Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Pats Peak 6 hr

So, last year I got recruited to do a 4-man 24 hour team at Pat’s Peak.  It was “fun” in a way but I couldn’t help but be jealous of the 6hr solo racers who were finishing up their day (and cracking a beer) before I had even done my 3rd lap.  This year I decided to right this wrong by doing the 6hr instead.

My focus this year is a bit more on endurance races and the Bond Brook Treadfest is coming up in two weeks so this seemed like a perfect way to prepare for one of my “A” races…

There were approximately 30 dudes registered for the solo race but I didn’t know many of the names so I had no clue how I would fare so instead of marking any particular racers, I decided to just find a rhythm and see how things unfolded. 

The race starts with a short run and then a quick gravel road climb before entering the single track.  I didn’t get the best start (why are these guys sprinting for their bikes???) so I entered the woods somewhere around 10th with at least two (or maybe more) 6hr guys in front of me.  It’s a long race though so I tried not to panic and instead just tried to keep them in sight. 

Through the course of the lap (and all that damn climbing) I moved up to around 5th wheel and now was pretty certain I was in 3rd for the 6hr.  The end of each lap is punctuated by a long and fun series of downhill sections.  They are technical in spots but totally rideable on xc machines so I was really annoyed when we entered those sections and the guys right in front of me started to suck really bad.  Even worse is that they would suck really bad, block the trail, run with their bike (while still blocking the trail) and then jump back on the bike only to suck and crash some more.  The sucks made me lose sight and maybe a couple of minutes on the solo guys in front of me so when I rolled through the start finish, I did an uber quick bottle change and stormed back out.  

Thanks to the quick change, I now found myself in 2nd place just behind the leader, Jake Inger.  Jake and I were soon joined by Andrew Lints and we had ourselves a party.  We rode for a bit at “I’m feeling comfortable enough to chat” pace so when Jake offered for me to take the lead, I took the opportunity and upped the pace just a bit. 

I soon had a 15-20 second lead and decided to keep it there for a while since I wasn’t sure how sustainable my pace would be for 6 hours.  When I got to the last sections of downhill I thought I was totally railing it until I heard Andrew come screaming up behind me totally eliminating my lead in the blink of an eye.  Note to self, get at least two blinks ahead of Andrew before the day’s final descent!

My quick stop after lap one was so successful that I decided to skip my second stop to see how much of a gap I could get.  The temps were cool and there were three opportunities to get neutral hand ups of water and gels on course so I figured it was a reasonably safe gamble and worth the risk.  Andrew and Jake stayed within sight on lap three but never made contact.

Fast forward a few laps and I was still in the lead and I was only catching occasional glimpses of Jake and Andrew but I didn’t have any sense of how big my lead was or if I was truly in the lead at all since there was a part of me that thought there was a chance somebody had gotten away in the first lap.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have anybody to confirm my place so I just continued to ride and hope…

At some point it rained off and on for a few laps making some parts of the course kind of greasy but overall, things held up well and somehow the whole “downhill” finish stayed bone dry.  Weird.
Finally at approximately 4:45 into the race, I finished my 6th lap and started to feel like I had this one in the bag.  As a result, I decided to give it to ‘er and see how quick of a lap I could tick off this late in the race.  That fantastic plan lasted for about 15 minutes before my left quad started to cramp soon to be joined by my right hamstring.  Oops, maybe going through only 2 ½ bottles and two dixie cups of water in 5 hours wasn’t enough??? Stupid.  The damage was done though so I went into cramp maintenance mode by taking it easy on the climbs and drilling all of the flatish and downhill sections to keep from hemorrhaging too much time. 

This is also when I started doing the math in my head (which is always tough in an endurance race) to see how many laps I had left to do.  At my current pace of 1 lap per 45-ish minutes, it looked like I’d finish just after 6 pm.  Perfect.  About ½ way through my 8th lap I started hearing noises behind me.  Was it Andrew of Jake catching me?  Was it the guy I just passed?  Or was it my brain talking shit to itself?  I had no way of knowing so I scampered as quickly as my crampy legs would allow hoping not to get caught on the last downhill. 

Thankfully, at 6:02, I rolled through the finish and got the unofficial word that I got the win.  16 minutes later, Andrew rolled through with Jake following shortly after.  I guess it was in my head after all... Looking back at my lap times, my second lap was the fastest at 41:51 and my 6th was the slowest at 47:55 due to a couple of minor mechanicals so I'd say my pacing was pretty solid with only a 6 minute differential. 

All in all, I thought the race was great.  They made major course changes for this iteration which eliminated all of the ski hill climbs and added a bunch of really nice (albeit fresh) singletrack.  I’ll be back next year for sure.   

A big thanks to Bikeman for pulling out the stops and fixing my bike a few days before the race when I realized a couple of suspension bushings had gone to shit and a shout out to Kona for producing a kick ass line of xc bikes that are both fun to ride and super fast both up and down!

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