Matt Donahue

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Michaux Maximus

I spent the better part of the day in Michaux State Forest, just north of Gettysburg PA. The morning started a bit rough. I woke up on time, but had to mount some new tubeless tires since my existing ones were worn, and the front was running with a tube due to a puncture suffered at Gambril. The process went far faster than I expected, but I needed to be at the race venue before 9:30 and it was already 7:30.

After hitting the bank for registration cash, I got on the road to Gettysburg. I was extra observant, constantly looking in the rearview mirrors and scanning the median for troopers as I was trying to make up some time on the virtually empty road. My other worry was although I had instructions and maps, I didn't really know where the venue was- there are lots of small back farm-roads in PA. I looked up into the rear view mirror again and noticed an orange Honda Element approaching rapidly, could it be Joel? It was! A fellow member of the City Bikes team and someone I've shared several races with, it was reassuring to see him pull in the passing lane, with a passenger, navigator? seemingly knowing where they were going. With bikes in the back and heading up Route 15 it was nearly certain we had the same destination. They pulled in front of me and I followed closely behind, hoping they knew where they were going.

A few turns, some rolling hills, farms and a small towns later we pulled onto the final road up into Michaux forest. The race venue was a burst of color and activity. This was my second non-endurance race (first was cranky monkey at Wakefield last year), so I did not really know what to expect. The event was a lot bigger than I expected. The Trek team was there, along with several other pros which added to the event's size, and according to a few others it was smaller than usual due to other races this weekend.

After quickly registering as Sr I Sport (ages 25-29), I proceeded to get myself together- it was quite cold and there were some snowflakes blowing in the wind so it meant a long-sleeve layer under the city bikes jersey, and some knee warmers, but that would have to do as I didn't have much more and in all likelihood I would be warm enough anyway.

Course map (PDF)

After a few short hill climbs and laps around the parking lot to warm up, the race officials called together the riders for the meeting, then we lined up at the BOTTOM of a long paved climb- an easy way to thin out the pack, was it a good idea to have warmed up on part of that hill already? I hoped so.

I was in a group of about 18-20 riders- Sport Sr. I and Sr. II, started getting cold, countdown, then off up the 8? minute uphill climb. I wasn't cold anymore. I was riding in about 8th or 9th place by the top, into a downhill fire-road, regained my breath, then hard right into the single track. The trail was fairly wide and immediately reminded me of Gambril state park, lots of boulders, most of which were thin, and often stuck out of the ground in various crazy directions. I loved it! within several short uphills and downhills, about 40 minutes into the lap, I passed 5 of the riders ahead of me (from the group I started with) along with several other folks from earlier expert groups who were fixing flats.

I traded places with three riders, one formerly a CB rider, a guy with the Nike swoosh on his shorts and a blue guy. I passed the swoosh several times in the technical sections, but he would consistently catch up on the fire road sections. After lending my pump out to an expert rider who didn't have one and was trying to fix a flat, I was passed by 4 of the 5 riders I had just passed. I left my pump with the rider who vowed he would catch up and give the pump back. Ambitious? about 25 minutes later he passed me handing off the pump on his way by. Must be why he was riding expert...

At around 1 hour and 30 I was hurting- I hadn't yet stopped, and had ran every time I was off the bike due to overly rocky sections, there were some tough sections- graveyard ridge was the most memorable. I bailed very hard on a wet log during the downhill- enough to need ice on my foot later that night. At some point the sport course broke off from the experts. That made the competition very clear. After entering some recently logged areas of trail, the pack I was in started slowing, all of us were fatigued for sure, and the trail was muddy and littered with logging debris. I tried to take a gel in this section- was somewhat successful, but also somewhat vomitous. I partially wanted to yiff, but I just kept turning the screws- the nausea would pass. Suddenly spectators started appearing! Where was I? when did I last see swoosh? yep I'd passed him, and also just passed another guy. Sweet. Was I in 9th? 7th. Keep pedaling. out of the woods, onto a fire road- slightly undulating uphill. An old man on the side of the road clapped and yelled "Almost there, about a mile!" crap, there goes blue guy, and former CB rider. I hate riding fire road! stick to them and track em down in the next technical section! Nike swoosh passed slowly, but passed. Damn. More people cheering. There's the cars! still uphill and no more technical areas to make up time. I road into the finish tent at 1:56. I ended up 12th for sport overall- out of 60ish riders. 5th in my age group (10 in Sr. I sport?). I was psyched.

I ran back into Joel- who had wiped out near the start of the race and broken his finger. He still finished second- amazing. He seemed pretty bummed- understandable as it could mean a few weeks off, and it's a broken finger, painful for sure. Dave, the rider for CB who arrived with Joel finished with a smile. I'm not sure how he placed, but he enjoyed himself. They both had to leave to get Joel to the hospital for his finger. I lingered, sampled a half cup of Coors, a race sponsor, and a hot ham sandwhich sold by the organizers. Once the overall sport results were apparent I felt it was time to go- an awesome day- the next two races of the series are looking very attractive. As I pulled out, the snow picked up, but the day was done and race was ridden.

Monday, April 11, 2005

single trail speed ride...

It was really a multi trail slow ride on a single speed. My first time taking the Karate Monkey off road with big tires and the correct gear ratio was totally cool. The ride was Saturday afternoon at Schaeffer, with amazing weather- high 60s sunny and dry!

A few observations:

29" wheels roll over roots, rocks etc. more easily than 26" wheels. On several occasions the physics? of the situation surprised me. I found myself cringing at what I was approaching, most often on uphill climbs, because my speed was so slow I though for sure that I would get stopped by the roots in the trail. The front wheel simply rolled over them- how cool!

Rigid bikes respond differently. I've been riding a full suspension bike (on trails) for at least 4 years. Before that I had a hard tail with front suspension. A fully rigid steel bike makes for a slightly jarring experience! Interestingly, the "point the bike downhill and don't touch the brakes" style of downhill doesn't work so well. This bike demanded some attention if I hoped to have control and not bounce off the trail. My arms, hands and shoulders were quite sore after the even, but I came away happy.

Despite the un-suspended ride the bike is smooth. Riding a singlespeed on well known trails generates an entirely new experience, well, not ENTIRELY but relatively new. I found myself off of the bike in several places, jogging up hills I would normally spin up. Technical sections are much more technical, but the pedaling is smoother, and the pace is different. I'll be back!