After a few stops, and maybe 100 oz worth of Arnold Palmer for me, we were at Lakewood. Time to get organized for the race, ride some and make the dinner/pre-race meeting. Rode the best part of the best trail, Rock Lake and Hildebrand Lake Loop then took the road back out. I had briefly considered riding the Caffeine for this race but then had come to my senses and only brought the Flash. If I wasn't going to ride it for this when would I race it? It's sad that this was to be only my second mountain bike race of the year and potentially one of only 3 or 4 total. I haven't ridden either of the mountain bikes as much as I would want either, especially recently with all the falling/soreness I've been going through. Regardless, I felt good on the bike and couldn't believe how well it tracked in the corners or how good it felt on the little climbs etc.. Trevor and I rode hard for some of the time and I felt slick and light going uphill.
We hung out with some friends and tried to eat enough pasta to justify the $12 cost and then heard some short words from the organizers-
It was a great time. Awesome to see so many of the same people I've gotten to know over the last couple years. Free racing!
Trevor's brother Eric had hooked us up with a bunkhouse at one of his co-workers lake homes.
5 am was extremely too early. Managed to eat a couple of sandwiches and get to the start. The 100 mile riders would be starting 15 minutes before the 62 guys but we all rode over and sort of staged together. I was saddened to see Mr. Farrow break a spoke in that .3 miles. There was nothing anyone could really do at that point and he was forced to start the race sans spoke. The 15 minute gap felt like forever. I was happy to see some friendly faces on the front row with me.
Joe started us off by hopping on his bike and we were off! 62 miles is a long, long ways but I decided to put in some effort because I knew that we were likely to have a ton of passing to do in the singletrack and that would be best dealth with near the front. The group did close down my initial push but then no one really fought me at mile 3 when we were actually entering the singletrack. I settled into a pace that I could ride comfortably and minded my own business. It didn't take long before the incredible trail and reality of a day with no responsibility but to ride started to sink in. I could hear a couple guys riding behind me and glanced back to realize it was just two, Maury and Joe with no one else in sight. At that point I really settled things down and focused solely on riding smooth. The three of us chatted about camping, kids, family, jobs, life in general etc. and took turns at the front. It was great to have two strong, skilled riders to work with. We began to pass groups of riders from the 100 mile event. At one point there was a huge row of 15-20 riders that we got caught up in for quite a while. I felt a little bad passing so much, but there was nothing else we could do. By about mile 18 or 20 we were almost done with that anyways and I would only pass smaller groups or single riders the rest of the way.
The awesome trail just kept coming. Rock Lake is simply amazing and I know it well- it was really fun to ride in a 'race' type situation. I was surprised by the pace our trio continued to push- these guys were both riding great. Maury was definitely a question mark to me too- I had no idea how strong he would be later, just that he looked great now and that he was obviously a very skilled rider. I had trouble on some of the downhills keeping up with his pace (this would change later in the day as it rained- I didn't look at what tires he ran, but it was noticeable later that he was complaining about slick corners that my racing ralphs were handling just fine). In the Hildebrand Lake Loop Joe flatted and Maury and I pushed on together. We would ride together a lot more.
We caught Tim Ek and some dude from Freewheel at about mile 30 and we all worked together on a section of road. Nature called and I let them all go, but was then able to reel them each back in one by one during the next few miles. It was during that time period when I jumped a tree laying on the side of the trail, landed on a hidden branch and slide on my right side through a patch of raspberries... ouch! Maury was the last of that small group that I caught and I took the solo lead for a bit, but let him back on/got caught on the next road section. We again settled into a nice pace together and things were really enjoyable. The route was awesome, pace was what I wanted and the conditions were great. I, obviously, much prefer rain to crushing heat.
The birkie trail was huge puddles and hills, but it was nothing compared to what I had ridden last monday, see my gorge pictures/route info I posted Tuesday, and that somehow made me feel a lot better. Finally we hit the Ojibwe trail. I was sad to be nearing the end of the ride but also really happy to be back on singletrack. At that point I had already broken my chain once earlier due to chainsuck, didn't have any more quick links and was too afraid to shift from 32x17. The singletrack was sure to be more singlespeed friendly. I also knew that if I wanted to win the race that Ojibwe was where to do it and so I opened things up. With 7 miles to the finish I was clear and I rode a measured pace the rest of the way in to finish about 5 minutes ahead. Maury came in second followed by Deathrider (who has an unoffical podium shot that I'll probably steal later too).
River's Eatery is a great place to finish a ride. I spent the next 9 hours there going through 3 different rounds of pizza and beer and got to watch people finish.
Joe signing in with his finish time-
I was at the finish for a dead sprint between Karlene and another woman for first on the 62 mile women's side. Apparently they had really both thrown down over the last five miles and it may have come down to a slight navigational error on pavement that cost Karlene the race. Regardless, it was awesome to see them finish together and with FIRE. Too often in free races and any race with combined fields the women don't get to 'race' each other enough. Certainly on gravel they get more spread out due to the drafting effects of the various men's groups than they would if they had their own start times etc.. This was super cool.
I was drinking beer and eating, 2nd round this time, as the early 100 finishers came in. Trevor finished 6th right behind Randy W. and a couple spots in front of Mike C. - it was nice to see a lot of my friends do well! I think they all had fun too, although more than one person did say they wish they had done "what I did".
I guess, I may not get another shot to do that myself as during the awards Joe said I got an automatic 'upgrade' for next year...
Here is my prize-
Did I mention that River's Eatery was an incredible place to finish and that they have great food, treated us like kings and support the trail system in general?
Today we hit Hayward.
When the 1988 Corvette 'vert was announced that ended our parade watching. Trevor had simply had enough and so we hit the bar. Where we found this-
Wow! We also got to check out the record Musky before heading home.
This week will bring some rest days, a lot of random work around the house, a couple frame repairs and my C43 is running again! The larger m113 went in with no unexpected problems. Expect something like this but significantly faster, like +80 ft lbs faster. Also, let's all hope for reliability and enjoyment. It's got the roof racks already installed.