Sunday, August 14, 2011

Suicide 6

Today I "raced" at the Suicide 6 mountain bike race at Harriet Hollister Spencer Park at the south end of Honeoye Lake. The race is 6 hours long and teams, sending one rider out at a time, do as many 7+ mile laps as they can. Riders can ride as a team of one, which is what I did, on my muni of course.

About a week and a half ago I did a test run of the race course. Based on that, I knew I'd have to push just to do two laps in the race. So my hope was to do one at the start, and one towards the end, with a good few hours to chill in-between.

Unfortunately there was a 70% chance of rain today. Still, that left 30% of no rain. I like those odds. So I went for it.

I arrived and learned it had rained over an inch overnight. So the trails would be at least somewhat wet from the start. From early on there was significant thunder in the distance.

The rain held off during my first lap. The course was marked very well and had mile markers. I felt ok at the beginning, but somewhere around mile 5 the course gets more difficult with many rooty and rocky climbs. My lower back muscles got painful quickly and I realized this would probably be my only lap. But somewhere near the last mile I found my back was improving. There were more downhills and flats to recover from the pain. I finished my lap, and chilled and snacked for a bit. The park only has one shelter, an open sided lean-to, where the race officials were stationed. Many riders/teams had canopies set up with chairs and coolers. The guys next to me were from the Sprague Brook area. And one of them was actually Scott, the race director of the Singletrack Stampede II that I hope to attend on Saturday. So I hung out in that area for a bit. Thunder continued to rumble in the distance and a few drops were falling. It had probably been about 30 minutes since I came in from my first lap, and my lower back was feeling fine. With the threat of a downpour soon it seemed wise to go ahead and head out for another lap sooner than later. So I did.

In the first hill climbs I was questioning my decision. My quadriceps were burning. But I pushed on. The lower back pain came quickly, but didn't seem as intense. It began raining, but the trails didn't seem to be changing much. There are enough flats and downhills in the first half of the course to manage my pain. But again, once I hit the 5 mile mark my lower back muscles started to hurt bad. The rain began falling harder and the trails were getting very wet and much softer. I found myself dismounting earlier on difficult uphills, and remounting later. I still was riding a whole lot more than walking, but certainly walking a higher percentage than I prefer.

Some areas had thicker fog. Unicycling on difficult trails with low light levels, fog, and thunder is other-worldly. Some sections also had a thick tree cover, and the light levels were insanely low. Riding down a greasy, twisty, rooty, rocky trail in these conditions was feeling crazy. In the latter half of lap two, my quads were giving strong hints of cramping. Anytime I pushed hard up hills, my quads felt like they were on the verge of having one the those charlie horse cramps I have had recently in my right calf. I was even feeling it as a walked up hills. I downed energy gels and extra water to help. But with this kind of fatigue and the deteriorating trail conditions, I was sure this was my last lap. I finished and was glad I was done.

As usual, all the mountain bikers were super nice and many gave encouraging comments. Of course, I dismounted whenever I heard them on my tail and got out of the way. I tried to return the positive support too. Anyone riding in those conditions has some serious will power and skill. The bikers are more likely to catch up to me when I'm moving slowly, so I think I see them more often when I'm walking up the remainder of a hill. The bad part of that is they see me walking and not riding, and I feel a bit like a loser. The good thing is I see that these hills ARE climbable... at least on some machine. I'll keep working on it.

After my second lap there was still a few hours of riding left in the race. But with the rain coming down steady and nothing for entertainment, I decided to call it a day.

The trail mile markers went up to 7 miles with plenty more trail before the finish line. I put my two rides together and only get about 13 miles. But with all the many twists and turns, it makes sense the GPS would cut corners and show less distance. So I'd say it was about 15 miles of riding. Given the caliber of these trails and the conditions, I'd say I did well.

Suicide 6 - 2011-08-14

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