RIDE REPORT: 2012 MoCo Epic

The Master of Ceremony at this Three Ring Circus
started this rant on monday morning
it is tuesday night
best wrap it up and hit

the body is sore...
not from crashes
just from hammering
lots and lots of hammering
and no... I was not raising a barn
I was riding a bike

RIDE REPORT: 2012 MoCo Epic

This was my first year to participate in the MoCo Epic... years prior I had been so focused on cyclocross that I ignored all the mountain bike opportunities that fall has to offer
but not this year... this year I have ignored cyclocross

a few weeks back I brought my boys with me to attend the MORE FALL PICNIC in Davis West Virginia
and then after having so much fun upon my return I immediately registered for the MoCo Epic

the MoCo Epic is a mountain bike off road "ride" that connects a series of State Parks in Montgomery County Maryland... hence the Mo(ntgomery)Co(unty) Epic!

The MoCo Epic offers a few different ride options... 25 -35-50 or 65 Miles...
I signed up for the 65 miler... as if there were any other choice
in addition to "the ride" in its various distances the day itself is a mountain bike festival

in addition to "the ride" there is all sorts of bicycle themed entertainment... the pump track, Schwinny the trials rider give a demo, also several bands for your listening pleasure, all sorts of food, and beer... and more beer

as the "ride" date approached I put an electronic call out to the DCMTB team to see who was going to attend the MoCo Epic
a few responses came back... I tried to look for a suitable match up for a wheel to chase
Chris Danaceau got back to me... but I was not sure if his home court advantage, his superior fitness, and his geared bike would be a good mix for me and my Single Speed and lack of recent mountain biking

so... I continued my search...
reached out to Jonathan of The Family Bike Shop and got nothing but electronic silence

then also reached out to Chris Merriam who was sending wife and kids to represent the Merriam family, but who not be riding himself

of course I tried to enlist Michael Pearce aka Cargo Mike... but he was busy moving this week 

dam... is it my breath?
or my is it my malapropism

wanting to ride my single speed... I wanted to chase a single speed
wanted to share this day with some fast friends
alas no...
no one was as interested in riding with me as I was with riding with them

so... I resigned myself to riding alone
until a few days before the event and the responses started to come in...
Chris Danaceau sent me a message telling me his intended departure time and his intended pace
then MikeK sent me a message telling me to meet him and Jonathan at the race start to move in a large group
turns our Chris's group and MikeK's group were the same group
this seemed to work for me
a cluster of riders of similar skill and intensity
and then me

the MoCo Epic leaves out onto singletrack trails in the woods just behind the Soccerplex in Germantown Maryland
a venue that is not a far drive from my house in downtown Washington, DC
which allowed for sleeping in my own bed and then a drive to the suburbs at a time that is not completely unreasonable

build a pump track, assist in putting on the MoCo Epic,
now take my picture... can you get me a beer?
thanks Todd
the night prior to the event included tending to a sick child and cleaning up after the said sick child
vomit... cleaning up vomit in the middle of the night
missing out on sleep
and being exposed to nasty germs... giving up my slot in my bed... and then sleeping on a couch that is a foot shorter than my beastly body
this was not the approach I was looking for leading into a 65 mile off road mountain bike event

morning came
my stomach was not showing any signs that I had picked up the bug that my son had been carrying for the days leading into the weekend
so... I grabbed my bags and loaded my Niner single speed onto the roof rack
then pointed it to Germantown Maryland

no need for Google Maps on the iPhone
no need to print out detailed directions from the web
the Soccer Plex is right across from Schaffer Farms... a set of trails I have ridden countless times, but not enough lately
so... I drove on the traffic-less roads out of the city on into the suburbs

arriving on site I was getting anxious
I had not really eaten much for breakfast and was not sure of what clothing to wear for a day that would start with a cold morning and end with a warm afternoon
then of course... I was also anxious how the body would perform
as this would be the longest distance I had ever attempted on a single speed

after parking I meandered about the grounds making my way to the line to the registration table
there was the usual flurry of bicycle activity swarming around
people were warming up on their bikes
other people were clustered making plans for the day
I exchanged hellos with a wide assortment of familiar faces

the line moved quickly
the volunteers were really dialed in
there was a thank you but not much small talk
these people were here to make things happen
or they just did not want to talk to me
either way I got my name plate and headed back to my car where I would suit up and get ready to ride

there was a moment's panic when I went into my black back looking for my black knickers
for a second my heart stopped when I thought that I had failed to pack shorts for this ride
that would be unfortunate
unlikely I could manage this long distance ride with boxers and slacks
but alas no... my knickers and shorts were in the bag... just all the black lycra gear looks alike

dressed and ready to go I meandered about with the camera and snapped some photos of people getting ready
then I got the word from MikeK and Jonathan Seibold to get ready to roll
I asked when the release was... they said it happened already... riders were on the course
oh... I hustled to return my camera to the car and get my bike

I returned and we collected waiting for one or two more riders
when everyone was assembled we pointed our way towards the woods

there were a handful of DCMTB jerseys...
Chris D.,  MikeK, and a guy named George and myself
then Jonathan and Ryan were sporting the Family Bike Shop colors
and then a few others were in attendance who I did not recognize

we took to the bike path that fed to the trails with a fast fluid pace
when we hit the singletrack we were in a nice tight line
rocking that singletrack caterpillar
everyone stoked to be on the bike and in the woods

the pace was good...
not race pace... but not far off
a nice fast fluid pace
good intensity

it felt good to push the cranks and spin the wheels
the tires gripped nicely on the buff dry trails
we started to knock out some miles

our pace was as good as the company
early on we shed some of the riders in our group
on a ride like this or any ride for that matter it is important for people to know their own personal limits
I think these other riders may have felt it necessary to dial things back from our somewhat intense pace
I felt good... so I thought I would try to hang with the aggressive pace being set by the leader of the group MikeK

it was all smiles... everyone was grooving
there was no break in the rhythm between the geared riders and the single speed riders
there was some movement within the group for placement in the caterpillar
but no conflict

the trails weaved through the woods then popped us out onto the road
we kept our speed
we maintained our intensity
we all smiled

we hammered up the rolling hills
then took aero positions on the way down
I marveled at MikeK and FBS Jonathan at their aggro aero position where they had their hands on the crown of their forks
I kept my hands on my handlebars... fingers close to the brakes
my weight gave me a slight advantage and allowed me to get some good speed going downhill
even if my body is larger and creates greater wind resistance

a glance at a GPS
a look at a computer and someone said that we had maxed out at 35 Miles Per Hour!

the road fed us back into the woods
we returned to the singletrack caterpillar
the leaders remained the same
the segments changed position

we rolled fast and fluid
everyone clearing each stream crossing
all maintaining pace on the tight twists and turns of the buff singletrack
there were not many obstacles which allowed for people to ride close to the wheel in front of them
while I often left a bike size gap between the me and the rider in front of me so I could adjust for anything unexpected

at the first aid station we gathered
everyone fueled up and some of us stripped layers
I removed my DCMTB arm warmers and my DCMTB wind vest
although I did not regret it... in some of the lower creek valleys I could have used the coverage
it was still morning and still a tad brisk

back on the trail we repeated that off road to road
road connecting us back to off road
MikeK had some somewhat random chainsuck that looked like a game changer
but amazingly so... it was not the twisted rear derailleur that it appeared to be
we stopped for the quick fix then kept rolling
then once in the woods... there was the need for another adjustment
I think a headset was loose
or maybe just a loose screw

as a group we pulled over...
but Ryan from The Family Bike shop voiced that he wanted to motor on
stating that he felt that the others would surely catch him
rather than pull off for the repair I opted to keep Ryan company

in the woods Ryan lead
we rode fast and fluid making polite passes to everyone we encountered
having started later than the 65 mile release... no one was passing us
the uber fast people were more than likely well on their way to ending their day on the bike

I felt good.
the bike and the body were moving as one
miles and miles of single track were behind us
but many more miles remained in front of us

Ryan and I stopped at the next Check Point
fueling up on Gummy Bears and Bananas
expecting to see the cluster of riders we started with we waited
but anxious to get back on the trails we started back up without them

knocking out more miles of dirt fast and fluid
again waiting at the Check Points for our main group
but not waiting too long
as it was painful to see all the racers we had passed make fast transitions at the Aid Stations and re-enter the woods in front of us

back on the bike
back into the woods we had to pass all the riders we had passed before
it was more than likely as much fun for them as it was for us
that is sharing the trails

always trying to be respectful of others when wanting to make the pass
there were a few riders who were less than rapid with allowing the pass
headphones? deaf rider? some sort of self importance?
can they hear my wheel behind them? my heavy breathing? my rear wheel clicking as I coast while they pedal?
I am not demanding that they go my pace
why do I have to go theirs?

passing on tight twisting single track can be tough
where possible I made the pass
this is a ride... not a race
so... I tried to keep the aggressive passes to a minimum

elbows were kept in my sleeves

at some point Ryan and I switched lead positions
in the lead position I fell into "the zone"
my bike and body working as one... as much like one as my bike and body can be
almost thoughtlessly my mind and body focused on the task
focusing while not really thinking at all
it is hard to explain

it can all be very zen
completely focus while being a little spaced out

hammering along with a wheel in my shadow I rolled
only to find at the next Aid Station Ryan was not the rider in my shadow
so I waited
I debated in my head what to do

had Ryan stopped for our other riders?
was Ryan now riding with our original group?
so... I waited... then waited some more... not waiting that long... but waiting long enough
painfully it happened... riders making faster pit stops through the Aid Stations passed me
racers I had worked hard to pass would have to be passed again

rinse and repeat
rinse and repeat

it was good for me to rest my legs
it was vital for me to eat at the aid stations to fuel my body
I like to eat
food is good
my engine will not run without fuel

I fueled up then mounted up
then later when a road section where bikes had to stop for the passing cars I tried to wait for Ryan again
but after a dozen or so of the cyclists I kept passing passed me...
well... I had to accept that Ryan was gone, the original cluster of riders were no where to be seen, and I was on my own

at the road crossing I asked someone the mileage as I saw him glancing at his GPS
I guess in the low 40s and was right on target
oh shit... 2/3 of the way through!

HOLD ON! ONLY 2/3 of the way through!

just as MikeK had said... the last 15 miles are the hardest miles
I played in my head about my gas in the tank and whether or not I could sustain this effort

it was all a big question mark

in the woods I motored
I hammered the single speed at something close to its over spin maximum
fingers raised off the levers I tried to arc turns without braking
trying to conserve energy
to be fast and fluid without excessive braking that would cause the need to pedal harder to accelerate back to speed

but really...
I am a bit of a beast
often entering a turn too fast and having to brake hard
forcing me to have to muscle my pace back

I over cooked a fair amount of turns
some power slides in spots where other had also over cooked the turns

it was fun... I was having lots of fun.. fun is an understatement
it pleased me what a good selection the Niner SIR 9 Single Speed with its 32 X 18 gear was for this set of trails

in the distance clouds were dark and I questioned if there would be rain in our immediate future
cool air blew around me and I feared a storm
this aided my desire to maintain a high cadence and a strong pace

at one point in the ride the course went left and there was an Aid Station 100 meters to the right
I nearly ignored this check point in an effort to get further along
but when I heard Hula Girls and Hot Dogs I could not resist
I found myself with my helmet off my head and my pack off my back feasting on HULA HOT DOGS!
a hot dog with mustard, bacon, and pineapple!

not just gels or goo
not just gummy bears
something more than PB&Honey!
all those things are great
but my body was responding the the ingestion of REAL FOOD!

back on the bike I was pleased that the Shimano tent has some electrolytes and some additional energy packets
I was starting to feel the effort in my legs
although I was not having any sign of cramping... I had no desire to experience cramping
cramping is a game changer... gotta be preemptive with the cramp prevention
if cramping sets in... it could end the party

the course was well marked
nice photos of me by Todd Bauer
but I did have my moments of panic
there were a few times where I had felt I had lost the trial
there were no arrow markers in sight.. and no pink and black tape dangling from the trees
but... in each situation I dropped my pace and stayed the course
always finding I was in fact still on track

then on the road... I almost took a wrong turn
but a trailing rider called me back
then moments later I was able to guide us in the right direction
when I was able to spot the markers he could not

there can not be a marker ever two feet... but there may have been a few trouble spots that could have been better marked
what those are? I can not tell you off the top of my head
well.. I guess the miles on the C&O... there was just the one arrow.. which I feared was turned the wrong way... as I never saw another marker until it was time to leave the tow path

yes... there was a map in my pack
and the riders around me all had GPS devices with their trajectory punched in
but I was riding fully dependent upon the arrows and tape

the towpath was a bit of a ball buster
the slow flat on the single speed is no pleasure
in fact... not to complain...but the single speed was the right bike for the woods
but definitely not the bike of choice for the road... I knew that going into it
that was accepted when I opted for single instead of gears

I will admit... I was a tad turned around
although I grew up in Montgomery County 
I had been turned around since the first moment I got onto the trails
the MoCo Epic took me on trails and through parks and onto roads I had never experienced before
on the tow path along side the C&O Canal I was equally a disoriented
until we got the aqua duct by the Caleva headquarters where my kids go to camp in the summer
and then the aqueduct itself where I as a child would ride my bike from Bethesda to jump off lower metal girder and the bridge
a jump that I would not permit my kids to do
not just because of the collection of the wood\and branches
but because that water is only a few feet deep

off the towpath and then the second to last aid station which I believed to be my last aid station
Darius had his State Farm tent set up and all sorts of food.... I focused on the oranges
the only one as excited about the oranges as me were the yellow jackets
after some back and forth with some friends I had not seen in years I was back on the bike with the intention to take it him

across the road by the Poolesville country store I got off my bike to try and get a snake to clear the path as it would surely be flattened by the passing cyclists
I got it to move a few feet than another rider took the task of sending him home
off the road and back into the woods
by this time anything that resembled an incline brought me pain
not excessive pain
but there was soreness and fatigue
I was not the animal I thought I was

yet... I hammered on
trying to maintain pace
trying to knock this shit out
trying to get back to the festival

trying... trying... trying to keep a fast fluid pace

the trails were freshly cut
I was too tired to appreciate them
but they seemed like some nice trails
I kept wondering when these trails would get me onto something familiar
when would I hit Schaeffer Farms the only trails that I am really familiar with in this whole loop?

then I hit the last Aid Station...
at the previous aid station I had voiced my feeling that it was absurd to have another aid station so close to the finish
then also questioned the idea of Pitt Beef and BBQ Chicken sandwiches during the ride
well... when I got there... my understanding of the situation changed

rather than to say hello to the multitude of friends I was seeing for the first time I got in line at the buffet table
as I waited to get to the tray of chicken and the tray of thinly slice beautifully rare beef I prepped my buns with horseradish and bbq sauce
one chicken and one beef sandwich... if it were not for my respect for others... I would have had seconds and thirds

ah... that was awesome... that hit the spot
my body was crying out for more real food
gels... goo... tablets... all that modern exercise fuel churned in my belly
real food filled a void that these things could not

with another REAL MEAL in my belly I was back on the bike

well... that saying of the last mile being the hardest mile
or MikeK's modification that the last 15 miles are the hardest miles
it is true... the trails may have been easy... BUT THEY WERE HARD!
the slightest incline seemed like an out of category Tour de France level climb
well... for everyone
there is a point in the tail end where they wish it were over
okay... maybe not everyone... but for the mortals in the group
there is a moment where we wish it were done

but... once back in the woods the fun fueled my body
on some semi familiar trails that looked to be Schaeffer-esque I enjoyed the ROLLER COASTER DIPITY DOOS!
the single track gave me pleasure.... and then when I recognized where I was on the White Loop... well.. I smiled... I smiled a wide smile
I knew I was nearing the finish

knowing where I was and knowing there was not much more trail in front of me I picked up the pace

out of the woods... onto the parking lot... then across the street to HOME BASE
the MoCo Festival
I rolled across the line feeling like Hugh Hefner with Sticky Fingers Racers Christina on one side and Sonya on the other
no cameraman to capture that moment... but in my head... I looked as handsome as those woman are beautiful!

with a smile and sigh I was done
it was done... completed.... finished... over

what more is there to say?
the ride was over.
the day was done.
that is it.
but no... that is not the end of story

after the ride I connected with old friends and new
the MoCo Epic is not just a mountain bike ride
the MoCo Epic is a mountain bike festival
which means... there are mountain bike theme activities all day
before the ride and after the ride

so... across the line and I was ready for the festival
Christina and Sonya had my yearning for a beer
their work hard... play hard... party hard life mantra had infected me
I wanted a beer... it was a few hours before sunset... but I wanted a beer

so.... I went to the tent and scoped out the beer situation
the kegs were not tapped... it was only 3 O'Clock and the permit did not allow beer to be served until 4 O'Clock
oh man!
I immediately wished I had started the ride an hour later

instead of beer in my cup I sought out water in my bottle

water... water is precious
I should have looked for some recovery food
but instead I sat on the ground and grew roots

so... with or without beer I went through a post ride routine of milling about and working the crowd
catching up with friends and exchanging tales of life and tales of the trail
catching up with people who I do not see as often as I like
so... I caught up with friends
we exchanged stories of our lives and stories of our day
rants about the mishaps in our lives and the mishaps on the trails
boasting about events in our lives or boasting of events on the trail that day

caught up with all sorts of familiar faces and old friends
milled about and rubbed elbows with riders I recognized and started up conversations with complete strangers
just sharing the energy of the day


thanks to everyone who contributed to make this happen

images of me by Todd Bauer... a man I do not know well
but a man I totally respect
not just as a superior rider
but as a person who strongly contributes to the community
a strong leader and an excellent team player
and of course... a family man

some photos... just a few more than were posted here
MoCo Epic Photos on the Gwadzilla Facebook Page

mention of the Fall Picnic
mention of MoCo

I am distracted
watched "the debate"when I should have been reviewing this post
since I
never mind

the MoCo Epic was an amazing even
special thanks to Denis and Z Adventures and then also all of the volunteers and sponsors
it was an amazing day.... a well planned and well executed event
Denis Delivered!
not just an "epic" ride... but an "epic" day

time for bed
will give this a glance tomorrow
but will hit PUBLISH AND POST now just the same
another day and the details will be forgotten

1 comment:

Richard Albores said...

Nice write-up, Joel. I was one of the many riders you and Ryan respectfully passed. Unfortunately, it was only once...

Ricky A.