I spent 6 hours on Sunday morning in a traffic jam. Not your average traffic jam, but a mountain bike traffic jam screaming through the forest in eastern Vermont.
It all began 5 months ago. When I registered for the Race. It specified that all 1st time riders should sign up as novice. I thought nothing of it, (being that I had never done any official mountain bike races outside of xterra races and local biathlons)and had my wife sign up for me when the registration opened (I was out riding ) as this race is notorious for selling out in about an hour.
I trained hard all spring and summer. I had two races this fall to aim for . One, the Vermont 50. The other, The Montauk Mighty Man Half Ironman on 10/1/06. I spent time on long runs, track workouts, swim classes, and of course, a lot of time on the bike. I did not have an official workout plan, but used my HRM and perceived effort to craft a good plan and arrived at this race in the best shape of my life.
So raceday came last sunday, 9/24/06.
The course is hilly but not overly so. It kind of just wears on you over the course of the day.
There were 800 people who started the race. My group went off last at 6:30 am after the expert and sport classes left. Finally, it was time for the last 150 people to start the race. This left 650 people on the course in front of me.
I got to the start of the novice group and the sounded the *** and we blasted off. The first 4 miles start as road, then dirt road and they are mostly a gentle downhill where you can fly. About 5 minutes in I felt that being novice shouldn't be a problem. I was in front of the pack, with a group of 4 people. Clear sailing. Taking a glance back, there was no one behind us as the road started to head upward. Then I saw something that shocked me. 4 miles into the race, there was a sport class rider in front of me pushing his bike up a hill on a dirt road. Then another. We flew by and kept going.................
After the four miles the race hits the trails and we make a sharp right hand turn and head up a steep hill. To my shock and horror, we caught about 100 sport class riders slowly walking the bikes up the hill. Shouts of 'Riders back' and 'make way' had little effect as we came to a screaching halt. There were about three other riders in my group who then got off and started jogging up the hill, still asking for people to make path, since eveyone was barely walking . I remember one guy telling me there were still '46 miles left' and that I should 'take it easy'. I remember at the time that is when reality sunk in, and this was going to be a hell of a day trying to pass everyone who was out for a joyride........
WE got to midway up the hill and remounted ( I was still riding with two others from my group, I suppose two other first time riders who signed up as novices) and hit the hill, barely making it through the walkers who really did not make it easy to pass.
After making it to the crest where it flattened I hammered all I could on a fireroad and passed everyone in my sights. I was determined to pass this group we caught so quickly before the trail was reduced to singletrack and headed downward.
And when it did head downward..............more traffic jams. It was frustrating to say the least. I felt like screaming ' lay off the brakes'
the only time I did not have to wait for traffic was the last 7 miles. I had already passed 500 people by then and there was clear sailing.
But back to the course. The race is a blast with a good festival atmosphere afterwards. It was supposed to rain all weekend but it actually didn't rain on the morning of the race. The course was a bit muddy and very greasy is some spots, but it was exactly how VT mountain biking should be. Slippery roots and rocks in singletrack between connecting dirt roads and fireroads. Short steep tech climbs and long steady climbs. a good mix of terrain.
I rode my 2003 Specialized Epic. I primarily ride a 29er singlespeed, but I don't have a geared 29er (hopefully in 2007)and I don't have the legs to push 1 speed at this course. So the Epic was the bike, with the fox f80rlt. I went with the American Classic wheels and WTB Epic Wolf Race tires with the DNA compound at 45 psi. I felt it was a good comprimise between super hard and fast, and being able to handle the wet rocks, mud and roots.
I was planning on the ride taking 5 hours. So I figured I would take about 1800 calories( including drinks) with me.
I ended up with 5 bags of Clif shot bloks (1000 calories) plus 800 calories from 2 camelbaks worth of Cytomax. I packed a ziploc with 4 servings of cytomax powder and put that in the camelbak for the refill station. I figured that 2 70 oz camelbaks would do the trick for hydration if I could down some gatorade and water at aid stations while I fill the camelbak. I also took three Honey Stinger gels with me just in case I massively bonk ( and I am glad I did). I had packed the shot bloks in a Bento Box so that they would be easy to access and had opened them prior to the ride so that they could be easy to eat without wrestling with the packaging. About the second or third descent, I lost 2 of the 5 shot blok packages as they rattled out of the bento box. (Note to self, just put them in the jersey pockets next year)
Despite minor cramping during one of the last climbs, I felt pretty good about the race and plan to do it next year. I felt that starting where I started and having to deal with traffic cost me at least a half an hour thoughout the day. I kind of feel stupis that I signed up as novice and that I should have signed up sport. Also, that about half the sport riders should be signed up as novice, or they need a sport one and two or something. Next year I am signing up as expert.
I finished 167 out of 800 meaning that I passed about 500 people on the trail that day. That is a lot of people to pass. either way, It is a great race and I reccomend it. I feel that If I had started the expert class I could have broken top 50, not having to deal with all the traffic. But, live and learn is the name of the game