Monday, May 12, 2014

The Beast!

I did a local endurance MTB race this weekend in Beaver Falls, PA, which was named The Beast Six Hours of Brady's. And, just like when I did this race last year, it was without a doubt a true beast to conquer.  I kind of think it's funny how I travel all over the nation to race, but find some of the toughest courses in my back yard.  I'm sure this is why there are so many fast racers coming out of the Pittsburgh, PA area.

So, anyway, the Beast was a timed raced based on the total number of laps completed in six hours of racing on a mostly single track course.  The lap distance was approximately 7 miles long and had around 1000 feet of climbing per lap.  After suffering pretty badly on the course last year, I decided to use my Specialized Epic for the race this year and was so happy with my decision.  Using a full suspension bike with gears is not my typical choice, but I must say that having the ability to shift and having a bike with suspension to absorb all the bumps is something I'm beginning to like more and more.  Maybe my age is finally beginning to catch up with me?  It did seem weird for me to not be on a singlespeed bike at the beginning of a race. Others must think it is strange too because I definitely heard more than a few people say, "You're using gears, Gerry?"  

The Beast starts and travels on a rough gravel road before entering the singletrack.  It was so nice to be able to power along this stretch by shifting to a harder gear.  The use of these gears allowed me to get the hole shot leading into the trail and made the first long climb almost a breeze to ride.  My teammate Rob Spreng and I got a nice gap on this first climb, before I let Rob by so he could do his thing on the trail.  Rob rips the singletrack as good as anyone I know and following his lead for the first three laps was a blast.  But, eventually, the fast trail riding pace being set by Rob was a little more than I felt comfortable with doing in a six hour race, so I backed off the speed a bit.  

The cool thing about racing on the Brady's course is that it never gets boring even though it is a multiple lap race.  There are enough technical features on the course to keep it interesting and fun, even during a six hour race.  To make things even more interesting this year, Mother Nature decided to change the course from fast single track conditions to very slick and muddy conditions about halfway through the race.  Once the conditions got bad, I backed my speed down a bit more because I didn't want to make a stupid mistake and lose the lead I had.  I was still the second solo rider on the course at this time and was first in my age class.

With two laps to go, the singlespeed race leader, Joe Malone, caught up to me and we got to ride together for a while.  It was interesting for me to compare what I was able to do on a bike with gears to what Joe could not do on his singlespeed.  It made me wonder about how much time I could gain if I used a geared bike at an NUE Series Race and how my overall finish at these races would be affected. I will admit that this curiosity has entered my mind many times before, but recently has been at the forefront of it.  I'm thinking now might be the time for me to put my singlespeed racing on a temporary hold.  Change is good and after winning the NUE Series Singlespeed Championship the past five years, doing 100 milers with a geared full-suspension bike sounds very inviting to me.  I'll definitely be giving this idea some more thought.

But, my mind will think of things like this during a race lasting for six hours or more to help me pass the time. Having Joe along for the last part of the race was a big help too, especially with the conditions seeming to deteriorate more and more with each passing lap.  By the end of the race, my bike and body was completely covered in mud and I was absolutely ready for the finish.  I took the masters win by over a lap and finished as the second placed solo rider behind Rob, but most surprisingly, beat all the duo teams except for one: the Mihalik/Gorski Team.  It must have been the bike I was riding....

Thanks to Chris Miceli and his volunteers for putting together a great race.  It's always great to have a quality local event to attend and this race was certainly top quality in all ways!  Also thanks to Mike Briggs for his camera work and for taking the photos used in this blog post.

Happy Trails...

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