Very long delay in reporting on my first race of the season. I competed in the Michaux Trail Cup in Michaux State Forest Pennsylvania a week ago, April 15th. I journeyed down to PA on Saturday and stayed with Cheryl Sornson, fellow 100 miler racer, whose house almost abuts Michaux. The drive down was pretty smooth sailing although I had that feeling of 'here we go again' to start the long long drives to race the endurance scene. Although, it will be a bit less travel this year which is a comforting thought.
I had decided not to do Cohutta 100, the first of the NUE series, because it's such a long drive and honestly, I am not crazy about the course. Two days of driving to get there to ride 65 miles of dirt road. No thanks. Although, there is a new race director who apparently has mixed in some more singletrack to try to appease us singletrack fiends. After hanging out with a few buddies who do the 100 milers, I was admittedly a bit sad I wasn't going race Cohutta but I know as soon as I got in the car to start the slog of a drive I wouldn't be so sad.
So, my long-winded entry into why I decided to race the Michaux Cup was because originally there was an option to race 75 miles which with the terrain in Michaux (super technical) I figured would take about how long a 'normal' 100 miler would take and thus give me the long distance race opener for the season since my first NUE 100 won't be until Lumberjack in June. Unfortunately there was not much interest for the longer distances for the Michaux Cup so they were dropped and I found myself racing the 50 which I knew would be plenty even if it were less than time than I wanted for 'training purposes.'
The weather forecast had been pretty sweet all week heading into the race with it sounding a tad on the hot side, but I love the heat so I was like bring it. That of course changed. We all know how accurate forecasters are. Anyway, it poured overnight and was purported to stop early morning. I didn't sleep particularly well and kept thinking, gee, I don't want to do a mudfest race my first race of the season. Thankfully it has been really dry down there this spring and the trails sucked up the water just fine. There were a few light showers early morning but the rain was done by the time we started at 9:15. It was a bit cooler than I had anticipated. In my typical wussy fashion, I completely overdressed knowing I would regret wearing a long-sleeved jacket in like ten seconds, but that would have meant 10 seconds too long of being cold.
I had not real agenda for this race aside from getting a long distance race effort in. I didn't warm up or plan much. I just figured I would hang with Cheryl as long as I could and see what how that felt. Well, Cheryl is on fire this year and so that didn't last very long. I also don't have my race bike set up either and had put on a pig of a tire to replace a very worn out front tire especially since I knew there would be lots and lots of pointy, sharp, mean rocks out there. In retrospect, I probably would have been fine with the old tire.
There was a bit more dirt road than I anticipated which made the first of the two loops go by fairly fast. The singletrack in Michaux can be pretty brutal in spots. I love rocks for the most part and definitely get more inspired riding singletrack than dirt roads. Near the end of the first 25 mile loop, I fumbled on some of those rock I love and when I tried to get back into my pedal I kept missing and finally was like, I'm not that big an idiot. I looked down and my pedal is stuck on my shoe. Hmm.. not good. The pedal came off the spindle axle. I pulled off the trail to get out of the way of other racers. I had to take my shoe off and put the pedal back on the spindle to get my shoe off. It seemed that it was going to stay on there so I got on a starting pedaling. What was I going to do with it out there anyways? It was mostly dirt road back to the start finish area from there and the pedal seemed like it was ok.
I shed my long sleeve layer after sweating like a pig in it, refilled my camelback and started out on the second loop which was the tougher of the two loops. It was a gradual singletrack downhill. I could feel my pedal acting funny under my foot but kept going anyways. It had seized up and wouldn't rotate on the spindle anymore and backed itself off the crank and fell off. Nice! I picked it up and it wouldn't rotate at all. I knew that was it and stuffed it in my pocket and started walking back up to the start/finish. Meanwhile, there was a 25 miler version and they all just started coming down the trail so I had to keep pulling off the side of the trail and waiting. I was bummed that I had driven so far to ride 2 hours. I didn't let myself get overly annoyed as it was what it was. It wasn't something I could foresee happening for mechanical issues.
I made it back up to the start finish and saw Zac the race director to let him know what happened and that I was done. And then half heartedly asked if anyone had a pedal I could borrow and someone did. Of course they parked over in another lot across the street but drove back over and made a quick change for me. I was off again, now with motivation to catch those who had passed me. It was obvious it was not going to catch Cheryl today.
The 2nd loop was much tougher. There was more singletrack but I definitely enjoyed that and the tough terrain can be distracting for the most part in a good way. There were some pretty steep ascents and descents, including a hike a bike up, and I do recall a short hike a bike down that I was just too chicken to ride. Somewhere out there, I heard some rattling noise from my rear tire and I was pondering what that could be. I was hoping nothing major. I kind of banked on it being a broken spoke but usually they rub the brakes or something so I wasn't sure. I made it out to a fire road section and look down at my poor wobbly warped rear wheel. Don't think about it, I told myself. Just get done the race. If it breaks, it breaks...deal with it then. I did manage to finish. The end of the loop was tough and I was quite happy I was only doing 50 miles versus 75. My back was getting stiff from the terrain and I was getting worried my bike wouldn't hold up too much longer. I finished in 5'15". I'm guessing I spent a good 1/2 hr dealing with the pedal and walking back to the start area so not too shabby for a 50. I didn't feel completely cooked either which was nice. Definitely like a did a long race but not like a 100.
There were some delicious post-race eats. The awards were quite unique - a small blueberry plant (which Michaux if known for it's blueberries) and a rock with treadmark painted on it and placing. I managed to finish 2nd with my mechanical issues. I'll take that :) It was good to see my NUE buddies Cheryl and Gerry Pflug. They both rocked it taking firsts and finishing 2nd and 3rd overall.
Zachary Adams of Fast Forward Racing Productions put on a great race. The course was good, even according to the locals who ride there a lot. Good markings, good food and good prizes. I'd go back. There is another endurance series consisting of 3 races put on by Gettysburg Bicycles. Might be tempted to go back for some more fun.