A whole mess of stuff has changed since the Beezley Burn race. Mostly this involved training and bike fit stuff. I had a new saddle and freshly dialed geometry, and this was also the first race in which I rode with Time’s ATAC pedals. I was interested to see how things would go. This is also the race I’ve done the most in my time in Washington, so there’s a lot of data to compare it with. The field is larger than the Beezley Burn race, especially since it’s not broken up by categories, only by age. This means that I’m going up against everyone from first-time racers to Really Fast Guys.
I’ve never been really good about starting near the front in large mass-start races, and I’ve run in to trouble because of this in the past. This race was different, though, as I managed to sneak in to the first line at the start. It quickly became apparent, though, that while this tactic worked at the Beezley Burn, it was a different story against these Really Fast Guys. My immediate feeling was of being left behind. I hadn’t done any warming up before the start, since the race is fairly long and I didn’t want to expend too much energy too soon. This likely impacted my explosiveness (ha!) at the start.
On the initial doubletrack climb, I found a reasonably comfortable and fast pace, though it was no match for the group up the road. My only hope there was that they went too hard and the beginning and would fade later. Meanwhile I had to contend with some difficult singletrack. Stottlemeyer is a fun course, with a bit of an East Coast feel. It’s really tight, wooded, and relatively flat. All it needs to be a proper East Coast trail is a whole lot of granite. I like riding in this type of terrain, but I really am not super fast at it. It really rewards good efficient bike handling skills. It’s a real challenge to keep the speed up. I tend to do better in more open trails where I can kick in to time-trial mode. So all this while, I was pretty sure the lead group of riders was getting further and further away. Turns out I was right.
I carried one water bottle with me and planned to refill it at the aid stations as needed. At the third aid station, just at the end of the first lap, I did so. Unfortunately, the process was really slow. There were volunteers there filling bottles, and they worked as fast as they could at their jobs. Unfortunately, there were just two big orange gatorade coolers with filler spigots, and they don’t fill nearly fast enough to satisfy a racer! I feel like I lost at least 3 minutes there, though in reality I bet it was only one. Either way, it was a slow process! While waiting for my bottle to fill, I grabbed a mini Clif bar and ate the whole thing in one bite. This was not a great idea. My bottle finished filling just as I put the bar in my mouth, and I took off into the singletrack with 3 other racers. Working to stay with them and eventually pass one of them didn’t leave me much time to drink from my bottle, but I really had to! I was having a hard time chewing and swallowing the Clif bar, and had to choke back gags before I finally was able to grab a quick shot of water and get everything moving properly.
In past years, lap 2 of this race has been really challenging. Particularly the second half, after passing the fourth aid station. The remaining miles have always seemed to go on longer than they should have, and my legs felt weak. This year was different, though. I felt strong throughout the second lap and was able to pass some other riders with authority. Certain sections of trail even seemed faster, probably due to familiarity. Unfortunately here is where I ran in to some mechanical issues.
A few relatively minor things went wrong mechanically this year. None was catastrophic, but all were annoying. First, likely due to a seized pivot bearing, a linkage bolt worked itself free and fell out. I should have dealt with the seized bearing sooner, as I knew it was a problem, so this is my own fault. Ultimately it didn’t stop me from finishing the race, but it certainly could have. The inconvenience of having to now replace both the bearing and the fancy custom bolt could have been far worse had the lack of support damaged the frame or swingarm. Fortunately that didn’t happen!
The second mechanical issue was that the shifter cable endcap at the rear derailleur got caught in the chain and wedged itself between two of the cogs. This screwed shifting up pretty bad in some gears.
Another mechanical issue that has probably been impacting me a bit for a while is that the front shifter housing seems to be torsioned in such a way as to cause it to twist itself against the barrel adjuster knob on the front shifter. This has the effect of essentially screwing the barrel adjuster in, decreasing the tension on the cable. This meant that my front shifting, particularly from small ring to big ring, degraded over the course of the race until I realized what seemed to be happening and made adjustments. I should be able to deal with this better in the future now that I’m aware of what’s going on. Of course, I may not be racing again with this same drivetrain because…
XTR is on the way! Assuming Shimano ever manages to ship the whole thing, anyway! I’ve got a whole pile of fancy brakes and drivetrain bits in the basement but I lack a crankset and front shifter lever! More on that later!
Race results are at webscorer.