HRRT Freedom Fest 3 Hour RaceThis was the ONLY bike racing option in all of the Northeast on July 4th weekend, because apparently promoters think everyone is on vacation and not feeling racey, and would rather compete with each other on the same date than run a race on the holiday weekend.
So... I went out to Schenectady with Official Lady Friend (tm) Christin, and we did a 3 hour race with a grand total of 30 starters. You might think that with only 30 humans on bikes present, I'd have a shot at being the fastest one there, but you'd be wrong -- Scott Levreault from Joe's Garage was there, and he can BRING IT (on a rigid singlespeed), much to my chagrin.
The trails were fun, and super tight, and twisty, and then it started raining like there should be a tornado watch. After an hour, my rear brake had PEACED OUT and my front brake was also interested in retiring from its duties. I was riding with Scott (aka IN FIRST PLACE) but I was keenly aware that I was going a little too fast and soon going to be riding with NO BRAKES. Because I had been flogging myself in the mud just last weekend this all seemed especially stupid, so I quit.
Meanwhile, no one told Christin that she could stop riding when it was un-fun so she rode on while I played games on my phone in the car. Ha!
Wrath of the Boneyard MTB RaceThe plus side of DNF'ing was that by the time DA BONEYARD rolled around on July 17, I was STOKED to throw down on the mountain bikes. With a name like "Wrath of the Boneyard" you knew it was going to be gnar, and I do loves me some gnar. I decided that this race would be a great experiment to answer the question "is a 29er hardtail the best race bike always?"
Sadly, the answer is NO. Because the Boneyard was ridiculous. Like, if you gave me a pickaxe and a granite quarry and all the time in the world... I still probably couldn't make a configuration of rocks quite that evil. The first two miles of the course were the most rugged thing I have ever raced on.
Which is pretty, cool, and all, but damn would a dualie have been the ticket here. 29er hardtail hypothesis: REJECTED.
It was also 90 (billion) degrees, so I was full of pedialyte and employing the "let everyone else get really hot in the first hour, then catch them) pacing strategy. I felt like this had real potential, but near the middle of lap two my stupid hardtail, with its stupid light race tires started going "clunk" when I hit rocks. I was like, "oh maybe it will seal," but then I remembered the sealant was 12 months old so I was totally screwed, unless I brought a tube, which I didn't, because FLATS DON'T HAPPEN TO ME, DAMMIT.
Then I ate a hot dog, and once again Christin had to keep racing her bike for much longer than me, which I was only partially jealous of. Then she won her category and GOT PAID, which I was definitely jealous of.
The Week I Broke EverythingSince I was just telling you how flats don't happen to me, (cuz I have "finesse" or something), I proceeded to get a flat tire on my Monday ride (using a tube), flat on my Thursday ride (with a new tubeless tire) and flat on my Saturday ride (just because). I also broke my shoe (!?) on Saturday. And my chain.
Just in case you were starting to think I'm not THAT GUY WHOSE BIKE BREAKS
Valley MTB EpicMatt Myette had this great idea to do a mountain bike ride that linked up all the trail systems in the greater Sutton area into one epic ride. He said it would be 45 miles of trail and 20 miles of road. Apparently the greatness of this idea was less obvious to his friends, as only six of us could be conned into this adventure: Me, Matt, GREGWHITS, Ronnie Steers, Pete Smith and Karen Potter.
We rolled out at 8:30 AM with a strong thunderstorm to the north. Luckily, it was moving east, so we were safe from it. According to my phone, that is, because in reality it was raining on us with a check-for-tornadoes (yeah, again) fury twenty minutes later. Oops.
Then it stopped, and we were like "oh it's gonna be good now," only for it to pour again. And then a third time. And a fourth. NEW ENGLAND WEATHER!!
In between the downpours, it was approximately 200% humidity in the woods, which led to a phenomenon I've never seen before: the deer-fly comet.
As we rode through the woods in air so thick it practically punched you in the face, the lead rider's tasty flesh would pluck deer flies out of the air. The flies would assemble in a cloud behind him, ignoring the fact that there were five other tasty morsels following. Eventually, the lead rider would had a cluster of 50-100 flies chasing him, building into a trail of flies drafting each other and him, stretching roughly 3.8 astronomical units into space.
This was particularly rough for the 2nd rider, because if he got too close to the comet he would literally end up with confused deer flies bouncing off his face, and if he said something like "HOLY SHIT I JUST ATE A DEER FLY" the lead rider might stop, and then EVERYONE got eaten by deer flies in retribution.
At lunch time we had ridden 4 hours, I had broken my bike 3 times, and Pete, Karen and Ronnie decided that riding should be "fun" instead of "dumb" and they went home. Matt, Greg and I ate giant subs and cheese fries and remarked on how "90 degrees and humid" is very very marginally better for riding than "raining like crazy."
After lunch, I tried to ride my bike with 1500 calories in my belly. It went poorly for a while, and then my reluctance to drink water because my tummy hurt made things go even worse. Around the 5th hour on a mountain bike, I cracked completely and Matt and Greg started having to wait for me. Which they did, probably enjoying every minute of it.
Eventually I sorted my internals out enough to get back to effective sufferation and we rolled into hour six of GETTING RAD, which was now just "surviving technical stuff when you're shattered." I failed that part of the test at one point, and went over the bars, landing miraculously unharmed EXCEPT for my stupid knee, which I tore the skin off for the fourth time this year.
You know how when you're making smores, your marshmallow catches on fire, so you blow it out, eat the burned part of and put it back in the flame... only to catch fire again? That's my knee this year.
While I was busy bleeding down to my ankle we kept riding, because no big deal, right? Finally we reached the RESERVOIR and HOUR SEVEN of bike riding, and I was so excited to be basically done and also at a body of water on a hot day.
We jumped in, swam around, and I was like "man, swimming is tiring" so I just stood there in water up to my shoulders.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, there was a violent shaking on my wounded knee! And it REALLY HURT! So I flipped out!
I bolted out of the water to discover that a mother-effing fish had just bitten a flap of skin off my open wound, and that nature is scary, and we should pave everything.
Then we rode 15 more minutes home, during which Matt couldn't sit down because of his saddle sores, which made me feel a bit better (note: Matt rode without chamois cream, using a Champion System chamois). Now it's been four days, and I'm still eating everything in sight and my quads are still sore. Dude, biking is hard! Even when you don't have a Rapha camera crew along to properly epic-ify what you're doing!
Here's a picture of Matt summing up the ride, and really my entire bike-racing month:
Luckily the DARKHORSE 40 and 24 HOURS OF GREAT GLEN are coming up next month, so soon I will vanquish the memory of a silly July with either AWESOME TIMES or EVEN MORE FAILURE. Till then!