Stewart Super 6-Pack Race Report

For the six-plus years of this blog's existence, I've liked to assume that I am "bad" at bike racing and that I write about how much I "sucked" and it's "funny."  While this may be true in the grand scheme of things (don't look me for at a ProXCT anytime soon), if there's anything I've learned in the last month it's that "sucking" is not funny at all, and not something I want to write about.

And that is why, when I dropped out of The Pinnacle after only a lap, with a bike that was 100% FUNCTIONAL, I did not blog about it.  Calamity is funny.  Massively unperforming your own, previously-reachable expectations, by a margin so great you wonder if you had a lung amputated?  Not funny.

However, I thought the Stewart Six-Pack would be a good place to rally.  Flat, fast trails, for six hours?  While my XC results have been abysmal, my ride-all-day results have been SOLID this year.  If you need someone to be your ride bro for the whole day, well shit, I can still do THAT.  And what is a six-hour ride at Stewart State Forest if not the ultimate RIDE BRO ride?  Let's do this.

Of course, on the flip side, it projected to be the equivalent of doing TWO Darkhorse 40s (may it rest it peace...), and usually the Darkhorse 40 ended with me praying for death on a hot and humid day after 3 hours.  Hmmm.

The race sold out (rad) but we had a wave start, so things were civilized with "only" 35 guys rolling out in "Open Men."  We rode about half a mile down a dirt road and got to a fork.  At the fork, the tape was down, and there were five cars full of bird hunters in the process of entering the course.

In a miracle I can only attribute to endurance racing, not a single person freaked out and nary a curse was uttered at the vehicles.  We slowed down, squeaked by the cars, (I think someone even thanked them (?)) and then resumed bike racing.

If that doesn't prove that Stewart is a magical forest that calms the bike racer soul, I don't know what does.

Turns out we would be riding through two different fields full of people camping and hunting all day, and even worse, they had SIGNS posted at the TRAILHEAD in ADVANCE about this, they might've even had a PERMIT.  For all I could tell, they were at least as legit as we were.

MULTIPLE USER GROUPS!  HOW DO THEY WORK?!

Anyway.

Recalling my Pat's Peak 6-hour experience, where I was 21st after lap 1 and 4th at the end of the race, I decided I wanted nothing to do with the business end of the race, lined up at the back, and HUNG OUT for lap one.  It was still, of course, my fastest lap of the day, but damn does it feel good to ride at 90% of race pace on flat, twisty trails.  Yeah I can do this all day.  FOR SURE*.

(* lap times may prove otherwise)

The highlight of the lap was catching up to teammate Hughes just in time for him to have one of the most enjoyable crashes in the history of mountain bike racing.  Let's break it down:

1) We are descending through a field, in a group of riders.  Pretty quick.  There's a mud hole at the end of the descent.
2) There's a dry line of the left of the mud hole, but it's hard to see if you're in traffic.  The guy in front of Hughes deviates onto the dry line at the last second.
3) Hughes rightfully realizes he'd much rather be on the dry line and heads that way, but it's too late, he's already heading into the mud hole
4) The sidewall of the mud hole, of course, is crazy slippery so his bike doesn't grip it at all.  His wheels stay in the mud hole, but his body goes over the dry line.
5) Bikes do not stay upright very long when tilted at 45 degrees and thus Hughes gets WIPED OUT SO BAD, going face-first into the bushes.

It took me a good five seconds of laughing before I realized I should ask if he was okay.

(See, other people's calamity, still funny)

I finished up lap one and noted I had easily drank my entire bottle, because it was eighty-some degrees and a billion percent humidity.

Lap two was equally enjoyable as I continued to not ride especially hard, and started passing guys who had been riding pretty hard on lap one.  I was, however, hungry and thirsty, which is not a great place to be in the second hour of a six hour race.

Luckily I had a cooler full of options.

At the end of lap two, I decided that I could kill two birds with one stone by drinking the PROTEIN SMOOTHIE I had brought.  440 calories in 16oz of liquid?  THAT'S GOOD VALUE.

I chugged it on the dirt road in about 3 minutes.

As the race entered it's third hour I noticed that riding "90% of race pace" was starting to feel like riding "race pace."  I decided to address this issue by adding more food to the engine.  Watermelon GU Chomps.  First time ever eating these things... hmm.  Not a fan.

In related news, my stomach was starting to hurt, so I decided I needed to pee.

My pee stop did nothing but establish that I did not actually need to pee, even though I had been through 3 (or was it 4?) bottles by now plus that smoothie.  Did I mention it was in the eighties and a trillion percent humidity?

By the end of lap three my progress up the ranks had reversed direction and I was remembering just how hard six hour races were.  I lied to myself that I was halfway (even though it had only been 2:45) and headed out on lap four.

Lap four was basically the worst hour I've ever had racing a bike.

My core was apparently using 100w at all times to keep my stomach from exploding.

Also, the bee that had stung me on lap two (oh crap, I forgot to mention that!) had apparently sucked all of the red blood cells out of my body.

My hematocrit was down to 25% and they prescribed me EPO at the halfway aid station when they became aware of my condition.  Seriously.

Or at least, I think that's what happened.  I remember straddling my bike and mumbling at people with water and not going anywhere for quite a while.

The temperature was now mid-eight-hundreds and the humidity had reached infinity times infinity.

Lap four took me 1:04, a solid FOURTEEN MINUTES slower than my first lap.   I was pretty sure I was dying and needed to drop out.

Luckily I have a wealth** of six-hour race experience to fall back on.  I knew that, no matter how bad you feel, it is possible to feel better at some point in the future.  And I knew that when you're broke, drink a coke (tm).

(** I have done 1 six hour race before)

I started lap five by drinking and entire coke as I rode down the dirt road, despite my stomach's repeated questioning of the idea.  I went to wash it down with my water bottle and... nothing.

Apparently when you're cracked as hell and staggering around your cooler making up rhymes about cola, you forget things like GRABBING A NEW WATER BOTTLE.

However, turning around in a race is ENTIRELY UNACCEPTABLE and it would have cost me ONES of MINUTES to go back up the road an get the bottle.  There was a feed zone, after all, and it's only an hour.  I soldiered on.

At the feed zone I chugged an entire cup of lemonade, then an entire cup of water, the half another cup of water, then I almost threw up, then I started riding again.

At this point the lead fat bike caught me.

You know, fat bikes, aka snow bikes, aka "something that you only ride in the summer if you like making things harder than they have to be," aka "the new rigid singlespeed."

So anyway I rode behind a sweet FATBIKE for the next twenty minutes and that thing rumbled like a freight train and it was kind of awesome.  I asked him how much tire pressure he was running and he said "nine" which was DEFINITELY AWESOME.

Then we got to the road section and I dropped him cuz tires that are 5 inches wide at 9 psi DO NOT ROLL SO MUCH.  This made me feel good.  Waitaminute.....

I FEEL GOOD!!

I had long since given up trying to eat real food at was on the glorious diet of water and two gels per lap.  AND I FELT GOOD!  Mostly.  Lap six was my fastest lap in 3 hours, which was swell, the only problem was that it was going to put me back at the finish line well before the six hour time limit.  Which meant lap seven was inevitable.

I also realized with some concern that I had lapped A LOT of women, but not Christin.  In fact, I had lapped most of the women's field by now.  So either Christin was not racing any more and probably at the hospital, or doing quite well.

Every time I checked the cooler, another water bottle was gone, so either elves were stealing the bottles or Christin was still racing.

My only goal on lap six was to catch my girlfriend so we could ride lap seven together and it would be romantical.  We could talk about how much our legs (and butts) hurt and how we wanted to throw up and other couple-y chatter like that.  IT WOULD BE GREAT!

I rode SO HARD on lap 6 and I still didn't lap her.  What the hell??

Realizing I had no one to ride lap seven with, I considered stopping.  After all, it had been 65 miles and 5:45 of riding.  That's a solid day.  I checked the scoreboard to see if I was in the money (nope!) and who was behind me (Hughes).

OH SNAP IT'S HUGHES.

Obviously if Hughes finished a lap and found me sitting at the tent, he would ride a seventh lap, because that's what friends are for.

Cursing his name, I grabbed two more gels and headed out for another lap.

But damned if I didn't feel good!

Wait.  waitwaitwait.  I almost forgot about the coolest thing that happened, back when I was forgetting my water bottle and chilling with a fat bike.

So my phone was in my back pocket (because Strava) and it got wet.  Like I was sweating or something.  And wet phones do weird stuff, like pick up phantom finger touches as like bounce around a wet jersey pocket.  So I'm riding along and all the sudden, I hear the tinny opening chords of a BBC Essential Mix.

MY PHONE STARTED PLAYING JAMS IN MY DARKEST HOUR WITHOUT INTERVENTION!

Did I mention Stewart State Forest is magic?

So that was probably why I felt good.  Me and my jams rolled out for lap seven and it only took about 5 minutes of riding before the last-lap adrenaline really got going and then I was just DRILLING IT.  Ten miles?  I can totally suffer for TEN MILES!  That's only an hour!

I ended up turning the second-fastest final lap of ANYONE, passing four guys to move into THE MONEY, and I STILL never caught my girlfriend because she's AWESOME and was on her way to second place.

The end result of all this is that I still can't tell if I stink at bike racing still, but gosh darnit that was six and a half hours of entertaining calamity and I can't wait for next year.
Having a post-race beefcake contest with Matt Aumiller [photo by Christin]

"If you're cracked, take your shirt off" [Christin]

Tags:

2 comments