Sunday, July 8, 2012

ABRA MTB #2, Tomlinson Run Park XC

Before this weekend, I haven't done an XC distance mtb race since last fall.  It's not that I don't like XC racing, but it just seems like there is always an endurance mtb race happening at the same time.  I definitely prefer doing a longer race over a shorter one and for this reason, the longer races are usually chosen over the shorter XC races.  This weekend, however, I had a break in my endurance schedule and also had a nearby XC race, so my choice was easy to make.

The big difference between XC racing and doing a longer race is the intensity put out during the duration of the race.  Typically, an endurance race is started at a fast pace, but usually an hour or so into the race a more comfortable pace is set and maintained until the finish.  During an XC race, I usually have to start fast and maintain a faster pace until the finish.  Of course, an XC race is only about 2 hours long and endurance races are typically 5 or more hours, so it is easier to keep a high pace for the shorter distances of an XC race.  Nevertheless, I wasn't too sure how my body would react to the faster pace of an XC race.

Climbing one of the many short steep hills at the park.

To make my 1.5 hour drive to New Manchester, WV worth while, I arrived at Tomlinson Run State Park earlier than I usually do for a race.  I figured arriving early would give me time to do an entire lap around the 7 plus mile course.  Not only does this prepare me for the first hectic lap of the race, but it also gives me "bonus" training miles for the day.  I also did another entire lap after the finish of the race, so I could add training miles and "cool down."  But, when it is almost 100 degrees outside, I can't say my last lap cooled me down all that much.

The trails at Tomlison are pretty nice.  There is nothing too technical about them, but they were nice flowing single track trails with a lot of quick up and down sections of trail.  I decided to race the single speed category at the race on my Salsa Selma Ti bike with a rigid carbon fork and my Stan's Notubes Crest Wheels.  I figured it would be a good way to give my bike one final racing check before heading out to race in Bend, OR in a couple of weeks.  Overall, I would say Tomlison is not a bad place to ride with a SS.  There were not a ton of real fast sections and the up and down nature of the trails made riding a SS bike a hard, but fast choice.

The race started on a short stretch of pavement leading to a tight single track trail head.  I was sure things would bottleneck and jam-up there, so I went hard at the start to be one of the first riders into this section of trail.  A gap opened-up a short distance into the woods with me and four other riders pulling away from the rest of the pack.  Only one other SS rider, Nate Annon, was in the group and I was happy with the pace being set at the front.  It was fast, but not unmanageable with the gear I was using.  About halfway through the first lap, Rob Spreng made a move on a long climb.  I waited a few seconds for one of the other geared riders to respond to his move, but no one did.  I decided to try bridging up to Rob and Todd Latocha came along with me.  Todd and I got close to Rob, but we never did quite close the gap. 

A shallow creek crossing to help cool things off is always a good thing on a hot day.
 I was happy with how things were playing out after this move and figured I would ride with Todd for awhile, since I had created a nice gap over Nate.  A short distance later, Todd flatted and I found myself all alone in the race.  I could see Rob ahead, but nobody behind me.  Rob is one fast single track rider and I knew there was no reason for me to try and chase him down with the extreme heat of the day, so I kind of went into cruise control mode like I do in an endurance race.  I figured if someone started getting close to me, I could always turn on the gas again.  My strategy seemed to work for the rest of the race and by the finish, I maintained second place overall and took the SS win.

Once again, I need to give a big thank you to JR Petsko of ABRA Racing for putting together a great race.  The course was in perfect condition and a blast to ride even with the hot temperatures of the day.  Heck, I even got to take a nice cold shower after the race in the locker room at the swimming pool where the race day parking was.  What more could a guy want after a hot day on the bike?  I'm not sure when I'll be able to do another XC race with my crazy racing schedule the next couple of months, but I'll definitely be looking forward to doing another, especially if it is organized as well as this race was.

Happy Trails....  Gerry

Photo Credits:  Mike Briggs - Creek Crossing
                        Fred Jordan - Hill Climb

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