Monday, July 2, 2012

Mountain Junkies Fat 5 Enduro

After finishing the Hilly Billy Roubaix at the end of June, I had no definite race plans set in stone until the High Cascades 100 NUE Series Race in Bend, OR on July 21st.  I was hoping to find a MTB endurance race fairly close to home,so I could keep rebuilding my endurance fitness after my tick bite infection and treatment in June.  I did some searching on the internet and found a race in Bedford, VA (about a five hour drive from home) called the Mountain Junkies Fat 5 Enduro that seemed like a perfect fit.

I worked an early shift on Friday and was on my way to the Bedford, VA with my packed car by 2pm.  After knocking out the hectic drive down Interstate 81 (that highway is just insane) through Virginia, I arrived in Bedford with just enough time to do one loop of the race course.  I was really pumped to get on my bike after sitting in the car for 5 hours straight, even though it was still about 100 degrees outside at 7pm.  I took my bike out of the car, put on my cycling gear and then reached behind my car seat to grab my racing shoes.  Damn, they weren't there!  I tore my car apart hoping they might be some place else in the car, but I had no luck in finding them. 

By the time I finished all my digging, it was already 7:30 and I knew my options for finding shoes that fit properly for the race by early morning were not good.  I decided to ride my bike on the beginning part of the course with my Vans rubber-soled street shoes, but stopped riding after only doing about 1/2 mile because my Crank Brothers pedals were killing my feet.  Yeah, I actually did consider racing in my Vans up until that point.  I then searched the internet for a bike shop in town, but there was nothing in town and everything out of town had closed at 7pm.  My next thought was getting a pair of old school plastic toe clips and a cheap pair of caged pedals for the race at Walmart or something.  I found the pedals, but no clips to hold my feet on the pedals.  At this point, I was completely frustrated with myself about wasting all the time I did to drive to this race and not even being able to do it.  I was thinking about canceling my hotel reservation and driving home, so that I could at least do a long ride on Saturday with a proper pair of shoes.

But, before I cancelled my race plans altogether, I decided to give one last ditch effort of calling a friend a shot to see if he knew of any shoe options for me.  I decided to call my long time friend and Mountain Touring promoter extraodinar, Chris Scott.  Not only does Chris live in Virgina, but he also has more cycling contacts than anyone else I know.  Chris made some calls and before I knew it the Fat 5 Enduro race director himself, Kenny Palmer, was hand delivering me a nice pair of size 44 carbon-soled Bontrager shoes with Crank Brothers cleats already mounted to them.  Suddenly, the stress I had about my shoe situation was over and I could start concentrating on the race again.  I need to say a big thank you to both of you guys and to everyone else that assisted me in finding a pair of cycling shoes on such a short notice.

I checked into my hotel, moved everything into my room, put on the shoes and literally a few minutes later went outside to try the shoes on my bike, but was almost unable to open the door because the wind had gone from almost nothing to what seemed like an approaching hurricane.  Trees were blowing all over the place, branches were flying and thunder was booming.  I was shocked at how fast this storm rolled into the area and went back into my room to turn on the weather channel, so I could see the radar view of the storm soon to hit the area.  So, much for racing on dry trails tomorrow, I thought to myself when I saw the size of the storm headed to the area.

Oddly enough, though, very little rain came with the storm.  It was mostly a wind event, but the wind was so strong that it wrecked havoc to the trails where the race was to be held.  I did some pre-riding of the course when I arrived at Falling Creek Park to determine if I should race my geared Salsa Mamasite or my SS Selma Ti.  After seeing all the branches and debris on the trails I pre-rode, I decided a SS would be less risky.  The last thing I wanted was to start the race and then have it end quickly by a stick ripping off my derailleur a short distance into the 5 hour race.  I figured switching bikes later in the race was always an option if the trails cleared.

Kenny and his crew at the park did an outstanding job cutting down the trees that had fallen all over the course and after a few laps of racing, most of the debris on the trails had been kicked off by all the bikes riding over it.  The only issue riders had to contend with now was the heat of the day.  The forecast was for 100 degree temperatures and after a couple hours of racing, it felt like that threshold had been reached.  When it is super hot like this at a race, the most important thing to do is to keep drinking fluid.  On each 7.5 mile lap, I drank about 1.5 bottles of fluid.  I knew as long as I was still sweating all was good and I would not dehydrate.

There were no long sustained climbs on the course.  It was mostly a mix of quick up and down rollers on tight, rooty and rocky single track.  I race on stuff like this a lot and usually like it, but for some reason at this race my rigid carbon fork was not feeling very compliant and I was wishing my bike had a suspension fork in the worst way.  My hands actually started to hurt and with two hours of racing remaining, I wondered if I could forget about the pain enough to finish the race.  I'm pretty good at fighting through pain, so I focused on the finish and kept changing my hand position to get me through the remainder of the race.

The race started fast and I stuck to the two young geared riders ahead of me, Wes Lamberson and Gordon Wadsworth, for about a half lap.  I decided it would be better to slow my pace down a bit after the start because I knew the length of the race and the heat of the day was going to be an issue if I didn't.  Looking back now, I probably slowed my race down a little too early because I never felt too bad from the extreme heat.  I don't think the end result of the race would have been any different, though.  Wes and Gordon were flying and I was happy to finish in third place behind the two of them.  I got exactly what I wanted out of the race; a hard and fun workout.

I would certainly do another race promoted by Kenny Palmer.  He put on a class act of a race, especially considering how he had to contend with the extreme wind and heat Mother Nature gave him this past weekend.  Thanks to you and all the volunteers for doing a job well done!

Happy Trails...  Gerry

Photo Credt: Mark Morrow

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