vermont in the summer - pt2
Sorry for the delay. Somehow I found myself quite busy this week both during business hours and when I arrived home for the evening.
Back to last weekend, a fun filled weekend in Vermont. I arrived at Bike29 headquarters early afternoon on Saturday. It was pretty darn hot but the shop was air conditioned. I spent an hour or so going through my bike; swapping tires out, truing wheels, changing wheel skewers, drooling over George's new Niner Jet9 RDO. 3pm rolls around and I'm starving so we rode our bikes down the street and I had a nice grilled chicken sandwich and a smoothie to hold me over until dinner time.
Bikes ontop of the car and we're off to Stowe to ride what the locals call the 'town loops'. There was a climb from the parking lot which turned into rolling, rooty and twisty singletrack for the remainder of the ride. This is George's equivalent of the GM Proving Grounds; A place where he tests all of his new bikes. With how rooty it was, it seemed like a great place test out a new 100mm travel 29er full suspension. Only one problem: neither of us remembered to bring along a shock pump for fine tuning the suspension on George's bike. Needless to say he had to deal with it and not I. haha.
I really liked those trails. They were tight turns and roots galore. I haven't ridden trails full of that many roots in a long time. It quickly made me realize that all the trails here in CT are mainly rocks and rock faces. It was pretty cool for a change of pace. The very last trail was a sweet descent back to the parking lot. Despite the heat it was a ton of fun for the two of us. Most of all we were stoked to just be out riding and enjoying the ride. Something the two of us independently have kind of needed the past month and a half.
Back into Waterbury, we dropped our gear off at the shop, got cleaned up and went to the local watering hole, The Alchemist. They only sell the beer they brew on site. It was some of the best IPAs I've have in a long time. Despite the good food and good beer we retired at a reasonable hour the evening.
The next morning went rather quickly even though we thought we had plenty of time. After packing up George's car and getting some breakfast we headed towards Willington VT for the main event, as mentioned in my previous story. The event was called the Eastern Cup and was held at the Catamount Family Center in Williston VT. At the time I did not know anything about this place or the history of this evening. This past week I learned more about the history of this event (which I'll get into later).
We opted for the 6hour race, which was new, and opted as a duo team. Car Ram-Rod was our team name and we even wrote it down.
After registering we heard over the loudspeaker that we had only but a few minutes until the race would start. They were starting the 6hour racers, cat2 and cat3 racers at 9am. George and I kept arguing over who would go first and wasted precious time arguing where we could have been preparing for the race. The arguing actually went like this..
"you want to go first?"
"I could, if you don't want to.."
and so on and so forth. Then the loudspeaker said 'two minutes' and I gave in and said
"I'll go while you set up camp."
Like a well oiled machine, My bike was all set up, my bottles filled and I was out of that telephone booth like Clark Kent and onto the races.
And just like that, the race was off. I found myself in a line of riders meandering around the field and ultimately off into the woods and into the singletrack. I knew my pace shouldn't be too terribly fast as we were riding for a total of 6 hours but I also couldn't help such a fast pace out of the gate. Two or three guys took off the front and disappeared while I was trying to navigate some very tight and twisty singletrack in a train of people. The front half of the lap could have been fun but I wasn't having too much fun as the group I was in was not consistent through the turns (I kept having to slam on my brakes and speed up). Riding a singlespeed amongst a bunch of geared riders in tight trails like this is not much fun.
Meanwhile, George was busy setting up camp (a pop-up tent in the parking lot with R2).
This is not your ordinary droid, This droid was full of ice and Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Back to the race... We rounded a right turn to a pseudo wide climb and I busted left and took off past everyone in front of me. I had enough and needed to forge ahead without being on someone's wheel. I felt good and felt strong so this surge didn't seem un-necessary. After that surge I rounded another corner and into the second half of the course (without anyone ahead of me). The second half was a ton of climbing up onto this ridgeline, not once but twice with a few very short punchy inclines thrown in the mix just because. The rest of the group didn't really catch back up to me until the second climb. Those that did were the solo 6hr guys and by now I was in a good rhythm for myself and had no qualms with letting anyone pass me. I am ultimately back to the start/finish and it was about 40ish minutes since I began. George was there waiting for me and I pulled off to rest while he took off on his first lap.
This is where things are strange for me... 40 minute hard efforts followed by about a 40 minute rest? My body and my mind do not really know what to do with this but I managed. I refilled my bottles, had a PBR and started munching on a clif bar. During the race my rear brake rotor was rubbing with the caliper so I had the bike stand out and was tinkering with my bike. I'd think I had it and then went for a spin around the parking lot only to find it still rubbing under load. Something was deflecting. I kept tinkering with it some more and wasn't really paying attention to my watch.
Next thing I know George shows up. I look at my watch and I forgot when I came in and George went out. All I could muster was...
To which he gave me a ration of shit and then asked if I was okay. I was and quickly hopped on my bike nad headed out for another lap. Not the cleanest of pit stops / rider transitions but we would ultimately get better at this as the race went on.
The second lap seemed to go a bit smoother than my first lap. I kept trying to ride the twisty stuff more consistently. My first lap felt like I was on the brakes too much. Still feeling strong, I muscled my 34-19 up those climbs on the back half of the lap with little effort. Another 40 minutes pass and I'm back in the pits only to realize I didn't drink any water or eat anything on that lap.
Another PBR, another bottle of water and more Clif Bar while George was out on his second lap. I also paid close attention to my watch on this lap so I knew when to be back near the start/finish for George's arrival. I then had a gel right before George arrived and was subsequently out on my third lap feeling really good.
I finally got the hand of this course on lap three. The twisty and fast front half was ridden about as smoothly as I could. I had a very good pace going and didn't really touch the brakes too much. I knew my pace was good when I saw the solo 6hr 'fast' guys a few turns ahead and a few turns later I was the caboose of their train.
Right before the end of the front half and the beginning of the second half I passed all the 6hr 'fast' solo guys and found myself off the front of their group going up all the climbs. I was having fun and riding strong and fast (what appeared to be). The last short punchy incline I felt my legs twitching. Guess I wasn't eating and drinking enough even though I did drink a whole bottle on lap 3.
Entering the pits after lap 3 I briefly mentioned to George that I started feeling the cramps coming. He gestured for me to eat some bananas and drink more fluids. He then went off to rally a third lap.
I finished a bottle and had two bananas and then sat around (in the shade) resting while George was tearing it up his the 3rd lap. I hoped on my bike and spun my legs as I meandered around the parking lot and other non-race areas near the start/finish. Ran into a local guy I have been mostly riding with on each lap. He was fast and quite consistent and our paces were a pretty good match. We were having fun going back and forth while out on the course. Turns out he was also racing duo so it was both good rivalry and good clean fun riding bikes together.
George finished his third lap and we had a little pep talk. We both went into this event wanting to have fun and really only had the notion of doing three laps each. I left him hanging when he started his third lap by expressing concern that my legs didn't have much more in them (an artifact of not really eating and drinking much in the 75-80F weather) but did inform him in our pep talk that I felt a bit rested and can get another lap in. The decision was made to keep riding and I then went out for my fourth lap.
Just like the previous two laps, I rode quite consistent through the first half of the course. When I got to the gradual (pseudo false-flat) climb which I considered the start of the back half I felt my legs become very heavy. They were never this sore on this section of the course so I got worried about the steeper sections to come. Drank more fluids and had one gel (the only food I had with me) and seemed okay for the next big climb. Rather than being on the gas all the time I pulled back a bit here and there to conserve energy. It seemed to be working as I was able to make it up the second big climb (a bunch of tight switch backs).
Being able to get through the big climbs on my fourth lap with great success I figured I was in the clear to finish. My watch also showed me finishing in the 40-45min range like every previous lap. Unfortunately there were two more really short punchy climbs alongside a grassy powerline that I had to go up. The first one I made it up but just barely. In fact, it did me in and my legs were pretty much cramping. The second climb I had no chance and actually got off the bike on the course, for the first time the whole race. As soon as I got off the bike I couldn't stand and had to sit in a squat. Water bottle was now empty and I had no food with me but was also a few short minutes from the finish line. What a shitty place to be. On one hand I was upset with myself for being subborn and not eating/drinking enough. On the other hand I felt like I let George down. The later is what got me back up and hunched over my bike as I dragged myself up this incline. At the crest I forced myself back onto the bike and forced myself to pedal. My legs actually cleared up a bit but when I tried to turn the cadence up to ludacris cadence on the field entering the start/finish I had nothing and couldn't go any faster.
I did finish that lap and my slowing down near the end only left George with about 50-55minutes to do his fourth lap before the six hour mark. He acknowledged that he had it in him and took off. While George fought against the clock and rode a 6-7mile time trial through the woods I went back to the car and got some food and beer in me and cleaned up. I did not know this at the time but George was riding himself inside out on that fourth lap. He was riding very strong, and consistent, all day so it was to no surprise to me that he'd be equally as consistent on his fourth lap. I was stoked for his ride and stoked for my ride and stoked for the day. The weather was perfect, sunny and in the mid to upper 70s with very low humidity, and above all; we were having fun riding bikes [in a race].
That photo above is George riding himself inside out. Just look at his face. He's a man on a mission. On such a mission that he burped his front tire somewhere not that far from the finish of the lap. Probably near where my legs said 'fuck you'. Now, George isn't one to take up running. I also was at the finish waiting for him to come riding in and had a cold PBR waiting for him. I didn't see him and the time was getting damn near the end of the race. A minute or two later I saw someone come around the corner on foot, running, towards the finish line. It was George. Running! It turns out he was so stoked for our ride and so bummed that he burped his front tire that he decided to run it in and try to beat the clock. Beat the clock he did! He finished with less than five minutes to spare for the 6hour mark. I then handed him a cold PBR and we called it a day of bike riding/racing. You can read his re-cap here.
What a ride. What dedication from us both. I think we both fueled of each other's excitement throughout the day. This aspect of a duo or even a quad format in a 6/12/24 hr race is quite rewarding. The positive attitude and stoke for each other keeps each other going. Well, that's at least what we appeared to be doing on this fine Sunday.
As more people would slowly trickle in we hung out at our pit and grilled some jalapeno chicken sausages and recapped on the day's events with each other and George's friends from the area. This is exactly what we needed and what we needed going into this year's Darkhorse40. We stuck around for the awards ceremony and found out we took 2nd place in the duo category.
The gentleman I was riding with most of the race took the win. They took the win by a mere two minutes on account of George's flat and run in. George saw their teammate pass him while he was running.That was a fun weekend. We both look forward to doing it again soon. I see another trip back to Vermont in September. Maybe I'll be able to squeak one in August but I'll probably be too tied up with my kitchen remodel to leave town.