Monday, May 7, 2012

Cranky Monkey

Overall, I didn’t feel too bad after doing the Cohutta 100 last weekend, so I decided to do another endurace MTB race this weekend called the 9 hours of Cranky Monkey held at Rocky Gap State Park in Flintstone, MD, which was promoted by EX2 adventures. My initial plan for the weekend was to head over to Delaware to do the MASS 4 hour endurance race at Iron Hill. But, the plan didn’t seem to be the best idea because of the driving time involved and the need for me to find a place to spend the night. After doing some online searching, I found out about the Cranky Monkey and was totally psyched that it was less than two hours from my hometown and was a longer race for me to do. And, to make things even better, a ton of local riders from the Pittsburgh and Morgantown Areas were also headed to this race, so I knew it would be a lot of fun, too.

A lake, mountains, tents, friends, cars and plenty of fun.

Even though I’ve never done the 9 hours of Cranky Monkey, I've heard some good things about the race and venue. When I first pulled into Rocky Gap State Park, I could tell right away the location was perfect for having a multi-lap endurance mountain bike race. The beautiful park is built around a large lake, which is surrounded by mountains and has a host of facilities right at the start/finish area to help riders get through the race. This was a striking and nice contrast to some events I’ve done in the past that seemed like they were located in the middle of nowhere with few amenities for the riders.

The Cranky Monkey course had a nice mix of everything, but it was primarily an 8 plus mile loop of single track that traveled around the lake in the middle of the park. There were some fast trails and some slower more technical trails mixed along with a few short sections of paved surfaces and some wider double track trails. About mid way through the loop, there were a couple of short steep climbs that led to a technical, but fast rocky descent. The course was pure fun and fast to ride at the beginning of the race when it was dry. About halfway through the race, the skies opened-up on the backside of the course, which made it slick and muddy. This definitely made the riding on the technical trails trickier and also slowed down the lap times significantly.
I'm smiling at the start because I'll soon be riding for 8 plus hours.

Like many mass-start, set-time races, the Cranky Monkey had a Le Mans style start that required all starting riders to run about 400 yards to their bikes. I’m not the best runner out there, but I do like how this method of starting separates the field before heading into the tight trails. I decided to save some energy during the run and not push myself too hard, so I managed to only be in the top 20 riders heading into the trail. I was fine with this and within a couple of miles I managed to work myself up to fourth overall. I knew everyone riding around me and they were all on multi-person teams instead of the solo race, so I just continued riding at a fast, but comfortable pace. The last thing I wanted to do was blow all my steam on the first few laps and not have anything left in the tank for later in the race.

A glimpse of the mud on El Mariachi after 3 laps.
For the most part, the laps ticked by pretty quickly for me. I did fall over in a technical section on either lap 2 or 3, which caused some pain in my elbow and gave me limited use of my right arm for most of the race. I also had a couple of mechanical issues to include a broken left carbon crankarm and a flat tire on my last lap. My elbow eventually went numb, so it really didn’t concern me too much during the race. My crankarm never completely fell off, but it became so weak that I could hardly put any pressure on it for about a half lap. Luckily, I brought a spare bike to use for the last three laps of the race and was able to switch my bikes without losing too much time. My spare bike is nice, but it was not nearly as smooth to ride as the Ti Selma I am so used to racing. The flat tire I had would not have been an issue if it was dry, but the muddy conditions required a little extra time to do the repair properly. One thing I’ve learned over my many years of racing is to never give-up because of problems encountered out on the course. Everyone has them and it is just a matter of resolving these issues quickly and then getting back into the game.

The SS podium...with the fastest 3 overall solo times, just saying.

By the end of the race, I was able to hold on to my solo single speed victory, finishing with 11 laps (or about 90 miles) in a time of 8 hours, 5 minutes. This time was actually fast enough to give me the fastest overall solo time also. I Initially though I finished third overall in the solo class, but the riders that had a lower time in other classes actually had fewer laps than I did. Click here for a link to the overall race results. I certainly would have preferred if the day would have stayed dry, but overall I have to rate this race as a very good time and a great test of my endurance. I attribute the fun I had to the large group of my cycling friends being at the race and to the incredible job done by the race promoter/volunteers. I would certainly recommend this race to anyone looking to do a fun multi-lap team or solo endurance race.

Happy Trails…. Gerry

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