Monday, May 11, 2015

6 hours of Lake Norman State Park

I mentioned this race to Bobby a few months ago and being the gung ho go for it guy he was he - with no hesitation - said "Let's do it!" Fast forward a few weeks and the race has been signed up for and we were hoping for a top finish. The weather was great all week leading up which meant the trails would be primo for the first time in what felt like forever.  I hadn't been on the mountain bike since 6 hours of Warrior Creek way back in early April but luckily was able to get in a short ride this Thursday at the WWC to make sure everything was still functioning properly and the trails didn't feel completely foreign to me...

I've ridden at the State Park enough times over the years to know that Monbo and Hawk loops are the two fastest loops out there.  The race course would encompass Hawk and Monbo, comprising a total of about 10 miles each lap.  Our best guess was that the laps would be 40-50 minutes and Bobby and I debated about rotating turns each lap or doing one each then switching to doubles or maybe doing doubles right away, get the picture. Apparently every one else was planning on doing singles (at least for a while) so that's what we planned on doing as well. Bobby would take the first loop and then we'd trade off from there.

The somewhat unique thing about this particular event (at least, in comparison to the only other 6 hour event I've done, Warrior Creek) is that the race is OVER at 6 hours. So at 4pm, no matter where you are on the course, the race is done. If you start a last lap and don't finish it before 4pm it does not count, if you make it by 1 second it does count. Keep this in mind...

I was actually surprised at how competitive the race appeared to be, given that I'd heard relatively little chatter about it.  I'm not sure why I would have expected to, however, given that I am not as connected into the trail riding scene as I could be. That being said, there were some very, very fast trail riders at the race.  Wes Richards (winner of 6 hrs of WC vs Gordon Wadsworth), Lewis Gaffney, Robert Marion (both riders for American Classic), Tommy Rodgers, Travis Beam, some Bike Source guys in singlespeed, Clemmons Bikes with a big representation, etc. Lots of fast people. And Bobby.  I guess me too a little bit. Damn triathletes sticking their noses where they don't belong ;)

The event organizer gave some pre-race instructions to the assembled riders and shortly thereafter it was time to start.

The start of a 6 hour race is pretty fast when you consider that each of the riders on a team is only planning on a 40 minute effort, and on video it looked pretty dang fast...

Apparently on the first lap Wes ate it pretty good off a berm and Bobby and Tommy, who were right behind him, lost Lewis' wheel.  As the second team members waited at the transition area (see, everyone is a triathlete at heart) I supposed we'd see Lewis first and then it would be a guess as to who came next.  The American Classic rider came through and, not long thereafter, Bobby rolled up solo.

Great. This would mean I'd get to go out among some very, very fast people.  Bobby had put us in a great position with his lap so I was going to do my best to punish myself accordingly for my first lap.  Wes had just entered the parking lot when I rolled away from the line so I knew he'd be chasing me the whole time.

Keep in mind these Strava embed's are my lap plus a little cooldown, so the times are a bit inflated over the actual lap times..

There was no fuss and no wrecks and I finished my first loop in a good time and handed back off to Bobby.  It was sort of an awkward in between time as it wasn't quite long enough to digest anything substantive so I just focused on salty snacks and water with a little gatorade.  It was going to warm up quite a bit by the afternoon so it was imperative to stay on top of that. Plus, rest.

All too soon I started getting ready again, planning on about 35 minute laps from Bobby. Marion rolled through and went ahead out for a second lap so I assumed their team's goal was to get a lead and then rotate with some double laps.  Bobby arrived not too far behind, the gap only a bit under 3 minutes.  I headed out and did my best to keep the losses at a minimum and managed another pretty fast loop, again with no incidents but an astonishingly high average heart rate.

Our lap 3's also went well, and all of a sudden Bobby was into his 4th lap and everyone was starting to show a few signs of fatigue.  The front runners turned in a slower than usual lap and the gaps between our team and the teams behind was growing markedly.  A bit over 4 hours into the race marked the finish of his 4th lap and we knew it was going to be very close whether or not we'd have the great opportunity to get in a 10th lap (there was some sarcasm in there).  Unfortunately, my 4th lap (our 8th total) was the slowest so far. I don't remember feeling especially poorly or making any mistakes, but either way it gave up a little bit of time in what was turning out to be a pretty close race, relatively speaking.

I finished and Bobby went out again for what we both kind of thought might be the last lap (our 9th).  The gap to the leaders was about 7-8 minutes and I was chatting with a guy who was "camping" next to us and he was asking if I'd do a 5th lap.  I wasn't sure, so I went over and checked when I had arrived.  4:47:XX into the race was my arrival. It was going to be really close, as I knew at best I had been turning 36.5 ish minute laps and Bobby had been doing 35s for the most part.  I planned on doing a 5th lap but I was kind of hoping not to, I can't lie!

I went over to the transition area and was pretty much the only one there at that point because all other teams would have no shot at a last lap and there rider on course would just finish the lap and that'd be the race.  Bobby ended up rolling into the parking lot and making it back around to the start finish line at 5:23:44.7, which left me about 36 minutes and 15 seconds to complete a 10th lap.  The American Classic guys had headed out about 8 or 9 minutes for the 10th lap so I knew they'd finish with 10, barring any issues.

Welp, I gave it the ol' college try but unfortunately I just didn't have it in me.  There are two fairly strong climbs on this loop (the biggest being at about the 18-20 minute mark) and I just barely got up over the top.  I was on the struggle bus pretty hard.  I got back on the road section to make my way back to the connector trail to the parking lot with my head down and legs churning but barely any power coming out by that point.  I got back to the parking lot and it was 4:01 or so on my watch so I knew I hadn't made it but crossed the finish line anyway, completing a 10th lap that unfortunately would miss out on counting by less than 2 minutes over a 6 hour race.  Womp womp!

Bobby and I ended up finishing second overall and second duo male team.  We were down 1 lap on the results sheet, but not in our hearts!

Full Results with lap times

I was really happy with the race and how we rode.  Bobby is one of the fastest guys on the mountain bike around these parts and I was pleased with how I handled the super fast trails.  We held our own and even stamped a little bit of authority on the race, despite my triathlete ways!

No comments: