Bear Brook + Seven Sisters Sufferweekend Report

This past weekend I did two competitive athletic events.  It was like cross season, except totally different.  Here's how it went down:

Bear Brook Classic Race Report

This was a new race at an old venue.  The venue is still close to Boston and Concord.  The turnout was still great.  The course was still pedaly.

It was actually a very nice course, in that the singletrack was fun and fast, there was a descent that was hard enough you could make up some time, and there was enough mindless fire road pedaling that I still had something to complain about.

I had recovered from the chest cold that caused me to both reverse-holeshot and not-blog about the Fat Tire Classic, so I was "excited" to actually race my bike instead of just ride it at Kenda Cup #2.  We had 17 (?) guys in the 30-39 race and in typical fashion I was the last guy to make the "selection" of eight as we motored up the climb on the lap.
Team Time Trial with Charlie and Kevin.  KEVIN CLOSE THE GAP!

The situation seemed entirely manageable until there was a change of leadership halfway up, and then we started going 10% faster and I got about 100% less confident that I could ride with these guys all day.

As such, tailgunning position was maintained all the way up the climb and into the "enduro section" on Carr Ridge.

If I was a smart person I would have chopped and slashed my way out of eighth wheel before this descent, because OBVIOUSLY with eight guys, someone was going to be a mediocre descender, and OBVIOUSLY he was going to split the group.

And then OBVIOUSLY when we got to the fire road climb at the bottom, Scott Yarosh and Charlie Behrtram would see the split and pedal wicked hard to go across the gap.

And obviously I had not preridden, so when we rounded the corner and I realized how much longer the climb was, I pulled out my parachute and flew off into no-man's-land.

So that was the half hour of the race during which I thought I could maybe get on the podium.

After the next descent (easier, swoopier, faster) and the river trail (extremely photogenic and a good place to chop someone into flowing water), I somehow regained contact with Scott and Charlie while they were being nice guys and not pushing juniors into the water.  The lead group was gone, but hey, guys to draft!  And just in time for another long section of pedaling hard (whine).
River trail:  good for photos, bad for passing

I have an extensive relationship with Charlie's back wheel due to cyclocross, so I was pretty sure that the longer I stayed on it, the better I would do.  But, ten minutes of staring at it like it was a Magic Eye poster later, Scott has dropped us and I was feeling...comfortable?

It's possible that Charlie is the only person at a bike race who isn't lying when he says he's "not in great shape."

Approaching the Carr Ridge descent on lap two, things got exciting: we passed Carl DeVincent with a flat, we caught a tiring Josh Anthony, and since I can't count and could still see Scott sometimes, I was like "maybe you can get on the podium!"

(Podium was actually long gone at this point and Scott was in 4th)

So I passed Charlie going into the enduro section and planned to shred across the gap to Scott, and yeah that was definitely working up until the part where I went off the line I wanted, up a giant rock, and instead of going FULL SEND and laying off the brakes, I grabbed all the brakes while thinking "I don't want to be riding up this giant rock."

So then I toppled off the side of the giant rock and ripped my number plate off and didn't catch Scott at all.
This rock was way bigger in my mind shut up

He was nice enough to remain occasionally in sight for the rest of the lap, forcing me to try as hard as my little legs could try even though it was hopeless.  I eventually finished 18 seconds behind him in 5th.

BUT I did enjoy my bike racing experience at Bear Brook even though I had to pedal a lot.  Then I ate all the food available to me and drove home, SKIPPING POST RACE BEER, because the next day was the Seven Sisters Trail Race!

Seven Sisters Trail Race Report

I am not a runner.  I think that's why I wanted to do this race.  It's billed as "mile-for-mile, the hardest trail race in New England" and while I have no interest in trying to pound out seven-minute miles on pavement, tell me something "is like wicked haaaahd, guy" and you'll pique my interest.

I also feel like it's required at some point for any serious amateur athlete in the Pioneer Valley, but that could just be me.

In any case, training for this was really hard for a few reasons --

1) I hate running
2) I have to do all this PT to strengthen my hip girdle so I can run without injury, and I hate PT
3) I kept getting blisters when I ran, and everyone hates blisters

So back in January I was pretty sure I could run 2 or 3 times a week all spring and be "in shape" and then on May 1st I realized that I had run three times in the entire month of April.

LUCKILY!  It turns out that Seven Sisters is not a running race at all.  It's a hiking race, and hiking is about quads, and do you know what cyclists have?  QUADS!

So if you're a bike racer who doesn't really want to run, but does want to have a unique and sufferfesty experience, Seven Sisters is perfect for you!

It was 50 degrees and raining at the start.  Good thing running is the hottest sport in the world, so I dressed in shorts and a T-shirt and was totally fine...even hot at times.

The course has 3700 feet of climbing in 12 miles, which means 3700 feet of descending, and did I mention it was raining?  That's a lot of steps on wet rocks, wet roots, and mud.

...and it turns out that most runners have WAY LESS PRACTICE with line choice and sketchy traction than the average mountain biker.  I'm sure the guys at the front were flying, but most people were crawling on the descents, which as far as I could tell were pretty easily handled using mountain bike principles.  

Basically, don't try to turn much, and don't try to slow down too much, and you're fine.  Once you get squared up with the exit of the descent, let it rip!  Trying to run down a hill slowly is awful.  It's going to hurt either way, so you might as well do it fast.

(Look at me posturing like a trail running expert when I am actually a Cat 5 runner who just did his first Gran Rundo)

Jon Nable had signed up for the race, but fractured a rib and couldn't race, so he was hanging out in the mist/rain at the Skinner Summit house (mile 4.5) and took this "sweet" sequence of me runduro-ing:

(Gif by Uri)

If you look at the final frame you'll see there is someone going up the trail, because this is an out-and-back race and I was literally miles behind the leaders at this point.

On the descent to the turnaround point I caught up with Christin, who had had a 3-minute head start on me (she was wave 3, I was wave 4).  She basically threw herself off the trail yielding to me because she is very polite and didn't know it was me.  Then I listened to her cheer for every single racer coming back up the hill because she is very nice.  

During this time I think the only noises I made were to yell at a dog that was in the way because I am less nice.

At the turnaround, former Seven Sisters winner/AthleteReg CEO/supervolunteer Ross Krause gave me a flask because drinking during endurance sports is how you let people know you're cool and could totally be going faster if you wanted to.

(JDBilodeau photo)
For some mysterious reason I was a lot chattier on the climb out of the turnaround, almost like I had ingested some sort of mood-altering substance or something.

This lasted for about ten minutes.  The chattiness, not the climb.  The climb was 20 minutes.  By the top of the climb, I was finally where I thought I'd be much earlier:  the PAIN CAVE.

At 90 minutes of running, we were already 30 minutes past my longest training run, so that probably had something to do with it.  We were also not very close to the finish.  But I came here to have an EXPERIENCE!  And this would be an EXPERIENCE!

As I was feeling progressively more and more terrible, I ate gels trying to fix it.  This is when I started to appreciate that there are running-specific muscles in one's body, and when they fatigue (because you didn't train for this), you can't fix them by adding glycogen like you could when you start to crack during a bike race (because you ride your bike like a thousand hours a year).

But I tried anyway.

I was not alone in falling apart, luckily.  I had long since abandoned running any but the shallowest of climbs, but I was still passing people just by walking uphill faster, and I was still running downhill as if I couldn't knock my teeth out if I made a mistake.  So I kept picking people off here and there.

The one thing I could NOT do anymore was actually run.  At mile 10 is one of the only "running" sections of the course, maybe a 2% false flat for a quarter of a mile?  After 90 seconds of progressively sadder and sadder jogging, I gave up and started walking.  

God I hate running.

I counted off the remaining climbs (note:  more climbs will remain than you expect, no matter how much you try to account for this) and eventually summitted Bear (Bare?) Mountain at mile 11.  Nothing between me and the finish except a steep, rocky, rooty descent!

I went full runduro and passed a bunch of people.  YES!  I am so good at running!  I caught the leader of wave five, who had passed me a mile earlier.  WHAT'S UP NOW WAVE FIVE LEADER I RIDE MOUNTAIN BIKESSSSS!

We got to the bottom of the descent and it was time to run a quarter mile of flat ground to the finish line, oh man oh man I'm gonna smoke Mr WAVE FIVE LEADER in a sprint, haha just kidding I'm gonna totally cramp up and basically have to speed-waddle to the finish.  

Thus endeth my running career.  Until the next time a bunch of my friends are doing Seven Sisters.  Hint, hint.


Julia said…
As always some good metaphors, Colin. Too many to copy and paste. Here's the first one I liked: ...staring at it like it was a Magic Eye poster...

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