VSSM Epic Summer Event 2014

The Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum‘s Epic Summer Event was hosted at Craftsbury Outdoor Center this year instead of in Stowe as it was in previous years.  It was also the last event of the EFTA New England Championship Series for 2014.  Since Craftsbury is only about 45 minutes from my home, I really couldn’t come up with a good excuse not going.

The Expert start.
The Expert start.

The last time I did a full mountain bike race at Craftsbury was sometime around 1991.  That was back in the days when NORBA ran the world of mountain bike racing and USA Cycling was just for the leg shaving, pavement-pounder crowd.  I don’t really remember much of that race other than it being really cold (it snowed) and pedaling through very soggy, grass covered nordic ski trails.  My experience this year was much better than the one I had 20+ years ago.

Racer's meeting
Brian running the racer’s meeting

The course was a combination of traditional, technical single-track, grassy X-C ski trails and some newly cut machine made trails.   The technical single-track made up the majority of the five mile loop  that we rode with some bermed corners on the descents thrown in for extra fun.  The climbing was definitely noticeable, but never steep enough that my 1×10 setup couldn’t handle it with ease.  Normally, I hate grassy trails, but the grassy sections were fairly firm and generally made for some fast riding.  The very few places where things were a little softer, my 3″ tires made the riding pretty easy.  The thing that did stand out was the rooty sections.  Since I was riding a fully rigid bike, this took its toll on me.

First climb from the start
First climb from the start

We started the race in the lower fields at the nordic center.  This led to an immediate climb up a short grade covered with chipped wood – slow going.  From there, we crossed another field before entering the woods and funneling into the first section of single-track.  The first lap was pretty congested with the racers from the large expert field trying to establish position.  By the end of the first lap, we seemed to have settled down into a more reasonably spaced out field.

For me, the race itself was relatively uneventful.  I was really getting into the single-track sections by the second lap and was able to spin up the climbs without burning myself out – gears are great for that.  I spent much of the second and third laps riding solo with only the occasional need to pass.  I was really enjoying the twisty stuff in the woods.  By the time the fourth lap rolled around, the technical terrain had really beaten up my arms and I was more than ready to be done.  Usually my legs are the first to complain but that wasn’t the case with this race.  Between my arm muscles and having to pass riders from the tail of the Sport field, I was drained.  Thankfully, the final mile of the lap is a smooth downhill and an open climb.  I kept my pace through to the end and was glad to get off the bike and rest.

Me!
Me!

While I didn’t manage to get a podium spot, I stuck around to watch the awards.  My nephew did his first mountain bike race and managed to pull off a win in the junior novice category – and he did it wearing jeans.  I did manage to come home with some loot by winning a t-shirt in the raffle.  Overall, it was a great race and I had a good time.  Brian and the folks at Craftsbury did an outstanding job organizing things for an excellent event.  Hopefully, VSSM will return to Craftsbury for their Epic Event next year.

 

My nephew finishing up.
My nephew finishing up.

Random:

Sometimes you have to race with a rubber chicken on your back.
Sometimes you have to race with a rubber chicken on your back.

VTSSM Epic Summer Event 2013

[Also posted on MTBVT.com]

The Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum Epic Summer Event was a great race that can unfortunately be summed up in one word this year: slog!  Considering that the Stowe area had a ridiculous amount of rain during the week leading up to the race, things actually turned out amazingly well.  It was noteworthy that they were able to host the race at all.  I’ve heard that Eskimos have something like a hundred words for snow.  Mountain bikers in Vermont may develop a similar extension of their vocabulary for mud this summer.  How many different kinds of mud are there? I’m not sure, but I think we rode through nearly all of them in this race.

The day of the race turned out to be a beautiful day.
The day of the race turned out to be beautiful.

The only real disappointment was that the course had to be shortened from 20k loop down to 7.5 miles.  It was really a shame because the sections that were removed are truly exceptional single-track.  The Stowe Mountain Bike Club is pretty aggressive in protecting their trails.  For the past couple of weeks, their “status” had most of their trails closed whenever I checked.  Ultimately, it was a good thing to alter the course because I’d hate to see those trails damaged.  With the number of people out on the course Sunday and the amount of mud that was churned up as a result, it was a wise choice.  I think the locals would have flipped out and hunted down Brian, the race promoter, if we had ruined Kimmers.Things looked like this most of the week.

Of course, no race is complete without a last minute burst of mechanical changes to the bike the night before.  The oil on my Fox fork had just been changed so I swapped out my rigid fork Saturday night.  I also discovered that I could just fit a 2.4″ rear tire in my frame.  I waffled on this one for a few minutes but decided to keep that tire.  It turned out that a nice new 2.4″ Maxxis Ardent at 20psi was a good thing to have in the traction department.

The single-speed class was sent off with the Elites.  After a very short climb, we turned down a long, gradual double-track trail.  This seemed to work out well as a good portion of the Elite field shifted up and pretty much stretched out in front of us in the first mile or so.  Things then turned uphill with a grassy incline that was only slightly damp by the day’s standards.  This took us back through the lodge area before going out along more gravel double-track.  The first section of single-track was a really nice gradual climb with several switchbacks.  I was able to keep a decent rhythm here.  The climb was followed by a descent that was very similar in nature and quite fun.  Early on, there were only hints of mud in places.  We were off to a great start.  Fairly soon, I determined that I was going to need to back off on the throttle a bit when I realized that our lap times were going to be long than I originally anticipated.  I’d rather catch people at the end than explode on the first lap and try to survive the remainder of my race.  I was pretty optimistic about things in spite of just not being able to settle into a good groove.

The trail led us up a longer single-track with seemingly endless switchbacks.  I was really starting to hurt and didn’t have any sense for where I was in my field.  About half way up, some guy on a single-speed bike ripped by me in the most demoralizing way.  Not only was shadowing him up the climb out of the question, but I’m not sure I even wanted to.  I later learned that he was racing Elite and missed the start.  That makes me feel a little better now, but didn’t help at the time.

There was a new section of single-track as part of the course this year.  It was pretty good on the first lap but in subsequent laps it deteriorated pretty severely. This mud was not just any old mud.  This was a special kind of goo.  By the final lap, I could have stood up on this section and spun a hole with my back tire, if my balance were good enough to stay upright while stationary.

One of the more memorable parts of the race was this long, open, soft, wet, grassy climb out on the far side of the loop.  On my first pass, I was able to ride it by finding the more solid soil.  The only thing that made this bearable was that it was soon followed by a really nice single-track descent.  That descent was fun.  Really fun.  It dropped us out on another wide, grassy trail but, thankfully, this continued to run downhill.  Most of it was drenched with standing water.  If I had any delusions of not getting completely soaked, they were soon gone.

It wasn't all this bad.
It wasn’t all this bad.

After a short section of road and bits of trail, we worked our way back to the start area by a series of climbs that followed a mowed path through some open fields.  I can’t say that I enjoyed this portion of the race at all.  Grass is probably my least favorite thing to ride on – somewhere way down the bottom of my list below pavement and polished ice.  This was where I was most appreciative of that fatter back tire.  I knew we were getting close to the end of the lap.

During the first lap, I was clearly not having a good race.  Normally, I like tough conditions; and, in spite of all the water, we had a really decent course here.  This was the closest I’ve been to quitting a race outright in a long time.  I always have a mental debate on this topic at some point in every race, but my desire to go faster usually puts an end to it pretty quickly.  Even when I was circling through the area at the end of my first lap, I was still debating whether or not to pull the plug.  I hate quitting so I decided that I could at least finish. Besides, I thought, someone needs to be last.

On the second lap, conditions had visibly degraded.  Everyone, Novice through Elite, was out on the course at this point.  There were some sections I had to do on foot because of either fatigue or traction.   I was just riding to complete the distance because I didn’t want to be a quitter.  I lapped my daughter, Emma, at the start of the long grassy climb.  She was in good spirits and was doing quite well with a demanding course. I was motivated a bit by her effort.

By the time I was approaching the third lap, I was thinking I’d try to catch whoever I could.  I may be last but there must be someone I can catch.  Once I hit the muddy switchback climb a few miles in, I didn’t care any more.  If anyone wanted to pass me, I’d gladly step aside and watch them go by.  Fortunately, I was mostly riding completely alone and that didn’t occur much.  On long the grassy climb, I was hating racing, hating my bike and pretty much everything else.  Again, once we hit the single-track descent, it lifted my mood a little.

I'm a mess.  Note the blood on my left shin - the mud was sealing most of it in.
I’m a mess. Note the blood on my left shin – the mud was sealing most of it in.

I was definitely feeling tired and my bike handling skills were suffering as a result.  On the final, long, wet-soup, grassy downhill I was having to check my speed due to the ruts in the mud.  My brakes shoes were pretty much spent, too.  Somewhere along here, my front wheel became hooked in a rut and I went down to the left pretty hard.  I caught most of my weight on my hands, plowing a respectable length furrow in the mud.  I also put my knee down in the mud and found a rock or something more firm than the slime.  I quickly got back on the bike and continued my race.

Another mile or so down the trail, I looked down and saw a streak of blood down my shin.  Funny, I didn’t think I hit my knee that hard.  There was nothing I could do at that point other than to continue to the finish.  I caught a few riders on the field climbs and then found sweet, sweet relief rolling down to the finish line.

As I came in, Emma told me I was in second place.  I didn’t believe it.  I figured my number must have been mixed up with another rider.  Sure enough, in spite of thinking I was blown completely off the back, I actually did come in second at 2:32.  I was about 12 minutes down from the single-speed winner, Shawn Mottram.  I was followed by David Harris a few minutes later.  Interestingly, David’s daughter won the junior novice women’s race with my daughter, Emma, coming in second.

Single-speed podium: Me, Shawn Mottram, David Harris

While hosing off my bike, I also cleaned off the wound on my knee.  It was obviously more than just the regular sort of cut and scrape I might get from a ride.  This one was deep, maybe 3/8″ deep or better.  I hung around for the awards ceremony and then took a detour on the way home to get some stitches at the hospital in Morrisville.

In spite of some bad conditions that were beyond anyone’s control, Brian and crew put on a great race.  I’m really wishing I had discovered this race before because this was obviously great terrain to race on.  They really made the best of a difficult situation.  They also get kudos for providing what is perhaps the most punctual awards ceremony I’ve seen in a long time.  This is one that will be worth hitting again next year when the conditions are likely to be more favorable.  Results are up on the VSSM web site and at EFTA.

Jr. Novice Women’s podium: Emma Tucker, Moriah Harris and Melena Jenks
The Clydesdale podium.  They just don't get enough respect.  Joe Brzoza in 1st.  Yay!
The Clydesdale podium. They just don’t get enough respect.

Epic Summer Event

vssmI’m putting up a shameless plug for the Epic Summer Event at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT.  The race is #6 in the EFTA New England Championship series and will benefit the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum.   The promoter, Brian Irwin, was one of my rivals early in my racing career.  In fact, he cost me the 1st place win in the first Wicked Witch of the East stage race at Sugarbush by edging me out of one of the time bonuses during the dirt crit. stage.  I don’t hold on to these kinds of things, honest, I don’t…

Regardless, I expect that this will be a really good race.  Brian knows what makes a good course and he’s been getting things ready for this weekend by getting out to mark the course in the heat, humidity and mosquitos.   The course is a 20km loop with no shortage of climbing – this is real Vermont riding.  This will include some of the same great trails we rode during last year’s SSUSA course, although I expect pretty much everyone to be sober when descending Kimmers this time around.  According to Brian, the trails are still in great shape and pretty dry considering all the rain that we’ve had lately.

They have $2500 in prizes with a drawing based on bib numbers, so you don’t need to win to have a chance at coming home with something.  Registration closes on Friday on Bikereg.com.

Course Map

Weeping Willow 2013

The first race of the season.  There’s always a bit of anticipation paired with a boat load of uncertainty.  Am I ready for this?  What kind of shape am I in compared with last year?  Have I ridden enough?  Has everyone else become faster than me while I was sitting at home watching Star Trek reruns on Netflix this winter?  Questions like these get answered in the first race and often not with the answers I’d like.

My daughter and I really enjoyed the Weeping Willow last year, so we decided it was worth the trip down for some fun and suffering.  Ipswitch, MA isn’t exactly nearby for us, especially since I live close enough to Canada that hearing conversations in French isn’t unusual.  We made a long weekend of it by camping in the Salisbury State Reservation.  It was a little too cold to get in the water, just like it is in July or August there; but we enjoyed the beach anyway.  Having the race on a Saturday was great because that left Sunday for us to relax a bit before heading home.

I started the day on Saturday by waking up to the sound of rain on the roof of our camper.  I wasn’t sure if that would be a good thing or not so I just mentally rolled with it.  It turned out to be a non-issue anyway.  We headed out a little on the early side since Emma’s race started at 9:30.

Junior Novice start.
Junior Novice start.

The single speed class was mostly filled with names that I didn’t recognize.  My arch nemesis from the point series last year, Pete MacLeod, had moved up to Elite but Ryan Littlefield seems to have stepped back in to destroy my hopes in Pete’s absence. The field was a fair size with somewhere just shy of 20 riders on the line at the start.  I learned that morning that the single-speed and expert classes would be racing two laps for a total distance of 16 miles.  This was the same distance that the sport riders had done earlier and I wasn’t very happy about it.  I count on those later miles to pick up some places.  I like longer distances, but now I would be contending with a race that is more of a sprint in my mind.

As I expected, we started off hard and fast.  I don’t spin high rpms well and spent the first three or four miles somewhere well over my anaerobic threshold.  I really can’t spin.  When we hit the single-track sections, I began to feel a little better and start gaining on other riders.  Unfortunately, I had put myself back a way on the start and it was difficult to make a decent pass in the tight trail sections.

I didn’t get far into the first lap before noticing that my legs were feeling a bit on the heavy side.  Not a good thing to notice.  I knew my endurance would be suspect but I wasn’t expecting to lack my normal “kick” on the climbs.  With only 12 miles or so to go, I knew I would have to just dig deeper and do what I could.  There was nowhere to rest on this course.

DSC00969
On to the second lap for some more pain and suffering.

Going into the second lap, I was somewhere around 6th place by my accounting.  I continued to gain ground in the single-track and climbs and lose it on the double-track sections.  I also had a couple of instances where I dropped my chain.  That’s not a typical problem when riding on a bike that doesn’t have a derailleur.  Two days prior, I had stayed up late rebuilding this bike up with parts from my original race bike (I had cracked the frame on Wednesday).  I guess I should have taken the extra time to swap out the cranks and chainring from that bike as well since the one I was using was more worn than the chain and cogs.  Now we’re just adding insult to injury.

My NEMBA teammate, Shawn Smith, caught me somewhere in the latter half of the second lap.  I tried to hang with him but his ability to shift up on those road sections left my poor spinning skills in the dust.  It just wasn’t going to happen.  With him went the next single-speed racer I had in my sights.  Not long after that, Carl DeVincent caught up with me.  Carl knows these trails like I know the trails over in Burke.  It was nice to follow his lines through the single-track sections.  Unfortunately, when the trail opened up he, likewise, left me behind.  I put out whatever remaining effort I had for the last mile or two and managed to avoid losing any places to my fellow single-speeders.   I came in 5th place at 1:24:38.  That wasn’t as far as I feared from Ryan Littlefield’s winning time of 1:21:05, but not as well as I had hoped for in terms of placing.  It felt like I was a long way back at the time.  I still wish the race had been another lap longer for us.

Emma and Nate Myers at that start.
Emma and Nate Meyers at that start.

My daughter Emma raced as a junior novice again this year.   She has joined me on the NEMBA team as well.  Note the cool jersey in the photos.  Unfortunately, she was the only girl in her class so her race was only against herself.  Still, she went out to ride and race against others on the course.  She managed to go over the bars a few miles into the race and bend her front wheel enough to make it impossible to ride.  She was able, with some assistance, to get things working well enough to continue on.  She walked quite a bit of the course and was not able to ride normally that parts that she didn’t walk.  She did persist and that’s worth a lot in my book.  We need to work on her propensity for mechanical problems.  As lead mechanic at home, I know what we’ll be doing tomorrow evening.

Emma

The Riverside Cycle folks put on a great race just as they’ve done in previous years.  The course was great (again) and everything was well organized.  When all the races and awards were done, they had a raffle.  I won some stuff that included a frame pump and some cycling socks with markings for left and right.

DSC00999
I often confuse which one goes where.

Other info:

Rock the Ridge 2012

I wasn’t originally going to enter this race but some things changed.  The plan was to enter the Bradbury 12 with my friend David Tremblay as a two man single-speed team.  Many of the NEMBA racing team were there dominating the weekend.  Unfortunately, Dave crashed earlier and hurt his arm sufficiently that he didn’t think a 12 hour race was a good idea.  Dave and I are pretty close in our riding ability and, I think, would have put on a good show as a team.  Since Dave was out of action for the weekend, I figured I’d give the final EFTA NECS race a shot.  We drove down to the coast and made a three day weekend out of the trip.

Rock the Ridge Finish
What you can’t see in this picture is the blood and gore on my elbows. I have no idea why I was smiling at this point.

On Sunday, we headed over to New Haven to find the race.  The directions were given for coming from the North or South but not from the East.  As a result, we ended up driving through the center of New Haven.  We did find the park but, apparently, the wrong entrance.  We drove our RV up this long winding hill into the park following the EFTA course arrows along the drive.  At the top of this road the arrows then directed us down into a single-track trail.  I wasn’t about to drive down that.  After some cell calls and more driving, we found the race.  It was a very small parking lot and there were already quite a few cars parked along the side of the road, including another RV.  There was a bit of a line to register which was mostly because there were only two people working on the registration.  Fortunately, the turnout for the race was actually quite low compared with other of the EFTA series races.  If there had been a more typical turnout, the organizers would have been completely overwhelmed.  Regardless, it seemed to work out well enough.

Pete MacLeod was the only other single-speed racer there for the race.  Great.  He’s been beating me at every race this summer by 4-6 minutes.  Since there were only two of us in the single-speed class, I could have just sat in and had a comfortable ride with a guaranteed second place.  Unfortunately, I’m far too sadistic and competitive for that.  Besides, I was holding on to the hope that I might be able to edge Pete out and get a legitimate 1st place this season.  We went out hard.

The course started out on a slightly rolling double-track trail.  My 32:18 gearing was almost too low for much of the terrain, especially this first section.  The pace was really fast, and I need to learn how to spin better.  Pete managed to get in a better position off the line and put some pretty significant distance on me early on.  I never saw him again.  I got trapped behind some other expert riders on the first real single-track climb which made matters a little worse.

Shortly after the single-track climb, the course dumped us out on a paved park road.  This road descended a little and then we turned onto the park road that I had driven up with our RV.  At least it was familiar, and I knew how far it was until we got back onto the dirt.  The climb was really fast and the perfect grade for seated climbing.  I managed to pick off a couple of riders but had two others who stuck with me for the length of the climb.

The trail off the first road climb was extremely rocky.  I had put some extra air in my tires before the race because I heard there would be a fair amount of road riding.  This extra air is probably the only thing that kept me from having a repeat of my flat tire issues at Treasure Valley a few weeks ago.  The first half mile or so was pretty demanding but the remainder of this section of trail was pretty smooth with just a few short, steep climbs.

After the single-track, we entered the same paved road descent we rode earlier, only now in the opposite direction.  This road climb seemed to go on indefinitely.  Looking at some Strava data, it was a good, solid three miles of climbing which gained about 500 feet of vertical.  Who knew that there was this much vertical to be had in Connecticut?  This climb was similar in grade to the first road and was easily ridden while seated.  At this point I was was riding with two other riders: Paul Curley and another rider with a Blue Steel Cyclery jersey.  I remember racing against Paul back in the 90s (and getting hopelessly destroyed by him) but I didn’t realize who he was until after the race.   We kept a really strong pace all the way up.  The following two miles were a very gradual incline but seemed to be predominantly flat.  I mentally named this sections the “Skyline Drive” since it traversed the length of the ridge.   This section really favored gearing, and I had to really work to keep up with the other two riders.  Again, my pathetic spinning skills were limiting me.  The road was paved for about five miles, but it was very obviously not maintained well or even used much.  I kept thinking that we would be getting back onto some real trail at any moment but the pavement just went on and on.

Eventually, we left the pavement behind for another very rocky descent.  Here, I was able to regain some ground on the other riders.  This was great, but it again deposited us onto another paved road.  Thankfully, this was just a sort section – maybe half a mile in length.  The remainder of the course was relatively flat with a lot of winding single-track sections.  These sections were particularly nice in the way they wove in and out of some very tight and twisted trees.  It was almost like riding in a jungle.  I would have liked to have gone just a little bit faster in here, but it was very difficult to pass.  I sat in and rested as much as I could while searching for an opportunity to pass, but it really never materialized.  Shortly before the start/finish area it opened up a little, and we traded places a few times.

Rock the Ridge Lap
Woooo! I’m ahead here.

On the second lap, Paul Curley and I pulled away on the first climb and rode together for the rest of the race.  On the long climb, we rode fast enough that we were leaning in while cornering on the switchbacks.  I would guess that we were riding better than 10mph on the way up.  On the Skyline Drive, we took turns drafting one another.  I tended to pull on the inclines, and he did the work on the rest.   I took the lead once we hit the dirt and I was able to ride at my own pace.  Paul was never far behind.  Somewhere in here I passed my daughter, Emma, who was finishing up her race too.

Somewhere in the tight single-track, about a mile from the finish, I caught my inside foot on a rock while pedaling through a corner.  I never saw the rock but I sure felt it.  I immediately went down hard, plowing my elbows into the trail and smacking my chest down hard.  It was one of those situations where I was sliding along on my elbows long enough to be aware that I was sliding on my skin and that it was going to hurt. It took me a few seconds to catch my breath and pull myself together enough to get back on the bike.  By now, Paul had passed me.  I got back on the bike and tried to regain some ground.  My elbows and chest hurt but my real concern was my toe; it felt like I might have lifted the toenail.  I’m a real baby about that kind of injury.   Regardless, I was able to catch up to him before the finish but not with enough speed to pass.  I finished the race in 1:46; Not bad for a 24 mi. race.

I finished in second for the single-speed class which was no surprise.  I was around four minutes behind Pete MacLeod (again).  At least I can say I worked for it.  The end result of all this is that my overall placing for the EFTA point series didn’t change.  Pete finished ahead of me in the series by at least a hundred points.  Still, I have no complaints with a solid second place for the season.  It’s been a lot of fun.  Now I have to look at how I can improve for next season.

My daughter Emma had her first win of the EFTA series this weekend.  Like me, she doesn’t do well with pavement but managed to keep up the effort to beat out the other girl in her race.  Second place went to her friend Melena Jenks.

Other info:

  • NEMBA teammate, Karina Assiter took first in her race.  Her report is here.
  • My Strava data for this race is messed up because I forgot to start my gps before the start.  Pete MacLeod’s data looks good though.
  • Official results are not yet posted.

Treasure Valley Rally 2012

I have been looking forward to Treasure Valley Rally all year.  After a surprising win there last year I was hoping for a repeat performance this year.  Instead, I got a day of problems; but it didn’t turn out all bad.  The turnout seemed a bit lower this year, but we had a respectable size field in the single-speed category.  Kevin wasn’t there and it wasn’t the same.  How would I pace myself for the first few miles without him?  I guess I managed.

Single-Speed StartWe started hard with Pete MacLeod taking off and me in pursuit.  I tried to keep him in sight but I just cannot start that fast.  He slowly put a pretty good gap on me over the first few miles.  On the long climb, Brandon O’Neal and one other rider passed me, putting me in fourth place for the moment.

On the first lap, I followed an elite woman, Karen Potter, through the technical “expert” loop portion of the course.  Her bike handling was very impressive through the numerous rock gardens.  Maybe I’m sick, but I think this rocky, technical stuff is one of the best parts of this race course. On top of that, it’s followed by a nice steep climb!

Along this climb, I managed to catch the crotch of my bike shorts on the nose of my saddle.  As I pulled up on the climb I heard: “Rrrrrrrrip!”  That was the seam on my shorts.  It wasn’t a major rip, but it was certainly annoying to feel the side of the saddle on my bare leg.  Unfortunately, this allowed the shorts to catch on the nose and back of my saddle much more easily.  Throughout the race this rip would open up progressively more and more until I was racing in an all-terrain mountain kilt.  I know that baggies aren’t “cool” any more but if I ride in lycra I feel like this guy.  I’m going to have to revisit this issue later.

As the trail turned downhill, I began to wonder if my tire pressure was too low.  Before the race, I added a few more pounds of pressure than I normally run, just to make sure I wouldn’t get a pinch flat.  Even with that, I was bottoming out the rim in places but nothing that was making me fear a flat.  The problem is that you don’t really know if it is worth the time to stop and add air or not, until it is too late.  It was holding up so I trudged on.  I moved up to third and, eventually, second as I passed Brandon before the end of the first lap.  I was feeling pretty good at this stage of the race.  I had managed to stay hydrated, avoiding the cramping I had at Millstone last week.

Lap TwoEarly into the second lap, I could hear yelling in the woods where a latter part of the course was relatively close.  It sounded like people were hurt, mad or something.  Lots of yelling.  It turns out that there was a bees’ nest that had somehow gotten stirred up.  Apparently, the bees were swarming and it was quite bad over there.  Many people had gotten stung.  I didn’t hear of anyone having an allergic reaction, so that was good.  I heard of a few riders who finished with many stings and some who got lost trying to bush-whack around the swarm.  By the time I had gotten around to that part of the course, they had routed a trail around the swarm area.  I had enough of bees and wasps last week at Millstone – and that was only one sting.

I still had plenty of energy and was able to keep putting down the power on the climbs, but not enough to bring Mr. MacLeod into view.  I was at least holding on to my 2nd place position and starting to pick off some of the straggling Elite or lapping Sports and Beginners.  I was feeling good right up to the point where I rolled my front tire on one of the loamy corners.  Almost immediately after that, I heard the familiar sound of air leaking.  Joy.

Now I knew that I should have stopped to add some air to my tires.  I dragged my bike off the edge of the trail to replace the tube.  Yes, I’m still running tubes.  I started by pulling the tire off the rim.  Well, I should say that I attempted to pull the tire off the rim.  In race situations, I can usually do this with my bare hands due to the adrenaline surge that makes stuff like that possible.  Not this time.  This time I had to pull out the tire levers.  Stick one lever under the bead… good.  Stick the next lever under… okay.  Put the third lever under and the first two would release themselves into the leaf clutter on the ground.  Repeat.  Carl DeVincent passed by me shortly after this fiasco started.  I expect Carl to show up any time I slow down.   As I wrestled with the tire levers and rim, more experts passed by.  I lost count and was starting to build up a rage that can only be equaled by a morning SUV driver 15 minutes late for work while stuck in a traffic jam behind a Prius.  Eventually, I got the bead off the rim and replaced the tube.  Could I get the bead back on the rim?  Of course not!  While all this was going on, Sport and Beginner class riders started passing by me.  I think some of them stopped and started making cell calls to their friends to come out with their 3-speed comfort bikes just so they could ride by and mock my efforts.  Everyone was passing by me.  After a lot of frustration, I lubricated the bead of the tire with sweat from my arm which allowed it to slide over the rim.  It may be a bit gross, but it worked.  I pumped some extra air into my rear tire as well before (finally) heading off.

Now that I had lost many minutes playing mechanic, I tried to regain as much ground as I could.  I figured that I was still in third place since only one non-derailleur bike had passed by.  Since I was still feeling strong, I started riding like an idiot trying to regain my position.  Applying lots of power without using your head on this course is a recipe for disaster.  I was making all kinds of technical errors that I shouldn’t have.  I didn’t manage to calm down until I went over the bars in a root strewn rocky mud patch.  That was the first time I have ever gone OTB since I started riding a 29er.

I continued on, picking off riders and trying to bring Brandon into sight.  I figured that I had about four or five miles to accomplish this.  This was going well until I bottomed the rim out on a rock somewhere toward the end of the course.  Since I had already used up my spare tube, there was only one option: run!  So I ran.  I thought it must be less than a mile to the finish, so I took off without missing a beat.  Since my GPS data is all messed up, I’m not sure of exact distances; but I’m pretty sure it was considerably more than a mile.  Had I known how far I had to go on foot, I’m not sure I would have bothered.

Just to be clear, I have to comment that I hate running.  I can run, but I really dislike it in all forms.  It bores me to tears.  Add this to the fact that the latter part of the course is probably the most fun to ride, and you have a good dose of frustration going on.  Regardless, I trudged on, even though I was getting passed by many riders but still no single-speeders.  I literally sprinted to the finish taking 3rd in my category.

Single-Speed PodiumI’ve been looking forward to this race all year.  I love the course, but all of the stupid problems left me extremely frustrated.  I was pretty comfortably in second place before the flat tires and hoping to surprise Pete before the end of the race.  That was not to be.  I guess I shouldn’t complain too much: getting a podium spot after two flats and running the last mile or so isn’t anything to be upset about.

I forgot to start my Garmin before the race.  Periodically, I tried fumbling with it; but that’s hard to do when navigating technical terrain.  Eventually, I got it to work but quite late into the race.  On top of that, the data was all mixed up with a ride I did in Ludlow a couple of days prior.  Sorry, no Strava data this time around unless I can figure out how to edit the data file.

After the race I hung out with some of my team mates.  The weather was nice and warm so we took a dip in the lake once I had recovered from my run a little.  A nice end to the day.

Jr. Novice GirlsMy daughter, Emma, had her own flat tire (again) and came in second place in her race.  She put in a good effort on a course that is far from easy to ride even for experienced racers.  She also had to run in the last leg of the race due to a flat tire.

NEMBA Racing TeamMy legs really hurt today.

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