Thursday, October 26, 2006


Tree Shaker 12 hour MTB challenge. Hmmm, that's what Neal Boyd called his new little race at Renaissance Park in Charlotte but while I rode the course over the 12 hour timeframe, I came up with a few other names:

12 Rooty Rounds of Reni
12 Hours of Root

I cannot remember the others now, but hopefully you get the picture: the course was pretty darn rooty! I had forgotten just how rooty the trails at Reni Park are. Did that take away from the fun? Nope! I had probably my best race ever this past weekend. My objective, as stated before, was to ride hard until I dropped. Secretly I wanted 100 miles. I wanted to spend more time riding this race than I have in the past. As you may know doing any one thing for 12 hours takes a lot of physical and mental effort. Think about your work day -- do you stay focused on work for 8 or 10 hours? Nope. Same applies to riding a bike. In the past, when I got to my rest stops, I would take more time than I really needed because I was fighting the mental battle. I’d think I need to give my body more rest when in actuality I really didn’t need to stop riding.

The course
Two loop configuration which I call the front 9 and back 9, each with about 4 miles of trail. The front 9 is tight and twisty with rolling terrain. The back 9 is more open and has better flow. The back 9 also has a couple good downhill runs and some nice jumps which break up the monotony. There are several bridges on the course but the Tarheel Trailblazers do a great job with ensuring that entry and exit from their bridges is straight and you don’t have to worry about sliding off because you enter the bridge on a turn (a lesson we could employ here in GA).

SUCCESS! I rode hard – not flat out – and rode constantly. My stops were brief and limited to eating, drinking, and bike repairs. The race started at 9am and my early lap times were in the 45 minutes range. Everything was going well until I snapped a spoke at the beginning of lap 6. No real worries, just cut it off and went riding. Well, about ½ mile into the front 9, my chain snapped. Again, no worries because I carry a multi-tool which has a chain tool on it. I ran the bike out of that section where it would be safe to work on the bike while not impeding the progress of other riders. I got the chain fixed and took off on my ride. I didn’t get a mile before the chain snapped again. Well, at this point I decided anymore time spent trailside was wasted. I had a backup bike at my pit so I took off running with the now broken bike. Once at my pit, I transferred pedals from the Walt Works 29er to my 26” wheeled backup and took off.

Now, I’ve been riding big boy wheels (29”, aka 29er) since April and haven’t been on a 26” wheeled bike since. My friend Tucker helped me build up the backup 26er with some parts that I had laying around. The backup bike is a $120 Access frame from Supergo (before they merged with PBS) and the components are a mix of Race Face, SRAM X.0, X.9, American Classic, Ritchey carbon OS bar with WCS stem and Avid BB-5 disc brakes. When I got on this bike in a race situation, I didn’t know what to expect. I did expect it to be fast and twitchy – it delivered. However, the bike actually felt better than my custom Walt. Of course, that got my brain thinking about other things during the latter hours of the race and of changes that need to be made to the Walt. I digress….

Night was approaching as was the finishing time of 9pm. I stopped to ask the race director about when lights were required and when the last lap was and started to review my status vs. what I wanted. After my bike swap, I realized that I wouldn’t make 100 miles so I decided that I’d be happy with 80 (8 laps) but really wanted 12 laps (96 miles). When I was on my 10th lap, I came up on two other riders and we got to talking about the remaining time we had. I said something about wanting two more laps and they said I didn’t have time. They had understood they last lap time to mean that you had to be back at the finish by 8:30 (the established last lap time). I argued that 8:30pm was when we could START the last lap. I lost the battle and since the current time was 7:45pm, I told myself that 10 was my magic number for the race. I picked up the pace and decided finish strong since I wouldn’t be doing another lap. After I handed in my timing chip, I realized that I could go out for another lap because the last lap time of 8:30pm WAS, in fact, when you could start the lap.

By this time, it was too late but I was happy with 80 miles. I was sitting in 5th place and another lap wouldn’t have changed the results as 4th place was two laps up on me. I broke camp and hung out with friends while cheering other riders onto the finish.

A big congratulations to Peter Rajcani, who finished in 6th place, also with 10 laps. The Rank Riders showed up with two teams in the duo categories – one team in single speed (SS) and another geared. Fatboy and Slim (Mark and John) took 2nd in the Duo SS which is great considering Mark had only ridden a SS once before! My friend Bill snapped the Walt Works fork on his rigid SS and we spoke briefly about how well Walt would take care of him on the replacement.

This coming weekend is the Double Dare in Pisgah, NC. The forecast includes rain for Friday and chance of showers on Saturday. Highs in the upper 50’s with lows in the mid 30’s. The race format is 2-days with 12 hour time limits. Each team is two people that must stay together and we have a list of mandatory gear to carry. We’ll be given 10 checkpoints (CP) to locate each day with at least one mandatory CP each day. Saturday we’ll be riding noon to midnight then 6am to 6pm on Sunday.

Don’t forget the time change this weekend!