Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Post Race Report: 24hr Hot August Nights MTB

Well originally it was supposed to be an actual race. Last year we put together a team of fatties to race the clydesdale category. By the time the race rolled around, we were just barely 'qualifying' for that category as we all lost so much weight. Regardless, we finished with a proud second place! So this year we were determined to race a normal age group category (since we're nowhere near clydes anymore) and finish as best we can. A top 5 finish could have been possible. However, life changed things and most of the team disbanded. It's been a crazy summer so spending time with family took priority as does tapering for Ironman Muskoka 70.3 which is less than 2 weeks away!
Having already paid the entrace fee, I was determined to go and get something out of it. We brought the kids up with us to spend time together. I figured this would be a good free opportunity for each of them to do a lap and experience a mountain bike race.
We went up a day early and camped Friday night at the race course. We didn't get there early enough to pre-ride the course so we didn't get to see the course ahead of time. Upon arrival we had to kick our neighbours off our campsite as they thought it was part of theres. The campsite numbers are not very clear on whether the site is to the left or right of the post. They were good sports about it, and the one guy even came over to offer us a canopy tent as we didn't have one. This evening was cold. We burned through 2 overpriced wood bundles in a blink of an eye. Dylan, my second oldest son, had read somewhere on the internet that Mars was supposed to be 'as big as the moon' tonight, and it only happens every so-many-centuries. Well when our teammate showed up she identified that as one of the email hoaxes that has been going around. Well that was a bit disappointing, but I had my doubts since the beginning. So we stayed up much later than I would have liked to, but it felt good relaxing in the cool night air with my feet over some hot coals.
In the morning, everything was wet. It didn't rain, but it was so humid that everything got soaked. This wasn't just morning dew. Even the bikes under a tarp still were dripping wet. The forecast was for clear skies and 35 celsius. It was a cooker. All morning we were bantering about who will take the first lap. The first lap of a 24hr race is always a couple of kilomteres longer as they try to thin out the pack before stuffing everyone into singletrack. Nobody ever wants to do the first loop. If you're fast, you get held up at the bottlenecks when hundreds of riders try to converge onto a trail no wider than your tires. If you're slow, you get trampled by the fast riders and then hold everyone up on the technical bits. There's always a risk of a crash at the beginning too. Handlebars get tangled and people run over you when you fall. Anyhow, Mrs. Lord of the Chainrings volunteer'd for the first lap. She's such a trooper! I waited up the course on a bit of a hill so I could snap a picture. Apparently there was a crash at the start line but I couldn't see it from where I was. All I remember is the pack went by me and then I thought to myself W.T.F. as a big brute of a man with a purple cape and purple mask rode by - his cape opened up to reveal he only had a speedo on. I was horrified. In my shock I completely missed Fran go by and didn't get the picture.
To redeem myself I ran over the with singletrack downhill switchbacks to get her picture. I waited in an off-camber corner for her. The purple-people-eater approached my location and I figured I'd snap a pic to show people back home. To my dismay as it rounded the corner the cape opened up and I got a full frontal speedo-only shot. Maybe that wasn't such a good idea. I'm glad the resolution on the LCD preview on the camera is low quality. I didn't want to see detail. Regardless, I did get the pic of Fran on the downhill.
Each lap should take about an hour. That means we have to send the kids out for the next few laps before it gets dark. Blake, my oldest, took first lap. We watched him do the off-camber downhill switchbacks and he did quite well. His speed was decent and didn't hold anyone up. I think the last switchback he almost lost it on the turn. He let go of the brakes and kept his momentum over the roots which saved him. I dont know if he did that on purpose, but regardless it looked really good. Dylan more or less did the same on his lap. When Tyler, our youngest, grabbed the bike in transition he walked up to the mount line and sure enough fell over. He didn't hesitate for one second, he just popped back up and took off on the bike. Mommy was freaking out as usual. I made sure I showed her my support by reaching over, pulling up her t-shirt, while taking my other hand and made scissor cutting motions against her belly button. Yes, cut the cord already mom, sheesh! She worries too much. They are teenagers and need to toughen up a little. We alway bicker about this. Fran is the greatest and takes such good care of us boyz but she has to let them stray from the nest and get a little dangerous once and awhile. It's ok to baby me, but the kids could use some tough love. I'm just sayin'.
Tyler made it to the downhill switchbacks in decent time. Mommy was stressing about him taking the technical turns on the downhill. It would be a far fall to the inside if you get caught on the roots. I wouldn't blame him for walking it, but secretly I was rooting for him to do it. I didn't want to pressure him into forcing himself and getting hurt so I just kept quiet and let him do what he was comfortable with. Sure enough at the top, he stopped beside me. He was having gear problems. A quick look and the gears were fine, he was just overdriving the chain and it was rubbing. It wasn't going to hurt anything, other than the bike. I've had this bike for 15 years and it's seen it's fair share of race wins, crashes and mechanicals. Letting the kid overdrive the chain and damage the derailleur is a small price to pay to not stress him out about how to shift gears. Just ride. I told him its ok, just keep pedalling! He walked the easy first switchback as it would have been to dangerous to try to roll through from a stand still after talking to me. To my surprise he jumped back on the bike and didn't hesitate to go through the next 2 switchbacks which were arguably the most technical section of the course. Wow, I was so proud of him! He just did what needed to be done. I dont even think he slowed down for the last hairy one! The icing on the cake was the rider behind him walked the final turn and he didn't! So now he just had to get over the big uphills and test his cardio against the distance of the lap. It took awhile, but eventually he made his way back to transition for a complete lap!
The rest of the race was more or less uneventful. I had no interest in riding. These trails don't turn me on as they remind me of the Ontario Cup mountain bike race courses that do not deserve to be associate with 'mountain biking'. Seriously, this course as well as the provincial races are more like road riding than mountain biking. Nothing technical, just fast flowing trails. No technical skill is needed. I don't know how they could be called a mountain bike race, heck people were using cyclocross bikes on this course. Anyhow, I knew coming to this event that I wasn't interested in riding. Since we're not racing, it turns into a casual easy afternoon ride. No fun in that. After our fourth rider headed out, I turned to the campfire and drank booze and stuffed my face with junk food. I wasn't going to do a night ride for my first lap, not worth getting injured over something so trivial so close to Ironman Muskoka. I'll see how I feel in the morning.
Come morning, we found our teammate had been running a few laps over the night. Great job on her account, it was her first 24hr race so she was excited about doing it. I'm worn out from last 2 years of miserably rainy 24hr races so it was refreshing to see someone ignorant to the pain of getting up at 3am in the cold, wet, mud to do a lap. She peaked my interest in me getting a lap of my own in. In the mix of all this I was playing with the neighbours. They kept asking me if I got a lap in yet. They were doing a respectable tag-team race which is extremely tough no doubt, so everytime they came in they had to ask 'did u get a lap in yet??'. As in I was some kind of wuss for not doing a lap yet. So I layed it on thick and tried to sound as non-caring as I possibly could. 'maybe I will do a lap, maybe I wont. Heck I will start a lap and probably just do a half, I dunno'. By morning I could tell they were getting annoyed. The one guy rolled his eyes when I told him I 'was still thinking about it, I am warming up still'. They couldn't wrap there heads around why I was there if I had no intention on riding. Well when you've been doing this kind of stuff for as long as I have, they might understand. I am here for a camping trip with the family, not a mountain bike race in my mind. Regardless eventually I donned my cycling clothes and headed to transition. Fran was coming back from her morning lap and I had a mission. A riding buddy 2 campsites over did a 52 minute lap, thus I had something to set out to do. A goal. Not just a boring ride, but a target to strive for. I got the timing chip and set out. I pretty much sat at max heart rate the entire time. I did slow down on some corners only to be mad at myself afterward as I should have been able to scream through them except I hadn't pre ride the course so I didn't know what to expect. I was lucky enough to only get stuck behind one young slow rider for a short bit. Close to the end of the lap there is something called 'ride the plank' which used to be known as Chico's shooting gallery. It's exactly that. A big deep mud pit with a plank acrossed it that you optionally can try to ride over. The catch is someone is shooting you with a high-pressure hose, usually in the face, to try to get you to fall in. Make no mistake, this pit is very deep and nasty smelling mud. The first 50 or so people that try to do it get a free T-Shirt regardless if you make it or not. Alot of people avoid the plank and take the chicken route around as the consequences are pretty steep if you don't make it across. I've managed to ride the plank successfully the last few races. Today I was saved by my tires. I had a squirrely mount up onto the plank and came to an almost stand still while trying to hold my balance. As soon as the kid with the hose starting shooting me in the face I just pedaled as hard as I could to straighten out my line. My tires were hanging off the edge, the only thing that saved me was the soft rubber compound wrapping around the edge and giving me just enough traction to jump off the other end. It was close. The closest yet to falling in. I was pleased to see I did a 50 minute lap and out-done my buddy, however later he claimed to have done a 46minute lap. I have to verify this claim still, but it's not all that impossible. I had plenty of room to shave more time off my lap. Great job on his part to make such a huge improvement over his first lap. Wow!
Our team took third place, which was inevitable. For the awards ceremony I let the wife and kids go up to collect the medals on stage so I could get a picture. Now the kids have something to remember the race by!
By the end of it, I was whooped. I had only done 1 lap, but ultimately I think my allergies were effecting me. I don't know what I'm allergic to, but whatever it was that was in the air was sucking my energy levels and I was sneezing and sniffling non-stop. I was looking forward to getting indoors. I wish I would have had some claritan or something with me. This allergy thing is new to me, never had a problem my whole life but it has arrived with a vengence.

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