Tom Samson rules when it comes to getting it done. His win over two others with 1/4 mile to go was yet another testament to his competitive prowess. Closer to Earth, I travelled to the race with mixed thoughts, uncertainty ruling me going into the first real XC race of the year. The newly laid out course was surprisingly dry during the pre-ride with Andy "watch out for this guy" Gould... very little mud and fast fast fast. After watching Steve Segenchuk's standing-on-pedals-only display( look ma- no saddle!), I was happy to have a comfortable perch for the race. At the start, I looked around and saw a tough cast of characters: Steve Arsenault, John Mosher, Bob Bisson, Joe Rayno, Andy Chambers, Mark Virello, Ken Welch(NY's dominant master) and so on in a field of a dozen or so. No Curley, no rematch. I had little idea what I was bringing to the mix, a knife or a gun, trying the FS and hopefully finding some full length XC racing legs en route. Got the holeshot at a low speed - kinda strange to have the crew relatively sedate - until Ken, Mosher and Rayno abruptly blew by on the second section of singletrack. Game on. I hung back a bit, picking up the pace but not going nutty -as they seemed to be. The rest of the first lap I just concentrated on output, navigating the 6" deep mud hole in good shape and powering over any trace of a climb. Lap two and three went by at 24 minutes a lap as I picked off riders from other age groups here and there, slowly accepting my place in the pecking order - the "Hell of the Fourth". 3/4 of the way through lap four, I saw Joe Rayno climbing up the short gravel climb. He's was mashing away, throwing his bike left and right as I hit the gas and powered by him. I looked back at the top to see his inability to respond. That was a boost. If I could just hang on, I'd get on the podium. Going into the last little singletrack section, I was blocked by a slower racer... waiting and waiting and waiting until I hit the gas once it opened back up. That's when I saw Ken Welch 50' ahead and 100' from the finish line. Sprinting, I caught him but not by enough- his wheel half ahead of mine as we finished. 1:37:21 and 3rd Ex Master. I'm pretty happy about the race, having managed energy, equipment, and excitement effectively and getting my share of the cost of gas paid. Mosher was untouchable- nearly two minutes ahead.(if I recall his time correctly)
Every year I wonder if the itch to race will be strong or weak, erupting uncontrollably or fading into retold stories. And here we are at the start of a new race calendar. Racing racing racing riding riding riding, both activate anticipation that urges me through the day until 5:30 comes along when I meet some buds at a trailhead and plunge back into the flow of singletrack. But feeling a rapidly approaching race date sends me into a productive, deliberate, and timely contributor at work, disciplined trainee and smiling companion. Racing induces a sense of purpose and I plan to enjoy it.
Last weeks indoor TT woke me up. Yelling, the screen, being on the spot and coming away with a good feeling was a prelude to the King of Burlingame - a real short intense effort, outdoors on dirt and rock - a real novelty for me. The snow is just off up here and so are my trail skills, as in bike handling. Pre-riding the course late Saturday was a wake up call to my ulnar joints, forearms and triceps... oh yeah... upper body... I forgot about that part of me this winter, except for The February of Shoveling. OK, so race morning we down some oogles baked Friday night, a bit of iced coffee and it's raceday!
Wilfred Brimley held my seat as the countdown got ever smaller until... BANG... I'm away and wondering how to race- easy- breathe- keep my head up- faster- let er rip- where's the line- through the slot- here comes the rockpile- stay right cross over now- good good- find the rhythm- lockout everything now and cruise- 97%HR- TT position - oh look at the beautiful lake!- hey I'm racing pay attention- long effort on the doubletrack - turn it - firm ground here- hard left - back... waterbar steps- through the water up- there's Beal - damn threw my chain!- c'mon c'mon get back on- Torching it - through the rocky up- damn chain off again - Beal's down nowhere to go- he's up- "Get on my wheel and I'll pull you"... hey where is he?- back into the trail- hard- hard- hard- all the way- Done!
That's my story. 31:02. 15 of 46 expert, 16 overall of 140something... 3 minutes faster than last year due to this year's dryer conditions, and I like to think, fitter circumstance. Results here.