The trails seemed to be mostly dry and in good shape. The terrain was lightly rolling with tight and twisty singletrack. There were ample exposed roots but very few rocks. The rises on the portion we sampled we short and steep but no problem. The general feel was that the course would be power sucking and would afford little opportunity to recover. Passing opportunities seemed to be much better than at last week’s venue. The start was on pavement and long enough that most hole-shot and slide artists would not be able to hold it to the trail-head.
As predicted by the various weather prognosticators, the weather Saturday was somewhat less that stellar. The temperature was in the low 40’s, there was a slight rain and it was windy.
- Cat3 Women 19-34 – Jenn Minery – 3rd
- Cat2 Women 19-34 – Janet Lorang – 4th
- Cat2 Women 35+ – Teri Carilli – 2nd
- Cat2 Men 50+ – Les Bethel – 12th
- Cat1 Women 35+ – Cathy Rowell – 2nd
- Cat1 Women 19-34 – Kristen Lukach – 7th
- Cat1 Men 40-49 – Mike Rowell – 1st
Well-I was the lucky one of the group that went out to race Massasoit I must say-No mud in the mouth! The rain only came in the last 15 minutes of my race, but man was it hard regardless!!
I must say I was really impressed number one by the number of girls that came out and raced in my Cat 3 field on a cold rainy day. Number two-damn they all kicked butt too!! 🙂 I was right on the start line and the second that whistle was blown-we were off and my starting line spot wasn’t so great anymore. I managed to get stuck behind a few riders that I wasn’t 100% comfortable with being behind and wanted to get around but couldn’t find a spot. A couple more falls that were in front of me, a few who totally stopped at a bridge, and my start line and all the ladies that were with me-were long gone. But honestly, as hard as I am on myself (legs/fitness/skills), the course was just wet enough, just enough roots, dips, and drops that I was hesitant with, but bounced around, stuck with it and was endo free so all in all it was a success!!!
I did improve on my time from the last race and instead of 10 minutes out from the leaders, I was 8 minutes out and managed to mangle 3rd place out of the root bashing that occurred within my age group.
All in all, I must say, as cold as it was, as much mud that was in teeth, eyes, nose, ears and everywhere else-at some point-there was a smile to be had by all!!
As I sat in the car watching small but persistent droplets of rain hit the windshield, shivering in damp clothes and rain soaked pants, the idea of stripping down to my lycra kit felt about as appealing as surgery without anesthesia. Truth be told, I had no intention of racing when I left the apartment that morning. It wasn’t until I saw MKR and Cathy walk by on their way to registration that the feeling of guilt jolted me into motion. If they can suffer, so can I. All for one and one for all, right?
My expectations are different at this point in the season than they have in seasons past. Winter training was nonexistent due to work obligations, a full load of graduate classes and weekend travel–all things which I willfully chose to undertake knowing full well that racing would suffer as a result. At present I have very poor fitness and chicken legs which struggle to turn over the pedals. As it should be–I haven’t done the work yet.
It continued to rain all morning and it felt like we were standing in a meat locker at the start line. At the whistle I sprinted down the pavement as rooster-tails of dirty water flew up into my face from the wheels ahead. Last into the singletrack, the spray turned into a muddy assault on the eyes, mouth and nasal passages that would persist for the next two+ hours.
I desperately tried to hang onto the group through the first bits of singletrack but the impassable rider ahead would bobble at the bridges or slimy climbs, knocking me off-line and relegating me to “scrambling fool” status over and over again. As the field spread out (read: after I was dropped by EVERYONE) it became easier to choose good lines through the slimey, rooty singletrack and I realized that despite really stinking at the racing part, I was actually having fun riding my bike.
The trails had plenty of gnarly stuff to test your skills on; sketchy footbridges, rooty kicker climbs, vertical hike-a-bikes that you really needed a harness and ropes to navigate and mile after mile of chocolate pudding slop. Despite the conditions I rode confidently and felt like I really had control over my machine, even though I didn’t have the motor to make it go as fast as I wanted to. That part was frustrating– my brain is ready to shred, my legs and lungs are still in a hibernation-induced coma.
Race promotor Jill Logan, being the kind and merciful woman that she is, offered to pull me as I lapped through the start/finish my second time through and I accepted the out, knowing that spending another hour soloing in the freezing cold rain would be an @ss-kicking like none I’ve ever experienced before and probably also a REALLY bad idea. I have the utmost respect for those who raced and finished one, two or three laps on that course in those conditions. It was brutal out there!
PS. If anyone has figured out how to get all of the mud out of their short yet, please drop me a line! 😉
It’s 4 days post race, and I’m still digging dirt out of my eyes. And the kit that I washed 4 times (plus one hosing outside) still has dirt in it, too.
I was reluctant to do this race – not because of the course, but because of the weather. Through the night prior, I could hear the rain hitting the skylight in the bedroom. It rained the entire way down to Taunton, and it was WET. It didn’t help when the park ranger shared that the forecast was for a pretty good thunderstorm rolling through around 11 am – right when our race was to start. And did I mention that temps were in the low 40s? Not only was it wet, but it was also cold.
After some socializing, registering and getting kitted up, Mike and I went out to do some recon on the course. At that point, it wasn’t raining, and the trails were in surprisingly good shape. Pre-race intel told me there were a lot of roots and a couple of bridges – wet roots are gross; wet bridges scare the pants off of me! I didn’t think the roots were that bad, and after balking at the second bridge on the pre-ride and Mike MAKING me go back and clean it (he’s good like that!), I was ready to roll.
We went back to the car for some last minute fueling and changing and that’s when the skies opened. It was DEFINITELY going to be rainy, wet and slimy for our race – hooray!
On the start line, we all stood shivering – Pro women and Cat 1 women all together. We were already soaked through and hadn’t yet turned over the pedals! I looked at Karin, whose lips were literally blue and wondered how on earth we were going to make it through 3 laps of this. And I felt a little bit guilty – I had talked my friend Meg into upgrading (she won the Cat 2 race at Winding Trails by 7 minutes) and I was thinking of her aversion to racing in the rain to begin with, and now she was lined up for an extra lap of suffering (and kudos to her for finishing a strong 4th)!
I made the mistake of removing my glasses before the race, and putting them in my jacket, which I was leaving at the start line. The lenses were spotted with rain, and were fogging up on me making them pretty much useless. I decided it would be best to race without them – a decision I would come to regret less than 5 minutes into the race!
On the whistle it was a mad sprint up the pavement to try and beat the chaos into the woods. I managed to get in right behind the pros, Karin and a couple of younger Cat 1s, with several racers still behind me. The initial pace was fast and furious and before I knew it, I was following those in front, digging mud out of my eyes, and riding over both the bridges that I had not really liked on the pre-ride. Thankfully, I didn’t get caught out – behind, I could hear someone miss the entrance to the second bridge, holding up the riders behind. I was now in the front group, with just Rachel in my category ahead of me.
I chased Rachel for quite awhile – slipping my tires on a climb I had made on the pre-ride, and being forced off the bike. This opened a gap that I was having trouble closing. Soon, I came upon Rachel on the side of the trail. I asked if she was ok, but kept riding. She chased on, and on the next technical climb, passed me again. I could see her for the remainder of the lap, but after missing the dreaded bridge on the second lap, she got away, never to be seen again. At that point, I almost shut it down – I just didn’t want it bad enough.
Fortunately, every time I looked behind me, I could see Michelle P. – not quite close enough to catch, but close enough that it made me uncomfortable, and I went just a bit harder, even though she wasn’t in my category! That got me through the second lap of the race, at which point, I lost sight of Michelle as well.
The third lap was pure misery. I was cold and the course had turned into a giant power-sucking mud pit. The hills were now all runs as traction was gone on all but the most impossible of lines. I had no one in front, and no one I could see behind. About 5 miles from the finish, I heard the dreaded sound of a stick in my derailleur. Oh no! After looking down, I heard and saw the stick dislodge, and figured that someone was smiling down on me. Walking the final 5 miles would have been more misery than I could have managed!
Unfortunately, I now only had about 4 gears with which to work. I figured that either the stick had tweaked something in the derailleur or the hanger, or that the mud had caked into the drive train badly enough to ensure that shifting was now pretty much out of the question. I got a clean line down the treacherous “point and shoot” mud chute, and spun what gears I had as best I could on the remaining flat/downhill sections.
As I came into the final 2 run-ups of the course I caught a glimpse of a racer coming up from behind – NO! At this point, I was absolutely NOT getting caught. I had two near perfect cross remounts, and pushed as hard as I was able to cross the finish line in 2nd place. The advertised 21.3 mile race was actually almost 25 miles and over 2.5 hours.
Mike met me at the finish, and saw that about 2″ of my free-loading stick was still stuck in my derailleur, having broken the jockey pulley! It was luck that I didn’t completely shatter it during the race!
Then it was back to the car to try to get warm and clean-ish before heading home. Not only did I have dirt in places no one should EVER have dirt, but I learned that the reason I couldn’t get anything to drink from my Camelbak was because it had leaked – my legs were dyed blue! With the weather conditions, I didn’t even notice…
Was it fun? Well, I’m sick now and cleaning up was a disaster. The race itself was an exercise in suffering. But it makes a good story, and left a lasting impression on my eyes 😉
They say that you are only as good as your last result. This is a mantra that I’ve always taken to heart, be that for good or bad. In many cases, one could argue, that line of reasoning is flawed if not just plain stupid. Unfortunately, my crazy mind tends to think that way, so that is what I am left with at the end of the day. After all, results don’t lie, right?
Motivation was once again low, this time weather and general health induced. I was sick with a cold and I could tell Cathy was throwing out the bail out hook as we dressed for the day. I did have a purpose though, I wanted to try and redeem myself from last week. It would be a long time living with my crazy thoughts until the next opportunity would present itself so I felt compelled to take advantage of this opportunity. Besides, though I hate, hate, hate mud and crappy weather, I tend to perform pretty well in mud and/or adverse conditions. Once I get into the race the conditions don’t seem to affect me the way they do some. Basically, suffering is still suffering, regardless of whether the sun is out or it’s snowing.
The drive to Taunton was uneventful and as we arrived, it actually seemed to dry up a bit. We checked in and suited up for a pre-ride of at least part of the course. Good stuff, things are looking up.
About 45 minutes before the race was scheduled to depart, the rains returned and visited for the remainder of the event. What felt comfortable at riding temperature before the rain, now felt bone chilling and raw. Things were no longer looking up. Fortunately, I noticed that although not pre-registered, Brian, the man who had put the hurt on me last week, decided to race and was on-site. I would be granted a rematch and I really wanted to make good on it. Shortly there after we were all standing on the line, shivering in the wind and driving rain, waiting for the whistle so we could get on with the task at hand. I think for most, it was the desire to simply get this race in the books with the hope that we would once again be clean, dry and warm. The wish was granted and we were off.
Immediately I flew out of my pedal, flailing I got clipped back in and sprinted to attach to the only wheel that I’d predetermined mattered, Brian’s. I managed to complete the task and we hit the woods one and two. From there we traded turns and worked well together, with Brian displaying more strength and composure than I. We were both suffering from frozen hands and feet which made it tough to shift and stay clipped in. The normal start of the ride cold hands and feet caused by lack of warming blood to the extremities during the initial surge seemed amplified and highly extended as the respite and recovery didn’t seem to come. I fumbled and floundered with popping out of the pedals, missed shifts and hitting sections in the wrong gears.
It was ugly out there. Brian spend most of the first few miles in the lead, I suspect so I wouldn’t C.H. him and partly because he was just plain feeling stronger. He was in fact, in control and I was just hanging on. It was with surprise that when I took a turn on the front on a long flat power section, a gap opened up. I backed off a little as I didn’t really want to spend the rest of the day out ahead solo. We soon hit the first of what would be three virtually unrideable, rooted, steep hills. I heard Brian say something and it sounded as though he may have had some chain-suck. I scrambled over the hill and then on the backside came into a blind hard left after a drop and stacked into the fallen tree in the corner, driving myself into the tail of the saddle. I called out the turn to Brian and got back on the bike to set tempo. Unfortunately, he was not there and I never saw him again.
The laps ticked by ever so slowly, punctuated by worsening conditions. My old coach and generally really nice guy, Frankie was out cheering for his boy’s who were ripping it up in the Cat1 Junior race. His words of encourage were always welcome and appreciated as were those of NEBC teammates near the start/finish. I caught a number of friends in other classes and would try and yell encouragement as I did my best to maintain forward progress and avoid the pitfall of complacency obtained by settling in behind caught riders. It is far too easy to fall into that trap as it takes a surge of effort to pass, anyone, they are moving along just fine, and the pace they are at isn’t necessarily comfortable, it’s just less uncomfortable than the pace you were at before you caught them. The trick is to keep moving forward, a trick that I found really difficult on Saturday.
The last lap was horrendous. I started off with a gel that stuck in my throat and a muddy pull at the nipple of my Camelback that was more mud than drink. Trail conditions had deteriorated to thick, sticky and ultra slick mud that robbed traction on all fronts. The roots never really seemed to be glacial but the mud made up for it. The hot line was the side of the trail, in the pine needles and leaves and away from the viscous wet loam. This meant you picked up all sorts of debris to be deposited on your drive-train and in the treads of your tires, robbing you of traction and demanding extra power, power than you didn’t necessarily have, just to turn the pedals.
On the last of the three stumble uphills, which was only about 1/4 mile from the finish, I saw an approaching rider, that I hadn’t seen before. It was a Bikeman rider and I knew that we had a group of them in our race, one of whom I did not know. Panic. I needed to finish it out clean, no mistakes, and go fast, really fast. Fortunately, I managed to stay out front and finish cleanly, so to speak. Better, though there was nothing really smooth about it and I didn’t really feel I was in the kind of control that I needed to be in, the kind I think that I’ve had glimpses of in the past. Goals for the future, but at least the minimum requirement was met.