It hardly seems possible, but here it is: 2009's first MTB race, The Michaux Mash. I drove to CT, picked up Mike Patrick and crosser Ricky Visinski and arrived in Chambersburg, PA late afternoon. We thought we'd check out the race venue and ride a bit of the course. Just finding the trailhead was an adventure - seeing how it is at the crest of a ridge after you take this dirt road to that dirt road- right at the fork, no it must be the other fork, oh the road is barricaded, now WTF, etc.. We started riding at 6:15pm, grateful we scouted the road maze before race day.So we start riding where the Appalachian Trail crosses an unmarked dirt road and find that the course is tight, rocky, and twitchy and is maybe a year old for the first mile or so. We descended a few hundred vertical feet on it and decided to turn around and leave the rest a surprise for the next morning. I'm feeling cautious after the first viewing and beef up the tire selection back at the bearry bearry guuud Travelodge.
The morning comes too early and when we arrive it is 38 degrees and foggy, real foogy. The highlight of thre trip there being that we didn't high ground on the road closure mud hole. It's 7:30 am. This race required a homemade number plate, so registration was mostly telling them your number and ogling the homemade french fry set up, burgers, veggie chili, fruit salad, bike porn, and costumes. I'm feeling at home with the chaos, smiling laughing atmosphere, and seemingly most relaxed promoter ever, Zach Adams. 4 classes: juniors, women, men open, and men masters(35+). And they're off!. I'm riding smooth and running by the racer clusterfs a la Derek, just happy to be out racing again and trying to temper the urgent voice of stupid racer brain since I have no business racing a four hour race, not having been on a bike for that long since November.
Keepin' in real...straightThere's lots of sharp PA rocks jutting up on the trail which led me to flat twice during the 4 x 9 mile laps. So, the lap's first third of twitchiness gives way to a screamingly fast downhill - supernarrow through a laurel forest... Thrilling us with speed as we descended the rest of the 1000 feet of vertical to the bottom of the valley. Then the 2 mile climb up a dirt road and abandoned logging road- one rider I passed shouted "This is HELL!!!" to which I responded "Heaven is at the top!" The poor bastid. During my 4 laps, there were a LOT of riders off the bike on this climb, nursing cramps, slumped over their top tube gasping and wondering why they did this to themselves. Aside from enjoying the rush of the descents, my strongest showing was on these climbs, just stroking it over and getting out of the saddle on the last 200 feet as it steepened - a good sign that the dreary winter's spin classes are paying off. (self praise stinks don't it? Sorry - just happy to survive it really)As I came through the 2nd lap checkpoint, Mike has his jeans on and is done for the day, knowing to heed his limitations when things are less than rocking. I'm running in something place without any specific goal other than to ride the full 4 hours. Third lap I flat again on the sharp rocks and at the checkpoint Ricky is standing there looking cooked and all done for the day. Three down! I push on, feeling good that I'm still with the program and talking up the course with my co-racers with a little humor, admiration and encouragement. It's about the fun , right!? Mid way through the 4th and last lap, a clean looking Trek rider blows by me - sure enough the rumor was true and I shout after him "GO CHRISSSSS! Rip it yo! YEOOOOOOW!" Eatough sure is impressive with his skill and wattage. The Champion. 15 mins later pro Chris Beck eases by- in white shoe covers - not as impressive, but puurdy. (insert sound of banjo here) The downhill gives me one last thrill ride and as I make the turn to start climbing, "Oh... What's that? You don't want to want to keep on keepin on... booiiinnnnnngggggg..." I step off the bike and stretch my talkative hamstrings for 30 seconds or so and get back on, chugging water and throwing down a few more shotbloks..."c'mon baby just a little more..." It works out and I finished in 4:22, 11th of 42 masters, 23rd of 100 overall, in one piece except for a sprained finger from an unscheduled hooked-pedal flight. I'd do it again - an easy thing to say after downing a Treog's amber, some chili, fries and handshakes with some serious MTBers. Zach and Brett put on a fine event and awarded the top 5 with masks and a royal, white "Supreme Masher" cape to a humbled Chris Eatough. Rockin'.