Monday, February 15, 2010

Snow (Race) Day

I mentioned on Thursday that we would have a break in the weather for race four of the 2010 Winter Short Track Series this past weekend. Like most of our local weather forecasters, I was wrong. There was a winter storm approaching, but we weren’t supposed to see anything from it. It was first projected to miss us completely. By the time I got home on Friday though, it had started snowing.

So much for a not-so-muddy race, huh? As the snow continued to fall throughout the night, I wondered if the roads would be covered enough to warrant another cancelled race. I didn’t sleep worth a damn that night either, since I kept waking up to check if the race was still on. I wasn’t hoping for a cancellation, but I wanted to know if I could even get out of my neighborhood to go to the race venue. When I finally woke up for good Saturday morning, the Tarheel Trailblazers site said that the race was on. Race promoter extraordinaire Neal Boyd posted up the question, “Who wants to race in the snow?” I loaded up both of my trail bikes and got ready to head out.

The drive to get out of my neighborhood was a little rough at first, but the interstates were clear.

When I arrived at the trail, they were still setting up the course. The parking lot was covered in ice, but since the sun was coming out, it was melting pretty quickly.

My normal race-day photographer, Lunchbox, decided to skip Saturday’s race to have a little fun in the snow with his friends back in our neighborhood. Since he’s still a kid, I didn’t blame him at all. I later learned that Little Miss Sunshine participated in the snow-fun as well, even making a snowman. Looking back, I probably should have stayed home to play in the snow too. This past weekend’s race was hell. Not so much on me, but moreso on my bike.

As you saw in the above photos, I brought both bikes. Since the trail was covered in snow for the most part, I opted to ride Goose, since it was better equipped. The dual suspension and the knobbier Kenda Nevegals seemed like a good choice. Also, I figured that having hydraulic disc brakes would have a lesser chance of failure than the shitty V-brake action on the Greatest Short Track Bike on Earth. I took two warm-up laps to get reacquainted with my long lost friend. As usual, I didn’t make the best choice, but I was committed to staying with the full squish bike.

When the race started, I took it pretty easy. No one really took off that fast anyway, and my goal was to just ride. The trail had a bit of ice, and some of the snow had already started to melt, turning the trail to the ever-so-familiar muddy brown mess I had grown accustomed to riding. I stayed with the pack on the first lap, even keeping the leaders in sight. Fatigue was not an issue as it normally was, and I credit that to the thorough warm-up. I kept pushing to stay with the group, and we completed lap number one.

Lap two was a different story. I decided to make my move, and push a little harder to move up a few places. After the first set of berms/downhill stuff, I stood up to “put the hammer down”, so to speak. As soon as I did, my chain locked up. By this point, my bike was covered in mud and snow, which meant that the drivetrain was getting gunked-up. I thought that it was a freak occurrence, since I’ve raced in these shitty conditions before. While Goose is a highly-tuned machine, it was not used to being ridden in such a muddy hell. I continued to have problems on every climb, as it only got worse. After lap two I could still see the pack, but I was fading away fast.

On a positive note, I didn’t really feel that tired. I had plenty of energy, but the bike was preventing me from putting that energy to good use. In spite of my mechanical issues, I managed to stay in good spirits. While I rode the trail, I found myself in awe of the fact that I was actually racing in the snow. Being a Florida native, this is something I never even thought I would be doing. Ever. As the race went on though, my drivetrain issues became worse, along with my attitude. I was getting really pissed at the fact that my bike was hindering my progress. Why oh why didn’t I ride the shitty bike I built for this race series? I asked myself that question every time my chain locked up (which became more frequent as the race went on.)

After the last guy in my class went by me, I concentrated on staying in the race. I would not quit, no matter what happened. I continued to ride along, thinking that my chain would break at any given moment. If it did, I would stay in the race; even if I had to run along side my bike to get in the last few laps. I tried not to think about it, even though it made the most horrible sound every time it locked up. Chainsuck, well, sucks.

After what seemed like an eternity, I heard my favorite words, “One lap to go!” I knew I just had to survive one more lap of hell. I took the downhills with reckless abandon, and hit the final climb with all my might. At this point, I didn’t care what happened to the bike. If something broke, so be it. All I wanted to do was finish. I crossed the finish line in 12th place, which doesn’t sound too bad. It was bad though, since only twelve racers showed up. This would go down as my worst performance ever, even though physically I felt fine. I know mechanical issues affect every racer at some point in time, but this one really pissed me off. I take good care of my bikes, but I guess that wasn’t enough this time. I have to say that Little Miss Sunshine warned me about this though. She said that Goose wouldn’t be happy racing in such horrible conditions. Lesson learned (again.)

Even though my race sucked, I found some enjoyment in watching others out there. A lot of people were having issues, from chainsuck to lack of brakes, so that gave me a little comfort. The trail became even muddier as the day went on, so it was starting to look like I had it easy.

Here we have the MadSS fighting through the muck in his race:

Local bike shop owner Bart was enjoying the muddy goodness too. I can’t wait to see the helmet camera footage.

Local team rider Eric attempts to navigate the slippery bridge.

We did have a little fun out there on the trail during some of the later races. A group of guys had made a little snowman, and everyone paid homage to it as they passed by. It moved along to various points on the trail during the singlespeed race for the racers’ (and our) enjoyment.

The little snowman was perched on a rock at the rock garden to get a better view of the race (and to heckle the participants.) He would eventually meet his demise there though, since he jumped onto the trail a few minutes later. Two riders eventually ended his little snowy life. Rest in Peace little guy. You will be missed.

As you can see, Saturday’s race was a roller coaster of emotions. The little snowman’s demise was sad, but he did provide some entertainment that took my mind off of my shitty race performance. Hopefully next week will be dry and free of mechanical issues. This muddy, snowy shit really sucks, at least for racing. I sure can’t wait for Spring to get here.

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