Thursday, June 13, 2013

Waway Bliss

I had not been to Wawayanda since the Bearscat 50 race. With all the rain, I hadn't been on a mountain bike much at all. Finally the rain stopped and the sun appeared. When I got back to my favorite forest, things had changed.

The ferns were so tall, thick and lush that they appeared to be a sea of textured green three feet above the ground. The laurel were in full bloom and hung like puffy white clouds above verdant seas of ferns and blueberry bushes. The trail, a ribbon of rock was now inches wide as my tire parted the green sea, and got swallowed by ferns. Climbing out of the sea onto big rocks and then floating down back into the sea. ... pure bliss. This was a special day to be out riding.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Bear Scat 50

I have done enough endurance races to know that they are not my thing. Yet, one week prior to the Bearscat 50, I had a little brain glitch, and thought this might be a race for me to try. I am not sure if it was the predicted good weather, the fact that the race was on my home turf at Wawayanda, or if after eleven years had passed, I had completely forgotten how much these races can hurt, but I found myself registered to race 50 miles on some of the most demanding rocky single-track around.

So my game plan was to ride comfortably, in control, and clean on the technical sections and not to push my legs harder than they wanted to go on the first lap. If my legs felt bad, I could stop after one lap, with a good ride under my belt, minus the 2 weeks recovery.

I got off to good start, thanks to the mellow start. I was comfortably within the top 5 and was able to ride the rock bridge at the end of pump house trail. I was warned that I would be walking in traffic, so this was better than expected. When I started to penetrate the back of the men’s field, they were really accommodating to let me through ...even better.

Things seemed good, and then I heard a jingly noise and noticed my saddle felt loose. My first thought was that I broke a saddle rail, so I stopped to take a look. Both bolts were loose and almost falling out. So I dug around my pack to find my eyeglasses and the right size wrench. I noticed a few ladies pass me, and a bunch of guys that I had just passed were now passing me back. Although a little discouraged, I focused on the task and got myself up and riding again in 4-5 minutes.

One good thing about a long race is that I had plenty of time to catch back up if I wanted. It took me a few miles, but I caught back up and got myself back into 4th or 5th place. Then the jingling came back and I now had to squeeze the saddle between my legs to hold it still. As much as I wanted to hold my position, I was forced to stop again and this time, crank those bolts down as hard as I could. I lost count of how many women came by, I just needed to get this fixed or I would be out of the race. A racer stopped and chatted with me. I am not sure why he stopped, but it helped me step out of my race momentarily and slow my head down to concentrate on fixing my bike. Thank you Robert!

It took the balance of the lap, but I passed six women back and was reported to be in 4th place once again. I stopped in the feed zone at the half mark to get water, gel and potatoes and was on my way for round two. I started lap two a little faster and started to ride sloppy, so I backed off a tad. I also noticed that my legs were getting tired about half way through the second lap. I ate everything in my pockets and decided I needed the 38 mile rest stop to refill water and electrolytes. Art was not there, but Bruce and the Black Bear guys took great care of me, filling my bottle and retrieving stuff from my drop bag.

The last 14 miles were tough, and it was hot by this time of day as well. My legs were tired, my big toe was cramping and my arms were so tired, I wanted to let go of the handlebars. I pushed ahead and got through the climbs and to my surprise I was still able to enjoy the technical single-track, just a little slower, and pretending it didn't hurt.

Two laps, 2 gels, 2 heeds, 2 fizz tablets, 2 potatoes, 2 pretzels and 2 fig newtons later, I found myself at the end of a 50 mile race with a smile. The smile was mostly because I was glad to be done, but I feel accomplished for repairing my bike and completing the race. More than half the racers did not complete 2 full laps. Although a little long and grueling for my regular race schedule, a welcome challenge, and a good result for me.