This marks the first Darkhorse event where I did not fully cramp and did not have a severe headache afterwards. Could that mean I did not push myself as hard? After thinking long and hard about it I came to the conclusion that I rode as hard as I could (had to back of intensity once to ward of potential cramps) and put my best effort in. What made this year's Singlespeed-A-Polooza successful from my standpoint is how I kept up with food and water. Yeah, we could argue this past Sunday's cold temps versus the severe heat of last year's Darkhorse 40 or the extreme mud this past Sunday versus the extreme dry at last year's Darkhorse 40.
Sean Cavanaugh, Johan and I rode the trails of Stewart a few weeks back. Super dry, dusty and fast was the name of that day. Johan was coming off racing the first Root 66 race the day before while Sean and I were fresh. 3hrs of fast paced riding was the name of that day. I quickly learned a 34x19 won't keep up with Sean while not blowing my knees up. Fortunately for me I got a flat and Stan's wouldn't seal it (but later sealed once I put the wheel in my car. Go figure.). We ventured back to the cars and swapped his spare wheel onto my bike. Ohhh... 18tooth. That felt much better.
[The Week Before]:
Going into this year's Singlspeed-A-Polooza I figured I could muster a slightly harder gear. The 32x18 sucked in last year's race and the 34x18 was great in last year's 40 so lets push a 2:1 and run a 17 this time around. After all, that is about what all the cool kids would be turning over.
Last Wednesday's weekly ride I felt like absolute dogshit. A far cry from the good day I had at Stewart a few weeks ago. Guess the crazy hours in the office and the stress have gotten to me. This is not how I wanted to feel going into this race. Saturday, the day before, Ginger and I went for a ride around Case Mountain and I felt great. It was a blue-bird day and trails were dry. Amazing what some rest and cutting back on hours in the office will do.
Good night's sleep and we're on the road at 5am enroute to Stewart Forest. I have it fixed in my head that it takes 2hours from Hartford but we got there in a shade past an hour and a half. No traffic. Lots of steady rain though. (After reading the weather forecasts on Saturday I knew we were in for a muddy race.) Things were a bit different this time around. Bathrooms where not where I remember them to be. Parking was quite a ways from the registration and start/finish. No big deal. We have over two hours. I love having plenty of time to not feel rushed.
Walked most of the way to registration before George from Darkhorse Cycles gave us a ride. Said hello to Mike and Dejay from Niner (came all the way out from Georgia and Colorado respectively). Then wandered back to my Jeep. Stopped along the way and walked the first 5-10feet of the singletrack going into Major Mike. Fire roads weren't soggy and the singletrack wasn't too soggy. Hmmm. That 17 might become a problem on lap two. Never one to change things at the last minute I caved and swapped out for my 18tooth cog. I am also one to never go to a race without a host of tools and such. This specific race I almost purposely left that stuff at home. I am thankful I did not.
The plan was two small sized bottles with one consumed while I warmed up. Ginger would then hand me two small sized bottles going into lap two. Two gels per lap with 2-3 back-ups in my jersey pockets. Spare cyclocross tube, C02 and two BB-Gun C02 cartridges within my 'Awesome Strap' on my seatpost.
The top 10 returning Men's Open/Pro field got a call-up. My 14th place finish last year managed to get me into that top 10. Never been called up before. It was pretty cool.
Start was fast as anticipated. Left onto what Sean calls the Prologue loop. Back onto the fire road and up the big fire road climb to Major Mike (course map).
Men's Open/Pro start -- coming down the fire road into turn one.
(still images compiled into a movie - by Ginger)
Men's Open/Pro -- coming through the last turns near 'MC Bridge' and back onto the fire road prior to the long fire road climb up to 'Major Mike'.
(still images compiled into a movie - by Ginger)
I had a decent start and felt good. By the time I got onto the fire road climb the leaders (Monte, James and company) were just about to the top of it. I felt good and climbed that thing seated whilst passing a few people. That put me at a good position going into Major Mike (leading one of the many chase groups from the front guys). It allowed me to pick my lines wisely. The mud on Major Mike was quite slick. Lots of off-camber trails chock full of roots. It was very difficult to get through the tight turns without putting a foot down or having your front wheel slide out. Somehow made it and kept on truckin'.
Somewhere around 1/3rd of a lap in Elk past me and I hung on his wheel. Watching Elk ride changed my whole attitude during the race. He was so smooth through this singletrack and I was not. This quickly made me realize I need to get over how fast I start a race like this and settle into a pace I can be consistent with. As a result, I slowed down a shade and focused more on riding consistently and eating/drinking enough. I eventually landed into "no man's land", an area inbetween various racers where you are riding all by yourself. Typical for me.
I continued racing in "no man's land" for the remainder of lap one and through the better half of lap two. As lap two progressed my legs were getting tired but I made sure I kept on drinking and eating and did my best to maintain a steady pace.
Somewhere near the tail end of lap one.
(photo by 'georouan' on flickr)
Coming up the road climb on lap two.
At the top of the road climb I got two new bottles from Ginger and tossed her my empty one and then turned onto Major Mike. By now, Major Mike, has turned into a peanut butter consistency-like mud. Somehow I managed to turn a cadence so slow that it was probably faster to run with the bike. My stubborn self felt it was better on my ego to ride (even though no one saw me). One small tight offcamber switchback resulted in me dismounting and running through (just like lap one). The remainder of the lap felt good.
Other riders didn't start catching up to me until about 1/3rd through lap two. Ed Burgess being one of them (I was wondering where he was). At that point in time I was actually standing on the side of the trail because my spare tube and CO2 pump fell off the clamp I had on my seatpost. I found everything but the CO2 pump relatively quickly and got back on the bike. Back and forth we went. I would pull ahead of Ed on the singletrack and he would reel me back in on the short road sections. Eventually another group of riders caught up to us as well. I lead everyone through the factory and faded on the slight incline road shortly thereafter. This is the point where I lost a few good spaces and probably where I fell out of the top 20.
Needless to say it was frustrating not being able to hold onto and pull ahead of those guys but I was pegged for whatever I had in me. I gave it my best and the results are what they are. I would up rolling across the finish line solo and in 25th place (2hrs 13min 57sec). No cramping and I rode as hard as I could with what I had. I'm happy. Results are posted here.
Sean sprinting out Roger for 6th.
Elk finishing the race
Sean and I; pretty beat up
Post Race PBR
This is one event that is worthwhile to participate. Until next year...
(all photos by Ginger unless otherwise specified)