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.
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
I was 18minutes behind James but only 6minutes behind 2nd and 3rd.
Open Men 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.