I have not been terribly dilligent in my updates this year. Not a lot of racing so far and a mind blowing level of business at work have left me with only the moptivation to ride and little to record the details for the few readers that I may have. Regardless, May began the slow movement towards a MTB season and as such, I will share what has been going on lately.
May started with a trip to my favorite race, Rhett's Run in Columbia, MO. Typically a phenomenal course with flowing singletrack, steep grunts and some quality features, the course is mmy most loved of the year. This year, however, five inches of rain had descended on Missouri in the preceding weeks, making for the worst conditions I have ever put a knobby into. Talk of the course "draining well" and being "all rock" were quite obvious ploys to drum up attendance for an event that should have certainly been cancelled. I decided not to give Plastic Fantastic a raping on the day and rode the El Mariachi. In SS mode, it was the perfect bike and had me in 5th place for half the race. I even had a good start with the 34-22, something I truly was not expecting. Unfortunately, a lapse in concentration led me to leave my CO2 cannister on the Epic, meaning that when I flatted, I had no way of inflating the tube I remembered. Game over. I shouldn't have gone, it was a truly wasted day and the trail will take a long time to recover from the forced submission it received that day. I will never again listen to reports of amazing trail conditions when common sense dictates otherwise. I allowed my overwhelming desire to race to cloud my judgement, lesson learned.
The following week, Team Seagal hosted a non-race on the Middle fork section of the Ozark trail. Many discount the non-race for its lack of USAcycling points, entry fees and prize money, but any event that requires a group of riders to try and ride a course faster than one another for a trophy is a race in my book and so I went hoping to see where I'm at at this point. We had a lemans start and I got into the woods about sixth or so. My plan for the day was to stay steady, not go too deep at any point and turn the pedals as smoothly as possible for the 36.5 miles of riding in store for me. As we snaked through the beautiful and perfect Ozark singletrack, more and more riders gapped off the back of the line until I found myself alone in pursuit of second and third about 7 miles in. I passed second place at about mile 8 and slowly reeled first place a short while later. I didn't want to make any efforts to pass or attack and stayed about 5-10 seconds off the wheels for a few miles. I knew there was a major gravel climb toward the end of the course and I planned to try something there if we were still together. I also noted that the rider was relying on bottles and I had a 100oz bladder so I knew he would have to stop at some point, where I would not. He stopped at the first water station at mile 16.5 and I pressed on, trying to put some space between us on the first gravel road. Back onto the singletrack, I had a gap and tried to stay steady for the remaining 20 miles. I was loving every minute of the trail and the bike was performing flawlessly, never making me get out of the 42. A steep, muddy climb 3/4 of the way through the second set of singletrack made me go deeper than I wanted and I knew I would pay for that effort. After a brief trip through an overgrown brush tunnel, I was back on gravel for the next 10 miles. An impromptu sprint competition with a snarling Jack Russell burned another match and I knew it was time to keep it steady with fuel coming in for the major climb ahead. I foolishly thought the climb was near the end of the course and as I cramped my way up a mile long wall of leg breaking gravel, I told myself it was almost over. It wasn't. 5 more miles of grinding false flat gravel put me back onto the final 3 miles of singletrack. I had a gap, but I had no idea how much despite at least one hundred looks over my shoulder on the gravel. Every muscle in my legs were cramping and I had to stop for a second to get it together. Chastising myself for weakness, I got back on and plugged away trying to keep the pedals going and yelling at myself not to lose it in the last 2 miles. When I crossed the line in first at 3:24:09, I was absolutely shattered.
Less than a minute later, second place rolled across the line. Despite the non-sanctioned nature of the race, I was extremely proud of my efforts and felt very satisfied with the day. I won the coolest trophy I have ever received and won the most amazing course I have ever raced in Missouri. An amazing day all around and well earned PBR's at the finish were a welcome refreshment.
Now into to June, I am ready to get the ball rolling for real. This year's schedule is peppered with Saturday races, meaning I won't get to do another MTB race until the thee 20th. Unfortunately, I am promoting said race, so it's hard to have any real expectations, but the races come thick and fast afterwards so there is much to be excited about. Hopefully, the fitness stays around or improves and I can have a satisfying run at some XC events before CX starts up in the fall. It seems like it has taken forever, but the ball appears to finally be rolling.