Saturday was the last actual race leading up to 24 Hr Nationals. The goal was to get in 6 hours of hard effort off road. Goal wasn't so much to win but rather to come out with a good effort and a non injured body and bike. Mission accomplished, plus throw in the win for a good boost of confidence.
The day started off early at 5 AM with breakfast at home, then it was into the car for the 2.5 hour drive to Blue Mound State Park. I got there plenty early and got to watch the DH race, State Singlespeed Championships, and heckle the guys riding the course for 12 hours. It was a good day with all these events coming together in one locale.
My race started at 1 PM. So at noon, I suited up and started doing some spinning around the venue. The rumor floating around was that the course was super technical with lots of rocks and roots. The rumors turned out to be correct. I pre-rode part of the course and was instantly thrown into a rocky downhill. Upon the initial test ride, I opted to "up" the tire pressure to 35 PSI in the front and around 38 PSI in the rear. This was about 3 to 5 PSI higher than I normally run.
At 10 minutes to 1 PM, the race director ordered us to lined up for the "run to the bikes." The run was about 150 yards long, and I was planning on being one of the first 2 or 3 riders to the bike. The gun went off for the start and I was in the positioning I wanted. Towards the end of the run I made a short burst to get to my bike first. Once on the bike I set into a "safe" pace that would allow me to get through the un ridden course in one piece.
Lap 1: 53 min, 29 sec.
Once into the singletrack I started picking my lines. This course offered some of the most tech riding I have had the honor of racing on. The entire course was littered with rocks and roots. Speed and momentum was the key to a good ride here. On this lap I had one rider with me who happened to be a singlespeeder. The course is not fast, so the speeds were in and around 9 mph. During the lap I had discussion with this rider and he was telling me he rides there all the time and that his down fall was the climbs. RED FLAG! As soon as he said that, and we got to the first climb I upped the pace. This soon had me riding alone.
Lap 2: 55 min, 29 sec.
I came in from lap one and stopped at my cooler and grabbed a new bottle of Jeff Go-Go Juice, some Anti-Fatigue and Endurolytes, and a bite of a Power Bar. I was soon off on my next lap in less than 15 seconds. The 2nd lap went very smooth. I soon saw all the proper lines, and was turning sub 1 hour laps. I was now starting to come upon some of the 12 hour riders.
Lap 3: 56 min, 41 sec.
On lap 3 I started with the same nutrition. I was then again off on another lap. I soon found myself be trailed by the solo 12 hour leader who was riding along. We had some good discussion, and he then dropped of stating that the pace was too much for his effort needed. I continued on only to come upon some of the slower 6 hour riders. At one point I made an effort to pass only to be stood up by a rock for an instant knee impact to the ground (see picture below). I hopped back up and got around the rider. That got the heart pumping and only made the riding faster and more fun. I would end up setting another sub 1 hour lap.
Lap 4: 58 min even
When I stop for nutrition at the start of lap 4 the skies had clouded and it had begun to sprinkle. I didn't think much of it, since there was no forecast of major rain. I sheaded the Tifosi's due to the darkening trails and went on my way. At about half way through the lap the skies opened up and the trail began to get a covering of dampness. This instantly turned parts of the course to an ice rink. All the rocks and roots now became unpredictable and the course was now pretty sketchy. I pushed on not taking any major risks and trying to keep momentum to roll over the rocks and roots. No momentum on this course = Doom! I finished lap 4, which seemed to take forever!
Lap 5: 1 hr, 5 min, 42 sec
The rain has done a number to the course. It was making me wonder if the 6 lap goal would be achievable. I was told 6 laps would be tough in dry conditions, but throw in about 30 minutes of rain to the equation and you have a near impossible feat. I went on with lap five coming upon numerous riders with flat tires and riders pushing their bikes. Almost every rider I saw on lap 5 was walking. For me my Maxxis Larsen TT's were getting stuck up with mud and not hooking up on the techy parts of the course. I was now forced to ride the bike like a kid just getting his training wheels off. Time was also ticking off the clock, as WEMS rules states: You have to finish your last lap in the final hour for it to count. I came in from lap 5 with about 1 hour and 10 minutes to go till the race was over.
Lap 6: 1 hr, 4 min, 52 sec.
For lap 6 the pit was short. Pills, and a Red Bull and I was off and rolling. I new that I would be cutting this close. I rode what I could knowing I would not crash. For the other "hairy" sections I would do the 'ole CX dismount and jog across the sections that might loose me time for riding and dabbing. In the later parts of the lap, I was stating to feel it. Going at just under XC pace for 6 hours was taking a bit of a toll on the legs. I was still about 2 miles out. I basically had to suck it up and start taking risks. So I did, by riding the remainder of the course. At the final gravel climb to the start finish area I had 8 minutes to get to the top. I gunned it up the hill with about 5 minutes to spare till the end of the event.
Overall, I completed 6 laps in 6 hours. Not bad considering how slow-going the course is. I am glad I opted for the 6 over the 12, cause the 12 hour solo riders looked like "death." The equipment I ran for the event worked flawlessly. I bet I was one of only a few that didn't get a flat tire or sheer off a rear der.
Here are the CatEye Microwireless stats form the event...
Time: 5 hrs, 53 minutes, 15 sec.
Distance: 53.34 miles
Average Speed: 8.3 mph
Max Speed: 27.3 mph
I also have to give huge props to Cannondale for making the RUSH. The long wheel base plus 4.333 inches of front and rear travel made this the perfect tool for the job. My body bows toward Bethel, CT and Bedford, PA.
That's a wrap for now. Next event is 24 hour Nationals in Wausau, WI. Mentally and physically I feel great. Now it's just a waiting game till the end of July.