Sunday, August 2, 2009

6 Hours of Stony Creek

It was probably obvious to everyone from listening to me talk and whine on my blog that the last thing I wanted to do was race at Stony Creek this weekend. I was convinced I hated the trail, it was too early, it was too far away, etc. The only reason I was planning to race it at all was because I wanted to get another couple of 6 hour races in this season and I was running out of options.

Saturday morning came awfully early. Running on about 4.5 hours of sleep, I quickly packed my sandwiches and pre-mixed water bottles in the cooler, loaded the rest of my gear in the car and got on the road. At some point that morning, as I was driving frantically around the east side of the state, hopelessly lost, while the clock inched closer to race time, I finally realized that I really did want to race at Stony. In fact, I was going to be horribly disappointed if I couldn't.

I had planned to get to the park by 7 a.m. to give me time to register, go to the riders' meeting and prepare my bike and myself for racing. Instead, I ended up in Royal Oak at about 7:25, and after stopping twice and asking for directions, realized I was about 30 minutes away from where I needed to be. (What is it with me and getting lost lately, anyway?)

As I drove through the park, I rehearsed the speech I was going to make, begging to be allowed to race even though I had missed the mandatory riders' meeting and the start of the race. I needn't have worried about it, because Brent was like "sure, no problem" before I had even spouted out my spiel.

I got on the race course about 30 minutes late. I wasn't worried. One good thing about being as slow as I am is that I never expect to beat anyone and it doesn't bother me that much. I'm mostly just racing myself, trying to meet whatever lap goal I set ahead of time.

Though I was frazzled and rushed getting there and trying to get ready, once I was on the course all my stress evaporated. When I looked down, I realized I had forgotten my gloves in the car in my haste, but I thought I could deal with it for one lap. Despite being a bit sleep-deprived, I felt pretty good. My legs felt fresh. By the time I got to the first two track section, I was feeling downright jubilant. The sun was shining, the scenery was pleasant. I could smell flowers. A bunny darted across the path about 20 yards ahead of me.

I started revising my original goal of riding 6 laps. When I got there, I found out the loop was 10.5 miles long, as opposed to the 8.5 it said on the Web site. I had also started late. After doing some calculating in my head, I realized 4 laps was probably more realistic.

Surprisingly enough, I really enjoyed riding this course. Someone I was talking to later told me that the 6 Hours of Stony really incorporated the best of that trail, unlike the TT course I rode last year, which had a lot of crappy stuff in it.

I know many mountain bike purists don't like to ride two track. (Although this is counterintuitive, since mountain biking got its start on fire roads.) I guess they feel it's not challenging enough or something, but I actually like riding two track a lot. Even though I've learned to appreciate singletrack, two track is my ideal—all the beautiful surroundings of mountain biking, out in the woods, on dirt, only nothing sketchy to scare me.

At any rate, these sections gave me a chance to rest, hit my water bottle and let faster people pass me. I liked the singletrack sections, too. There were a few more rocks in the trail than I like (none) and a few rutted out downhills and sketchy, loose gravel downhills I could have lived without, but other than that it was good. I even rode a few rock piles, which I never do, and rode over pretty much all the logs and small log piles. Surprisingly, one of my favorite parts was a section with a series of bridges, including a curvy, banked bridge that was really fun (though kind of scary).

I stopped briefly after the first lap to get a new water bottle, shove some food in my mouth and retrieve my gloves. The second lap started out pretty good, but by the end my stomach was upset and my legs were starting to feel fried. I had to walk a few hills. I decided to take a longer break after lap 2 and hope it would give me back some energy.

After 20 minutes of resting, I went out on my third lap and slogged through it. It was pretty slow, but there were enough flowy downhills to keep some momentum. The two track allowed me to rest and I made it through that lap. I was extremely tired, though, and I ended up walking a lot of hills. It was clear less than half way through that there wasn't going to be a fourth lap.

I ended up in fifth in a field of six solo women doing the six-hour race. It was a little disappointing, but one of the things I realized is that I can't base my goals purely on mileage. At Ithaca I rode 56 miles. At Stony, I only rode about 31 miles, but it was a much harder course, and that really makes a difference.

I have some more analysis to do of the race and my goals in general, but I'll save those for another post since this one is already ridiculously long.

BTW, congratulations to Danielle for taking home the win with 7 laps. It kind of makes me feel good that I can even do the same race as her, although clearly I did it much, much slower.


Jake said...

Congrats on another 6 hour event.

SpeedyChix said...

Well done. Glad you got there, got rolling even if it was late!
Stick to it.

Great riding tonight as well. Thanks for hanging back and helping with the youth rider.