While it seems like many I know in the racing realm were out at the NH 100 this weekend, I was at the Millstone Grind getting my own dose of suffering in. At half the distance of the NH 100 (62mi.), the “marathon” class at Millstone is surprisingly tough. There are no big climbs since the elevation difference is only slightly over 200 feet between the highest and lowest points on the course, but it still manages to beat you up and leave you exhausted in the end. I love the course; it’s rocky, twisty, technical single-track that would be as much fun to ride on a Saturday as it is to race.
We camped out just down the road at Lazy Lions campground in Graniteville. This is only a couple of miles from the starting area at Millstone Trails. The weekend weather was again great. I can’t recall having a summer with so many nice weekends. I hope this holds through next weekend for Treasure Valley Rally.
Thankfully, they started the marathon race (4 laps, 32 miles) at 10 am before the Cat 2 and 3 racers. Last year we started later, and the last of the marathon riders were finishing as the organizers were tearing everything down and nearly everyone had gone home. It was a very anti-climatic end for their efforts. That was not the case this year. There were far more riders in the open marathon class than I expected – probably close to 30 altogether. I suspect many of these were riders who would have raced cat. 1 if it weren’t for USA Cycling’s ridiculous rules on one day licenses. Regardless, with nine riders on the line, our single-speed marathon group was a fair size,too.
We started at a relatively mellow pace. Being first off the line doesn’t really help much when you’ve got about 3 hours of racing ahead of you. I entered the woods in fourth place. For the first few miles, I followed Emile Smith; although it took me a little while to realize who he was. On one of the first little climbs, we must have stirred up a nest of wasps on the ground. I had one wasp land on the inside of my elbow. He latched on to me and started to jab his evil venom into my arm. Somehow, while navigating the rocky single-track with one hand, I managed to beat the monster off my arm with the other. He did not want to let go. I think he liked inflicting pain. That thing really hurt. A lot! In fact, it still hurts as I type this. It’s a good thing I’m not allergic to bees and wasps. After that, I would periodically check to make sure I wasn’t swelling up as I continued the race.
Eventually I passed Emile. A few miles later I would pass another single-speed rider to move into second place. By the end of the first lap I had worked my way up behind George Lapierre. We rode the next lap together at a pretty good pace with hardly anyone else around. We traded places for the lead spot several times depending on the terrain. This continued through the third lap.
On the third lap, George started creeping away from me a little bit at a time. I wasn’t too concerned about it at the time because I still felt good and knew that I had some reserves for the final lap. I figured I’d keep him in sight and then kick up the pace on the fourth lap.
Unfortunately, this was not to be. Early in the fourth lap George put some more distance on me and I lost sight of him entirely. I also was starting to get hints of cramping in my legs. I knew I was in trouble. I tried to drink more and spin out on the flat sections as much as possible. I stopped at the aid station to drink and take in some calories. With that, I headed out hoping to hold on to my second place position. I knew that Marc Stannard couldn’t be too far behind me based on previous races, and I didn’t want him to catch me before the end. After a few more climbs, I was fully in damage control mode.
Near the back side of the course there was one climb that I had to run up because of the rocks. As I hiked up it, I was fighting off some serious cramps in my quads. At this point, Marc shows up and runs by me. Great timing! I couldn’t do anything. Really, I was just hoping not to fall over on the side of the trail clutching my thighs. Not a good feeling. I did get back on the bike but I wasn’t able to reel him in. I started to feel better for the last few miles of the race, but it was not enough to increase my pace sufficiently to make a difference.
Dave Tremblay surprised me by showing up. He somehow managed to circumvent the bureaucracy USA Cycling and register for the cat. 1 race with a one day license. I think I’d rather have done 3 laps, too. Dave took 2nd in the cat. 1 single speed race.
My daughter Emma also got second place in the junior cat. 3 class. There were only two girls but there were over 20 junior cat. 3 boys. On my second lap, it seemed like every other rider I had to pass was a kid. It’s good to see another generation taking interest in racing.
My only complaint about the day was that registration for this race ends up being $38 with the one day license fee included (add $10 more if you didn’t pre-register). I’m glad this goes to support the Millstone Trails Association but it’s still a lot of cash for a cross country race. My daughter has really gotten into racing this year but also does some work to earn part of her registration fees. That’s a lot of money for a kid to come up with. Maybe there should be some lower fee for junior novice riders or novice riders in general. I think that might help encourage people new to the sport to participate more.
Still, it was a good race and an enjoyable day. All those who placed received some prizes, we all got a nice Millstone glass, there was a lunch after the race and we enjoyed racing on some really great trails. This is my second time racing the Grind and I’ll probably be back next year too.
- My Strava data can be viewed here.
- Dave’s Strava data too!
- Official results from the root 66 web site.