Thursday, May 10, 2007

Michaux Maximus

This was a new one to me. Never ridden in Michaux State Forest, however I've heard nothing but good things about this place. The terrain is technical and epic, races are long, people are great and the competition is tough. Sign me up!

This year's Maximus was split into a few different course lengths and, naturally, I opted the longest (50miles). It is the first in a series of 3 races in Michaux.

Tim and I cruised out to PA Saturday afternoon. Found a cozy spot near the start/finish to set up the tent. Asleep by 10pm, awake around 7am for an 8am race start. It was a bit cold in the morning but I knew that would quickly change given the weather lately. Down went some cold oatmeal and an Ensure. Got my stuff together. Went with the Camelbag full of Accelerade, one bottle, two tubes, 5 or 6 10g C02s, spare chain, spare shoe buckle, multi-tool, zip ties and a pocket full of Mojo Bars, gels, jelly beans and Shot Bloks. Yeah, its going to be a long race!

Start was delayed half an hour for some last minute trail maintenance (those guys are awesome and put together a great course!). I figured a 6hour finish was a good goal. I'd like to do top 10 SS but knew I was in for a rude awakening with hearing that the majority of the singletrack is mostly rock gardens. Hmmm... rigid singlespeed with gloves that have no padding and 40miles of rock gardens? not easy. So, 6hours was a good goal.

The start went up this rocky fire road with a few metal gates we had to go around (great for bottlenecks). Tim was out front with Buck, Harlan, Elk, Topher and the usual suspects. I started somewhere in the top 30. We had around 100 racers with a very large singlespeed contingent. Not to mention many people were on 29ers.

Used the first couple miles to get a feel for the terrain and race. Was feeling pretty good so I turned it up a bit on the early singletrack. It was tough for the trails were tight but I found my way around people on the climbs. The early singletrack was mostly relatively new trail. Not too many rocks (at least not as many as I anticipated) but quite a bit of climbing. Out of that, down a couple hundred feet of fire road and into more singletrack.

All I can say is WOW. The rocks got bigger, course got tougher and we haven't even gotten to mile 10 yet! Somehow I got infront of Topher so I figured things were looking pretty good. Then I came across Elk running ala cyclocross style. Didn't think anything of it but that he was running through the rocks to gain some terrain. Later I found out he had a hefty mechanical that cost him the race. Such a shame but he's got it all under control and will be back with vengence! Shortly thereafter Topher caught up to me and I hung on his wheel for a bit... Until the rocks slowed me down while he kept pace thanks to his 69er.

I carried on in my usual style setting a good pace for a few other SSrs behind me. Eventually came up onto Grave Ridge. I don't know. maybe around mile 18/20? It was really cool. A very rocky ridgeline with rocks that would swallow you. Lots of hop turns and bunny hops up over the rocks.

By this point I'm feeling confident in my physical ability but my hands are taking a beating. It got to the point where it hurt A LOT to hold onto the handlebars. Again, usual style: ignore the pain and carry on. I still have yet to figure out my threshold for pain but I knew this wasn't it. It was coming close but not close enough. Once off Grave Ridge I could feel the blisters on my palms. And they were fairly large! Just get to the next aid station and you'll figure something out from there.

Only thing between myself and the aid station was a very LONG climb up this grassy doubletrack. I stuck pace with this singlespeeder infront of me and forced myself to ride the whole thing. Most of the climb wasn't that steep but there were sections that got fairly steep. Not to mention a few false sections that felt flat and you couldn't see futher up the trail (thinking you're at the top). This was very tough but I stuck with it.

After a while we finally crested the ridge and cruised into the halfway point and aid station. Needed a knife to pop these bli
sters but no one had any (mental note: carry a pocketknife). Last resort: teeth. Got some bandages, gauze and tape. Wrapped my hands up all boxer style and slipped the gloves back on. Filled my jersey up with bananas and took off.

Things felt a lot better with the gauze but I was still in pain. Couldn't grip the bars as much as I liked so I rode slightly slower than I wanted. Eventually got onto some fire roads. A good break from the rocky singletrack. Now we're around mile 30 and I'm fading and finding my quads on the verge of cramping. Not good! Guess I went a bit too hard on that grassy climb and never fully recovered. I slowed the pace down a bit to help conserve energy. I really wanted a top 10 SS finish (probably was holding top 10) but, more importantly, I wanted to finish the race without any cramps. Fell back a good 4 spots. Downed more liquids and food in hopes to help the cramping. I knew if I cramped I probably would never recover and finish. Not to mention the upcoming week would be a living hell recovering.

A little walking. More riding and I came across the next aid station. Say mile 35? Again, at the top of a long climb. Notice a trend? From here we had more rocky singletrack. I took it easy and kept trudging through. Stumbled upon Tim. This isn't good. He was on flat tire number 4 or 5 and was out of the running for 1st (after holding 1st SS for most of the race). Not a happy camper. Spoke to him for a bit. Traded gloves (he had nice padded gloves) and then took off. WOW. These gloves were so much better than mine. The pain was just about gone.

Rode the remainder of the race harder than the beginning. Caught and passed two singlespeeders that passed me when I was hanging out with Tim. Caught and passed the singlespeeder I was following for a better part of the race. Saw another one in my sights so I put the hammer down (while trying to keep my quads in check). Drank a lot to refuel the electrolytes and ward off cramping. The last climb was up this fire road and at a good pitch. I was able to stay in the saddle and pedal at quite a high cadence. Little by little I was catching up to the next singlespeeder. Awesome!

Before I knew it I saw cars parked on the left side of the trail (in a field behind the trees). We're close! Pedaled even harder only to realize I had about 50ft and a hard left turn into the finish line. I came across the finish line a mere seconds behind the SSr I was trying to catch. Damn. Not enough course to make up that last spot, but more importantly... I finished!

Super stoked! I met my goals of finishing in 6hours (6hours 4mins to be exact) and rolled across the finish line in 13th place SingleSpeed category. Just missed top 10. Warded off all cramps. No mechanicals (esp flats). Good to be riding tubeless again. Met some awesome new people (thanks for the ice cream!).

This race marked what I think a true mountain bike race should be. Very technical! You haven't experienced racing offroad until you've done a Michaux race. I'm already looking forward to the next one and will be better prepared. (After all, this is only my second race and its still early in the season.)

Harlan let me borrow some Ergon grips. I've got a few hours on them already and think this is it! These things are truely ergonomic and are super comfortable. Esp for riding a singlespeed. I highly recommend trying them.

Feeling good this week. Legs are sore but my knee is doing alright. Gonna get some light miles in on the road. Next up is the first ever mountain bike race in Manhattan. Vicious Cycles will also be there with bikes to demo. Should be a great time!


Blogger huber said...

Michaux is tough. My goal for the day was to finish. I never thought I would come out on top. Catch ya at the next one.

5/12/2007 7:32 AM  

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