Raccoon Mtn SERC race (and why endurance racing is way cooler)
Posted Jun 29 2009 5:07pm
I went up on Saturday evening to preride the Raccoon Mtn. race course. As soon as I pulled up to the parking lot I noticed thunder and some really dark clouds. The course was supposed to be a long 12.5 miles using all the technical sections. The Pro/Open women field was to do 3 laps for a total of 37.5 miles. I knew it was going to be hot, so I had my hydration and nutrition strategy all worked out with nuun and PowerBar Endurance.
The preride was long, but decent even though it rained for most of the ride. My Race King tires weren't great on wet roots, but I knew the course would most likely be fast and dry on Sunday. There were several rock garden-y sections..some with good/fast lines and many with bad/slow lines. I tried really hard to make mental notes of all the turns I didn't want to blow into and of all the better/faster lines. The trail is all rideable, everything is just different when you are racing. So, I felt pretty good about it and decided to call it a day and head to Cathi's house. She took us to a really good brewpub called the Terminal in Chattanooga. The food & beer were great..we even met up with the Faster Mustache guys who were in town to race, as well.
I got to the race venue early enough to set up my bottles with Wild Bill from the Terrapin Racing Team (THANKS) and early enough to warm up really well. As 9:30 approached they had the Pro men line up with the women just after them. Here is where they announced that they had decided that the women would only do 2 laps, one less than the men. Here is where I say "WTF"????????? Are you kidding me? Because it's going to be hot?? So what? I prepared for the heat, didn't everyone else? 1) I feel like Pro Women should ride just as far as Pro Men. 2) EVEN if the Pro Women do one less lap, it should be advertised that way on the sign-up. I probably never would have paid and driven 2 hours and stayed overnight to race 25 miles. The entire appeal of this race in the first place was that it was a technical course that would require some endurance and toughness to race the 3 laps in the heat. Not sure why this seems to be a trend where they vote on the line on how many laps to do in XC races. Except this time, there was not even a vote. I most certainly would have voted for the complete 3 laps. It's not like that in an endurance race. If you sign up for 100 miles, you race for 100 miles or DNF. If you sign up for a 12 hour, you race for 12 hours. You don't vote on the line to make it an 8 hour race because it might be hot or it might rain. I really do hate complaining about races as I know first-hand how hard it is to put one on. But, seriously, I think it's extremely ridiculous that this happened.
Anyway, on to the race.......
I started out towards the back (mistake #1) because I assumed everyone would be faster than me, and the course started out with tight, rocky singletrack so I thought I would just follow lines. Right of the bat, one girl crashed, causing a bit of a split in the pack. Then, another girl fumbled on an easy rock section which caused a huge split in the field. Suck. This is when I realized I should have started towards the front. Soon after that, I got stung by a bee on my neck. Ouch..this ended up hurting much worse than my legs did for the rest of the race! Then, there was a split in the trail where you could take a low, off-camber chunky rocky line or a high, rocky line. I chose the highy rocky line and totally botched it because... I don't know why (mistake #2). It was stupid but I think only one girl ended up passing me on the low line in the process.
While I was riding, I felt really good. I felt good climbing and through the twisty singletrack and fast downhills. I could definitely tell I was losing time through the tricky technical stuff, even though I could ride most of them I wasn't riding them as fast as all the local girls (and there were a lot of them). The worst part of my first lap came when I was FLYING into the rock drop #1 behind a guy (mistake #3)...he flew through with ease but my wheel must have kicked slightly to the right with a big boulder stopping it dead on, sending me straight onto said boulder. My shoulder, knee, and knuckle broke the fall...I spent a few minutes standing to the side while at least 20 people passed by. I didn't think I was hurt, but I wasn't sure...and I wasn't sure about my bike. My shifting was messed up in the rear and that made the next rocky climb a bitch to get through. Finally, I got the shifting straightened out and I started to come around slowly. I started passing people back and finally felt like myself again. I felt like I had lost about 5 minutes because of my crash, so I wanted to make that time up on my 2nd lap. I was feeling really good, but not experienced enough to know how hard to go without risking blowing up before the end of the race. The worst thing would be to be passed right before the finish line...so, I think I ended up getting too comfortable sitting behind some Sport guys that really didn't want to let me pass (mistake #4). The pace was good, but I wasn't working hard enough. Finally, I came around and dropped them on the climb and downhill, and never saw them again. I had a great 2nd lap (slightly faster than my first lap) and was starting to finally learn the lines, and I finished with enough energy to do another lap...which sucked because there were only TWO!! Bummer for me, I think I would have caught some people had the race been longer. Still, I ended up 9th, I think several girls DNF'd. I also know everyone that finished ahead of me is much more experienced in the XC racing world..so I was happy that I finished with no mechanicals and no broken bones!! I really had a blast and would love to do some more of these. That also tells me that I probably didn't ride hard enough :)
I hung out for awhile after the race, and then headed to Mulberry Gap in Ellijay for the evening. I met up with Emily for a short hour-long ride, and then out for a beer and Mexican food in Ellijay. I went to bed pretty sore, but mostly from my bee sting and somewhat from my crash. We woke up this morning to roasted potatoes, eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee..compliments of Ginny at Mulberry Gap. It was sooooo good. We got in a great 3 hour training ride on gravel road before I hit the road.