the end of it was a very steep, 300-foot “run-up” that even Namrita described before the race as a ‘trudge-up.’ Overcoming hyperventilation at the top was the critical element there, so I’m glad I did it on Friday and knew about it beforehand. Then we left the winery development and headed out for a few miles of paved county roads before heading into the gravel and dirt fire road. Catching someone’s wheel to draft was pretty critical in this early section, getting as much speed on the CX bike as you could while conserving as much energy as possible.
The climbs started with a few miles of decent rollers, trending uphill, but a lot of fun since even with a CX cassette I was able to climb with some of the faster male 29er riders. But then the real climb started…the slog up Winding Stair, a 9-mile steep climb up some of the worst fire track I’ve been on…soft, powdery pumice on top of unpacked mountain sandstone gravel and loose stones. You could call it double-track, but when we witnessed a full-on endure motorcycle spin out at only 10 mph and crash on an uphill section, you knew it wasn’t easy to get traction. I’ll admit it—I walked the steeper pitches since I just didn’t have the gears to spin, nor the tires to get any traction. My Maxxis Raze clinchers were great for most of the race, but not enough read knob or width for this climb. Strangely, I found that I was hiking it faster than some of the other racers were riding it. Reaching the top of Winding Stair Gap and stopping at the aid station for more water for the CamelBack was a relief…looking around off the top of the ridge, it was an absolutely beautiful day…but after a couple minutes, a picture, the water and a ClifBlock for some energy, I was off again.
When you go up, you gotta come down. And the back side of Winding Stair was the best part of the whole race for me. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to be a bigger guy who can still pick a fast line while gravity does most of the work. Eddie had warned the racers beforehand that the roads were open to vehicle traffic, and that there were a lot of blind curves…but still, it’s fun to bomb downhill! So, knowing my health and disability insurance were pretty good, I took off from the top and tried to catch some of the folks who I’d had to let go on the climb. In the drops, I clocked over 42mph on the rutted clay or relatively hard-packed long gravel downhill, passed one guy on a 29er like he was standing still, and…just as soon as I hit the bottom, pinch-flatted going over a rutted section. Big bummer. Fixing it (only losing a few places) I started back up again; this time, the climb up Sassafras Mountain didn’t seem as bad (after Winding Gap, not much could), and there was another long flying downhill section that I had a white-knuckle blast on, making up another place and seeing lost water bottles all over the road from where they’d been shaken loose from their cages.
At the bottom, I was all by myself from then until almost the end, and found myself back on pavement at the ranger station…a long stretch of pretty, rolling county road, then some steep little paved hills with about five or six miles left brought us back up into the Montaluce property and the course went back into the cyclocross course again. There was nobody in sight behind me, and I was almost catching a younger guy that I’d been trading places with throughout the race; but another super-steep and long “run-up” caught me instead. I’d just been passed by the leader of the ‘full’ race, and we started up the hill together…except he didn’t dismount. Holy S*it, I thought—he’s gonna try to ride it!?! I was so shocked (this guy had some serious legs and stamina to do this) that when I got up to the top a good bit later after hooting for him spinning up the whole damn thing, I almost crashed…chain suck city. I lost all my momentum, had to get off and fix that, and just couldn’t get back into the rhythm.
The last mile or so inside the winery property was a mix of CX course and paved road hill climb; not that hard, but by that point I’d pretty much left it all out there already, and just couldn’t catch up to that one guy at the end. The finish was through a chute right at the food tent, with a picture for everyone. I was pretty spent, but nothing that a couple cans of (real) Coke and a couple of bottles of water couldn’t help. I finished in 17th place overall in the Citizen race, and 10th in the 40+ category, at 3:06:49.
Who knew!?! I coulda been a little faster if I’d been in better shape and could have pedaled more of the hills (especially that second big climb), and hadn’t had the two mechanicals. But the race could not have been more fun. Next year, I’m gonna do it again, and will probably change a couple things on the bike… It was easy to see that the 29ers had the advantage going uphill, but the CX bikes had a huge overall advantage (at least with the course conditions as they were—fast and mostly dry). So a cassette change (maybe to a 12-32), and some wider tires to get more uphill traction and downhill flat protection, and I think we’d have a winner setup. I’ll be doing the Three Peaks USA in September (a Pirate Race Productions event by Andrew Stackhouse), so we’ll see how that works out.
Rear View Mirror
The wrap-up? I could have finished the longer race, but it woulda been far less pretty at the end. So my fitness was ok, but not great—I’m still fat and mostly old; comparatively, anyway. But I finished what I’d started, and had a lot of fun doing it. The first time doing anything is always tough because of the unexpected, and I can’t wait to do it again next year. I couldn’t stay for the after-party and awards (and raffle…bummer), but had to head back to NC so I could put my daughter to bed. Four hours later, a beer down the hatch, and I was ready to sleep like a baby, too. And here it is, Monday, and I’m ready to get back on the bike for a little lunchtime spin.