M.A.S.S. Enduro #1/French Creek
Time for Mid Atlantic Super Series Enduro #1 at French Creek State Park in eastern PA (where they talk funny and don't say thing's like "yinz", "crick" or "pop"). This was to be a 6 hour event that would have racers doing as many laps on the rocky 11.5 miles course as they could. The course had about 1,800' of climbing per lap and a big extra helping of rocky east coast single track. The race would end up being cut to 5 hours due to the severe weather that soaked the trails the day before. That didn't make the race any less difficult (or fun!) for sure! The don't call the race "on the rocks" at French Creek because of it's uber buff single track, that's for damn sure!
I took the day off on Friday to get some house stuff done, spend some quality time with Wifey (oh yeah), and then make my road trip to Rich B.'s digz. Rich was part of the Beans posse that was putting on the race and would not be racing, but handling the registration duties and more. Rich and his wife were also kind enough to let me crash at their place the night before, thus saving me either a wet night in a tent, or a stay in a cheezy, pay by the hour, stained sheet motel room. Thanks Rich!
I was up early in the a.m. to shove some PB&J bagel and java down my throat and follow Rich to the race venue. I had already gotten lost on the way to Rich's, thanks to a Google Maps misprint, and was not looking forward to cruising up and down Rt. 100 again. By the way, if Rich ever offers to make you some coffee, let him! Dude brew up some FINE Starbucks® java.
I really was hoping that things would have dried out a bit more overnight. But everything was still pretty damn wet. Oh well, the mud will just add to the adventure, right? The race director pushed all the start times back an hour hoping to give the trails just a few more minutes to soak in Friday's downpour. In light of that, the 6 hour enduro was reduced to a 5 hour. Drat!
Not that I minded only racing 5 hours, it's just that one of my only strategies of "passing" folks and moving up in the results is through race attrition. The more folks that DNF, the more chances I have for a respectable finish! HA! Oh yeah, like you don't do the same thing?? ;)
On the start line I didn't see too many familiar faces, other than some of the VisitPA.com guys, and Ben from Beans. In other words, I spied some of the area's elite SUPER fast guys that were about to open up a can of 5 hour whop ass. No matter, I had my usual plan. Ride my own pace, ride as much as I can, and see what happens.
So at the start I got in my zone, and started up the double track/service road climb. Hit the single track and just kept on climbing. Mud, water bars, etc., A couple dismounts, some traffic and then the first down hill. Weaving through the trees, bouncing over rocks, mud splattering, fore arms burning, and seat/nut slaps. It was damn fun. OK, the nut slaps were not all that fun, but I just thought of it as "rough" play.
Soon there would be a nice stretch of level single track to weave through. It was a chance to recover a bit, take in some fluids and get ready for MORE climbing and MORE of the aforementioned nut slapping descents. The more serious climb in the last few miles would have me hike-a-biking a bit, but I didn't mind. The course rocked (fitting pun, but not entirely intended). It was "REAL" mountain bike course, if that makes any sense? You might not ride everything, but wondering if you MIGHT ride it, added to the fun. It reminded me of a better, more rideable Snowshoe, WV, course. Complete with the prerequisite mud.
Once the other classes got on course things got a little less fun, but not too bad. The elites, and sport guys were out there hard charging looking to get it done in 1 or 2 laps. So I tried as best I could to let them through. If that meant stopping or walking a climb, so be it. Those guys are in the red from the start. Far be it from me to come in between them and a chance at time on the box. I respect them. The course did start to get a little more deteriorated now. The mud became deeper, the roots got slicker, and the "good lines" became more blurred from hundreds of racers.
One of my favorite parts of the course was sweet single track section that must have had a ton of honeysuckle blooming. That smell was the BEST! Not to mention honeysuckle gets me randier than a sailor in a 50¢ whore house. But YET again, I've said too much. Of course there was also a swampy part of the course with a wooden bridge over it that sort of smelled like The Home For Wayward Feces. So I guess everything evens out.
When the race was 6 hours my goal was 4 laps, but aiming for 5 or more. Since the race was shortened, getting a 4th in was nice and felt like I was on pace to have got that 6 hour 5th lap no problem. Thing of it was, the fast guys turned out 5 laps on this course in the 5 hours! Many of the rest of us turned out 4. So I would have to take 4 laps, 45 mile miles, 7,200' of total elevation gain, and 7th place out of 13 geared, Male Enduros.
Not a great finish, but I was pretty damn happy with my skillz on the rocks (no crashes). Some of it was me, but much of it was the kickassness (I KNOW that's NOT a word!) of the Dos Niner and 29" wheels in general! I found myself behind some 26" wheeled guys thinking to myself "WHY in the hell are those wheels so small??" In the end, it doesn't matter all that much. Many of those guys wold smoke you/me on a $60 SmartyMart® Huffy.
I saw a couple other Salsa guys out there. One dude with an orange Dos Niner like mine had blown out a rear wheel and was doing the "walk of shame" back to the start/finish. He jokingly asked if he could borrow my rear wheel (as if? Ha!) I saw another dude on a sweet '08 El Mariachi! I have to say the paint and decals of the 08 E.M. is freaking classy. Nice stuff. Makes my Dos look like a street walking hoochie mama. Some might say that I'M sort of a late 30's, pasty ass white, bike nerd version of a hoochie mama, so I guess it works out just fine. Hooch it up, and shake what your mama gave you, right?
Damn fun race and now I look forward to racing/riding with some friends at Fat Marc's Granogue 4 hour race in 2 weeks. (Pre-register now! Fool!) Oh well, time to have a couple Dog Fish Head's, make some Mexican, and and watch some Giro d'Italia. Did you ever notice that you can sing the super lame Styx song "Mr. Roboto" and change the lyrics to Giro d'Italia? Example.... "Domo arigato Giro d'Italia, Domo arigato Giro d'Italia" Go ahead and sing it. It makes a suck song a little better. AND you can drive your spouse a bit crazy. ALWAYS a bonus! ;)
(BTW- sucks for Davey Z. at the Giro. Dude was in some argyled mustachioed pain)
Thanks to Dan for the action pics used.