January 31, 2009

Race Report - SNOTCYCLE Leesburg, VA

The folks at Plum Grove Cyclery decided to hold a MTB race at one of their courses in late January. Here's the race description from bikereg.com:
Come on out to Leesburg, VA for the first annual SNOTCYCLE Mountain Bike Race on January 31. This is a "weather be damned" rain, sleet, the nastier the better, race. We will be using the same champion chip style timing as the Bakers Dozen, having a little schwag, and a good old fashioned "Fear this", "Piss on Ford, Chevy, and Chrysler", Screw the economy, rebel yell hella good time. I dont want to hear any of the following crap:

- My drivetrain will get damaged

- My spandex will get dirty

- I will slip in the mud

- My toes will get cold

- The bourbon in my water bottle tastes funny with cow crap in it

This will be your first opportunity to ride the 2009 Bakers Dozen Race Course, which is run in reverse from last year, with a few small reroutes thrown in. Each lap is approximately 7.6 miles of rolling single track. All races should be between last between 1:40 - 2:20. Pets are welcome, but will be required to be on leash.
Check in and packet pickup will be onsite from 6:00 - 8:00 on Friday, January 30 and 7:30am to 9:00am on Saturday, January 31. All racers MUST be checked in by 9:00am Saturday!!! Please have a valid picture ID ready when you check in. You do NOT need a NORBA/USA Cycling license or permit.

Guess what? They got what they wished for! After last week's snow and rain/ice and temp's below freezing most of the week the course was mostly ice with a little bit of frozen slush on top. There were a couple muddy sections that were frozen at first but slowly softened up over the course of the race. At most the top 0.33" melted and the rest remained frozen. Since this is a working cattle farm (at least they had cows), there was one short section where the cows must stand around in the shade near the watering trough or something because it was super rough and pitted and tough to ride over with any speed or control since it was also frozen.
Other than all the ice, there were very little technical parts to this trail. Right at the start of my race the men's Sport 40+ (or as the sign at registration read: Sport Geezers) I took the honor of being the first to fall after the race started. Another guy fell before the race started so his didn't count. There was a two by three foot strip of ice on the left side of the start line and even though I thought I was above it, my rear wheel slipped out and I stepped off before falling. I thought that put me in about last but there were more than thirty of us registered so I could have been in front of a few guys.
The first lap was the most difficult for me. I tried to ride hard to catch back up to the guys in front was having trouble staying upright. If you went off the center of the trail you really paid for it because even though the trail was icy, it was firm and you could roll on it fairly well. Off the center of the trail it was more crunchy and soft and it slowed you way down and ate a lot of your power. The problem starts when you hit a turn hard and fast and the ice makes you start to slide. If you try to brake to slow down you slide faster or smash down side/face first. So after about three wipe outs I realized if you use the front brake on the ice you are more likely to wipe than if you just use the rear brake. Of course the rear brake causes you to slide all over but at least you have a chance if you are somewhat upright. After a couple more wipe outs I decided I needed to back it off so that I might stop crashing. This was effective. I think I only crashed once on the last two laps. Verdict on ice racing - Ice bad!
I was looking forward to seeing my lap splits from the champion chip timing system (btw I think all races should use this or a similar system) but as I was finishing the first lap I realized I had forgotten to put on my transponder. Doh! Oh well, I did hit the start button on my bike computer so I would have elapsed time at the end. Anyway, after I backed off a bit I noticed the guys I had passed were starting to catch up to me.

I guess that no pets thing without a leash was not enforced. I saw a cat riding a bike in my race and he didn't have a leash. Well, maybe he did have on a leash under the four or five layers of clothing. OK, the guy's name was David Anderson and he is or rides for "El Gato Rojo". He was one of the guys I had passed who passed me near the end of the first lap. He stopped after completing the lap for a drink so I passed him there. BTW, a camelback was a good idea for this race. It was very difficult to get a drink using a water bottle while riding one handed on the ice. There wasn't anywhere on the course where you could ride one handed without the fear of crashing. Of course, I left my camelback in the car with my transponder so my choices were to stop to drink, risk crashing and drink while riding one handed, or don't drink at all. I chose the latter, initially. Back to the red cat, he passed me again late in the second lap and I again passed him just after the finish line while he was stopped drinking. So that gave me some incentive to push it a little in the first half of the third lap to make sure "El Gato Rojo" didn't catch me before the finish line. He didn't, so I had that going for me, which was nice (sorry, Caddyshack moment).
Actually, I felt really good the whole race other than when I was meeting the ice face first. I noticed my HR during the first lap was in the lower 150's. Then it was in the mid 140's during the second lap. Near the end of third lap my HR was in the upper 130's, my fitness level seems to be good.
At the end of the second lap I decided that I made a bad decision about the water and decided to take the risk to get a drink. I was on the fire road just after turning left after the finish line and I reached down, got my bottle, and stuck it in my mouth to pull the cap open. Got a little sip and then started going sideways left and right sliding all over the place on some ice. I heard a voice behind me sounding both familiar and somewhat disappointed. The experts had started about twenty minutes after we geezers and quite a few of them had already passed me. I knew that Doug Pepelko had signed up to race so I was keeping a look out for him. Well, it was Doug who was berating me for sliding all over the entire fire road while trying to get a little drink. I said "Hi Doug" but he was probably more concerned with whether or not I was going to take him out and thinking "what an idiot" so I don't think he heard me. That or he didn't want to acknowledge that he knew me because there were a couple of guys on his wheel.
The bottom line for this report is no injuries or hard crashes. I finished but I don't know where (but I know I wasn't last). I don't think I want to race on ice again but Mother Nature definitely controls that one. I didn't get any frost bite (a plus). I was happy with my fitness. I didn't have any issues with my back. Oh yeah, I had fun (most important).