Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Helen Fat Tire Festival

We had the return of the Helen Fat Tire Festival last weekend, after a several year hiatus. It was a great 3 day weekend filled with biking and related activities, to include the Series Finale of the Dirty Spokes 6/12 hour Mountain Bike Race Series. This year it was stretched to 4 races from the previous 3. I had high hopes at the start of this year for having a good race season, but for various health and family reasons, this has not been the best training and fitness year. The races have been in some pretty demanding conditions as well.

The first race was at Heritage Horse Park, and it was rainy, cold and windy. I was the only SGC member that braved the conditions since it was just over an hour from the house. I managed 2 laps before I called it, due to deteriorating conditions and no one in the pits to tell me to get back on the bike.

The second race was at Fort Yargo, and we had the full team in effect, but the elements were HARSH. I finished my second lap just before the torrential rains started, so I headed out for my 3rd lap in the drizzle. Before I even made it into the woods, the skies opened up and the water poured forth. I've never ridden my bike in those types of conditions, and don't care to again. The trail became a small creek, so I rode with the current downhill, and against the current uphill. Halfway around that lap, it stopped raining, and that was actually worse than the rain. There was no rain to wash the quickly accumulating mud from man and machine, and the trail was severely muddy. After rolling back in the pits, I was done - glad to be off the bike and in one piece. That race took it's toll - costing me a chain, cassette, cables and bottom bracket. Riding in the slop is EXPENSIVE!

The third race was in July at Tribble Mill, but I was off the bike, sidelined with a health issue, so I didn't even go.

Saturday was the finale at Unicoi State Park - my hometown trails. Unicoi is a tough ride, much less at race pace. It has lots of climbing and some technical descents. I was nursing a sore left knee from a crash Friday, and went down HARD on a slick bridge trying to avoid the guy in front of me who bobbled. Skidded along the black crud on the bridge for what seemed like 50 yards, picked myself up, went to remount, only to find my seatpost twisted halfway around. Pushed to the end of the bridge, took off the camelbak, fixed my seatpost with my multi-tool and was about to get back on the bike when a lost soul came pushing her bike over the bridge with a rear flat. It was her first race, she was doing 6 hour solo, and she had no tools, tube, levers or CO2. I had all of the above, and decided to put a few points back in the karma bank and fixed her rear flat for her. I finished the first lap in pain from the sore left knee and the newly sore right hip from the bridge and bagged it. My spare tube in Melody's rear tire however, made it the whole six hours and finished 3rd in the Women's 6 hour solo!

So, my racing season in a nutshell was not what I had hoped it would be, but life is funny like that. I'll try to work on the fitness level a bit this winter riding Forest Service routes for endurance, and singletrack for fun. I've almost completely abandoned my road bike for the woods, but I may have to get it back out for some base mileage. We have found it impossible to make any structured group rides during the week up here, so it's been just Suzy and me whenever we could go ride, and it seems we opt to load up and head to the woods instead of fighting with the cars on the pavement. We'll see what next year brings, but it was an interesting year of racing.

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