This past Saturday I took part in the Chestnut Ridge Scorcher 6 hour race. I originally planned on racing this solo, but I soon wised up to that nonsense and shanghaied my co-worker/coach Aaron to join me in the duo class.
After losing the coin flip on who would race the first lap, this is going to be important later on, I lined up with the other riders in the starting shoot. Being my first mountain bike race, and only my second time on the mountain bike trail this year, I positioned myself towards the back fo the starting group. This way I wouldn’t be in the way of faster or better skilled riders and I would have the carrot to chase as the day went on.
I decided to try and race on my full suspension bike, thinking it would eb the most comfortable over the day. However during the lap, unbeknownst to me, my rear brake started to stick and as the lap went on i was dragging the brake on the rotor and putting out way too much energy. By the time I made it to the end of the lap, I was starting to think that this was a mistake and I wondered how Aaron felt about riding for the next 5 hours solo… When I racked my bike after my lap, I casually spun the rear wheel to see it make less than a quarter of a rotation. Backing up and checking the brake and wheel, I felt a sudden sense fo relief that maybe this was the cause of my garbage lap. Reinvigorated, I switched my number from the FS to hardtail and set about refueling me.
As Aaron came in from his first lap, I was excited to charge out on my second lap, and charge I did. With no brake dragging and on a bike a few pounds lighter I felt so much faster on this lap. I shaved several minutes off the first lap time and rode so much more at ease on this lap. I was thinking that this faster pace was one I could keep up for the rest of the day.
For longer races like these, I have always had a difficult time managing my food intake; both the timing and the quality of it. The lap on, lap off nature of this race helped with the timing of eating, but that left me with quality issues. Before the race I prepared some rice cakes (rice, bacon, eggs, soy, and brown suger) and these were easy to eat on and off the bike. I also had pickles ready because cramping has long been a problem and, well, why not try pickles. Where I think I went wrong was in having some donuts added to this mix. My sweet tooth got the better of me and during lap three my stomach started cramping.
Even with the cramping, I was able to power through on my third lap. It did slow me down a bit, but I still felt better than the first lap. Fighting against the heat and cramping required me to constantly be drinking. By this point in the race I had drunk more than 150 ounces of fluids, a mix between Nuun Endurance, Nuun Electrolytes, and water. At the end of every lap, you came out of the wood into the last mile of the loop which was in the grass by the trail head. Emerging from the tree cover into that field felt like walking into a furnace each lap. By the end of lap three my bottles were dry and I was excitedly pushing to get back into the finish shoot for Aaron to head out on his lap.
The way the Scorcher counts laps for the 6 hour race is only laps that have been completed by the time the clock runs out count towards your lap time. With the day and race running on, I began to look at the clock to see when Aaron would be back in and whether or not I would be able to get another lap in. Sitting in the start house, I figured that if Aaron came in from his third lap before 4pm, I would have to go out on my 4th lap. This is where me being the starting rider comes into play. Because of our lap times, I would have to race a 4th lap, and I would have to push it as hard as I could in order to make it in before the time ran out. A fews years back at this race, a friend came in less than a minute after the clock ran out and his last lap effort did not count.
3:50pm was the time when Aaron came in and I headed out on my last lap. Racing to beat the clock, I focused on a steady effort and trying to make as few mistakes as possible. On the back side of the course, there were lots of short punchy climbs that had switchbacks in them and some rocky descents. I had navigated all of these without fail, but this time was not to be the case. Coming into an innocuous rock section I lost focus and my front wheel slipped off a rock and the bike washed out from beneath me. I landed squarely with a small pointed rock stabbing me in my thigh, while I fell on another hitting my back and my handlebar smacked me in the chest. In pain and stunned, I sat there on the trail for a minute trying to assess my situation. Do I get up and keep going or should I bag it? Since I was at the far side of the course, no matter my decision, I would have to haul my butt out of there. Hopping back on the bike I gingerly started to pedal and test my leg out. The pain wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be, but still not comfortable. I started pushing the pace and checking the time on my computer, I needed to keep up temp and not have any other mistakes otherwise I wasn’t going to finish on time.
Seeing other riders also on their last lap racing the clock chasing behind me, I used that to help motivate me from getting caught and I came out of the woods with a little less than ten minutes left. Even in the heat, I knew I could make the last mile in remaining time, without letting off the gas, I came across the line to the cheers and support of my friends and teammate to close out the CR Scorcher.
The video below feature some of the highlights my time on the trail, enjoy!