Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Yellow Reign

It seems as if the rain will not let up. It feels like we have had a rain shower every day in the month of June. From drizzles to wicked thunder storms that knocked out power all over and had people going for a week without it. Yet the Stony Marathon was approaching and the forecast called for more rain come race day. When I woke up on race day and looked out the living room window all I saw was wet ground. It was 6:00 am, 4 hours until Robert would give the, "Have a good ride guys. About 10 seconds until you go."

I packed up the car and headed over to pick up Austin. He was going to play a huge support role for us along with my parents. This was going to be a long race and we needed bodies at the tent to pass bottles and help out racers if they had to pull in on the laps. We got there with about 1.5 hours until the start. We set up camp next to Team Fraser and Team Sandbag flanked us from the south side. We were in good company and they had experienced support crews so it was a good relief to know we would have all kind of help.

Enduro, Hollywood, Ice Man, Endoboy, Captain Terror and I were the team roster for the day. It was a NORBA race so we would be hunting for points. Best 5 finishes would go toward our team total for the season. We knew the course was not going to be kind due to all the recent rain. A 10 mile loop that had some good climbing, winding single track and some open two track to flex your road legs a little. Mike, Gerry and Brian were there to race the Sport category that would have them out there doing circles for 40 miles. Heather would be going up against her rivals for 50 miles in the Expert/Elite Women's Class. Jeff and I were looking down the barrel of a 60 mile race in less than favorable conditions. We all seemed pretty much at ease but we all knew that mud and rain can break a bike at any time.

Close to start time we all lined up in our respected classes. All levels of riders would be going off top to bottom at 10:00 in 2 minute intervals. Jeff took a spot in the front row with his normal pack. I lined up in the second row right behind him next to a racer I know from RBS. I knew him and I would be pacing together so it was a good place to be. I looked over my shoulder before the start to see if I could see any of the team in the river of racers behind me but had no luck. All of a sudden it was go time.

The pace was quicker than what I expected for the start of a 60 mile race. I hung to the back of the pack making sure not to get dropped. I could see Jeff and he looked like he was where he wanted to be. Jason, from RBS, and I rode most of the first loop together with two other guys in our class. Upon finishing our first loop I noticed Jeff was maybe 15-20 seconds ahead of me. At first I thought something was wrong but as I lapped and looked at my time I knew something was wrong. I was pacing out way over my head. I needed to slow down if I was going to survive. The course was bad . Standing water on the two track, muddy corners in the single track and the section they added to reroute a really bad area.....was 6 inches of tire spinning mud for about 100 meters. But things could be worse. It could have been snowing and in the 30's like it was just over 2 months ago for the first race of the season. Maybe I shouldn't complain.

The second lap I had put some space between Jason and I and came across a mix of racers here and there but it seemed a lot of riders were scattered. No groups forming pace lines on the flats like I expected. Near the end of lap 2 I really didn't have anyone around me.

Lap three was a little more eventful. I stated to pass a couple riders but I got passed from behind by some of the 40+ Experts. Man were they moving. Thought it was crazy how fast they were moving...kind of like they were time trialing. that train was moving to fast so I kept my own pace and finished lap three.

On the start of lap four I was feeling well still and mentally alert. The bottle hand off's went smooth and I was getting a second wind. The mud didn't seem to be getting any better but the scattered rain had finally stopped. The open two track was starting to take it's toll on me. From being so wet your tires just sank as you rolled along. There was no easy section to rest on the entire 10 mile loop. As I came across the end of lap 4 I notice Mike was at the back of the tent. he looked okay so I thought it was either a bike issue or he was just refueling. Ends up I was wrong. Mike had made it 30 miles but had to throw in the towel. He had bad cramps in his legs and didn't want to push it any more. After the race I found out this was happening a lot, even to the upper class riders.

Lap 5 I started to catch Beginners and had to do some fancy passing in the single track. I was also starting to notice that a lot of the guys who went out fast in the beginning were starting to blow up. I was finally passing more Expert riders altho I had no idea what class most of them were in. As I came around to finish lap 5 Brian was there cheering me on as well as Gerry and the support crew. The encouragement was nice to hear even if it made me throw a bottle at Brian for his smart @ss comments : )

Lap six....I had no idea what place I was in but was happy the Elite racers didn't lap me. The sun was out and it was starting to get humid. No worries, only 10 miles to go and the bike was still shifting well. I forgot to mention I was racing a new hartail but more on that later. 10 miles, that's all. Well it was a hard ten miles. The single track was starting to take a toll on me and I could feel my pace dropping. My arms were tired and I just wanted to be back on the two track to rest them. As I came closer to the last big climb about a mile from the finish I stared up that hill and told myself this was the last time I had to climb it today. I geared down and made it up no problem. I could not see any riders in front of me and I had no threats from the back. I picked the pace up but did not push it to hard. I hadn't had any signs of cramping and I didn't want to encourage any.

My time was 4:35:15 and to my surprise I took 5th out of 13 in my class. My second podium finish in a row in Expert. I was pumped. I guess more guys from our class blew up than I thought. My lap times weren't as consistent as normal for me but I didn't have any major spikes showing. Jeff pulled a solid time of 4:23:43 and finished 3rd in our class. A solid ride and he walked away happy with hos performance.

Heather finished 15 seconds behind a podium spot with a time of 4:28:18, 6th out of 11 in her class. I didn't get a chance to talk to her much after but she seemed pretty up beat altho I know that 15 seconds will haunt her all season. Gerry said he went out to fast. Word is he basically collapsed at the finish line, fell over without even unclipping. I think he did it all for show tho. He likes to play the crowd. He did his 4 loops in 3:33:47 and took a top 10 in his class. That brings us to Brian, the man who was worried he may not finish. Well he made it the entire 40 miles and I'll point out he got Gerry by 5 minutes with the time of 3:28:35. That got him 4th in his class but I know he walked away with sme confidence. I think this performance is what Brian needed to get going this season.

All in all I am glad we had no bike issues, crashes or serious injuries. It was a rough day. I think the 78 miles I did at the 6 hours of Addison was easier than this race and that was 90% single track. I am proud of the whole team and all the others who attempted this race. So we scored some solid points for the team race series and brought home two more Expert level medals so Team Signoutfitters.com was announced over the loud speaker twice. Great job to everyone and good luck to those going to Boyne for the Marathon on July 12th.

Keep you glasses clean and your derailluer shifting.


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