Life as a rule I try to keep as mellow as possible. Not that it doesn’t have it’s fair share of busy & stressful times. This weekend was one of those whole bunch of things packed into a short period of time. All real good stuff though.
Friday it was further course preparation for the Mudrutters MTB race on Saturday. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time & manpower hours it takes put on an event together. As a race participant what you see flash by you in a few moments or minutes is so often a collection of hours of work done in relative slow motion to how fast it goes by in a race.
The evening started with a double header of softball in some really close games that had us ending on the upper end of things. Got done with that just in time to head out for some class reunion activities that let’s just say went well past my normal bedtime. Had an absolutely great time seeing & catching up with friends. Then on 3 1/2 hrs of sleep, figured that doing this weekends MTB race would be a good idea…? Well, once you snap out of the fact of how friggin’ tired you are and hop on the bike it’s not too bad. Was hoping for a more mellow race, but Adam Swank of Duluth showing up ensured that racing wouldn’t be a walk in the park.
Due to a hard right corner within 100 yards into the start of the race I inquired with race director, Paul Belknap, that we run a controlled roll out. Then I figured race 'on after that point… as I figured someone would attack get things going. Only, I sat on the front at a mellow pace and everyone else was content lining up behind me and no one came around to pass me. That continued for probably at least 1 to 1 1/2 miles. I wasn’t complaining though because I was still pretty tired and wanted to save things in case things got ramped up.
The first entry into more significant off road riding had a downhill entry that had mud puddle/creek at the bottom of it. My amazing handling skills promptly had me attempt to shoot right through the center of it -- crashing as the first entrant into the hole, followed by Matt Dale performing an over the handlebars crash into the water himself. If only there’d been a camera for that one…
Anyways I mounted back on and the trailing 5 other riders, Matt Dale, Adam Swank, Matt Hudson, Curt Cline and one other – followed the my lead. The crash breaking things up a little bit. The next mile or so of trail is a gradual climb on a sometimes soggy old snowmobile trail. I picked the pace up slightly to keep everyone honest and only Adam stayed with me. Again I road a modest pace because going all out & dragging Adam the rest of the way to the finish line wasn’t necessarily going to be feel like the most rewarding effort of my day.
We continue to dodge our way through the bigger water & mud holes on the course due to the wet summer we’ve been having. Once we got back on Summit road I let enough to have Adam take the lead and likewise he took to it about the same pace & effort I’d been doing. Pretty Mellow in relation to what a normal race pace can feel like. It was still enough to have established a couple hundred yard lead on Matt Hudson & Matt Dale.
I went to the front again at about the half way point in the race just past the Ashland water tower and where things would finally be leading into rough cut double track and eventually the single track on Farm trails. It’s there -- the rest of the race course breaks down into 2 distinctly different sets of terrain. The first 2 1/2 miles plays very well into the hands of a full suspension bike, the later 2 1/2 miles is much more favorable to a hard tail.
I looked over at Adam riding a Gary Fisher SuperFly 29er…. and then down at the SuperFly 100 29er I was on. And figured it’s now or never. I right away started to hammer things as fast as I reasonably could keep control of the bike and with one quick peak over my shoulder & I could see Adam was falling off. Without a gap here contending at the finish line, when things weighed out in his favor given our two different bikes, it would be tougher than I’d prefer.
Only then… after maybe 200 yards or so into the rough trail I start hearing a sound that resembles that of a stick hitting the bike. I look down at my front wheel and with every revolution there’s a nearly a 2” Hawthorn needle stuck in my front tire. Crap!! So I start to pray it either stays in or the hole it leaves upon ejecting isn’t too big for the CaffeLatex sealant to fill.
It stays in there a surprisingly long time as I ride on building a gap on Adam but when it let loose sealant was spraying everywhere and not doing much of a job in stopping the leak. Another 200 yards later I’m off the bike and running it, just as we start to enter the trails at my place on Farm Rd. At that point I figured crap that’s it, you win some, you lose some.
Well, I surprised at the distance I was able to run before Adam caught up to me. I asked him a favor if when he saw my wife & kids as the trail went through my back yard to ask her to grab my pump. Being the great guy Adam Swank is, sure enough he did and when I got there Kate was racing back from the garage with the pump.
When I got there, my tire had gone off the wheel’s bead and I had to pump furiously to re-seat it. I heard the “pop’s” of it re-seating, gave it a good thumb test and assumed it was ready to go. About that time Hudson & Dale finally come cruising through pass me by. I was able to get a quick pass from Matt Dale and try to chase down Hudson who I caught about 400 yards later down the trail….. only problem? The front tire was going soft on me again and cornering was really unstable. I still managed to get a good gap on Matt Hudson once we got out of the single track and back on Farm Rd. And surprisingly Adam Swank still in sight just over a 1/4 mile up the road. I buried my head down realizing the straight aways were the only places I could make time and ride hard. I didn’t look back too often so I was never entirely sure how far back Matt Hudson was but at a few points I’d get 150 yards and at other times on with more corners and turns he’d be within 50 yards it seemed. I never did see Adam again…but that’s for an entirely different reason than him being in front (he missed the signage for a right hand turn) and ended up being off course and didn’t get back on until several other riders behind us had already gotten by. He managed to work himself back into 4th place by the finish.
I assumed he was out front and I was hoping my front tire would hold out long enough so I didn’t ride on the rim or roll the tire off completely and hang on for 2nd place. Only the final corners into the finish were my undoing. I had to slow down to a crawl to get around the final 5 corners in the last 100 yards while Matt Hudson was able to crawl back into contention, he passed me with 3 corners & about 50 yards to the finish line. I rolled in for 2nd.
Certainly one of the most different Mudrutters races I’ve done in the 10yrs or so now. Normally it’s an all out sprint being a 10 1/2 mile race but this year with the cat & mouse riding with Adam and later the flat it proved to be equally entertaining.
Despite the hot day & muddy trail conditions in a number of sections we got a lot of compliments once again on the race & the course. Certainly appreciate everyone who was able to make it and make for a great day of racing.
We lingered around catching up with lot’s of other riders to see how things went, but eventually the lack of sleep had me ready to call it a day. Got home and took a couple hour nap. Only to get ready for the second night of class reunion festivities. Maybe even a better time than Fri and and certainly an even later night out Saturday. So there was no Sunday Sprint Triathlon going to happen, let alone get up to Duluth for their Dirt Spanker MTB race. Good thing I’ve got some breaks in racing for a couple weeks…. I’m going to need some sleep… and alot of it.