Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Bearscat50 race - the good and the bad

If there was ever an event I was ‘ready’ for this one was it. Physically I’ve been feeling really good lately. Mentally I could not stop thinking about this event after last year's performance.

As a result I opted not to ride my bike to the Bearscat50 because I wanted to do well. That decision was solidified after it being suggested to me multiple times from a few individuals. When it came down to the wire I wouldn’t have ridden to the race anyway as there were torrential rains Friday afternoon and evening. Something about 130-150 miles in the rain does not appease me at this point in my life.

Since I am not riding to the race, why not ride a very technical race course the day before?

25miles of rocks is a good 'warm up'

That is exactly what I did. I rode one lap of the race course on Saturday to refresh memory on the magnitude of the rocks and the details of the course. I also wanted to see how this course changes when things are wet (it was very dry last year).

Two and a half hours later I finished a lap. I maintained a pace I felt I could sustain for 50miles which was not that far off from last year’s race when things were dry. I felt really good after one lap so this further solidified everything for me.

Spent the evening with my folks and got a good night’s sleep. My plan was to start the race at a comfortable pace and see what happens. Probably go harder on the 2nd lap when people are fading.

Come race day, I didn't really stick to my plan.

Two guys went after the holeshot out of the field and into the woods. My initial reaction was ‘let them go’ but I also wasn’t feeling the pace they were riding at so I stood up and passed them and settled into the pace I was comfortable with. I didn’t even attempt to look back and just assumed James would be right on my wheel.

Further and further into the woods I went and I realized I didn’t hear anyone behind me.

A gap.

Keep going. You feel good. Get through the 45+ traffic and figure things out then.

That is what I did. I worked really hard trying to get around people in the tight rocky singletrack all while knowing I shouldn’t be working that hard for a race of this length with this type of terrain. Most of the traffic I passed was on the jeep road just before the switchbacks at 5miles in. Everyone was going around the outskirts of the puddles so I went right through the middle so as to not slow down and wait for my turn around the puddle. It was not pleasant having wet socks and shoes 15minutes into a 5+hour race.

From here on out it got a little bit easier to pass people but a few individuals were stubborn no matter how much I told them I was not in their class. I became increasingly frustrated because I knew I could ride all of the trails but had to dismount at the most inopportune times and run around everyone. I prefer riding to running and still, after all these years, have not accepted running as a must at times in races with tight singletrack.

As the lap went on I found myself ahead of quite a few people and stuck somewhere off the back of the really fast guys in the open class. No signs of anyone behind me so I assumed the gap got quite large to the next singlespeeder (also assumed to be James).

Eating and drinking, spinning my 34x20 through the rocks, feeling good.

Until I barreled into a rock garden way off camber and had to dismount and run. I then heard a hissing sound coming from my rear wheel and my whole race flashed by in front of me.

I can’t flat on a course like this. I can’t ride rocks like this with tubes. Not with how wet things are since my tubed tire would be aired up to 40psi instead of my comfy 19psi when tubeless.

This can’t be happening.

I shook my bike around hoping Stans would seal up the bead on my tire but no dice so I started the process of putting a tube in. I first popped the bead on the side where the hole was and didn’t see anything at fault in the tire so I inflated the tire with a CO2 and reset the bead. This held air so I took off down the trail.

I then passed the three or four people who passed me while I was changing my flat and kept on going catching up to more people. Two plus hours in now and around 20miles give or take. I was on track to a sub 2.5hr lap time.

The ride felt good but a few turns felt squishy. I looked down and realized my tire was loosing air. I kept on riding until I couldn’t and then put a tube in. Just as soon as I was getting the tube into the tire James and another singlespeeder came by. They stopped to see if I needed anything but I waved them off thinking I was good.

Seconds later I stick my CO2 on to inflate the tire and nothing. It was empty.


Now my race is over.

I had five miles to go to the start/finish. I had more tubes, a pump and more CO2 at the start/finish so I took off running. Running in a mountain bike race sucks. I am using more energy running than I would if I was pedaling.

Through the next mile or two of running two people passed me and didn’t say a word. Two more guys from MTBNJ came by and threw me a pump.  I was extremely thankful as I now had a shot to at least hold onto 3rd place.

Doing my best to pump the tire up but the pump was taking forever. I eventually got enough air in there to ride it but ride very carefully. I was asking for trouble but knew I was a shade over a mile to the road and then had a mile on the road to the start/finish so I took a chance.

At the start/finish I swapped my bottles, threw on a spare Awesome Strap I had set-up with a tube and CO2 and then grabbed my hand pump out of my bag to inflate my rear tire.  Someone offered me a floor pump and we got my tire up to 35psi and I was off. I felt this resurgence in my mental game and focused on chasing James down.

A few miles into lap two I caught up to the MTBNJ guys who loaned me the pump and returned it to them with a huge thank you and took off.

Now the trails are fairly empty and I set into my rhythm I had on my pre-race ride and focused on riding smooth. My pace was still where it was on the first lap so I figured I had a shot of reeling James back in.

I picked the pace up where I could and every turn I hoped I’d see James. Nothing. Just one or two guys in the open men class.

For the majority of the second lap I rode by myself and really enjoyed that. A course like this I preferred to be alone. I could pick my own lines through things and not worry about someone else dictating how hard I would ride.

About halfway through the second lap I came around a corner and heard another hissing sound coming from the back wheel. I pinch flatted.

Pinch flat at 35psi? The singletrack early in the lap contains more rocks and I was flying through there. How could I flat on a section with hardly anything in the trail?


I just lost my chance at catching back up to James and potentially winning this thing but I still had a shot at staying on the podium. I quickly set about to sticking another tube in my rear wheel. As soon as the tube was in and I was cracking my CO2 to inflate the tire it started raining.



The trails were just starting to dry out and not be so slippery.

Yes, Rain, and lots of it. In a matter of seconds the trails were drenched and water was running down them like a river. I tied my busted tube to my handlebars and got moving again. The rain was cold and it started hailing (which hurt). Hail the size of small marbles.

Eyes squinted I bombed the fireroad descent into the aid station and pulled over asking for a floor pump. My CO2 didn’t inflate the tire as much as I would have liked.  I wanted a rock solid tire as I was out of tubes and did not want to DNF and lose a podium spot.

50psi and I was off.

The rain stopped a few minutes later but the trails were soaked. Soaked more than they were on Saturday. Not fun with a basketball for a rear wheel.

With a focus on just finishing, I ran sections I probably would have ridden because I felt all my luck was used up and I didn’t want a rock to give me another flat and take me out of the race.

Coming onto the road at the end of the lap I had one mile left and was not looking forward to my spinny 34x20 but dug deep for a high cadence to get to the finish. My legs felt great but my forearms were starting to cramp.

I finished and was so glad to be done.

After pedaling around for a few minutes I ran into James. He won the singlespeed field. I was happy for him. It wasn’t my day I was stoked to finish after what I went through.

Turns out there were two people behind James.

50miles of east coast rocky singletrack (which I love). 
Three flat tires
Running upwards of two miles with a flat tire.
Torrential flash downpour with hail.
Competing against a friend and a top notch bike racer.
4th place finish in 5hrs 28minutes.

I'll take that over a win!
Photo: Jocelyn

Singlespeed Results
I was 18minutes behind James but only 6minutes behind 2nd and 3rd.

Open Men Results

Official Results

Kind of hard to see but there's a BlackBear to the left of the access road. I snapped this as I was leaving the race.

Jeff and the crew at Black Bear Cycling did an outstanding job with the race. The weather was difficult but they managed to pull through with clear course markings and a kick ass pulled pork, grilled chicken, potatoe salad, beans, etc.. BBQ afterwards. There was even a raffle for some great swag afterwards which each racer automatically was entered in for. It is great to see such well-run events put on by people that care so much about the sport of cycling. Thanks again guys!

More on the flat to come. The engineer in me found some interesting stuff.


Blogger CB2 said...

Great job Doug!

6/06/2012 6:02 AM  
Blogger James said...

A strong mental game is good to excersize. It truly would have been you on the podium if not for your situation. And I thought I had the bad luck for the day. You are amazing on those rocks! Maybe we should have been running Crows with 30 psi. That is still messing with my head!
Great write up.

6/06/2012 6:43 AM  
Blogger James said...

A strong mental game is good to excersize. It truly would have been you on the podium if not for your situation. And I thought I had the bad luck for the day. You are amazing on those rocks! Maybe we should have been running Crows with 30 psi. That is still messing with my head!
Great write up.

6/06/2012 6:44 AM  
Blogger ThirdGear said...

Nice work! I'm glad you got to see some bears!

6/06/2012 8:10 PM  

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