Monday, August 23, 2010

Peak Adventures Vermont 6 Hour Race

So instead of driving all the way down to Georgia to race the Fools Gold in the pouring rain, ruining brake pads and risking limbs crashing into the wood, I instead raced a really awesome course for 6'40" in Pittsfield, Vermont. Peak Adventures 6 hour mountain bike race was a blast. I have to say this race exceeding my expectations of how fun of a course it would be. The race organizers have definitely spent some serious time making some sweet trails on their vast, privately owned track of land. I definitely see this race growing in participants quite rapidly next year.

I headed up on Friday with fellow training/racing sufferer, Steve Segenchuk. We drove the scenic way up all back roads through quaint little Vermont towns, passing like 20+ ice cream shops and various homemade pie signs (mmmm...) thinking we could stop at like 1/4 of them on the way home. We made it up to Pittsfield, which is just north of Killington on Rt 100, about 6pm and registered for the race. I only had one other competitor signed up in my category all week so I was feeling rather chill about this race. When we got there to register there was a woman from New Zealand who had come over to train for next weekend's World Cup race in New York but opted not to do it since she wasn't happy with her speed thus far. I was like, uh oh... world cup racer making the trip from another country must be pretty good.. OH well. Competition is good.

We then checked out the sweet little Country Store to see what they had for dinner possibilities so we wouldn't have to drive 10 miles back towards Killington to find dinner. They had sandwiches, etc. so that would work. We then drove up the dirt road from there to the National Forest to find a camping spot, and had to drive 1/2 mile down the forest road that I'm certain my Matrix would not have made it down in one piece (or rather up, or back down). We found a good camping spot and set up our tents and drove back down to the country store for dinner and to wait for our buddy Rob to show up. Did I say I love these quaint country stores. They even had rocking chairs out on the front porch area. Rob showed up just after 8 and we drive back up to the camping spot.

I take out my lantern to use to finish setting up camp and attach it to my little propane canister and light and it turn it up high and well, it's not getting very bright. To my dismay, I realize that I never really checked to see how much propane was left and it was quite clear there was not going to be enough to boil the water that Steve and I were going to use to make oatmeal in the morning :( I used to be a 'good' camper.. . Thankfully the country store was opening at 7am and the race didn't start until 9am. And Rob built a fire so we had something to do :) It was very very quiet in the woods there, much better camping experience than my previous time this year back in July where my sister and I were stuck next to party people at a "family' campground. And, it was nice and dry.

We wake up early at 6, pack up and head down to the country store for coffee and breakfast. It is really foggy down in the valley. My oatmeal does the trick and some good dark roast coffee. The race is 1/2 mile down the street so we head over and get the bikes all set up and all the necessary items for the cooler for the transition area. I warm up for about 1/2 hr since I hadn't really ridden all week and was somewhat worried the legs would feel dead because of that but they seemed pretty good. The only concern was that my stomach was a bit off, but not too bad.

The race begins with a lemans start which just about all of us hated - running in bike shoes is no fun, but it did spread us out so that the immediate turn to the downhill double track wasn't so sketchy.
We continue down a double track with a table top and a few jumps, that I mostly avoid as I don't like to take too many risks in a race. The course continues to drop down with a few other sweet jumps along the way until it bottoms out at a river and then the long climb up the mountain begins. There must have been 100 switchbacks over the 8.5 mile course (although my computer put it closer to a 9 mile lap). The 1,200 feet of climbing flowed nicely with all the switchbacks up what would otherwise be an nearly impossible steep climb. I rode it mostly in a power climb mode in the middle ring save one section almost in the middle of the climb that on the first two laps didn't feel that hard, but by the third, I was definitely granny gearing it. I was hammering the first lap to win the King/Queen of the Hill Climb and to also use it as training for Shenandoah since the start there will be super hard and fast. I messed up a couple of the switchbacks coming into them a little to tight and leaning. But I got those all down the next time around. It was a pretty fun climb as it would rise up some, traverse the slope with some short downhill and then switchback to continue climbing up and up and up... All the switchbacks also offered the opportunity to scope out the racers below to see where the competition might be.

I was working hard and made it to the top in just under 40 minutes to win the climb. The top had spectacular views of the surrounding area. I thought we were just heading down from there but the top included a pretty technical, twisty rooty, rocky section that had many racers walking. I fumbled a couple corners myself and it took a few laps before I figured out the lines that would get me through it cleanly. Once out of the twisty technical section it was ear to ear grinning on the way down with a series of banked turned, super fast descending reminiscent of big mountain riding on the edge of a cliff hoping you don’t lean too far the wrong way and slamming the brakes into hairpin turn after hairpin turn. It was a "working downhill" in many regards as there wasn't too much just letting it go and not having to focus too much. At the bottom, we cross over the bridge and ride through a flat field, up a short but painful climb, especially after a few laps, into the start/finish area. I was riding through with another ride saying, man, that course is a lot of work. There's no real resting until the flat field section that takes all of a minute to get across. But it was really fun and the there was an immense amount of work put into these trails. I kept wishing I had put my camera in the cooler and I would have taken it out on one lap to get a shot of the downhill where there are about 10 banked/bermed switchbacks in row and you can down a few. It was really sweet.

So, I rode my first two laps at ~1hr each. I was calculating out how many laps I would likely get in. We were allowed to go back out for another lap so long as it was before the 6hr mark, which meant, by my calculations, that I would have time for 6 although it was a question of how much longer after 6hrs I would be taking to finish that lap. I stopped to refuel after lap 3 feeling pretty good overall. My stomach was still off but I was trying to keep up with fuel/h2o intake. I downed some water when I stopped but forgot to take electrolyte tabs which I was semi worried I might cramp up since the course was so much work, even on the downhill. So, I stopped again to take some after finishing Lap 4. I was definitely starting to tire on Lap 5 and had to battle my head some on whether or not to do a 6th lap. I was pretty sure I was in the lead and likely didn't need to do a 6th lap, and, well, obviously I'm out there much longer when racing the 100s so it would be good training. I was at the top of the climb on Lap 5 and there had been some m&ms at the aid station there so I was craving some and figured I'd stop to get some "fuel" and of course, they were all gone :( so I had to settle for a nature valley granola bar instead. I stuff it in my mouth and scurry off, convincing myself I can do one more lap. I make a couple bobbles on the downhill and make note to self that I better be more cautious since I was getting tired. Coming through the transition area I just kept telling myself not to think about stopping, and to consider that Steve was likely going to do 6 laps too and I'd hear about that the whole way home if I didn't do 6, and it was good training... so I put my head down and kept going. It was fine. I calculated that it would definitely not take 40 minutes to climb up and it would definitely not be a 1 hour lap...but it would be fine. It was. I came finished in 6:39 to win and 7th overall. Steve was about 10 minutes back. I did get a lot of comments on how sweet and light my Felt 29er looked... I know :) It rode awesome.

I cleaned up the dirt and little bit of mud off my legs and arms. My arms were a mess. I must have hit every single pricker bush/branch out there and really, there were not that many. But I kept hitting the same spot each on lap, and go, geez, I have to stop hitting those...Really, my arms are a mess. I convince Steve to ride the 1/2 mile down to the country store (it's probably really like 1/4 mile) to get some chocolate milk for recovery and some espresso. Yummy. My double shot of espresso was like a small coffee. I gave half to Steve and probably still had a triple shot... woo hoo.. We rode back to the race and partook of the pig roast post-race dinner, drank a beer, ate a huge chocolate chip cookie. Yes, my stomach was a bit concerned with this. Needless to say, we didn't stop for ice cream on the way home. Awards were around 5pm and then we chatted with the race organizers who knew my buddy Brian, who does the crazy 50 and 100 mile runs Peak Adventures hosts. I also threw out the idea of them putting on a 100 miler, which would be crazy long, and there was definitely interest. Maybe I'll only have to drive 3 hours to a NUE series race some day :)

We drove home the highway, no ice cream, but hoping for a pie shop, but it was too late in the day for that apparently. It was a stop at Moe's about a mile from home instead.

Next up, local EFTA race - Treasure Valley Rally Sunday August 29 and then Shenandoah 100 Labor Day Weekend!

1 comment:

  1. Great write up Karen. This VT 30 will be my first official endurance race and I'm stoked about the big ride. Thanks for the details above and all that convinced me to register for the event!