here it is Wednesday
halfway through the week
best to try and get out a Race Report from Saturday's event before the information is less than timely
and before the details of the event are forgotten and blurred with all of the other races and rides of the months before
Race Report: Panorama Paranormal 6 Hour Mountainbike Race
Usually at this time of the year it is to be expected that any race report to be written would be covering the trials and tribulations of cyclocross as this is the season of pumpkins, leaf piles, and cyclocross....but NO! There are still mountainbike races to be raced, and I raced one last weekend just outside of Charlottesville Virginia; The Panorama Paranormal 6 Hour Race.
Somewhere towards the end of the summer a friend and frequent riding partner, Chris Redlack sent me the link to the 6 Hour mountainbike relay event and asked me if I wanted to team up with him as a Clydesdale Duo. Without hesitation I gave Chris a full hearted YES! But, unlike my promises to race the 12 Hours of Lodi Farms and the 24 Hours of Snowshoe with him....this was a promise that I was determined to keep. As the race day approached I watched the weather channel and endured the rain on my short 15 minute rides to and from work but could not find a solid reason not to ride this race. Sure I had not been on any dirt to speak of since the Shenandoah Mountain 100 nor had I been pounding the pavement of the bike trails surrounding the city, but a flat semi-technical mountainbike course relay with laps running roughly a hour each would not demand much training or prep...just a couple of cans of Red Bull could do the trick. So as the weekdays passed by I spent a few hours cleaning up my bike, packing away enough cold/cool weather gear for 4 laps, and set a few cans of Red Bull on ice.
Finally Saturday arrived....
There had been fleeting notions of heading off to Yoga in the morning with a fully packed car and driving straight out of town from there, but....that would have taken more preparation then I tend to possess. So, instead I spend the hours before noon Saturday morning with Dean chasing me around the basement and Grant trying to crawl behind me as I ran about the house gathering various cycling glasses, gloves, and skull caps. Eventually I resolved myself to departing with what I had. If there were shoes, lights, a helmet, and a bike I was good to go. As it turns out I managed to fit two bikes inside the spanking new Honda Element, with the front wheels off....with the seats left at standard extension. It was an impressive fit.
A few minutes after noon I was mobile!
The drive was nothing shy of pleasant. It amazed me how much more pleasurable it is to drive a car where the stereo is louder than the engine, the defroster and wipers clear the windshield, the heater heats the car, and the seat is more like a massage chair than a tractor saddle. The Landcruiser was quickly forgotten. It was all about the Honda Element now! The money saved on gas was spent at Wendy's. I figured I would grab enough food for lunch and for dinner.....a Single Classic, a Spicy Chicken sandwich, and a four piece chicken seemed to be enough. Cold cokes were in a cooler along with various other snacks. I was set. With the radio playing I drove forward on towards Charlottesville, before Wendy's could be more than a speck in my rear view mirror I had already finished both sandwiches and was devouring the greasy fried chicken. My stomach ached...was it hunger or was my body rejecting this meal. Assuming it was hunger I ate right through the pain. Clydesdales run off a different sort of fuel than different athletes.
Arrival was painless....even with the standard I-66 bumper to bumper traffic here and there I was able to arrive at the race site in under 3 hours. Minutes after my arrival I met up with Chris, moved my car along side of his and we began the pre-race prep. In an illogical fashion I went from task to task never finishing suffering from that prerace panic. Chris offered to flip a coin to see who went out first....I opted to go out first just to give me something to do. I hate waiting around. Chris did not dispute my offer, he tends to be pretty mellow about such things. With the bike ready to ride I slipped into my gear and headed to the startline....the race start had been delayed 20 minutes.... More anxious time to kill. I HATE LATE STARTS! Sure, I tend to arrive late, but I like to arrive, get on my bike and race....all of that standing around time just makes me more anxious.
More and more people started rolling in late.....
The field grew rapidly as the late start time grew more near.
Anxiety grew greater and greater as I thought about the competition, the trails, my bike, and my current level of fitness.
The race started with the classic LeManns, which means that the racers line up and run to their vehicle , which in this case the vehicle is a bicycle.
With the racers lined up I stood a few racers back in the pack. With the promoters count back from five I felt myself running in the front with a few others....it was less then a sprint....not even a mad dash. I got to my bike and entered the single track within the top ten of the pack. Once in the woods the racers settled into a bit of a groove. Each twist and turn was completely foreign to me. Never knowing what was going to be around the bend I respected the pace of the racers in front of me, but was feeling anxious just the same. At times I tried to convince the racers in front of me to pass when they could, but I did not do much to get around anyone on my own. With a few costume wearing riders around me I tried to find a rhythm. A racer in a lion cosutume seemed to be pacing well and I followed on his tail, literally. As we made friendly passes around each racer in front of us the not so cowardly lion (who later turned out to be a bear and not a lion at all) managed to break his chain. Then I moved forward and further catching another set of riders and accepting the pace of another racer right in front of me. To my displeasure when following closely on another racer's tail we went over a little dipptee-doo and through some rocks....my rear wheel hit harder than it should and I flatted out!
I pulled over, dropped to my knees, and cried out to the gods...WHY ME! WHY ME! WHY ME! Then went to my pack and and pulled out a spare 29 inch tube and began the process of replacement. One by one all the racers sped past me. I was that joker on the side of the trail. Even the lion had repaired his chain and was moving past me. Luckily for me this is a 6 hour race and a flat repair tends to take not much more than five or six minutes, so I regained composure and assured myself that the race was not over yet. Eventually with the flat repaired I was back on the bike and rolling on the trail again. It would be safe to say that I went from the front 10 racers in the group to being one of the last 10 racers. In a matter of time I got back into a groove and started the process of reeling in and passing the racers in front of me. The course was a pleasure. Nice tight winding single track, dense woods, a little rolling up and down, but no climbing....a good course for a CLYDESDALE! When lap one was over I passed the metaphorical baton off to Chris and he started rolling...wondering to himself...what took this guy so long! There had been not time or reason to be long winded about why my lap was not as fast as all those that rolled in before me.
With Chris out doing his lap I figured I had 50-60 minutes to do with as I pleased. As it turns out what I pleased to do was to get out of my clothing that was soaked with sweat, stream crossings, and mud and get into a nice and dry set of socks, shirt, and tights for my next lap. Then made sure to get another spare tube for the next lap, while cleaning my chain and checking my bike for any needed adjustments I was dismayed to discover that my rear wheel's hub was drastically loose....I raced around in search of some cone wrenches. In the search I got tired of hear the reply, "not here...but at home I have all sorts of tools" to my question about whether or not they had a set of 15mm cone wrenches...how idiotic..I am not taking a pole about who owns what....I am trying to fix my bike....I refrained from responding sarcastically to each ignorant response and went about my search. Eventually I was able to borrow the tools needed for the job from friend, rival, and fellow Clydesdale Bill Davis. Had not seen Bill since he stole victory from me in the final seconds of the Fairhill Classic in late August. He was good enough to share his tools. As I worked on my bike I learned that Bill is recovering from some knee surgery, thus causing him to take it light and race in the COED class with his wife. We said our good byes, wished each other luck, and soon enough I was at the START/FINISHLINE lining up to waiting for Chris' return from lap one. With two laps down I could clearly see that we were below the hour lap average thus assuring me that glorious 4th lap. There was no way of knowing our status with the other Clydesdales or the rest of the field overall, but I resigned myself to riding as hard as I could and accepting our place with those faster in front of us and those slower behind us.
The course and the campgrounds had a wonderful Halloween atmosphere. Discounts were given to racers in costume; there was Fat Bastard with his wife Wonder Woman, Death was on the Course, a Pimp...and of course a Ho...and a few others. The promoters had set up a large fire pit near a projector playing the latest and greatest kids films with a SPOOKY Halloween theme, I think I caught Shrek and Harry Potter in the background as scurried around before the departure of each lap. The grass roots atmosphere offered the potential for friendliness and bonding, but the two person format offered little time other than racing, repairing, fueling up only to rinse and repeat. The geared Karate Monkey Held up well. The first flat was the only flat and the hub stayed tight throughout the race, the Karate Monkey Single was there waiting to be ridden, but I did not feel the urge to spin the single....more over....I did not feel like rattling my bones without a front shock......
The course was slick and wet and got to be more wet and slick as the night dew began to collect and as each racer dripped and drained water from each stream crossing. There were endless opportunities for crashing...luckily I kept the risks and the crashing to a minimum. By the third and fourth laps I had a good idea of the sections I had to approach with momentum and which sections were best left for dismounting and hiking. There were some very odd mulch pile obstacles on the course. Each was ridable, at first I had thought them to be senseless....but as the night grew cooler the warmth of the composting mulch piles became more prevalent, thus giving an extra Halloween-esque feel to these mulch mountains with steam shooting out various peaks. The warm steam coming off the mulch pile reminded me of childhood and how as a child I would try to ride my bike up and over similar such obstacles...now as an adult I do not seek out such things as frequently, I became grateful for them reintroducing me to some of the simple pleasures that adults do not look for in life. Such as clearing this mulch pile, an obstacle that a logical adult XC mountainbike racer would go around and not over. The course as a whole was not unlike Schaffer Farms or Lodi Farms; which made it a great place to race, but not really a set of trails that I would make such a long trek to simply ride.
Rolling into the finish and passing through the smoke machine I found Chris waiting for me with a beer in hand. I looked to the clock and saw that my time for my fourth and final lap was just at one hour. I had failed to set the course record time on my last lap. Guess stopping to chat with Phil Rice out on the trail set me back a few minutes. But, I could not resist, as a parent and a clydesdale I have always found a a great appeal for the forever friendly and competitive Phil Rice. On this night Phil was containing his competitive side and flexing his parental side by racing with his daughter. I could tell that she was getting a bit flustered, not sure of her age, but I think she is a tall third grader. Any way you slice it ,it is impressive that she is out there and equally as impressive that Phil would opt to bond with his daughter rather than duke it out with the fellas. Perhaps I will be riding and racing with Grant and Dean in my future...we can only hope!
Any excuse I make, the flat on the first lap, the bonding with Phil, or the need to pass all of the other racers who blocked my momentum there is no taking way that Chris was the fast guy on our two man squad. Someone had to be faster and someone had to be slower.....on this day Chris was the fast guy which on a two man team made me the slow guy. We ended up taking first in Clydesdale, beating the next team by one solid lap. Days later when the results were posted we learned that we finished third overall, which is an added bonus. It is always great when the Clydesdales are able to show the other classes that we are not just bigger....but on some days and on some courses we are also faster.
Perhaps next year I will make the Panarama the tale end of the season and Lodi Farms the beginning....rounding things off with two very similar events that offer some of the great comeraderie that mountainbiking is all about. Oh! When I go to the Panarama Paranormal next year.....I will bring Lisa, Dean, and Grant for the event as well. It most definitely was an atmosphere that shows the world that mountainbike races are not just about bikes.