when everything just feels right?
I wasn't sure if yesterday was going to be one of those days. I had a busy week leading up to the Custer Stampede. I didn't get a pre-ride in on the Thursday before because I didn't want to drive 2 hours to possibly ride some muddy singletrack in 40 degree rain. So, the last time I was on the singlespeed was the Saturday of Pontiac Lake.
I slept poorly, having occasional MTB dreams, although I don't really recall any specifics. Was it fear of losing, crashing, or just general single track thoughts?
Upon waking, the sky was grey, and I was just hoping for decent weather. The sky did not change during the ride to Battle Creek, but began to lighten shortly after our arrival.
Registration went very smoothly, especially compared to the previous week's racing. After that, it was back to the truck to chill for a bit, and hang with fellow On 2 Wheels racer Dave Hendon. After about an hour of relaxing and fluid intake, it was time to start getting ready for my 12:31 start.
I got a decent warm-up in, better than maybe the previous 2 races. I was still a bit gun shy about getting too far from the starting line after what happened last week. I timed things pretty good. I got to the staging with about 5 minutes to go. I handed my wife my jacket and iPod and took the outside position in my class.
This spot happened to be next to the Custer Cyclery tent, so while waiting for the clock to tick down, some race strategy was discussed. Since this was the first non-TT event of the year, some tactics would be necessary. The thought was to start easily, let one of the teams of multiple riders set the pace for the first lap, and move up on the second. Seemed legitimate at the time.
Then we moved up to the starting line. My heart began racing, and I was focused on the funnel to the singletrack ahead. We were given the "GO!" and I pushed off and clipped in.
Then for some reason, all strategy went out the door! In the brief 2 seconds it took me to survey after the start, it seemed nobody was going. So I took off. The plan instantly became take the hole-shot, go all-out for the first mile, and see what happens. I figured once we got off the grass, anybody that wanted to pass could take the poor line, and expend their energy.
But it was not necessary. I apparently set a blistering pace for the first mile. 18.7 MPH, 105 RPM average with a 33:16 gear ratio, not too shabby. By the time I looked back, I was alone. I settled into a decent pace, still pushing a bit to make sure I wasn't caught.
There was probably only a couple memorable events the whole race. The first was the "Pond" in front of what I believe was Cardiac Climb. I anticipated a couple of inches of water to splash through before heading up the climb. I was caught a bit off guard by what appeared to be the Mariana Trench through the middle of the puddle. I was also a bit shocked to see about 4 of the Expert/Elite riders walking the climb. I am not sure if there was a crash that stalled them, or if they were more geared for the flats.
A bit later I came around the Amusement Park, and fully aware the rock wall was approaching (or I that was approaching it), and I cut right-hander a little short, and as I peered over the edge realized I was no longer on the trail, and quickly jumped off and ran down the hill before I had the chance to crash.
I finished my first lap in great shape. I was shooting for a 40 minute lap, and came by in 38 minutes and change. Thank goodness the organizers added a second lap, making my drive over and $25 worthwhile! I came though the start finish area and started the second lap.
This time I was ready for the pond, and again cleared Cardiac. A bit later on CPR, as I was preparing to dismount and run through the loose sand, I had a pedal strike at the worst possible time, and banged my...erm..."headset" on the stem. No time to slow down now, better just "walk it off!"
As I was finishing the last lap, with maybe 1/2 mile to go, a rider started catching up to me. I stood to not get passed when he called out "I have gears!" so I let him by. I then jumped on his 6 and let him pull me towards the finish. I guess he was not expecting a SS rider to hang with him because he kept yelling "What are you" to which I would respond "The singlespeed you just passed" and he would pedal a bit harder, so then I would too!
He missed the turn to the finish and shot off the course, so I was able to finish alone. It is good to know where you are in the race, as opposed to waiting for the resultsin a TT. I enjoyed it!
Then directly after the finish line there was a couple small boys playing a game of "Run back and forth between racers," and nearly lost. I locked up my rear brake and all I could think to yell was "AAaaaaaaaah" as I just missed him. I saw him back doing the same thing shortly after. So as a note to some of those parents out there: THE FINISH AREA IS NOT A PLAYGROUND, PLEASE WATCH YOUR KIDS!
I had enough time after finishing to get a free beer (Thanks Team Active and Arcadia), got back to the truck to change, and return to see my friends from later groups finish before the awards.
See you in Traverse City next week, for some Mud, Sweat, and Beers!